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I could sense that I was being given a second chance, but I found it hard decoding its purpose, to redeem my soul from destruction or tattoo it with wickedness. As we edged closer to Ibadan I kept asking myself what I should do with Bade, let him live with the aim of working out our differences, or kill him? It was the longest trip of my life. The former appealed to me more, but then I could be on my way to jail if Bade and I don’t reach a compromise. My heart raced nervously and all I could do was pray that he didn’t regain consciousness before my arrival. That would give me time to figure out what to do. Seated beside me in the bus was a teenage girl who was so engrossed in the novel she was reading that she didn’t even realize she had been stepping on me. It happened again and I shrugged,
“Hello, you stepped on me, and that’s like the umpteenth time that has happen in two hours.” She was startled and replied remorsefully,
“I am so sorry sir. I didn’t realize I was stepping on you. It must have been because of this novel, it arrested my whole attention. I am sorry.” She closed the novel in an attempt to concentrate and that was when I saw its title: The Second Chance. Oh my God, just when I was successfully drifting away from the thought of what the next few hours of my life would look like, then a sign comes staring at my fear stricken face. What does it mean?
“What’s the novel about?” I asked in a desperate manner,
“It is a Christian literature” she explained, “It is about a certain man who sold his soul to the devil because of his numerous life challenges. Poverty and low self-esteem was his excuse for engaging in money rituals.”
“And…” I was eager to know what happened next, “and now he is filled with regrets. The herbalist never told him he was sacrificing his children.”
“How?” I enquired. She sighed and expatiated, “The consequence of the ritual is that he will lose a child every five years in order to sustain his wealth. He has lost three already and is about to lose the last one, and he just learnt that revelation. The herbalist says he’d have to choose between his child and his wealth. Whichever choice he makes, he still dies.”
The story felt like a reflection of me so I probed further, “so what did he do?” she was about to respond when the driver announced that passengers alighting at Gbagi should prepare to do so. We were already in Ibadan. She put the novel in her bag and prepared to drop, she smiled at me and disclosed,
“I am not done reading, but I think nothing should outweigh absolute peace and happiness. If it doesn’t add those two to your life, then it’s not worth it. God is not foolish, we reap what we sow.” She left me in an absolute state of confusion. How can she talk about God in such an innocent manner? He is the architect of my misfortune, didn’t he see everything? Why did he watch on while I lost everything? I eased into tears as my soul drowned in sadness and I screamed, “God I can’t hear you. If you are saying something, say it out loud. Don’t drive me crazy” before I realized it. Of course, I became the center of attention and was so embarrassed I had to alight before arriving at the final bus stop.
It was getting dark already but I still sighted a woman selling paraga on the other side of the road. There was no justification to that which I was about to do, I just felt I needed to get drunk. I crossed over to her and ordered two small bottles of Regal dry gin which I gulped down in the space of three minutes. The guy seated beside me was so perplexed he asked,
“Oga wetin happen? If you wan comit suside, you no go enter express may trailer tear you. You wan wound yaself?”
I was mute for a while then I ordered another two, shocked he stood up and apologized for being too forward, “oga, na play I dey play o.” As he walked away I could hear him telling a guy at a close distance that he suspected that I was an undercover police officer. I laughed hysterically and everyone including the paraga retailer soon disappeared, without getting paid. Only if they knew what went through my chaotic mind, suicide. “I will walk into the next trailer that drives by” I thought to myself. As soon as I caught gaze of one from afar I stood up, staggering, and fell back on my buttocks. The alcohol had taken charge of my physical and mental state. I gathered all the strength I could muster and ran into it. It hit me so bad but I didn’t die. Not the trailer, a CD retailer pushing a wheel barrow. He didn’t see me coming. I lay helplessly and he rushed over to see if I was fine. As he bent over he smelt alcohol all over me and cursed,
“Were, ati mumu kumu – mad man, he has taken excess alcohol, alakoba.” He spat on me and went back to his business, as he pushed past me nothing made sense but the sound of the passionate music that played from his wheel barrow, “He saved me, he saved me, gave me a second chance, he saved me.” The second time I was hearing about a second chance that day.
Growing up, I always abused and judged drunks who slept off and woke up by the roadside as irresponsible; I never imagined a day when I’ll be the recipient of both. I am not sure which brought me back to reality, the water that was poured all over my face or the headache that thundered in my head. I stood up shivering and ashamed of myself. My bag, phone, shoe, and wallet were gone. With all eyes on me my feet trembled away from the scene in broad day. Not sure of what to do or where to go I heard someone scream my name some miles away, as I scanned through passersby to see who it was, it became more audible. It was coming from behind; I turned around to find Mr. Chukwu reaching for my shoulder. Like the prodigal son I cried into his arms helplessly. He drove me home.
I woke up to find Keji staring at me. The last thing I remembered was Mr. Chukwu dropping me off at the gate and promising to check back later. He tried to initiate a conversation about Bade, but I was too weak to say anything. I just sat back as I wept silently and directed him to the house. What would I have said anyway?
“The door was open, so I let myself in” Keji said in an attempt to explain how she got in.
“It’s fine.” I excused myself from her presence and returned few minutes later with some relief, I had freshened up.
“Kunle” Keji called, and I responded.
“Have you been drinking?” she asked in a subtle manner,
“It was a onetime thing, and I promise you it won’t happen again,” I answered in a repentant manner. There was no point telling her about the previous night I concluded within me. She obviously didn’t notice I was limping, she would have probed further.
“So, they found Bade” she chipped in to break the short silence.
“Yes, Kike informed me that he is presently unconscious,” I added without any element of surprise.
“When was that?” she sounded inquisitive,
“Oh! He regained consciousness this morning.” The word regain echoed in my head continuously and at the pace at which my heartbeat raced.
“Ser-i-ously?” I stammered, “Yes, and he has refused to talk to anyone but you and his mother.”
“Why?” I asked her spontaneously and she replied with some uncertainty, “Maybe guilty conscience, I don’t know.” I stood up from the bed and got dressed; I made up my mind not to kill him. I was determined to give myself a second chance.
I limped heavily as we approached the ICU. Keji inquired about the leg, and I explained how I got high and fell down. As we got closer the policemen guarding the ICU stopped us, and let me in after informing them of who I am. I recognized Mrs. Ogunmola the moment I saw her, she was seated beside him, and praying with her rosary. The moment she saw me, she stood up and knelt down before me, apologizing for Bade’s misdeed and persuading me not to press charges. Guilt sprung up within me. Only if she knew I was the devil, the wicked.
“My son, please forgive him. We can settle out of court as soon as he is fine. Please,” she begged passionately. The tears from her eyes reminded me of my mother; I pulled her up and assured her that all was going to be fine. Whatever Bade told her, he evidently didn’t disclose my evil acts. Anxious, I sat beside Bade for about fifteen minutes after which he woke up. He requested an audience with me, and his mother excused us. I put my left ear closer to his chest so I could hear him whisper, he sounded frail.
“I am so sorry Kunle. I am sorry for everything. I know I don’t deserve it, but please forgive me. Please.” I was moved to tears. I almost killed him, yet he begs for my forgiveness. I held his hand and flashed back to the beautiful memories we shared together, what went wrong?
“Forgive me too Bade” I sobbed, “I forgive you my friend, I forgive you.” We wept like twin brothers who got reunited after years of being separated at birth.
A nurse came in few minutes later and ordered me to exit the room so he could rest. As I stepped outside Lizzy walked up to me and alerted me, “Your girlfriend was brought in some minutes ago. She collapsed.”
“What happened to her?” I asked her with great concern.
“Stress I guess, she isn’t my patient.” She responded sharply. We arrived at the female ward and I found her smiling at me from a distance. I rushed towards her, like a redeemed man with an iota of peace I asked calmly,
“What happened dear?”
“The doctor said it’s the chemo, plus the baby. Apparently I have been stressing myself. He advised that I should take a medical leave from work.”
“Good” I said with relief.
“Kunle, your baby is strong o. I fell on my stomach, but the doctor says everything is fine with your child” she explained with a smiley face. Lizzy and Keji couldn’t hide their surprise at the news of my unborn child. While Lizzy was matured about the news, Keji stormed out. I went after her but she didn’t stop until she was outside the ward. I am sure Lizzy would wonder why Keji reacted in such manner, she doesn’t know about us.
“Keji, I can explain” I tried to be diplomatic. She turned around and in a jealous but sarcastic manner she said, “Brother Kunle, there is nothing to explain. Baba ibeji.”
I decided to give her some time to get over the shock. I was about to head back to the ward when I heard someone scream from the ICU, it was just opposite the female ward. It was the voice of a mother, a familiar one, Mrs. Ogunmola. I ran over to find her weeping and flogging herself on the floor. Bade had given up the ghost.
Written by Femi Fragile (Twitter: @fragiletimbzz | IG: femifragile)
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