CHIMA’S MEDICINE III

What the police and hotel security saw when they entered the hotel room was a naked girl covered in cuts and bruises and blood.
“He raped me, he raped me! Please tell him to leave me alone”. Vivian kept mumbling.
Chima was arrested and detained at Area F Police Command Ikeja, Vivian was taken to Duro Soleye Hospital for treatment. It was not how Chima planned to spend the weekend and public holidays, becoming a captive of the public was not in his itinerary. When the cell bars shut behind him and he breathed in his first lungful of urine scented air, his beards grew rapidly as if it had just received a fresh boost of fertilizer.

The 6 weeks Chima spent as a detainee at Area F Police Command were the most telling. He was often stripped and ‘interrogated’, with batons and boots, curses and starvation. He had nothing to confess, nevertheless the police went about extracting it religiously. By the time he released from detention, Chima knew he would always perceive the yellow-green smell of Area F forever. The pungency of it had clung to the ceiling of his nostrils like cobwebs in an abandoned building. Taken straight to the Magistrate Court, he was charged with assault and rape. Bail was set at a 100,000 Naira and he was transferred to KiriKiri Prisons. The journey to KiriKiri Prisons Apapa was in a rusty old truck, seatbelts were an abomination. Safety was completely ignored like the dental care of a Fulani cattle herdsman.

He was hobbled into KiriKiri, 20kg lighter than when he made love to Vivian. The scars he now bore both physically and mentally did not make him immune to the hazing that ‘Alejos’ or newcomers received when they arrived KiriKiri. Alejos ranged between the ages of 17 to 50, all at the mercy of the ‘Orientation Officers’, inmates who had arrived before them. FEAR THE RICH MAN AND THE POLICE was the most poignant inscription inside the prison cell.

Compared to his Area F incarceration, KiriKiri represented peace after the first night, a peace of the graveyard. It was an Eden of sorts, the prison grounds were full of ‘wildlife’ and fresh air. Lush vegetation combined with regular farming activities and serpents (in uniform and without) made for a more benign passage of time. And time stretched out like the limitless ocean in that inhabited but lifeless world. The inhabitants were like effigies, zombies with seemingly no purpose but hopelessness and a resignation to fate. The emptiness was infinite, the nothingness was unfathomable like the universe before the creation of light. So Chima was now a mere number, he felt like an astronaut of an undisclosed mission trapped in space. Gradually he was running out of oxygen.

The 2 weeks he spent at KiriKiri felt like a decade and he had aged accordingly albeit psychologically. Like a sailor who had survived a shipwreck, he was now fortunate to have been washed ashore. But his Island of refuge was populated with savages. Chima had a hard time re-integrating with the ‘outside’ world. Victor had disappeared initially but made his presence felt through surrogates. He hired a lawyer for Chima and contacted his neighbours, one of them was Humphrey who volunteered to help secure Chima’s freedom. Humphrey who was built like a basketball player but believed it was his duty to save everyone. The bail conditions were somehow ‘perfected’ and Chima was ‘free’ again. His trial continued like frequent asthma attacks, he had no idea if he would survive the continuous onslaught. Physical contact with Victor was impossible. He had skated back to the United States. Phone contact with Victor after KiriKiri eventually tapered from infrequent to non-existent.

The court case lasted for about 13 months. 13 months of jargon, procedure, adjournments and magistrate vacations. Finally, “Commissioner of Police vs Chima Okafor” was dismissed “as the court pleases”. However, the real circumstances that necessitated the termination of the case remained a mystery to Chima.

“Would you like something to eat?” Vivian asked after returning from the ladies room.
“Sure” Humphrey answered
“Who will foot the bill?” Chima asked suspiciously
“I will” Vivian said.
Vivian fawned over them like a mother hen and made sure their gastronomic needs were catered to that afternoon. Later she would joke about Chima’s fine cheekbones. Humphrey would laugh heartily at the joke, Chima would grit his teeth and keep his composure. She would mention that she regretted everything that happened, she will say it was due to an unforeseen attack of delirius tremens.
“That’s what the doctor said it was. He said it was possible through alcohol abuse.
“I haven’t swallowed a drop of alcohol since then, but I think that it is due to something else entirely.
“Do you remember this?”
She waved something in front of them. Humphrey was fascinated, Chima was stunned, for between her manicured fingernails were the remnants of the LSD strip she was holding the morning he was arrested.

“It looks harmless” Humphrey said
“It is harmless, at least to some extent” Vivian responded.
Chima who had lost his voice just stared as she went into a long narrative.
“I found it in my handbag after I was discharged from the hospital”.
She told them how she was upset and ashamed at what had taken place, but that one day while doing some research for her final year project, she had stumbled across an article on LSD. “I realised that I had blamed you wrongly for having it, but for what it’s worth, it may have cured my alcohol addiction”.
Chima and Humphrey who really had no idea what she was talking about just nodded and she continued.
“My parents had forgiven my reckless behaviour but my conscience was killing me. I had to do something”
She told them how she had confessed everything (except the LSD) to her father’s Personal Assistant, and how together they were able to convince her father to drop the charges.

“I’ve had your number since that night but I’ve been afraid to call.
“Please don’t hate me” she implored with tears in her eyes.
After a moment’s hesitation and an awkward moment of silence, Chima decided to unburden his mind. He quickly related the events of that fateful night and his struggle since then.

“It’s good to see you again” she said when he had finished his story. She marvelled at his resilience not knowing he had contemplated suicide several times without the will to carry it out.
“I am really sorry for all the pain I have caused you and hope you forgive me” she added.

Chima knew the pains of the past will never be undone, he also knew he had to allow himself a chance to heal. He tried to ignore the rise of her breast, her female scent and the seductive sound of her voice. Instead he chose to ignore the alarm bells ringing crazily in his skull. The desire that was growing inside him every time she spoke, everytime he caught a whiff of her perfume was driving him insane. A complete recovery from his affliction was only possible if he took the medicine that was before him.

His voice was hoarse when he asked “Are you saying that you still have feelings for me like you did then?” She shook her head.
“I had no feelings for you then, we had just met and it was purely sexual”.
Chima sighed in disappointment. The boner he had been carrying since Vivian returned from the ladies room was suddenly very painful.
“But I have never stopped thinking about… what might have been…”. She let her voice trail off.
“Me too” Chima said a bit too quickly, making both Vivian and Humphrey to stare at him sharply.

She produced a piece of paper with a phone number written on it.
“That’s my fathers Personal Assistant, he will help you to recover some of the things you have lost, it’s the least I can do.
“I have to go now, it was nice seeing you again”.

Suddenly it became clear to him why he’d not been able to move on. Why he had not been able to maintain any relationship since his ordeal begun. His illness had been cardiac all along and Vivian was the remedy. But Chima just sat there as she stood up and walked out of Mama Cass.

His arousal eased finally and after a speechless glance at Humphrey, he ran outside after her.
He approached her tentatively. “Vivian wait!” He said
“I no longer blame you for what happened.
“I’ve always thought about you and also what might have been if you hadn’t gone crazy that night”.
“Thank you” she said without even looking at him.
“Don’t you want to know where I live?” Chima asked carefully sensing an opportunity for complete freedom.
She looked him straight in the eyes and said matter of factly.
“I thought you’d never ask”

THE END

CHIMA’S MEDICINE II

The night of the toad turned out to be a night of sweet dreams. In the dream, Chima Okafor was the owner of a conglomerate with various interests, in short he was very rich. If he had known what was in store for him the next day, he probably would have kept vigil and prayed like a mantis. However he slept, and massive thunderstorms and lightning, soaked in heavy rainfall intensified his unconsciousness. When he woke up the next day, he was suitably vivified for the monotony of his uneventful life.

Work that day was like any other work day. However, the fried potatoes he usually shared at close of work with Angela his colleague, tasted especially delicious. Perhaps it was due to his anticipation of a night out with Victor, an old friend from his UNN days. Perhaps it was the fact that he knew Angela had a crush on him. Maybe it was because it was a Friday that preceded a Monday and Tuesday public holiday, the promise of a long and blissful weekend. He was thus ready to spread his wings, not knowing that the breeze that was blowing that day was the type that plucked feathers.

Chima took an Okada ride from Adeniyi Jones Avenue to Pekas opposite Opebi Sweet Sensation. Victor looked suitably rotund, like someone who had accepted everything life in the United States presented, especially if they were edible. Victor has been a resident in God’s own country for over 6 years and looked like a perfect stereotype in 3 quarter shorts and an Ecko t-shirt. How time had flown, how thick Victor had grown, Chima thought. After the ‘long time no sees’ and ‘look at yous’, Victor introduced him to his friends, Stevo, Femi, Funke, Ugochi and Vivian.

Hennessy, Heineken, Smirnoff Ice and Redbull surrounded a large pile of suya on the table. By the time the fish arrived, they were all inebriated. Victor was fixated with Funke’s ample bossom, Stevo and Ugochi were acting like lovebirds feeding each other, sharing drinks and rubbing shoulders like it was itching them. Femi on the other hand was trying unsuccessfully to maintain a conversation with Vivian who’s head was buried in her blackberry.
“You must find your virtual friends more fascinating than your physical ones abi?” Chima tried to intervene with a mischievious grin on his face.
“No oh!” she responded with a laugh before taking a sip from her glass. She ditched the phone but kept smiling at him whenever their eyes met. Vivian had the right curves and her eyes were gleaming with intelligence and sexiness. Chima sat up more straight in his seat.

The conversation was dominated by football and bad roads. Chima found out that Vivian preferred that to a private chat with Femi. Her knowledge of football and politics both surprised and thrilled him. He had intended to have a few drinks with them before going home but Vivian’s vivacity made him change his mind.

Later that night, the party of seven changed location. The lovebirds ferried Chima in the backseat of a C-Class Mercedes while Femi drove Vivian, Victor and Funke in his Honda Accord. They soon arrived at Q-Club, a Nite Club partially obscured by the shadow of the lumbering Oshoppey Plaza on Allen Avenue. Merriment had kicked into a higher gear with more drinks, cigarettes and dancing. The club was packed, the music was loud and the smoke haze was thick. Everyone looked great under the kaleidoscope of colours and alcohol influenced judgement.

In the Men’s Room:
“Chimex, I want to show you something”
At first Chima assumed it was a bookmark, but when Chima took a closer look he saw that the colorful strip of paper not only resembled but also had the feel of a litmus paper.
“what is it?”
“acid” Victor said.

Chima was even more confused when Victor explained that it was a drug called lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD for short. A drug that induced an incredible high once a piece of it is chewed. A trip of ‘acid’ Victor promised, had no notable negative side effects. Infact it was an amazing psychedelic. Steve Jobs is alleged to have enthused greatly about the wonderful feeling it engineers. He further said that Chima could make a whole lot of dough if he would agree to sell it ‘codedly’ in Lagos to affluent customers. That Chima was interested was an understatement especially after Victor told him he had booked a room for him at the Blue Ribbon Hotel. He swiftly pocketed the sample and they rejoined the party.

By the time they left Q-Club, Chima had devised several merchandising plans for this ‘psychedelic’. Femi had decided to leave after Vivian had repeatedly rebuffed his amorous gestures. That was what broke up the party of seven for the night. Victor, Funke, Vivian and Chima all crowded into the backseat of Stevo’s Mercedes. Vivian was practically sitting on Chima”s lap, he didn’t mind at all but assumed it was the alcohol. She leaned into him, asked for and got his phone which she fingered all the way to the Blue Ribbon. Meanwhile he was trying unsuccessfully to conceal the pressure in his jeans. The pressure was both from his aroused member and the strip of paper that was burning a hole in his pocket. Later he will tell Vivian “I don’t want to pressure you” but his expression will betray his desire and he will be consumed by the fire they had both kindled.

At the Blue Ribbon, Chima suggested that Vivian join him at the bar. He said this not only to provide a moment of privacy for his benefactor, but also to find out if Vivian would spend the night with him. She declined his offer. To cover up his embarassment he said,
“Let’s have a drink in my room then”.
Her acceptance surprised him for he had never slept with a girl on the first date before. He had initially thought she was using him to throw off Femi’s advances, but during the ride to the hotel he felt he could score. And now her hands were on his waist as he opened the door to his hotel room.

He made love to her like he had a point to prove, she responded in kind. Her beauty made his heart quiver like leaves in the harmattan breeze. The room was cold from the air conditioner, his throat was dry. His lips were parched from kissing Vivian’s tits, lips, hips and clitoris. Chima was primed to welcome this type of harmattan season again and again. Later Vivian kissed him on the chest before reaching for her handbag, then she padded naked into the bathroom. She urinated quite noisily, he sighed and reached for a cigarette.

She came out dangling something between her fingers. “What is that?” He laughed.
“Hindu Kush”
“Hindu what? You are not serious! Better hide it ’cause the drinks I ordered for will soon be here”.
“Yes Sir” She mocked, but obeyed and got under the duvet as “Room service!” Sounded from the door.

Chima thought about telling Vivian about the LSD but decided against it, the Heineken they were sipping seemed to be hitting her really hard. Nevertheless they smoked the herb and swallowed the draft. He was caressing her when she reached for a cigarette, she took several drags and jumped off the bed.
“What’s wrong?” He asked with his hand on her shoulder.
“You bastard!” she screamed pushing him violently aside. She seemed to be grabbing at everything trying to steady herself, all the while screaming unintelligible invectives in any direction. In her delirium, she seemed to have become unusually strong and aggressive. Heineken bottles became broken Heineken bottles as she knocked down every manner of furniture in the room, her imaginary foes. He received a cut on his left arm while trying to restrain her. Chima Okafor was suddenly scared as he realised too late that Vivian had the LSD strip in her hand.

(To be continued)

CHIMA’S MEDICINE

As if the hug was not unexpected enough, it was the fierceness of it that threw him off balance. He was rocked to his heels as she crushed him in a tight embrace. The right hand he had thrust forth for a quick handshake was totally ignored, he had to step his left foot backward to maintain an upright position. She grabbed hold of his neck and clung to him like the swaddling clothes they used to wrap baby Jesus before he was deposited in the manger. Her body shook in nerve-wracking sobs as she cried with her face buried on his shoulder. It was his most intimate encounter with brazillian hair and it was all over his face.

It was nerve-wracking for him too as he stood there, like a pillar of salt, incapable of regretting why he had looked back. His arms were still out-stretched like a catholic priest at benediction, like he expected a third party in the embrace or like Jesus trying to convince Thomas of his resurrection by showing him the holes in his palms. Gradually the granite that was his face softened and he begged a look in Humphrey’s direction. Humphrey shrugged and looked away, so he allowed gravity to pull down his hands. Across her back he rested his palms, one on a shoulder blade, the other on a butt cheek.

Chima Okafor felt the warmth and fragility of her body, her scent permeated every pore in his body. She does things to him, she had done something to him, what is she going to do for him. She made him strong and weak at the same time, it was no different from how he felt the first time he met her over a year ago. He had forgotten how alluring she was, and now he was in trouble again. He has to get away from this woman, he had to console that woman.

“Am sorry” she whispered beneath the hair.
“It’s OK, it’s OK”
Chima could not recognise his voice. Humphrey looked away in embarassment or may be distaste or both. He coughed and Vivian Sylvester raised up her face and regarded Chima.
“Excuse me”
She said as she disengaged and headed for the ladies room, leaving Chima and Humphrey puzzled as they sat down near a window at Mama Cass.

Like someone choking on a crayfish bone, knowing full well that crayfish had no bones, Chima Okafor could not re-program his brains to free himself from the past. Coughing and sputtering through the present, his malady defied all the remedies he could personally offer himself. All his efforts which were akin to swallowing the whole cross river (the water body not the state) did not help him dislodge that crustacean exoskeleton that had taken up permanent residence in his oesaphagus.

He was fed up with being a passenger on this helium-filled dirigible orbiting the earth. He was ready to jump off and re-unite with humanity. It did not matter if he crashed on landing. It did not matter what part of the globe he landed. He was just tired of that mental incarceration that had him trapped. Unfortunately he had no parachute, he would have to stay put and ride it to the end, even if it was heading straight to hell.

He had often stared at a Tuesday Guardian newspaper with disgust as he appraised the numerous job openings. They often had one thing in common, they needed more than 3 years work experience which he did not have. The ones that did not require such lofty qualifications were either behind his age-bracket or full of crap. His irritation increased whenever he considered that most of the companies were similar to his previous employers. Probably well established but also probably having ill defined organizational structures. A heirarchy that permitted only one authoritative leadership. The rest of the workforce would be engaged in ‘eye-service’ and an eternal struggle to be the ‘favored’ as they tore each other apart. With accusations and some times unfounded rumours.

Chima Okafor had only worked for less than 2 years at Oceanic Ventures an advertising agency located at Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja Lagos. He was sacked for being absent from duty for over 4 months (a good enough reason), but he suspected that it had more to do with the dark cloud of the rape allegations that surrounded him.

It wasn’t like he could no longer use corel draw or photoshop, but employers seemed to avoid him like he was suffering from leprosy. Perhaps they just could not afford to pay him what he deserved. A skilled graphic artist, he still believed in himself. Nevertheless, that self-belief was hanging by a single thread these days. A year and 6 weeks had passed since he was accused of raping the daughter of the minister of state for environment. A year of heartbreak and shame he did not even feel. A year and 6 weeks of anger, hunger and unemployment. The kindness of friends and family and the occasional odd job were what kept him alive but the suicidal thoughts were never far away.

That was the mood prevalent in Chima Okafor’s life when he was invited for a lunch time meeting with Vivian Sylvester at Mama Cass. He was not looking forward to it, the food at best was immemorable. Also he shuddered involuntarily as he took his mind back to that merry evening more than a year ago at Pekas (a stone throw from Mama Cass). A night when a happy situation had gone completely awry and subsequently changed his life forever.

He had not known whether to honor the invitation or not. He had received a call the previous day, a female voice who said her name was Vivian had asked him to meet her there at noon the next day. It was the same Vivian Sylvester who had contributed greatly to his present predicament. Not the intense desire he felt on meeting her again, but the ordeal that led to his joblessness and hopelessness.

It wasn’t like he had anything to fear or that he still haboured any grudges. It’s just that he had moved on, and now this meeting had ignited emotions and a passion he thought he no longer possessed. Vivian was a stranger the day they had met and despite a very brief period of intimacy, she was a stranger still.

What Chima remembered most about the day he met Vivian was actually the toad that had hopped into his apartment. It had been a hot day and there was power outage as usual. He was too tired when he returned from work to go out and buy fuel for his ‘tiger’ generator. So he had left the door to his one bedroom apartment open. Night had fallen and the cold breeze of imminent rain made him realise he had dozed off. He got up from the sofa and made to shut the door. Out of the corner of his eyes he detected some movement. He had turned around thinking it was a rat or worse a skunk, it was neither. A medium sized toad that tried to conceal itself behind the sofa he had been sleeping on moments before. He walked casually to the bathroom, grabbed the mop and switched on the video light on his smartphone.

It took him over 30 minutes and a dead battery before he was able to cajole that toad out of his home. His apartment was also in shambles by the time the toad had left. On returning with a mop from the bathroom, the amphibian was no longer behind the sofa, it was not behind the TV set and DVD player, it was not behind the refrigerator, it was not behind the gas cooker, it was not behind the plastic drum, it was not in the bathroom. In the bedroom it was. Not under the bed, not in the wardrobe, but squeezed between the pile of magazines on the bedroom floor.

The amphibian did not possess the massive hop of its frog cousins or those Triple Jumpers at the Olympics, but it was a master of disguise and stealth. It used its camouflage dressing and the inadequate presence of light efficiently. One minute blending with the floor length curtains, the next minute it was hiding behind travel bags. Moving constantly and seemingly without haste, it melted into the shadows with amazing fluidity. It frustrated Chima from one household item to the other, feinting left and going right like a skilled boxer. It seemed to have the ability to read Chima’s mind. It guessed quite rightly that he was not about to squash it and smear his apartment with cold blood and gore. So it danced around the apartment and confounded the exasperated tenant.

Just when Chima had decided he was going to kill the intruder, the toad hustled quickly towards the doorway and hopped outside. Chima shut his door and collapsed on the rug in exhaustion, he had no idea whether to laugh or cry. He was still lying on the rug when PHCN restored electricity supply. Kids in the neighbourhood screamed “NEPAAAAAAA!” and he got up smiling with new found respect for toads. He had previously considered them to be ugly and sluggish creatures, but as he re-arranged his apartment, he realized they were actually quite smart although still repugnantly ugly. That happened the day before he met Vivian. He had since regarded the toad’s visit as a premonition he had ignored to his detriment.

“Chima you dey house”
his friend Humphrey had called from outside, the morning before they went to Allen Avenue.
“I dey oh” Chima had responded as he welcomed his friend into his apartment.

Humphrey lived on the same street with Chima, they had become companions ever since Chima lost his job. Humphrey has been unemployed since he finished ‘Youth Service’, so their friendship was not awkward. The situation with Vivian made him uncomfortable, Chima had told his friend. He was wondering if spending some his scarce resources to go to Allen Avenue for a midday rendezvous with an enemy was going to be worth his while. Aside from the fact that he was trying to put that whole other episode behind him, he was wary of female company, but she had sounded so sincere on the phone.

Humphrey had laughed and said. “Dude, she can’t do you a damn thing, the case has been closed since last year. Who knows, she may be looking for an opportunity to apologise and this may just be your chance to get some closure, or at least figure out what the whole thing was really about”.

Humphrey had never met Vivian but he knew about the fall-out from Chima’s previous encounter with her. He felt the radioactivity whenever he was in contact with Chima Okafor who had more mood swings than a pregnant mid-wife. Chima who was weirder than a clean-shave on a street lunatic. It was after they had carefully (Humphrey was more careful) considered the pros and cons that Chima had decided that closure may just be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Although he was still somehow affected by his experience with Vivian Sylvester, the sting of the trauma had waned over the passage of time. The trip from Egbeda to Ikeja will be embarked on with Humphrey as company. Together they will wrap their heads around whatever Vivian had to say. “Two heads are better than one” was quite a popular saying after all.

(to be continued)