THE FAILED ESCAPE FROM MY LANDLORD
by Ekelaka Eunice
I think I’m supposed to begin this story with the usual ‘once upon a time’ and leave you breathless with a very fulfilling happy ending. But this is Nigeria and nothing really ends happily, especially when the home you can boast of is a small room; with a tiny window which looks like an afterthought, a bathroom that fifteen people share, excluding the other neighbours that sometimes sneak to use because theirs has been damaged from too much usage, and a landlord who believes God is partly deaf, so has to sing at the top of his lungs to praise him as early as 4am every morning.
I have dodged my landlord for the past few months now, because I was rudely awakened to the fact that beauty and house rent couldn’t be substituted for one another when I tried to powder my face, gloss my lips heavily, and use my feminine wiles to convince my landlord to cut the rent for me or give me more time to pay up. I can still remember his words and jeering laughter in my wake as I was unceremoniously flung from his dingy door, “if la fineness dem take dey make money, shebi I for be millionaire? Comot from here!” The shame I felt that day, as some neighbours who had been woken by the ruckus created by the evil man at about midnight, snickered, was something I never wanted to experience again.
So I resorted to dodging till that fateful day.
At about 4am, I was up, ready to jump into the bathroom, get dressed quickly and disappear before the landlord finished his annoyingly loud praise session or any of my neighbours woke up. I grabbed my bucket, bathing things and dashed towards the bathroom. Getting there, I realized it was padlocked, which was unusual as we all agreed to leave it unlocked since we kept losing keys and buying new ones. I dropped my things, and went in search for the keys where we usually kept them. The keys weren’t there. Strange!
I began checking for keys in front of windows, till I found the bunch hidden underneath a bucket below the Landlord’s window. I gleefully snatched it up and jumped into the bathroom.
After five minutes of vigorous washing, I was done. I reached for my towel and noticed it was gone. I assumed it fell off from where I hung it on the wall, so I packed my things, picked up my bucket, unlatched the door and pushed, ready to hightail it to my room before I was seen. But the wooden door wouldn’t budge. Thinking something was preventing it from opening, I bent down to check, discovered nothing and tried to push again.
That was when I heard the voice. The voice from hell. My Landlord’s voice.
“If you like, push from now till tomorrow, you no go comot from there till you give me my sixty thousand naira!”
And that was how my hell began.