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.
We hope that you’d be kind enough to leave a comment. Your feedback is important to us.
I can hardly contain my excitement as I read the message on my blackberry phone for the third time in my usual obsessive compulsion. My handyman, Dapo Adeola, has finally found my long-lost friend Yemi Olopade, who would rather be known as Ethelbert – a great man I have not seen in 24 years. He is very ill and on a sickbed at a private hospital in Ikoyi. I would have actively sought him out myself but as Justice of the Nigerian Court of Appeal I cannot be tolerated to fraternize with the general public, to avoid any incidence of prejudice or legal subversion. Dapo has even managed to obtain the phone number of Khadijat, Ethelbert’s own waiting maid at the hospital. This might be the third happiest moment of my life since meeting Ethelbert for the first time, and then seeing my wife Chiamaka return to us a couple of weeks ago, stunning as always, quivering as she sobbed and pleaded while I hugged her and wiped her tears. I smile and move to dial Khadijat’s number and then the familiar buzz of the electric gate rings out. I have visitors.
My name is Leke Coker, 49 years old, stoic and antiseptic; but a man through whom karma weaves a story, embodying a dark past laden with evil, guilt, and sorrow. Apparently I am highly successful in my career but my own family suffers discommode. But I believe in justice and retribution; I was only getting what I deserved, and the moment that dawned on me, things began to take shape again. Now I am a changed man. I am a broken man.
My steward ushers them in. Inwardly I am shocked though I retain my composure. It is Samuel Osifor, his arms around some beautiful young lady, sweat gushing down his face in possible fear. They disentangle briskly and in a greeting chorus he prostrates while she kneels. I urge them both to please get up. I have not seen my former driver Samuel in two years, ever since the day he dropped me off at the court, left the keys in my pigeonhole and vanished.
That morning I had received a phone call from the Dean of students at the famous Nigerian Covenant University. My first born Adaora had been discovered pregnant and had been expelled from the school. I was insane with anger, but I could not get to the school quickly enough that day to pick her up, what with my driver’s disappearance on the very day I heard the report. This vanishing was not unrelated to her tearful confession via a phone call later that night – as well as I had tried to keep men’s fingers off her, Samuel had betrayed me by impregnating Adaora. I had kept my voice down and spoke calmly to her, asking for her whereabouts but she refused to tell me. She eventually aborted the child at a questionable clinic, and almost lost her life. I was pained and I ensured the doctor and clinic were cleaned out. Then I met with her and her boyfriend Uche, had a long talk to ensure he really loved her, and moved them to the UK where I settled her down with Uche in marriage, established him in business using some old contacts and helped 21-year old Adaora start school again.
I watch and listen as Samuel pleads for forgiveness. I need to let him pour it all out, because it is part of the therapy. I had actually forgiven Samuel already. After all, I have dark secrets too even though I am a changed man now.
I solemnly reassure him that it is alright, for I have also received inner peace since I found God, the Judge of all Judges, quite recently. I press further to find out who the beautiful young lady is. He beams and says she is his wife and colleague. Pure young scintillating love. I smile as I recall how I and Chiamaka used to be in love, before she derailed entirely.
Chiamaka had eloped to her lover’s – or pastor’s – or god’s – arms. Your pick. We always used to argue over the most nonsensical things. She would hit me, slap me and taunt me to fight back but I preferred wielding passive aggression by giving her the silent treatment that she so hated. And of course, my muscles would tremble and ripple in my heavily built body so she knew that I was only choosing not to lay hands on her. She said I was godless (in fairness I had basically no regard for God in those days) and she began to deny me of herself sexually, saying she was drawing closer to her God and maker seeing that her own husband is decidedly hell-bound. Her pastor “Godspower Efe” had an eye for her, though, and I employed private detectives who discovered they were already sexually involved. Apparently, Godspower was her own God and maker. In all, I kept mute. Many times I was glad that I had secret bank accounts that she did not know about, for Pastor Godspower also gradually siphoned my financial resources through Chiamaka while he did a lot of wonders in her life.
Besides not being a good enough husband, I have not been the best parent I possibly could have been: what with Adaora’s case and Olusola’s involvements with hard drugs, university cultism and a generally wasteful, reckless way of life. Only Ajoke appears to have always been a good child of the three, which makes it obvious that the gene pool’s joke is on me.
My dear wife had derailed long before she wanted me to think she had, for I knew as well as she did that our 15 year old daughter – our Ajoke – with a striking resemblance to her mother, was not my own daughter. I had taken the child for a private DNA test based on my suspicion when we discovered she was sickle cell anemic. Chiamaka tried to cover up by saying she has the AS genotype, as well as I did, but I knew she has the AA genotype so there was no way we could have offspring with sickle cell anemia. I am generally seen as a thorough individual. But a man can just really shut up for the sake of peace, and so I did and I still do. Besides I could not reject any child the joy of living with loving parents, not after my own childhood ordeal. I shudder as I remember those early dark days once again.
Soon enough, Pastor Godspower had become bolder and told her that she had to leave me because I was festering negative influences that would destroy her life in the end. She believed him but as tired as I was of her, I refused to grant her a divorce to avoid a scandal; what with the children and my office. Then Chiamaka was given a last warning by her pastor that I was doomed to die in 5 weeks, and she had to leave me or else we would be damned together. In fear, she moved in permanently with him in all love, fear, reverence and gullibility.
I don’t know if I was scared as I watched the deadline approach but I, previously agnostic, made a prayer. I said, “God… I honestly don’t know which one of them – just in case there are more than one –do not let any impostor receive these prayers; let it be the one at whose feet my heart cries out. I don’t know the right words to use, so please hear my heart and not my mere words. Keep me and if I do not die as I have been threatened, if you will bind my family back together and be our secure guide; I will seek you out and belong to you for the rest of my life.” Somehow I think the prayer worked because years have gone by and I’m still hale and hearty.
Then I hear Samuel ask, “How is everybody?”
“Oh, we’re living by the mercies of God. Chiamaka finally came back home three weeks ago but she’s not home now. She went to visit Adaora and her husband Uche at East Sussex. As for me, as you can see, I am fit, whole and hearty. But what man is healthy when two of his children are ill? Olusola, now 21, is still at the Igbogbi Orthopaedic Hospital, he’s been there for five months since his car accident but he should be discharged next month. Our precious Ajoke is in her room, taking a very necessary nap.”
This woman right here, her nose and lips look familiar, I think to myself. I rack my head and come up with no faces, so I give up. I call out to a steward to provide refreshments as I half-listen to Samuel’s wife talking about her background – in truth I am probably not even listening at all – while I ponder my own childhood.
I never knew my father, and my mother never knew him either. I was already a young teenager before my mother’s sister told me that mama had been a woman suffering from severe insanity, she had escaped care and gotten impregnated by an unknown person, was captured again by her family, and had died during childbirth. I had wept for almost 2 days after the revelation. Somehow, Andrew, the school bully, happened on this information – probably from some gossips in the town – and threatened to spread it in our high school. Andrew was older, but I was very well built and could fight back – having taken numerous private classes in the martial arts from the local gym instructor (in exchange for teaching his son Mathematics on weekends) – but I never wanted to be caught fighting in school because I was the esteemed school genius and I aspired to be Head Boy. So I let Andrew blackmail me for months until I devised a wicked plan to counter his blackmail. I was going to literally become the “motherfucker” he always used to call me whenever he seized my lunch, a daily ordeal.
Seducing Andrew’s single mother had proven easier than I anticipated. I had obviously over-planned. Everyone needs some love in their lives, even if by a 16 year old man like me who knew all the right things to do and say. On the D-day, she was riding me on our fifth round of steamy sex when Andrew unexpectedly walked into his mum’s bedroom. He yelled, crashed his fist into the glass window louvres, picked up a jagged splinter and ran at me. I heaved her off me, pulled my legs back and shot out at him, cracking his skull from the side with the left and simultaneously hooking his neck with the right. I made a full Nelson with my legs and snapped his neck; he collapsed as I rolled out of the way. His mother’s face was solidly frozen in horror – so I knew hers had to be less painful. I moved both corpses to the side and regained my breath before cursing out loud. Then I wore a pair of socks on my hands to eliminate fingerprints, got some bleach from the bathroom and neatly cleaned them both, leaving no traces of blood. Afterwards I carefully wore some clothes on her corpse, lay both of them on the bed and I fled.
The police had no clue what happened, and the case went unsolved although I wore the guilt like a second skin. My aunt, her husband and my cousins had no freaking idea about the horrible monster living in their house. In that final year at high school, I decided to study law at college in order to salve my own conscience. I graduated summa cum laude and rose very fast in the ranks. On my very first internship I had met Ethelbert, who came to our chambers to seek some legal advice. Thus began our 27 year old friendship. He was the only human I ever told my total history, as he told me his own. I look at the young lady again as she goes on and on. Sigh. Ethelbert.
“What did you say, sir?” asks the pretty young lady.
“Oh I apologize, I must have been thinking aloud. I just remembered a good friend of mine called Ethelbert. Amazingly, you quite resemble him a bit. Your nose, I think, and lips. Unless my mind is playing some pranks on me.”
“Ethelbert?” she asked.
“Yes, do you know him?”
“Err, no sir, but that name… I think that was the pet name my mother called my dad when I was little. Your mention of the name just brought back buried memories, sir”
I hold my breath. No, this cannot be, or can it be?
“..And your mother, did she answer to the name of Dorothy?”
“Yes sir! How did you know that, sir?”
“Oh God! Yewande, it’s you!” I yell as I burst into a rich and mirthful laughter. I laugh until the tears form in the corner of my eyes. Amidst the laughter I tell her how I met Ethelbert 27 years ago; how he was very kind to me when I was in distress, and gave me a free room to live in his 3-bedroom house; how we would discuss every topic under the sun and how Ethelbert had been searching for his lost wife and daughter.
My blackberry phone beeps, a message from Khadijat asking when I want to come and visit Ethelbert. I get up swiftly and announce to them both that we are going to see Ethelbert, who is dying. Then I place a call to my driver Charles to start the army green Land Rover 4. And another to Khadijat to confirm our visit within an hour. Finally I call Chiamaka – my precious, beloved wife – to tell her the good news.
Charles maneuvers the SUV into position as we step outside into the unforgiving sun and the dry harmattan wind swirls dust between us on the front porch. Karma’s circuit is finally complete, it appears.
SO THANKS FOR READING AGAIN. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON FORGIVENESS, KARMA, RELIGION vs AGNOSTICISM, RELIGIOUS LEADERS, AND GOD? WOULD YOU ACCEPT PAYMENT IN BAD COIN EVEN THOUGH YOU THINK YOU DESERVE IT? DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAKING ATONEMENT FOR OLD SINS?
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
FIND THE ART OF @qurr here
N.B. The project still goes on for the following three days. Tomorrow we have The Sixth Decade by @capoeirapanda.
You can subscribe to the blog (at the right column to follow the project or in the comments section).