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? 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?
Oh, you brought Princess and her girls.
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.
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.
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.
I sat there clutching my phone tightly even as I tried to digest what I had just heard..
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…
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?
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.
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.