3 Months Ago
She was having a swell time. The speakers were at their loudest, the music was on full blast, the air in the room was thick with smoke, and the stench of cigarette hung heavy in the air. She poured herself a bit of vodka and emptied the glass it in one gulp. She had just lit another stick of cigarette when she heard the loud banging on her door. She knew who it was. Her neighbor had come three times before to plead, plead, and then yell at her to turn down the volume of her speakers. On his last visit, he had threatened to call the police if she didn’t comply, but she knew better than to fall for what was an obvious bluff. This was Nigeria. Nobody called the police for such reasons. And even if they did, the Nigerian police couldn’t be bothered with such trivial matters.
She slouched to the door. For a moment, she contemplated ignoring him just to infuriate him even further, but she didn’t. Instead, she opened the door and flashed a quick, mischievous smile.
“It’s you again,” she drawled at the apoplectic countenance on the threshold. “Weren’t you going to call the police? I don’t hear any sirens.” She cocked her head forward, looking to her left and right in an exaggerated gesture of one listening for sounds of the police coming. Then she stood back, and the smile vanished from her face, leaving a cold mask behind.
“Sandra, see,” the man began fuming, “I’m asking you for the last time, turn down your music!” He wagged a finger in her face.
Sandra puffed smoke into the air before replying with a brusque ‘No’.
“You’re excused.” And she began to shut the door.
The man slapped an open palm on the door, halting its locomotion. Sandra pulled the door back to observe him blow out an exasperated breath.
“Why?” he ground out. “Just why have you decided to be a devil this afternoon?”
“A devil? That’s quite the elevation you’ve given me,” she retorted, referring to his last visit when he had angrily called her a witch. Her lips were curved into a taunting smile as she stood before him.
“You think this is funny abi?” the man flashed. “It’s funny to you ehn?”
“As a matter of fact –“
“Look, look here, my friend! Just turn that stupid thing down. Some of us actually have important things to do with our lives even on weekends!”
“I’m sure you do, Mister Ehoragbon,” Sandra drawled, pitiless in her disregard for her neighbour. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to do some trivial stuff. And you should get busy with your important stuff.” She raised her hands to quote the last two words.
Mr. Ehoragbon was seething now. His nostrils flared and his fists balled as if poised to attack her at any moment. But Sandra stood there, unfazed by his apparent ire. The look of indifference on her face seemed to dare him to give life to his thoughts.
“This is unacceptable!” the man blustered. “You can’t be disturbing the whole compound with your music anyhow you like!”
“Can’t I?” Sandra arched her brow as though she were expecting an actual reply.
His response came in the form of snapped fingers, a gesture he executed right before her face before he bounded off toward his flat. She blew him a kiss even though he wasn’t looking at her. She expected he’d be back soon. She had no intention of giving in to his demand.
“See ya,” she sang out before slamming her door shut. Then she made her way to the table to pour herself another glass of vodka.
Sandra suspected that it was behavior like this that made her unpopular among her neighbors. She was unperturbed by it of course. There wasn’t a thing they could do about it. Two other flat owners had resorted to completely avoiding her. The other three lodged complaint after complaint with the landlord, grievances which he ignored because she was the only tenant who actually paid her rent on time. He was not about to throw her out. He told her so himself.
She knew that they talked behind her back; that they saw her as a whore and an irresponsible woman who did nothing useful with her life other than smoke, drink, come home with different guys and spend her father’s money lavishly. That last part she’d actually overheard Mr. Ehoragbon sneeringly share with the woman who lived next door to him. She had taken it upon herself not to be bothered with what they thought. If men could drink, smoke and have sex without getting judged, why couldn’t she? Moreover, she had a job. Something they would know if they didn’t just come to conclusions about her character without getting to know her first. Whatever money she spent was hers. She had lived alone for two and a half years now, and had not even required financial assistance from her father for close to a year.
But today was no day to think of her annoying, self-righteous neighbors, or of her wealthy, self absorbed father, who only called her once a month to ask if she needed money and ignored her for the rest of the month as if she ceased to exist for the remaining days of the month . If there was any way to increase the speakers’ volume even more, she would have done just that. She recognized that her rebellion aside, she needed the music to drown out any thoughts she didn’t want to have but whose invasion she couldn’t help.
She picked up her phone and realized she had missed three calls from her mother. This must have happened while she was attending to her neighbour’s irritation, because she’d been texting with her phone before Mr. Ehoragbon knocked. She was slightly glad she missed the calls. Her mother’s incessant wailing for the past week was beginning to irk her. Sure enough, they hadn’t seen in over a month, but that was the point of being independent. Part of her independence meant that she wasn’t obligated to visit her mother every week and endure critics about her appearance or trying conversations about Nigeria’s politics and how her friends’ children were all getting wedded. What did she care if “Sade recently got engaged”? It wasn’t her business either that “Nigeria has a globetrotting president who thinks Nigerians living abroad are criminals.”
Rapid knocks on the door drew her out of her thoughtful state. As expected, the fool had returned, she thought vexedly. The wry amusement she’d earlier felt toward her neighbour’s frustrations suddenly vanished. With irritation now blooming in her chest, she walked briskly towards the door and yanked it open.
“WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?”
“Oh dear,” came a drawled response. “You sure do have a unique way of welcoming your guests.”
Sandra stared in utter shock at the handsome face belonging to the man standing in front of her, unable to say a word. It was as though his presence there had put her in a trance.
“Long time, no see, sister,” the man said, with a slowly widening smile.
“What have you done?!” she shrieked. “What have you done?! Oh my god – what have you done?!”
The weapon of assault was still firmly in his grip. He stared at the lifeless body, at the expressionless face which stared eerily back at him. Blood flowed from the body, inching away from it in a wide spread that turned everything in its path crimson.
His hands twitched uncontrollably. His heartbeat was rapid and irregular.
“I couldn’t stop…” he answered in a strangled whisper. “I couldn’t stop…I tried – I tried to.” He dropped the bottle and raised his head to meet the horrified look on her face.
“I killed him. I couldn’t stop.”
Written by Tobby