THY KINGDOM LOST
By Abimbola Adelakun
Tuesday, August 3, 2010.
Last night, while drinking with some friends at “Mama mi L’Eko Kool Spot” someone had asked, “If we die now, where will we go?” The question came during an interlude of bawldy and lewd jokes, when the men had taken the pause to gulp their beer.
“To a place where I will be surrounded by seventy virgins,” one tipsy guy among them replied. The others exploded into laughter, some choking on their drinks.
“Were*” another replied, “To be surrounded by seventy virgins is my idea of hell”
“As long as I am not the virgin,” a near drunk guy belched “then it is just as well”
“I remember when I wanted to lose my own virginity” the questioner said as he lit his cigarette. “I didn’t know how to do what so I asked my cousin for advice he said, ‘Ol’boy, just look for a hole…”
This morning, while he laid on the bed, beads of sweat forming and cascading down his body, he heard a preacher’s voice outside from on the street. He knew preachers come around to preach but the noise of the generating set in his house never allowed anyone to hear. There were usually power outages in their area and almost everybody ran their generator from night till morning, each trying to outdo the other in generating noise. However, he had come home late last night to find the fuel exhausted hence their having to sleep in the darkness and heat.
Having fully woken up, he reached out beside him to his wife. Her body was sweaty too and that somehow put off the desire what had been building up in him for a while. “Not now” she said in cold, rehearsed tones. She didn’t even move before she continued, “I have to get up soon and prepare the children for school. Besides, I have a headache”
He had a headache too. The hangover just wearing off plus the noise of generator in other flats and houses were not helping issues. He withdrew and turned his back to her. He looked at the time and saw that he still had an hour before his usual waking time. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep but it did not come.
He heard the preacher’s bell ringing furiously among the other noises. There was a pause before he asked, “If you die now, where will you go?” He unconsciously lifted his head from the pillow in surprise. The same question! But this time it struck him as it didn’t yesterday. This time he actually wondered where he would go. Last night’s answers now seemed to him, hollow and out of place now. He had never given thought to eternity ever since he stopped attending Sunday school and gone to live with the man who brought him up.
“You commit adultery,” the preacher’s voice was like a whiplash “you smoke, you drink, you give bribe, you tell lies! You forget that one day you will die and face your Maker!…” He remained in one position, pensive, while the preacher’s message lasted, oblivious of his wife’s getting up from beside him and by the time it was concluded, he was greatly sobered up. He pictured himself at the feet of God, weeping and begging for forgiveness, promising to change and win the whole world for Christ.
“...If you want to give life to Christ, say the sinner’s prayer after me, ‘Lord Jesus,…”
He silently prayed after the preacher faithfully and he was just wrapping it up when his wife came in. She was surprised to see him still lying down.
“I just gave my life to Christ,” he replied. She looked at him for a brief second and said if he didn’t get up on time, she would be late for work and their children for school. He got up and took a hurried bath. He dressed up and while his children were having breakfast, he asked his wife if there was a Bible in the house. She sighed and went to her wardrobe. She brought out her wedding Bible; part of the gifts her husband’s family had brought during their traditional wedding ceremony. It was still new and she hated to have to remove the lovely package it was encased in. She gave it to her husband and went back to the table with the children.
He sat on the edge of the bed and opened the Bible, uncertain of what or how to read. His eyes fell on a verse in Proverbs: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” He thought how deep such a simple verse was. Of course, sinners would always come and seek to draw one into their sins but he was going to refuse. Rather, he would tell them about God, about eternity…
“Time to go” He looked behind him and saw his wife. He sighed, closed the Bible and returned it into her waiting hands. He put finishing touches on his dressing, picked the car keys and went outside, where his family was waiting for him. They packed themselves into the car and drove into the already built up traffic. It was 7 a.m. and his wife kept murmuring that if he had been on time, they would have left home earlier. He pretended he didn’t hear and faced the road. The traffic was static on the lane they were as several impatient drivers had created extra lanes and choked up the road. On the opposite lane, however, there were barely any vehicles. One of the vehicles on his lane suddenly diverted and drove into the opposite lane. The other vehicles, seeing the opportunity to escape the traffic followed suit.
“Quick! Follow the blue car” his wife said. His first impulse was to do so but he restrained himself.
“It’s wrong. I’ll rather remain here.”
Many of the other vehicles moved into the one way lane and drove to join their lanes back at a point the road was clear of traffic while he remained in the lane, enduring his wife’s fury and taunts all the while chanting to himself, “My son …. consent thou not.”
* * *
He got to work at about 9’o clock and was met at the top of the stairs by Tochi. She was dressed in a knee length skirt suit that looked as if she had been born in it. She looked like the goddess of modern beauty and he felt like falling down on his feet and worshipping.
“If that look on your face is a compliment, I got it, thanks” He wanted to say something but found himself tongue tied. “I covered up for you with the Tiger,” Tochi continued. “Told him you were late because you had to check out a prospect.”
He wanted to tell her she shouldn’t have lied for him but something about her was weakening his resolve. It was common knowledge that all the virile males in the office, even the bosses, wanted to sleep with her but she was “a kept girl” Her clients were top people in Nigeria and she used more than her services skill to retain then. She rarely bestowed her sexual favours on anyone in the office, as much as they all wanted her.
“If you are through with day dreaming, you can go upstairs. I just said I should meet you onthe way and tell you”
“Thanks,” he said weakly.
“And, if you are a good boy, who knows, we can share some drinks together this evening.” He climbed the steps and walked into the office to be met by the boss Mr. Ayeleru who demanded why he was late.
“But, sir,” It was Tochi’s sweet voice coming from behind, “I thought I already explained that to you.”
“Er….. Yes….. Yes” Ayeleru mumbled and turned back to his office. He was glad he didn’t have to repeat Tochi’s lie. He sat at the desk and looked at his ‘Today’ list. Top on the list was to meet with Mrs. Ashaye, whom they had nicknamed Mrs. Waddock because she waddled like a duck when walking. His previous meetings with her had not been pleasant especially as he had not yet found a buyer for her house. He had to tell one lie after another. “The Tiger wants you in his cage” He looked up and saw Ahmed, the accountant who nodded at him sympathetically.
“Dunno” Ahmed replied and then asked, “Do you still want that loan?”
He paused for a while, “Ahmed, what if I get tired of all this sinful business and decide to resign?” Ahmed looked at him for a while and gave a short smile.
“I feel you, brother but give me your answer before lunch”
Mr. Ayeleru was sipping a drink from a cup and trying to take a book from the shelf behind his chair when he entered. He swung his chair around to face him.
“Sit down” Mr. Ayeleru said in formal tones. He did. “Is the house sold yet?”
“Mrs. Waddock’s house?” He asked without thinking. The Tiger’s narrowed and he put his cup down.
“I’ll appreciate if you don’t engage in calling clients funny names around here, okay? He picked up his cup again “If you mean Mrs. Ashaye, yes”
“What do you mean nothing yet? Do you think we pay you to come late to office and play with Tochi? You had better get serious!”
“Don’t but me!” Mr. Ayeleru shouted. “The woman has been calling me all day, what do you want me to tell her? Don’t you know clients demand action all the time?!” When the Tiger had raved to his heart’s content, he said, “You know what, when she comes today, tell her that we have two buyers now but they are complaining about the location of the property. She will give you another ultimatum and God help you if you don’t meet it. Close my door on your way out.” With that Mr. Ayeleru swung his chair to face the shelf.
He stood up and stormed back to his desk. He brought out a paper and began to draft his resignation letter. The phone rang and it was his wife.
“The mechanic has brought the bill for my car”.
“Look, can we talk about this at home?” He snapped and replaced the receiver. He checked the calendar on his desk and saw the day was circled. He remembered – he had to pay his children’s school fees and DSTV dues. He picked up the letter he was drafting, crumpled it and threw it into the bin. He picked up the intercom and called Ahmed,
Mrs. Ashaye came to see him about an hour later. The look on her face was battle drawn.
“Madam, how are doing?”
“I am not madam!” She snapped “Don’t madam me. It is when you people want to confuse someone you call madam. What has been happening to my house? I want to know. I am not happy. You people work in a comfortable office, paid with my money, yet you don’t do my job very well……
“I say don’t madam me!”
‘I’m sorry but I’ve found a buyer, two in fact.”
“Yes, just the prices they are offering are er, ridiculous. See, madam, sorry, I mean Mrs. Wa…”
“Whatever!” she waved impatiently.
“I believe we can still get more from that house than we are getting. It is too good a property to be thrown away like that. That’s why it is taking a long time. Believe me; I’m still working on it’
“Do” she replied and got up. She picked up her bag and waddled away, her large lips swinging to and fro.
He relayed his experience to Tochi over lunch and she was full of sympathy. She put her hand over his and said sweetly, “I understand, my dear. If you need any kind of help, I’ll be ready to give. Any kind, if you get my drift.”
He looked away from her hand on his to her face. The codes of lust she was giving him was more than any virile male could bear. He looked down, away from her face but his eyes fell on her breasts.
“Sure, I do,” he replied almost voicelessly
My son, if sinners entice thee …
Father, but these are breasts not sinners!
They are sinners, son, anything that entices into sin…
They tempt, Father!
Consent thou not.
Father, I can’t help it. Don’t let this cup pass over me, please. Just a sip, please, father. This once….”
Back at work, he was floating in a space and when the closing time came, he remained behind in the office. Tochi too stayed.
“Won’t you join us for drinks today?” one of the guys asked as they were leaving office
“No, thanks” He was about to say he had given his life to Christ but he didn’t. “I am working late’ he said instead.
The guy looked at him then to Tochi at her desk and back at him and gave him a conspiratorial wink. “When you are through, meet us at Leke Street. It is a new joint in town. Congrats, boy. You are lucky she picked you.”
The other guys hailed him when he drove in at about 9 p.m. Most were drunk already. He got out of the car, sat down and several bottles of drinks were put before him immediately. He gulped down two glasses of Gulder in quick succession. It was not until when he had downed the second bottle that he was able to acknowledge his fellow drinkers and as was expected, shared the experience.
“I died and went to heaven,” he replied “Believe me, she was better than seventy
The other guys hailed again, patted him on the back and pumped him with more drinks. On the way home, he was stopped by the policeman who demanded his particulars every night. He knew his papers had expired so he did the same thing he did every day- gave him some money and drove on. He got home just as the 10’o clock news was ending and headed straight for the bedroom. His children were asleep and his wife was in her pyjamas. He reeked of alcohol.
“I thought you gave your life to Christ,” his wife called out after him.
“I collected it back,” he murmured.
*Were- a mad man
Abimbola Adelakun writes for PUNCH, a Lagos, Nigeria based newspaper. She is the author of 'Under the Brown Rusted Roofs'.