“Pass am.” Seun husked to Goke, eyes bleary, legs swinging rhythmically from the window of an uncompleted building where they were seated.
Goke passed the blunt to Seun. In the dark, the blunt could be seen from a distance as a weary ring of orange glow that receded with each lung-filling drag.
Seun washed down with cheap liquor.
“I no fit understand why you throw your better life inside dustbin.” Goke said, looking straight on at the array of homes coated in patina.
Seun scoffed. Even he couldn’t wrap his head around his decision to deflate the bright, careening balloon his life was only to jump back into this life. This life of camping on the windows of uncompleted buildings, smoking and drinking, frittering time away with desultory conversations. He left a cooperate job that paid decently to return to his hood and orchestrate fraud.
Seun retrieved a card from his pocket, on it was scrawled a phone number, with digits too close together, leaning into each other, the 0 dancing into the 8 in a way that showed the speed with which it was written. On the other side of the card, the name of the contact was written with sparse information about her. ‘Adeyanju Folake’
“This one sure,” Seun said and took a swig from his small green bottle.
“Na that bank babe run you the deets?”
Seun nodded. “But she’s asking for a higher cut. She says it’s becoming increasingly risky.”
Goke hissed and snatched the blunt from Seun. “These bitches, they always get greedy.”
Seun smiled. “I see you’ve not recovered from Tadese.”
Goke hissed again. “Witch. She must burn in hell.”
“You only got a fraction of the trash you’ve been giving other babes. Karma is a female bull dog, bro.”
“Na me lose guard na. I go catch feelings.” Goke gobbled up all the content of his bottle and carelessly tossed the bottle across the street.
Feelings, silly complex things. The greatest undoing of any man. Seun thought grimly. How could he explain the deep-seated dissatisfaction that plagued his days while he worked with TY consults? What name could he call vague and wild yearning that loomed over him as a shadow of languor that assailed him and kept him up at night?
He had a good life going for him. His friends envied him, yet he always found himself hankering after this life. The life he led before he pursued his career, the life he was born into. The very life he had sworn to outgrow, because he deserved better than what his background and childhood had to offer.
All his life, his drive had been to work hard enough to build an empire so that his children wouldn’t have to go through what he went through. He wanted a life with a better quality. He wanted his children to mingle with children who descended from money, not the ilk of riff raffs with whom he rolled tires and picked pockets. This drive kept him burning the midnight candle for WAEC and JAMB. It kept him studying and stretching as a university student even though he had to run a men accessories store on the side to support himself through school. The men accessory store was in fact a cover. What brought the real funds was internet fraud and collaborating with boys in computer village to dupe unsuspecting customers. But even that he did as a means to an end. And that end was the kind of life he had with TY consults. The life of suave suits, an official Porsche and even annual international vacations.
The gold he spent his whole life pursuing morphed into dust once it landed in his palms. It felt like the Seun that was head of advertising with TY consults was an antigen being foisted on his system and his preexisting life was quick to send out an army of antibodies to fight this foreign body. Anxiety came before every official assignment. A swamp of fear that made him feel translucent. He always felt that when he walked into the room to confer with clients, they’d burst into a raucous laugh and jab their fingers at him, saying, ‘what does this poor fraud think he’s doing? What are you doing in a suit?’ But each time they shook his hand firmly and flaunted dentition in smiles, they nodded while he carried on with his presentation under a thin veil of nerves and they all sang of how impressive he was. Within two years, he climbed up rungs on the ladder of his career that took others several years.
He tried to convince himself that the burnished and prim Seun was the real Seun. He changed his circle of friends, bought expensive drinks he didn’t even like, because the nouveau riche like him loved drinks in decanters and with names that threatened his tongue. He did a complete overhaul of his wardrobe, discarding his practical, normal clothes for illogically expensive ones. He only dated exotic ladies, ladies with an accent and a penchant for the unconventional, with the hope that sleeping with them and appearing at events with them would somehow bolster his self-esteem.
In spite of all these, whenever he looked in the mirror, he saw a caricature. And so one Thursday morning, in what everyone called a rash move, he upped and tendered his resignation letter. As he walked out of the office, shoulders slumped and head aching in whirring spirals, he put a call through to Goke.
“I Dey come bunk with you.”
He ended the call before Goke could ask him any further question.
Here, in this pool of drugs, drinks and frequent mindless sex, Seun felt no pressure for performance or the burden of pretense. But he felt no real satisfaction, he felt like a failure of a clown. A clown with garish makeup and loud jokes but still couldn’t make the audience chuckle.
FK walked into her flat, yawning. Her job had become even more tedious now that she was covering for her former department head. But she couldn’t stop. There was a promotion in view, she had to prove herself worthy of the task. She ambled into the kitchen muttering gratitude to God for seeing her through yet another day. She got a bottle of water from the fridge and, despising her home training, gulped directly from the bottle. Her Mum’s obsession with little details like wiping off smears as soon as they appear and never drinking directly from a bottle, made indulging once in a while nostalgic and titillating with sinful pleasure. FK dropped the empty bottle on the kitchen counter with a thump, sighing. She chuckled and picked her phone, feeling silly. She sent her mum a text.
-Mama bear, I just drank directly from a fridge bottle. Whatcha gonna do about it?-
After about 3 minutes of ‘Mum is typing’ her text came in.
-This is why you wanted to move out abi-
-How was your day?-
While her Mum took her time to type a reply, FK’s phone started ringing. An unknown number.
“Good evening Ms. Adeyanju, I am calling from your bank…”
FK rolled her eyes. These criminals! Do they ever rest? She remembered how they had succeeded in tricking her Mum into spilling her Bank Verification Number, seconds after the call ended, all her savings were mopped up from her account. Her Mum was distraught that evening partly cos of the money she lost but mostly because she was fooled. Anger rose in FK. She wanted to curse this man with a husky voice. She wanted to tell him that he’ll never prosper with this evil he and his kind are doing. She wanted to call down literal fire on him. But she sensed a check in her spirit.
“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.”
Luke 9: 54-55 scripture lanced across her heart.
And so, she listened, allowing the man think he had found another victim.
“Are you with me?” The voice over the phone asked and it jarred at FK. It was familiar in a way she couldn’t immediately place.
Are you with me?
It came to her. Her former boss interspersed his talk with that question. He always did. Whenever he was making a presentation, when he was addressing the team or even when they were just chatting over snacks during the lunch hour.
Hold on. That voice. That’s his voice!
“Seun?” She mouthed.
On the other end of the line, Seun was petrified. He glanced at the name on the card again. Folake. It was FK. One of the ladies in advertising at TY consults. Shame, shock and fear ran through him in cold waves. He quickly ended the call, panting.
To be continued.