He surveyed the contents of his room, casting his eyes about… looking but not really seeing anything. His eyes glazed over for a moment, deep in thought. Flashes of memories flitted through his mind, his eyes finally settling on The Watchtower magazine that lay on his bed – he had found it on the floor when he entered his room earlier. It looked a little crumpled because it was forced through the crack space beneath his door. He was indifferent to how he sporadically found the book around his door when he got back from making his rounds – he knew there was a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah Witness somewhere in the neighborhood. He didn’t mind the intrusion, so far as nobody broke into his room. From where he perched precariously on the three kitchen-stools, one lying on top of the other, he could still make out the “Paradise Awaits You” that was emblazoned on the cover page. He scowled and muttered an intangible stream of words under his breath, concentrating on what he was about to do. The stools he stood on creaked ominously, and twice he wobbled and almost fell. He was now about 4 feet above the floor but close enough to the ceiling. He ran his hand along the entire length of the loose wiring that hung from the groove of the ceiling, stretching as far as he could. Convinced that the wiring would hold and that there was nothing wrong with the insulation, he brought out a pair of pliers from his back-pocket.
“This is it,” he mulled.
Steadying himself one last time on his perch, he started working his hands, humming a doleful tune to boot.
*****Earlier that day*****
He was already up. In fact, he had been awake for almost two hours but spent the better part of the last hour waiting for the bucket to fill up with water under the trickling tap. “Nkwasiafoɔ!” he cursed darkly at the Water Company, pulling his sleeping cloth tightly around him to ward off the morning dew seeping down into his already tired bones. He hated mornings like this… when he had to wake up in the wee hours to salvage as much water as he could, in order to bath. Living with four other tenants in the housing apartment, he knew his only option of having a decent morning bath was to wake up very early to fetch water, lest he went about his day smelling like a week-old sack of Agbobloshie tomatoes.
He sauntered out of his room still drowsy from sleep or perhaps its lack-of, to the far eastern part of the wall of the compound where the tap was located. He had earlier left his bucket under the trickling tap, an hour now, and he was about to reap the benefit of his patien- “ARGHH!” he yelled. It was loud enough to scare off of *the gym of lizards lined on the wall, having their usual bouts of morning press-ups among other things lizards do on a Monday morning. The water in the bucket was only enough to fill about four empty pails and he suspected one of his co-tenants had probably leeched him off his precious water. He had an appointment to catch for a job interview that morning and he feared he was already behind time. Too annoyed to say anything else, he sped to the bathroom with his 4-or-so pails of water splashing freely in the bucket.
“I’m sorry to say this but looking at your CV, I’m not sure we can offer you a place in this company. Our company strives to…” He didn’t listen to the rest of it. He had been through this routine many times, so he didn’t even bother to listen to the excuse being given to him this time around: “We’re looking for someone who fits a specific criteria,” “We don’t believe you have the necessary work experience,” and oh his personal favorite, “Let me give you a number to call, they just might have something for you.” He’s heard them all, he hated them all. Bah! All loads of crap, he thought.
He focused his attention back to the woman sitting behind the plush desk in front of him and paid more attention to her features now. A smooth face, its complexion a slightly different shade from the skin around her neck and collar-bone area, reminding him of the heavy make-up his own girlfriend usually wore. He remotely found her lips sensual and could hardly believe such finely carved lips were stabbing at him with words of rejection at the moment.
“… believe you’re a young man with great potential but I also believe this company will not help you develop well enough as you may…”
“Madam!” he politely interrupted her, “It’s okay.” The HR manageress paused and looked intently at him. “You’ve spent the last two or three minutes making me an unwilling audience of your already rehearsed rejection speech so please, if it’s not too much to ask, let me kindly take my leave.” He finished with a bright disarming smile.
He was very hungry and tired as he trudged down the untarred road to his girlfriend’s apartment. He had made other rounds after his earlier appointment or should he say disappointment, getting nothing but promises varying from call-backs to email replies. Deep down, he knew how those would also turn out. He was worn-out.
He knew she disliked him visiting without prior notice but he couldn’t resist the urge, especially when he was already so close to her vicinity; so he pulled out his phone and sent her a text message.
She was in the kitchen when she felt her phone vibrate beneath her apron. A callous tap of the screen showed a single text message which slowly brought a smile to her lips. Giving the phone another quick double tap, she stowed the phone away in the folds of her apron.
He paused behind the door to her apartment and approvingly nodded his head as he perceived the aroma of chicken stew wafting through the corridor. He knocked and was warmly welcomed by her at the door. He thought he registered a look of surprise on her face but she gave him a quick peck and rushed back to the kitchen, the stew simmering on the cooker.
“Why didn’t you let me know that you were coming?” she asked from the kitchen.
“I didn’t? Have you checked your phone? Sent you a text.” With that, he threw himself on her bed as his stomach rumbled violently and he thanked his stars for guiding his path.
He was just up from his nap. The day had taken a larger toll on him than he had imagined but he was quite surprised to find her lying on his chest, her eyes closed in sleep. His right arm was coiled around her. He knew the sun had long traversed the length of the sky and it was beginning to get dark outside. He wasn’t bothered much because he preferred being with her than going back to his mosquito-infested apartment. He just lay there cuddling her and could feel her twirling the few strands of chest hair he had with her index finger.
“Oh so you awake,” he merely stated. He also begun playing with strands of her hair. “You know, next week is our two-year anniversary, what do you propose we do?”
She paused her finger-twirling, thinking. “We could go to th- WAIT!” She bolted upright, clearly alarmed. “What’s the time?”
He looked at her slightly puzzled. “Why, what’s wrong?”
“What’s the time? I’m serious.” She got out of the bed and started fixing her dishevelled hair in the mirror. He lazily flicked his wrist to look at his watch, “It’s a few minutes past 6, what’s the matter?”
“Get up! Hurry! My boyfriend is coming.” she blurted out with a sense of urgency in her voice. He forced out a laughter, shaking his head at her. She went about the room trying to tidy it up.“I’m serious o, get up and wear your shirt!” she dashed towards the mirror once more, fixing her appearance. He tried laughing again but faltered.
“What do you mean by ‘your boyfriend is coming’? I’m already here” he fired back at her, stifling the anger he could feel bubbling up the surface of his cool demeanor.
“Please, I’ll explain everything to you latter.” On cue heavy footsteps could be heard approaching down the corridor, a whistling tune to boot. “He’s here, Come…” she half-begged half-pulled him towards the window, “…if he catches you here, we’re both dead. He’s an army man.”
He still stood there undeterred, totally pissed now. “I’m not going… At least not through the window.”
He found himself limping across the compound to his apartment. The scowl he wore on his face was enough to scare off anyone who dared approach him. He gritted his teeth and grimaced with each jolt of pain that shot up his sprained ankle. He swore again as he thought of the booming voice that called out to her from behind the door; and his final conviction to go out through the window, spraining his ankle when he jumped off the first floor. In his haste, he had left his shirt behind. He was only relieved that he didn’t meet any one he knew in his dirtied-singlet-and-trouser-with-a-pair-of-shoes-in-his-right-hand-and-leg-limping state. He got an alert on his phone and checked, only to realize his earlier text message hadn’t gone through. He was out of credit.
“And here is a recap of the headlines… The Minister of Education at his press conference today-” the TV blared on. He was too tired to search for the remote control to change the channel to something more interesting.
“The Ethiopian Ambassador to Ghana arrived this morning- have talks with the President at the Jubilee House-” the news went on. He pondered over the the most recent events of his day trying to make meaning out of it. He had been in a relationship for two years now and this is what he had to show for it. He couldn’t wait to hear her explanation. No, on second thought he didn’t want to hear it.
“…tilapia investment company… Accra-based… being sued for fraud among other charges by-”
He rushed to the TV, his face just inches from the screen. He fumbled with the buttons on the side of the TV set, increasing the volume, making it blare even louder.
“…has reportedly locked up investments belonging to a lot of Ghanaians. Chief among the schemes that were used to siphon the hard-earned income of clients were the Tilapia Investment Module and Money Investment Module under the Farming Project. Clients were said to have invested amounts ranging from GH¢100 to over GH¢10,000. The unsuspecting victims claimed they were promised interest of between 96% and 120% over six to twelve months period. However, when the date for redeeming their investments was due, not even a pesewa had been paid to the investors. More so, a 4% default interest which was supposed to be paid on the investments every month had not been paid till date…”
He was stunned. His heart was either beating too fast or too slow because he could feel his body vibrating. He was still kneeling in front of the TV set when the late news was brought to a close. He remained in that position like a worshipper in the presence of his deity, about to undertake penance for the atonement of a hideous crime he had committed. He cursed his lot. He had invested a total sum of GH¢8,200 in a company that was now on the run. A huge chunk of that amount had been his personal savings over the past few years and the remaining sum had been from friends he had managed to convince to join him invest in the venture.
Right there he gave up… Life had won.
He could feel his phone vibrating somewhere in the room but made no attempt to look for it. He had an idea who who might be calling and the reason for the call: either his girlfriend calling to explain why she’d been cheating on him for goodness-knows-how-long, or one of his friends calling to inform and accost him for leading them to invest in a bad venture. He got up and started contemplating his options.
He pulled on the wiring once more, testing its hold. He couldn’t bring himself to wait till the next day to do this and he was convinced what he was doing would fix it. Procrastination had been one of his bad traits but he was going to deal with this now. Thin lines of sweat gleamed on his body and those on his forehead sometimes dropped past his brows into eyes, making him grunt.
He was ready.
He held the two ends of the wire he had cut in both hands, the outer plastic sheath removed. The copper core of both ends were exposed and he begun twirling them together, joining them as one piece. When he finished, he coiled black sellotape around the spot several times.
He hoped that would make his ceiling fan work again because he couldn’t stand the heat in his room. Turning on the main switch, he turned on the fan. He sighed at his success as the fan begun its round-about motion. Something too trivial to lighten his mood considering how his day had been. He jumped off the stools he was standing on and flung himself onto his bed, crumpling The Watchtower with his weight.
The cool breeze that blew from the fan was soothing but it was not meant to last. He was thrown into darkness a moment later when a blackout swept through the entire neighborhood. “ECG!” he muttered, grinding his teeth with annoyance. The heat returned fiercely, exacerbating his exasperation… as if to punish and taunt him for fixing the ceiling fan.
Paradise Awaits You.
He thought again of the title of the magazine lying somewhere beneath him. He started contemplating suicide but he knew his feeble heart would not let him do it.
*a gym of lizards – Well, “a gym of lizards” because they’re always nodding and the nodding movement pretty much looks like press-up, so why not. The collective term however is a lounge of lizards… yeah i googled that. 🙂