Last Saturday I bumped into Mr. M. He used to be a friend of the family, until a certain incident changed that. Surrounded by basins of beans, rice, crayfish and other food condiments, he peered so hard at the polythene bag gradually being filled with items of food I wondered if there were hieroglyphic inscriptions on them.
It was obvious he’d been avoiding my gaze, possibly hoping I would walk past and continue my journey down the aisle. If anything, the quick aversion of his eyes as I came to a halt in front of his stall, and an abject refusal to acknowledge the possibility of a sale were giveaways. And I get that because I was just as embarrassed. Had I known that was his spot, I would have pretended not to have noticed and walked past. Right now I can’t tell if that would have been for my benefit or his. But I stayed, said hello and inquired about his family. I smiled at another customer, a chatty young man whose presence was like warm fire on a cold night. And then I walked down the aisle to purchase my goods from a different vendor.
Today I saw Mr. M just around the spot where the butchers sell their meat. But I didn’t call out like I used to when we were friends with no secrets. I slinked back into the shadows, grateful for the setting sun, with my face towards the wall, and my heart praying he’d keep his head down and walk past. Well, I needn’t have bothered for Mr. M seems to have mastered the art of walking with his head bowed.
We trusted him and woke up one morning to realize he’d been stealing from us. He claims to be innocent of the charges, but how does one explain the disappearance of over one million naira worth of goods with no sign of forced entry and zero exposure to the public? And that was just the first. When we carried out the yearly report to ascertain profit, Mr. M was always informed of abnormal losses. Of course no one suspected foul play, but still he’d come up with some reasons and solutions that bordered on the spiritual, for aside being a trainee in the business of buying and selling, Mr. M was also a pastor. But fetish as Nigerians can be, spirits neither steal money nor carry goods. And that was the end of our journey.
I wonder about him sometimes; his life now, feelings, family, pre and post incident. How a once bubbly man can be reduced to darting eyes and hurried steps. How one can preach one thing, and practice another. And how people who revere you one day can turn around to curse you the next– murmurs, smirks and snarky remarks.
I wonder about life. Money, needs, wants… our desires. If truly we have learnt the value of contentment, or just waltz around coveting things that aren’t ours, never truly learning to be thankful for what we have. And patience coupled with hard work, with the knowledge that someday we’ll get all the gold we want from a honest living.
I wonder about choices and repercussions. Why one bad can wipe out a lifetime of good like blotched ink on a fine sheet. I wonder if that’s fair, for on a scale good should outweigh bad, and a man’s good should be counted in his favour. I wonder if choosing to see just that single blotch isn’t in some way satisfying our cynicism, that no one is truly upright. But doesn’t righteousness take into account the possibility of wrong and remorse?
I wonder about bad choices, these things we call mistakes. They come with a world of consequences; slamming doors of opportunities, and shutting windows of favours; they sever bonds of trust, and turn a righteous walk to one of shame.
The world isn’t very forgiving. I wonder if that can change…