EPISODE THREE: GRATITUDE
Whenever I passed by Berger, I will see him, sitting at the corner of the street with his long stick and ragged bag; His hairs were strands of dreads locked for either centuries or God knows how long; His clothes were pieces of ragged-white turned brown by the combined effect of dust blown at him from non-challant road users and the wind itself. His skin was dark, not the typical complexion of a beautiful black skin king, but from the myriads of days without water and soap to lather on the body. He knew nothing about our world or so I thought. Whenever a passerby walked towards him, he would pose like an angry lion, waving his rugged stick in the air.
On his right, he had a packet of cigarettes with which he snapped at road users, On his left he held one of the sticks which unlit he would bask in the guise of smoking something to calm the nerves. On a good day, a jolly-good fellow would throw a lighter at him and he would gracefully enjoy his pipemeal. A day came, I decided to throw a candy at him, he waved his rugged stick at me, picked the candy, placed it in his ragged and dusty bag, looked up from the bag and grinned. Bewildered, I wondered if he understood the language of our world- the language of love, resentment, painful-gains and chaotic- harmony.
I thought I could show kindness to him but didn’t know how to about it. First, if he was psychic as he seemed then I would have to devise ways of expressing care without his marking my face; second, what on Earth would I offer him that will be tangible and helpful to him, considering my status in life and his condition.
An idea popped into my head, I could throw some crispy mints at him, and he would pick them and placed it in his decayed bag as he did with the candy but what if hoodlums attack and take the little coins from him? Not even his rugged stick will save him from them. After about thirty (30) minutes of conversing within, I made my way to the GTbank at Omole Phase two (2) inserted my Naira MasterCard into the Automated Teller Machine, (ATM) withdrew some cash from the little savings I made during my NYSC, entered a shopping mall and got some goodies.
By the time I was done shopping, it was already late in the evening. Knowing I could fall into the hands of one of the hoodlums, I took my goodie bag and made for Annie’s house which was like a stone throw from the mall.
The next day, I woke early, without waiting to bid farewell to Annie, I took the bag of goodies and I went straight to his usual spot.
Carefully I dropped the bag filled with clothes, candy, soaps, eateries, money and what have you; They weren’t perfect but I found satisfaction dropping that goodie bag some miles away from him.
As though he knew it was for him, He carelessly dropped the unlit cigarette and made for the bag.
I watched him with so much curiosity as he seemed to count every single item on the bag; suddenly, his eyes shifted from the bag to someone across the road- me.
My heart raced as he fixed his dark- grey, sun-burned pupils on me, slowly I moved from where I stood, He rose with the bag and made towards me, I slowly moved from where I stood, towards the direction of the Agberos, at least they may be kind enough to save me from him.
Without removing his gaze from mine, he crossed the road coming towards me, I increased my pace, but he seemed to be faster than I was. I started running as fast as I could turning around he was running after me. Just when I thought, I would be caught up by an act of kindness to a complete stranger, he Stoped, bowed and mutterred something that seemed like gratitude.
Relieved I went back home. At least I neither fell into his hands nor that of the hoodlums not knowing which would have posed more danger.
The day after, I made yet a visit to his usual spot; to my surprise, he had his hair trimmed, his red shirt sparkled in the dazzling December Sun. My cheeks fluttered as he slowly walked towards me, though I was afraid, I at least knew he wasn’t deranged . He stoped at a reasonable distance from where I stood, forced a smile, with clouded eyes, he echoed:
“Ese, Eni to Olorun ran,Oluwa maa bukun fun yin” [Thank You God-sent, God bless you]
I went back to Anie’s house smiling, grateful to God that I saved a life out of my life savings. At least I still had to appreciate her for letting me bash into her house unannounced and leaving before She woke.
At 12:00 pm, I found myself at my sister’s house, the whole family was already celebrating the arrival of the new baby.