The project attempts to take you on a journey that is planned around how the life of a man is at different stages of his life. We use the lives of different men, some of which are intertwined to paint this picture. The stages are in ten-year intervals, hence the name project name.
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His back on the bed, he stares unseeingly at the ceiling, his eyes focusing on something far beyond. His wife was sleeping beside him on the large bed. The airconditioner drones on, the humming a welcome sound in the otherwise perfectly silent bedrrom. The last few years fleeted through his mind again ,as it did on nights like this, when a melancholy came over him for no identifiable reason.
He remembered how the fates had failed him. All that swotting through school and working throughout the holidays, hoping to support his poor fish-seller mother once he graduated in a matter of years and got a well-paying job. Everyone in school had told him that he was smart, that he had potential and that the world was his oyster; he had filled his head with big dreams and he wouldn’t let the legends of a harsh reality slow him down. He had paid his dues; he was going to be the chartered accountant that would put all other chartered accountants to shame. He was going to rule the world.
When his mother had died at the beginning of his second year, it had nearly robbed him of his will to live. The poor woman. That period in his life became a psychedelic plethora of struggles. Even a teaching job in a two-bit primary school was impossible to get. It seemed everyone wanted a hefty bribe before they could give you a job, unbelievable! In the end, he acquiesced to the fates and tried to do what he could to survive on a daily basis, the rent wasn’t going to pay itself.
Samuel Osifor could still see himself in the halls of the mall, his former working place, as he swept up the dirt that the rich loudmouthed brats made when they came in for shopping or to see a movie. How he tried to keep his sanity by focusing on his dreams whenever some wealthy child managed to throw up on tiled floor. He could still remember how his eyes lit up with expectancy whenever a well dressed man or woman reached into their purse when they happened to be standing near him. How his expectations were always cut short, so that he had to retire to his slum and wallow in hunger or if he was lucky find a handful or so of garri to drink before he hit the sheets, ready to resume the drudgery in the morning, seven days a week for almost worthless wages. Irredeemable years during which he had given up on himself. He also remembered how it all changed.
It was the avid movie goer, Olusola Coker, the son of an Appeal Court judge who first tipped him – after reading the hunger in his eyes, no doubt – and whom he made sure to watch out for all those weekends so that he could get across a greeting in hopes of getting some more financial gratification. He felt no shame practically begging from a seventeen year old boy, after all, older men did worse. It was the judges son that told him of an opening as job of driver for his father when he had summoned up the courage to ask him for help. He had learned and excelled at driving in school, thanks to one of his very few slightly more privileged friends whose father has owned a twelve-year-old piece of scrap that somehow managed to get from one point to another.
The judge seemed a prudent man, with a – as Samuel discovered much later – reckless son and a daughter who just happened to be an easy lay. The youngest daughter seemed to be always sick. None had the ingrained all-round magnanimity of their father, a fact he often wondered at. He never met their mother – she was estranged, he learned from the gatekeeper. Perhaps it was her character they embodied.
But still, the judge was a father to them. Once the boy had been caught with drugs in a club Samuel had driven him to for his 18th birthday celebration. The father had worked his magic and the boy had been let free without hassles. A real sucker for his children.
A memory made him wince in shame.
All those evenings spent talking to the girl right there in the luxurious grounds of the villa, and no one had been the wiser to his antics. It really hadn’t been his fault; the girl was just unusually voluptuous. She wholly contributed to his arousal whenever she spent any amount of time with him. Even now, the memory aroused him. It had been planned for the first day of school, when he would drive her on the two hours journey; the motel had been arranged, just a slight detour. None had discussed a possibility of pregnancy. Nobody had thought to buy a condom either.
He had been driving the judge to court about a month later when the call came, the phone breaking the usual silence of the Range. The judge didn’t like radios.
“My daughter is what?!”, the big man had roared after listening for a few seconds. He had clutched the cell phone to his ear for a few more seconds before announcing into the phone, “I will be there tomorrow”, and terminated the call. The judge then proceeded to outline the fate of the man responsible to a horrified Samuel. Right there and then, he decided he would not resume work the next day.
The judge didn’t have his address, but he moved anyway to a much nicer slum. It was months later before he found out that the judge’s daughter had aborted the child outside of her father’s purview and almost lost her life in the process. The illegal clinic had been closed down and the doctor’s medical license suspended indefinitely. He also heard that the judge’s son who had contributed so much to turning his life around had got into some trouble with the school over cult-related activities. The family was basically falling apart. Guilt overlayed his every thought process for a long time after that.
There was also the spectacled primary school social studies teacher who lived next door; the stout, shabby and wifeless Mr Opaleye. The man was fond of inviting himself into Samuel’s face-me-I-face-you room and relaying unsolicited tales of his school day. Samuel had understood that the teacher was simply looking for a friend in this new tenant because the others never related with him. Perhaps it might have been a little more bearable if his tales weren’t filled with enthusiastic descriptions of the corporal punishment he meted out to “those little rascals” in the school.
He had an epiphany once while the teacher ranted. Surely if this sadist could earn a respectable salary as a teacher, he could. The idea filled him with new energy. He made up his mind to make something out of his seemingly pointless existence and decided to enrol in a teacher’s Training College with some of his reserve cash and the stipend he made by working at odd jobs he was lucky to get. It was a year that was mainly lived through determination and an ingrained resolution that better things would come. When he graduated from the school a qualified teacher, he approached Mr Opaleye. Surely the teacher wouldn’t want to lose a friend by not putting in a reference for him.
Apparently, Mr Opaleye was a respected man in the school, for his reference worked wonders, clinching him the position of social studies teacher. Things seemed to be looking up.
A remarkable episode comes to him, unsolicited.
In his third month of teaching at the school, he happened upon Mr Opaleye punishing some pupils for allegedly causing uproar during study hour. Especially vocal among them was a boy who bluntly told the sadistic teacher that he proudly loved a certain Temi Bada. This outburst enraged the man so that he flogged the poor boy harshly while grinning evilly. Samuel had turned away in disgust, carrying with him a seed of thought which was to gnaw at his mind later that day; he needed some love in his life.
He had been in a morning social studies class with his pupils, actively teaching when the woman had first walked past the classroom, drawing his glance instinctively. In the few seconds it had taken her to traverse the length of the classroom, he had become enamoured with what he saw. When class was over, he walked over to Mr Opaleye and casually inquired as to the identity of the braided lady. To his elation, He learned she was the new primary one math teacher. He didn’t see her again for a few hours until she stepped into the staff room and walked to her desk, drawing the stares of all present. She was beautiful.
And he was glad he had a class to teach at that moment.
The girl – he liked to think of her as a young girl – Yewande, seemed to take a slow liking to him. Their relationship progressed from chit-chats to cheap dates and then to a emotional bonding over the course of months. Her mother had passed on years ago too. She had never had a serious relationship. She had memories of a better life in a big white house in a foreign land with an afro-haired father she dimly remembered and of whom her mother never spoke.
He unloaded his heart to her. He told her of how he had slept with the judge’s young daughter and impregnated her before running away to find a new life far away, and how she had almost died form the abortion. He explained how difficult he found it to sleep well because of the evil coin with which he had repaid the judge’s generosity. She had been silent for a long time.
His proposal was made in his candle-lit room two nights later, a proposal which had made her beautiful face assume an expression that seemed to light up the room as she shyly signalled acceptance. There was no engagement ring yet – he couldn’t afford the one he wanted for her – just the honesty of his love, which she wholly believed in. She had given herself to him that night, after she told him what they had to do. The marriage took place at the registry, with a few friends from the school as witnesses. It had been a low-key ceremony that heralded a beautiful union.
He was thirty two and she was twenty seven.
A week later, He was agitated when they had approached the familiar gates of the judge’s house. Yewande told him it was necessary to make amends so that his future peace would be assured. The gateman had been pleasantly surprised to see him and looked questioningly at his escort. Thankfully, the judge was in.
“I allowed you in here and listened to you as calmly as I have done because I believe am a changed man,” the judge said after Samuel had remorsefully pleaded for the judge’s forgiveness, ‘’ I was never religious, but after the incident with my daughter, my son’s accident and my wife’s refusal to live up to her responsibilities, I sought and found inner peace in God. I have come to believe that all things happen for a reason. I am very glad that my daughter survived the ordeal and let you know that one of the first things I did in order to find true peace was to forgive you in my heart. You are already forgiven. You have done something honourable by confronting your sin. You say this is your wife and colleague?”
He had told the judge. The judge had smiled in delight and focused on her, asking her simple questions about her background. Samuel slight smile showed pride. The judge remarked at her slight resemblance with a friend of his Ethelbert. That revelation caused a lull in the conversation.
“yes, do you know him”, the judge asked, a curious look on his chubby face.
“er, no sir, but that name, I think that was the pet name my mom called my dad when I was little. Your mention of the name just brought back buried memories, sir”
A light appeared in the judge’s eyes. Samuel was paying close attention to the scene unravelling before him.
“…And this your mother, did she answer to the name Dorothy?”
“Er, yes sir! How did you know that, sir?”
The judge exclaimed,” Oh God! Yewande, its you!”
“Me? What do you mean sir?”
“I met your father as a very young man. He was very kind to me in my time of need and we have remained good friends since then. Since he arrived from Australia he has been looking for his long lost wife and daughter…” the expression on the judge’s face changed.
“What is it sir?”, Yewande asked.
“Your father. he is dying”
The judge quickly got out his cellphone.
The old man looked at three of them as they walked into his hospital ward. His glazed eyes were first fixed upon Yewande, then they moved over to the Judge. “Leke.”
“Hello Ethelbert”, the judge intoned gently
“My old friend”, the old man – Ethelbert – had replied, albeit weakly.
Samuel watched the proceedings. Watched the solemn moment when the judge introduced Yewande to the man. Watched as a teary Yewande watered down the old man’s shock by sitting beside him on his bed while judge Leke and Samuel had watched on, somber-faced.
Then that is when, Samuel heard Ethelbert voice the most beautiful question he had ever heard.
“Can you draft a will right now?”
He examines the expensive ceiling of his dimly lit bedroom. His ritual of going down memory lane was complete. He has an Automobile dealership business to oversee in the morning. His wife stirrs and snuggles close to him, her hand inadvertently creeps to his chest, the contact drives electricity through him even though the room is cold. He turns to stare at her beautiful face in the dim light. Right on cue, she smiles sleepily. He understands. As he moves over to kiss her, the baby bawls, eliciting an exasperated sigh from him.
SO THANKS FOR READING AGAIN. WE’D LIKE TO KNOW HOW DREAMS MEASURE UP TO REALITY IN A HARSH WORLD, HOW TO DEAL WITH THE SUDDEN CHALLENGES AND RESPONSIBILITIES THAT LIFE THROWS ON YOU. WE’D ALSO LOVE YOUR OPINION ON HOW TO HANDLE ((REALLY BIG MISTAKES)) IN LIFE. FACE IT? RUN AWAY? COME BACK LATER?
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?!
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N.B. The project still goes on for the following four days. Tomorrow we have The Fifth Decade by @qurr.
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