Fiction

Life Deferred: Fiction by Eze Ifeanyichukwu Peter

Image: iulian circo via Flickr

Life is here, in this place, where you are- not there, in that place where you yearn for. Yearning defers this place, this life that is here- the life there is.  The tree is wise. It lives wherever it finds itself, even in a desert. Be like a tree. A tree? 

Here? No. Life’s not here. It’s there. ‘There?’ Look, let me tell you, ‘there‘ does not exist. It is an empty space. Life is here. ‘Here’ is real. You want to run away from what is real? No! You are mistaken. Can’t you see what I see up there on the horizon? Beauty, brilliance- oh! Look! It’s Life. Yes! I can see it. It’s your fairy-tale. No! It’s not a fairy tale. I am not blind. I see it. I am going over. That’s where life is. I’m headed there. Bala can’t be lying. Bala won’t play me.

***

The long-old bus, a big box on four rickety wheels. By the window you sat. You looked. You looked out. Trees, dry trees, their leaves green, ducking and bumping along without effort, alive where life had put them. Contented!

You looked again, through the spaces in them, and you saw houses. Well-built houses of homes. You looked at them, through them like they were transparent screens, to see home, to speed up to it like a child, your childhood self, scampering away towards home after a long day of play. Satisfied!

**

To move or not to move? You moved. Away! Away from here. Far! Far away from life here. To elsewhere, where life was green, smelt of abundance; where life was fertile, lush with castles-of your dreams. There, your dream was real.

The rowdy airport, that market place of rowdiness, and a symbol of this place, wore an international tag, and smelt of mockery. You went through a whole lot of passes, encountered faces who beamed at you with relish. You didn’t pretend not to know why. Money made the passes quicker. You were leaving. And quicker.

You boarded the plane, strapped to a seat, amidst its hum. The roof yawned and some screen hung down. It held your sight. It instructed you. Picturesque were the instructions. Picturesque, like the life you were leaving for. Excitement strapped you to her joy.

The plane hummed. Louder it hummed, swallowed the noise of the airport and faded away the noise of here. It jerked. It jerked off vestiges of here. It took position, began to run, gathered speed. It sped off. Here was a speck, forgotten, in the wake of its speed.

It left the earth, this part, your home. You felt like a suspended object in the air left to fall off. On what? Leaving here was like being thrown into the air to fall on some fortune. Sensational was the feeling

You arrived. The city, your dreamland destination, was a beautiful drawing on a large page of desert land. It unfolded with splendor. You looked out of the window and smiled like a fool. On this splendor you were going to land. You will leaf through the pages of this land. Your thoughts pulsed.

The land’s lone eye stared at you from her eternally cloudless sky, embracing you with intense hotness. Nothing was amiss. Under her unblinking stare laid the fortune.

Bala, your friend and agent, disappeared in the wake of the ringing phone. The next time you dialled, it was switched off – and remained so forever. The last time you spoke with him, his account had been debited, and he had confirmed it. Now, you were a finished business, your use is finished. Welcome!

You beheld faces of turbanned heads atop white swathed bodies. Immaculate! But not your agent or any semblance. There were other bodies also, clothed in black like shadows of deceit, and their faces shone like sparks of light in darkness. Impassive! Your colour was a black contrast to their white. They looked at you. You were like other colours of your kind, flown in on the fairy plane of lies.  You looked at them. They looked at you, through you, like you were not there. You were not there, of course. They saw blackness with savage strength. They smiled. You were special.

Where are you from?

Geriani

Oh, Geriani? Hehehe. Strong people!

Your lips smiled.

Rich country!

Your heart frowned.

You had been handed over without knowing how or when to a capitalist, your boss – whom you would toil for. He supplied you to another capitalist who paid your capitalist boss on your head. Your boss it was who paid you from that – something to scratch life with. You, a creator, would create wealth.  Both you and your creation were owned. You were your boss’s wealth. A specter of agitation haunted you.

You agitated. It pulled down nothing. That was the norm. It frowned and threatened you with vehemence. You signed the contract. When was that? You were going to toil under him for a score and four months. You couldn’t leave. How could you just leave? And with nothing? If you left, you would be banned. That was the law. Banned to ground zero, emptied into home’s embrace, wasted.

What was the big deal if you were banned? You mused. No big deal? But you had come on a huge sum, a huge sum of unsaid promises and expectations. Was that not? You were stranded. You began to begin.  New life! New beginning!

Your legs, a pair of reluctance in black safety boots, dragged you, a body, a cocooned mass of blueless calm in blue coverall, resigned; your head underneath the canopy of a dark red helmet pondered your fate; your eyes, still balls behind two other eyes, blinkless; your nose, mask-covered,  jerked its breath out of its nostrils. You joined a bunch; godforsaken like prisoners filed out, shared out as objects of whims and caprices of your owners. Prized.

Let me have that black one.

Why should you have him?

I need him more than you do.

Really? I got him first. If you want him, then you have to pay me fifty percent on him.

Fifty percent what…?

You heard me right.

Hey…come on…?

Hey…what?

Ok…I will give you half of that, please.

Fifty or no deal.

Okay…deal.

The turbaned humans with white skins kept negotiating on you as though you were absent or even a thing of only commercial worth. Special commodity! Special prize!

From here and there, pipes crisscrossed, like this, like that, that way, this way; stood erect, laid across, overhead; black flat belts, iron surfaces like rail tracks, carried particles of sand of stones, or stones of sand. They leaked through their transport route. You cleared the ground clean of them. Your waist ached. You wanted to rest. Pain was routine. Routine and painful! But pain was everywhere. Hell was here. Heaven was hell’s paradise.

Even so, you now detest rest! Because the last time you rested, the stipend being leased to your pocket was greatly reduced. You were here to work, not to rest. You were here to toil, not to sit. You rested anyway. You looked this way and that way like a thief. Albeit a thief stealing nothing but time. Your left leg, rested on the shoulder of the shovel. You looked again. Your right arm on the handle, your chin on it. You sighed. Life didn’t bother. To live was to bother less.

Again you looked. You left the object to fall on the dust-covered floor. No shadow resembled an approaching body. You sat on its blade and folded your legs like a yoga apprentice, listening to sounds. Sounds of life’s whisper. Life was here! Where else was life? There? Listen.

Mechanisms whined and quaked, ground and mashed stones into pebbles and sand into dust. All sounds jammed in the heat with the beating of your heart and the cry of your mind to coalesce into a single eternal din like a long drawn lacrimal hum- praying to God? Eyes were not watching. Pain was bearable. Life pained! God was silent.

You went below the ground on which you just rested. Hot pebbles rattled like ladies fighting over a man. Shameless. They fell on some iron carriage that took them somewhere. Some bounced off on to your body. Your body was somewhere too. The pain travelled your spine and scattered your face with wrinkles of hurt. Life was a bed of hurt. Merciless.

A certain conveyor conveyed some mashed substance. You stood at the end of it and collected the ones that flowed into a rickety wheelbarrow. You emptied it. Returned it. Emptied it. Returned it. Monotony was routine.  Routine was life.

You climbed a dust-covered flight-of-stairs. The dust leaped with joy to welcome you. Your body was where they wanted to be. You shovelled them into an opening. Sand trickled down like a drizzle from somewhere above a yawning opening. The opening exhaled dust back at you.  You inhaled- garbage out, garbage in, like a computer. Life gave, you received. What did you give?

Dust, cement dust, defied your precaution with nonchalance. No. They were being phony. It was a play of hide and seek. You hid. They sought you. You inhaled them. They liked being welcomed. You exhaled them. They liked to be free. They tickled you. You choked. You coughed. Your chest burned. Their way of teasing you. Your throat felt parched. The lone eye in the sky didn’t need to bother. Its gaze was steady without a blink, frying you with heat. It was not being pitiless. The frying heat was meant for savages. Savages didn’t feel it after all. Wasn’t life taming your savagery?

***

The trees gave way. The well-built houses of homes too. Another expanse of sand, spacious like the virtual yearning of your mind, appeared. Far off in the distance, a hill like a spec stood bare in its place, its home. And your home, life – your yearning – was far off too, on the horizon, a distance, bare of this life, this living, this monotony, this routine, this pain, this hurt, right?

The bus screeched to a stop before a large building. A building that wore a conspicuous inscription on its gate, LABO CAMP. Camp of many rooms, rooms of many bodies, bodies from different strokes of places, places other than here, camped here, on an outskirt, cramped, away from the life of this place. The inscription greeted you with mockery daily. Always! Now it glinted at you like a reminder of its presence. Camp of Laboras. Life mocked!

You dragged yourself out of the bus. You were home again. That interior perfumed by a stew of many smelly bodies. Bodies smelling of anger, sighing regret, occupying bed spaces of rest without rest, up and down. Too tired, you remained in your bed, your room in the room, enclosed in it, staring at the underside of the bed above you, your ceiling. Your phone rang. It had been ringing. Twenty missed calls! You picked. It stopped. You dialed the number.

Hello, Marcus’ your voice said.

Hello! I am leaving. The other voice replied

Leaving to where?

Maybe to West or Far East. I’m done with this place.

What’s in for you there?

I am not sure until I get there. I think it will be a lot better there.

Oh, well…good luck.

Thanks.  What about you?

Me? I’ve not made any decisions yet. I’m not sure.

Alright, take care.

You too.

Your eyes, weary of staring at nothing, felt heavy in their sockets – their pretex of wanting to behold something else, elsewhere. Your body, tired of being tired, laid still. And you trundled off, to your land of yearning. There, the spaces in the trees winked at you like a coquettish damsel inviting you, to behold the well-built houses of homes, sprouting on the large expanse of green land tall buildings, green, standing tall into the green sky-the place, where the castle in the air, the grand fortune of your yearning was real- that horizon where life was bare of contours.

The clock ticked the hour. The sonority of the muezzin sang you back into the mix of feet shuffling out of groaning beds; shambling across scarce spaces, frenzied; clothes stained with yesterday’s toil, draped the bodies of their owners, whose resigned faces smiled without mirth. Same faces, on the same bodies, in the same place, same routine. You followed suit, feverish with speed amidst the hooting horn of the long-old bus…

———————-

Image: iulian circo via Flickr

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