The Street; My First Love by Uchechukwu Ajala (guest post)
1st October, 1999. I went back to the streets where I was born and raised . I met Emeka, he was now a dealer and he told me, he ran some girls too, just in case I needed them or I met someone that does. I still have his business card. We talked about our friends. Most of them were dead, wanted, serving a jail sentence, leading a life of crime or missing. I almost didn't belief I was once a product of that street. The whole thing got me thinking,
"Why is my story different?"
I don't know if I should consider myself lucky or blessed. My mom brought me into this wicked world at a chemist shop that was run by a janitor at a government clinic (not even hospital) am sure he killed more people than he cured. I recall he mentioned something about my mom still owing him for that service.
I was born with a clay spoon (my parents couldn't even afford the wooden one). My mom left my dad for our neighbour who had won the lotto. He won #20,000 (guess that was a lot more than what I was worth to her). My dad’s mother tried her best to keep me alive, I was barely 3 months. When my rich mates started taking cereals, I started drinking Garri. My dad couldn't remarry; no woman was willing to take him, even the worst prostitutes in the hood that retired because of old age.
Grand mom passed away when I was 5 years old and willed everything she had to me (barely #2,000). She died of Malaria. The hospital would not admit her unless we made a deposit of #10,000. We tried our best but couldn't get the money. She died painful at home. My dad being my guardian was in possession of Grandma’s fortune for me. He drank half, and gambled the rest away. He even accrued some debt while at it. Being a junkie was bad enough, adding other addictions; gambling, womanizing and drinking was hell. He was threatened so he went to a loan shark to pay off his debts, the interest rate was too high and when he couldn't pay he was offered a job (To take part in an armed robbery). If they succeeded his debts will be forgiven. Well they didn't succeed.
They tried robbing a jeweller and got busted. The loan shark was shot to death and the other one that was shot on the leg died at the hospital due to loss of blood. Turns out the hospital didn't have A+ blood in stock (That was a standard government hospital, the best in the area, I suppose).
Dad spent 5 years awaiting trial. When he was finally arraigned, the DA brought a 25 charge suit against him. He didn't have any legal aid, he was instructed to plead guilty and in exchange they will take 3 years away from his sentence. He pleaded guilty and got 15 years less 3 years. He didn't even know that something like appeal existed. Lucky him he was stabbed to death the next year during a prison riot over poor prison conditions, the inmates hadn't been fed for a week.
After dad’s demise, I went to stay with my uncle. He was a burglar and I was barely 7. There, I learnt how to pick a lock before I learnt how to tie my shoelace. One of his jobs however, went wrong. He was caught and lynched by an angry mob spurred by the victim who apparently was an intrepid man.
The police arrived later and on seeing what happened said nothing. His remains were left untouched, it stayed there till the smell from the decomposing body forced the people around to move it to a dumpster.
I was left alone.
His landlord locked his room and took me to his sister’s orphanage. There we were made to go to the parks and streets to beg. At night the owner shared the money amongst them and fed us the 3 days old bread from the bakery at the far end of the street. We wore the same clothes for a year, some of prayed for others to die so you could get a change of cloth. When I turned nine, I was made to work. I hawked sachet water and later on soft drinks. Woe betides you if you didn't come back with an empty basin. Ralph was robbed on his way back, the caretakers beat him into a coma. As I got older they loaned me out to contractors. We worked there from morning till night without food. At a point I got feed up and decided to run away. I can still remember one of the ladies telling me that I was heartless, because I ran away after 'everything' they did for me. I told her that God will reward her and she ran off and never spoke to me again.
I slept under the bridge and when it rained I slept at bus stops and sometimes at the park next to a rose bed, quite ironic. I tried my best to get an honest work but the system was cruel. The wicked selfish world made sure of it. Everyone was wicked in some respects but our proclamation of the person holding such traits as such is more often than not dependent on the number of occasions such traits were recorded, seen.
The hustle for survival wasn't easy at all. The government failed us, the church failed us, our families failed us, and we failed ourselves. Because we gave in to the societal trend of depression in the event of ill fortunes. We couldn't get an education because the church owned schools were too expensive and the government schools were failures and a recruiting ground for evil. The government loans were impossible to obtain, their requirements was too tedious, you were required to get collateral or a guarantor. The only property I had was my cloth and no one was willing to do give a loan on the guarantee or collateral of a desperate man’s humble attire.
The system was designed to make the rich richer and keep the poor poorer. The priest preached that the evil men and women will suffer in hell and we looked at ourselves, as innocent as we were our life was a living hell already. Crime was paying and the honest living wasn't. The only work open to me was to work as a bricklayer. When you get to the site you will have to rent the tools, then you promise the foreman a cut from your wage to pick you. At the end of everyday you barely have enough to eat. I still remember the time I broke a shovel, I didn't eat for two weeks just to repay the debt that inevitably accrued from repairs. They repaired the shovel and hired it out to an unfortunate lad who broke it again.
Once in a while we went into town to repair stuffs. There we will see boys our age, living the good life we couldn't even dream of. Once we witnessed a car race, one of the parties smashed a new Lamborghini and called his dads secretary to send him another car to complete the race. He got a Buggati. If I was lucky enough to work for a million years I can't buy the rims of those cars with my current wage. I decided, I was done with the honest living that's if you will consider my present state living. That was when I met Roofie, he sold weed to the workers there and sometimes he got me food out of pity. He was way richer than any of the workers. I met him and begged him to help a brother out, that I was done with the life of poverty and misery I was living. He told me to think it through because his line of work wasn't a joke, he was into some really deep shit. I told him I will rather die than continue living the way I did. He took me to his supplier. Lucky me, the dude just lost most of his boys to a police raid so he agreed to take me. He gave me some weed and told me where to sell it and how much I was to come back with. He offered 10% of the profit, it was small but it was way better than what the foreman paid.
I still remember the day he sent me to deliver our goods to an address, I got there and what I saw nearly made me swoon. The weed was for an armed robbery gang that wanted to get high before they left, they robbed me. I was lucky to have come back alive. He tried to expand his business so he offered 50% discount for every sale to a new customer. This didn't go down well with the other dealers since they were losing customers. So they started a turf war to mark their territory. That was when Roofie was killed (bless his soul), the dude was barely 19years old. It was during this period that I got lucky, one of Roofies client, a rich kid, needed our stuff for his party. I went to supply, when I got there, I saw his lifeless body. He overdosed on Tromadol. I was scared if the police or any other person saw me. I will spend the rest of my life in jail.
As I was running out of the house I stumbled over a stool. When I got up I saw a duffel bag, when I opened it, its content was money ( crisp notes so many I couldn’t estimate). I took it and ran away.
When I got back, I settled my boss and told him what happened minus the money part and that I was going to go into hiding till the case cools off. He wished me luck and I left. The money happened to be two hundred thousand and I longed to use my fortune well. I moved to a new City. When I got there I bribed someone in the human resource department of the firm to hire me. I got a job there and I started attending adult classes at night. I sat for the first school leaving exam and passed, then next GCE then went to a polytechnic to study management. I graduated at 35. After some time, I was made the head of the Material Acquisition Unit.
I ran into Emeka when I went to check out a new office site. He invited me to drink with him. Seeing him made me realise how much I had changed and how lucky I was. I thanked God for saving me, not everybody got a second chance, Roofie didn't. Alot of my brothers were gunned down out there. Akon had said in his song that the streets reminded him of quick sand because when you are on it you keep sinking and there is no one to pull you out and even when you called out for help there was no one to hear your cry and at the end you self destruct. We cried out for help, we screamed, we begged, we called. I was lucky a lot of the other were not.
Tiger was burnt because he stole a stale bread to feed his hungry siblings, Muffy was killed by the loan shark he borrowed money from to start a business, the business was killed by tax and levy. Adanna became a hooker to take care of her dying mother and got AIDS, P was stabbed to death when he refused to hand over his wage to a group of bullies. O'Neil was killed by a 'stray bullet' after he refused to roger the officer at the check point. Chile was beat to death in a police cell, which he entered because he told his rich landlord he knew his rights. Papi was gunned down in a gang war. Zeus reported a king pin to the police and they promised to protect him, his tongue and fingers were cut off the next day. We didn't steal because we loved it, we did because it was our only option we had. We didn't abuse substance because it was in our nature , we did it to help us forget our misery. Our girls didn't spread their legs because they were nymphomaniacs but because that was the only thing they could do to survive. We didn't join gangs because it was our nature to be violent, but because that was the only protection we had. We soiled our hands and condemned our souls to hell to get a life on earth.
Entry no 8