The loud shaking of the large cell gates woke me from my slumber as I squeezed my eyes to catch a glimpse of the intruder. A tall lanky man dressed in black dragged me by the collar of my prison wear from my bug infested bed to the Chief Warden's office. A sense of awareness stuck in my throat. What have I done this time?
I came face to face with the man that once ushered me into this large iron bars.
"You have been in a different world for the past seven years. You have now known what it means to live behind the iron gate. None of my assistants knew you before you were brought in here. The law brought you in. It is hoped that you will go out there into the real world and settle down to a normal life that will keep you out of trouble." He said sternly.
"Yes sir, I've learnt a lot here, I promise to be a good citizen when I get back home. Thank you." I replied.
I responded in that way in order to sound pleasant and polite. As far as I knew, no inmate was taught any trade or any lessons on morality throughout my stay, they were always blaming their irresponsibility on poor funding.
As I turned the knob, he cleared his throat once more.
"John, lest I forget, have this." He threw a five hundred naira note on the dusty floor, I wasn't even begging for it. But I had no choice , I stooped low to catch it before the air and I swore I heard him laugh. The thought of punching his voluptuous stomach chilled my spines. Should a Chief Warden be unnecessary robust?
After returning the pair of shoes, clothes and a Nokia phone which was already smashed, an officer gave me some papers to sign at the counter. A space in the boxes on one of the papers specified for the present date and I looked up to search for any calendars being stuck on the regular yellow and blue wall.
The date sounded familiar to me as I fiddled with the pen resting between two fingers. The realization kept me thinking until I started laughing and banging the counter simultaneously. It caused a few pair of eyes to check if my sanity was intact.
"It's my birthday." I said still laughing.
"Fill the form and get out!" The officer in front of me said, chewing her gum loudly.
I grudgingly filled the form, a few minutes later, I regained my freedom.
Like a fowl just released from its cage, I strode along the road. It was familiar and yet unfamiliar. Seven years behind bars might have changed the country a lot.
But I knew my destination, how could I forget?
Like a robot, I moved from one corner of the city to another trekking like a person on an urgent business, I couldn't talk to anyone. My bushy hair did not help the situation.
The city of Lagos was bustling with work, cars filled the roads like ants. It was hard finding a bus , I opted for a bike instead. On boarding the bike popularly known as Okada, I begged the Okada rider not to over speed as that was their trademark. Children and women were seen holding wares at every speeding car. That hasn't changed still, I enjoyed the feel of my buttocks on the seat and the wind on my face was enjoyable.
A drop of water settled at the middle of my head and I reached to pat it dry, unknown to me, it was the just the beginning and soon enough the rain came pouring down. The Okada driver had an extra helmet resting at the front of the bike and still didn't want to share. I hissed inwardly. Perhaps I would pay if I asked. I used my hands as a temporary shield from the rain throughout the journey.
When I had reached my destination, the rain was already reduced to mild drizzling. I thanked the Okada rider for his ironic hospitality and he zoomed off without a response.
Home was the final version of complete change. The once bright yellow walls surrounding the house was now dirty and unappealing. I walked, hands in my trousers and heart pounding.
When I was absent, I was still a boy but now I am a man.
How will Mama react on seeing me?
I was greeted by a sharp smell of ogbono soup. That was my twin brother's favorite soup. The wooden door that once shielded mosquitoes was now rickety and weak. Flies buzzing in and out as I mentally slapped myself. The kitchen was extremely tiny as it consisted of two large gas cylinders and four large pots. But what I almost failed to notice was mama, happily singing to a Christian hymn while cutting vegetable leaves on a black chopping board. I cleared my throat which startled her and caused the knife in her hands to drop noisily on the bare ceramic ground.
"John, why are you here?" She said putting her hands on her chest to steady her breathing.
That question had a thousand answers to me. It shattered my heart into a thousand pieces. My head kept spinning with different comprehension and therefore I put my pride before emotions.
I turned back smiling and headed for the living room and she followed curiously, not understanding my motive.
My eyes caught a portrait that smelt new and delightful. It was a picture of my twin brother, James wearing his judge outfit. I looked at the other pictures, I wasn't there. It crushed my heart that there were no pictures of me. I was like a black sheep being treated as a wolf.
"John, I said what are you...." She said folding her arms around her chest.
I interrupted her while taking a seat on the large table facing the black and white television.
"Do you remember my second day in prison, you came not with food but with a paper that crushed a part of my endless love for you. You came with a form to push me out of the family register, and you even pushed a pen into my shaking hands. Did you ever think of how I felt that night? I felt lonely. I felt like nobody. You never came after. You never loved me. It was always James. Even if he did something wrong, you would still blame me."
I continued as she lowered herself on a couch adjacent me.
"The day I was sentenced by the court was the same day James entered law school. Isn't that ironic? I defended someone and I ended up being hurt." I said with finality trying to hold back sobs.
"I didn't tell you to kill someone." She said pushing her arms forward and demonstrating it by clapping in annoyance.
That sentence made the fire in my mouth that I vowed not to ignite come back to bring heat in my folded hands.
"If I didn't fight for James, wouldn't it be the same case Mary?" I said standing up.
My mother also stood up in anger and moved close to me. As much as I was scared, I had a full box of bravery mixed with bitterness.
"What did you just say John, you called me by my first name? I, your mother" She said gripping my hands.
I laughed and stood a step backward.
"Don't tell me you have forgotten so soon that you disowned me, are you trying to mock me?"
"As much as I know, you aren't my mother and I am not your son. You made that very clear. So, let's call a spade a spade and drop the respect.
And I hissed and turned toward the door.
"Where are you going? Don't tell me you are going to see James. Don't go to him. Don't ruin his reputation." She said sternly.
That statement caught me off-guard and it also made my anger to swell like garri dipped inside cold water.
And I turned back and grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her on a nearby couch which caused her to whimper in pain.
"Everything is always James; did you ever think for once about me and that's a good idea. Let me go to my great brother and see if he can save me from my misery. " I said whispering amidst shaking sobs.
She didn't move. She simply watched me like I was acting a drama. I was already bored of everything. I only needed her to say one word and it felt so hard to her. Looking at her one last time. I gnashed my teeth and bit my upper lip. I bowed my head one last time while reaching for the door at the same time.
Happy birthday to me.
Narrator's POVThe moon was the only source of light in the darkness of the night. James walked, hands in his suit pockets. He stopped to look at his watch, it was ten at night. A yawn escaped from his lips, he was exhausted. Cases upon cases. He deliberately left his phone at his house because of his mom's constant bugging with calls. He remembered he hadn't had a reasonable meal since morning.He was at the underground parking lot close to the court where he worked. All of a sudden, he remembered Eniola , his ex-girlfriend that he refused to get over. He knew they both wanted to work things out, but he was too busy likewise she. Every conversation on the phone always ended with an argument and he wasn't ready to mix his profession with a nagging girlfriend.James sighed, he knew he loved her. She was the only one that he could control and order about. But Eniola was always bugging him about
JOHN'S POVRing! Ring! Ring! Ring!I stretched my arms still in sleeping mode and smashed the alarm clock sitting on the bedroom lamp stand on the tiled ground. That would do the trick , I sat up on the white king-sized bed which was now in disarray. I rubbed my eyes and got up from the bed. James never came back. He probably didn't want to see me, or Mama had notified him that I was coming to meet him.I hissed , he can go wherever he wants to. I went to the bathroom, it was another sight I couldn't stop feeding my eyes on. James was really rich, but I thought judges are just supposed to be comfortable. My eyes caught a clean shaving stick and I knew my moustache was begging to be shaved. It didn't take five minutes before bits of hair was sprawled all over the sink. I went to the bath tub and scrubbed my body clean. The soap was scented with pineapple and strawberries. I reached to scrub my sh
JOHN'S POV"The court may rise!"The loud and banging voice of the clerk pushed the people off their seats to respect the judge. But my heart was pounding rapidly and my bladder was growing enormously in urine. That was fear. I rested my head on the tip of the wooden table. Should I continue or should I abscond?"The court may sit!"I groaned internally, my decision had been made. I looked at the masses. The reporters were on standby, ready to write and deliver. The photographers were ready to take all angles of pictures of me.I looked at the spiral bound book once more and started to read aloud."On the 15th of April, 2016, Mr. Tolu Olugoke, the accused was arrested with a charge of physical assault on a thirteen-year-old identified as his daughter, Mariam, the victim."I paused for a second.
JOHN'S POVBreath in! Breath out! Breathe in!Those were the words that I kept saying as I splashed water on my face. After the thorough refreshingly moment, I looked at the mirror and started to undo my tie. A huge feeling of disappointment had settled on my brows and I hit my palm on my forehead severally.I straightened my clothes and reached for the door knob but the knob also moved at that same moment, it caused a frenzy of fear and I screamed."Eniola, what are you doing in the men's toilet?" I said, putting my hands on my chest."I was searching for you everywhere and I figured you might be right here," Eniola chipped in smiling."Thanks for caring," I muttered in a sarcastic manner and fled through the doors.I removed the judge’s robe, placed it on my right
JAMES'S POV Flashback I walked into the court with a confident smile as usual. I knew the hearing of the day and even without glancing through it, I knew the verdict already. It was a planned event and well already paid for. I knew I was doing the wrong thing but the gift Danjuma would give would act as a consolation. "The court may sit!" I was so lost in thought that I couldn't even hear what the clerk was saying. I knew I just had to do this. "On the 4th of April, 2016. Mr Femi Salami was arrested with a charge of murder on the victim, Mrs Sade Salami,who is identified as his mother. He has undergone two trials and this is the last and final trial" "Is the accused present?" I continued.
JOHN'S POV"Now I am really confused ,it was her mother all along. What then was the pity stunt she pulled in the court?" I asked, looking intently at Eniola."As far as I know, only Mariam can divulge that information," Eniola muttered."And how is Mariam going to be the solution. She's not going to be in court and her innocent father will go to jail." I said yelling at Eniola."Quit yelling at me." Eniola hissed."Mariam will come to the court if she wants to tell the truth and that's all." Eniola said fastening her seat belts."We should have probably kidnapped her." I muttered under my breath."Excuse me?" Eniola said frowning."It's nothing. Don't bother." I said hurriedly."So where's the way to your house?" I said kicking the car to a start."Turn left, then go right and drop me,"
ENIOLA'S POVIt was really a bright Tuesday morning as lawyers adjusted their ties and their assistants running behind them to give them a breakdown on the day's turn in. I walked through the stairs with caution as I wanted to impress James with my black jumpsuit. I saw a familiar figure advancing towards me and I smiled and walked faster to catch up with him."You look more handsome than normal." I cooed."You look undeniably stunning Eniola." Ayo said ,blowing an invisible kiss."I know." I said.I grabbed his hands and interlocked it as we walked towards our respective offices."So how's everything?" Ayo said smiling at me."Well it's been a roller-coaster." I chuckled."And James?" Ayo asked."Well he's not so bad and he's kind of annoying" I pouted."It's being a lo
JOHN'S POVI reclined into my seat, reading newspapers were exhausting. The same headlines everyday. I knew that if I wanted to act like a judge at least I should be able to take a book and read on it.I stumbled on a textbook titled Elon Ad Vortem. It was an unfamiliar language that kept me intrigued. I checked it up on the internet and I couldn't belive that the meaning was so simple in contrast to the name itself. It meant Peace and Justice. I opened the pages and flipped through it .It was quite an heavy and voluminous textbook and the bulky paragraphs didn't help my condition.I can't do this. I opted to ask for Eniola's help.I yelled her name but I got no reply. Maybe she was trying to ignore me as usual. I stood up and checked through the glass windows and Eniola was fast asleep like a bird except that she was snoring loudly.I wanted to wake her up but I was scared of th