8 Weeks

It’s been 8 weeks. In those crazy movies where the character is made out to be a really deep guy, he would probably know the time down to the hours, minutes and seconds. No such for me, I’ve never been that kind of guy.

I roll out of my bed- this for me, is the worst part of each day. All this time spent on a useless piece of furniture. My bed has become an expensive but useless decoration! Yet, I still find it difficult to get out of it. I might as well have spent the night, all these nights, on a hat stand! So why do I still lie in it? I guess what keeps me going is hope. A vague, faint ember that a miracle will happen; that my eyes, now bloodshot, will stay closed for longer than a blink. Maybe I am just being foolish, idealistic, but do I go on believing that my situation will never change?

I walk over to the next room, Ade is sound asleep. Lucky devil! Why not him? Why me? Questions my pastor tells me I have no business asking. I see Ade’s sprawled form, diagonal on the 6*4 bed that is clearly too small for his 6ft5in frame and considerable bulk. He is blissfully asleep. As he should be, considering that it is 3:15 a.m. He will be asleep for another 2 hours after which he will burst into the day with frenetic pace and energy. Standard requirement if you have to endure a 4-hour commute to and from work daily. Time was, when I felt pity for him. I bragged incessantly about how I could stroll to my office and not break a sweat. Work for me is just two streets away and unlike most companies in these parts, 9–5 is not just a cliché.

What to do, what to do…my thoughts as I lumber to the kitchen. I tug at the door of the refrigerator and scan; it is that time of the month when boys are broke and barely have enough to get by till payday. Living from paycheck to paycheck, the financial experts say this shouldn’t be. The problem is that reality just doesn’t often agree! My next stop is the cabinet. Two huge tins of Milo and several bottles of Horlicks — most of them empty; two out of the many remedies that have been prescribed by the many self-acclaimed experts trying to cure me of my ‘condition’. At least beverages go down easily compared to some of the less palatable alternatives I care little for. I have since stopped all those ‘herbal’ remedies. None of them work. Night after night, I have stared at the ceiling boards in my room till the first hint of dawn, when the need to survive temporarily trumps my need to sleep. I still drink the beverages though, for no other reason than the fact that it has become part of my routine. You need something to do, when you are up all night, every night.

The one remedy still on the menu is prayer. Pardon me, I certainly consider myself a Christian. I am a believer in the process that connects a man to his Maker, not the commercialized version where a man of like passions and flaws as you claims that he alone has the ears of the Unseen Hand. Hence, all petitions must either originate or be routed through him if the Finger of Providence must be swayed…all of this in exchange for money of course! This irks me to my core, not because I have a problem parting with a few bucks to entreat the favour of the gods but because prayer, I think, is deeply personal. It grates on my nerves that anyone would intrude on spaces so sacred, more so a common charlatan in pursuit of filthy lucre.

Thinking about it, I have endured all of these prayer sessions just because of Mama. A deeply pious woman in her own right, she has allowed these criminals to hoodwink her out of her meager earnings; all this despite the grave protests from her children. Many of our arguments were met with the simple response “You’ll understand, in time”. I allow the madness because I know it will give her some peace. Peace that comes from knowing that she somehow has a measure of input in the deliverance of my soul. Mama knows I don’t believe in the process (in fact, I think she suspects that I have wondered from the faith altogether!), she knows I am basically being polite.

Ade’s movement in the bathroom breaks me out of my reverie. Gosh! It is 5 o’clock already. Today is another work day and sometime later, I have to see Minister Samuel, as he is called, for another session. I am not quite sure which I dread more, the 4-hour gap between now and when I have to be at work or the two-hour session with the ‘holy prophet’, who will once more attempt to drown me (or the spirit of sleeplessness) in his spit. The slight shudder running down my spine tells me that the second scenario seems to be edging it just a bit. Maybe it’s because the anointed drivel spewed by the man of the cloth has yet to manifest its soporific powers…perhaps, today will be the day.

It is 5:15 p.m. Work was the same as any other day: pleasantries, meetings, lunch, more meetings, and very little work done. Amidst all this, the usual banter and gossip that oils the mechanism of every organization went on behind the scenes. I got quite a lot of hugs and handshakes. In the eyes of the people, I could detect all sorts — pity, concern, masked apathy, formality, hatred, and even mockery. When your eyes are deprived of rest for a long time, they tend to see things, real and imagined! I cannot really decide which is which right now because of the migraine holding a punk rock concert inside my cranium. Unlike my ‘condition’, the headaches didn’t start suddenly. They arose only as a consequence and have grown in intensity since.

The one good side to all this is that my boss is impressed with my work for once! In the three years I have worked for him, he has always had something to whine about…until the last 8 weeks (6, more like). I didn’t want to at first, but I thought ‘hey, you might as well do something worthwhile with all this time’; it gets tiring sometimes, counting ceiling boards. When I began to notice the subtle colour differences in the boards, I started working at night. This helped me make up for all the lost time meaningless meetings were taking up (my boss must never hear this!). Quickly, I began not only to meet deadlines but to surpass them, much to the amazement of the big guy. He still doesn’t know what to make of this new found efficiency but I figure he thinks “if he is selling, I’m buying”. This also means that I can close at the stroke of the hour. I no longer need to stay back to make up the gaps, or at least, to create the illusion of dedication. I have plenty of time to do this while men sleep.

The drive to the Minister’s place is short but tense. It is tense because somewhere in the recesses of my mind is the fear that the day of release from this bondage may meet me behind the wheel and I will be responsible for a catastrophic accident. So, I make extra effort to stay awake; such a huge irony for a man who hasn’t slept a wink in 8 weeks- trying to stay awake when I can’t fall asleep. I leave such heady matters to the deeply philosophical.

2 hours later, I am armed with more prayers under my belt and wishing I had brought a towel to dry myself after the baptism. Once more, there was no lightning bolt in the sky, no fair maiden singing some ethereal tune to subdue me into a state of somnolence. Just me, and Minister Sam. I am drenched, he is dehydrated. As if to confirm my thoughts, he moves to his kitchen and the sound of water from the faucet is followed by strong gulps and an uncontrollable sigh of relief (or delight). I am as awake as ever! My eyes are still sore and Aerosmith just vacated the stage in my head for Bon Jovi to play the next set. I am not really disappointed. I should be, but I am not. At least now, I can call Mama (if she doesn’t call me first) and have an honest answer when she asks whether or not I made the appointment.

Stepping outside of the dank, musty building, I check my watch. Its 7:56 p.m.! Aargh! The night is not young, it is unborn! ‘Options, options’ I mutter under my breath. The coffee shop? Nah! I have sworn off that poison! Truth be told, it hasn’t made that much of a difference but that’s it for me…for now…for the foreseeable future. Joe’s? No sir! The amount of grease in his fish and chips can literally stop a grown man’s heart. It is a sheer miracle that I am still alive. Plus, I don’t feel comfortable sitting at Joe’s and not eating anything. His business has suffered tremendously of late. These days, for the average Joe (did I just do that?), fish and chips in street parlance is not ‘beans’. I think I’ll just go home, call it a day. Not unlike any other in recent memory. It has all become a blur, a seamless transition from one day to the next. I guess I can say that I have come to appreciate the polar nature of it all: sleep and wakefulness, night and day, work and leisure…life and death. It is what balances the nebulous contraption we call existence.

Life. I find it very funny, the illusion of control we think we have over it. You know how we always leave the office and cheerfully, or grumpily, (depending on the sort of day you had) call out to your colleagues ‘See you tomorrow!’ What gives us that sense of near certainty that we will see the next day? Another matter that is beyond my little head. Lola always said I spent too much time inside my head. She jokingly called it my apartment. Lola. She smiled at me and said ‘see you tomorrow darling’ and planted a kiss on my forehead. With that, she walked out the door, out of my life. Out of this life! It has been 8 weeks since.



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Babatunde Mumuni

Babatunde Mumuni


I think and write here about life as one continuous experience, not fragments stitched together. I believe that we should partake of this with our whole selves.