Thoughts of my energy sapping job and financial paralysis, trudged my mind in dishevelled manner, as I couldn’t think straight, while hunger prowled my food deserted stomach in anger. “is it not 6pm yet?” I asked for the one thousandth time from my co-worker. “Guy, calm down nah…. Your babe dey labour room?” he sarcastically retorted. A bit of anger welled up in me as his statement resuscitated dead memories that preceded my financial wreckage. But I wasn’t ready to waste my exhausting energy on trying to reply his taunt as I would have, absent hunger.
Time soon heeded my desire as it clocked 6:00pm. Now my stomach seemed threatening to vacate my body if I didn’t feed it. I was as rich as a hundred naira note with limitless needs to satisfy but strictly limited resource to meet them. I could buy a sausage of 50 naira to be topped by a 50 naira bottle of Zobo or kunu drink from iya Sunday, but that would mean me trekking all the way home. While taking a bike of 80 naira would practically render me penniless and as well hungry. But here I was exhausted and drop dead hungry. Just then, I remembered Emeka, a co-worker who had a bike and stayed close to my street. If I could get a lift from him, I could get home, relax, and think of what to do with my priceless 100naira.
Just as I turned to check out for Emeka in the factory, I saw his rickety bike being pushed in the bid for ignition by a co worker- Wasiu. I thanked my stars as that signalled Wasiu as the only one to have booked with Emeka for a ride home. And as I made to raise my voice to hail Emeka in the quest for a free ride, a voice from behind interrupted my unsaid words saying ” guy no try am o, I don book ride with am o”. It was Koledowo, the one who had earlier regurgitated memories of my past. He was rubbing more salt into my deep cut. I greeted Emeka all the same feigning an indifferent look as I turned to Koledowo ” Na everybody no go get money to enter bike like you ehn” I said, giving a scornful look, “ahbI person no fit greet person again” I added with a prolonged hiss. And to my disappointment he just laughed it off adding more to my disgust which I tried to hide as I aimed at making him feel hurt. But he sure wasn’t.
I waited a bit, pretending to be engaged in my dead torchlight phone while the two pushed Emeka’s bike for minutes until it finally came to life exuding smoke as they mounted the bike and also choking me with the smoke as I tried to reply their hypocritical greetings as they rode off. Everything just seemed upside down for me. I might have tried my luck in asking for a loan from my Boss to be deducted from my skinny salary at the end of the month. But the temperamental man was absent from work. Before I sunk deeper in my ocean of thoughts, the thought of the remaining raw beans in the cupboard at home rescued me. I came to life and immediately, the thought of buying half a bottle of kerosene for 70naira and also a cup of garri for 25 naira seamlessly calculated their way into my financial capacity. That would surely fill my stomach at least for the night. With that, I took to the road fueled by the energy of my waiting beans. My strides kept going faster as I walked past strolling co-workers who were also trekking home, greeting them with a big smile veiling the hunger that was pricking me.
As I got half way home, I stopped. The thought of Kunle my roommate, struck my mind. “Oh God, please let me be the first to get home o” I muttered, resolving to jogging and then a bit of running as I continued muttering a prayer of delay for Kúnlé. Kúnlé would surely cook the remaining beans and eat it all if he got home first. As I hastened my steps, the image of the quantity of beans left, flooded my thoughts, infuriating my stomach that it might not be enough. As I approached my street, I thought of calling Kunle to ascertain my prayers were answered, only to remember that my battery had been dead all day. ‘Only God knows when this country will be better, no light since Last week” I soliloquized as the route towards Falowo street grew farther despite my fast pace.
The Sight of a lady accompanied by her boyfriend carrying four KFC packages, drifted my thoughts from my hungry state back to the days when I was financially opulent and would take Vivian to wherever she pleased. We would shop for hours and later go to the cinema to relax, then cap it all up at a club all at her request. “Such a waste….” I blurted remembering how we separated shortly after my financial blow due to the mass retrenchment at the bank. It had been years though her last harsh words of breakup still lingered.
Her thoughts gave way as I approached mama Risikat to purchase the kerosene and garri, while I stylishly asked if she had seen Kunle that day, to which she admitted not seeing him at all. The day was undressing to give the night dominance that I almost fell into the stagnant ‘waste pool’ just before my house.
My nosy neighbors seemed to be on vacation as they weren’t at their usual position outside the quarters gossiping. ‘Wahala people’ I muttered at the thought of them.
“Thank God…” I exclaimed as I reached my room to find the key waiting for me where we usually kept it. I opened the door with a sigh of relief to behold the stuffiness of the room, making me rush to open the windows. Kunle had certainly not been home.
First things first. I poured kerosene into the stove’s fuel compartment, put fire to the wick from the matches after trying almost all the sticks in the box due to the slight dampness of the box, then mounted the ever subservient pot of water on it and also rinsed the beans into it. Few minutes later, the beans was already boiling, so I opened the lid only for me to drop it immediately due to its hotness. ‘Yesh! ‘ I exclaimed. I added a bit of salt and covered it to await its sweet taste, while I emptied the black nylon of garri into a plastic bowl beside me and reclined on the sofa to ruminate on memories of my father who would never taste the meal whenever we prepare it when he had no money.
- * * * * *
As I was busy mixing the garri with little water to make a fine mould, I stared at the neatly served beans, garri’s inseparable companion. The both usually tagged ‘Sokudale’. Just as I was about to lift the first spoon, Kunle walked in to interrupt the passage of the food into my mouth. ‘ Thank God you cooked, I’m famished!’ He said, settling down beside me after grabbing a spoon, while I watched in dismay.
- * * * * *
A rotten smell of human fart circulated the room, waking me up from sleep. I had slept off on the sofa. I immediately gazed at the stove to find my pot of beans off it, displaced near the bed, within the reach of a snoring Kúnlé alongside my bowl of garri. I rushed from the sofa to the pot to meet it gleaned of every last drop of bean while my bowl of garri was in the same sparkling state.
The disdainful smell still lingered while I stood there motionless and clueless of what to do. I glanced at the time it was some minutes past 2am.
I took my place beside Kúnlé on our suppressed bed, enduring a night of shattered fantasies of beans and garri, while I also vainly wished I had eaten a bit in my dream before waking to hunger a while ago. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of my helpless situation ignorantly tortured me with stenchful discharges from his bowels in the name of farting, as I struggled to find sleep. While I appeased my stomach with frustration – brewed – spittle. Sokudale did not die in me.
Sokudale– Yoruba term for the combination of Beans and Garri
Tejuoso Olamide hails from Abeokuta in Ogun State. She loves reading, researching and writing. She is an aspiring journalist who believes in the philosophy of ‘writing to right’. She presently studies Communication and Language Arts in the University of Ibadan.