Durotimi complained each time Asa sent him to get something in her handbag. He will gladly go anywhere without blinking an eye except an errand to go search a place of unending chaos. He simply did not know where to start. He complained only to himself though, not even once to Asa. She has sent him again to bring something in her handbag- Her purse. He left at once to get it.
It was not difficult to locate the handbag. It was on the bed. He set out to look for the purse. He looked into every compartment of the handbag. When he could not find the purse, he knew he had searched too hurriedly. He must take his time to locate the purse. If she said it was in the handbag, then in the handbag it must be!
He saw a banana on the cupboard. He peeled and swallowed it in a bite. The hurried search had left him without strength. It must be that he had been hungry before the search. He would have eaten anything edible he saw first. The banana left him hungrier. The task at hand was more important than the thought of his hunger. The purse he must search for; and that in the handbag.
He removed the trinket box and powder. Asa carried them permanently around. To remove them, he removed a bunch of necklace. The necklace was one of Asa’s favorites. He called it bunch because that exactly was what it was; joined together like a cobweb. He could figure out easily neither its beginning nor its end. The tangle would daunt anyone.
He had run into the necklace unknowingly. He would have been more careful if he knew. Having bumped into it, there was only an option left: to entangle his hands. He had wanted to continue without bringing out the necklace. It was frustratingly difficult. So, he did. He breathed relief.
He placed it gently on a spot. The necklace must not appear disturbed because he had touched it. He did not want to search, worrying the necklace was nonchalantly handled. Asa could come in while he searched. He had just saved himself imagining her face when she saw the necklace carelessly dropped on the floor. He had been in a sort of war with his thought over the handling of the necklace.
His fingers touched something like a purse. He sighed; relieved because he thought he had it.
It was a purse but not the purse. She had sent him to get the purse in which she kept her bus-ticket and many identity cards. Heaven knows if she discovered he touched the money-purse, it would not be lightly taken. He rebuked himself for being so foolhardy. He was about to stir a beehive.
All the while he sweated. Real hard. On one hand, frustrated he was not getting positively far with the search. On the other, he pitied himself already in view of a negative outcome at the end of the search. ‘I just don’t want to think about it’, he gave voice to his thought., unconsciously. He was confused.
In truth, he had no reason to think Asa would do anything silly. As if she knew he sometimes saw her in such unfriendly light, she had told him severally not to make her a monster.
He stumbled over an envelope. It was bulgy; loosely closed at the mouth. It showed Asa was not in a hurry when she closed the envelope; she probably cared a little less when she placed it in. He opened it. Used nose wipes. He was slightly irritated. Under a heavy breathe, he began a sentence with ‘but’. ‘But I have told her severally to throw away these tissues once used! My goodness!’ Then he remembered she disagreed each time he suggested that.
She kept a separate envelope for used wipes. When full she disposed it. Then replaced it. She believed she would keep the environment clean that way. She even advised he adopt her style. He disagreed. He added with sarcastic emphasis, ‘I will not only keep an envelope, I will keep a gorodom’. She did not hear him well. She asked what he meant. He told her of the saliva-gorodom.
‘A friend told me.’, he began. ‘Since then I did not forget. In that part of the country, gorodom was provided at reasonable distance, so that those thickly craved balls of phlegm could be spat into them. Once, a man spat phlegm into a gorodom. The phlegm almost tilted the content of the gorodom, so he smartly retrieved it with the tip of his tongue. He rescued his phlegm!’
Asa finally got the point. Her anger doubled. He had not only made a bad joke, but succeeded in ruining her day. She could not eat that day. It angered her more that he was not sorry, rather laughed hysterically, shaking heavily from side to side. While he searched the handbag, he replayed the scene in his head. A smile plastered his lip. Slowly, the smile gave way to a wider smile. The wider smile succumbed to a bigger one. Until he began to laugh.
He heard a sound. The laughter stopped. Abruptly. He listened keenly to the source and if it would come again. He thought it was a footstep. He listened hard. A breeze. He looked to ensure it was not Asa. He listened harder. He heard it clearly now.
The rats refused to die. Not even his rat-poison could kill them. They must have developed poison-immunity, because he doubled the portion to increase potency. If it ever worked for neighbors, it clearly did not work for Durotimi. The population of the rat only multiplied since the application of the poison. He was vexed at the thought that rats frightened him. The thought that same rats who ate his poison now troubled him annoyed him more. He was angry.
The anger jabbed him to consciousness. He was in the room to look for something. The urgent task was to find the purse. He grabbed the handbag. He was forceful, so nearly all the contents fell on the floor. He hissed and jumped at the same time. He wanted to catch the bag in mid-air. The falling bag was faster. He hurt himself.
He took offense at two things: At the unsuccessful attempt. Then at the bag. Why did the handbag make him jump, if it knew it was going to fall to the ground no matter what? ‘This stupid bag of a thing!’ he fumed. He hissed. He remembered he wore no shoes only when his feet touched the floor. He jumped back to bed. The jump was quick, like a snail who withdrew its tentacles. He rubbed his sole for warmth. The floor was cold. The cold spread through the whole body. Anger, like bile, filled his mouth. He squeezed face. He did not know whether to be angry with his forgetfulness or the floor.
At first, he tiptoed on the foot with a sock, holding the other foot in his hand. He hopped towards the handbag, but fell after a hop. He made it to the handbag when he used both feet. He packed the contents, replacing each item carefully in the right compartment.
He was tired. He decided to leave everything where they were and sat in the blue chair. Before long his eyes were heavy. He dosed off. A dream.
A yellowish gold object. It was in the bag before the fall; now few centimeter into the mouth of the bed. Under the bed was dark. It resembled a box. He bent to get it. When he slipped his head under the bed, he saw the box very well. A box for wedding rings…
Asa looked only at him as he struggled to wear her finger the ring. He cringed. He wanted to cry, but he could not. He was not given to cry. It will spoil Asa’s best day. He definitely doesn’t want to do that. Asa will beg-force him to follow instructions of the officiating minister. He imagined her rage…
He looked into her eyes. He saw the sun, high up in the sky. Intense heat. The sun-god must have decided to descend in full wrath. Then a large army. A captain shouted orders. Countenance betrayed no iota of friendliness. He will condole no disobedience…
Asa smiled generously. He saw a grin and a giggle. The bride finally fulfilled a dream, he thought. Still smiling she said: ‘I care so much about you’. The smile got wider. She continued: ‘Now, we are finally in a boat. Together.’ She was still smiling. He understood her message this way: ‘Even if you did not love me enough before, do so now! You dare not leave me now!’ Durotimi hit his leg. A mosquito-bite. He re-positioned his head. He almost woke up. He coughed. A little. He did not wake it was time for the first kiss….
‘You may kiss the bride’, said the minister. She shook her head, like a go-ahead. He bent to kiss her. He seemed to be the only who heard a grumble, then a voice: ‘Don’t hurt my tongue. I will not expect a long kiss. Control your appetite!’ He kissed, not minding the voice. Asa locked her tongue into his, as if she was eating from a honeypot. Wild jubilation. The kiss seemed to last forever. Applause. The roar of excitement continued. The crowd certainly saw what Durotimi did not notice. He turned the ring on his finger. It hurt a little… He remembered his father’s car. Old time…
Once, they brought the car to the mechanic. To check oil level and brake fluid. While the young mechanic worked, a vulcanizer checked the spare tyre in the booth. ‘The tube is giving me problem. I don’t have money for a tubeless spare yet’. The vulcanizer smiled. He had advised Durotimi’s father to buy two tubeless for the rear. He called two apprentices. They set to work at once. An apprentice held a long thick iron in both hands. He hit the tyre tirelessly. The other cursed when the iron hit the wrong place.
It was as though Durotimi was the tyre. He held his breathe when the rod was raised, and jerked when it landed. Like someone with a seizure. The tyre-beating ended. Durotimi did not have to jerk for too long.
Placed in-between two flat surfaces above which a fire burned, Durotimi expected the tube to catch fire. He asked when it would. The apprentices laughed. The vulcanizer came, held the tube up to the sky. He had an air of expertise about him. The apprentice moved with every move their master made; stretched necks to see what their master had observed. When he changed the tube to his other hand, they switched positions, almost involuntarily. The vulcanizer left without a word.
Durotimi heard the vulcanizer talking with his father. He was shouting to be heard. The afternoon prayers blasted from mounted loudspeakers. A pepper-grinder was at his trade. People must have long given up the pepper-grinder was going to change equipment. When filled with pepper, the noise from the grinding machine skyrocketed, shouting seriously.
‘Daddy, we can only patch this tube one more time. We need a new spare, sir’. He nodded and drank on. He had ordered paraga, with his usual mixture. Durotimi always wanted his father to patronize the paraga seller. Each time he gave him palm-wine. A small portion. He gulped it once. The seller’s compliment usually swelled his head. ‘Be sure to be like daddy when you grow up’.
He was back under the bed. Darkness…
He made to bring out the object. He was about to curse, but thought otherwise. He balled his hand into a fist and bit his lip. Durotimi’s head hit the bed base. It felt as though he hit a sandsack. A long time that part of the room was cleaned. He sniffed and saw dust everywhere. He coughed. An attempt to clean his head and face at once only worsened the whole thing. The dust robbed deeper into his eyes. His eyes peppered. He feared for his eyes. He wished he was anywhere but under the bed. The thick dust had built up over time.
Close to the box, he hissed. Before he hissed, he reassured himself his action was not at the object. The sound ended before he touched the box. He held it tight. It must not fall again.
Asa entered. “Stop snoring!” Her voice ended the dream.
The bright smile. The soft face. The thick cloud. Her perfume wore him. He gave in with sheer abandonment. The immediate past was forgotten, as though it never happened. Love. Forgotten times and dreams. Happiness. They kissed. He saw light. She was the light. An aura above her head. Her garment. Sparkling diamond. He saw perfection. Her breasts. The succulent flesh overwhelmed him. He held her palms carefully. He groaned as though in pain. Happy and free. He wept. She hugged him tighter. They felt closer like never before.
They laid in bed, locked still in each other’s arms, he smiled.