People close to me know that my stories are ‘impulse-inspired’ i.e. I write spontaneously from how I feel, what I see, what I experience… You know, what comes to me in my own little world space.
The Afromuse is in one of those moods where her strong emotions make weird things happen. If you’re driving around Lagos on a clear, sunny day and you see a house covered by dark clouds, whirling winds, erratic lightning blades and icy rain, that’s where I live, and that’s where the witch is.
Apart from dark mode, nothing major has been going on in the village of late, I’m currently trying to get a one or two Towncriers to share on the Afro-gong and you’re welcome too. Till then, I’d be talking to the stone gargoyles over the fireplace, the snake-dragons from the kitchen and the tattooed wolves from the dungeon. We’re the committee burdened with the responsibility of cheering up the bipolar neurotic, her divine, lest the house be torn apart and we all perish.
Dodging flying chairs, I’m sneaking out so I can beat a breather on the gong for a minute, because Afrosays:
A bottle of gin on the table, next to my revolver; the latter to cause to end my pain, the former to make me numb enough to use the latter.
I am sitting at the wooden chair-table-lamp combo every cheap motel seems to have these days, watching two celebrity cockroach super heroes fly about in their brown shiny capes, while the mosquitoes sing a variety of disconnected theme songs.
I let them be, tonight is about me. There is nothing I can do to successfully mitigate their ceremony anyway, this is their city.
A swig of the nasty stuff brings me back to focus. I smile as I look back through my four decades of meaningless existence, I nod as I remember the defining moment of my third decade, when I swore to myself that exactly today, if I am still alive, I would be in this room, with this bottle and this red pen, to take a self-examination.
Maybe it is mid-life crisis, maybe I should just return home to Aisha and the kids, crawl into my larger-than-usual cubicle on Monday at Exxon, spend the whole month changing the way the dust settles in my insignificant corner the universe, and crawl back into my hole with half a million at the end of it. But I’ve been doing that for a while now and it doesn’t look like that’s one of the good points that would put the red pen away.
The boys should know how to deal with this, they don’t seem to be as disillusioned as I am. Give them a football match, several bottles of the good stuff and each others’ company and they should be alright for a millennium or two. Maybe I should try that when I get home, if I get home, but there’s no way I’m leaving this room alive if I don’t do well on the test.
The desk I’m sitting at has a few blank sheets of paper, a black biro and a Gideon’s bible.
With one sheet on the bible, I write down the following questions with their score weights as I had devised them on my thirtieth birthday:
“What is your name?” 1 point.
“What is your purpose?” 99 points.
I have two minutes.
I have one point.
Now I begin to stare at the second question like it’s 9D Star Wars advanced mathematics. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
“What is purpose?”
“Do I have one?”
“Purpose. Purpose. Purpose. Ashhhhh!”
I have about forty-five seconds more and I know what I must do if I fail.
I start panicking.
My vision is blurry now but I can still see the ominous question staring at me like a demon-personified incantation wrought to summon me to the underworld. The revolver is some distance from it looking all extra-shiny like it was made for a Bond movie. A quick glance at my watch tells me I have only ten seconds left.
After ten seconds, I know what I must do. I have to be brave.
I drop the pen and pick up the gun in my left hand and with the other hand, put the bottle to my lips for the last time. I toss my head to the back with reckless abandon, submitting myself to the falling sensation.
I wake up the next morning on the floor, still partially sitting in the chair that had fallen backwards, surrounded by shattered pieces of glass and a horrid smell.
The room is still dark but in my brain, there are a thousand lights. I stand up to find my creased white shirt stained from the mix of gin and the low-quality wood polish that makes the floor look like it had been ‘carpented’ from parts of a medieval ship wreck.
I eventually find the gun flung in some distant corner, under the bed. I make for it; the test isn’t over.
I sit again, one last time, ten seconds before I put my pen down.
If I fail, I won’t need a suicide note, whoever reads my blank sheet would understand.
“What is your purpose?”
In less than a second, it occurs to me why my existence is mediocre, that some would say that I don’t deserve to live because I don’t have anything to die for.
Of course, the swig of gin that took me out was a clever attempt for self-preservation. Of course, I’m a coward, a dog; I hate life but I love it. My purpose in life might be non-grandiose, even non-existent but I usually would rather stay alive.
My ten seconds expire.
A newly employed cleaner would come in an hour later to a most terrible, first day on the job. As she cleans up, she would notice at an odd-looking piece of paper on the table that reads:
“1. Yusuf Sanni ”
“2. To stay alive; A living dog is better than a dead lion.”
“Score: 100 points”