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My name is A-Zed: Episode 8

I didn’t know what to think. I thought I was almost prepared for this moment, I had put together the words, the explanation and everything but as Uncle Mufu’s eyes pierced through my skin (that’s what it seemed like), my thoughts swayed to Mama and then I just didn’t know what else to think…

Azeez…

Is Mama ok?

Azeez…. Is that how they do.

Is she ok?

Your mother is fine but is that how they do. You just leave. No phone. No call. Oti o..

I…e…ema..ema binu sir

What happen that you just leave like that. Even if they steal your motor. You suppose to come and tell me so we can find a solution.

Uncle I didn’t know how…..

Still yet! Ahn Ahn Azeez… Still yet, you suppose to come and tell me; Ahn ahn… that is how family do. (he said, slightly raising his voice)

By then, some on-lookers had gathered outside my room and I noticed Debby getting more and more uncomfortable. As I wondered just what she was doing there, Uncle Mufu said..

Close your door, let us be private.

I moved to close the door even as our spectators unwillingly began to leave. I closed the door and turned to resume the baptism I was sure to get.

Opelope aburo e. (thank God for your sister), I don’t even know she always see you. The both of you, you don’t know how important family is ni ehn Debola.

He turned to look at Debby.

So, if I did not talk about it with your mother, you will not have remember to tell me you see your broada in school.

Debby looked away from Uncle Mufu and twisted her fingers as if praying for this drama to end even as I gradually began to recollect images of the young Debola I sometimes saw at my Uncles place back then. She was schooling outside the country at some point and looking at Debby then, I noticed the semblance even though the transformation was astounding.

That is matter for another day. It is very late to find the motor but we will try. I will talk to my friend D.P.O and see what can happen. For now, life must go on, so have this

He dropped a bunch of keys in my hand…

That is the key to KJ492 in the park. Pick it from the park and use it for now…

I was surprised beyond words and even though it was clear my uncle was not going to hear a word of my protest, I managed to get in a word..

But no uncle, I can’t accept this..

My excuse for a protest fell on deaf ears. Uncle Mufu gave me one of those stern fatherly looks, he then turned to Debby and back to me.. He dipped his hands into his pocket, produced some money, which he more or less squeezed into my hands even as he said…

Use that to get anything you need. I have a lot of work to do.

With that, he hurried out of my room and Debby hobbled on after him giving me that sort of look that said “I’m sorry” as she walked out.

I checked the money Uncle Mufu stuffed in my hands – 5k. Something must not be right. How did Debby or Debola know enough about me or my car to tell Uncle Mufu and what exactly did she tell him and why was he being so generous. I know it wasn’t like a new car but that golf was still very functional and even I would not take it so lightly if one of my drivers got it stolen, family or not. And we’re not even family. It all didn’t make sense to me. Well, except that I now knew why Debby always seemed to run from me. I needed to think. I got out my bucket and went to have my bath. I got back to the room and Dare was around.

It felt like I hadn’t seen him for weeks. He even had a new haircut I hadn’t seen. He was his usual efiko self. He bombarded me with questions upon questions and before I could answer them he drifted off into the world of engineering. It was just about a week to Christmas so things were pretty much whining up school so I hadn’t missed much but exams had been scheduled for late January barely giving me enough time to breathe once we resumed from the break. I chatted with Dare for a while, I needed the distraction. During our conversation, Fadeke sent me a text message. She just wanted to check up on me. Maybe that was what I needed. I called Fadeke and after talking for a while, I asked if we could see later in the day. She hesitated but later agreed. We planned to meet up at an eatery close to Medilag; 4pm. Nothing fancy.

I slept for a while after talking to Dare then I wokeup about an hour before my date. I freshened up and took a cab to moremi park. I dressed very casual; just a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. After serious consideration, I decided to go with the car but upon getting there, if I wasn’t confident enough, then I would park somewhere far off and just walk or take a bike. I didn’t want to start off by giving the wrong impression. Maybe I already did by not telling her I was a taxi driver/driver? I didn’t even know how to define my current status. By the time I got to the car at High Rise, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to take it anymore. I noticed the car had been re-parked. Princess definitely had a spare key. I decided to drop off some of the things I had on me in the car. Actually, the only thing I needed to drop was the car key Uncle Mufu gave to me. I opened the car, dropped the key and some other documents I found in my wallet in the pigeonhole.

Few minutes later I was in a bus to Ojuelegba. The events of the morning and the night before went through my mind again and I was still somewhat confused. I tried to focus my thoughts on Fadeke even as I go closer to the eatery. I was surprised to meet her there even though she said she had just gotten there. She wore a simple dress with casual slippers. She packed her hair back and it only made her look more beautiful. I teased her about her hair and she laughed. It seemed so easy to talk to her and in no time we were deep in conversation just about anything and everything. We talked about football, Arsenal, her hostel, mine, religion, and family – her family, she had two siblings; elder brothers and both were out of the country. There was a little bit of awkwardness when I told her about my mother. She seemed so sad and concerned. I had to get our order so I could change the subject.

As I walked to our table carrying my tray, I looked up and noticed Kassy walking into the eatery. I picked up pace and rushed to the table hoping Kassy did not spot me. I wasn’t prepared for any weird explanation. Kassy seemed decently dressed enough from where I sat but knowing her, I could not risk it. I tried to look away whenever I noticed Kassy looking in our direction but a part of me was very sure she saw me. Kassy picked up her order and left. I had been so worried about Kassy spotting me I didn’t think about Fadeke until she asked..

Old friend?

Huh? (Fadeke caught me unwares) … well, more like employer.

Employer?

It’s quite a long story – not for today…

We went back to our meal after that and then I asked when her birthday was. Surprisingly, she said, next week Sunday – Boxing day. We spoke about that for a while. She was going to turn twenty-two and she really had no plans for the day. I was considering traveling to Ibadan for the holidays but hearing Fadeke say she didn’t have plans seemed like an opportunity was being presented to me. I enjoyed her company so much and I knew I could do with a lot more of it especially if it helped get my mind off every other thing. Just then my phone rang. It was Princess. I thought about not picking but then I was in one way or the other working for her still so I had to…

Hello.

A-Zed. Where are you?

I’m out of school but not far.

Please can you come and get me now. It’s urgent please.

She cut the call. Quite unusual. I looked at Fadeke then and before I could speak she asked if I had to go. I answered yes, reluctantly. I so didn’t want to leave. I was having so much fun with Fadeke it only seemed logical for me to cookup some sort of excuse for Princess and stay. But she did say it was urgent. Probably one of her many ridiculous trips to some party or some customers house. I wondered then why Princess put herself through all that madness. She seemed like a well brought up girl who was comfortable and brilliant too; what else could she possibly want. What did she get from this life.. this ridiculously dangerous and stupid lifestyle. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be my business but after experiencing the previous night and returning without Tomi, reality hit home. Maybe Uncle Mufu had given me a way out. I could take the new car and thank her for all she had for me and return my old controlled lifestyle and hope for the best with Mama. Maybe, just maybe.

I broke out of my thoughts as Fadeke hugged me. I promised to call her later so we could pick up our conversation. I made it back to High Rise and by then I had made up my mind to give Princess just one more chance. If this trip involved any form of Nollywood drama, it would be my last. I had barely gotten into the car when I saw Princess walking through the door. Wherever we were going, she really wanted to get there fast. She looked extra exposed too. Her dress was backless and very revealing too. She made an effort to cover her body with the scarf she held but it did very little. She got into the car, the back seat this time. Without a word of greeting she asked me to head towards Lekki Phase 1. As I drove, I looked back at her and my level of irritation began to rise. I just couldn’t take it anymore – why was she doing this to herself.

I held my thoughts and drove on. As I drove into Lekki, Princess directed me and as she did, I realized the streets looked very familiar. But offcourse, I thought to myself, we were heading towards Chief’s house. Chief’s house! Ridiculous. I tried not to say anything until I was sure. Lo and behold. Princess asked me to park just outside the compound. As she got out of the car she told me to come back for her by 11pm but I had had it with her. I got out of the car and stopped her.

Why. Princess why? Why do you do this to yourself.

She seemed to hold back her words and listened on…

It’s not bad enough you’re ruining your life with all these people and unncessary places you visit. Now you’re back here, to him. He almost got us killed and just because of what. How much did he offer you to get you to forget so soon. How much?

WHAM! It was faster than my eyes could see. It was a strong slap on the right side of my cheek.

How dare you.

How dare you Azeez….

You know nothing about me or my life

You’re right. I know nothing. Nothing except what I’ve experienced in the past few weeks and you know what? It stinks Princess. Can you not smell trouble.

And you being the expert at trouble detection, I’m sure you predicted everything that happened on every single one of our trips.

I’m not a child. This is my life and how I chose to live it is up to me. It’s either you can fit in it or not. Forget about coming back to pick me. I will find my way home.

She shoved me aside and walked towards the gate. Seconds later, she disappeared into the compound. I just wanted to leave the car and head back home but that wasn’t me. I was so angry. I got into the car, slammed the door and drove off. I would drop off the car with a note telling her I wasn’t coming back. As I sped down Kingsway road, my phone rang and I hesitated in picking it as I thought it was Princess calling to apologize or something. I answered the call…

Hello

Goodday, am I on to Mr. A-Zed?

Yes, who’s speaking.

They call me Senior.

Senior. Oh, Senior? How did you get….

Forget that… I have a message for Princess. I can’t seem to get across to her. Please let her know that I’ve gotten her a +2 for the event on the 26th but she has to confirm latest by tomorrow. I guess I’ll see you then.

He cut the call and I was so angry and confused I couldn’t make sense of what he told me. I was sick and tired of this world and all I wanted to do was get out. I drove faster and a soon after, I was back in High Rise. I parked the car and as I stepped out to lock the doors, I remembered the keys I had in the pigeonhole.

I went back in and took out the key along with the documents. I needed a piece of paper to write my resignation note. I looked through the pieces of paper I had with me and realized I had picked some additional ones from the pigeonhole. I flipped open one of the pieces and noticed it was a medical test result sheet. it was addressed to Adejuwon P. George. I scanned through the ticked boxes and noticed only the HIV box was checked. I looked to the bottom of the page and the result read positive.

 

PS: 2010 has been a blast. Here’s to an awesome 2011. Wishing everyone a magnificent and out-of-this-world 2011.

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My name is A-Zed: Episode 7

My reaction to hearing the gunshots was instant… I stood up almost immediately and tried to figure out which direction the sounds came from. As I looked around I noticed just how calm every other person was. It felt surreal, almost like some sort of joke was going on and I was the only one who wasn’t in on it. The music didn’t stop; the girls were still in the pool with Usman who was now almost completely naked. I made to leave the table but Senior grabbed my hand.

Where are you going?

What kind of question is that. Didn’t you hear those gunshots?

And so?

And so? What if someone is hurt?

Still holding my hand he burst into wild laughter and even Balogun who seemed to be totally knocked out joined in.

A-Zed, wa, come, sit down (he said as he gently pulled me towards my seat. Reluctantly, I sat down)

It’s your first night here so I understand… maybe I should start by asking how many girls you have here?

Three

Oh, you brought Princess and her girls.

Yes.

A-zed, A-zed (he laughed)…This is my seventh year in this business and the first rule here is very much like one the bankers call “know your customer”…. Did you look around you when you walked in? Or maybe that isn’t the question. Are you even conversant with happenings in the upper chambers of our country?

I sat there speechless wondering how any of this had anything to do with the fact that someone could be dying from gunshot wounds… He then moved his seat closer to me and more or less whispered to me..

We hear and read about meetings, party primaries and conventions. Do you really think decisions are made during those things? Our leaders are old and very rich – therefore they are allergic to boredom. Those things are dead boring but here, here… just look around you… isn’t this a perfect atmosphere for making decisions? Whether they are the right or wrong decision; well, that’s none of my business.

Before I could comment, he burst out into anotherepisode of wild laughter. He then let go of my hand and said..

Any gunshot you hear here is not an accident. Think of it as a decision. It’s been made.

And what if this … decision affects me…. or one of the … my girls

Count your losses and move on just like any other business man

Losses… the realization of his statement hit me and I thought to myself – what am I doing here. What am I doing in this place where people – human beings are seen as mere products….

Here. Take this (Senior said as he handed me a glass of drink)

Still stunned, I took the glass from him as my mind spiraled deeper and deeper into thoughts. Was this what I had to endure so I could see mama through her surgery? Was there a better way? I seem to be dragging myself deeper and deeper into this life I couldn’t explain – this life I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a part of.

I downed the drink. It was harsh. Something very strong and it provided the right amount of distraction I needed from my thoughts. I felt a wet hand on my shoulder and I turned around to see Usman behind me. He was being held by two of the ladies that had been in the pool. They were both completely naked but had towels hanging from their necks.

Fine Yaro… we’re going in… you should come in and join us, you sound like you need to relax.

I tried to smile even as I replied, no thanks but I’m fine.

Kai… so you don’t want a taste of our deeeeelicious specimens (he said as he looked enticingly at one of the girls and then at his lower body)

Senior: It’s his first night. He will come around… go and enjoy yourself Usman.

They turned and began to walk away but shortly after that, Balogun stumbled off his chair and called after them to wait for him even as he half walked and took off his clothes.

My focus shifted back to the table and I noticed Senior staring at me. I brought out my phone and began to scroll through my contact list as a way of avoiding his prying eyes.

I’m here with five girls tonight. Two of them, I’ve known for five years and I must say that they’ve made me who am I today.

I looked up briefly but soon continued scrolling through my phone. I got to Fadeke and I remembered how I had made a mental note to call her but I didn’t. It was almost 1am, definitely too late to call.

Are you gay?

Seniors question caught me off guard so much that my phone fell from my hands.

What?

He laughed… Are you gay? Are you into men or do you swing both ways? Why so surprised. Am I the first person ever to ask you that question?

I regained composure after a while and I replied him – No, I’m not gay, neither do I swing both ways.

Hey, innocent question. I just wanted to know if you’d be interested in making some err… extra money on the side.

Extra money?

How much more naïve can you be? Have you looked in the mirror lately? You’re a young good looking boy with aspirations and a conscience too, you’d make a perfect addition to my team and I can source you some of the best clients around. Clients that can leave ones entire generation transformed just after one encounter.

Hello… Hello…

I sat there clutching my phone tightly even as I tried to digest what I had just heard..

Hello…Hello…

The distant voice quickly brought me back to the moment. I looked at my phone and realized I had called Fadeke. I put the phone to my ear but didn’t know what to say. I cut the call and hoped she wouldn’t call back. A few seconds passed and as I looked up at Senior trying to put together a response to his offer or whatever it was, my phone rang again.

It was Fadeke. I let it ring; at first I didn’t want to pick up but I thought about it and did just before the call cut off.

We might be trophyless but I don’t think we’re so broke that our supporters will resolve to flashing each other

(That was one opening line you find it hard to recover from)

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call you like that. My phone sort of fell and mistakenly dialed your…….

I paused even as I realized my explanation wasn’t helping.

Ok, please let me call you back. I didn’t wait for her response, I cut the call and was about dialing her number when Senior tapped me and said:

The room beside the reception. There’s a phone you can use there.

For as long as you want.

He added the other part of the statement as if he knew who I had just spoken with and what we discussed. I thanked him and walked towards the reception. I noticed the other guests at the party as I walked towards the reception. Some had passed out on their seats while others were heatedly wrapped up in corners kissing or doing things I had never seen before. I ignored all of it as hard as it was. I finally made it to the reception and I was given the phone. Oblivious of what to say, I dialed Fadeke’s number and she picked up after the second ring.

I really didn’t flash you. My phone was just err… thinking a step ahead of me…

Hmm…

True.

And this is the part where I’m supposed to oooohhhh and awwwwhhhh?

Erm.. ok, I’m sure I deserved that – someway, somehow…

(she laughed).. so, do you always stay up this late or you’re going to tell me you stayed up cause you were thinking of calling me?

I’m not going to hear the last of that am I?

Well….

I could easily ask you the same question you know…

And my reply would be that I’m awake studying. Cause that’s what I’m doing…

Studying? Really? School?

Yes Sir. 300 level Pharmacy University of Lagos.

Are you serious?

Why wouldn’t I be?

Well, it’s just funny cause I’m also in unilag.

Just like that, our conversation went on and on and on. We talked about everything – well, almost everything. I couldn’t just bring myself to tell her I was a cab driver. Time went by so fast and it wasn’t until she checked that we realized it was past 4 in the morning. I had to get off the phone so I made up some excuse about getting some sleep because I had so much to do in the morning. A cut the call and sat on the sofa for a while thinking to myself just how pleasant it was talking to Fadeke. She seemed so real and full of life. All the thoughts on my mind prior to calling her had moved to the background.

I returned to the reception where the man there told me about a room I had prepared for me. He ushered me to the room and from the interior décor I could imagine just what it would cost to get a room there on a regular day. I took my time to explore the room when I left alone. It was indeed spectacular. Before then, I had only seen the interior of two other hotels in Ibadan so it was a new experience for me. I finally jumped on the bed a few minutes before five and thoughts of my conversation with Fadeke fluttered back to my mind. I just couldn’t sleep. I laid in bed awake thinking till the phone in my room rang a little over 7am. It was Princess..

We are leaving. Meet us outside in 5 minutes.

Ok.

I got out of the bed and started to lay it when I realized what I was doing and laughed at myself. I walked out of my room and went back to the reception. I had only been there for a couple of minutes when Princess and Kassy walked into the lobby. There was no sign of Tomi. As we all walked towards the exit, I asked Princess

How about Tomi

Princes barely turned to look at me when she responded:

Tomi won’t be joining us.

That was all she said. No more. And I couldn’t bring myself to ask more questions. They brought the car to the entrance and I took the key from the valet while Princess and Kassy got into the back seat. I tried to look for a strange expression on their faces even as I adjusted the rearview mirror but nothing. They both had straight faces, which they buried in their phones as I began to drive out.

The journey back to Lagos was cold. Not a beep. Not a word from anyone in the car. As we approached Yaba, Kassy asked to get off so she could get a cab. We dropped her off and continued to unilag. I went straight to High Rise where I dropped off Princess. She got down and only managed a ‘thank you’ and ‘I’ll call you later’ before she vanished into the building. I didn’t even want to imagine what she had on her mind. I just wanted to get back to my room, clean up and get some rest. I parked the car and made the long walk to the cab park. I took a cab to gate and then walked into my hostel greeting all the security men. As I walked down my corridor, I noticed some guys from the other rooms lingering around but none of my roommates. I opened the door and as I walked in I saw him. Uncle Mufu and behind him, Debby.

My name is A-Zed: Episode 6

A to the Zee…… fine boy….

She said as she rubbed her hands against my thighs…. She slightly raised her back, which she had rested on me as she reached for some grapes from the bowl placed beside the bed. She had on nothing but her very transparent nightdress. After picking a handful of grapes, she turned around and knelt in-between my legs. My head was directly facing her breasts; her firm nipples staring back at me even as she fed me a grape and then another. Then she slid one in her mouth and slid it in and out. I saw a smile grow on her face even as she bit slightly into the grape and then closed in on my lips as if to kiss me.

Ye……

I woke up. I looked around me and it took a few seconds before I could process where I was. I was wearing nothing but my boxers and I was on a bed – Kassy’s bed. I turned to my left and saw her then, wearing a transparent nightdress sleeping. I carefully eased myself out of the bed and as I slipped out, I saw my car keys, phone and wallet on the bedside table. I saw my clothes well spread out on the chair for the dresser. I picked up my things, tiptoed to the chair, grabbed my clothes and quietly left the room.

I stepped out and began to wear my jeans. Just then, two girls walked in from another room. I recognized one of them – Debby. She seemed to startle as she saw me. She quickly turned around and went back into the room they had come out of. The other girl stopped to look at me and then continued past me into the living room. I noticed then, just how bright it was outside and I hurriedly wore my jeans and while still wearing my shirt, I walked out of the house mumbling a quick “good morning” to the girl who was then sitting on one of the living room sofas as I got out of the flat. I wore my shirt before I got into the car. I started the engine and checked the time. 6:30am. I made to put my wallet in the back pocket of my jeans and for some reason I decided to check it. The money I had in it was intact but I noticed some extra notes. I pulled them out and counted – 5 pieces of $20 ……$100. I tried not to think much seeing that I was somewhat late. I shoved the wallet into my pocket and drove off.

I made it to my room just before 9am. I walked in and met some of my many roommates. My room was one of the few rooms that still operated like the Unilag of pre-2000 we often-heard stories about. Four bed spaces but I had eleven roommates. Squatters, floaters, hangers whatever you want to call “us”. Yes, Dare was squatting me. He was sprawled out on a mattress somewhere on the floor. I was sure he only just got into the room from the library a few hours before then. I said my greeting to the other roommates, I grabbed a bucket and went to take my bath. In another 30 minutes, I was parked outside Princess’ building. I brought out my phone to call her and as I tried running through my contact list, I saw Fadeke’s number. I made a mental note to call her later. As I was about pressing the call button, my phone rang. It was Princess.

Good Morning. I’m already outside..

I know… I can see you…

Impulsively, I turned around and looked up to see if I could see her. She was standing on one of the balconies high up in the building…

Do you have a suit?

Erm.. like full suit or jacket?

Never mind. I’m coming down.

Some minutes later, she was in the car. She sat at the passenger’s side beside me – like she always did. I started the car and asked where we were off to.

Faculty of Law.

As I approached the faculty car park, she reached into her bag and produced a card. She asked me to stop even before we got to the park. She handed me the card and made to leave the car.

It’s going to be a busy night, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before now. Go to the address written on that card and ask for James, he’ll attend to you and then meet me back at High Rise by 4pm.

Ok.

I watched as she walked away in her black skirt and white shirt. She looked so professional and yet graceful. I took another look at the card she gave me; on one side it had a logo – an “A” with angel wings and the word “Angeli” written beneath it. On the other side was a name, address and phone number. Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, not so far. I didn’t have any lecture that morning so I decided to quickly make the trip. As I got outside the gate, the thought of Uncle Mufu came to my mind and I knew I couldn’t go straight. I couldn’t run forever but it wasn’t the time. I turned right and decided to go the long way around through Folaagoro to burst out at Abule Oja. There was a beat up cab moving very slowly in front of me, I recognized it immediately. It was Emeka, one of the drivers from the park – lousy was an understatement when defining Emeka. I cut out from behind him and overtook him.

I soon got to Ikoyi, the address turned out to be a boutique – a male boutique. I wondered for a second what I was picking up but then again, it wasn’t any of my business. I got in and asked for James, he was a young man, well spoken and very happy to see me. Before I could ask what I came to pick up, he zipped to the display rack and pulled down a blazer..

Here you go – try this on (He handed me the blazer)

Me?

Err.. yes. It should fit perfectly.

I put on the blazer and even before I looked in the mirror, I could tell it looked good on me. James adjusted the collar and fit the blazer properly.

Do you like it?

Erm..well (I laughed)…

Yes, I’m sure you do. Ok, let me pack it for you.

For me? I’m sorry but I don’t understand, Princess asked me to come and pick up something for her.

And that something is what I’m packing up.

I stood there looking bewildered but that wasn’t the end. Before I left the store, James brought me a perfectly fitting shirt, chinos trousers (he kept referring to them as slacks) and a wonderful pair of shoes. He handed it all to me and told me to tell Princess he’d expect her call. I left the store still trying to figure out what had happened but knowing Princess, I thought maybe she used me to fit the things for someone with a similar stature.

I got back to school and not wanting to be seen with the car, I parked it at High Rise. I went back to my room, Dare had left, probably gone to the library again. I went through some of my notes and did some reading before I went for my only class of the day. 1:30pm – 3:30pm. I made sure I left before the end of the class, I couldn’t risk running into anyone that could waste my time. I took the shortcut through hellfire and headed towards the Faculty of Science but just then I got a text message. It was Princess.

Please change into the clothes you got from James before coming to get me. Thanks.

I stopped in my tracks as I read the message again. I shrugged and walked even faster. I made it to the car and I drove into a corner where I found a way to change. I looked at myself in the side mirror when I was done and I knew I looked good. I spent some more minutes admiring myself and I eventually snapped out of it and drove back to Princess’ house. I called her to inform her I was around and she said she would come down soon. 15 minutes later and she wasn’t out, that was unlike Princess but I found out why moments later.

Princess walked out of the front door flanked by two other girls. Kassy was on one side and the girl I saw earlier in the day at Kassy’s house was on the other side. All of them had on short black dresses in different designs. They all looked attractive and appealing. Princess and Kassy got into the back seat while the other girl sat in front with me. From the rearview mirror I noticed a smirk on Kassy’s face even as she complimented my blazer. I expected her to say more but surprisingly, she didn’t. The smirk on her face, however lingered much longer. I started the car and began to drive out. Before I could ask where we were heading, Princess told me we were going to Abeokuta. She asked if I knew my way there. Traveling between Lagos and Ibadan, I often had to go through Abeokuta – especially when the churches had one event or the other.

For a moment, I wondered where we were heading in Abeokuta and why we had to leave so late but as always, I reminded myself that my job was just to drive and that was what I did. The journey was smooth, driving a new car makes driving enjoyable. The girls hardly spoke through the journey. They were all busy typing away on their ‘blackberry’ phones. Once we got to Abeokuta, Princess asked Tomi (the girl who sat in front with me) to give me directions to the destination. It all felt like dejavu. Like I had been in that exact situation before. What was different? I had Kassy and another girl with me this time.

We made it to our destination just as it began to get dark. It was a guesthouse that looked more like a hotel to me. It was hidden somewhere far away on a lonely street like some sort of treasure. From the moment I drove in, I could imagine the kind of clientele the guesthouse had. Perfectly done landscaping complete with fountains and lights. I had only read about things like these in novels. I drove to the entrance and parked for the girls to get out. Someone already stood beside my door to escort the girls.

A-Zed please come with us.

With you?

Yes please.

I sat in the car still trying to process what I had just heard. It was when the man by my door opened it and ushered me out I realized it was really happening. I got out of the car and handed the key to the man. Kassy and Tomi were already ahead at the reception, Princess had waited for me to catch up. I walked up to her and she whispered to me..

Its just a party…. try to relax and have fun… I just want you here, close by… that’s all..

Ok Princess…

I said ok, like I almost always did to Princess. By the time Princess and I got to the reception, a waiter was ready to lead us in. He walked ahead and we all followed behind. As we walked, Tomi whispered to Kassy..

Mama Kas… see this place… na my luck shine wey Debby Papa call am oh. Na so her Papa go dey summon her – amen.

They both giggled for a while and then went back to looking serious. The waiter ushered us to the poolside. As we walked in, I noticed the party had already started. The poolside was beautiful and the lighting effects were exceptional. I noticed three girls in the pool, it wasn’t until I looked closer that I realized two of the girls were completely nude. Yes, nude. The third had a bikini on but it was see-through. There was music playing in the background and I heard voices laughing and talking on different tables around the pool. The poolside area wasn’t well lit so I couldn’t make out faces but I didn’t need anyone to tell me just how exclusive the party was, all together; there were probably just thirty of us, four of which were bodyguards. There were over twenty girls spread out among the tables. When we got to a certain point, the waiter asked me to go with him to a particular table and Princess nodded in agreement. The girls walked on and they all sat on different tables.

I was lead to a table that had three other men seated on it. There were all sorts of drinks laid out on the table. From alcoholic to non-alcoholic, juice, wine, champagne, those whose names I could pronounce and those I couldn’t. The waiter pulled back a seat for me and asked what I would like to eat drink. I told him I was fine. He walked away then and one of the men at the table began to laugh.

Your first time abi? (He said, looking at me)

I answered yes in a very unsure tone. I looked round my table and realized the other men were in a world of their own. One of them had a cigar on one hand and a glass in the other. The other was busy examining the powder-like content of a little transparent bag.

It’s always like that on your first visit. It’s a world you might have heard of but never really believe existed.

A world? What is this place?

He burst out laughing…. Don’t worry, in time you will understand. They call me Senior. (He stretched his hands towards me. I shook him and introduced myself as A-Zed. He didn’t ask about the name)

That’s Balogun and Usman, he said as he pointed at the other two men. It might be a long night so if you haven’t eaten, I’d advice you to get something to eat. You can have anything and I mean aaaaanything.

He stretched the word and then gestured to the waiter who seemed to have positioned himself close to us permanently. The waiter hurried towards us and Senior asked him to bring us two bowls of fish peppersoup. I looked around again just then and I wondered where I really was. I occasionally heard thick raised voices laughing or making one remark or the other about political issues. Our fish pepper soup arrived and the moment I inhaled a whiff of it, my stomach reminded me that I was hungry. I examined the peppersoup and discovered that the fish in it was larger than anyone I had ever seen. I didn’t know where to begin but watching Senior, I began to eat and it was the most delicious peppersoup I had ever had in my entire life. I reached for a pack of juice on the table and one of the other men, Usman, chuckled out loud.

You don’t drink

Erm..well, I’m working tonight

All three men burst into laughter and then Senior spoke:

It’s part of the job Azed. Here, try this he said as he handed me a glass of drink. I hesitated a bit but then I took the glass from him. I was in a place I didn’t know, I needed as many friends as possible. At that point I noticed some activity. It seemed some guests were ready to move their party elsewhere. I watched as Princess, Kassy, Tomi and few other girls walked away with four men. All of them were dressed in white traditional attires and I could have sworn that one of them looked like the governor of the state and another, like the man widely tipped to take over from him in the coming elections. Maybe it was the alcohol. I decided to take more of the peppersoup and less of the alcohol that I couldn’t even identify.

As time passed, more guests left the poolside and went into the main building. At some point, Usman took off his shirt and trouser and jumped into the pool where he played around with the girls. Senior tried to engage me in conversation but all he did was go on and on about himself. I reckoned he was drunk as well. Time seemed to have flown by. I realized it was just past midnight and as I stood to stretch a bit, it happened.

A gun shot…

Then another.

My name is A-Zed: Episode 5

I walked and walked for a long time, my mind was blank. It was as if I had just woken up from some long sleep. As I walked, thoughts of recent events started fluttered back to my mind. I was so confused. More scared than confused but even in my confusion, I knew I had done the right thing with Princess. It was an irresistible offer; one I could have never imagined but I had bigger problems. No matter how fantastic Princess’ offer sounded, it still did not wipe out the thought of facing Uncle Mufu from my mind. What will I say, where will I begin …. I’m probably one of the worst liars alive so every time I tried to come up with a lie…… there’s just no point…..

Beep Beep Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The blaring sound of the car horn brought me back to reality and it was then I noticed I was almost at Osbourne. My God! I had walked all the way from Princess’ estate and didn’t realize it.

Ring Ring Ring!!!!!!!!!

All of a sudden there seemed to be so much noise around me. Traffic was building up, my phone was ringing off the hook and I just felt like evaporating. I checked my phone. It was Dare, probably wanted to find out where I was and why I didn’t show up for the test.

I ignored but he kept calling and it got me wondering if something else was wrong. I eventually answered the call.

Hello

Dare.

Azeez, bawo lo se miss test. Ibo lo gba lo? (Why did you miss the test, where did you go?)

Classic Dare, he just had to nag. I wasn’t even remotely in the mood.

It’s a long story Dare. How many marks was it or was the test so easy?

Wait, forget that one. Uncle Mufu just called me. He said he has been trying to reach you. He said it had to do with mother. Call him quickly please.

Mama? What is the matter. What did he say…did…

Won o so anything. Sha call won ki … (he didn’t say anything, just call him…….)

……………………..

I cut the phone before he could even say bye but before I dialed Uncle Mufus number, my phone rang again and it was the devil himself. I picked up immediately and even though the thoughts of the car immediately filled my mind, I was still more bothered about Mama. What if he asks me to come around? What if…..I thought to myself…..

You think you can just off your phone anyhow?

(He spoke in English – that’s never good)

All you children of now. How do you want plenty customer when your phone is off.

I was in…..

Ibo?…Where?…Iro wo lo fe pa (What lie do you want to tell?)…. Anyway, Iyabo is in the hospital.

Ha. Mama. Kilode?

Keep calm.

What happened aga…..

I say keep calm. Is not a big something. She is ok. I just want to tell you to phone her so she can hear your voice. Sho ti gbo (Have you heard me)

Yes sir ….. Ma call won. Ese gan sir…. (I will call her, thank you sir)…

 

I cut the phone and stood on the road more confused than I was before I spoke to him. The doctors had found a tumour in Mama’s head a few years back. My father was still alive then. Even though they had been separated for long, he came to her rescue and funded the surgery that saved her life. She barely made it and members of my dad’s family still say that it was the fear of losing my mother (the only women he ever truly loved) that killed him – I say that is rubbish. If he loved her, why did he leave her for another women – other women….

For some reason I felt angry… I didn’t know what about but this wasn’t time for anger. I needed to make a decision and I needed to make one fast…..

OKADA!!!!

Obalende.

In 15minutes I was on a bus heading to Ibadan. I love my mother too much. She’s all I have and I also needed time to think. I had no car meaning I had no job and no means of survival once all the money on me was gone. Even if by some miracle, Uncle Mufu decides to forgive me and let the car go, will he be able to trust me enough to give me another car? Questions. Decisions. I might be brilliant but this is something I shy away from. God please let Mama be in good condition like Uncle Mufu said.

The bus was taking so long to fill up. People kept getting on and off. The sun was harsh but still, the many activities that made the park what it is, continued. Hawkers, Agberos (Touts), policemen, Lastma men, bus conductors, drivers – I paid little or no attention to all of these, I just wished I could sleep and wakeup somewhere peaceful and sane. The bus eventually took off an hour after I got there – 11:15am. If all went well, I could be back in Lagos today. Most of the passengers in the bus were market women who must have come to stock-up on goods for the holiday season. It was the first week in December already and I hadn’t event noticed. It seemed like so much had been happening lately. I drowned myself in my thoughts and they weighed down so heavily on me, I fell sleep, something I had probably only done just one other time in my adult life.

I woke up just as we went past the tollgate at Ibadan. It was 12:28, not bad. I got off at Challenge bus stop and took a bus heading to Dugbe. As the bus moved, I looked out the window and realized I hadn’t missed Ibadan. It seemed to get rougher each time I visited. I got off at the bus stop and walked to the hospital. Mount Cenai Hospital. The Nurse at the reception recognized me and welcomed me with a smile. Good. I asked to see Mama and she told me I had to see the doctor first.

Is everything ok.

Yes Sir, Mama is fine, she’s just sleeping right now and Doctor said you should see him whenever you come.

Ok.

My discussion with the doctor was short and painful. He went straight to the point. Mama had another tumour and she needed another surgery – fast. The tumour was causing her to slip into short spans of amnesia and break out in all sorts of spasms. It was painful to hear but the doctor told me I had time. If we were lucky, 3 months. He took me to see her then. She just laid there – pale and very ill. The doctor told me Uncle Mufu sent in some money but they would soon need more. I gave him all I could from what I had on me and promised to send some more. I stayed with her for a while but seeing her that way only made me want to cry. I thanked the doctor again and I left.

The trip back to the bus park at Challenge bus stop was a blur. Seeing Mama in that condition made me realize only one thing, I needed to find a way to get the money she needed to have her surgery. With my car gone and no other likely means of getting money, it didn’t look very promising but I made-up my mind to save Mamas life and I would do whatever I had to, even if it meant putting school on hold for a while.

My bus left the park just before 4pm and I just couldn’t wait to get back to Lagos so I could put my plans into action. Halfway into the journey, I left my thoughts and came back to reality. I noticed almost everyone in the bus had slept off. Everyone except the lady who sat beside me. I turned slightly to further examine her and it was then I noticed she was quite young. 20/22 maybe? She was deeply engrossed in the photocopied document she was reading. I later noticed it was a lecture note. Something on the lung diseases in children. I tried to get a closer look to see if I could spot the name of the school but just then she turned to look at in my direction and our eyes met briefly. I looked away and then she reached into her bag and to my surprised produced a copy of Complete Sports.

I took more interest in her. Its hard enough finding a girl who cares about football and sports not to talk of one who follows it enough to buy Complete Sports. I was impressed and if she was a guy, I could have easily just asked for the middle fold so I could read to get my mind off Mama but I just peeped instead. She must have noticed me trying to read over her shoulder as she suddenly took out the centerfold and handed it to me. Surprised and a little embarrassed, I took it and said thanks. I breezed through the pages and when I handed it back to her, she asked if I wanted the other fold.

Let me guess, Arsenal fan? She smiled.

Why would you say that?

I can’t imagine a Man U fan or even a Chelsea fan being this nice.

She laughed.

Well, yes. I’m an Arsenal fan.

Wait, fan or Supporter.

There is a difference?

Offcourse.

I was about to go into a speech I had given over and over again about how being a fan of a football club was deeper than been an ordinary supporter when I felt the bus swerve to one side. I looked up and pretty much all the other passengers were still asleep and as the bus swerved again. I took a look at the bus driver and noticed he was struggling to steady the car. Immediately, I knew there was something wrong with the brakes. The firm grip on my right arm reminded me of the girl seating beside me…

What is wrong…wha…what is going on… DRIV….(she was about to yell)

SHHHHHHH!!!! I held her back…. Don’t scream. Don’t wake up everyone…

But whats going …

It’s the brakes, I think they’ve failed…grab on to the seat… Blood of Jesus ( I murmured)

Driver…. I was going to try to talk to the driver as calmly as I could but before I could get a word out…

GBAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The front left corner of the bus rammed into the backside of a Toyota Prado jeep just as the driver tried to swerve into the bushes off the road.

What followed was pandemonium. Passengers woke up and some had suffered minor injuries as a result of the positions they were in before the impact. The women in the bus started yelling at the driver who had only realized just how much trouble he had gotten into when a fully dressed military officer came down from the prado. I pleaded with the passengers who seemed to be taking forever to get off the bus to move faster even as I realized the cold hands of the gurl beside me were still firmly holding on to me.

We finally made it out of the bus and even as the passengers yelled and cursed the driver, he seemed to pay little or no attention to them. The Military man was making all sorts of threats and it was all chaos. I couldn’t deal with it. I needed to get out of there. I began to walk forward and the girl who had been holding on to my hand followed.

Where are you going?

I don’t know but somewhere far away from this madness

We had only walked for a few minutes when a car pulled up beside us. The driver asked if we wanted a lift. I looked into the old, beat up Mercedes 230 and seeing it was an elderly man driving with a teenage boy seated on the passengers seat beside him, I thought to myself, it seems ok. I turned to the girl and beckoned to her to get in but she stood behind me and asked me to go in first.

The rest of the journey to Lagos was long and awkward. I don’t recall anyone in the car saying a word. The car was old and not in very good working condition and I just kept praying in my head for it to see us safely to Lagos. The few times I turned to look at the gurl who sat beside me, I noticed she was scared stiff. She sat up straight and watched the old man closely as he drove. I noticed how pretty she was. Very pretty actually but I was too pre-occupied thinking about getting to Lagos. We got to Berger bus stop in Lagos a few minutes before 6pm and I could feel the relief in the air as we both got out of the car and thanked the driver. The car drove off and I turned to look at my co-passenger:

So, which way are you heading?

Ogba.

Erm… I didn’t even get your name …

(she smiled then, and revealed beautiful pearly white dentition like no other)

Fadeke.

My name is A…Ze….. I mean, Azeez.

Azeez? A muslim that prays in the name of Jesus?

Now that’s a long story. I’d have to get your number so I can tell you later.

She smiled then again, this time I could see in her smile that she was more relieved.

Thank you.

No.. small thing for a fellow Arsenal…… fan?

Yes. Fan.

She then took out a piece of paper from her bag, scribbled on it and handed it to me.

My number.

I was so relieved I didn’t have to bring out my trusty 1100. That would have been…….interesting.

Ok then. Take care of yourself.

Bye.

I snapped back to reality. The distraction of the journey was nice. Now I had to face my problems. First stop was Uncle Mufu. I figured I should just tell him and get it over and done with. I took a bus to Yaba and hopped on a bike heading to the first gate. The bike man went through the one-way route past Abule Oja and just as we made it past the junction, I noticed a little traffic building up ahead. I looked up and realized it was caused by an accident. A danfo and a Toyota ….. A Toyota Corolla… That’s when I saw her. She just stood there looking confused, helpless, almost in tears. I asked the bike man to stop. Literally jumped off and went towards her.

Princess, what happened?

Oh, A-Zed. I….I… must have….

Danfo Driver: Madam, na so so grammar you don dey blow since… do quick shake body. That full light wey commot for there na fifteen thousand.. panel beater go collect …..

Me: Ahn ahn.. oga.. kilode… a ko ye je jo.. se orun le ti ra Faragon yin ni (what’s that… did you buy your bus from heaven?)

My comments enraged the bus conductor who had been arguing with the passengers in the bus. The passengers had been begging the driver to forgive Princess and get them moving again but he paid no attention to them and they turned on the conductor. Hearing what I said to his driver, the conductor ran towards us and yelled…….

Ahhhhhhhh…….. abi e fe kin ya were sibi yi..

(Ah.. do you want me to go mad here)

Ahhhhh… talo ma ba mi nu agbon kin fo mo ori mi…..

(who will get me a coconut let me hit it on my head)

He then hit his head on the body of the bus… Princess swiftly hid herself behind me even as the driver moved to calm down the conductor. I asked Princess how much she had on her… she said about ten thousand in cash but she could go to the ATM. I asked her to give me six thousand. I took the money and pulled the driver aside. I squeezed the money in his hands and told him that was all she had. He counted it and from the smile on his face, I knew he was more than satisfied.

Ni to ri yin ni o egbon… Malouda, je ka lo… (It’s just because of you oh… Malouda, lets go)

With that, they got in to the danfo and drove away. Princess handed me the keys to the car and I couldn’t even bring myself to argue. She looked like she was about to cry.

Where are you going?

School.

School?

Yes, Unilag.

Unilag?

Yes, that’s my school.

Oh, I’m errr…, I didn’t know.

As I drove past the park, I noticed it was past seven. Uncle Mufu would have probably left. I drove into school and asked Princess which hostel we were heading to. She told me to drive towards High Rise. Well, I wasn’t surprised. Anything less would have surprised me. She directed me to her building. I parked and we both got out. I walked towards her and handed her the key.

How will you get to the gate.

Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.

A-Zed. This is the second time you’ve come to my rescue, I’m beyond grateful.

It’s ok…

No it’s not. Let me try to help out. I hardly use my car. I just need to get out of school once in a while. You can have it. Do your rounds and make some money.

(I took a deep breath) Princess, that cab wasn’t mine. I still have a lot of explaining to do to my uncle – he owns the cab.

Then start with this. Just take the keys and think about it tonight. I don’t need to go anywhere till tomorrow.

But you don’t even know me.

(she smiled)… Do you know me? That’s life A-Zed….. see you tomorrow morning.

She walked into the building and I just stood there for a while. I then went and looked at the damage done to the car – it wasn’t so bad. Scratches really. I didn’t know where to go, what to do with the car. What if I park it somewhere and it gets vandalized. What if…. as I contemplated my next line of action, my phone rang.

Hello

A-Zed.

Yes, Kassy.

Please I need you to come and pick me now now now…. this is very urgent

Erm… but…

I’m at home … in Badore.. I’m waiting…

 

She hung up without listening to my explanation. Part of me just wanted to park the car and go to my room but another part thought of the extra money I could make. Mama was still on my mind. I jumped into the car and drove out of school. Driving to Badore was no longer daunting. I had mastered the route expertly. A little over 10pm, I was outside Kassy’s house. She came out almost immediately. She had t-shirt and jeans – that was quite unusual. It was none of my business really. I just wanted to drop her off and go back to school.

A-Zed A-Zed…. ahn ahn.. see as this car come fit you… she said as she brushed my cheeks with her fingers… I started the car and asked:

Where are we going?

Epe.

Epe?

Yes. Epe Town. I’m going to see Baba Ibidun.

Baba Ibidun?

Oh, so you’re going to act like you don’t know….

I don’t know any Baba Ibidun.

Ok, ok…just drive…

I headed back to the expressway and drove towards Epe. The road was absolutely free and I was tempted to see what the car could do but I resisted. I drove at a steady pace and got directions from Kassy. As we got closer to our destination, I noticed how familiar the area was.. then it hit me – this was where Princess and I had met that vigilante man. Could that be who Kassy was referring to as Baba Ibidun? But the man also asked us about Baba Ibidun that day…

Stop here.

Kassy asked me to park somewhere along the untarred road.

Wait for me here.. I’ll be back soon

Here?

Yes. Nothing will happen to you and I wont be long.

She hurried out of the car and vanished into some bushes. I wondered then just how Kassy managed to get me to agree to some of these things. It was late in the night and I was in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone I had no idea where she went and when she was going to get back. Incredible.

True to her word, in just about 30 minutes, Kassy appeared from the bushes clutching tightly unto her bag. She got into the car and asked me to drive back home. For a while I noticed she had an irritated look on her face. Perhaps she was disappointed she couldn’t locate Baba Ibidun. But I noticed her mood change later on. She was back to her smiley, chirpy self.

A-Zed, A-Zed….. fine boy…. she said as she ran her fingers through my head. I made a mental note to talk to her about that. I needed to concentrate on getting her back home and returning to school. It was past 1am and there was no other car in sight. I gave into temptation and increased my speed. It took less an hour for me to get to the Badore junction. As I made the turn, I noticed Kassy reaching for her bag. Her hands vanished into it for a while and then she closed the bag, rubbed her palms together and then on her face. I wondered what sort of lotion she needed at almost 2am. Except …. maybe we still had another destination. But I guess I was wrong. We got to her gate and instead of asking me to wait she asked me to please come in to get my money as she was the only one home and didn’t want to walk all the way out again.

I hesitated but I thought to myself, what could possibly go wrong? I parked the car properly and went in with Kassy. The compound was quite big. There was only a little bungalow built at the end of the compound. We made our way to the door and as she unlocked the metal door she asked me to come in. I stepped in and I noticed she had a broad smile on her face. We got into the living room area and Kassy almost immediately sat on the couch while I stood.

I’m so tired A-Zed…… Oh, your money. You know what, please go into that room, through that door on the right and wait for me there, I’ll come give it to you.

 

My Name is A-Zed: Episode 5 Preview

 

Hey guys… A-Zed is on break this week (ducks eggs, tomatoes and knives). I must say that I didn’t expect this amount of response when I decided to tell the story of this young man I met a few months ago. Yes, I repeat again for the benefit of those who have not heard: A-Zed is not a fictitious character even though the story has been embellished.  I have broken down the story I’ve been told so far into 13 episodes and transcribing has been crazy. So, please, please forgive me for taking this week off and A-Zed will be back again next week but I’ve left you a preview of the next episode. Enjoy.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Azeez, bawo lo se miss test. Ibo lo gba lo? (Why did you miss the test, where did you go?)

Classic Dare, he just had to nag. I wasn’t even remotely in the mood.

It’s a long story Dare. How many marks was it or was it that bad?

Wait, forget that one. Uncle Mufu just called me. He said he has been trying to reach you. Something about your mother. Please call him.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

All you children of now. How do you want plenty customer when your phone is off.

I was in…..

Ibo…where…iro wo lo fe pa (what lie do you want to tell)…. Anyway. Iyabo is in the hospital.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

So, which way are you heading?

Ogba.

Erm… I didn’t even get your name …

(she smiled then, and revealed beautiful pearly white dentition like no other)

Fadeke.

My name is A…Ze….. I mean, Azeez.

Azeez? A muslim that prays in the name of Jesus?

Now that’s a long story. I’d have to get your number so I can tell you later.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Baba Nla, na wetin be all this wan na. We boys no happy with you oh

Emekus Emekus … ewo lo tun de. Sit down…sit down…Wetin happen again

My chair, wetin no happen ehn… wetin no happen… Na that your boy Azeez. Ahn ahn. We know say na your boy but first, he no deliver reach us, he no join pay levy with us and now you go give am Fashola taxi.

Fashola taxi ke?

Brand New Toyota Corolla na wetin the boy dey drive about now.

Ha. Azeez.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Where are we going.

Epe.

Epe?

Yes. Epe Town. I’m going to see Baba Ibidun.

Kassy, who is this Baba Ibidun

Oh, so you’re going to act like you don’t know….

 

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