Neighbor Palava

​I covered my ears with my pillow and sank my head deeper into my bed, hoping to shut out the noise. I couldn’t tell if it was from my compound or the next. All I knew was the noise seemed to come from the inside of my head. The noise picked up tempo. I could hear voices, people moving about, the sound of heavy objects being dropped.  I turned in my bed and grunted. I wondered if the family in the next compound were moving out. No. The house was built by the man. I groped around my bed for my phone and checked the time. It was 7:28am. I dropped it and tried to induce sleep all to no avail. I had woken up a lot during the night because there was intense heat. My room had only one window. On those days when I’m unfortunate to have no power supply, I wake up to a soaked mattress. I sighed. I need to get a better job as soon as possible so I could move to a better apartment. This face-me-i-slap-you wasn’t what I envisaged while I battled through my MBA two years ago. 

Some minutes later, I gave up trying to come up with  a theory for the noise and decided to go see what was happening. I put on a black tank top with jean shorts and stepped out. 

“Mama Nkechi. Good morning. Ke kwanu?” I said as i passed her and her daughter in the corridor.

“Odinma.” She replied, not taking her eyes off the pot of soup she was making. 

“Good morning uncle.” The little girl said, sounding like a canary with her tiny voice. 

“Good morning Adaora.” I replied as she joined me on my walk outside. Her mum called to her and I nudged her to go back. My stomach growled. The air was filled with various kind of aroma as people had begun the daily ritual of cooking in the corridor. 

As I stepped out into the compound, I remembered I had one pack of hungry man noodles left and smiled. I spotted Afeez, one of my neighbors and approached him. 

“Guy, how far na?” I stretched my hand to shake him. 

“Ah! Chairman I hail o!”

I laughed. “Abeg now. Stop embarrassing me like that. Shey you na my oga?”

“Leave that thing o. You no know say after God, na you?”

I burst into laughter. Afeez always had the words to say. He was loved by everyone because he was pretty jovial. Well, not everyone. His opposite neighbor, a special kind of christian fanatic doesn’t like him a bit. But Afeez is unfazed by that. The thing is…oh, never mind. 

“So Afeez, what’s happening in there ?” I pointed to the next compound. 

His mouth fell open in surprise. “You mean say you never hear?” I shrugged. “Na oga Olowekede pikin o. E don come back. I heard he came in the middle of the night.” 

My eyes widened like saucers. “No…way. Same Charles?”

“One and only. And that’s not even the most interesting part. This afternoon, he’s throwing a party to welcome back his son.”

I fell back against the wall. “I don’t understand.” I said, baffled.

“Me neither. But we don’t have to. All we need to do is show up for the party. You see, he has invited everybody to come celebrate with them.” He tapped the polythene bag under his armpit. “As you see me so, I am looking for where to iron my clothe. As his rich friends would be coming, who knows. I must connect. ” He winked at me. “Chairman, no dull am o.” 

 I watched him walk away, too shocked to move from my spot. I couldn’t believe my ears. I could hear his voice echoing in my head. “He’s throwing a party to welcome back his son.” I walked back to my room and sat on the bed trying to fix the pieces of the puzzle. A party is the last thing I would have expected. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy Charles was back. He had been missing for nine months. But a welcome party? This was far from the fire and brimstone his father had sworn to rain should he lay eyes on Charles again. 

You see, Mr Olowokede has two sons with Charles being the younger one. After completing his college education in the US, his father wanted him to join the family business here in Nigeria. Charles had other plans. He wanted a fair share of his inheritance. What was supposed to be a visit became a trap. His father wouldn’t let him go back to the states. They had gotten into several arguments with Charles threatening he would disappear and they won’t see him anymore. They never took him seriously. Not until one day, we woke up to the sound of commotion. 

Mr Olowokede had travelled and left behind a suitcase of money meant to execute a project. By the time he got back, the money was gone, along with Charles and his luggage. 20 million naira gone with the wind. All efforts to reach Charles became futile. No one had a clue where he was. Then he was spotted in the US by a family friend. Just when they thought they had a breakthrough, Charles slipped through their fingers. His mother had gone crazy with worry. She lost so much weight and refused to socialize anymore. She had a soft spot for her last son and couldn’t brush off the fact that something bad could have happened to him. She would refuse food and instead cry over his pictures for hours. She barely left the house. My last glimpse of her was when she was being wheeled to a ambulance. Apparently, she had deprived her body of so much nutrients and her organs were beginning to get weak. 

On seeing he could lose his wife in the process, Mr Olowokede intensified his search for Charles. He loved his wife too much to watch her waste away. She meant the world to him. Still, the search ended futile. He had resorted to watching his wife become a shadow of herself, praying he wouldn’t lose her. The house had become gloomy. But all that was about to change. 

If Mr Olowokede was throwing the party because he was happy his son was back and alive or because now, his wife will no longer wallow in tears and pain, we would never know. I scanned my clothes rack to see if I had something decent to wear. I settled for a pair of black jeans and a vintage shirt that wasn’t so rumpled. I wasn’t going to miss this party for anything. Not only would I get a more detailed story about Charles’s return and his whereabout for the past nine months, it was an opportunity to take home enough food to last me all day. My hungry man noodles will be saved for another day. *wink* 

Inspired by the Biblical prodigal son.

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