-Conflicted Destiny

Must Read: Conflicted Destiny… Part 13

A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part 12, read it Here

cheated, but there was nothing I could do. He was a hardened criminal and I could not challenge him. I counted my losses and went home empty-handed.

The next day, the hustle and bustle at the warehouse continued. That afternoon, a Hausa man came to our house with a bag of rice. He claimed he had just bought the rice from the warehouse and needed a safe place to keep it so he could go back and buy some more. When he approached me, I told him I had no place to put it. But unbeknownst to me, he was able to convince Sydney’s wife to keep the rice for him.

That evening I came back to the house and went to visit James, Sydney’s son, in his room. I opened the door and found that there was nobody in the room. I was turning to leave when I heard noises in the ceiling. I found a chair and propped myself up, removed a piece of the ceiling, and looked inside. There in the ceiling was James, dragging a bag of rice. Apparently, he had taken the rice from the adjacent room and was smuggling it into his room. When he saw me, he was speechless. I asked him what he was doing with the rice, and he explained that someone had stolen it from the warehouse and stored it in one of the rooms, and he was trying to steal the rice from the person. He promised to share the rice with me if I kept my mouth shut. I consented.

Later that evening the Hausa man returned to collect his rice from James’s mother, but the rice was gone. The Hausa man went mad; he screamed and cursed until people started to gather in the compound. Everyone was questioned, but no one admitted to taking the rice. James’s mother was visibly upset, and my mother and grandmother were astonished at how something like this could happen in a God-fearing family like ours. Everyone rained curses on the perpetrator, and the Hausa man vowed that when he returned to his hometown he would use witchcraft to render the thief useless. The whole family appealed to the man, telling him to calm down, but he would not listen. He was told to return the next day and leave us to discuss the matter as a family.

When he left, we had a family meeting and everybody was asked to come clean. We were told that the theft was a grievous act, and if the thief did not come clean, he or she would be cursed for life. But my heart was hardened and James was not budging, either. My rationale was that I had not actually stolen the rice; I was merely a witness, and whatever curse would be placed on the perpetrator would be on James, not me.

The next day the Hausa man returned. It had been determined the previous night that the family would pay him the value of rice, so Sydney gave him cash. The man thanked us and left, still vowing to carry out his witchcraft threat as soon as he returned to his hometown. He must have concluded that the thief was an outsider, and thought he would be helping us by cursing him or her, especially since we had taken the trouble to pay him for the rice.

As years went by, the mystery of the rice was not forgotten—it kept popping up from time to time. I never said a word about who stole the rice, but I wished I had confessed the day it had happened because after James sold the rice, he did not keep his side of the bargain. Also, to my shock and dismay, James gave a confession several years later that wasn’t completely true: he told the family that he and I had conceived of the plan together and stolen the rice. I was furious with him. My whole family believed that I had been in on the plan, and my mother and grandmother were very disappointed in me, not only for the theft, but also for not confessing when given the chance. As hard as I tried, I could not convince them that I had merely witnessed the theft and had never benefited from it; my grandmother died believing James’s accusation, and I would never get over that. My only consolation was that God knew the truth.

Meanwhile, it was our last term in school, and teachers were going on strike across the country. Toward the end of the term, some teachers returned to school, and my class was one of the few that had a teacher. A few students returned as well. On the day of our exams, less than five people showed up. I took all of my exams and, for the first time in my life, I was number one in my class. No one could believe it. The truth wasn’t that I was smart or happened to do well on the tests; my average was still very low. I was number one because, in some cases, I was the only one taking the exams.

During the holiday, I stayed at my Aunt Comfort’s house in Aba. Aunt Comfort was one of my favorite aunts. She was close to my father and loved him very much—love that I believe she transferred to me after my father’s death. She took care of me like I was her own son; whatever she bought for Ike, she would buy for me. She was a very good mother to all of her children. Her daughters, Lois and Joy, took after their mother and treated me like their own brother. Ike was Aunt Comfort’s only son, and though I liked him a lot, he was always jealous of me and wanted to harm me.

Aunt Comfort had several shops in the market, staffed with salespeople. She sold mostly bar soap, which she bought in bulk and distributed to her shops. While I stayed with her, I helped with her business. The two of us would go to the soap factory, load up large boxes of bar soap, and take them to her shops. As I got deeper into the business, I realized that the manufacturers were exploiting my aunt. They didn’t have many customers and Aunt Comfort bought eighty percent of their products. Her profit margin was very small compared with that of the manufacturers. While she was barely making enough, the soap manufacturers were rolling in money, buying new cars and building houses while my aunt still lived in two rooms with her family and didn’t even own a bicycle. I planned my revenge.

One of the soap manufacturers had come to know and trust me. Sometimes, when we placed our order, Aunt Comfort would send me to get the delivery, and if the manufacturers weren’t done making the soap, I’d wait until the order was completed. The owner would sometimes ask me to help the soap cutters to cut the soap and package it, after which I’d collect the boxes that were to go to Aunt Comfort. When I had the chance, I would often add five to ten extra boxes of soap to Aunt Comfort’s order, and because the workers trusted me, they wouldn’t recount the boxes before loading them into the trucks. I’d drop off most of the boxes at my aunt’s shop, saving two or three of them to sell to a woman in town. The woman understood that the soap was stolen, but she encouraged me to continue. I was never caught. I believed I wasn’t doing anything wrong, since I felt my aunt was being exploited by the soap manufacturers. I was only paying them back in their own coin.

Aunt Comfort was impressed by my helping hand during the holidays, and encouraged me to live with her permanently and attend school in Aba. Fortunately, one of the school administrators lived in the same building as my aunt and agreed to enroll me into the next grade. As soon as the next academic year started, I was transferred from Nnaze Community Secondary School to Eziama High School Aba.

Fortunately for me, Eziama High School had a boarding house, so I lived there. Class four (eleventh grade) was exciting and I made a lot of friends. I soon realized that most of them were just like me—uninterested in academics. We spent time having fun and engaging in gang activities, not paying much attention to classes. When we did, it was for the wrong reason. Many of our teachers were young women and we’d spend most of our time admiring them. As it was a boys’ school, it was a bit distracting to have young female teachers wearing short skirts and other provocative attire. Sometimes a teacher would sit in front of the class, and we would attempt to peek between her legs.

Most secondary schools in Nigeria had sporting events, called inter-house sports competitions, every year. The school would group all the students into different houses that would compete against each other. At the end of the competition, trophies would be awarded to the houses that excelled. The event usually ended with students throwing parties all around town, which would involve drinking and dancing. The competitions were a great opportunity for male and female students to interact and start relationships that could lead to one-night stands or something potentially more meaningful. I was the king of inter-house sports competition.

By this time my Uncle John had moved to another affluent part of the city, which happened to be a mile away from my school, making it easier to visit him. My relationship with Uncle John had greatly improved by then. Next to his compound was Aba police commissioner’s house. Coincidentally, the commissioner’s son, Ikojeh, was my best friend and my classmate. He always encouraged me to visit my uncle often so we could meet.

Uncle John had grown exceedingly rich, and equally silly. He owned a lot of property in Aba and his construction business was booming. He had many employees and servants. His children attended the best schools in the country, and his wife continued to teach. My uncle exploited the very poor and most venerable around him. Although he helped a lot of these poor families by sending their daughters to school, paying their school fees, and giving money to their parents, he took advantage of their circumstances and sexually exploited the girls he purported to be helping. I’m not sure whether the girls’ parents were aware of this, but it didn’t matter because they were poor and helpless, and couldn’t challenge him even if they knew. What shocked me the most was that Uncle John attempted to do the same to even his closest female relatives. On several occasions when my cousins Lois and Joy spent the holidays at his house, he tried to force himself on them.

He also took advantage of my mother—in a different way. Pretending to help her, Uncle John moved her from Orji Uratta to Aba. My mother had no choice, so she left the rest of the family and moved—not to enjoy the wealth and beautiful life her brother and his family were enjoying, but to farm on the forty acres of land Uncle John had purchased in a remote village outside of the city. On weekdays my mother would spend her time on the farm in a small hut with no electricity, kitchen, or toilet. Her job consisted mainly of organizing the laborers to till the ground and plant the crops, and sometimes she worked with them. She would spend months there during the planting season, after which she would return to Orji Uratta to do the same thing at harvest time. She did this for many years without receiving any pay for her efforts; she was willing to sacrifice her own well-being in order to please my uncle, and he continued to exploit my mother’s kindness. While she worked on his farm, my mother would stay at his house in Aba on weekends, and I would leave school just to spend some time with her.

I was keeping busy with all sorts of activities in Aba, and I indulged in many bad hobbies, one of which was visiting prostitutes. It would be an understatement to say that I was very promiscuous. A while back, some boys from my village, who had returned from Lagos, recounted to me some of their wild adventures with prostitutes there. At first, I thought that their stories were too fantastic to be true, but at the same time I was very curious. The closest thing I’d had to a sexual relationship was the molestation I suffered at the hands of my uncle’s wife’s sister, Charity, and I wanted so much to experiment like other boys. When it came to girls, I was always very shy and was never able to have any close contact with them at my previous schools. All my friends in the village would laugh at me back then, especially when we had our masturbation competitions and everyone was able to Erupt except me. There was a boy called Sebastian, a servant of my grandmother Nwanyi Burunnu, who could jerk himself off in a second, and he did so at every opportunity he had.

Once, before coming to Aba, I had visited a small city called Orlu in order to practice with a prostitute. I was very nervous when I entered the brothel. A girl immediately grabbed me and pulled me into her room. My hands shook as I followed the instructions from my Lagos friends and gave her the one naira fee. She took off my pants and examined my groin area for infection. Satisfied, she took off her underwear, leaving her blouse on. I later realized that if I wanted her blouse off, I would have to pay extra. She motioned to me to lie on top of her, and thus began my first real sexual experience. I jumped on her like an angry lion, and as I moved up and down, something powerful exploded from my body, traveling all the way through my lungs and eventually exiting through my joystick. Since I had never experienced expulsion before, I didn’t realize what was happening to me. I was shaking and confused, thinking I was going to die. I jumped off the lady, pulled up my pants, and ran as fast as I could.

In Aba, I tried it again—and it became a hobby. The city had many brothels, and once in a while I would pay a visit. By this time I was sleeping with prostitutes not because I couldn’t find a girlfriend, but because it had become an ugly obsession. It was so easy—there were no feelings involved, no emotional attachments, no strings attached. All I had to do was walk in and pick the girl I wanted. She wouldn’t care about my age; she was simply after the money. I would have s*x, wash up, and leave. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one doing this—all the guys my age at school did the same thing. Most of the criminal gangs were involved with the prostitutes, acting as their pimps.

Most brothels had a huge bar where alcohol flowed and music played all night. There were slot machines and mini casinos for those interested in gambling. The brothels also served as a meeting point for the wayward and misguided of every big city in Nigeria. What made this habit hard for me to break was that I had two female prostitute friends whom I did not have to pay for s*x because they liked me so much. One of them, a Cameroonian, was also a businesswoman who frequently visited Aba to buy her products. Whenever she was in town, I would spend time with her, after her regular schedule for paying clients. She would occasionally buy me gifts.

My other prostitute friend was an older lady who lived in a brothel called Hollywood Hotel in Aba. I didn’t know her name. She knew mine as “John.” She liked me a lot—or at least that’s what I thought at the time. She eventually became pregnant and I was too naïve to ask her who was responsible for it. It hadn’t occurred to me that the child was mine. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized she was sleeping with me because she wanted a child—that she had merely exploited my youth. I swore to make every attempt to find her so I could locate this possible child of mine. I promised myself I’d put a missing person announcement in the newspaper, and maybe even go on television someday, with a picture of myself when I was young, hoping that this child, when he or she saw the resemblance, might come to the same conclusion I had and would come looking for me.

Going to the brothels was not without its dramas. One weekend, so bored that even looking at my map and indulging in my daydream of going to Europe couldn’t satisfy me, I decided to try a new brothel in a different part of town. I spotted a very beautiful woman, and after we haggled for a while, we proceeded to her room. The normal examination for infection followed, and then we took off our clothes. Her Kittycat was unusually tight, and in the process of forcing myself in, I lacerated my joystick. Blood gushed as I pulled out, and the prostitute started yelling that I had given her an infection. This had never happened to me before, and I was really terrified—not because of the wound, but because she wouldn’t shut up. I was afraid that people would gather…and the police would get involved, and my family would know about my escapades, which would be highly embarrassing and shameful for everyone. I took out all the money from my pockets and offered it to the woman, begging her to stop shouting. Her room was on the second floor, and she ran out, flying down the stairs to get the manager. I had only two options: flee or stay and face the manager, whatever the consequences. However, the only way out was through the door, down the stairs, and into the street, and at that point it seemed absolutely impossible to get out that way without being noticed by the crowd that had started to gather downstairs. I decided to flee, yet I wasn’t willing to let go of the money I had paid the woman. I looked around her room and saw a brand-new stereo plugged into the wall. I grabbed it, went straight to the window, opened it, and looked two floors down. On the ground there was a mattress lying on top of a septic tank. Without thinking twice, I jumped out the window with the stereo.

I landed on the mattress, but the septic tank caved in and I fell through into a pile of feces. When I realized I was still conscious, I knew there was no time to wait. Not caring if I was hurt, I pulled myself out of the tank, heart was pumping and adrenaline running high, and did my best to wipe myself with clothes that were drying on a nearby clothesline. I zigzagged at lightning speed through the narrow streets, still clutching the stereo, constantly looking behind me. When it was clear I wasn’t being followed, I started to walk again. I had taken a huge risk by escaping, and it was critical to stay calm and act normal because jungle justice was very common in Aba during this period. Criminals, and sometimes even innocent people, had been lynched and burned alive on suspicion of robbery. If anyone had seen me running with a stereo, clothes full of feces, they would have concluded that I was a thief and immediately burn me. I walked down the road and stopped a taxi, giving the driver directions to Okey De Boy’s house.

It was a miracle that the taxi driver took me in his cab the way I smelled. He drove me directly to Okey’s house, no questions asked. I asked him to wait while I went inside. Luckily, when I got there, no one was home except Okey. I told him what had happened, and asked him to keep the stereo for me and lend me some money. I paid the taxi driver and had him drop me two streets away from Aunt Comfort’s house. I snuck in through the backyard, avoiding stepping close to people because of my smell. I ran into the house, tore off my clothes, and dropped them in the trash. I spent two hours scrubbing myself down with two bars of soap to get rid of the stink.

When I emerged from the bathroom, I ran into my cousin Ike. “You smell like poo,” he said.

I managed a weak smile and nodded.

To Be Continued…

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