IPUBLICISEAFRICA SERIES: Chronicles Of Tonio Lawrex (episode 4)
Episode 4 – (THE MUSCULAR STRANGER)
I turned quickly to look at the stranger the moment he roared: “Nnenna, who is this?”
I figured out that the name might be Helen`s Igbo name, but the mood was too serious to think about that, so all I did was turn to see the person. Lo and behold a huge scar-faced bulk of a man; his chest danced and his nostrils could contain two of my fingers. I didn’t answer him and he approached me in a flash. I flinched.
“Didn’t it occur to you that I asked a question?” he was very, very close to me this time around.
I might have pretended that the former question wasn’t meant for me or that I didn’t hear it. But it was so obvious that this one was meant for me and I surely heard it. I swallowed saliva yet again. What on God’s earth have I gotten myself into?
I looked at Helen, looked at him and then back to Helen. I noticed she wanted to say something but she swallowed her words in form of saliva just like I did earlier. The macho dude held my throat and repeated one of his questions yet again.
“Who are you?” his voice was lazy and hoarse; and his breath smelly.
He squeezed his palm on my throat and my face turned into an ugly grimace. I perceived a pungent smell on him; I knew what the smell was. But the pain on my neck surpassed even the smell. Our people says that ’Nkali amaka’ – which literally means that it is good for someone to be more powerful that the other. But I realised that the adage favoured only one side, it favoured the side of the more powerful and not the side of the less powerful (me). In my own philosophy, I thought the adage should reverse to ’Nkali ajoka’.
Helen soon came to my rescue; she started taking his hands off my throat, but her endeavours to remove his hands proved abortive. She told him he wouldn’t be embarrassing everybody; that he should let her explain first before touching me. She also lied, telling him that I was her course mate; at a time she told him I came to help her on a particular course which she found challenging. But she became dumbfounded when the huge guy asked her what kind of studies we did behind closed doors – what kind of studies we did over a photo album. I scoffed within me, she was a poor liar.
“It is about time you stopped sniffing on me like a little girl. I am old enough to take care of myself” she fussed. “This is university, and any life I choose to…”
“You know nothing about the life in the university, so shut up and…” his dull voice came again before she cut him short.
“And you know nothing about me; you know nothing about someone you called your junior sister. You don’t even trust me, you are just a bully who claims to be all thou holy!!! But yet…”
“Nnenna, you dear not talk to me that way!” his face grew much muscular.
“I’ll talk anyway I like, just allow me to live my life! This is not home where you control every sibling of yours the way you like. This is life at large, and sniffing around my male friends wouldn’t stop me from being a prostitute even if I wanted to” she was now mad at the muscular guy. But then, I was still under his bondage. I kept stealing breath from the little space I had.
“Nnenna!” he groaned.
“Just leave him alone. Get your hands off him or I report you to the security right away” she shouted on top of her voice, closing her ears with both palms.
Helen was really upset; I never thought she could be that mad. The muscular stranger – whom I learnt was her senior brother from their quarrel – disengaged from me at once by pushing me away, therefore I staggered. He stared at me wickedly, hissed and entered the bathroom, he was lost for words. I didn’t mind either, all I wanted was to leave that room and disappear.
In a flash, Helen approached me and held my face in her hands, I was motionless and deadpan. What I got was the highest disgrace of my time. She opened her mouth to say something but I didn’t care what she had to say, I quickly said my own.
“I really want to start leaving now”
“Tonio, I’m so sorry, please just…”
“You don’t have to be. I blame myself.”
“Oh!” she felt appalled and lost for words. I sensed sympathy in her countenance, but I didn’t give a damn.
“Can I have my book?”
She didn’t hear me well so she asked: “What?”
“My lecture note, where is it?”
She got it, handed it over to me and said: “Can you wait lemme change and see you off to…”
I slammed the door on her before she could finish. My lean feet clattered on the staircase as I paced to my lodge. I blamed myself a thousand times for it all started from my being late. My father often said that one who started any morning unprepared should brace up for unprepared outcomes for the rest of the day.
That Tuesday, my ill fate began from my bed. From laziness to lateness to hastiness, to bumping on a girl, whom I mightn’t have met if I had gone earlier; then to standing outside the lecture room because of lateness; over to following her to her lodge and then being disgraced.
Mess gives birth to mess; I brought whatever happened to me upon myself. I hated myself for a moment and then swore to hate Helen forever.
* * *
Days later, I met Emma inside the school after the first lecture at MPH, and he stormed me with questions and conversations. Emma was a course mate whom always made my day with gist, and he usually comes when I was depressed. Emma was a dinky fair boy, whose little body didn’t snatch away cuteness from him. He was still handsome even though his small legs curved awkwardly. His ever loaded gist were the best even though he was a pure talkative. He was very social and amicable to everybody in our department even though he was the youngest.
“Guy how far naa; this one you dey walk like this, e be like say you no understand this MAT wey Isiebu teach this morning?” Emma said, walking beside me with his lecture note under his armpit.
Isiebu was the name given to an old lecturer who taught us MAT101. The man was a good teacher but students barely understood what he taught. Where the problem came was what I couldn’t explain.
“Me no geh problems with the Maths wey the man teach today o. I understand this one”
“Thank God, I don see person wey go teach me”
“No o, ah go still go through it naa, make e enter my brain wella before ah go start to dey teach person”
“No P. Naa.” He strode a bit with his slightly awkward curved legs, and then said like an afterthought: “Ehee, guy how far that babe wey you carry commot that day?”
I knew he was talking about Helen, so I looked at him and looked away. But then, he persisted.
“You no go talk now abi?” he smiled and said again: “Buh guy you try oo, this girl wey no dey look guys face, how you take get am?”
“I no get am anything, abeg no dey talk waitin you no know”
He wagged his forefinger at me, saying: “You no get am, and you and am dey shine teeth for window that day”
I went further to convince him, telling him it was because of my lateness that I got to meet her. I told him that was all.
“Tonio, the first place I saw that girl was at Fayrouz Club on Matric Night” when Emma said this one, I remembered what happened at Helen’s place, everything including the embarrassment which concluded it all.
At once, I became angry and snarled: “I don’t care where you saw her for the first time”
“Guy calm down naa. Waitn be your own this morning?”
“Oga no dey talk rubbish here, talk better thing jhoor”
“Idiot, no just carry your matter dump for my own head oo. Me no know waitn dey vex you, so no try transfer the vex for mah own body”
I just looked at him and smiled. All this PH boys and their way of blowing Pidgin-English though. We guys were good at calling ourselves names; it wasn’t a new stuff to me. But if he had known what was going on in my mind, he would just give me a gap or rather say other things.
We didn’t talk after that moment. We just strolled to our department for one departmental course which we had by 2pm.
Like I said earlier, Emma was always with the hottest gist, it was when we strolled far from MPH and closed in on Bakkassi, that he came handy with another one by breaking the silence; “Guy, Tobias and im girlfriend don scarrer o”
I scoffed at his comic pronunciation of `scatter` as `scarrer`, an action he intentionally did. Then I asked: “Hmm, waitn scatter them? Oge is a good girl naa, waitn come happen?”
“No even go there sef, that girl too stubborn oo”
“Make we no argue, just yarn me waitn happen”
“Me no know for them o, the story is way complicated. From common misunderstanding to a large slap, then to a fight; nawa oo” he stopped. Emma doesn’t like discussing about people, so I sensed there was something he was hiding from me; something that made him to stop talking. So, I decided to allow him some time before inquiring further.
We were walking at the gutter opposite Confucius Institute of Chinese Language when I asked: “What went wrong, who slapped who?”
“Guy ask Tobias whenever you see am. The whole story no just sweet me” he shrugged and said, “Which kind nonsense be that, say person carry im own body go meet… mtcheww” he didn’t finish his statement but endeavoured to end it with a solid hiss. A dry hiss of annoyance.
Tobias was an average-height dude, fierce looking and hot-tempered with a gift of smile given to him by God. A gift he misused in deceiving lots of girls. There was one more thing I hated about him but couldn’t do anything about it; he always smelt of a substance which he was addicted to. The substance had the same pungent smell I perceived on the body of Helen’s elder brother.
Tobias was one of the friends in my life whom I found so hard to get rid of. I would make up my mind to get such friends out of my life but I wouldn’t see a way. New Year resolutions which always came with the famous `New-year-new-life` denouncements hadn’t helped me in getting rid of such friends either.
I knew Tobias from the day he repaired the big generator in our lodge and thenceforth he had repaired my change-over and electrical appliances free of charge. I was good at easily making friends, but I was so bad at not choosing what type of friend to make.
On the other hand, from Tobias I knew Oge, his girlfriend. And amicable as I was, I and Oge had been good friends, she had in a couple of times given food and goodies to me, none of which I requested; but she did it free-heartedly, therefore, I ate wholeheartedly. Again, she had once complained to me how authoritative Tobias could be and how uncomfortable she felt whenever with him.
I calmed her down, telling her that she should endure because no dude is perfect. But I understood what she was saying the more when she said that Tobias used to flog his ex-girlfriend and would sometimes steal and ask her to hide the stolen item. Tobias also liked going `high` with someone he loves; I mean he liked taking drugs and alcohol with his girlfriends. Oge made her fears known to me, she said that why she behaved rascal to some people was to scare them and make them not suppress her. And she sometimes used that method on her boyfriend, Tobias, so that he won’t start over what he did to his ex on her. Being rascal was Oge`s adaptive features, just like the cockroach`s antenna is to it, like farting is to the tortoise and like stinging venom is to the python.
I took her problems as part of mine and that was when I gave her the bloody advice. If anyone ever told me that this case would turn out to crash on my own head I wouldn’t believe that person.
After the lecture at Bakkassi that day, I flipped through my phone which had been in silence throughout the lecture, and I met three missed calls; my heart jumped when I saw that the caller was Tobias, but my heart jumped more when my eyes met his message which read thus – `you no go pick my calls now abi? Hmmm if you know how bloody this issue is, you won’t be avoiding my calls`
I wanted to call him but a call came at once and he was the caller again.
I picked up and managed to say: “Hello… hel… hello, can you hear me” I struggled with the poor network.
My heart leapt the most when he said: “What did you tell Oge?”
…To be continued
© Nwoye T. Anthony 2016
(CHRONICLES OF TONIO LAWREX)