WITH EVERY DROP OF RAIN THAT STRUCK THE ROOF, breaking the silence that had become of the room, you sank deeper into an uncomfortable kind of depression. Not like there’s any form of depression that’s supposed to be comforting, but this one was just disturbingly distressing. It was one of those days, nights actually, when you felt the pang of loneliness. One of those nights when your thoughts were not animate enough to keep you company. One of those nights when the warmth of accomplishment and success wasn’t enough to keep you warm. One of those nights when the emptiness within you screamed words that were just disjointed juxtapositions of consonants, and no vowels. As you sat, staring out the window of your tiny study, you buried your toes into the warm wool rug and for a moment you felt loved. For a moment you felt that warmth and affection that you longed for. But it didn’t last. It never does. You stared out into the open, into a world that laid beyond your reach, into a world that doesn’t know you. You belong to a world of your own, one where you are both protagonist and villain. A world where you are both creator and created; a world that is part imagination, part reality. That is your world, because you literally own it. It’s only in this world of yours that you feel complete, loved, alive.
So as the depression grew into an adult – suicidal thoughts – you made your way to Melan’s Place. You were dressed in navy blue denim trousers, light grey cardigan, and a pair of suede loafers. Your decision to go without an umbrella was not conscious. You just walked, letting the rain wash off your sorrow. Your mind travelled back to the beginning. Back to when it wasn’t that bad, when there was still a glimmer of hope in the horizon of this fictitious world that is yours to live. Then you had desired a female companion, a soft constellation of flesh and blood. A constellation of warmth. But finding one hadn’t been as easy as dreaming up one was. And so, you had wielded pen and paper and crafted the companion of your dream. She was the quintessence of what female you would look like. Day by day, you crafted and redefined her. Day by day you got comfortable around her, and she began to feel like an integral part of you. Day by day, she became more animate than she had been the day before. Gradually, you fell in love with an idea. A desire. A dream. Gradually, you fell in love with ink. But there was a bit of a problem; your lady didn’t love you as much as you loved her. She said you lacked something, but she couldn’t tell what it was. When you arrived Melan’s Place, you were drenched to the soul. But for some reason unknown to you, you didn’t feel cold. Maybe it’s because you weren’t wet. But you didn’t feel warm either. As you approached the door, you noticed how empty the place was, save for the bartender and some guy seating alone at a corner. You stepped in and found a place; your place. And it was there, just right there from across the guy sitting alone at the corner. As you drew a seat, you realized he was seated at a table for two. Probably a fiancé that’s running late, you say to yourself, or a missis that’s gone AWOL. When you settled into your place, a waiter materialized from somewhere and walked up to you. “Coffee or tea, Sir?” You looked up at him, and he wore a smile that could heal a million wounds, but not yours. He wore a black trouser, a white shirt, and an oxblood waist coat. He had an Ankara bow tie that was a jamboree of salient colours. He had on white gloves that concealed the better part of his ebony skin that yearned for recognition. From his pocket, hung a slim gold chain that led to a pocket watch. His hair was jet black, with punctuations of different shades of grey. His smile seemed rehearsed, as he wore it a moment too long. “water…” you said, “…just water.” He disappeared, and for the next five minutes or so, you didn’t see him. As you waited for your glass of water, your eyes walked the floors of the diner, pausing for short moments of sober reflection whenever they stumbled upon something that rung a distant bell in your head. One time, your eyes paused at the feet of the man sitting alone at the table for two. You noticed his shoes, how the perforations were arranged in neat rows of perfect turns; how a lurid sparkle nestled atop the tip of the shoe, confessing affluence to those who wished to hear; how his multi-coloured socks peeked from within his trouser and shoe that had become to it, some sort of solitary confinement. And in one brief moment of reflection, you realized you knew him. But when you began to stretch the thought, you discovered you did not. “A glass won’t hurt…” were the words that yanked you out of your reverie, flinging you onto the bare grounds of reality. His voice was deep, still yet comforting. You examined the man sitting across from you, a sharp contrast from the voice you had heard. You were unable to hide your surprise, and he read you like one would read a book. “I know, I get that a lot”, he said. And with one swift motion of the hand, he invited you over to his table. You hesitated, but he let you know there was nothing to be bothered about. As you joined him at his table, you did a quick scan of all that was there, and immediately you began guessing what he did for a living to be able to afford such. From his clothes and jewellery, you guessed he might be some business magnate. But he looked too young to have accomplished all that within such a short period. That sort of wealth was the type one enjoyed in their late fifties, not late twenties. Probably he was some fortunate heir whose father passed on way too early, you thought. But before you could finish thinking, he told you he was a driver. A Formula-1 driver. He said he lived in the UK, but was visiting home for the summer. You got talking about cars and engines, and he was quite knowledgeable. He spoke with so much confidence, so much passion, so much zest. He spoke with so much words. He was quite the driver, and he knew his craft. When you had spent half an hour talking engines, you moved on to buildings and Architecture in general. He lamented about the fact that Nigeria doesn’t have a strong architectural heritage of its own, like countries in Asia and Europe. He lamented about how all that we’ve come to know of building and building structure was either imported or fed to us in the colonial days. He gestured with his hands when he spoke. And when he did, his watch whispered a million words. So did his ring. With every flight his hands made under the shimmery diner light, came glistening sparkles of rose gold and sapphire. For the most part of one hour all you both did was order wine and more wine. Once, when the waiter came to take your orders, you asked if he wasn’t going to eat. He looked at you, smiled, and then worded something that sounded like food to the waiter. You heaved relief, but she disappeared when the waiter returned with another bottle of wine. Your forehead cringed in disapproval, to which he replied “Give it a try, it’s more food than you can imagine”. You did, and he was right. It was tasty and at the same time filling. You had a bottle, and then two. By the end of the evening, you had learnt a lot about him, almost all there was to know. You knew his past, his present, and even his future-if there was to be one. He spoke on and on about himself, never stopping for once to ask about you. He didn’t care to know anything about you. You almost didn’t exist to him, save for the fact that you were seated at table with him. At some point, you stopped drinking because you realized the wine was getting to you. You realized the wine was beginning to take charge, leading you on a path that led deeper into the depressing state that you had been running from. Your companion didn’t stop. He drank on and on, pouring glasses for you both and drinking of both glasses. You just smiled, listened, and responded as was necessary. Then came time for you both to leave. He slipped a cheque under the menu, and gestured for you to step out with him. Outside, his chauffeur pulled up in a silver Mercedes S500, Maybach edition. He whispered something to the driver, and the car sped off into the night. “Do you mind joining me for a walk?”, he asked. You thought about it for a second. You knew there was nothing worth returning to in that lonely apartment of yours, so you accepted his offer. As you both walked, he let you into more personal areas of his life, and for a moment you began to wonder why he felt so comfortable sharing all those things with you. As you moved farther from the diner, the streets got darker and more deserted. By the time you had walked some ten minutes, the streets were completely empty, with no sign of life at all. And then the thoughts came pouring in like the rain that had drenched you earlier that evening.
YOU KILLED HIM BECAUSE YOU COULD. You realized you could kill him and get away with it. You realized there wasn’t going to be any Police investigation or inquiry. No detective waltzing up to your door at uncomfortable hours of the day to ask about a man that had just been murdered. There wasn’t going to be any twenty-four-hour news coverage about a man murdered at the corner of Ozumba Mbadiwe and Adeola Odeku. No family to wail and sing dirge for a husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin, that had just died. And most of all, you killed him because you knew, with a strange kind of certainty, that his ghost will never come to haunt you. And that’s because he doesn’t have one. They never do When you were sure no one was watching, you retrieved the Colt from your waist, beneath the cardigan. This Colt was supposed to be your doorway to the world that laid beyond, but now it was to be his. While he was lost in his own world, lost in words, you carefully slowed down, getting in behind him. He chattered away without realizing you had left his side. From behind you trained the pistol in the direction of his heart and squeezed. One shot did the trick, and he dropped to the ground, one hand clutching his chest while the other reached out to you for help. He never knew you, so he couldn’t understand why you did it. You never did either. He seemed to have possessed that quality Melan said you lacked. You still couldn’t tell what it was, but you were almost certain he had it. He was competition, more so he was a threat to your love for her. He bled. First blood. Then water. Then ink.
YOU RETURNED HOME THAT NIGHT, still feeling that emptiness, still feeling that pang of loneliness. The warmth you desired was still not there, yet you felt better than before the evening. Than before you gave life and then took it in an instant. Before you became protagonist and villain. Before you became ink. You drew a hot bath and immersed yourself in it. As you sank deeper into it, the memories of the evening faded away slowly. As seconds ticked into minutes, and minutes into hours, the evening’s encounter thinned into memories, then images, and finally, long-forgotten thoughts. You felt better, able to live with your depression. It became a comfortable kind of depression, but it never left. It never does, and it never will. It’s who you are.
cornelius itepu writes prose, poetry, and a weekly blog at drawnbythefather.blogspot.ng. His works are reflections of his thoughts, and perspectives to life, and are a wide window into his suconscious. He believes in the power of literature to transform minds, and hopes to achieve such through writing. you can find him on twitter @corneliusitepu.