He woke up to these unfolding realities staring at him; he was old, yet to find the reason for his existence and worst of all, he had been in that dark space alone for long. Though alone but in the presence of time, though stationery but in the moving van of time, with each passing of time, he’d feel the adjustment of the fragments of his bones and the shifting sound of his skin, a compression that produced an audible sound only he could hear, so loud that it muffled every other sound around him. The strength of his imagination waned.
“A prison called earth, a hell of a world…, be nice, the world hates you, be devilish, the world applauds you. You see them driving in the big cars, big ‘agbada’ big houses…big everything, all of them. Why don’t you go back to the village, the foolish woman asked me, which village? You arrive home; no one looks at you because you arrived on a motorcycle. The children all look away, pretending not to notice your arrival…in my day’s age was it all, a second gab difference worth more than a goldmine.” Oko soliloquized, flogging it out of himself on everything that had happened to him as he held a half filled syringe in his right hand, tapping himself at the same time in search of a vein line. He crunched his incisor against a rope which was tied round his arms muscle. Around him were an uncountable numbers of empty packs of cigarette and alcoholic bottles, dirty vicinity all together. He had no friends except a little boy who comes to keep him company from time to time. Parents cautioned their children to keep far away from him.
He emptied the content of the syringe into his system, and almost immediately held up high is breath as though something soothing and chilly was poured on him, his eyes firmly closed; he exhaled, pushing everything around hysterically, finding a spot to place his head.
“Don’t blame anyone, the world tells you, an excuse to perpetrate evil, the pushed you to the wall and ask you not to move a step. All I asked him was some cash to live a life; fix a stream of income, get a wife and have a kid…a kid not children and the next morning I was in jail…”
Oko had served Mr. Uche for years, he had been faithful in his act of servitude; He needed to start living rather than existing; he had served people and was time to start serving himself, so he approached his boss. The next morning a body of a dead woman was found lying in his bathroom. He was sentence to life imprisonment. He was later release at age 60 by a president who decided that all prisoners who had served more than 30 years should be set free. For Oko, it was a sentence from the field of freedom into an appellation called free. Seeing that he spent the better days of his life in jail, he resolved that there was nothing more worth living for; he concluded that life is a punishment. That the idea of freedom was nothing but a scam, he believed that man committed a crime in heaven and was sent into a prison called earth.
The little boy showed up “early man” he called, Oko struggled up “what are you doing out there boy?”
“I have come to see you” the boy replied
“I’ve told you to stay away” said Oko who was still lying facing up.
“My mother is away…she has gone to the market” the boy persists as he tried to convince Oko to stay
“Why have you come?” Oko asked
“To ask you a question” My father told me your story… he told me what Mr Uche did to you
This stroke a cord, oko quickly sit up places his back against the wall in shock, “go away this minute and don’t ever bring that name here again!”
“Mr. Uche is dead…why allowing the dead direct your life?” the young lad persists.
“There’s no place for an old man, boy. I’ve lived my life serving men and doing good and the most of my life is gone” Oko, sputtered in tears.
“Mother said what you do at the last hour of your life with your life is what counts” the kid continued.
“Get out!” early man yelled.
The little boy who ran off left a mark in the old man’s life. Oko could not rest as the words from the young boy kept eating his nerves, after a long cry and hitting of his head against the wall, he got up, dusted himself, looked around the room then exit the room, leaving one word behind;
Years faded into time, oko returned to the once upon a time darkroom, the entire building was furbished, looking new and occupied. Oko who stood aloof, elegantly dressed, tilted over a walking stick with a pipe hanging on his lips, stared at the building for long. “So you made it? I made it to. Goodbye darkroom” he sputtered as he walked away.