It’s a rainy day in the streets of Yaba, Lagos. It is pouring down cats and dogs and I am currently pressed up against my steering wheel as I am struggling to drive home safely. Due to my windscreen wipers broke somehow, I am trying my possible best to see through the rain.
I had a horrible day at work today. Somehow, I just managed to do every single thing wrong and my boss did not miss the opportunity to let me know. He told me to go home, and to be honest; I do not know what that means. Did I get fired or did he just tell me to go home and rest? I don’t know. I sighed as I noticed the rain reduced a bit and I can finally see the road ahead clearly.
I leaned my back against the car seat and immediately felt myself lunge forward and my chest hit the steering wheel, producing the sound of the car horn. I looked behind me at the back window but it was covered in mist. I didn’t bother parking the car on the side of the road and I got down just like that. I looked up and I saw an old rickety danfo that had just collided with my car and broken my tail lights. “Are you mad?” was the first thing that came out of my mouth as I was now filled with rage. Before I could even say another word, the danfo driver began, “Madam, you dey craze. You no dey see road? I been know say na woman dey drive. Look at her, foolish woman. Alaye comot for road jor” I stood there, shocked at the audacity of the bus driver. His breath had a strong scent of alcohol and I can bet my car right now that he is intoxicated. He is shouting at me when he’s the one that had just hit me. “You must be insane”, I said, getting closer to his window. He got down from the driver seat and slammed the door shut behind him with a loud bang. “Wetin you wan do? If they born your mama well, make I hear your voice again. I go light you slap.” I couldn’t believe the nerve of this man. Before I could even retaliate, voices of the passengers in the bus spoke up, “driver let us be going” “we don’t have time for this” “madam you too behave, are you not a grown woman?” The driver looked back at me, “na God save you today, if not, you go see wetin I go do you” He got back into the driver seat, started the engine and sped off, not missing the opportunity to throw the middle finger my way.
I caught my breath and as I was about to head back into my car, an Okada zoomed past me and splashed a puddle of dirty water on me. The Okada driver did not even bother to look back to apologize and he just kept going. My white dress shirt is now covered in brown muddy water, my black leather shoes ruined and of course, my hair and black trouser did not miss the muddy mess. I got into my car and reached for a white handkerchief on the passenger seat and used it to wipe off the dirt from the hands and face. I sighed once again, started my engine and continued my drive back home. I thought to myself ‘pull it together Deborah’
I pulled up to the gate of my apartment and I saw my neighbor walking out. I forced a smile and greeted “good afternoon, Mummy Victor” “ahhh Deborah, good afternoon. Why are you back from work so early?” I lied, “I am not feeling too well. I just came back to rest” she gave a little smile “Oh sorry about that. Welcome back dear” I nodded and was about to drive into the compound when she stopped me again “ehen Deborah, did you offend the Landlord?” I scrunched my face, confusion written all over it. “Offend the landlord? Not at all. Why are you asking?” she scratched her ear nervously and looked to the floor. She looked back up and smiled again, shaking her head “Nothing. Don’t worry. Welcome back” she said quickly and walked away. That was weird. I shook my head and proceeded to drive into the compound as the security man had already opened it.
I parked my car, turned off the engine, got my things, got out of the car and shut the door behind me, making sure it was locked. “How are you doing today Jamiu?” I smiled at the compound security man I had gotten so close to the 2 years I have been living in this compound. He just gave a little smile and nod, which is unlike him. “Are you alright?” “Eh madam-“ He was cut off by the sound of a loud voice coming from the side of the building where my apartment is located. “Is the foolish woman back?” that is the landlord’s voice. Who is he referring to and why does he sound so angry.
He appeared out of the corner of the building in his usual attire, an old mildew-smelling blue Ankara buba and Sokoto. That is the outfit he always puts on every time he visits the compound.
He approached me and I noticed he looked really angry. His wrinkles even tighter than normal, his grey hair evident and his brown teeth peeking out from his full dark lips that were quivering in anger. I knelt down and greeted him but before my knees could even reach the ground, he yelled “Stand up! I didn’t ask you to greet me” I stood there shocked. “Daddy, what happened?” “Who is your daddy? God forbid bad thing. I cannot be a father to a useless person?” “What is the cause of all these insults” he got angrier. “YOU ARE THE CAUSE. HAVE YOU PAID YOUR HOUSE RENT?” My face fell and my shoulders dropped. I said in a low voice, “eh daddy I spoke to you-“ “DO NOT CALL ME DADDY! I need my money. You are 6 months overdue and you are here calling me daddy. Do not let me remove my clothes and swear for you”
At this point, all my neighbors are outside, witnessing this scene and even Mummy Victor is present. I stood there in shame. “Give me till next week sir. I will pay the money” he hissed and walked away, back to the direction of my apartment. I followed him, leaving my work files on the hood of my car.
As I got to the front of the apartment I saw all my things outside by the entrance. The landlord shouted at some people who happened to be inside my apartment, “what are you still doing there? Be fast and move every single thing out of there!” I quickly got on my knees and grabbed the hem of his buba, pleading, “Please sir. Please don’t embarrass me. Please, sir, I promise I will pay the money first thing Monday morning next week” He grabbed my hands and threw them away, swinging me to the ground. At this point, tears were already rolling down my cheeks.
All my properties are all in front of me right now, at the entrance of what is now no longer my apartment. The Landlord locked the door with a padlock and threatened the security man, Jamiu, that if he comes back and meets me in the compound in one hour, he will lose his job.
With the sound of that threat, Jamiu threw away our two years of friendship.
I got up from the ground, dusted myself off and proceeded to load my car with my properties it could contain. I begged Mummy Victor to help me keep some of my things that could not fit into my car and promised to come and get them the next day. After a lot of begging and persuasion, she agreed.
I got into my car, feeling defeated and drove out of the compound, catching the stares of some of my neighbors and they whispered and laughed between themselves. As I reversed out of the compound, Jamiu didn’t even look at me once. I didn’t say a word.
I drove in circles, around my street for about an hour until I decided to go to my parent’s house.
Honestly, that is the last place I want to be right now but I don’t have a choice.
I pulled up to the house I grew up in and I looked around and saw little children playing and laughing with no care in the world and I couldn’t help but feel jealous. As I was about to press the car horn and alert them of my presence, I felt the vibration of my phone on my lap. The caller ID read “HR”. Why is the HR department of my workplace calling me? I clicked on ‘accept’ and I said with a low voice, feeling exhausted, “Hello?’
A female voice spoke out on the other end, “Am I speaking with Deborah Okon?”
“Yes you are”
She said a bunch of things that I didn’t care about but the only thing that caught my attention was “we would no longer need your services. Please come and pick up your letter tomorrow morning by 9”
At that moment, my world came crashing down.
I couldn’t help it and a tear rolled down my cheek, followed by more tears and I was soon sobbing uncontrollably in my car with my head resting on my steering wheel.
After about 20 minutes of me bawling my eyes out in the car, I took a deep breath, wiped my tears and pressed down on the car horn, letting out a loud deafening horn.
The gates opened and I saw my little brother’s head peeking out. When he saw it was me, he had the biggest smile on his face and quickly opened the gates, letting me in.
I was greeted by my parents, little brother and little cousin. They were all smiling until they saw my swollen eyes and properties in my car.
I forced a smile and urged them to let us enter the house first. They didn’t say anything and just walked inside, my brother and cousin bringing out my things down from my car.
We got in and I explained everything that happened today. After I was done, I was expecting ‘everything will be fine Deborah’ but that’s far from what I got. My mother started with my lack of a husband and how I won’t be having all these problems if I was married and settled in my husband’s house “You are 28 years old Deborah, not 20”
After a lot of complaints and not a single comforting sentence, I was released to go to my old room. I plopped onto the bed and noticed I was still dressed in my muddy clothes but I don’t really care right now.
I am exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. The people I thought would reassure me that I would be fine, just shoved my disappointing life back into my face as a reminder.
Today I lost my job, my house and every source of happiness.
As I drifted off into a long-needed sleep, the last words that echoed in my head were ‘my life is a sinking ship’.
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