Waste of sin
“How many days are we going to spend on earth that we are wearing coat of iron?” Akin’s mother remarked.
“Exactly o Kemi. That was exactly what I said o, but you know me na, I’m just looking at them. By the time I show my own fire ehn, they will know that devil’s bean plant can’t be grasped with bare hands.”
“See Comfort, you will have to be more patient. It is good to be strong but many things can only be fought by waiting”.
Akin turned again on his bed as the words of his mother and her cousin’s discussion filtered into his room. He was terribly bored. His blackberry phone laid discarded with lack of data subscription by the book he was reading and had grown weary off. He should do data subscription but his pocket money had ran out and he has maxed out his credit facility with his mother. As he adjusted his pillow, he muttered another curse at the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities for the union’s umpteenth strike action that has confined him to his house for four months on end.
Segun’s father had angrily sent him to the United Kingdom else he would have been at Segun’s house and not care how long the strike lasted. With fast internet connection, 24-hour electricity supply from the generating set and constant air-conditioning, he would be having a ball. Segun would have designed various ingenious and mischievous schemes to keep them busy and well sated no matter the duration of the strike. If only that night hadn’t happened.
He settled into a reverie of his many escapades with Segun which has become his constant companion recently. Words from the sitting room kept filtering into his room and soon his reverie turned into a visceral visual tour of his mother’s family house, close to the city centre. As they mention each parts of the abandoned compound that is in dire need of repairs, he saw it as it must have been when it was newly constructed. He saw the big storeroom that looked like a sectioned silo. A figure morphed up in his view pointing to some planks lying on the floor. The figure bore a resemblance to one his uncles, so he immediately sensed that he is his long-dead grandfather of whom no picture survived the downpour and flooding the night of his burial. The figure looked him in the eye and said “Make sure there is no waste of anything”.
Assuming his grandfather was talking to another phantom, he continued his mental explorations of the compound. The main courtyard now shows sign of age and long use, with containers of water, lines used to spread clothes for drying criss-crossing the rectangular yard and a closed well near the centre. The backside of the main house takes a length of the courtyard while the breadths were filled with openings to various bedrooms. The kitchen, toilets and bathrooms made up the other length of the courtyard. Various activities went on in the courtyard as he moved around unnoticed by the phantoms.
The images in his mind’s eye kept shifting with each new reminiscent banter coming into his ears. When a distant uncle’s name is mentioned, his visuals shift to the uncle’s sleeping room. When the communal eating from the same plates was mentioned, he saw little kids hunched over big bowls and were eating fast in order to be filled up more than others. When he heard of them relating how they trekked to school every day, he failed to see an image of his mother as a young student and the laughter deluge from the sitting room seemed to mock his effort.
“Don’t mind these children. They think they are too smart. I also have a Facebook account. That was how I met Taiye Lagata again. She is now so fat…”
“You nko? Are you not?” Akin’s mother cuts in. “I also want to buy a blackberry phone and know all these things that our children are doing. If one doesn’t do it, these kids will sell one. Like Akin, his nose is always buried in the phone, always typing…”
“My own Tubosun too o. When he’s not working or teaching people, he is on the phone. You know he does phone repairs, shoe making and teaches area boys how to do them, but he’s never as serious as when he is pressing his phone.”
“How are his legs? Shown any sign of improvement?”
“No o. We are still waiting on God for miracle o”
Akin jerked off his bed as he heard the exchange, landing on all fours. It has to be, he told himself. The similarity in the case is too much coincidence. Tubosun has to be his best twitter friend, the anonymous online activist @nusobut88. He had asked him several times for his contact information so they can meet and better exchange ideas but had been refused.
Akin had to act. He felt his chest threatening to burst out of his rib cage as blood rushed into his head. He made a decision and went into the sitting room.
“Mummy” he interrupted, addressing his mother’s cousin “I’m fighting with you o” he finished and seated beside her.
“My son, what have I done to you?” she hugged him and asked.
“Since all the times you come here to visit, you’ve never brought any of my cousins here to visit us nor invite me to come over to your place. I don’t even know them. If I go and woo your daughter outside nko?”
“Haaa My son, don’t worry, next time, Lanre will follow me here…”
“No o. I will follow you tomorrow as you go back. I will stay at least for a week and then I will return.”
“Hmmm. Kemi, what do you have to say?”
Akin’s mother shrugged and said “is he not your son? Either here or there o, he is at home. It’s not like I have work for him to do”
Akin smiled and thanked them both. He exited the sitting room in order to start packing his luggage. The day eased into night and Akin spent the time packing clothes, books he wanted to give Tubosun to read and composing conversation themes in his mind.
The crack of dawn met them stepping out of the house as Aunty Comfort has to get to work on or before 8am. They left the city with the first commercial bus leaving the park for Ogijo, a small town on the outskirt of Ikorodu, Lagos State. Though Akin had a hard time sleeping, the anticipation prevented him from dozing off like his co-passengers. He stared into the darkness as the car sped along, playing possible scenarios in his mind.
They got to Ogijo about 7:30am and she gave him the directions to the house as she rushed off to her workplace from the car park. He boarded a commercial motorcycle that took him to the house. The fenced bungalow had a pair of shops in front of it, with one of them opened and a very small electric generator cooing by its side.
Akin entered the open shop and met a man seated behind the counter. The man looked up, smiled and said “You must be Akin. You look so much like Uncle Tunde. You are welcome. Please be seated”
Akin shook his extended hand and said “Good morning. I am also @OmoAkinEkun on Twitter by the way”
Tubosun’s jaw opened and he exclaimed “It is a lie! Waoh! I didn’t know! Else, I would have told you!”
“It is the truth Mr @nusobutt88. I believe you, but not enough to forget the bet. You owe me 5k”
Tubosun grinned “Waoh! This is unbelievable. I don’t have five thousand naira with me now o, maybe later sha” His voice dropped a notch “Please, don’t make any reference to that handle around o. You know it’s anonymous. You can talk about my other handle @IamOlatubosun…”
“Oh, I figured that out already. Your secrets are safe with me”
“Good. Please go inside and eat. When you are through, come back outside and we can talk.” Tubosun said. “Yetunde!” he called out.
His younger sister came into the shop via the backdoor and escorted Akin into the house, where he ate, retrieved two books from his backpack and went to meet Tubosun. He gave him the two books they had discussed in one of their exchanges on Twitter that Tubosun had expressed interest in.
Tubosun sighed and stated that he mostly read on electronic devices these days and he had a backlog of physical books to read. This started a long discussion about the various topics they discussed on Twitter: the state of the nation, books, music and philosophy. Their discussion was occasionally interrupted by customers who sometimes join in the discussion.
At 11am, Tubosun called Yetunde to come and stay in the shop. He eased himself with his strong powerful arms into his wheelchair and arranged his legs on the leg stand. Akin fought down the urge to help, seeing that Yetunde was watching the process nonchalantly. Tubosun asked Akin to wheel him to the shed within the compound. When they were on their way, Tubosun said
“You know the shed is where I train my Students right?”
“Yes” replied Akin
“They are going to be around at 12noon for today’s class. Most of them prefer this shoe-making course to phone repairs.” He shrugged. “Then you know I’m going to make the announcement here? Today?”
“Yes, you said so on Twitter. Which is why I came. Please do not tell anyone you are gay. It is insane, pointless and dangerous. Why would you even contemplate that? Does mummy, Yetunde and Lanre know you are gay? Do they need to know?”
Tubosun listened with rapt attention and shook his head as a response to the question.
Akin continued “You want to endanger their lives too? The least repercussion of this declaration is that you will lose your customers. Worst case scenario is unimaginable. The scorn they will pass on your family. They will be treated as if they have leprosy. Please I beg, do not do this”
Tubosun heaved a sigh and said “I am not trivialising this matter. That is why I am doing it amongst my students. For me, I see three benefits, two which are entirely selfish. One, to make my students, who I have had long-running discussions with, understand that being gay is not a white man’s affliction but a universal reality. Also, that gay people are other things apart from being gay and have a lot to contribute to the society. Two, I see it as a spiritual liberation, sort off. I will be free of my own hypocrisy. Three, I want more. Look around. How much impact can one make in the world here? I want invitations to all corners of the world to speak. I want to engage people more about homosexuality…”
“You are already doing that! You are already the most vocal gay and gay activist on Nigeria Twitter. And I have backed you up. But this is being foolhardy. Forget all those spiritual journey nonsense and worry about your neck!”
They had gotten to the shed so he sat down and faced Tubosun
“Look, you are not the only one that want and feel like coming out. You see, I’m gay too”
Tubosun’s expression of shock thrilled Akin a little. He went on to tell how he had a girlfriend who has a girlfriend as a front for both of them. He told him of how his boyfriend had been sent out of the country by the father because of a particular incident that happened one night in his boyfriend’s house.
“The first thing any living thing owes itself is to survive. Be a survivor! You think your students are enlightened enough to accept you as human and not some monsters from the pit of hell? You think because you’ve taken an oath of celibacy will make them empathise and have compassion on you? You are deluded! They will even say that the infection that took your legs was a punishment from God”.
Tubosun sighed again. “You‘ve raised some important points. I’ll think about it. Meanwhile I need Yetunde to help me prepare for the class. Please stay in the shop while she is here”
Akin went to stay in the shop. Soon the students arrived and sounds of machine-work, hammering and chatter filled the environment. Akin engaged Yetunde in a discussion on the state of the nation, a normal ice-breaker in the country. People who came to purchase phone airtime recharge cards intermittently butted into their discussion.
Suddenly a noise erupted from the shed. Akin sped past Yetunde to go see what was happening. He saw as a blow connect to the head of Tubosun with such force that it sent his sprawling from his seat. What followed was a stumping session: the students started kicking their fallen teacher. Akin screamed as he ran. One of the students tackled him but he fought him off eventually and threw himself in the middle of the melee, using his body to shield a battered Tubosun. Blows and kicks rained down on him as he heard Yetunde’s shout. It wasn’t until she mentioned the word “Police” that they stopped. They spat on them and promised that they will return.
Yetunde helped Akin to stand up from his crouched position and they both helped Tubosun into his wheel chair. She cleaned their wounds and gave them pain-relieving drugs after she had called their mother. The mother arrived before her closing time, demanding what really happened and threatening to go to the police. Tubosun told her it was a disagreement between rival groups he was attempting to mediate that turned awry and he felt they must have overdosed on their normal early-morning alcohol and marijuana abuse. He asked that the incident be forgotten and that by the next week all will be back to normal. He averted making eye-contact with Akin all through the rest of the day, with the shop closed under the mother’s insistence.
They came around 8pm. They were heard far off with their abusive and religious chants becoming thunderous as they got closer. They were led by the Baale, with the Elderly chiefs in front and five policemen just behind them, the procession was completed by young men. They were met at the gate by the mother and Yetunde. Akin, peering through the gate noticed some of the touts who had earlier beaten them amidst the crowd and saw that they were the most agitated amongst the crowd, edging them on as if to kill any guilt by association they may have incurred.
The Baale proclaimed that Tubosun should be handed over to the police for investigation into alleged sodomy and that the house must be ritually and spiritually cleansed within the next seven days by Christian, Islamic and Traditional clerics. Tubosun was also ostracised from the community even if the police cleared him of all wrong doings. The mother tried to argue but was shouted down by the mob. She used her body to block the gate but was carried away by two of the policemen and dumped beside Yetunde who stood just inside the gate weeping softly. Tubosun was carried with his wheelchair outside by three policemen with Akin following tamely behind.
The policemen set him down and started pushing off. Then two gunshots rang out from amongst the crowd and immediately it dispersed. Many people took to their heels, some jumped behind physical obstacles and inside the open gutter while some laid on the ground. Some moments after, the cry of Tubosun’s mother tore through the air. She rushed to where he was seated, slumped with a blood seeping out of a bullet hole in his chest. She pleaded that he be quickly rushed to a hospital.
Two policemen took Tunbosun and hasted away, being followed closely by Tubosun’s mother. The three other policemen went to look for the shooters amongst the people that had ran away. Akin stood shocked at what had transpired and felt it deep in him that Tubosun will not be alive by the morning. He went to console Yetunde, who lay where she had ducked, still weeping. As he led her back into the house, he saw by the bush a phantom of his grandfather, shaking his head. He halted in his stride and blinked twice. His grandfather was there no more.