By Veronica Nkwocha
Footsteps pounding, the pavement echoing, annoyed at the slap, slap, of sandaled feet. Okon squeezed past some shrubs, sand in his hair, disturbing a hen that had been hidden away for weeks looking after her eggs. She came out fighting, scratching him in crevices he didn’t know he owned. He slapped her away and tasted feather, he spat them out quickly. He leapt over a wall; the grimy algae left a dark patch on his cream chinos trousers. He heard ripping as he landed on the other side and looked down mortified; his trousers were ripped, a line confirming his fears started from beneath his zipper and he felt a wind in his inner thighs.
“Shit” he exclaimed.
He didn’t slow down even though he felt it rip further.
His mind was full. Of words. Consternation, fear, confusion all ran riot, forming themselves into a lumpy soup of hopelessness, their weight dragging him down. He turned left and ran through washing hanging on a line like flags in neat rows. Some were still wet and he spat out a stray bra, wet and dank and he wondered what kind of cheap soap the owner used, all the while using his last strength to get as far away from the group chasing him. He could hear them like a pack of hyenas trying to hunt him down. He was horrified to find the bra clinging to his neck tie, it had become entangled. He tried to rip it off but he felt it tighten as tough a noose and he ignored it all the while sad and angry. If this was his end, he did not want the ugly, red, padded bra jutting out two perfect arcs as though filled to the brim with its owners twin orbs sticking to him like an accessory.
He turned a corner and ran smack into the object of his fear, it was the taxi driver. He was a large dark mass, at least six feet tall and wide, almost in equal measure in Okon’s hyper panicked eyes. The man advanced towards him menacingly surrounded by at least ten men. They were wry, sprite and had the ripple that spoke of the streets. Okon defeated crumpled against an electric pole panting pitifully. The inhabitants of the street, curious at the intrusion poured out. He thought he must be having an out of body experience because Mr large mass taxi driver stopped and started laughing, his friends joined in and they whipped out their phones and started taking photos.
“This one no worth am, leave him.” A companion of the taxi driver spoke out loud.
“You don’t have money to pay for the taxi and you think you can escape abi?”
Okon did not say a word. He had been running late for an interview all because his landlord whom he owed rent had visited that morning. He hunkered down beneath his bed listening to the man bang on the door. He stayed long enough to be sure Okon wasn’t in, a full hour he sat at the steps while Okon sweated worried that he would miss the all-important interview. Once he was released from his self-imposed prison, he hailed the first taxi hoping to make a quick escape on arrival by using a side street as a decoy to fool the unsuspecting driver. But it did not go as planned.
The spectators were all laughing and pointing as the driver and his companions faded away like dark thoughts in a spectacular sunrise. He tried to walk with a swag, to cover up his shame but his broken sandals were losing some straps. They flopped side-ways giving him an ungainly step. It took him many hours to get home; he first of all lost the ugly bra by painstakingly separating the offending garment from his beloved tie. It had stood with him through many trials; he folded it carefully and put it in his pocket. He grabbed a stray old newspaper flying about the untidy street and covered his dignity as best as he could. He limped, no he hopped home.
“Neighbour, neighbour”, Mama Bisi, the akara seller called out to him as he arrived home.
“What happened now?” She asked.
She was sporting a new weave and was fully made up; her powder packed too tightly, matte in the evening light.
“I fall inside gutter”, he answered lying.
She made clucking sounds of pity as he made his way into the communal bathroom. He was touched when he got back to his room to see she had left him a plate of akara and some hot pap. He settled down and enjoyed the meal.
He logged on to Facebook. He noticed his friend John had typed ‘amen’ on a picture containing a prayer. He clicked on it and was shocked to see it was a picture of him. Dirt on his face, sand in his hair, a few feathers sticking out of his ears, ugly red bra dangling from his tie askew and boxers peeping from trousers ripped to his knees thick with algae. The worst part was the look in his eyes, feral and his shoulders stooped, legs bowed like a cornered animal.
The caption said, “This man attempted to use his sister for money rituals, he was caught and he immediately ran mad. If you believe that God will protect you from those who want to use you for money rituals in 2013, click like. May your enemies run mad as soon as you click like and type amen.”
There were already 20k likes.
He sank into his chair.