My neighbours were a bunch of borrowers and rip-offs. On my first night in my apartment, they’d knocked, one after the other to introduce themselves to me. I had received them courteously, trying to play the very jovial neighbour that I was not. I shouldn’t have pretended to be the happy neighbour because that seemed to have drawn them to me like magnet. Two days later, one of my neighbours, Suzzie, was at my door.
“I ran out of sugar, do you have some?”
I politely told her that I didn’t since I had not visited the supermarket yet.
“Oh…okay, I wanted to drink tea but I found out that my sugar is finished.” She informed me. “Do you have any tea bag?”
This was the same lady I had told that I hadn’t gone to the supermarket yet. What was this house? A hostel?
My house was a one storey building with eight self-contain/mini-apartments within and all the apartments were occupied with tenants. Since it’s close to the island, a lot of working-class people live there so that they can commute easily to the island for work.
My second nightmare is Jude, he claims to be a photographer but for the past week since I’ve lived in my new place, I have never seen him with a camera. Yesterday, I heard him tell another neighbour that he is a painter. He also came to my door asking to borrow my phone charger and the day after that, he asked if I had a spare pot. Just this morning, he asked if I could borrow him airtime to call someone who’s owing him money.
My third neighbour is Ingrid who loves to cook but seems to love burning things. Two days ago, she ran to my door screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Do you have a fire extinguisher? My kitchen is on fire!”
All the neighbours ran into her apartment and found the kitchen curtain on fire. Luckily, we were able to douse the fire and everything had gone back to normal.
So much for my anonymous life. I want so desperately to be on my own but so far, it wasn’t working as I’d planned.
I missed Kanyinsola’s a bit especially as there wasn’t a time that I was alone in that house. Kanyinsola’s sister made the house cheerful, their mother made it gloomy while their father and Timi made me the centre of their attention, always.
Living alone and far away from home was torture. Since I cut off my family, I’ve cut off from all my friends including the ones I made during my childhood days and teen days. My university friends had my former phone number and since I’d thrown the sim card away, there’s no way they can reach me.
This is how I want it to be.
I want people to think that I’d disappeared from the face of the earth but nothing prepared me for the loneliness I felt deep inside. Maybe that’s why when Suzzie came knocking at my door in the wee hours of the morning, asking for yet another item and I told her that I still haven’t been able to go to the supermarket, and she’d asked if I’d like to accompany her to the supermarket later in the day, I’d agreed.
I had no choice but to agree, I had spent the past one week living like a hermit and only stepping out of my house twice daily in order to send the security man to buy me food or water.
I had just slipped my feet into my sandals when I heard the doorbell. I buckle my sandals and head towards the door.
“Hello…” I greeted with a smile.
“Hi Cleopatra…” She said. “Has anyone told you that your name is very rare and beautiful?”
“Yes, your name is very rare and I like it.”
“Thanks.” I said. “How are we getting to the supermarket?” I asked.
“Well, I have a cab guy who drives me around whenever I need him to.” She said.
I stepped out of my house and locked the door behind me. We both made our way to the gate.
“Don’t you have a generator yet?” She asked.
“No…not yet.” I said as I mentally cringed at my bank account which was slowly depleting.
“What are you waiting for? I think you’re not bothered because there’s power supply at night but when PHCN decides to change their mind, you will run to the store to get yourself a generator.”
“What do you want to buy at the supermarket? Do you have a list?” She asked.
I shook my head. We stepped out of the gate and walked towards the waiting car. We both got into the back seat.
“Where to, ma?” The cab driver asked.
“The supermarket, the one in Lekki phase one.” Suzzie said quickly.
“Lekki phase one? Isn’t that far?”
“We have to shop like the big girls, besides the items in the supermarket are pretty affordable and there’s a plus, there are hot guys there too.”
“Hot guys? Shopping?”
“Well…they are mostly in the drinks sections or the perfume section but who says they won’t see us even if they aren’t shopping in the food section?” She said. “Because I met the last guy I dated at that supermarket. It’s a very popular one in Lekki one.”
“Okay, if you say so.” I said.
“Wait…you don’t sound too excited or do you have another supermarket in mind?”
“No, I’m fine with us going to the supermarket you’ve chosen.” I said.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to stop for a bit at my sister’s place. She lives close to the supermarket with her family. I just want to see if there’s anything she wants to get from the supermarket so that I can help her get it.”
“If she lives close to the supermarket, she should have gotten everything she wants.” I said.
“Well…I always go to her to ask if she has anything to buy so that she can give me some money for my shopping. You see, her husband has a lot of money and all she does is, spend it.”
“Oh…okay.” I said.
I remained silent for the rest of the drive while Suzzie kept talking. We reached her sister’s place and I was impressed by the size of the house.
“Come on…let’s go in.” She said to me.
“I think I’d rather stay in the car.” I said.
“What? Don’t be a kill-joy. C’mon, let me introduce you to my sister.” She persisted.
Suzzie stepped out of the car and I had no choice but to follow suit. Just as we walked into the house, she saw a nice car in the garage.
“Oooohh…my sister’s hubby is home.” She said. “Why is he still home at this time?”
I didn’t reply but followed her into the lovely house. I think Suzzie was expecting me to scream in surprise at the beauty of the house but I didn’t especially as I come from wealthy home. I have never seen a house as big as my parent’s house except for some of my father’s business partners and friends’ houses that are bigger and more beautiful than ours.
“Look at that painting.” Suzzie said, pointing at the painting of a bare-chested woman holding a child. “That costs about two million naira. Can you believe that? My brother-in-law loves to spend.”
We walked into a small sitting room downstairs and I sat down while Suzzie rushed into the house to look for her sister. I stood up to look at the artefacts used to decorate the sitting room that I didn’t notice that I had company.
“Where’s Suzzie?” A familiar male voice asked.
I spun around and froze.
“Cleopatra? What…what are you doing here?” He asked me.
Suzzie rushed into the small sitting room and placed her hand playfully over his shoulders.
“I see you’ve already met the best brother in-law in the world.” She said to me.
I couldn’t speak, it felt as though salvia had dried in my mouth.
“Hi…” I managed to say.
“Enitan, meet my new neighbour, Cleopatra.” Suzzie introduced.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Enitan said, not taking his eyes away from me.
To be continued….