I wanted to go overseas. A large number of my country people had travelled there, and many were still getting ready to go. Some had gone to Europe; some to America; a few to Australia. But there were those who preferred Asia. I was one. I chose Asia because some of my friends who had gone there and come back within three years were into big financial ventures here, which I guessed these immigrants in the other continents would not dream of going into until after their five years of sojourning abroad. Chibuike was one and had built two filling stations in his State, Anambra. Sola was another from my town and had now three big hostels. Biodun, my secondary school classmate who left two years ago, had recently completed his one-storey building in Ado-Ekiti and owned a Lexus Jeep. He was a dullard when we were together at a secondary school in Ore, Ondo State. His recent achievements had convinced me that money is not interested in your level of academic intelligence; it does not ask you the number of degrees you have before allowing itself into your hands.
I was fatherless but not motherless. My father had died at the age of fifty-nine when I was in class three in junior secondary school. After his death, my life in school soured. Things became so difficult that I could not feed well anymore. I could not afford to buy the textbooks that I needed. Our library offered no succour in this respect, because of its poor holdings. On some social occasions, I had to borrow befitting clothes and natty shoes to attend the ceremony as most of mine had worn. Sometimes I was driven out of school for non-payment of school fees. At a stage, I could no longer pay my rent. This was the point I decided to drop out, but thank God that Wunmi, a fine Yoruba girl I will never forget, rescued me. After hearing the pitiful story of how my father had died in a road accident at Shagamu on his way to Lagos, she decided to help me, unconditionally. Thus from that time on, she was paying my rent. She even gave me part of the fees to register for my West African Examinations. But just two weeks before the exams, she fell ill. As her sickness lingered, she told me one Friday evening that she would go back to her birth place, Akure, and receive some medical treatment before returning for our exams. I said it was a wise decision.
Wunmi travelled the following day. When she reached home, she called and informed me that her parents were glad that she had come back. They would take her to hospital the next Sunday. Her shaky voice made me anxious, and I was sleepless throughout that night.
At dawn, I called to ascertain her condition. Her phone rang but nobody picked it up. After a few seconds, I dialled again, and still nobody answered. I called the third time with the same result. When I tried the number the fourth time about an hour later, a female voice came on the line with the tragic news: “Sorry, Wunmi just passed away a few hours ago in hospital.” I whipped the phone off my ear and stared hard at it. Then I put it back to my ear. “You said what?” I managed to ask, but what I heard next were sobs, and the line went dead. That was how I lost Wunmi, the girl who made my secondary school experience tearless after my father’s death. I mourned her deeply.
Our family resided at Odo Ado, our home town, in Ado-Ekiti. My father had built a five-bedroom bungalow while working for a sawmill company. Though we lived in our own house, our standard of living had fallen terribly since after my father’s death. Seeing our near penury and the manner my friends living overseas flashed their wealth anytime they returned home at Christmas, men and women worshipping them, I was piqued by the prospect of life abroad. If a knucklehead like Biodun, whom I did teach in school, could make it there, why couldn’t I? It was no longer easy to do so in our dear country where things were getting tougher and tougher; where our leaders, most of whom had benefitted from free education, had made education a prized gem and turned politics into a lucrative concern, thereby culturing rowdies and arming them after maturation to hunt and silence any perceived political dissidents. For the apolitical, like me, coupled with my paternal loss, survival here involved a restless struggle with abandon. Thus, to avoid being choked by the briars of the hard times, I bought a commercial motorcycle popularly called okada on hire purchase, the payment of which I had to complete in a year or lose the vehicle to the dealer according to the agreement. Although this was the seventh month I obtained the vehicle, I had not paid up to half the price. In fact, I was uncertain about completing the payment in the next five months.
My desire to go abroad intensified when my friends who had come home from overseas at Christmas went back in January. I felt like a goose cut off from its gaggle. We had partied and drunk and confabulated, and they had filled my brain with images of a paradise outside home. From then, I began to visualize an idyllic place elsewhere spreading its hands to embrace me. And it was now like I resided in hell, what with these bombings going on in different quarters and the ruddy social exclusion. Sometimes when those beautiful pictures began to play in my mind as I rode my motorcycle, I forgot that I was on the road. In one of such incidents, I almost ran over a police officer flagging me down at a dangerous porthole. Had she not given way, her name would have perhaps appeared in a daily paper as a patriot who sacrificed her life for this beloved country.
One night, on the last day of the following February, I said to my mother, “I want to go abroad.”
She shivered like someone touched with a shocking device. “What did you say, Femi?”
“I want to go abroad. I’m tired of life here.”
She was seated opposite me from across the centre table in our spacious sitting-room, her bulgy chest heaving with her lungs. We had just had our dinner, about eight pm. She levered her big buttocks, shifted her straight-back chair backwards, and sat again. Then, raising her voice, she called Basirat, my younger sister and only sibling, who had just entered her room.
“Mama, did you call me?” Basirat asked, rushing towards us. The sweet smell from her body lotion reached my nose immediately.
“Sit down there.” My mother pointed her to an armchair on my left.
Basirat got seated and glanced at me. I guessed she was asking some questions in her mind from the way her ruby fine lips moved. Her hair was braided and her light-complexioned oily face looked like that of a baby. She had on her sky-blue night gown, which revealed provocatively the uncupped shallots on her chest.
“Repeat what you have just said, Femi,” my mother requested.
“Is all well, Mama?” Basirat clasped her hands over her chest, shielding those breasts.
I averted my head and said again, “I want to travel abroad. To Malaysia.”
“Did you hear your brother, Basirat?”
“I did,” my sister said.
There was long silence that made me nervous about my mother’s stance on my proposal. I had thought that she would instantly embrace my idea since she had seen some of my mates from abroad flaunt their affluence.
She snorted and wiped her face with her handkerchief. Her fat body often sweated, even if she was under a fan in full blast. “Living abroad is not for people like you. At least not for now.”
I didn’t understand that. “What do you mean, Mama?”
“Cancel that idea at once.”
“What’s wrong with it? Haven’t you seen my mates who—?”
“I said erase that idea.” She shook her head and ruffled her already tousled long hair with her pudgy fingers. “You’re not going anywhere. You’re not. There is nothing wrong with our country that has never been wrong with any other country.”
This was the least thing I had expected, her objection. But I was not going to take that. “It’s like you don’t want me to succeed like my mates.”
Her forehead corrugated and some waves lined the two corners of her mouth. “I don’t want you to succeed, you accuse me? Do you know how I suffered for your secondary school education?”
I felt guilty. I remembered one evening I had returned home, crying that I had no more food at school. She had at once run to one woman in the neighbourhood and borrowed money from her, using our big refrigerator as security. I wished now I had caged those words in my mouth. “I’m sorry, Mama, but it’s just that my mates are…” My voice faded.
“Who are your mates?”
“Stop that enumeration! Have you forgotten Borishade, Yinka, Dele, Tope, and others who died while abroad? Some of them we didn’t even see their corpses.”
“My destiny is different, and I won’t end up like them.”
“True. You’re different and that’s why I’ve said you are going nowhere.” She pulled her chair closer to the table. “Have you made all the payments on the motorcycle you got on hire purchase?”
“Is that why I shouldn’t travel? Can’t you see the hazards involved in riding okada?”
“There are hazards in every work. But that won’t make people stop working.”
“I’m tired of flying like a bird every day from morning till night. No rest.” I stood up, turned my back to her and tapped my behind. “Look at my buttocks. They are already flat as a result of constantly sitting on that motorcycle seat.” I sat down again.
“I wish I had an establishment so that I can employ you.” Her voice was soft now. “I empathize with you, Femi. And I expect you to do so with me. We didn’t force this harsh condition on ourselves. We’re just trying to survive. Like others.” A long pause. “Oh, Death, you are wicked. You snatched my hus—”
“No, Mama!” Basirat snapped. “Stop doing that.” She got up and skirted the table and stood behind our mother. “Don’t do this to us tonight, Mama.”
About two minutes later, my mother lifted her head already tilted forward. She began to wipe her watery eyes with the handkerchief. Her inability to control her feelings whenever she thought deeply about our late father often irritated me. Many women had advised her not to despair, to carry on with her life, to emulate other women who had similar fate. But she would occasionally break down in tears.
“All right,” she said, “go back and sit down, Basirat.”
My sister stood for a long while, then returned to her seat. “You didn’t call me to come and watch your tears tonight.” She hissed.
“As I have said, Femi, we are just trying to survive. I travel to the bush every week to buy vegetables and fruits to sell at Oja-Oba here. It isn’t easy for me either. Basirat is still an apprentice at a hairdressing salon. You know she could have finished her secondary school if it hadn’t been for my poor financial status. Considering our situation now, we must not stretch our hands beyond their length.”
“I don’t understand you,” I said.
“Where will you get the money to travel overseas?” She drawled the question to send home its message.
But that was exactly what I had been expecting to hear. “Our plot of land is close to The Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti. We can sell the land.”
“Sell what?” She glared at me. “Did you say we could sell the land?”
“We should sell it so that I can use the money.”
“That will happen after my death. Do you know what it cost your father and me to buy that piece of land? Do you know my plans presently for that land?”
“My own plan is better. We must sell the land now.”
“Did you say must?” She tapped the table and stood up. “Perhaps someone has injected a drug in your brain.”
“We must sell it. What’s the essence of keeping any property you are not making use of?”
She punched my head with her knuckles. “Have you gone nuts?”
I rubbed my head, pushed my chair backwards and bounced on my feet. “Why striking me, Mama? I don’t like it. I’m no longer a kid.” I spun and headed for my room.
“Bro Femi,” Basirat crooned.
“Don’t call me!”
“Why are you walking out on us?”
“Leave him, Basirat. He is a fool. A child without ears.”
I wanted to repudiate the remark, but I felt there was no need to. I held my door, pushed it open, entered, slammed it, and leaned my back on it. I looked straight at the blue wall meditatively. What should I do to raise the money? Before my friend Biodun left in January, he had strongly advised me to quit riding a commercial motorcycle and come to Malaysia where he lived, where “things are happening”. When I asked him for financial assistance to do his bidding, he suggested that I tell my mother to sell whatever landed property we had. He promised to help me only when I had landed in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I had rejoiced at his nice suggestion, having no inkling that my mother would veto my idea of travelling. But tonight, I had seen a different person in her, a bellicose woman ready to safeguard her property at any cost. But she would not deter me.
It was dawn the next day. Birds were warbling gaily in the trees nearby, and our caged chickens at the backyard were also announcing that they had woken up in health, that the cold harmattan had not silenced them. The pigs in the compound of our next neighbour intermittently squealed like ones that had been starved for days. Low voices saying ek’aro, good morning, and sounds of vehicles joined in animating the leafy neighbourhood.
I had decided not to go anywhere today until my mother was out. I had a plan. It was only her presence in the house that would frustrate me. I normally left early, about six-thirty, for the early morning passengers. But they could go to hell today. What amount had I saved since all the months I had been plying every route in Ado? Nothing! In fact, each time I remembered the hazards I had been going through on the road and yet without any prospect of completing the payment for the motorcycle within one year, my heart burnt with indignation. And I cursed my circumstances.
At last I heard my mother tell Basirat that she was leaving for the market. Soon afterwards, my sister knocked on my door and told me she was also leaving for her salon. I expected her to ask why I was still at home at this time, but she did not ask. I wished her a happy day, tapped my chest in delight and rolled on my bed. Imagine my mother, I mused, trying to persuade me to remain in this damn…well, promising country. Had we nothing that I could fall back on to raise the money, I wouldn’t have bothered. I would have squashed the idea of travelling abroad and continued to wait for my deliverer here. But that land must go. Chibuike, an Igbo, usually told me of his people’s popular proverb: When something bigger than a barn is spotted, the barn is sold immediately. That piece of land near the Polytechnic must surely go. Now.
I rose and went to the bathroom. After brushing my teeth and observing other morning routines, I returned to my room. It was time to execute my plan. Squatting on my fraying mauve carpet, I picked my pincers, hammer and chisel from under the bed and went to our front door. I laid the tools on the step, walked to the gateless entrance and looked around to be sure nobody was near, for I didn’t want any interruption.
Our compound was relatively large. A wide space stretched from the entrance to the front of the house. As you walked in, you could see two mango trees standing on either side, giving the place a cool shade, especially whenever the sun went crazy. The ground was carpeted with a species of tares that, apart from their viridity in the rains, resembled straight hairs; but they had recently been scorched by the harmattan. A high cement wall stood to the east, separating us from our neighbour who reared pigs. Perhaps it was the squeals of the animals that had prompted my father to build this unusual high wall on that side, for the walls on the other sides were lower.
Now convinced that nobody was around, I came back to our front door and began to study the lock carefully. Afterwards, I picked up the hammer and the chisel. The pincers could wait until when needed. The chisel was sharp, and long. My father had got the tools—including a hacksaw, plane, and anvil—from his employer. I placed the blade of the chisel on the upper side where the rectangular lock joined the wooden panel, and hammered the flat head of the chisel, but it slipped off my hand and fell down. I had now lost any sense of fear, and should my mother or sister return accidentally and query me, I would dole out the plausible lies I had packaged in my brain at night. I picked up the tool and placed it on the same spot and hit the chisel the second time. The blow created a chink between the lock and the wood. I inserted the blade in the gap and continued hitting the chisel until I cut one of the bolts pinning the lock to the panel. I did the same thing to the other three bolts and the lock got detached. I went inside and repeated the process on Basirat’s door on the left. Then I turned to my mother’s on the right. The lock posed no problem to get dislodged. I entered the room and switched on the light. Everything became visible: the wooden bed, the side table, the cupboard, the wardrobe, a three-feet white trunk, and other things.
I knew where it was, the title deed for that piece of land. I moved to the cupboard standing between the foot of the bed and the wall. The document was on the lowest drawer. I tried to open it, but it was locked. Fortunately the one above it was unlocked, so I pulled that one out completely and was able to see the contents of the one below. I fished out the files and other documents there and quickly went through them. A big manila envelope was tucked inside one file. I took the envelope out and emptied its contents on the carpet. There was the land deed. After checking it, I put it back inside the envelope and returned the other documents neatly in the lowest drawer and pushed back the upper one. I turned to my mother’s bed and lifted the mattress. I had seen her hide money under it on two occasions. A black plastic bag lay among the rest of the pieces of carton covering the floor of the bed. I lifted the bag, and from its weight I knew that something was in it. I dipped my hand inside and scooped out its papery contents—eight thousand naira. Pocketing six thousand naira, I kept back the rest, and hurried out of the room with the envelope, closing the door.
I gathered all the tools and hastened to my own door and gave it the same treatment like others. Then I went inside, hurled the envelope onto my mattress and threw the tools back under the bed. Without delay, I changed my sweat-sodden clothes, grabbed the document and went into Basirat’s room. I yanked her cupboard open and collected all her make-up, a pair of shoes and three dresses. Stuffing them in a sack bag, I took it with me. I managed to close our front door, but a slight touch on it—in fact, on all the four doors—would leave them swinging back. Mounting my motorcycle at one end of the house, I zoomed off.
It was late in the evening that I decided to go back home. I had gone to my friend, Bamidele, and given him the document and Basirat’s belongings. Bamidele was also like me, a commercial motorcyclist and a fatherless young man living in one room at Oke Ila, near Federal Housing Estate, Ado-Ekiti. We were about the same age, twenty-five, and had similar dark-toned skin. But he had less flesh on his bones than I. After handing those items over to him, with some instructions, I resumed my work of hunting for passengers until past seven in the evening when I started heading for home.
A small crowd had gathered in our compound, expressing shock at the handiwork of burglars.
“What is the world turning into?” someone asked.
“What are thieves looking for in Auntie Bose’s house?” a woman said, commiserating with my mother.
“This is terrible,” a man shouted. “A recent development in this area.”
I dismounted from my motorcycle and snaked to our front door, shoving people. “What is happening here?” I glanced around me with a mock surprise.
A man said, “Look at your doors.” He pointed at my handiwork on the door. “Thieves—”
“Did what?” I thundered. “You mean that—that—?” I hustled into our sitting-room.
Basirat was pacing about, crying that many of her things had been stolen, refusing any consolation from about twenty people in the room. My mother sprawled on the carpet, weeping, lifting her hands up, asking God the kind of offence she had committed that defied forgiveness, thereby attracting evil people to come and steal her money. It pained me that I was the cause of her lamentation. But I must go abroad.
I stood for a while, looking as though gobsmacked by everything. At last I asked Basirat what had happened.
“Look at our doors,” she pointed at her door, and then at our mother’s. “Even your own room was broken into.”
“This is wicked! This is atrocious! Why are thieves heartless?” I pushed my way towards my room, stopped short before my door and started gazing at the empty slot for the lock. I now realized that the damage to the door was more than I had intended. After staring at it for some time, I pushed it open and entered the room. It was dark. I turned on the light, took a cursory glance around, and moved out again to the living room and slumped to the floor. I was shedding tears now, not in pretense, but in the shocking awareness of the attention my secret act had drawn. Some women started rebuking me, asking me not to cry like a little child, pointing out that I should be the one consoling my mother and sister. I rose at last, went to my mother, tapped her on the shoulder and begged her to stop her lamentation. I told her that I could see to her needs as long as I lived. I turned to Basirat and promised to buy her clothes and cosmetics more expensive than the stolen ones. She seemed relieved by the promise and calmed down.
“Aha, you are now behaving like a man,” one woman said.
“That’s what is expected of you, Femi,” another added.
“These thieves,” I said, “they won’t go free. I’m going to babalawo tomorrow to find out how many they were. They won’t go free!”
“You’re right,” a man said. Everybody seemed to have agreed that it was not only one person that had perpetrated the act.
About six o’clock the next morning, I told my mother that I was going to see babalawo, a medicine man who would reveal to me the identity of the burglars. But she resisted me. And I knew why: After her dramatic conversion from Islam to Christianity, my mother had come to believe more that evil doers would be rewarded accordingly only by God.
“Don’t dissuade me,” I said. “These thieves deserve punishment.”
“Allow God to judge them,” she said.
I insisted that I must see the man, and she insisted that I should not. But I was just a pretender; I did not intend to consult any diviner. I rather went to an agent who would secure me someone to buy the land. He demanded a photocopy of the document, which I gave him, to verify whether the land had truly been registered with the Government. He asked me to come back in three days’ time.
I returned home in the evening with four new locks. Although I believed that my mother would not mind my findings from the babalawo, I had decided to tell her that I did not meet him again should she ask. But she did not bother me with any question. She was rather overjoyed that I had bought stronger locks, unaware that it was her money that I had used. I had also used her money to buy Basirat powder, lotion, lipsticks, and two packets of soap. I added to this a perfume that could be smelt from a few yards away. But because I did not know her size of shoes and dress, I gave her some money to buy them herself. She kowtowed in the manner of Yoruba tradition as she received her gifts, and called me innumerable names that made me feel like a king.
The following day, a carpenter I had alerted came and fixed the doors.
Things were now going according to plan. First, my mother had not yet discovered that the document had disappeared. She focused her mind solely on the stolen money. But gradually her business absorbed her attention once more, and she seemed unbothered about the money again. Secondly, the land agent had confirmed that our land had been registered and he had secured a man who would buy it for one million naira. I had demanded more than that but the agent, probably cashing in on my desperate need for the money, said nothing would be added to the price. I did not have the time to run from one agent to another for a better bargain. I wanted to leave this country as quickly as possible.
At last I had one million naira in my hand, but our well-sited land had gone. The transaction did not bother me, because I knew that within two years, I could buy four or more plots of land, no matter their locations in our country.
By the end of March, after I paid through the nose, my Malaysian visa was issued to me in Abuja. It was at this time that my mother came into my room one night and asked whether I had seen the land deed.
“Did you ask me to look after it?” I said with mocked aggression.
“I never said I did.”
“Go and look for it where you kept it, then.”
“God!” She rushed back to her room.
I locked my door.
That night, I packed my things into my bag, and before anybody else in the house could wake on the following morning, I left and took a taxi to Bamidele’s. Once there about seven am, I called my mother and informed her that I was on my way to Lagos to book my flight. Before her response, I added that she should forget about the land because I had sold it. Her shout of exasperation made my eardrum vibrate, and I ended the call, texted her to hand over the motorcycle to the dealer if he came with my surety. Then I switched off my phone.
I stayed with Bamidele till the next morning when I took off to Lagos. We had chatted about many things in the night as we swigged bottles of beer in celebration of my departure. He had counted me fortunate to have had a father who had had the initiative of securing a piece of land worth up to a million naira. He anathemized his own father for the latter’s profligacy on booze and dying thereof. We looked back at our oil-rich country, assessed her with other oil-producing countries, and became mad with our successive Governments for their inability to use our mineral wealth to lunch our nation into an industrialized one, to develop effective strategies to meet the needs of the less privileged.
“Not even in education have we benefited,” I said, sadly. “Otherwise, people like you and me would have now been rounding off our university education.”
“Don’t open that sore.” Bamidele struck his empty glass on the table and shook his head pensively. “I wanted to study chemistry, but where is the money for school?” He looked at me as though expecting me to provide the answer. His tiny eyes had assumed a pinky colour.
I took a sip of my drink and shrugged. We sat silently for a few minutes.
“It is good that you go, Femi. My Igbo friend says that he who is rejected does not reject himself.”
“Very true,” I said.
“I would have advised you to use the money for further studies here, but even many who graduated from universities years ago are riding okada like me. Unemployed. And what is the result? People here are swarming abroad. So you should also go.”
“But when you reach there, Femi, don’t forget me. Remember that we used to eat together at Madam Quantity’s restaurant. Remember that we used to say to her, ‘Madam, do you still have the tail of the fish? This plate of rice is too small. Please add more.’ ”
We laughed, and I promised that I would never forget him. When he had taken the last cup of his drink, he stood up, staggered to his wardrobe, and began to search for something there, his back towards me. Some minutes later, he returned to his chair opposite me, his hands full of crumpled naira notes. After rearranging and stretching them on the table between us, he counted them, removed a few notes and handed me the rest.
“Two thousand naira,” he said. “Use it to support yourself. That’s all I have, both home and abroad. May God grant you a safe journey tomorrow.”
Our flight touched down in Kuala Lumpur in the evening of the second Friday of April. After claiming my baggage I stood at a corner, waiting for Biodun. I had called him three times yesterday and reminded him of my arrival time today, and he had assured me that he would be at the airport to pick me up. So my eyes were alert now to spot any black skin, which was very rare here. But it appeared he would waste a little time before coming. I decided to phone him. That would settle the matter quickly.
I walked to a phone booth and dialled his number. But it was not connecting. Perhaps this booth had a problem. I moved to another one and tried, and got the same result. I took out my diary from my pocket and checked Biodun’s number. It was the same with the one in my phone. Was the problem from the network? But some people were at various booths, making calls. I went once more to another one without success. It was at this time that I contacted a uniformed officer.
“I can’t reach my friend,” I said. “I guess I’m not familiar with the network here.”
“Can I see the number?”
I gave him the diary, pointing at Biodun’s number. He dialled it with his mobile phone and put the phone to his ear. After some seconds, he shook his head and handed me the diary.
“Not available,” he said.
I felt hot urine rush to my member. Grabbing the front of my trousers, I whipped to the gents, and while urinating there I wondered what would happen if I failed to connect Biodun.
My anxiety grew worse when I came out of the toilet. I became more alert to spot any black skin in the vast hall teeming with people. After watching in vain to see my would-be host, I went again to a phone booth without reaching him. I then moved down to a taxi rank and stood close to a pillar. Cabs were arriving and leaving. I didn’t know what to do. I had spent about thirty minutes there when a young Asian man clad in khaki came to me and said, “Looking for a taxi?”
I shook my head.
“What do you want? I can help you?”
I briefly studied him and guessed he was at least six years older than me. Reluctantly, I told him my story.
“Oh, you’re a Nigerian. Is this your first time in Malaysia?”
“Okay. Wait for me here.” He hurried out and soon came back with another man of his age, also dressed in khaki. “Come with us.”
I hesitated. Where would I go with strangers?
“Come with us,” the man repeated. “Or don’t you need help anymore? It’s our duty here to help those who are stranded. We’ll take you to your black brothers.”
I rejoiced and followed them. Once I see a black person like me here, I would be fine. We walked to one taxi. I got in behind, and he and his friend sat in the front, he himself behind the wheel.
We later pulled up in front of a four-storey condominium. I could not tell exactly how long it had taken us to be here. It might be less than an hour or more.
I followed them into a large room on the second floor of the building. Once we entered, my helpers switched to another language other than English. I was lost and became apprehensive. I felt like going back to the airport to wait for Biodun. He must be there by now.
“Keep your bag there,” the second man said to me, pointing to a space between a king-sized bed and a wardrobe.
I kept my bag as directed and stood by the front door.
“You can sit down,” the first man said. Both of them were seated on the bed, their back turned to me.
“Where are they?” I asked, anxiously.
“Who?” the first man said.
“My black brothers.”
“You can’t see them today. It’s already late.”
“It’s not all that—”
“Relax,” the second man ordered. “Tomorrow we’ll take you to them.”
They continued their discussion in their language and afterwards, the first man asked whether I had a phone number.
“No,” I replied.
“You should have bought it at the airport,” he said.
He was right. I had seen the sellers there, mostly young Asian girls, but the bustle at the hall and my troubled mind prevented me from thinking critically.
The two men left the room. When they returned a few minutes later, the first man gave me both a recharge card and SIM card. I inserted the latter into my phone, loaded the former, and dialled the number he had also given me. The phone in his hand started ringing.
“That’s my number,” he said. “Save it because you may need it tomorrow.”
I was overcome with wonder that a stranger could be so kind to me. Perhaps the gesture was a confirmation of Chibuike’s popular saying: A good relation could also be found in a distant land. I dialled Biodun’s number again, but was told by a female voice that it was unreachable at the moment. I looked out of the window. The darkness punctuated by electric lights indicated that the time was far spent. I spread my handkerchief on the floor and sat on it near my bag, intentionally avoiding the two seats on which were oily stains. I peeked at my wristwatch but realized that it was currently useless; it still had Nigerian time. And no clock was in the room to tell me the time here. In fact, apart from the neat bed and the elegant wardrobe, the room appeared like a place not often used. Probably, it was for the stranded.
My mind switched back home. What would my mother and sister be thinking about me now? I remembered Bamidele. I called and told him that my journey was safe. While he was still praising God, I ended the call. We would talk more when I had enough account in my phone.