Osas carefully positioned containers around his room to collect rain water dripping in from the roof. He lay in the dark quietly, pondering and insentiently counting the drops.
At 11:37pm on this Friday night, the rains poured insanely. The wind howled like wild animals bent on pulling the roof off its joints. Even the overgrown tree by the fence was busy scratching its branches eerily on his window, casting creepy shadows on the wall with every flash of lightning.
The curtain took strange forms in the dark, making him jumpy. Using the light from his phone for illumination, he slithered over to correct this but his leg clumsily hit the empty cooking pots neatly arranged by the wall and sent them crashing in a loud racket.
“Ah…” Osas hissed loudly “…see me now”!
When the din calmed, he quietly rearranged the pots, straightened the curtain, then reached for the remaining ijebu-garri he’d collected on credit days before from Mama Iyabo. Until he paid up all he owed, she told him, “no more credit”.
“Lagos, is the land of opportunities” he’d been told, but two years now and Lagos seemed to be hiding that side of her from him. Why…who did he offend…who?
He’d recently gone to his bank for business funding, but they asked him for collateral. Where was a start-up like him to get ‘collateral’? So, he suggested they use him as collateral, he didn’t mind. He would even donate his blood if they needed ink, but the annoying bank official only smirked “I am sorry Mr. Osas…” she said in conclusion, “…it’s the bank’s policy”.
“But is it your money”? He desperately wanted to scream, common sense advised otherwise. So, he was back on the streets yet again, hustling. “Who de follow me na”? He questioned.
A crack of lightning brought his mind back to the present. He stirred the ijebu-garri, ready to drink, when he heard a shuffle of quick steps end at his door. Ah, the devil himself! Osas thought. His heart climbed up his throat. How could a man be so inconsiderate! Even in this weather? Osas reasoned nervously.
“Osas? Nna come open dis door…I know you are inside…” yelled Ogbuefi.
“Ah…this man won’t kill me…” Osas muttered, “…am I the first to owe rent in Lagos”? Osas willed his mind silent…it was thinking too loud. “Today? Nothing…I no de house”.
“I hia the kpagaun inside dia just nau. OSAS OPEN THIS DOOR! Ngwannu…isorait”!
Osas listened as the footsteps faded, thanking the heavens his room’s window overlooked the neighbouring street. It would be a long way down tomorrow because, to avoid looming embarrassments, that was the safest option. He tried to stir the ijebu-garri but it had soaked rock solid, filling the cup. It didn’t matter anyway; he’d lost his appetite already. He barely slept that night as phantoms of Ogbuefi and mama Iyabo chased him around a cassava farm for their moneys while a choir of stacked bags of ijebu-garri melodiously sang “it is well”.
Saturday, Osas strolled into ‘Base 1ne’ for his usual; a cold bottle of “33” export. The refreshing bubbly liquid was a cocktail of relief and pleasure sliding down his throat. He drained the first cup and was transported to a world of possibilities.
“You come here too”?
The honeyed voice pierced his thoughts like a hot knife through butter. Osas immediately recognised Sade; the annoying bank staff. As he contemplated his reaction, she pulls a chair and settles in beside him. Osas looked around suspiciously.
“Are you following me”?
“Why should I? ‘Base 1ne’ is my hangout spot too.
“Oh”! Drumming his hands on the table.
“You look nervous…everything alright”? asked an observant Sade,
“Everything is just great”! Osas replied after a long sip of his drink.
“Great”, ignoring his sarcasm. “Seeing as we share the same interest…” her eyes settled on his bottle, “…mind if I ordered mine”?
Osas spread his arms wide over the table like a pastor blessing the congregation, “be my guest”!
The way her delicate fingers expertly tipped the bottle against the glass cup and elegantly dispensed the golden brew impressed Osas. She took a sip and caught Osas’ staring. Embarrassed, he looked away.
“So, have you been able to access any funds yet”? She inquired genuinely.
“Without collateral? Come on…” emptying the bottle into his cup, “…even you didn’t give me”!
“Why don’t you come by the bank on Monday…I’m sure we can work something out”.
Osas’ eyes lit up, was he dreaming?
“Then this calls for another round”! He lifted his glass excitedly in cheers.
Sade raised her glass cup in acknowledgement, “with fresh nkwo-obi too o”!
They laughed heartily and Osas signalled the waiter. How he would pay he didn’t know, but if it meant dropping his phone or washing plates, no problem; she’d just given him hope.
Three hours flew by like three minutes. They talked about everything and found they had more in common than they imagined. He forgot about all his troubles, even Ogbuefi didn’t matter. That night, the foundation for their friendship was laid. Sade even insisted on handling the bill. He was too dumbfounded to argue. Rather, he was grateful she saved him from humiliation.
“…what are friends for” she asked, “right”?
…Osas observed the jubilant faces across the table at ‘Base 1ne’. Servings of nkwo-obi and bottles of 33 export spread evenly. It’s been seven months since that night with Sade. Lagos had finally opened up to him, and his circle of friends had expanded all thanks to “33” export lager beer for the true code of friendship. He beamed ecstatically and raised his glass for a toast; “there is hope in Lagos after all”!
‘Base 1ne’ written by Chris Onaivi Ekuafeh, (Klay)