Bidemi Lajide was cheating on his wife of seven years. I should state that upfront so you do not think this is a mystery story. I should also mention that he will get caught so there isn’t any suspense about that either.
This evening, Mr Lajide is at home in the living room watching football. He has pulled the centre table close and stretched both feet on it. The match was played earlier today and he already knows the score, which is why he can kick back and watch calmly like this. His wife can be heard rummaging around in the corridor that leads to the bedroom. She comes out in a flurry of quick movements and enters the kitchen where she continues her noisy undefined activity. He is now on the phone: “Hello, I am watching the game. I know, see how our boys are messing up. If it was me I will not even wait, I will fire that coach immediately.”
At halftime, Mr Lajide gets up with considerable effort. Wheezing, he nudges the centre table with his knee and lumbers to the toilet leaving a deep dent in the couch and his phone on the table. His wife, Moji, comes in from the kitchen with a rag. She dusts the side tables and the shelf that holds the television. Her wrapper comes loose as she bends to clean. She turns to the centre table by the couch. She clears the table, picking the phone up and pauses for a moment, phone in one hand while she tucks in the edge of her wrapper with the other hand.
This is when Bidemi comes back from the toilet. He stops at the entrance to the sitting room and seeing his wife through the swaying bead curtain holding his phone with an irritated look on her face, he assumes that she has seen something on the phone to upset her.
Nine months earlier, Moji Lajide had talked about starting a business. It began on the day she ran into her friend, Bimbo, from secondary school. After the initial greeting, even though nobody asked her, Bimbo had said, “Ah, I am doing business now o.” She flashed the rings on her fingers and continued to give unsolicited information. “I go to Dubai, China, India, anywhere we have contacts.”
And as they stood there by the road catching up, counting off countries on fingers, Moji thought that if someone passing looked at them, the person would not believe they were ex-classmates. The person would think Bimbo was her madam.
They parted without taking each other’s numbers. Moji returned home that day with determination borne of the certainty you can do something better than someone else. She wasn’t impressed by the jewellery, she said when she told her sister. She didn’t care that much about travelling, she said when she told the other clerk at work. Really, how hard was it to do business, sef.
She talked about starting business about a hundred times that first day, about seventy times the second day, and only about thirty times on the third day. There was a wedding that weekend that she’d bought aso-ebi for and by the time Monday rolled around, other things occupied her mind.
So when her husband surprised her with seed money for the business, she couldn’t remember why she had been so intent on it.
She held on to the money for weeks, unwrapping it and counting every few days, annoyed at being put into this situation where she had to follow up on her talk, until one of the girls at the salon mentioned a man running a QuikInvest shop. Give him one thousand, she said, and after a month he will give you back one-five. If you want, invest the one thousand five hundred, he will give you three thousand.
The hairdresser said, “They are using internet. It is foreign trading. If you don’t believe, try small first. If it doesn’t work, at least you will know.” Moji shook her head and made a scoffing noise in her throat. When her weave was done, she got up and inspected it turning in the mirror. Satisfied, she paid the girl, and as she waited for the change, she looked in the mirror again, patted her new hair and said, “And give me that man’s number.”
She put in five thousand and got seven-five after a month. She took it out, pocketed the profit, and put in the entire hundred thousand. The QuikInvest man said, “This one will take more time, so you must exercise patience.” Then he asked if she had more friends who wanted to invest. He kept calling and texting her to remind her to recommend her friends. Each time, she would take the call in private, speaking in a low voice. “Yes. I’ve heard. I will tell them.” Afterwards, she would clear her call log and delete his text messages even though she had saved his name as ‘Oga Tailor’.
The months for the hundred thousand had passed, but for the last week, the man’s phone had been off. His shop was locked and the sign outside had been taken down. Moji went to the salon where the girl was sitting in the corner with swollen eyes. When the hairdresser saw Moji, she started crying again. The story that came out between sobs was about her mother’s pension and how could she face the people she had told to invest in the man. Moji rushed out of the salon. She went home and started furious cleaning. She washed the bathrooms, mopped the floors, and scrubbed the buckets. She swept the corridor, brushed the cobwebs high in the corners. In the kitchen, she wiped down the cooker. She exposed the dank interior of the cabinet underneath the sink and cleared out the junk that had accumulated there.
She moved to the living room, dusted the side tables and was holding her husband’s phone, absentmindedly tucking in her wrapper, trying to remember if she had saved any of the text messages from the investor when Bidemi stormed in shouting at her about checking his phone, and respect my privacy this and privacy that.