THE HURTS OF YESTERDAY

Emeka grinned inwardly like a hunter watching his prey take the bait.
The girl Clarence’s eyes shone with glee as she sampled the wide array of designer perfumery displayed in the glass shelves of the Bulgari shop, the materialism of the sophisticated Nigerian girl, he mused. Emeka had earlier driven her in his glittery Honda to her to a Chinese restaurant in the Reserved Area, there they had sampled the exotic Chinese cuisine, fidgeting with the chopsticks. He had then driven her to a jewelry shop just opened a fortnight earlier by a middle aged Italian couple. Emeka smiled as he watched her chatter with the Italian shop assistant, trying on one piece of jewelry after another in such excitement as she hardly could contain. She would later on brag to her ‘less privileged’ friends about a man who was so mesmerized, and weak in his head as to spend a fortune on her in one evening. Such was the perceived pride of womanhood, the ability to win over a man’s purse, heart and soul. Unbeknownst to her she had won over nothing except Emeka’s predatory nature. Emeka studied her closely; she was taking the bait too readily, killing the fun in the chase. She will prove such a cheap uninteresting prey, unworthy of chase, he thought with regret. He looked forward to getting rid of her soonest and moving on to the next target.
Emeka knew how to pick his targets, he knew them by sight. They were those who worked hard to command an air of sophistication about them, the kind whose faith lay in the material, in the tangible, who thought themselves goddesses, at whose altar men were obliged to come hypnotised and in reverent worship, bearing in outstretched arms the produce of sweat and blood, of greed and treachery, of betrayal and mutiny. They were the ones who ruined men as they had nearly ruined him, though in a different way. They nearly ruined him many years back.
Many years back, he was only a boy with dreams, big dreams. He would spend many hours peering at magazine photos of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, and King Jaja, photos he had cut off magazines and pasted on the mirror hanging from a nail in the wall of his bedroom so that when he dressed up for school or combed his hair before the mirror he saw their faces and they inspired his young spirit. His mother encouraged him to work hard to be like his heroes and his father boasted to his friends while they chatted over bottles of Guiness stout in the sitting room of their house that he had no doubts that someday his son would become a president of an independent Biafran nation. But one thing his father always said got imprinted in his young heart; never entrust your people with the grandness of your cause son, for when under intense pressure, they will hang you out with your cause around your neck to dry out in the open. His father believed in a united Africa but strongly was opposed to a united Nigeria, he had little regard for the many of Nigeria’s past heroes, he believed the history of the country was a perversion, written in such a manner that the villainy, treacherous selfishness and absolute imperial servitude of those ‘heroes past’ is smeared with a thick layer of heroism, justice and equity which is being sold down to generations yet unborn. His father blamed the existent tribal distrust on many things but most especially on the founding fathers, the as at then small community of Nigerian intelligentsia who had so garnered a status of lordship over the less privileged unlearned masses. He sang praises in honour of Ojukwu the Biafran war-lord. To him, Ojukwu was a hero in every sense of the word even though he shared the same flaws with many of his kind before him. His father was always carried away with awe whenever he talked about African intellectuals, in his evening discussions with his friends, Emeka , from a safe distance listened attentively while they talked about Leopold Senghor, David Okara, Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, Wole Soyinka, Flora Nwapa, Peter Nwanna, Ngugi wa Thiongo and many more.
As an only child who saw a life littered with many opportunities, the future as a prominent political activist and national hero was very bright, his father supplied him with all the books he needed and even though he never went to a university and earned decent wages as a driver on the councilor’s entourage, he read so much so that there was not a bit of any area of human endeavour he didn’t know a thing about.
Emeka progressed in school and went on to the university. In his first year, during the election period, the councilor’s entourage was attacked by some gunmen who were rumoured to be hired hands by any one of the candidates from any of the opposition parties. They opened fire upon the councilor’s entourage on his way back from a clandestine meeting late one night. The councilor’s armed thugs returned fire and after a short gun battle, the attackers retreated and sped away in their car. Two thugs had sustained serious bullet wounds, a driver had died on the spot from a bullet to his head, Emeka’s father took two bullets and died three days later in the hospital from internal injuries. The councilor was flown to immediately to a hospital in India after a bullet lodged close to his femur was removed. The news of the incidence was kept secret from Emeka’s mother, but when her husband had succumbed to his injuries, the news was broken to her. She let out a heart-rending wail and fainted. Neighbours rushed her to the closest hospital, a small establishment set up by a doctor in retirement with three nurses in his employ, one heavily pregnant, another an aged nursing sister past her retirement stage that dreads standing for too long on her feet, and the other, a very young nurse in training and whom her senior colleagues often delegated most of the duties to. When Emeka’s mother came to, she never was normal; the doctor said she had a cardiac arrest. Early in the morning two weeks later, the young nurse let out a fearful scream that resonated around the wooden walls of the hospital, she was so shocked that it was a miracle she didn’t fain; she had come to administer some medication to the patient bedridden with stroke and she had found the patient stone-dead, it was the first time she had seen a corpse. So, Emeka became an orphan in his first year into getting a degree that would guarantee his dreams becoming a reality. Those years following his parents’ death were very tough, he had to learn to fend for himself and peel off the shroud of comfort that had graced his back for so long that it had become a layer of his skin. By then, his dreams had been so entrenched in his psyche else he would have abandoned his studies so that he could bother himself with the more basic necessities for survival.
He got a part time job serving tables at the Mariner, a sea food restaurant. The job didn’t give him much, but at least it assured him of two meals in a day and if he lived very frugally he could put aside some money for school fees at the end of the year. Such was the life he lived for the sake of a dream. He worked hard and tirelessly, and Wellington, the manager loved him for his hard work and had made it known to him in clear verbal terms, his admiration for his resilience in getting the very best for himself out of the world in which he found himself. On his shifts, Mr Wellington breathed a sigh of relief and only then could he retire to his back office to catch a quick nap, read from the newspaper he picks on his way from a roadside vendor, call his wife, surf the web or whatever activity that might win the contest for his leisure. More often he took a quick nap, snoring deep and heavy, for he was obese. However, there was no moment of respite for the boy that served tables; the customers were often hard to please, there was always a complaint about the use of an objectionable spice, too much chilies, too little chilies, delay in service, and in some rare cases, the cost of the dishes. There were however, the occasional easy-go-happy male customers who won’t be too stingy to part with a smile and some loose change. The worst of the lot were the bane of the job; the young ladies. They were the younger ladies, the girls, mainly undergraduates from the university who tried desperately to exude some air of sophistication about them to the point that they sounded like some characters from some HD animated movie . They were the ones that threw arrogance at a seemingly lesser man with careless abandon. Fortunately, this kind weren’t a common menace as they rarely came except in the company of a mostly much older male partner whose presence curbed their venomous potentials. Then there were the older working class ladies that appear to have been cheated of their expectations of life. They were the ones that were hard to please, the ones that came with the pungent woes of a life on their upturned palm, looking for a spotless soul on whom to smear the repugnant mess upon. Who better to victimize other than a low-life who would swallow it all whilst maintaining some sort of decorum? The young Emeka, had a job to protect, and so he bore the abrasive brunt of this class of customers for so long that his manly pride eroded bit by bit unbeknownst to him. An occasion did prove however, that he was still a man with some bit of pride, but the test did cost him his job, waiting tables. The outcome did thrust him farther into the recesses of hardship that further served to test his manhood and will to survive.

TO BE CONTINUED…………..

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