Rotex took the last puff of his indo and blew the smoke out of the window. He watched the smoke as it spiralled beautifully into the early morning rain. The odour of the smoke mingled with the sweet-sour smell of the dirty mud, flowing gutters, and other smokes that billowed from many kitchens that dot the city of Jin. The fresh chirps, croaks, bellows of different creatures mark the beginning of another day—the most significant is the cock’s crow—it’s 6 am here! It’s time for the early morning news. This is Rotex’s early morning ritual—a wrap of marijuana and listening to the early morning news. He tells himself always: ‘keeping abreast with the news around the world is a daily blessing in disguise’. He picks his rickety radio, turns it on; tries to tune it to his favourite news station—Naija News. The radio gives a swish-swashing sound as he tunes it and finally he gets his desired frequency:
The time is six o’ clock. It’s time for the headline news; my name is Aloma Omolupe.
In America, man murders his wife, five children and himself due to the recent global recession.
The Aponle group of companies, in Naija, plans to retrench over Seven thousand staff in three months.
About fifty died in a car crash yesterday along Iba—Iji road; Bodies still lie there for appropriate attention from the appropriate authorities.
In other news, one of Naija’s oil moguls gets listed in Forbes magazine, his assets is said to be worth over a billion dollars.
The CBN governor says Naija will never get affected by the recent global economic crunch. Details of the news will be broadcasted later in the day. Time for some music from the legendary Bob Marley called ‘Kaya’, enjoy it:
“Gats to have kaya now; gats to have kaya now for the rain is falling...” Rotex listens to the music with gusto and hums along.
“This is the best radio station in Naija. They report the best news and play the best music like Fela, Marley, Tosh, infact ...” he was addressing his wife, Bisi, who cut him short.
“Please, spare me the gist, is that what will put food on our table? Is that what will send our twelve year old daughter, Sama, to school? Is that what will put clothes on our back? Or is that what will move us out of this box you call, home?” she asks with a menacing look.
“It’s too early to start complaining. I will, one day, surprise you. I will be rich. I will buy a tall building and have over six thousand people working for me. I will never retrench, I will never be caught by the crunch and I will be very humble amidst my riches”.
“Promises and promises but nothing comes to reality. Your igbo filled mind deceives you. Well the living God I serve will not fail me”, she replies.
Rotex smiles and gave her a look of a rejected son. “God?”, he says and he walks out of the door. By the side of the door a wall gecko separated the fight among three flies by eating them up as such bringing a temporary peace to the insect world. As he walks on his corridor, the smell of yesterday’s urine and the odour of early morning shit rose to meet him. The hard smell is something everyone in this compound is accustomed to, a rather compulsory air freshener, which is subtle in the morning and made harsh in the afternoon by the baking sun. Exiting this compound is a game of wits; you have to make your way through the dark corridor without hitting a stove, bucket, lantern, pots, pans and many other domestic items. He made it through; he has been making it through because he has been staying in this house for the past twelve years. Outside the compound, a mother accompanied her child to the gutter and she watches her child bring out his penis to urinate. The child urinates carelessly leaving some few drops on his hand which he later rubbed on his mother’s wrapper.
“Brother Rotex, guu moring, the child says.
“Good morning, Taju. Iya Taju good morning to you”, rotex replies child and greet the child’s mother.
“Ha! Good Morning brother, ha, you don dey go work?” she answers and asks at the same time.
Rotex ignores her because Iya Taju is one of the mouths and ears of the environs; she likes to know about everything happening in every individual home. She eavesdrops at every little opportunity; all around the environment she is known. The best option is to flee when you see her. This job function of hers has got her beaten over time but she never listens. She is persistent.
“Bye-bye o! Buy something for us when you dey come from work o!” she says mockingly.
Rotex strolls grudgingly on the muddy street with care in order not to slip and fall but he edges on with the following words on his mind, “a man who is on the ground needs fear no fall”. The rain has blessed the streets with gutters filled to the brim; houses turned into pools and added more water to the long stagnant waters on the street. Men, women and children are found scooping water out of their houses unto the street. The weight of worry is heavy for Rotex. It is unbearable. He moves gently but feels a rough bitterness in his mind. He lost his job about two years ago, his company retrenched staff that were not degree holders without regarding his entire ten-year labour for the company. Two years on, he has not found any job while his wife is an unwilling-full-complaining house wife; his daughter hawks oranges daily for little stipends to help feed the family. This is a cross he finds too heavy! When the weight becomes unbearable one looks for a way out and Rotex chose to trail the track of his bad habits. Smoking Indian-hemp and drinking hooch is Rotex’s solace. Every day is another smoking day, a day filled with hopes of a better tomorrow, a day of expectation, and a day filled with expectation of when such dependency will die. Every day he finds himself at the joint where these habits are bought. This brings him temporary happiness, as the pains and agonies of existence are obliterated from his psyche by engaging heavily in this habit, whenever his habit is challenged he replies by saying, “Ha! You better read your Bible, check Proverbs 31 verse 6 then you’ll understand”. Music, however, helps him to give a rhythm to his disorganised life.
As he walks to the joint, he was lost in deep thoughts, thoughts about his man hood. As a man or husband of the house he deserves to be satisfied emotionally, sexually and other wise. Bisi, his heart throb, as it is, proved him wrong. Some days ago, after gaining erection, he tried to penetrate his wife but he was made to know that erection or sex is not meant for a poverty-stricken man like him. His man hood shrunk with shame. That day’s dialogue is still fresh in his head:
“Why can’t I get sexual gratification from my wife?” he asked.
“You should be ashamed of yourself....” she replied.
“Na wa, why please?” he asked again.
“You don’t have money to feed me and your daughter yet that fat penis of yours dey charge”, she protested.
“Of course. I am a man it has to be erect when he sees his property”, he boasts.
“Ha! You are impotent. You are a shameless lot. Do you think that man hood is based only on the effectiveness of your dangling balls? You are insane for you to even think your penis can enter my bosom. When you have the money to feed your family then it can stand erect. For now, it’s powerless as far as I am ......” she complains
“Bisi, it’s enough! Enough! Shut up!” he shouted.
Bisi ran away to avoid Rotex’s wrath. She just recovered from a round of battering before this time. As she ran down the dark corridor she heard Buju Banton screaming rhythmically that, “...the destruction of the poor is in his poverty.”
He quickly shakes himself off from that nasty memory. “I am a man!” he tells himself. Sometimes the positive side of a man becomes weak when societal influences are negative. They must be at par. Finally, he gets to the joint, greets Dr. Mpon, the joint’s owner and other customers of the joint. This is a place where like minds meet, where issues like politics, religion, sex, future, and a lot are discussed by job seekers and pensioners. Dr. Mpon has been in this business for more than twenty years. His mission is to care for needs of the poor in the city of Jin. His motto: “prevention is better than cure”. The joint is designed with pictures of Mandela, Awolowo, Nkrumah, Obama (his latest poster) and other African heroes, the benches here have been battered repeatedly by various carpenters’ hammers. The roof is held together by rust which may fall by any forceful shake but the owner does not care because he believes the customers that come here do not have such strength. The owner sells marijuana, cigarettes, alcoholic herbs, pain killers, sweets, groundnuts, garri, and Chinese balms.
Rotex takes his sit and orders for too wraps of marijuana and eight shots of shepee (locally brewed alcoholic herbs).
“You still dey owe me eight hundred naira from the last one wia you buy, now you come open that your dirty mouth dey order for more shots!” the owner says.
“The Doc why you dey treat your special customer like this? Abeg Doc! You know say without your combination man no fit survive these days, help your man na?” he pleads.
“Abeg no sweet talk me today! Credit crunsh dey therefore no free igbo and ogogoro for you”, the owner replies.
“Ha na for only America and western world that thing dey happen he never reach here for Naija, them talk am for news today. Don’t worry I go pay you”, Rotex promises.
“Na so you talk the last time, again you don come with your empty promises like say you be politician. Abi you be politician wen go promise us bridge where river no dey ?” the doc asks.
“At all o! Me I know be like that at all, wen I promise I dey make am happen, I no dey promise promise like those thieves wen be our leaders, like all those animals wen dey on top of the throne. Me na man of hin words, no failure”, says rotex.
“I hear you. Na so we human beings be, na so so lie we sabi. This na the last time wia I go sell credit for you. International financial advisers say make we be wise. I need the money because na hin i dey take bribe police, pay for light wen no dey and school fees for my children. You hear me?” the owner asks.
“Ok Doc, no problem. Na the last time be this, thank you very much, you are far too kind”, Rotex replies joyfully.
“Oya, na the last time o!” the owner warns as he gives Rotex his order.
Rotex takes the cup of ogogoro and takes it in one gulp. The alcohol gradually creeps into his system sending waves of heat all over his body. He narrows his eyes as he swallows the bitter alcohol and pours away the dregs. Bitterness cures bitterness while sweetness hardly cures bitterness. He wraps his marijuana meticulously in order not to spill any atom of the drug, after attaining the desired posture; he lit it, took a deep drag and made a loud whistling noise while inhaling the smoke. Without this action the desired gift cannot be attained. Some drags to the head and Rotex got the desired gift. The gift is found in between the natural plants. He found himself in a world he wishes never to leave. A world where everything is easy, a world with egalitarian features, a world where corruption is far, a world where racism is absent, a world where religion is not a basis for individual judgement, a world where personal achievement is for the entire benefit of the environment, a world where all the world leaders sit around the same dining table, a world where gender bias is dead, a world where human life is held with high regards and a world where every human smiles. He hates to stop smoking it because he loves to travel to that world with his marijuana. At this point he has to stop because tomorrow is another day. Reality flashes back with the scorching sun on his head. Reality, sometimes, is a disadvantage.
Meanwhile, Rotex’s daughter, Sama, is hawking her oranges at the same time. She sells oranges to help her family put food on the table. She is the unsung heroine of the house. Today is another selling day. She goes to her first point of sale, the mechanic workshop, where she gets the highest number of buys. Today is an unknown tomorrow. In the workshop, the mechanics also involve in the act of smoking Indian hemp to relief their minds from the harsh realities of existence. Today, Sama, comes after they have smoked heavily. The gift is unknown.
“Broses, una no go orange today?” Sama questioned.
The three mechanics only saw that Sama’s breast has grown all of a sudden. They, in unison, think about the fun they will derive by penetrating her.
“We go buy those orange for your chest”, the first mechanic said.
“Which kain play be that? Una dey buy or not?” she asks annoyingly and making a move to leave.
“Come back here!” the third mechanic commands while drawing her back.
They tore her clothes, carried her and slammed her on the ground. She kicked, punched and fought back in protest but her energy was too miniscule. She tried to shout but her mouth was sealed by one of the mechanics’ filthy hands. The first mechanic tore her pants off then smiled. Bringing out his already hard penis and penetrated her. Sama screamed! While screaming she perceived the hard repugnant smell of marijuana smoke. Conditions, she thought, varies. This is hers and she must bear the circumstance. It is a painful sacrifice indeed. She asks herself: what is in a family? They all took rounds on her leaving the earth bloody. Virginity means nothing to the corrupt. They wiped their groins, threw money on her and left her to clear her mess. It is dark now and the darkness came with its tunes through the silent wind that blew that evening. In tears, Sama took the money, left the oranges, dressed herself with her torn dress and went home.
Sama walks home with unseen tears. She got home and saw her mother lying down on the bed. She threw the money on her as if her mother were some goddess of sort. Bisi jumps up asking:
“My daughter welcome, you came early today?”
“Yes mama!” Sama replied angrily.
“Hope nothing is wrong?” Bisi asked.
“Nothing”, Sama says.
“Thank you my daughter, God bless you than your father”, Bisi prays.
“God?” she asks.
“Yes O! His mercies are new everyday”, Bisi preaches.
Sama keeps mute. Silence is noisy when it comes from victims of some circumstances. Later Sama sleeps off leaving Bisi who later went to see their neighbour who sells clothes and beauty apparels.
Rotex walks in some hours later very drunk plus he carried the smell of marijuana around him. He goes straight and lies near Sama on the bed. Sama, while sleeping, perceives the odour of marijuana which brings back that memory. Unconsciously, she stands up, gets down from the bed, walks to the shelve, again the smell brings some pains, brings some inner scream, her vagina hurts, she feels a hard penetration, she picks a knife from the shelve, the pain comes nearer, as she moves the odour fills the room, the mechanics’ words echo loudly in the room, she moves closer to the dad and the odour moved closer to her, the mechanic faces flash in her head, she raises the knife, she screams, “stop!” and she stabs her father on the neck. The knife went in and she dug it deeply causing Rotex to bleed profusely.
“Why?” Rotex asked
“You rapist!” Sama shouted
“Am sorry, please forgive me?” he cries.
“I hate you!” Sama shouted.
Bisi comes in to see the scene and all she could say is, “thanks that is the face of poverty!” Some gifts are worth rejecting. Sama cries on while Bisi clears the cadaver.