Floater

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It was 5.55 in the morning. Osu sat on the floor with his legs folded, one on top of the other. A cloth was spread in front of him and on it, was a Luger—the P-08, BYF-41, 1941, 9x19mm caliber Parabellum Luger Mauser pistol. He was strip-cleaning the rare firearm. Dismantle, clean, assemble, and clean again, he performed the familiar exercise with mechanical precision. He squeezed the trigger again and again. Click, click, his treasured possession was all set. He loaded it, put it back in a box and stashed it away in his bedroom ceiling. Then he began preparing for the day. Osu had made peace with his actions in the past. At thirty three, his life was one of calmness and abiding by the law now. He appreciated this life, though he carried a piece of the past with him.

At 7.30, Osu drove out of his home heading towards his place of work. It was a regular morning with the sun and its warmth rising simultaneous until the accident happened.

He froze when he saw the collision. He was advancing from the other side of the road. A car emerged from nowhere and hit the back tire of a motorcycle at an intersection. The motorcycle, a commercial one, screeched in a semi-circular motion before dragging its rider and passenger on the floor. It was like there was a timer slowly counting down to unfreeze him as the incident unfolded…three…two…one…zero. He applied his brakes a few meters away from them.

Passers-by rushed to help. The okada rider, as they’re called, lost a toe nail. He had bruises on his palm and all over his legs. His passenger had bruises too; on her right knee, hip, shoulder, and forearm. She cried in pain, one could only imagine where else was hurting her.

‘You’re going to be fine,’ someone was telling her. ‘Hold on to your bag before someone steals it.’

Another, with some first aid experience, was trying to stop the bleedings. Osu volunteered to take them to a hospital.

There was still some goodness in people, he thought. People still cared for people. He was carrying some strangers to the hospital. He was a Good Samaritan too. This thought made him smile. Perhaps because of his past, he was satisfied by his current life of faith and goodness more than other regular folks. He was experiencing an empathy he had never felt before.

‘My sister is not picking her phone,’ the wounded passenger said, still sobering. ‘And her husband is out of town. I need to tell somebody.’

‘What’s your name?’ Osu asked.

‘Ene.’

‘Ene, my name is Osu. I know you’re in a lot of pain, but everything will be fine,’ he assured. ‘Let’s just get to the hospital, we’ll figure everything out while you’re receiving treatment.’

The Okada rider didn’t say a word. He simply groaned in pain.

He took them to a private clinic and waited while they were attended to. There was something humbling about being in a hospital. Seeing sick people made him contemplate the quality of his mortal body—the fragility of it all. The doctor came out and said apart from the bruises, there was no other injury. Though Ene was resting, Osu could go in and see her. The Okada rider demanded to be released immediately.

The patient’s room was rather too typical for Osu. It had a tiled floor, a white bedside cupboard, blue bed sheets, blue curtains, and white ceiling fan and walls. There was nothing more, not even a TV. He stared at patient and imagined her without the bandages and swollen eyes. Going by the information she just gave to a nurse, she looked older for a twenty five-year-old, albeit in a good way—thick just enough and tall enough. He concluded that she was cute.

‘Has my sister called?’ she asked, trying to sit up.

‘Take it easy’ he said, raising his eyes away from his phone. ‘Relax. ‘I’m sure she’ll soon call.’

He smiled and asked her what day it is.

‘Very funny,’ she replied. ‘I’m not that high on pain killers. How long have I been here?’

‘About five hours, it is 1.48 now and it’s still Tuesday in case you’re wondering.’

Ene apologized for ruining his day. It was OK, he said. His office hadn’t called him yet. Apparently he was not missed, he joked. Osu tried to be funny as they conversed. Ene tried to smile even with the aching body. He was happy she was polite enough to seem entertained.

She was released from the hospital by three pm. Her sister still hadn’t called.

Osu paid settled the bills for her and the motorcyclist before she asked for it. She was not happy about it but she appreciated the gesture, he could see that. He drove her home and asked if he could check on her from time to time. She agreed, and gave him her number.

Later at night, he called her to ask if the swollenness around her knee was gone and to tell her goodnight. In the morning the next day, he called to ask her if she got some sleep. During his lunch break at work, he called just to check-up on her. Osu didn’t seem to lack reasons to call her. Their conversations got longer with every phone call. And he liked her more with every conversation. She was a good listener and had a unique way of explaining things. He liked that especially.

They agreed to see each other on Saturday. He would come to check on her. He was bringing lunch, he said.

There is reward to being good, he thought. A good citizen lifestyle and an impulsive act of kindness landed him the most awesome woman he’d ever met.

                                                ***

On Saturday, Osu was on her veranda a few minutes before 2pm. Ene opened the door after the second knock. She looked great, he told her. She thanked him and invited him in. Her sister was just leaving.

‘This is my sister, Ebo.’

‘It is nice to finally meet you,’ he said.

Ebo froze for a second looking at him, her smile suddenly died out. She smiled again and said it was nice to meet him as well. She apologized for not staying longer; she was needed urgently at the office. She thanked him warmly for helping her sister and left. He asked if Ebo was always this busy, walking toward a couch.

‘Bankers,’ she said. ‘They’re always busy.’

Looking around, he thought the small living room was too crammed, too much furniture. Was the couch too close to the TV or was the TV too big for the room? He couldn’t decide. He wondered when her sister would be back. She was kind of awkward. They ate and chatted throughout the rest of day. He left the place some minutes past six. He played it cool like a gentleman.

At about 8.43, Ebo came home. She looked more sad than tired and she told her sister why.

***

Osu received a text from Ene at 11pm. We need to talk, it said, lunch tomorrow?

‘Sure,’ he texted back.

He knew it. Something was definitely off about her sister. She didn’t like him. This had to be her, planning to block him. He had lost before he even began. He would have to wait for tomorrow to hear what excuse they had concocted. Or maybe he was the one who had been over reacting.

It was a long night on both sides.

At 1pm, Osu knocked on Ene’s entrance door. It was just like the day before. He was standing on the veranda, holding a bag of food, except he was an hour early and anxious. Ene invited him in. Just like yesterday, except she was clearly faking the politeness and looked tired. He mentioned it. She said she didn’t get much sleep last night. He asked why. She showed him the couch to sit.

‘There is no easy way to ask you this so I’ll be blunt,’ she began. ‘Did you attend Kano state University of Technology, Wudil?’

‘For a while, yes’ he answered, shifting to the edge of his seat. ‘Why do you ask?’

‘My sister went there too. You were in the same department and also in the same group in one of your courses. You were too popular, and she was too much of a nobody for you to remember her. She said you belonged to a gang?’

Osu hadn’t prepare a defence for this. He decided to be honest. He was a good man now or perhaps, today was the day to be vulnerable. Sometimes for a brief period, people put their hands down and wait for a punch to the face from life—an unexplainable moment of not giving a damn.

‘That was a long time ago,’ he replied. ‘How did she know I was in a gang?’

Her roommate was one of his kingpin’s girls, Ene explained. When they walked together in school, the roommate would point out gang members to Ebo for gossip and fun. Osu immediately wished he wasn’t that popular in the department back then.

That was not all. Her sister was one of the victims of a highway robbery from Kano to Wudil in 2010. Ebo recognised him as one of the armed robbers. She recognised him through his voice. He got into an argument with the one she suspected to be the leader of the operation. And through his ring, it was a unique possession. It had a square shaped head and it was completely black, hard to miss. He always wore it. They killed three people that day, causing injuries to a lot more.

‘You have to understand, I didn’t kill anyone that day,’ Osu began, raising his head to look at her. ‘And that was the day I left the gang for good. I have a past, and I’m not going to defend it by telling you why I did what I did. The things I did were wrong… There is no justification for them. But my life has been different since 2010. All of that life is behind me now and I’m trying hard to make some good. I appreciate your honesty and I’ll respect whatever you decide to do. I promise you, you have nothing to fear from me,’ he concluded. He spoke in some cathartic fashion. He never felt so vulnerable, yet relieved, like this before.

‘I know you didn’t kill anyone. My sister said you were against shooting harmless people, which was what led to the argument with your leader,’ Ene said slowly, forcing herself to speak. ‘You have been nothing but kind to me. I promise you have nothing to fear from me and my sister. Your secret past is safe with us.’

She looked away from him for some seconds before saying: ‘But I need to process all this, so please leave and don’t try to contact me.’

‘I understand,’ he said, getting up slowly. Then, he left.

Doing good didn’t have to beget good all the time. Maybe it cancelled a bad record from the past or a future misfortune or maybe doing good didn’t have to get you anything in return. Perhaps, doing good had to be done merely for the sake of doing good. Osu was yet to grasp the entire concept of being genuinely good.

He contemplated a lot of things while driving back home. He thought about skipping town; but he had a job and a life here. Besides, who said he wouldn’t run into another person from his past in another state. After all, he was more than 500km from Kano, yet look what happened. Most of all, he contemplated silencing them, permanently. What if they talked? They might not get a conviction but they would definitely ruin his reputation. Then again, they didn’t seem like the type that could afford the stress of reporting and pursuing such a case. But what if?

***

At 2.15, Osu returned home. He went straight to his bedroom, dragged his reading table to the centre and climbed on it. He pushed a tile of the ceiling up with ease. Using one hand, he reached to the side toward the door and brought out a box. He came down, sat on the edge of his bed and took out his Luger from it.

What was he thinking? He pondered. He wasn’t sure of what he was, but he was certainly not the man that would hurt two innocent sisters.

He was like an asteroid traveling in space, drawn by the gravity of one memory or another, one thought or another.

Osu inspected a golden bullet he took out from the magazine. Such a beautiful thing, he could swear it would not hurt when it hits a brain. Another thing he contemplated in the car began to seem clearer to him. He pushed the bullet back into the magazine, loaded the Luger, turned off the safety and cocked it. He wasn’t nervous. It would be over before he knew it. He wasn’t thinking about life, he was trying to end it. Osu opened his mouth wide and fixed the tip of the narrow pipe of the Luger into the roof of his mouth—its aimer facing down. Everything bottled up inside the bullet waiting to be released into the back of his head, to relieve him of his burden. He thought about all the things he knew about afterlife, the beauty of it all. But what enticed him was an afterlife of nothingness. For what if he didn’t deserve all the blissfulness of afterlife? He wanted everything to end then and then. He put his finger on the trigger thinking of empty, dark, endless space, and closed his eyes.

Memories fade. Sometimes the past was significant because of a thing, an object from a defining moment. Feeling the trigger with his finger, Osu barely remembered the first time he held and fell in love with his Precious. His first weapon and his last, every evil was done with it. The Luger was the representation of his dreaded past.

His phone rang.

Osu descended back to reality, drawn by the gravity of the present, that moment. He opened his eyes and turned to the phone beside him with the Luger still in his mouth. An incoming call from ‘Mum’, it showed. She wouldn’t call except it was something important. They were not in the best of terms, him and her. He wished for things to be better between them. He should start working towards that by picking the call. He shouldn’t end things like this with her. Afterlife nothingness could wait, he was thinking about life now.

In thinking about life, the past shouldn’t have sway over the future. He chose to let go of the past, first of all, by parting ways with an agent of it. It was time to obliterate the Luger. It was time to be free from the burden it brought and the dark possibilities it offered. Osu chose life, the hard present and uncertain future. He chose to strive. Suddenly, another call came in. He thought it was his mother again but it was not, it was Ene.

Ibrahim Oga

Ibrahim Oga is a thinker and a creative from Nasarawa state, Nigeria. He is the author of Vista of a Sisyphean Mind series on channillo.com He has published works on Random Photo Journal. He is the author of self-published flash fiction collection, Sisyphean Mind Anthology. Ibrahim loves bodybuilding and films. He tweets @ibtouchdown

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