The streets are still unusually quiet and empty, almost every store locked at each turn and most of your neighbours are yet to return even though you feel they should have been done with all the festivities by now. You didn’t actually care about their presence, in fact, you enjoyed the tranquillity that hovered around the entire place; no loud arguments that led to fights, less sounds of generators, and thankfully no endless cries from Mrs Edet’s children. You were grateful it was just you and the security man who walked around with his little radio always tuned to Wazobia FM. You can hear Victor AD’s wetin we gain blare through the small speaker. Before you travelled home the song brought good vibes and made you dance to its gracious melody but today it only reminds you about your present dilemma.
You have heard them say countlessly that experience is the best teacher but you are not sure if you’ve learnt much. This is the fifth year of your current situation reoccurring and you still haven’t changed. Year in year out you keep falling for the same old trick life plays. The trick that convinces your mind that the end of the year is when you turn up and show your haters that they’ve got nothing on you. To you, it was the best time to reap the harvest from all your hustle.
Now the New Year sets in with barely a few days into January and your pocket is experiencing a dryness stronger than that of the harmattan. You are the definition of broke with little or no remedy. You are struck by that familiar confusion that leaves you uncertain about every single thing.
You hiss deeply as you check the last message your bank sent to you concerning your new account balance. You exhale unable to tell if you are surprised or relieved to at least still have five thousand naira left. You are certain it wouldn’t do much for you when the month’s needs grow thicker. Maybe you would have to plead with Iya Tope, the owner of the buka in front of your street, to sell meals on credit to you until you receive your next salary. Since you are her loyal customer you know she will agree. All you have to worry about is your transportation to work and the regular flat contributions. Beads of sweat begin to crowd your face as you think of the future embarrassments that await you. You start to wonder how you had spent almost all your money just within two weeks. Two weeks!
You toss and turn on your bed as you recall what you had spent the money on.
“So why did I even buy those new shoes and clothes eh? To impress who sef?”
You snap at yourself as you realise you had also spent a lot trying to shop for your crush, Chinasa, “just imagine, that green dress was 14k! Something she’ll wear once and refer to it as old.” You remember a red dress you had bought last Christmas she couldn’t wear to church anymore in order for it not to earn her the ‘lady in red’ title. “So much for ‘peppering’ during Christmas,” you hiss slightly.
As your mind flashes reminders of bills you had to pay in your hometown in the name of supporting your relatives to either repair a leaking roof or a broken tap or a faulty compound generator, you sigh. “Those people think I do charity or what? They’ll be making demands like they followed me to work all through the year. Never again, will that happen,” you resolve.
Then your siblings who always came with a long list of needs as though you were Santa Claus. There was no way you could tell them off. After all, in Africa that was what being an elder was for. For being the fountain where everyone comes to draw from. “I’m not doing Father Christmas again, God knows I can’t kill myself.”
You remember your Aunty who subtly comes with her demands as well but would crown them with the hailing that massaged your ego. You just could not tell the charm she uses on you that made you give out twenty thousand naira in less than five minutes. You are now determined not to fall for her cunningness.
The money you had spent to buy drinks and food for your friends on the days you went out with them now seem to be unreasonable to you. It was your way of showing off just to earn their respect and loyalty. “People that haven’t even called me to know if I arrived safely or died on the way. Friends my foot,” you shrug.
You make the resolution in your heart to do things differently from now on and hope to stick with it knowing you had made same New Year resolution before and failed. Maybe a little more determination would make the difference you motivate yourself.
As you close your eyes to catch some sleep you hear sudden noises; loud voices from the street, the slamming of doors, sounds of all types of generators and your biggest nightmare, the cry of Mrs Edet’s last child while she continues to scream your name wishing you a happy new year.
Written by Jennifer Chioma Amadi
“IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER”…