Monday, 11 May 2015

INCONSIDERATE NEIGHBORS


Papa Emeka was home. Oiza knew this because the horrible sound of his rickety generator set woke her up from her first opportunity to sleep in five days. And this time, she was pissed! The stress from her office was enough to down a mule and whenever she got home, the sound of a generator badly in need of repairs kept her awake at night. She got up with such fierce anger and decided enough was enough! She was going to give Papa Emeka a piece of her mind. As she put on her slip, she remembered how she had reached this point.

••••

Oiza Anave was the only daughter to Adam and Ozohu Anave, a middle class family who lived a comfortable life in Kaduna. Being the only girl in her house, she was the easy favorite of both her parents. Coupled with the fact that she was the last born of their five children, she held a good spot as the baby of the house for years and years. Like most last born children,
she was almost smothered with the fierce protectiveness of her father and brothers and the unabashed love of her mother. She grew up almost in a cocoon and didn't have the opportunity to venture out, make friends or even date. But university cured her of all that.

As soon as she tasted freedom, she couldn't go back to being caged by her family's love, no matter the good intention. She prayed her compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) would take her as far away from home as possible, praying that she could finally get to live in the bustling city called Eko, or to non-indigenes, Lagos. She didn't get Lagos but at least one of her wishes was fulfilled; she got sent to a far away city - Gombe. As soon as she arrived Gombe, she promised herself that she was not returning home. She was finally her own woman and could live how she wanted and follow her own dreams and aspirations.

When she was done with her service, she stuck to her word and refused to go back home. Despite pleas and threats from her parents and siblings, she remained adamant. To try to convince her, her father got the family together and commanded everyone not to send her money or render any help to her. She wasn't bothered. She had learned to manage what she had and had saved N50, 000 from her NYSC ‘allowee’. She set out looking for a house and got one that cost the exact same price; only difference being that it took her about one month to get the house and she had already spent close to N20, 000 out of the money. The house was in one of the less affluent neighborhoods but that was the only option she had. She needed to vacate the 'Corpers Lodge' and houses in better suited areas were either too expensive (N90, 000) or not even in her price range (N350, 000). In the end, she felt she could live in a gutter and still be comfortable if she really wanted to. So, she got a friend to loan her the rest of the rent and went to pay for the house.

When she got to the house, she realized how crappy it was. She had only been told of a house and had not seen it before hand. As she looked at the house, she saw that the paint was peeling off as a result of water rising through the blocks. She also realized that there was a permanent putrid smell in the room and upon further examinations, discovered that a gutter ran directly behind it. It was a two bedroom apartment without a toilet and kitchen, which meant that Oiza would have to share with other members of the compound. The toilet was not a pit latrine as is expected in public houses but a water-closet system. Oiza didn't like that one bit. Diseases could easily be transmitted from her neighbors to her. What was worse was that the toilet was really dirty when she glanced in, prompting her to quickly scrunch her nose and pull her head back out of the toilet. Though Oiza was in no way happy with what she saw, she still paid for it because of the pressure to move out of the lodge. That same day, Oiza moved into her new house.

As Oiza settled in, she started noticing some really horrible attitude of her neighbors. Now, there were ten two-room apartments in the compound and each room, with the exception of Oiza's had at least four people in them. There were whole families and friends just living together to cut costs. So the compound was really choked up.

As soon as they restored electrical power, the occupants of each room -seeming to compete with the others - would put on their radios and television sets at the highest volume. It was usually a competition between some Bauchi-based Gospel artist and the likes of Don Moen; a horrible mix for all she cared. And to make matters worse, the loud music always competed with the sounds of Catalina fighting Diego and Amarachi placing the curse on the people of Akpogwu! There was never any peace or quiet in that compound. Since Oiza spent almost all her time at the office, she felt she could handle it even though it irritated her to no end when she was at home.

What she couldn't handle though were the dirty toilets and bathrooms. They were never washed! They stank like dirty toilets should and Oiza felt poisoned every time she went in. People - grownups - used the toilet without flushing, leaving their disgusting fecal matter for others to see. One night Oiza was pressed and she ran into the toilet. The smell hit her before she turned the light on. What she saw made her rush back out without much ado. She didn't use the toilet again for a whole week! Each time she felt pressed, the sight she saw came rushing back. That was enough to shut her excretory organs. The bathrooms were equally horrible. Since the toilets were dirty, all her neighbors peed in the bathroom....and without water to flush. They went in, did their business, never flushed and came out feeling like bosses. Oiza couldn't take that. She bought disinfectants, toilet detergents and cleaning materials. When she started washing the toilets, the fumes that hit her were enough to choke a person. She kept at it only because she couldn't bare the infections that would come as a result of using germ-filled toilets. As she carried out her germ-destruction war, the neighbors came around and praised her, thanking her for being so nice and caring. She didn't say much. When she was done, she felt proud of her work...well, until she went back an hour later and saw the huge dump one of the capital fools in her compound left in them!

Her frustration reached the peak when her next door neighbor - Papa Emeka - returned from the East after the elections. He put his generator set right in front of Oiza's room, with the exhaust facing her window. When he put it on the first time, the floor was vibrating so much and the noise so loud that it was a wonder her eardrums didn’t burst. That was before she perceived the strong fumes entering her room and taking up her oxygen. She kept quiet for about a week before she decided that enough was enough.

••••

Her knock didn't bring anyone to the door. She tried again, but this time, a little louder. 

'Neighbor!' She shouted to get her voice heard over the noisy din of the generator. 

Papa Emeka came out of his house and belched right in front of Oiza. She held herself back, deliberately refusing to wipe the bacteria off her face in utter disgust.

'Ehen?' He asked as a fart escaped his arse. 

'Your generator is too noisy and it prevents me from sleeping. Can you fix it? Also, can you move it from the front of my house, the fumes are poisoning me?' She asked as politely as she could muster in light of such crude and deliberately annoying behavior.

'Madam, space no dey dis hause. See load for front of my hause. Na de only place wen I for fit put am. And the noise no too much na. Just dey manage am. Wen money show, I go repair am' he replied. He didn't even wait to hear her response. He just turned back and went into his house.

Oiza was shocked! She stood there for a full minute before she returned to her room. She couldn't take it anymore. She sat in the middle of her room and cried. She cried for her comfy bed back home, for the three-square meals she no longer could eat, the clean toilets she was used to, the serene atmosphere she had always had to read, to relax, and to sleep. She thought of her parents and wept some more. They had ensured she was comfortable. She cried because her parents had taught her to always be respectful and because as a result of that training, she couldn't go H.A.M on her inconsiderate neighbors. She cried because her job sucked and the pay was not enough to keep her going and she cried because she felt all alone in a world determined to break her spirit. After two hours of weeping reflectively, she made a decision. She was going to move out of the house and keep at her job. She hoped for something better; for a promotion and an improved life. She couldn't return home with her tail tucked between her legs. She needed her independence and better still, the maturity that came with tackling life’s issues. She was moving houses after just three months in that house. 

•••

Papa Emeka returned home at 10pm.  He was happy with his time at the beer parlor. His friend had paid and the pepper-soup always tasted better when someone else paid. He knew his wife would have prepared his pounded yam and vegetable soup and judging by the hot weather, he was definitely going to enjoy his meal while his fan was rotating at full speed. He had no one to disturb him about the generator now that that annoying girl moved out this morning. He smiled as he contemplated running the generator all night. As he pulled the starter of the generator, he hissed at the heat. The generator would solve that. He pulled with a great deal of strength. The generator did not start. He pulled again. Nothing. He kept at it. Still nothing. After fifteen minutes and profuse sweating, he gave up. This night was going to be a long one! He hissed and hissed and stormed into his house. There was nothing he could do that night. He had to wait till the next day. That night, the temperature rose to 40°C. No wind. No electricity. No relief.


When he finally saw the generator mechanic, he got the shocker of his life. There was a large amount of salt in the fuel tank and according to the mechanic, the generator was completely useless. In Nigerian lingua, the generator don knock!

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