TILL THE END
The scorching sun spilled through the window of the car and was gradually warming up the car. The car made a last climb unto the bridge, racing with other cars in a bid to beat Lagos’ excruciating traffic. While Tokunbo was having a casual day as a cab driver, Adakin was in another universe at the backseat. His eyes stared out the window into the unrelenting heat waves of the sun and Tokunbo stole some cursory glances at the man through the rearview mirror of the car. His face was half-covered with a nose mask and although he could only see the eyes, they were enough to give him a hint. Another bad day in Lagos, he thought. Then he had another reason to thank God for blessings, especially during this pandemic.
Adakin clung to his suitcase like it held answers to all of the world’s problems. The heat was sipping through the car, altering his thought waves. He stared through the vast river underneath the bridge and watched with keen interest the rafters that floated above it. His mind wandered off and for another moment, he forgot where he was and maybe who he was.
The scene still played before him like a looped recording. The Director, no…Daregbe had asked him to leave. Just like that. Fifteen years, he had dedicated his life and soul to the company and that had ended with a simple you are fired. Adakin wasn’t sure what hurt more; the company letting him off easily or his friend making it official. And although the events of the past one hour still plagued his mind, the future threatened him more.
The car came to a stop, packed between numerous cars on the third mainland bridge. Adakin barely took notice and for a moment, he knew he stared at something but it seemed faraway like the dimming of light in the dark. Then his fears caught up with him and he even felt guilty for boarding an uber back home. What was I thinking? he thought, I just lost my job and I am taking an uber home. He cackled lightly as the thought occurred to him.
He suddenly wished a call would come in from Daregbe to tell him he just played an expensive joke. That it was just a joke and nothing more. But somewhere within him, he knew it was never going to come and his thought swayed back to his current plight. His wife had been laid off last week after the school administrators said they couldn’t pay again; We can’t afford to have so many staff, the school’s proprietress had said, in this shape, the school wouldn’t survive another month and as though that wasn’t bad enough, he got an eviction notice from the landlord. He suddenly felt hot again and he cackled out loud. So loud Tokunbo jumped in his seat, scared out of his wits.
Adakin looked at the gentle waves of the lagoon and how the sun’s ray glistened off them. It looked so distant yet felt so close. Gently, his eyes watered and he wished 2020 never happened. The car zoomed out of the traffic and thirty minutes later, it came to a halt in front of his apartment. He looked at the house and pondered on whether it would be logical to get down from the car, walk into his home and tell his wife, softly, Darling, I just lost my job. I think we are screwed. Or taking a ride to a place where he could immerse himself in the darkness and never be able to wake up to this reality again. His heart weighed the options heavily and after some seconds, he alighted from the car, choosing to go with the first option.
His son was the first to announce his arrival. Dadtie is backkk! Little Yemi screamed, cuddling his father. Tokunbo bent low and gave his son the tightest hug. Tears threatened to come forth but he kept them at bay. His son’s happiness was enough to keep them away, at least for another hour. His wife emerged from the door that leads to the rooms and immediately she saw him, her demeanor changed. Even though Tokunbo struggled to keep a smile on his face, she still knew something was wrong.
“Yemi, go and finish your home work.”
Young Yemi, a bit sad, walked away sluggishly, muttering nuances only small children understood. Tokunbo crashed into one of the chairs and heaved a heavy sigh.
“I lost my job,” he said, without looking at his wife. Perhaps to avoid her gaze or to shield away the fact that he started crying immediately he said that. “Daregbe said the company was…restruc-turing and they were willing to let some staff go.”
She sat on one of the aged chairs in the cubicle that served them as a sitting room and stared at her husband, wearily and almost in disbelieve. She broke into tears but unlike him, she made it apparent. Tokunbo merely stared at the ground, is heavy suit still bulged over his body.
“Why? But they can’t sack you Tokunbo. You have been with them since.”
“Well they did and there was little I could do about it.”
“What are we going to do Tokunbo?” she asked, heavy with tears “There is nothing left.”
“That is what I have been thinking too. For a while, I considered jumping into the lagoon, hoping to end my life once and for all but I thought that might be unfair to you my wife and my child. I made a promise to you before we got married that never for once in your life will you have a reason to regret marrying him. I am still keen on that promise and even though things might be the worst, I promise you not a day would go by without you having something to eat nor will a night come where you will have no roof over your head.”
As the words came out of his mouth, Tokunbo wondered where the courage had come from. The zeal not to just give up at the sight of a challenge. He had always been a fighter, a feat that earned the moniker Die-Hard and he was truly ready to die hard. His wife stared at him, her tears had ceased and her face was contorted in a mix emotion between surprise and a straight face.
“I believe in you Tokunbo,” she said gently. “I trust you and I have never regretted marrying and nor will I. I believe this phase shall pass too. As long as you believe, I will believe too.”
Even though the future seemed uncertain and the next meal doesn’t seem guaranteed and the promises Tokunbo just made a bit over the edge, she found a reason to smile even though ahead, it looked all dark and bleak. She believed nonetheless and as he drew her into a tight hug, she smiled for the first time that month. She found a reason to.
Abdulrasaq Ariwoola is currently a 400 level law student at the University of Lagos. He has interests in creative writing and has published on The Kalahari Review. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org