Fiction / Oluseye Fakinlede
:: Something happened in Udanre ::
The day Tola Tubosun was downsized was a Tuesday. The day before, he spent what he described as quality time with the branch manager, whom he took as an Egbon. Wole Thompson, his Egbon by choice, had assured him not to worry that day before. But on that Tuesday, he went berserk when he could not log into his portal, and subsequently was called into the HR office that he had something waiting for him. Something or a letter? He scoffed, as he wiped a tear trickling down his cherubic face with the back of his palms before dropping the intercom, outrightly ignoring the pity faces of his colleagues in the marketing section, even that of Subomi who sprawled on his chair casting rueful eyes on his friend.
He had always had presentiments about Tuesdays, especially if an event, a promise, an interview, a meeting, a date, an appointment, just name it, falls on that day. So, he was not surprised but wounded up sad despite the spiritual fortifications he had received from his mother when he told her about conclusions at the bank for downsizing that month after their branch had been debriefed three months ago due to the loss accrued, especially that of Marketers who were not meeting their targets.
He also had personally prayed against the hunch he felt, a reason why he went to see Mr. Wole, because he feared the possibility of being retrenched from the bank since the decision was to be taken on a Tuesday.
“Egbon”, why must the decisions be taken tomorrow, Tuesday? Ha, Tuesday, he roared.
“Tola, well, some things are superstitious. Besides, if you believe them, you fuel the fears. And I can assure you that it might just be a threat for us to sit tight,” He said rolling his big body over placing his arm on his shoulder, while he gently parted his soaked blue shirt. He smiled, straightened his gray checkered tie, and hurled him to get to work, and stop being a worrywart.
Five years ago, Tola came to Lagos just like most Nigerian youths after their National Youth Service Corp Program in search of a greener pasture. And after being on several jobs; he became a contract staff at Eagle’s Bank 3 months ago, and had been on probation since as well as three of his colleagues.
In his case, he had come from Ekiti State, Erin-Ijesha Ekiti, and attended the University of Ado Ekiti, where he studied Business Administration, and served at Okigwe, in Imo State. Having had a rough slice of life, he resolved one morning, telling his aged mother, and his sister that he would be going to Lagos, to look for better opportunities as none was forthcoming in Ekiti. He added that he would be staying with Lekan, a guy he met during the NYSC, and who was the Home Cell Coordinator of their lodge. His mother could not dissuade him from traveling to Lagos, nor the thought of putting up with the Lekan whom he had not seen for three years. She said, people change and most times, they change from bad to worse. Yet, this fell on deaf ears.
Short staying with Lekan had its rough edges, yet, it was a propeller of the good things to come for him. At his house, he was clothed, fed, and nurtured. Three months after they lived together, Tola’s mother had a change of thought that there was still goodness in the depraved world. It was Lekan that shared with him the Bank’s link, just like he helped him secure a job as a Secretary at a Neolife, just like he helped him submit his CV with the Chinese shoe factory that had a strict rule of stripping up to one pant before entry or exit. And when the realities of his dream job seemed to fall apart like a two-dollar suitcase, he knew he rather runs home to Lekan who had not only become a true friend but his burden bearer.
Like a drenched foul, he dragged his feet along the busy Ogba Street, took some cut inside Ifako-Ogba, till he got to Pen cinema Agege, and sat at the front seat of the Keke Maruwa, heading towards Abule Egba to the two-bedroom apartment he shared with Lekan. Nothing made sense to him now, he felt a complete emptiness, and his own body vividly sticks. Wobbled through the stairs, as if counting their numbers, gave a cold smile to their smiling neighbor who always had an opinion about every matter, and ignored her question of why he was home so soon and began telling the tale of their soon-to-finish prepaid meter unit. He unlocked the door and collapsed on the couch like a sawed tree.
He checked his buzzing phone, swiped delete at a pop-up message from his office Egbon, swiped down the screen, and clicked on flight mood after he rejected two incoming calls. It was on the couch he curled up, till he fell asleep, and was awoken by Lekan who took his head on his lap, and listened as he whimpered telling him all that happened over and over again. Lekan on the other hand, parted his back gently, assuring him that all would be well.
In the following weeks discarding his suicidal thoughts, he casually began writing, to avoid sliding into depression. He first began sharing daily quotes on Twitter, then it blossomed into the creation of a blog where he for the very first time decided to write about places, the epicurean places in Lagos he had visited when he still had enough, and luckily, he still had the pictures he took with his DSLR Canon camera he bought on Konga.
He wrote about the Elegushi beach as he visited there yesterday, and wrote about the Whispering Badalgry palms, and all other places of interest. Lekan also tried to lighten his mood by offering to do his monthly subscription, and he also promised to foot the house rent, believing that the soonest he would refund he like had always done.
You are a good writer o, Tola. Lekan said one night reading through something on his phone from his room.
That’s flattery. Tola replied from the kitchen, with a mouthful of citrus.
I am serious. Lekan paused, wheeled the curtain open, sticking out his head, and showed him his phone rapidly scrolling till he got to the end of a page he was reading.
Hey, you have been reading my blog. Tola replied with a shy smile pointing the citrus at him, like an invitation to suck on it.
See, see these comments…
Wow, I have got 16 already?
Not just that, you also have 22 in another.
You need to go professional with this, and launch your blog… Hmmm, buy a domain. And always reply to these budding readers of yours. This also means you have to provide them with genuine content all the time. Lekan said.
Well, I know a friend that can help with the domain thing. He continued, though it will cost some money. But that’s not a bother.
Why are you always doing this Lekan? Dropping the sliced orange on a tray and stood affixed with his head tilted to the back like a nonplussed child.
Do not resist help bro, you have stood for me back then, during service year remember? He wrapped his hands around him, contorted his lips, and made a smacking sound on his cheek.
You can write about most tourist sites in Western Nigeria, beginning from Ekiti, since you lived all your life there and you told me that you have gone to some sites there. You can also write about Ondo State.
Ha! That state, I have never been there o. Tola interjected.
No way! Then you must. They have nice places, for example, the Idanre hills.
By the way, it is my State. And I am traveling in a few weeks to Owo, to see Mama. You should come along, and tour.
Shortly after the kind words from Lekan, and after reading a plethora of comments on his entire 12 blog posts, Tola began to sense a newness of purpose thus tripling his writing efforts. He would sit on their dining set that only had two sets of chairs for hours punching the keys of his keyboard till midnight doing nothing but writing and creating new posts or re-editing his writing plans. And whenever he felt a writer’s block, he would slouch on the wooden chair after he had placed a pillow on it and fell asleep. Most times, it was Lekan’s soft touch that woke him up, placing a coffee on the table or at times, asking him to go to bed to stretch properly.
The set day arrived for the duo’s trip to Owo. The two friends packed their belongings inside separate travel boxes and hit the road to Oshodi, where some Ondo State buses awaited. They sat on the passengers’ seats very close to the tribal-faced driver who consistently and irritably told Lekan to remove his thigh that curved like a female’s from the gear until the two ended up in a hot verbal exchange.
On getting to Owo, they found a bike man that took them straight to the compound of Lekan, and his mom welcomed his friend whom she had only spoken to on phone with Pounded yam and a bowl of steaming egusi soup prepared by one of the young girls that always attended to her. And at night, she spoke about her desire for Lekan to get married soon because age and health were no longer on her side; I want to carry your child, like your other sisters. She said, ending the discussion with a 30 minutes prayer session thanking God for health, journey mercies, and petitioning his ears to soften the mind of her son and bring him his life partner
Tola and Lekan on the other while they were alone, alone in the room, really could not sleep but were starred blatantly on the moon peeping through the curtains, and then on each other before they were knocked out by heavy snores.
After three days in Owo, Tola began to surf the net for tourist sites in Ondo, after he had toured major landmarks in Owo and had written about them. He felt the hunch to visit Idanre hills since it is about an hour’s drive from Owo town. He told Lekan about his solo plans to Idanre as and he hoped to spend two days in Idanre. Lekan did not bother to dissuade his solo plan nor did he attempt to suggest being his travel buddy, as he was saddled with the responsibility of taking care of his mother whose nurse had an earlier morning and afternoon appointment, while he had promised to watch over her till the following week.
On Monday morning, he left Iyere Owo, in a red salon car sitting in the passenger’s seat, his favorite travel spot. The driver of this car had all the stories, but his eyes were fixed on the rubber semi-clad ecce homo that kept dangling its head all through the journey, and no sooner did they arrive at Akure, the Capital City of Ondo State.
Since it was the first time visiting the State, he did put several calls to Lekan who kept sending him intermittent texts and voice notes on where to take the next cab and finally told him jocularly to ask anybody since it was not Lagos where people hardly talk to strangers.
He soon found his way to Idanre Garage, and after waiting for about some minutes, the car was filled.
They got to Idanre town, and when they alighted he hailed a bike man who on the journey to the tourist site, told him he was initially from the Eastern Part of Nigeria but had since been living in the town after his NYSC because he never wanted to return home since nothing was waiting for him. Shortly after he dropped him at the foot of the hills’ rusty gate, they both exchanged contacts with the promise to call and saved his name as “John Idanre”, and waited to see him ride away.
The surroundings of the hill were quite a big one despite its signs of sheer abandonment. There was a mini-open bar built like a gazebo housing six plastic chairs that were placed disjointedly. Besides this bar, were two little boys wearing only briefs, picking up plastic covers and bottles underneath a tree. They moved up, and down, muttering some dialectal version of the Yoruba language. And when they raised their heads, like preys who felt the hunch of an approaching predator, Tola moved forward to calm the children’s nervousness or anxiety with a wave of hands, and they gladly returned a similar gesture with their bottle treasures clenched fists. And as he walked towards a circular shaped building in front of him, the littlest boy who had a rosary around his chubby neck and a wide grin on his cheeks, took small steps forwards, while scratching his groins with his clenched fist of plastic treasures, and continued to grin until it faded away.
As he made his way into the circular thatched-roof building, he cleared his throat that had become dried, calling out hello before a man rose from a camp bed, yawning, and asked him how he would love to be helped.
Good afternoon, Tola checked his wristwatch, paused, and resumed again the greetings. Good morning, he said again, raising his eyes and meeting this man with the rarest blue eye he had ever seen.
The man stretched his body again, placing an arm on the door frame, yawned now but with the covering of his back palm, and retorted morning.
Tola continued. I was wondering whom I can talk to. I would like to tour the hills, and… interrupted by the sleepy man who had now adjusted his shirts, and offered him a seat.
Sorry bros, you know that body no is firewood, hence why I dey sleep. He said.
“My name is Oba, he stretched forth his arm for a handshake. I will be the tour guide here and the bar manager. So, you said you wan tour the hill? Well, I am the person, you can talk to and the money varies depending on what exactly you wan do for this hill.” He said without a pause.
How much is to tour? Tola asked, flipping his pause open, and waiting on a reply before bringing whatever charges he might be billed.
Na shikini money, na 1k! Oba said laughing…
Oh, a thousand naira. Tola retorted like a reecho.
But I would like to spend some days in Idanre, at least to have a concrete write-up for my blog. By the way, I am Tola, a blogger. He said, standing up and stretching forth his hands in a phatic way to Oba who was smiling all through as he was speaking.
Nice meeting you, Mr. Tola. I guess you came from Lagos, and be rest assured that you would have a nice short stay in Idanre, but spending time on the hills would cost you more, and the chalets are not in good condition. Oba replied now, no longer speaking in Pidgin English.
Tola burst into a peal of rancorous laughter that made him look embarrassed afterward. He had to be stupefied by the standing figure who had suddenly switched from a usual street mannerism to some curtsies.
Pardon me. I should never have done that, he said standing up and wearing an apologetic face. I was just amazed that a while ago, you were speaking some pidgin, and never could have thought that you have some polish tongue for English. He said, waiting for a response.
Well, that’s just the error most western Nigerians make. Too many assumptions that everybody understands this English thing, so they blare it on anyone’s face, and that is common with those bank people.
Bank people? Did you know I used to work in a bank? Tola asked in a surprised tone.
Haha, I would have guessed right, your English will give you away, he said flirtatiously. Shall we proceed, we have got 682 steps to climb Mr. Tola.
Please drop the Mr. I am simple Tola.
Okay, simple Tola. He said jocularly, and Tola raised his eyebrow in a shy way, too dazed for a reply.
The two ended up choking on laughter as they proceeded to the end of a small rock, and began their journey to the ancient city climbing the hued stone steps.
At each resting point, Oba told him several stories about the hills, acted some one-man cast drama, and helped him to carry his waist back, so he could get some good shots of the hills, landscape, and some of the left buildings on the hills.
You know, I would have loved you to witness the Orosun festival coming up next week in Idanre, and fortunately, it is done on this hill. Oba said to break an awkward silence that seemed to be exceeding for too long.
Really? Tell me about the Orosun festival. Tola replied elatedly.
It is a traditional festival, a festival of requests like I like to call, where the goddess Orosun grants requests, and the testimonies prove that the goddess Orosun, answers heart cries. See, pointing to some small huts aloof. Those are the huts the chiefs camp in days before the festival. See, they have started clearing the thickets… He said.
They stopped inside the old palace, where unclad effigies stood. This is a palace courtyard. Oba said, sitting on a block, and motioned that he writes on the walls like many visitors on the hills.
Ummh, Oba, Tola asked after a short pause, could you take me to the Orosun shrine on this hill? I feel I will have a request to ask the goddess.
Unfortunately, Oba Replied, the Orosun does not have a shrine on top of the hill, except the Aworo’s hut, the Orosun’s priest’s hut, where he prays that the petitions of Osolos and any other worshipers are granted sits and performs the rituals.
I feel that is all I needed, the Aworo’s spot, and what else? Tola asked.
Some kola nuts, some gin, and a pure heart I supposed. Oba replied.
The Orosun is powerful but does not answer anyone with anger or filth. He added.
I have no resentment in my heart, well they have spurred me to where I am today, and for filth, what does Orosun see as filth? He asked slurring his questions like one struck with a revelation.
See bros, he switched to his jerking pidgin. I no be a worshipper. Paused and raised his head, eyes affixed at him. But I think if I were a childless goddess that now answers requests from the mundane whose taunts were what drove me away in anger? I will be biased to consider only the ingenuity of the requests coming from people whose internal lives have been a mess, and those who seek happiness because they may not find it.
“I will take you to the priest hut, you go make your requests.” He stood up, dusting his buttocks.
Where we can get those items? Tola asked as they moved away from the old palace sites.
You might just be lucky to see them there. Oba replied with a chuckle.
It was now mid-day when they returned to the huts belonging to the chiefs moving in quick short quick steps and stopped at the hut belonging to the Aworo, the priest of Orosun.
Well, we have got to your spot man, enter, and make your wish. Oba snickered.
You know I should charge you more for this, he said affectionately, resting an arm on his left shoulder.
There was a strange quiet between the two men, but Tola jerked his shoulder freeing himself from the man’s touch, and gently pushed the wooden door which squealed giving them a free entry.
Inside the hut was a small alter having a mirror directly facing the entry point. Besides the mirror were different effigies and a very unique one which was the biggest, having a shape of a woman with pointed breasts. At the foot of this altar was a tied cock with a collapsed comb. On the wall were stains of animal blood smeared the walls, aside from the empty bottles of gin, and a pack of gins bottles placed on a small pestle. Beside the pestle, was a basket full of kola nuts, covered by a folded cane mat.
Clears throat… Oba finally said, it seems you have got all your items here, say your prayers as I am running out of time to return to the bar. After this, the quietness in the room was restored but was disturbed by the mutterings of Tola, who had now stooped down, biting on a kola nut he had broken, and pouring some gin on the head of the biggest effigy with pointed breasts. As it pour the gin, the liquid trickled down till a portion of it touched the breasts and it looked like a lactation.
The scene befuddled Oba, as he knelt too, broke a kola, poured some more gin, prayed aloud, let my empty heart find love, and laughed.
The rumble of the thunder made them shudder and like the clouds angrily poured down rain like busted pipes.
Was this a sign of an answered prayer? Tola asked.
I don’t know, I am only a tour guide here and not the Aworo. He laughed.
The torrent of the wind, made the wooden small window flutter as if it would break. Tola stood up and pulled it closer to its hook. He picked up the mat, and laid it on the floor, while sprawling on it, and buried his head in his thighs.
The steps would be slippery now even if it stops ‘Oba interrupting the silence that now hovered in the air.
Sat close to him on the mat, shoulder to shoulder, and occasionally raps his shoulder with his, until the two gave each other a stealing glance.
“You said you used to be a banker, how long have you worked here” were questions from the duo like a knock wood. Then laughter, and silence, and an awkward silence. They looked at each other’s eyes, and like individuals who had been passionately burning and desirous, grasped each other’s heads, and began an in-depth consummation of their lips. The two fell supine on the mat and were completely overpowered by this deepest passion.
Ewo! Awon won leleyi (Abomination, who are these?) said a man standing at the entrance with hands filled with all types of leafy things?
Ha! Oba, you dey mad? You bring people to come here to defile this place? Oke Udane ma ri aba mo e, roared in a dialectal similar to what Tola heard from the children when he came in the morning.
Oba clambered from the mat and headed to the door for a chase, but the standing man floored him with a blow. The man called again, and two other men, who were approaching ran inside the building and got their ears filled with what they had seen.
Aworo, must hear this, one said.
Before nko. He needs to see what had become his hut, and what kind of sacrilege is committed.
Not even you, Oba. Aja! (Dog!)
Where is Aworo, he should have been here, the rain must have intercepted his movement.
Good, it is here we will wait for him.
Please, Tola finally mustered the strength to plea for their lives.
You silly dog wey man dey touch touch for hill.
It was evening, and the sun seemed to have cast its fullness on the hills, long after the rain had stopped, and much longer after the men were caught.
The men in some corners, taking turns to crack jokes, and a few times, taunt the caught men on who was playing the woman, and who was playing the man. At some points, the man that looked at the eldest, who had initially seen them, smack their heads and whip them with the leafy cut branch he carried. Then they heard a whistle, a familiar one, and as it drew nearer, they stood up from their makeshift seats, stooping to welcome the Aworo, who had come to supervise the men who were on the hills to prepare the huts and clear the vicinity with the for the forthcoming festival ritual.
Ba le o, greeting the aworo.
Enh, he jerked his head up motioning to why Oba , and the other man were sweaty and terrified on the floor.
E ba, .. na so we see am. Wetin we see, we no fit talk.
Na Oga Ajayi here catch them o. they were together, and about to, cupped his left-hand fingers and at interval thrust his right middle finger.
Oba, na true? Aworo queried?
Ha, bami… No, that was not what happened. We were… Oba interjected but was slapped with a backhand by the man who had seen them, Oga Ajayi.
Ajayi stopped, and the Aworo’s commanded halted further slap.
He looked at his men, and then cast a helpless look on both men who were already kneeling ramming their hands together, soaked with tears and expecting the inevitable disgrace, and most likely the beatings.
Well, he began, “Let’s not crucify these men or fight for the goddess whose presence this all happened. Besides, it is getting late, and you too need rest after the long work. And in as much as this is a sacrilege, let’s be careful to decide for the goddess what he must see as an aberration. So, this is what we will do. We will keep them here, in the presence of the goddess they have defiled, and see what becomes of their flesh while we return tomorrow, that’s Tuesday.
And I am sure, by the time we return tomorrow, Orosun would have killed them or have struck them with leprosy.” He said.
Ha, Tuesday! Tola protested, struggling to stand up, but received persistent kicks from the men before the next command of the Aworo could stop them.
Okay, that’s right. Baba has spoken well. Oga Ajayi said, and the other men took turns leaving the hut, and after they had hammered the windows with nails from the back, they bolted its door with an iron rod picked from the floor.
Tomorrow is here already, Oga Ajayi said to the other two men.
Yes, Tuesday, Aworo replied.
From the writer
:: Account ::
The idea for this story came after a visit to Idanre hill, a tourist site in Ondo State, Nigeria. The hill aside from being an ancient town, and having some myths around it, became a perfect setting for my story because of the annual celebration of the goddess-Orosun, which is the goddess of fertility. As a childless woman while she was alive according to the tradition of the Idanre people, and was told about her empathy for people, irrespective of whom they are. With this, I begin to wonder about the goddess perception of the LGBTQ+ community. And for the character who lost his job and seemingly found love at first sight on the hills, I leave my readers to wonder if the goddess will strike the lovers caught on the hills making out dead.
Oluseye Fakinlede is a Nigerian writer and freelance journalist. He is a graduate of English and Literature. ‘Seye is interested in African literature with subjects around mental health, migration, culture, religion, sexuality, and Afrofuturism. He has also been published on Afro Rep, Scrawl Place, New Note Poetry, Art Lounge Journal, Brittle Paper, Afrocritik, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @ohxeye.