Monday, August 31

40

Something Bigger Than Love 2 - 1

ONE



Obinna went back to Ojuelegba that afternoon on foot.

He was packing the few clothes he owned into his Ghana-Must-Go when he saw Mr Ade Johnson's card.

He read it and threw it aside and continued packing.

When he was done, he looked round the place to be sure he hadn't left anything behind.


Anything he would need on his trek back home. He didn't care if it'd take him days or weeks, or even a month to get back to Obeledu.

He pushed Ahanna’s Nike bag to the corner and carried his own bag.

Turning, the white card on the ground caught his attention again.

He hesitated, but finally bent and picked it.

He read the two set of numbers on it over and over again—they looked different and did not start with the usual 080 or 070.

They both started with 042.

He searched his pocket and saw N70— a dirty and wrinkled N50 note and a crisp polymer N20.

The girl that operated the call centre was terribly rude. She told him she'd charge him N100 per minute because the numbers were not regular numbers.

‘Oga, na office line be this o,’ she told him as she pressed in the numbers.

‘So?’

‘Na N100 per minute.’

‘N100?’

She halted. ‘You dey do abi you no dey do?’

He told her to go ahead knowing full well that he had not enough money. He'd gotten to that stage in life where nothing mattered anymore.

The girl would shout at him, or, even better, call the police. At least, he'd have a place to sleep.

'Not picking,' the girl said after the phone had stayed awhile pressed to her ear.

'Try it again,' Obinna said.

She gave him a look he didn't understand before she dialled the number again.

'Not picking,' she said again soon after.

'Try again.'

'Eh? So I will sleep on your call today abi? Please go.'

He turned to leave.

'Hey!'

He turned back.

'Take your card!'

He extended his hand to take the card. The girl’s phone began to ring and she abandoned giving him the card and picked up the phone.

The tall-poled GSM pressed to her ear, she said, 'Hello?'

She waited.

'Hello-o?'

'Oh, actually, it's a business centre, sir. Someone was trying to call you.'

‘Yes, sir, a public call centre, sir.’

Obinna wondered how she suddenly grew manners.

She extended the phone to him. 'Take.'

Obinna took the phone from her and put to his ear. 'Hello, sir. It's me Obinna.'

A pause.

'I know you may not remember me again, but you asked me to call whenever I need help...'

‘Sir?’

His eyes became wide. 'You remembered, sir?’

‘Yes, yes, Ojuelegba, sir. You remembered, sir?'

Another pause.

He smiled—a smile felt strange on his face. 'Yes, sir. It's me, sir.'

‘You will pay for receiving o!’ the girl warned him.

Obinna flicked her a frown and stepped further aside.

The girl hissed and popped her gum.

Mr Johnson was saying something.

'Sir?’

‘Sir, it's a long story.’

‘I don't know where to begin.'

‘Sir?’

'Please, please give me back my phone before you run down my battery on your useless call.' The girl wanted to take the phone and he stepped away.

'Ok, sir.’

'Yes, I know there, sir.'

'I'll go now, sir.'

'Ok, I will--"

The girl jerked the phone from him.

***

Some minutes later, he dropped his bag near the outside wall of KFC.

The uniformed man at the entrance didn't open the door for him like he did others.

Obinna was thankful he’d even allowed him to pass.

He looked round the space and the tables and then the demarcation facing him, where three ladies in red uniform stood.

He put up his hand in greeting to the one staring at him. She turned away.

The other two were attending to a customer; a tall man calling out his orders quietly.

He moved to a corner and sat at a table, watching the man. A machine squeaked and pushed out a receipt. The girl tore it off and gave the man with his packaged items.

The man left and his eyes moved to the table opposite him where a couple sat facing each other.

They were eating light-green-coloured rice from separate trays with fork and knife.

There were so many empty tables and Obinna wondered if their food wasn't nice enough.

Madam Stainless at the Nkwo rarely had enough seats for all the customers that troop into her shed.

He watched the couple, the uniform movement of their hands, as though the man was copying the lady.

He steadied his gaze on the man. He didn’t think men eat like that, or should, so little at a time and so slowly.

The man at the door opened it and Mr Ade Johnson came through.

He looked and saw him standing.

He walked over and pulled out a chair and sat facing him.

He was taller than Obinna had imagined, and bigger. Not huge, just an adequately-sized man who knew his exact suit size. He had a slow, springing gait, like one who wouldn't want his shoe soles to get stained by the ground.

'What happened?' he asked, looking at him with true concern.

Obinna felt touched by the show of care, and then suddenly furious. At Ahanna and what he’s done. For making him feel so miserable, allowing him to discover this part of himself that was so soft and slow and scattered.

‘I’m listening,’ Mr Ade Johnson reminded him.

Again, he did not know where to start because he didn't know how patient the man would be.

He finally decided to start from the very beginning, how he came to Lagos, their life at Oshodi, the scam and finally Ahanna's suicide.

Mr Johnson listened with all attention and at the end of it, shook his head.

But his face was clear of any emotion as he stared at Obinna.

For a small, disturbing moment Obinna wondered if he thought he'd lied.

'Quite sad,' the man said finally. He shook his head again. 'Really quite very sad.'

Because he was still staring at him, Obinna nodded.

'So what do you intend to do now?'

'If I can get...' he paused. It was too forward, he thought. 'I would go back if I had transport money,’ he rephrased.

'Oh, you want to go back to the village, why?'

He didn't understand why a question whose answer was obvious had to come. He still answered though. 'I have nowhere to stay, sir.'

'Oh.'

'Yes, sir.'

There was a pause.

It lingered.

'You can come stay in my place.'

'Mm?'

'You will get your stuff and you'd stay in my place, would you like that?'

Would he like that? Obinna wondered who this man was who was skilled at asking unlikely questions.

He was starting to feel so much better when he remembered the story of rich men in the cities who use people for money rituals.

'Thanks so much, sir,’ he said, ‘but what I want is to go back home. Lagos didn't favour me.'

Mr Johnson smiled. 'It's still quite too early to know that,' he told him.

Obinna couldn’t believe what he heard. ‘Sir?’

Mr Johnson’s smile spread out revealing a sparkling dentition and cute dimples. ‘I don’t know if you’d believe this easily Obinna, but I’ve seen people that went through worse, and you know what, came out with a great inspiring story at the end.’

Obinna managed a nod. At least he was honest enough to mention he wasn’t referring to himself, because he was certain the man couldn’t survive even the slightest form of hard life.

With his shiny black face and neat, fragile fingers. There and then, he concluded Mr Johnson could be all things but ritualistic.

'So, Mr Obinna, you are staying,' Mr Johnson ended.

But he really didn't want to stay. He was tired of Lagos. 'Sir, I really must go. Ahanna needs to be buried.'

'Yes, yes, of course. You’ll travel to the village for his funeral and then you will return.'

Obinna was staring.

Mr Johnson joined his hands on the table. His fingers were so neat they appeared feminine. 'You take your things to my house and you travel to your village for your brother’s funeral and when you are done, you come back as soon as possible, do you understand that?'

Mr Johnson’s eyes bore into him and he finally nodded.

'Good, so what would you like to have?'

'Sir?'

Mr Johnson waved and one of the girls behind the demarcation walked to their table. 'Sir?'

'My usual lunch set, please.’

She nodded with a smile.

‘Make it double.'

Another nod. ‘Ok, sir.’

Obinna ate the chicken and chips slowly.

When he was done, there was no sign of bone or chips on his plate, only the bloody stain of ketchup.

He liked the chicken with its tender bones, but not the chips that felt too feathery—he wished they’d be substituted with yam—and the ketchup tasted as much as it looked like congealed blood.

He ate all anyway.

***

At Mr Johnson's apartment in Gbagada Phase 2 Estate, Obinna wondered if they were still in Lagos.

It was terribly quiet and he’d seen only a few people walking around outside the street, all so slowly, casually, as if they were only taking a leisure walk.

Mr Johnson drove into the garage and the stout man that opened the gate closed it back.

He’d waved in greeting as Mr Johnson was driving in and he’d responded with a nod, but he still ran to the car when Mr Johnson got down and bowed and said, ‘Good afternoon, sir.’

‘How do you do, Francis?’

‘Very fine, sir.’

Obinna waited for him to turn to greet him too, or at least look his way, but Francis never.

Inside the house, Mr Johnson took the stairs in twos.

There was something about his demeanour that Obinna liked—he seemed in control always, as though everything obeyed him. Even things without life.

In him he saw a man living his dream self.

For the first time since Ahanna’s death, hope kindled in him. Just maybe one day he’d be living his true dream too.

Maybe all hope is not lost after all.

Upstairs, the living room was wide and exquisite. Everything appeared to be in bond, not minding how disparately coloured they all were.

The curtains were brown, the sofas orange and the tiles green.

'Welcome to my humble abode,' Mr Johnson announced.

'Thank you, sir,' Obinna said. He was looking up, at the cluster of white bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

Because they sparkled, he couldn’t quite tell if they were lit or not.

‘Sir, what of your children?’

‘Oh.’ Mr Johnson dropped his car keys on the central glass table. ‘Those weren’t mine,’ he said, ‘they are my sister’s. They’ve gone back to Abuja.’

‘Ok.’ He somehow felt better with the knowledge; kids can be so messy, after all; rich ones especially.

'You can sit while I get you something to drink and then show you to your room.'

'Ok, sir.'

He sipped his can Coke slowly, preserving it for no purpose.

Mr Johnson picked his car keys from the glass table where he’d dropped them. 'I'll be heading back to the office.' He checked his watch. 'Lunchtime extra time is over.'

Obinna didn’t understand that.

At the door, he turned. 'Just make yourself comfortable, ok, Grace will be here soon and she will provide you with anything you need.'

'Ok, sir.'

He left, leaving him to wonder if the man knew well about Lagos at all. If he'd been living here long enough to know well about leaving his house to a complete stranger.

The thought about who Grace was soon took over his mind.

His wife perhaps. He checked round the walls again; no wedding photograph.

Maybe his girlfriend, he left it at, but suddenly replaced it with ‘the woman he intend to marry’.

That, he felt was more respectful, for a man his age. A kindhearted man who lived in Lagos yet without a single drop of it in his vein.

He didn't rise from the couch till someone opened the main door: a rather plump lady wearing a blue gown that did nothing to conceal it was a uniform.

That is if the shortness and tightness were taken aside.

He knew she must be Grace, and that he’d been wrong. Grace was the maid.

'Welcome, ma,' he said, rising.

Grace looked at him, but her eyes were off the next second, toward the Flat Screen TV on the wall, and then suddenly back to him. 'Oh well, welcome to you too,’ she said. 'Mr Johnson told me he had a guest, that must be you.'

Her English was as brisk as her manner of looking and he wondered if she was a maid or a tutor.

'It's me, ma.'

'Oh, welcome again, boy.'

Obinna nodded. 'Thank you.'

'My name is Grace, I'm the house steward.’ She gave a sudden small laugh. 'Well, stewardess, putting it properly!' Her big round eyes rolled up and then suddenly down. ‘Or not so very either.’ The eyes returned to Obinna, a hint of a smile appearing. ‘Wouldn’t want me confused with a flight attendant, that wouldn’t be nice, would it?’

‘Mm?’

‘Oh.’

With the face that came with the ‘oh’, Obinna understood perfectly.

But he was least bothered by what the plump maid thought of him.

‘So, what are you called?’ Grace asked, dropping her plastic basket on the glass table.

'My name is Obinna.'

'Obinna, oh. You must be Ibo.'

'I'm Igbo…ma.'

'Oh call it off with the ma, will you? Sounds annoyingly obsequious. Just call me Grace. Miss Grace.'

'Ma?'

'Call me Grace!' She took hold of her basket. 'I'll be in the kitchen, if you'd need me.'

'Ok, ma.'


‘Grace!’ The kitchen door slammed shut behind her.


This is the first post of a new series, as usual, we'd be needing at least 30 comments to determine if this story will continue or not.
Thanks for the support, DNB Fam.

40 comments:

  1. Ahanna's death opened doors for Obinna.. Cool. Lovin this new Grace.

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  2. Wow! Hope at last. Am liking dis new phase.

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  3. Will Grace be anoda, what's that gals name again in Obinna's former house? No mention of Ada in today's episode.

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  4. Obinna's big break is here. Thank God

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  5. The hustle out there isn't easy.. Obinna breakthrough is here

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  6. Am having an uneasy vibes about this Mr. Johnson. Too good to be true. Fingers crossed though.

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    1. Thank you. I am too. I wish him well though.

      Pamscrib.blogspot.com

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  7. Nice!!!! Can't wait for more.

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  8. Hey, Dan,if i hear that *if* you will continue again ehh, you will see yourself! no just try me oooooo! continue the gist jare!

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  9. Fantastic story. I love it

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  10. cool. ride on DNB

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  11. Hope Mr Johnson is not gay, that's too nice r of him unlesss he have a story too.

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  12. I have a feeling Mr Johnson is gay, wonderful story, can't wait 2 read d next episode

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  13. Hmmm... I hope it's nt wat am thinking o, anyway I pray it goes well for him.

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  14. So glad for Obinna..i hope Mr Johnson will help him indeed. Pls DBN crew the story should continue o
    ..
    Weldone Mr. Daniel

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  15. Pls continue oooooo

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  16. Abegi continue biko nu. Have a nasty feeling about this Mr. Ade

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  17. Nice work Dan...I'm a new reader and I must say you doing a great job.captivating stories, educative life stories etc. You got me glued till I finished every readerable on your page.

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  18. HOPE MR ADE IS TRULY A GOOD PERSON

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  19. I can smell something gayish, something peperish to the ear...

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  20. God help Obinna

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  21. he must not be gay o,,,am confident Obinna will make it in life,, now we didn't hear from his wife today,,, 30 comments is small Na,, ull get double, thanks Dan

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  22. Continue biko. I like the turn of events.

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  23. Obinnas luck looks like its chaging finally. Please continue with the story. Thanks

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  24. Only me can do the 30 comment self! continue please.

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  25. This piece is wonderful, Dan kindly continue pls

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  26. Wonderful!!!! when there is life there is hope. congrats Obinna

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  27. Something wrong somewhere. When something is too good to be true,it usually is.

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  28. R.I.P Ahanna! Good luck to Obinna, hope he will be happy in his new home.

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  29. nice story though Mr Johnson looks to good to b true u cant jus say his "gay"...if e really his den na GOBE!! for obinna.

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