This is a fictional story. The incident itself is real but the characters and plot are works of art. Any resemblance to real people was not intentional.
* * *
“At all, I’m loving it sister Sewa.” Kemi replied.
“The barracks is quiet and would be perfect for the baby.”
Her sister nodded her head absentmindedly and stared blankly into the mirror in front of her. The hairdresser caught her glance and smiled at her. She smiled back.
“Okay Kemi.” She finally said. “I’m happy If you’re happy. Just make sure you’re safe.”
“I will Sis.”
“Drink a lot of water, watch the aerobic videos, rest a lot, eat heal.…”
“Yes Sis.” Kemi interrupted. “I’ve heard all of this before. I’ve not forgotten. I’ll talk to you later. Bruce is ready to leave.”
“Okay. My regards to him and Tofunmi. Take care. Bye.”
“Bye Sis.” Kemi said and terminated the call. She looked up at her husband fully clothed in his official uniform. He looked like the soldiers she saw in a Hollywood movie she saw that morning and she was proud.
“I’ll miss you darling.” She said to him and walked up to him. The baby bump restrained her from getting as close as she wanted but he bent over to kiss her. She kissed him back wholeheartedly.
“I’ll miss you too love.” He said and carried his luggage. She watched him say goodbye to their seven year old daughter; Tofunmi and a tear dropped from the corner of her eye. She already missed him.
“I’ll be back on the thirtieth. Be safe.” He said as he shut the door behind him. She walked to the window and watched as her husband joined his colleagues also dressed in their camouflage uniforms. She never quite remembered why it had to be camouflage. He told her once but she didn’t remember. The hot, mind blowing sex minutes before he did didn’t help either.
She was about to pull away from the window when she caught him look back at the house and could have sworn she saw a tear. His colleagues laughed and Tunde patted him on the back. She felt a relief when she saw Tunde. He made her feel safe. Out of all his friends, she trusted him the most.
They had been friends for ages; Tunde and Bruce. Attended the same secondary school and enlisted in the army on the same day. Bruce had introduced him as his best friend the day they met. Now she watched both of them head for Bakassi peninsula beside the city of Calabar to serve their country. They were but protectors of the Land. It was their duty. She never quite accepted that. She hated his job. Hated the uniform. Hated the barracks. Hated everything about the profession but she couldn’t do anything about it. The army was his first love. She had to live with that.
* * *
The loud sound of the ceramic vase shattering on the terrazo floor woke her from her slumber. The effect heightened the migraine she felt and she shrieked in pain. Her blue face Motorola cellphone rang beside her and she picked the call. It was her sister; Sewa.
“Kemi!” She heard Sewa yell on the call. “Where are you?” She could feel the anxiety in her sister’s voice.
“At home Sis. What’s wrong?”
“Oh my God. Get out of there now.” Sewa ordered. “Kemi, take Tofunmi and get out of there!”
She heard a loud sound as she arched her back and some boards fell from the ceiling. Voices rang around the road adjoining her room and she jumped up. She rushed to the living room amidst shattering window panes, grabbed a crying Tofunmi and exited the house.
On the street, she was greeted by people heading in the direction of the barracks entrance. A couple of cars drove through the crowd hitting some pedestrians in their haste. Quickly, she joined the fleeing crowd dragging her daughter along.
The migraine pangs slowed her down and she struggled to see ahead. Her head hurt, her breathing was heavy and she felt fire in her belly but she didn’t stop. They approached an intersection she recognized and she hesitated to follow the majority of the crowd heading in one direction.
“Never take that route, Kemi. There is a canal at the end of that road covered with water hyacinth. Nobody knows It’s there.” She recalled her husband saying once. She tried to warn the people heading in that direction about their impending doom but none hearkened. They just zoomed past her like flies to a bug zapper. Giving up, she said a brief prayer for them and turned to continue in the other direction when a Nissan Sunny hit her and sent her flying. She landed with a turd on her bump and yelled in pain. Tofunmi rushed to her side and tried to drag her up but the child failed in getting her back to her feet and Kemi laid there in the red sand. Blood flowed down her legs and she knew this was the end.
The sun disappeared slowly in the east and she knew darkness would soon be upon them.
“Tofunmi.” She said.
“Yes Mummy.” The crying child replied.
“Keep running darling. I’ll meet you at the gate.”
The child shook her head In disapproval and wiped her running nose.
“No Mummy. I’m scared, let’s go together.”
“No Tofunmi. Mummy needs to rest. I’ll meet you at the gate with baby, you hear?”
Tofunmi nodded this time and managed a smile. Kemi pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead one last time. Tears streamed down her face as she watched her daughter scamper through the crowd in the distance. Her phone rang and she answered the call.
“Hello Sis.” She said into the mouthpiece.
“Kemi.” Sewa said. “Where are you?”
“I couldn’t make it.” She replied. “But… Tof…”
“What do you mean by you couldn’t make it?” Kemi asked.
“I can’t, Sis.” A sob interrupted her and she pulled herself together to continue. “I can’t make it, but Tofunmi can. Find her and take car.…”
A blast erupted and the phone went dead.
* * *
Some say It’s never too late to right a wrong. I argue and say sometimes it is. I’ve lived long enough to know that life can throw you off balance in a second and render all your plans useless.
That’s why I’ll rather live in the present. Planning for the future is also important but what We do with our present is what influences that future we crave.
This is my rendition of the Ikeja Cantonment armoury explosion on the 27th of January, 2002.
It’s hard to imagine It happened 12 years ago but time flies and so do opportunities and lives. It’s painful to imagine that there was someone who passed away via that disaster that wasn’t meant to be where he or she was at that particular time. It’s painful to imagine that like my story, families were broken, legacies were destroyed and lives were lost. It could have been you Or me instead of someone there that fateful day.
Life is a cheat.
A respecter of nobody.
If it decides It’s your time to say goodbye, bar God’s intervention, you’re going.
So my advice is simple.
Live like today’s your last.
Love like he or she would be no more tomorrow.
And laugh like your source of laughter might soon disappear.
In truth, you actually only live once. So live it right and well.
Have a lovely day.