Ojonya

When Ojonya moved in with Anwuli at the end of their youth service year, it was with the understanding that she would start contributing to expenses once she started working.  Ojonya, like thousands of other graduates, had found herself without a job after NYSC. Her PPA at Nachi Udi, where she taught Office Practice, Mathematics, and Intro Tech, did not retain her.

“There’s no money to hire teachers,” the principal told her. “The same way you came to teach is the way other corpers will come and go.” The man was kind and allowed her to stay in the corpers’ lodge for one month while she looked for a job. She found nothing. Stranded and facing the terrifying prospect of heading back home to Benue, she turned, as she had in the past, to Anwuli.

The women met as girls at Eyo Ita hostel, Nsukka, and shared a room with 6 or 8 other girls at any given time for the four years of their undergraduate degrees. Although Anwuli was the Enugu indigene, it was Ojonya that showed her “life” in Nsukka. She knew when happenings were happening and who was doing the happening – a trip to Nike Lake, exclusive parties at Grace Manor, film viewings at Kenan Lodge. With Ojonya, there was always something to do; and often, the doings were on someone else’s dime.

Ojonya’s finances had never seen straits beyond dire. Born to farmers in Ogbaulu, Benue State, her life was filled with prolonged periods of want and need. She learnt quickly to ask, to beg, to impose, and sometimes, to use people.

Anwuli was lucky in life in the way middle class people were. She was posted to and retained by the Ministry of Water Resources where her father retired from. Her parents paid the two-year rent on her tiny self-contain in Achara layout. While Ojonya taught secondary school students in the sleepy village of Nachi, Anwuli pushed paper like a true civil servant in Achara.

When Ojonya asked to live with her, she agreed without hesitation. It was a familiar dance in their friendship: Ojonya requesting and she, acquiescing.

They lived in as much peace as two friends living together could. There were the usual skirmishes borne of two young adults living in a small space, sharing a frameless bed, a wooden wardrobe, and a chest of drawers filled with pomade, body lotion, combs, and hair relaxer tubs. There were also the usual skirmishes borne of one party living on the benevolence of another for longer than was agreed.

“Don’t worry about money until you get something,” Anwuli said in the first month. “I was managing okay. It is not your presence that will cause me trouble.” She paid for the water they used, the indomie they ate, and the jars of Shield cream they rubbed.

One moth passed, and then three months, and still, Ojonya could not find a job. She trawled the streets of Enugu, CV in hand, hoping someone needed a biochemist, or a research assistant, or a secretary, or a receptionist, or clerk.

In the fifth month, she met Priye Diamond, a businesswoman who bought and sold alcohol in bulk. Priye was opening a new branch on New Haven Road and needed a “store manager.” Ojonya was responsible for sales, bookkeeping, customer calls, and delivery coordination. She was paid peanuts, but she met a lot of Priye’s contacts: businesspeople who owned bars, restaurants, hotels, and event centers.

She worked for five months before the LGA chairman sealed the business. The rumor was that his wife wanted to open her own alcohol distribution center in New Haven and Priye’s business was a hindrance. After a few weeks of Priye throwing her heft everywhere, she informed Ojonya that the store would remain closed but promised to call her once the store reopened. The store never reopened.

The one good thing from the job was that she met Festus Okoma. He, through his parents, owned one of the biggest water companies in Enugu, and because water was like gold in Enugu, the family was very well to do. Festus lived in GRA and drove a brown Volvo. He showered Ojonya with gifts, affection and most importantly, with water.

Every Saturday, he sent eight kegs of water, and a small water truck to fill up the tank for the entire block of flats where she and Anwuli lived. They no longer had to walk kilometers to fetch water or queue for hours on Saturday morning at Sunshine Hotel to buy overpriced water.

The relationship was stormy. Ojonya hated to see or think of Festus doing anything that did not involve her. Ojonya being Ojonya, kept him guessing his place in her life. He visited their flat often and at odd hours, without notice. If she was not there, he would wait on the pavement outside their flat, tapping his feet until she got home. He would demand to know where she had been and with whom. If her entreaties did not appease him, he withheld his affection and supply of water. In the weeks without water, Anwuli got curt.

“You should not have stopped looking for jobs,” she said to Ojonya. “I told you. You cannot be depending on man for everything.”

“I am still looking!” Ojonya replied. It was a lie. “You know how hard things have been.” She looked at her friend, “If this is becoming a problem, I am sure Festus – “

“I am not saying that! Stop putting words in my mouth.” Her tone had less conviction than it did in the past when Ojonya suggested leaving.

“I know. I know.” Ojonya smiled at her friend, “Aunty Priye called. Her shop is opening again, and she has something for me.” It was a lie.

One day not long after the conversation, Ojonya announced she was going to marry Festus. “He asked to marry me, and I said yes. How many rich men are walking about asking me to marry them?”  Anwuli had her misgivings about the marriage, but she kept her thoughts to herself. She was simply happy that Ojonya was moving. It was with a glad heart that she helped her friend plan her wedding and move into Festus’ bigger flat. Four months later, Ojonya gave birth to a baby girl.

The marriage lasted seven years. Once again, Anwuli found Ojonya at her doorstep (this time in GRA where she lived with her husband and children), asking for help.

Comments

  • Cynthia

    2 years agoReply

    Lovely story. Thanks for the update.

    • locallagosbabe

      2 years agoReply

      Thanks for reading!

  • Tobi

    2 years agoReply

    Short and refreshing. Leaves us wondering

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Welcome! I am a recovering writer learning the ropes again. It is a pleasure to have you on this journey with me. I hope you enjoy reading the stories I write, as much as I (hopefully) enjoy writing them.