I moved off campus last year, after exerting so much pressure on my parents to let me live by myself. I lived in an area 10 miles away from the second campus called Gyado villa. Most people had actually moved out of the area, saying it was the hub of all cult activities and all yen yen yen but I didn’t care. Most of what they said sounded like crap to my ears because honestly, I loved the area. It was not the usual student residential area.
Bikes were almost always moving down my street till past ten. So what was there to fear? I think most of the people that packed out were just scared people that slept on the same bed with fear. It had breathed dark splotches all over their sanity and their ability to withstand rumors of death. Well, whatever.
That’s not even what this story is about. So, I said I lived in Gyado villa. The house I stayed in was the usual single room with external toilets which we shared amongst ourselves. There were six rooms in the compound where I lived; one room had about 4 occupants. Another had 2 and I stayed alone except the times my friends came around.
One Wednesday evening, on my way back home from fellowship, (I attend Christian law students fellowship of Nigeria by the way) I noticed that my street was unusually quiet. Rumor had it that someone was killed on my street. I didn’t see it, and so I didn’t care. Even though it was 11 pm, I had nothing to fear because I was with my friend, Terdoo. We had stayed back in school to read after fellowship. That’s why we were going back home that late.
We passed the vigilante checkpoint. Where they harassed big men with cars that came to pick female students down the street. They hadn’t mounted their checkpoint that day, which seemed particularly strange.
‘See all these big cars… they allowed to pass by today.’ I said to my friend. One even had the effrontery to bath us in the dust this evening.
‘See better time wey they for use suffer all these people wey get big belle. Na today una decide no mount checkpoint’ My friend added.
Suddenly, we saw two guys spring out from behind a building a short distance from the shops close to the checkpoint. The building was partitioned into two sections, it had a small shop where cigarettes and cheap liquor were sold and the other section housed a barbershop. I think they came out from behind the barber’s shop. Honestly, my brain could not process that then. I was too scared to move.
Terdoo pulled a fast one on me. She bolted towards the direction of the house. My heart followed her, racing so hard that I thought it had stopped pumping blood. Well, you heard me right. It was my heart that raced not my leg. I realized later that i am still in the same spot Terdoo left me. My brain had stopped processing. I stood alone on the street, too scared to move, in case one of them had a gun and decided to shoot me.
One casually walked towards me and properly blocked my path so I would’ve been unable to escape, even if I’d tried -which I didn’t. The other stood behind me, maybe not directly but it was the kind of positioning that made you think against running. The one that blocked the path leading towards my house didn’t even wear a hoodie. ‘Isn’t he scared I’ll be able to vividly describe him to the police?’, I thought to myself.
‘Sister, show your phone!‘ he demanded. I tried to be bold and not give the phone immediately but soon after, he pointed a gun to my tummy.
‘We fit waste your intestine this evening if you no cooperate’. His face was emotionless. I felt wetness drip to my legs immediately after he made that statement. It could have been sweat but I think it was pee. I brought out my phone and placed it in his outstretched palm still transfixed and unable to move. Then another guy came out from behind that same area the first two had emerged from. He sized me from head to toe and said ‘Oya! Race’.
Without a backward glance, I started running towards my apartment. I won’t lie; the apartment looked like it was situated far away this time. I was crying, peeing, and sweating all at the same time. I got home to discover my friend had locked everywhere. I banged the door till she opened it. Too scared to be angry, I just walked in, dazed. We put off the light and sat up holding ourselves till we slept off.
The next morning, Terdoo had already woken. She was cleaning the house, probably out of the guilt of leaving me out in the cold, in the hands of the phone thieves.
‘Good for you betrayer, guilt kill you there’ I said in my heart. It took me 1 hour to unglue my tongue from the roof of my mouth to utter a sketchy good morning and beg my friend for her phone to call my Father.
‘Babe as I dey run yesterday. My phone fall …’ Terdoo said
I couldn’t hold in my laughter . I laughed till my stomach ached. I laughed till tears rolled down my cheeks. I laughed till I choked on my saliva. ‘talk that thing wey you talk again’ I said. I didn’t get a reply, though I got a look that said ‘don’t you dare’. But, I went ahead to repeat what she said to myself and laughed some more, much to her chagrin. Anyway, that’s how our quarrel ended.
Not feeling up to going to school that day, I and Terdoo decided to spend the evening watching movies. By exactly 7 pm someone banged our door. ‘Babe, open this door ‘ Fear gripped at our hearts. Terdoo’s eyes looked like they would fall out of their sockets. I begged my body to behave today and not release wet substances everywhere. I mustered the courage to ask ‘who are you?’ and a response came almost immediately ‘na Pedro, babe come open this door ‘.
It took me more than a minute to process the response I heard. ‘Who is Pedro, why would he be knocking at my door with so much confidence’. I decided not to open the door, but my inquisitive mind would not allow me to sit in one place. I whispered to my friend to go and open the door
‘no no no no no’ she replied.
I got up. She held onto my two legs but I shoved her hands off; walked towards the door and opened it to meet stranger Pedro.
‘Can I come in?’ Pedro requested. I stepped aside so he’d have a small space to enter. He entered and offered Terdoo a nod. He sat on the Blue chair close to the reading table while I sat on the bed -the only other seat available aside the chair in the room.
‘Hi, I’m Pedro’ he said as he offered me a handshake. I was hesitant but took it anyway. ‘You’ve said that before’, I said.
‘see… babe! I get info wey go interest you. But we go strike deal say if I tell you Wetin I wan tell you, you no go tell anybody. Tell your friend make she excuse us ‘ he requested but I hesitated. He yelled this time ‘I say make you tell your friend make she excuse us’.
I looked at Terdoo; my eyes begging her to step outside.
‘And tell her say make she no stay where she go hear ‘
I didn’t try repeating what he said. It sounded clear enough. Terdoo looked like a fish out of water. I felt for her. I felt for myself. Tears were pooling under my eyelids. I willed them to sit inside my eyes and not fall. For where!? My eyes refused to hear words.
‘Pedro! what do you want from me? I don’t have anything. Even my phone, they collect am yesterday. I no get money. Abeg no do me anything ‘.
‘sister, relax!’. I could hardly do that, but I wiped my eyes using the sleeve of my pink T-shirt and sat on my palms. Pedro took a long glace outside the door before glancing outside my two windows and then at me. ‘I get your phone here’ he said.
Many questions came rushing to my head. How did he get it? Was he one of the guys that collected the phone? Did he have a hand in it? The only question I could fully utter was ‘HOW’? He gave me a lopsided grin, then he said
‘No, be us get this street? E Don tey wey I dey see you for this street. I know say rugged boy like me no fit catch holy girl like you so I find means. Arrange with boys. And see! the thing work. Only thing be say you no fit talk no.’
I was shocked beyond reaction. Who forces anyone into a relationship? Except for Pedro, that is, and the many others like him out there. He sat across the room feeling like the most brilliant man on the planet. I felt like an ant under his boots not knowing when I’d be squashed . ‘where is the phone’? I asked. He pulled it out of his pocket and gave it to me. He glanced at his gold chain watch and looked up; regret written all over his face.
‘Babe time no dey and I gats ball now. See now, you no even tell me your name’. ‘Ochanya ‘, ‘Ah my queen, you go see more of me no worry ‘
Within that, he got up and sauntered out like he hadn’t just scattered my evening – he had just turned the rest of my day turpsy-turvy. He acted as though it was perfectly normal to do what he just did this evening every time. I covered my face with my hands and wept, partly out of relief for the return of my phone, and for the fact that he had at least gone for now. I also wept because I didn’t know what to do. He’d asked me not to tell anyone. I was scared. Terdoo came in and hugged me. Her presence even increased the tears. I couldn’t hold them in, they just kept flowing like a river.
The next couple of weeks was a routine of sleeping in Terdoo’s house to avoid Pedro. At other times, I was at home making midnight meals for Pedro, or picking phone calls from strange numbers from a strange drunk man named Pedro . Sometimes he’d come to my house drunk. Those nights I hardly slept. He snored loudly. Those nights I would stay awake and ask God what his purpose was in all this. Pedro had never asked for more than food and apparently by his conduct where to sleep. Those nights, I told God to keep me safe, and also to keep him safe. Slowly he had become a part of my life. Maybe not in the way I’d wanted a friendship, like the one I had with Terdoo but I enjoyed his company – his snores’, the voracious way he devoured the food I cooked him. The way he listened when I read the Bible to him on nights he could not sleep. I became worried about the parts of his life I knew nothing about, the dark hidden places he did not let me visit. The doors he had permanently shut in his mind. I wanted to take a tour in his mind, to touch the scars there, visit the attic, build a house there maybe, but he never let me. I never got the chance to.
One evening, I got home to meet 3 strange guys in front of my apartment. They had been waiting for me to come home. They sat on a wooden bench and just waited. Too scared to even ask questions, I offered them a warm good evening. They didn’t even bother to answer my greeting. The toughest of the three asked me,
‘where Pedro dey? ‘
I told them that I didn’t know, and I hadn’t seen him in days.
‘Where your phone? Call am’
With vividly shaking hands, I brought out my phone and dialed Pedro’s number. He picked up on the first ring, and said,
‘Hello, my queen, how things?’
“I’m okay, I haven’t heard from you or seen you in days, where are you?”
“I dey this workshop wey dey in front of Inikpi street, I dey run some kind things here, we go see in the evening nau”.
“No problem, see you then”. I told the guys where Pedro was.
That night like many other nights to follow, Pedro didn’t show up. I stayed up waiting for a call, a text, or a knock but none came. I heard gist from someone that there was a gunfight in town and that one person was axed, the other one disappeared. ‘I hoped my Pedro wasn’t involved’, I said, quite worried.
I came online two days later just to see Pedro’s picture on so many statuses with captions like ‘Rest in peace’, ‘you left too soon’….. They didn’t know the heart he had. Just like many others like him, his blood had seeped into the ground, he died the death of the coward. I wondered what he would tell God when he gets to heaven. I wondered what his mum would be thinking when she closed his eyes in death. I wondered what lesson he’d left for the generation after him.
Pedro had forgotten that life was only a phase that echoed in eternity and it had no spare. He had also forgotten that we are only remembered by what we have done!. I stared deep into the eyes of the lifeless picture people uploaded on their statuses, I sized the ax wound on his forehead. I wept deeply that night, for the dreams Pedro never conquered, for the many out there scripting the same storylines he scripted. My heart bled for the Pedros in the street that would never rethink their choices, that would lie cold and lifeless in a pool of their blood. They, that would leave a tale of dark horror for their generation unborn. It was for them I wept that night.