Tales from the ghetto: The blunt truth – A short story by James Silas

by James Silas

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From the stories Nuru had told us about his uncle, we understood that his uncle was a ‘Jaiye-Jaiye’ guy. Thinking about it now, his uncle was probably between 30 and 35 years at the time because he partied and drank a lot; he also had a lot of girlfriends that he would not let know when he’s traveling back to Australia.

My name is Innocent Oghenekome. I’m from Delta State but was born and raised in Lagos. I come from a very good home. My parents are Christians. My dad was the best at ‘spoiling the cane and sparing the child’. The black marks on my buttocks are credited to him. Even at that, children will grow up and the environment will always play its role. From this and every Tuesday, I’ll be sharing stories of my growing up in the ghetto with you. Enjoy the read.

Running has never been so convenient. As Nuru, Michael and I raced down our bumpy streets of Obadore, the only thing on my mind was Okon’s lecture about dog-bites. He said the person would bark for two days, before he finally dies. Okon’s story only got realer when I found myself in this escape race. I was ahead of my friends and looking back wasn’t an option. Jack had an impressive record of barking and biting. Well, so, I heard. On a regular day, the gutter beside Iya Bimpe’s burukutu joint was very narrow but if I had jumped the way I did, during my school’s last inter-house sport, I would have bagged, at least, a bronze medal for Yellow House. How did I get into this situation?

Nuru had just returned from Benin, where he went to see one of his maternal uncles, who just got back from Australia. You know in the game of survival, traveling from Lagos to Kano by road to get a couple of T-shirts and some foreign change won’t mean a thing. So, Nuru’s trip to Benin, fully sponsored by his parents was quite a piece of cake. He didn’t even bother to go drop his bag at home; he had better news for the boys than going to show himself to his family. From the stories Nuru had told us about his uncle, we understood that his uncle was a ‘Jaiye-Jaiye’ guy. Thinking about it now, his uncle was probably between 30 and 35 years at the time because he partied and drank a lot; he also had a lot of girlfriends that he would not let know when he’s traveling back to Australia.

The high point of Nuru’s return was the wrap of green leaves he hid in his bag from Benin. According to him, his uncle always sent one of the boys to go buy it for him. As Nuru was leaving for Lagos that morning, he decided to pick one of the wraps on the dressing table. When Michael saw it, he shouted, “Igbo!” I didn’t know if I should be afraid but at age 16, I had only heard about weed but never touched it. Michael’s elder brother was one of the baddest guys in the hood, so he knew more about it but had never smoked it. The interesting part about this weed was that it had seeds and large lumps of leaves amongst the smashed lot. We marched to my landlord’s uncompleted building, right beside my house to unravel the mystery behind the leaves.

As we passed the wrap of smoke amongst us, we heard loud snaps of the seeds, which made the experience funny and intriguing at the same time. When we got to the tail end of the weed, Nuru stretched the now-little wrap to me but his hand was as shaky as mine. I couldn’t get it off him. Michael decided to give it a go but he wasn’t any better. We all laughed very loud and carelessly like tickled babies. We didn’t know the rest of the weed had dropped on Michael’s shirt, till he screamed and jumped up. “Omo, see f__k up” was all he had to say for our laughter to take the next flight. Michael suggested that we should go eat Amala at Downtown, so we don’t go mad, considering the fact that we were still in control of the effect. Nuru wasn’t even talking again, he kept laughing to everything Michael and I said.

I don’t remember how much food we ate but I know we kept asking for “extra” until we could not eat more. Trouble started after Bose asked for money and said we ate N600 each. I didn’t have any money but I thought Nuru had enough to cover everybody since he just got back from Benin. Even Michael, who came up with the suggestion didn’t have a dime on him. I just told Bose to give us a minute to put the money together. As she walked in, to meet her mom in the chamber, Michael whispered, “make we zap jor”. It sounded like a great idea. We counted one to three and then took off. When we were sure Bose or nobody was following us, we stopped to laugh. “Does Iya Bose know where we live?” I asked my friends.

“Who cares?!” Nuru replied.

“We’ll just hustle the money and pay her later”, said Michael.

“I no want wahala oh, you know my father will kill me if he hears about this”, I reminded them.

“Don’t worry, we will sort it out. Shebi we be her regular customers”, Michael said.

Right before Obadore is Adebisi Street. The Local Government Chairman at the time, had tarred the Street after he won the 1999 Elections. We later learned that Chairman’s mother lived on that street, which was why they tarred it. We were waiting for the contractors to move to our own street but even after the 2003 Elections, nothing changed. Of course, the tarred road gave a facelift to every house on Adebisi Street, including Ebi’s face-me-I-face-you house. We stopped by to check on him but he wasn’t at home. Just as we got back on the street, Michael, whose eyes were now swollen from the weed-effect announced to have seen Iya Bose walking towards us. Quickly, we started running without; somehow, Nuru led the race through a compound that had a small gate at the back, which led to our street. We literally forgot about ‘Jack’. The occupant of that house had bought an Alsatian, after his neighbor’s Mercedes 200 was vandalized a month earlier. So, as we raced through the main gate of the compound, we heard Jack bark at us. I didn’t look back but I could swear the dog chased after us. I don’t know how the three of us passed the small gate at the same time but I took the lead thereafter.

The weed had just started working in my system, making the road longer and wider. On landing, after my jump at the burukutu joint, I felt a sprain around my ankle but I didn’t care until I crashed through the door of my house. My stupid friends followed me. We sat on the floor gasping when my dad walked in. I didn’t know when my mouth opened, “Omo, see fuck up”.
My dad sat down on the dining table and said, “Now the three of you will tell me the truth… nothing but the truth”.

To be continued….

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