The Beginning here
However, today hasn't been all bad. In fact, the drowning of our family albums has been the only sad occurrence today. And to be sincere, today has turned out to be a very good day. Fatai, one of the single-room tenants in the 40-room apartment adjacent to our house, won a lottery yesterday evening. And today, he is celebrating it. He has been playing Baba-Ijebu every evening for the past 8 months, since his bosom friend won N50,000. And yesterday was his own lucky day, after the evening prayers, he went straight to the lotto stand, and ended up picking the winning number that bagged him a whooping N250,000.
The noise from the 4 feet tall locally made speakers, 5 of them, is deafening. Since noon, there has been a big party, all the youths in the neighbourhood are sitted, standing and waltzing from end to end in the empty space that separates our house and Fatai's. I have been having a swell day too, for the first time in my life I not only tasted beer, I also drank an entire bottle of Star Lager beer and two 20cl bottles of Chelsea dry gin. And argued with some six other boys on who has drunk the most alcohol. Being the most scientific, I have been proving to them that a single 20cl bottle of dry gin has got more alcohol than a 60cl bottle of beer. But they were too vain and lousy to listen or understand. And not too long into the argument, I began to feel sleepy, my speech became slurred and I became very scared, and immediately staggered into the house and headed straight for the bed.
This wasn't the first time someone in the neighbourhood won a lottery. Four months ago, Jide, another single-room tenant living in the 26-room apartment opposite our house, won in a Coca-cola raffle draw. He won a Volkswagen Golf, but since he could not drive, he sold it to Emeka (his next door neighbour) and bought the biggest air conditioner I have ever seen. After installing the air conditioner, taking up the entire lower half of his window, he bought a very noisy generator to power the air conditioner on most nights. The generator was so noisy, three other tenants moved out of the apartment when they could not prevail on him to change the engine. If only they had been more tolerant, because just three days after the last of the three moved out, Jide decided to service the generator. And Yusuf, a co-tenant who works full-time as a generator repairer, is still servicing the generator, for six weeks now. Some people say that he has never serviced a generator that big, others say he is trying to get at Jide for not giving him the contract of purchasing the generator. And now, every night for the past 8 days, Jide has been threatening Yusuf. He screams every night at the top of his voice that he is going to get Yusuf arrested by the police and locked up forever if the generator is not restored to a working condition by month end.
Life in these multi-room apartments is a strange mix of comedy and tragedy. Just last week, Tunde married his next door co-tenant, Jumoke. And now, they have broken a portion of the wall separating their rooms, to install a door between the two rooms. Tunde's room is now the living room and Jumoke's room is the bedroom. It's the cheapest house upgrade I have ever seen, I just hope Jumoke won't mind continuing the rent payment for the room, considering that Tunde now sleeps there. Just yesterday, there was a mother of all fights in Fatai's apartment. Soji had just come back from a friend's birthday bash, and went straight to the shared toilet. God knows what he ate at the birthday party, but he used up an entire hour offloading his bowels, and locking out twenty people waiting to use the toilet. When he finally came out, there was a free-for-all fight, as all the twenty people tried to enter the toilet at the same time. It was so terrible, Tinu lost half a crate of empty Pepsi bottles, six people were stabbed with broken bottles, four had knife cuts and two were beaten senseless with blows. In the end, several of them had to go visit their friends in other apartments just so they could use their toilets. Every morning there is always a long queue in front of the toilet and bathroom, some tenants wake up as early as 3am just to beat the queue. But only Mallam Ali has successfully developed a winning scheme, he takes his daily bath only at nights.
But living in such an apartment has its unique advantages. There is always ample audience/participants for every event you do - from an in-house football competition to the burial of a grand-mother nine states away. And you are never short of a helping hand - be it people to help put out a fire at 2am or to help with the cooking and event set-up at your wedding.
Though my parents are against me befriending the other children living in those apartments, I have managed to put them in the dark as regards my blooming friendship with most of them. Every late afternoon, when my parents are not yet back home, I shuffle between several of those apartments visiting my numerous friends. They excite me with the stories of the day-to-day happenings in the apartments and I help them do their school assignments. My closest friend is John, he lives in the apartment adjacent to ours. He moved in there with his mum, four months ago, after his father kicked them out of his 6 bedroom mansion without a divorce notice or severance pay. The father claimed he has found a new love and wants to start his married life afresh. John is the only boy in the neighbourhood that is as intelligent as me, and his spoken English is way better that mine. But I beat him hands-down when it comes to written English. In fact, he occasionally bribes me with some chewing gum he steals from his mother's store, to make me do his English essay assignments. But what I love the most about him is that he doesn't shout and curse like the other boys. The other boys are very vain, they have swapped out every greeting and common words with swear words.
Even though today's party is at John's apartment, he didn't join us in drinking beer and dry gins. And when we teased him and called him mummy's pet, he simply stayed silent and watched us. He is really the best behaved boy in the neighbourhood.