I watch the game every weekend at a bar with Aniro. We just like screaming at the TV when we watch our team, Arsenal. We couldn’t do this at home. At least at mine. You couldn’t even watch a reel of Monday night football talk less of seeing a full match to scream at. My mum bit the remote off my hands once when I threatened to interrupt her AfMag binge watching. “Don’t even dare” She says.
We usually sit at a reserved section Zonga kept for us. Zonga was the son of the bar owner. He didn’t know jack shit about football but he liked to watch the game with us so he could stick it up our arse when yet another minnow team went one up against us. Today was no different.
Even before fat Mark Atkinsons could kick off the game, we were well taken in the cups and the beers started doing the talking. Zonga started giving us some shit about how ugly Wenger was and Aniro just lost it. Before you could say Ozil, things took a turn for the worst. Zonga was slagging us real bad from the awful Silvestre signing we made to the eight Manure put past us some forgotten years ago. Not to be outdone, we told him his mum was a big fat breasted bitch, and my word, it became total chaos. At this point, three men stepped in, high on whatever it was they were high on, dressed in their best impression of Abgeros. I remember saying, ‘We’re finished’ over and over again to myself as they closed in with bottles and fists that could do untold damage if used aggressively to the rectal area.
We escaped with simply handling over our shoes and wallets. We Were done for- no shoes, no money. And we needed to take a bus back home. But at least we kept our teeth because the barman couldn’t find his pliers.
After many minutes begging on the street with no success, I made a call home to my mum I was not coming home tonight. She really didn’t care and just muttered something about how she wished it wasn’t just this night. In true Momzilla fashion.
As we were stranded on the street, Aniro was already freaking out saying he couldn’t sleep at a stranger’s house. “Where are going to sleep tonight? I can’t poo in someone’s toilet if it isn’t the one at my house. The poo won’t come.”
I told him about this girl I used to shag few blocks away. She worked at a hotel not far from the bar. She could give us a room to sleep in for free. So we called her and told her our plight. She said it was fine.
We arrived at Verses as everywhere got pitch black and made our way to the reception where I knew Victoria was going to be. She ran out from behind the desk and almost knocked me over hugging me. I told her we needed a room and promised to shag her if she did. Then she recoiled and looked down.
‘Ok, I’m sorry. No shagging. Just room. Please.’
‘It’s not that, Jama. You could always beat my thing. It’s something else.’
‘What? You said it was ok on the phone...’
She looked around to see if anyone was watching. The reception was almost empty, just some deadbeat wasted at a corner. ‘Follow me.’
Vicky took us to this broom room and locked the door behind us.
‘Look, there is just one room left.’
‘No it’s not.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘OK.’ She said Ok like she had a finger up her bumhole. ‘Have you heard of Woju Woju’
‘Kiss Daniel?’ Aniro asked.
‘Oh fuck, Aniro shut it.’ I hit him in his fat belly. I could tell Kiss Daniel wasn’t our problem now. It was something more sinister.
‘There is this room. The room appears and disappears in random hotels all over Nigeria. Sometimes it is in a Lagos hotel, other times in a Sokoto Hotel, some other times in one of the many Warri hotels.’
I was starting to think I and Aniro weren’t the only ones in the room with beer rumbling in our bowels.
‘Woju Woju?’ I was having a laugh. ‘we’ve got no shoes, no money. Vicky if you don’t want to help...’
Someone banged on the door from outside and Vicky opened and stepped out locking us in. We could hear mumbling voices on the other end and she came back seconds later.
Soon, we were running up a flight of stairs. At the first landing, we turned a corner into a long corridor and I could tell this was the lodging area. We stopped at a door numbered101c.
She took out a bunch of keys and we were in.
‘Are we staying here?’ Aniro asked.
‘I’ll be back.’
‘Wait...is this the woju woju?’ I held her back.
She was didn’t reply. She was gone.
We started sweating.
‘Aniro, it’s better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick, and better to be poor and sick than Vicky,’ I was looking at the room and it seemed fine. ‘Vicky is deluded. I know this girl. She is cute, nice and all but she has her demons. No need to worry about some myth and shit. Let’s just go to bed and have some rest.’
Joy flooded me as I realized it was a normal room. Sure it needed a good cleaning, but still a normal room. A rusted bed frame sat in a corner, mattress and blankets long gone. Part of the window was broken, letting in a breeze that rocked a rocking chair. No other furniture was in the room.
‘Is that a rocking chair?’ Aniro was going to sit on it. ‘I only saw one in the movies.’
‘It was quite popular back in the days.’ I told him remembering my mum used to tell me about one in a home she grew up in. I walked to the window and stared out into the night. That’s when I saw it. Something very shocking. Out there were just rows and rows of mosques. Lots of them.
‘Hey, Niro. Come see?’
‘I know no say this kind place dey Obalende o?’
Aniro looked as shocked as I was, ‘Swear down.’
I left the window and double checked the room. The only other thing in the room was a closet. The door to the closet, if i blow hard enough, I could knock it off.
‘If anyone is here, I mean no harm. Please give me a sign you are here. I just want to know your story.’ Aniro was looking up and around the room doing this voodoo dance.
‘Retard, will you cut it out.’ I ran into him and knocked him on the floor both of us laughing hysterically.
Then we sat on the bed and waited. Tensed at every sound. One hour later and nothing. It was obvious Vicky was coming back. Aniro was already snoring. I decided to go look for Vicky. Reckoned I could shag her in that closet.
I walked down the corridor which looked a bit narrower than when we first walked through it. Strange. Then I went down the stairs and walked towards the reception. It was eerily dark and dingy. Empty too. I got to where the reception should be and it wasn’t there. Was i that drunk when we first came in, I thought. I finally spotted what was the reception.
No one answered because no one was there. Everywhere was more quiet than a place that was quiet. I was heading back to the room when I spotted a newspaper on the floor.
It was an odd looking paper. The typeset and appearance were just off. The words TRIBUNE ran over the top. I picked it up and immediately the date jumped at me.
February 13, 1976.
The headline was even more scary. ‘Murtala Mohammed shot in his black Mercedes Benz’
Who could have kept this from all those years.
I heard footsteps that jolted me upright and a slim slender man walked through the shadows speaking Hausa. I knew zilt in Hausa and so had no idea what he was saying. He seemed to have figured and spoke in English, ‘What are you doing here?’
His dressing was off like he just walked off the set of a 70s TV Show.
Then it hit me like a brick. I looked at the newspaper still in my hand and looked back up at the man. He was as puzzled as I was.
‘What year is it, sir?’
‘Year, What year are we in?’
He took a long pause all the time looking at me like I was a mad man from the street. ‘1976.’
The paper fell from my grasp.
The Rocking Chair
There is this room. The room appears and disappears in random hotels all over Nigeria. Sometimes it is in a Lagos hotel, other times in a Sokoto Hotel, some other times in one of the many Warri hotels.
I was beginning to run back to the room. As I waded my way beside the creepy man he held me back.
‘I know who you are. I know what happened to you.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Your friend, he’s gone. You would have too, but you left room 101c at just the right moment.’
Thre next thing I remember was losing focus, blurry-eyed and then nothingness
- Written by Alfred Banjo