The Man Who Could See the Future
Iyama can see the future—it is staring him directly in the face.
Before now, Iyama, like every other mortal, didn’t know what the future held, not even in the next one hour. He carried his hope like a talisman’s skin bag that one day everything would be fine.
Everyday, he would return from his work of conveying goods from the market to their final destination, either to a waiting okada or bus, on his wheelbarrow with his wrinkled forehead dripping with sweat and dust ladened feet as the souvenirs he brought home to his four children when they cluster around him. Then he would take a quick bath. It was always quick because there was usually little soap to bathe with. Sometimes, it was just water, the one his wife or children fetched from an open well close to their house.
Then he would smack his radio again and again until a voice came on while waiting for his food. But that day, there was no food for him. His wife hovered around him, waiting for him to settle before she reminded him that she had earlier told him that there was no food in the house in the morning before he left for work. He sighed and kept the old, rusty radio on the stool that was waiting to carry his plate of food on its back.
“What about the children, the children? What did they eat?” he asked.
“They take garri,” came his wife’s low response.
He avoided looking directly at her, because he knew she, too, hadn’t eaten. He looked around suddenly aware that the room was devoid of anyone else. “Where are the children?”
“They go watch film in the neighbour’s house.”
He nodded, letting a small silence wedge in between them. “Check my trousers that I wore to work.” He pointed to where he had hung the trousers on a nail on the wall.” There is ₦500 inside the back pocket, please manage to get us something for the night.”
His wife nodded and went, not before he saw the pain in her eyes. He knew the money wasn’t enough in the present economy. That night, sleep deserted him. He hissed inwardly. Everything seems to desert him these days. His father was actually the first.
His father deserted them when they needed him the most and allowed his wicked brothers to take every valuable thing he owned, leaving his wife and children with nothing. Why didn’t he wait till his children were older before kicking the bucket for God’s sake? So Iyama and his siblings had to drop out of school. He knew, with the way things were going, his children might suffer the same fate.
The next day came with its own problem. A more tasking one. An unexpected heavy rain fell in the middle of February. People were few in the market and most of the ones who came didn’t want their goods carted in a barrow, but in their hands. The little that did want it ignited a fierce struggle between the barrow men. Iyama returned home with an almost empty pocket.
The bed in their one room apartment was raised against the wall. Two small buckets were placed on the ground where the bed used to be. He knew, even before his wife said it in a low voice, that the roof was leaking again. He sat and buried his head in his hands and waited for his food. When it came, he couldn’t quite point out what it really was. It was too whitish. But he ate it anyway.
Then his wife brought along with her another news: the children were sent home from school due to fees.
It was then he knew he could actually see the future.
The next day, while his friends at work talked about which team won their games in the Premier League and La Liga, he told them about the future.
“See, this country holds no future for us at all, at all.”
“Na now you know?” said one of the men laughing. Three parallel lines ran down his cheeks. “We no get future for this country. We just day survive—oh.”
“See as poor man day suffer, yet those big men day travel, day travel,” Iyama said. “Which kind life be this?”
“Na who you day ask?” another man interjected. He had eyeballs that were threatening to bulge out.
“If you wan live long,” the man with the tribal mark said, “no even day worry about the future. Dat one na hypertension oh.”
Iyama ignored him while he laughed, “I know my future. I no go watch my children live this kind life.”
“Abeg, you talk too much,” the man with the protruding eyeballs said, “See as Arsenal cut my ticket.”
“Arsenal na yeye club na….”
Their voices faded away because Iyama’s mind became a light feather and went with the wind.
Iyama returned home to a panicky and disheveled wife. “Aboy body hot like fire. He no wan eat and him body day shake.” He rushed in to meet his seven year old son shivering under a blanket like one beaten by a heavy downpour. Aboy was rushed to the hospital and the bill was enough to feed them for three days.
“What are we going to do?” his wife kept asking, while his brain ransacked through his list of friends and relatives who could lend him the money.
Twelve failed results brought him home with his mind made up; nobody was willing to lend him the money. It was then he began to see his future; he would be joining his parent in harmonious bliss. His wife and other children were still in the hospital so he had enough time. He began to tie a rope on the old ceiling fan that was threatening to fall off the ceiling with its paint peeling off.
A voice sailed through his thoughts. Remember you have a family. He shrugged it off and went on tying the rope, making it tighter.
What would happen to your children and wife if you do this? He stopped to think, then went on. He fixed the loop around his neck, exhaled deeply before kicking the stool away. A clack. He came crashing to the ground along with the ceiling fan.
When his family returned, he told them he was fixing the fan and it fell, but his wife narrowed her eyes at him and asked him why fix a fan when they had no light in the room for the past 6 months. He avoided her eyes and told her he was actually going to sell it. His wife looked at the fan in his hand and tears began to flow down her cheeks. When he also looked at the ceiling fan and saw its condition, he knew that he had really failed.
The strong, hovering smell of antiseptic and disinfectant irks him. The doctor constantly telling him to pay a deposit so that his son would be properly taken care of irks him the most. But the sparkling whites of the nurses moving to and fro reminds him of the Angels that would be welcoming him very soon. He stands up.
“Remember Lino? Let me go and see if he would borrow me money, you hear, you hear?”
His wife nods and mumbles a go well which is trailed by a bye-bye daddy from his children. He leaves the hospital with a determined look on his face until his feet landed him in a pharmacy buying sniper.
He locks the door and window of his house. Now he sees his future clearly. He is just a minute away from leaving this world. Yes, this terrible world is not meant for him. It has never been. He sits on the floor and tries to picture his father’s face. But the closest he came was a blur.
He opens the bottle and the piercing smell of the Sniper fills the air in the room. The voice wades into his thoughts again.
Someone, somewhere has no hand to even hold this bottle of poison.
He stops halfway and stares at the bottle with a puzzled look as if wondering how the bottle of Sniper got into his hand. He closes it and begins to cry—a long, throaty one that made his shoulder tremble. Then he opens the window and throws the bottle away.
Solomon Timothy Hamza is a lover of nature and human rights. He writes on the various aspects of human life. He studied Environmental Management at Kaduna State University, Kaduna State. His works have appeared on Brittle Paper and Nnoko Stories. Aside from reading and writing, he enjoys exploring nature and listening to music.
Art: Mask, a Visual Poem by Robert Frede Kenter (c) 2022. @frede_kenter