I felt light in my head one day at work and thought I might lean on my sparse wooden desk and shut my eyes a short while. It may have been from hunger. I am not sure. My boss did not like my idea. He is burly and imposing. He barks orders like a sergeant. Without ado, he called me into his office to give me the sack.
I was thirsty. I interrupted his speech that I might fetch some water from the dispenser. I drank till I was content. I returned to the seat. The boss felt no need to go on. He was kind to give me a month’s pay.
I was thinking as I said goodbye to boss that I must hurry home, get something to eat and maybe get an hour or two of sleep before my woman returned from her stall. I said to myself that there might be no quiet after her return.
The sun was hot. It was noon after all. But when I reached the bus stop where I was to board a bus home I was distracted by two quarreling women. I lingered to watch and listen. In the middle of the spectacle a man tapped my shoulder and said “Brother me, my motor no start. Come help me push”. I helped him push.
Later I got on a bus. I took a seat by the window. A goat bound by its limbs lay in the boot. It bleated repeatedly. I kept my ears alert for its bleat, and soon I was able to anticipate it. I bleated in harmony with the goat, but only in my head. I was happy with my accuracy. I decided to bleat aloud. The other passengers laughed at me. I laughed at myself too.
The bus approached my stop. There was no slack in speed. I wanted to exclaim to the conductor. I was sure I had told him I wished to stop right after the filling station.Apparently I did not tell him. Or perhaps I did but he had forgotten. Anyway, the bus went on, past my street, onward and forward. No matter. I shrugged and relaxed, I did not come down at the next stop. The journey had begun to interest me. My eyes looked out of the window, at the people and houses going past as in a procession. Perhaps there was really nothing worth seeing. It is only because I get around those places very infrequently.
I alighted at the final stop. I had wished the bus to keep going on and on, so that I came down with some regret. I began walking forward, slowly. All around me people moved, quickly. They bumped against me, overtook me.This was a commercial area, a market, it was to be expected. I did not bother, nor did I look to their faces for an apology. It has always been like this with me, the lack of tempo relative to the rest of humanity.
When I could not bear the hunger anymore I went into a small restaurant and filled my belly. I lingered when I finished because I felt no prompting to stand up. I was quite far from home, and in an unfamiliar place.
But I was soon full of feeling, a feeling of involvement, because two fellows came into the place. They were boisterous. One of them had won money from sports betting. The winning man had with him a drilling machine in a box. He carried it like a suitcase. I thought he must be an artisan. The other man was dark and massive. He reminded of my boss. I hated him at once.
We said a few words in greeting to each other as theycame in. This put me in a good place with them, and when the madam came to take the orders, the winning ma asked her to give me what drink I wished. I was happy.
He bought me another round and even bought for the madam. She opened a stout for herself. Shuffling about the shop excitedly, she took gulps from her bottle. She was in the gambling business too, she said. She played only the number draws but was on a losing streak. She said her lucky numbers would come soon.
The men left after the third bottle. They had been speaking on phone to some women and were going to meet up with them and have a nice time. The bar madam said she was grateful and thanked them for coming. But she gave off a deep and audible sigh as soon as they left. She was not happy the men had gone. Maybe she had hoped they would have spent more time and money or maybe she had really enjoyed their company. It may have been either reason or both.
She came back in and sat on the bench across from me. Just like any customer. Gulping from her bottle, she began speaking with me. I love to win she said. My plan is to rent a proper shop the next time I win. No venture no gain. I nodded my head at her words. I did not quite understand her excitement.
I see numbers all the time when I dream. The good ones are mixed with the bad ones. How can I know? I can’t play every day she said.
She was not young. I disagreed with myself about her looks. The drink had made me energetic. I stood up to stretch my legs. I felt the pressure of the wad of money in my pocket. That gave me a good feeling. She asked me if I wanted to go. I said that I did not wish to go and that I wanted to stay with her. I pulled out the wad of notes. She laughed wildly, even raising her feet from the ground. Another bottle for us both I said. She rose to her feet, I returned to sitting.
It was getting to five pm. Maybe my wife was back from the shop. My good shirts were spread on a line in the front yard. Maybe she had taken them in. She washed them herself.
My phone rang. It was my wife. I did not know whether to pick the call or not. The call dropped before I could make up my mind. I looked at the woman. She was staring at me. I did not know what she was thinking.
I am a widow she said.
I said to her come, come. Sit beside me. God is your husband.
Her room was not far from the shop. It was night when we went. Her son and daughter were asleep on the floor. I am not sure whether they were her son and daughter. I did not ask. I sat on the chair. She went off to bathe. I looked around. I felt a bit sad.
With each breath the boy took I heard a sough. The daughter slept quietly. There was a basin in the corner of the room. She soon returned from the bathroom. She smelled of soap and wet. ‘I have put water for you’ she said, if you want to bathe. She laughed.
I was looking at her. I became aflame with lust. There was not much beauty to speak of, but there was not much light too.
My phone rang. Where are you? My wife asked. She did not wait for me to reply. Hurry home she said, or your food will get cold.
I left things as they were, I did not say a proper goodbye. I made my way home. As I sat in the bus I thought clearly how nice it would have been to fuck the bar woman. Her body did not look bad.
I began to think of dominoes. I used to play them when I was a child. I did not know what it was till much later. I had found a nylon bag containing the blocks on the ground. The blocks seemed to me objects of possibilities. I placed them on top of each other or stood them side by side. Later I lost them. All of the blocks at once. I do not know how it happened.
The bus stopped and I came down. I suddenly felt tired and remembered I had not slept earlier as I had hoped. The night did not promise good sleep because the air was still. My wife was not at home. I had a bath. I lay down. The room was quiet. I remembered I had a month’s pay. I desired a song, a song to nod my head to. I wore my good shirt.
In search of a song I went instead back to the house of the bar woman. She opened the door. She had been sleeping. She said nothing to me. She turned back to the bed, I bolted the door myself.
Written by Kelechi