It was a hot Monday afternoon, when I checked myself in the mirror. My hair looked rough, too full and made me look ugly. I had promised not to get a cut till the lockdown was lifted. But right at that moment, I could see myself compromising my own promise to myself. I left the room for the kitchen to prepare something delicious.
I am a young man from a small family of five. I am the second child and I live alone. I stay in a rented apartment, a two bedroom flat, and trust me, I am erecting my ‘mansion’ somewhere close by. I am an I.T. guy, working with one of the biggest I.T. companies in Lagos. I would be thirty two next month. I guess the introduction is enough for now.
In the evening, I decided to visit the barber’s shop, which is a bit far from my place of residence. Meanwhile, cars are not allowed to move and shops are not allowed to open. But this is how they operate every evening in my area. You find few cars plying the road, praying they don’t get caught by the security agencies. Few shops open, believing the security agencies would have stopped patrolling.
I got in my car, ignited it, and I was on the road. Unlike others, I was not scared. I drove slowly, enjoying some cool music. The road was free, and it seemed as if the world was going into extinction. Right there, I started casting, binding, rebuking the ‘spirit’ of COVID-19. I was not praying out, but inside. I wondered what would happen in the next two months, if the pandemic continued to rage.
I was done with the prayers, but in my thought, when I noticed a lady waving by the roadside. I understood she wanted me to stop, but I don’t trust Lagos State people. I wanted to pretend I didn’t see her, but something funny happened. Immediately I caught the sight of this pretty lady, I was not myself anymore. I just parked right in front of her. I winded down the glass and was smiling.
I can’t say what suddenly came upon me.
I voiced out unknowingly, still smiling. She smiled back, gave me a seductive look, and I must confess, the look got me. I kept smiling, almost stretching out my head outside the car.
“Can you give me a lift?”
She ‘politely’ requested.
“Sure. Where is my pretty lady going to?”
I asked, still unconscious of everything I was doing. She was fair, had a full black hair, of an average height, and she also had those packages. Thank God i was putting on a face cap, so she could not see my bushy hair. Fortunately, she was going my way. She entered, and we zoomed off. I was busy rehearsing what I would say, when she told me to stop in front of a gate. I pulled over immediately. She opened the door and hopped out without a thank you.
I would have called her back to get her contact, but she went straight to the guy standing at the gate. They hugged and kissed. My head was beating an unknown beat as I watched. She said something to the guy, pointing at me. The guy waved, smiling. I smiled back, punching my accelerator. I knew Lagos ladies couldn’t be trusted, but I allowed myself to be used by one.
Finally, I was at the barber’s shop. As expected, the shop was operating. I alighted from the car, locked it, and walked towards the shop. I was however surprised to see over seven people waiting to have a cut. I quickly counted and there were eight men still waiting to have a cut. There were two barbers working. I greeted a few of them and had my seat.
I was very busy with my phone, from WhatsApp to games, to Facebook, to Instagram. I was just so into it. It was my turn to have the neat cut I’ve been craving for. I sat in the soft chair, and ‘grhaaa’, the clipper drove around my head. I could see my handsome face, moulding out of the former one, as the barber was almost done. I almost hugged myself after he dropped the clipper to brush off the hair on my face.
I could see a fine boy in the mirror. One I used to know. I stood up from the seat, examined myself, before handing him two 1,000 naira notes. I was outside the door, when about six policemen in nose masks suddenly appeared in front of me. This was it. I knew I was done for.
One of them shouted. I raised my hands like a criminal. They tried not to come too close. Two of the men entered into the barber’s shop and within few seconds, everybody was outside. We were told to put our hands at the back of our heads.
“You will do community service.”
One of them threatened. I was just looking. I wished I didn’t examine myself for a long time. Maybe I would have escaped the embarrassment.
“We are taking you to the court.”
The same policeman said. Now, I was scared. I knew what the magisterate would do. I never planned to be a convict all my life. I remained silent. Just immediately the policeman mentioned that, the young man behind me started coughing. It was not the ordinary cough. Everybody quickly jumped away, including the policemen. We were quickly stopped by the policemen who gave us more distance. The man kept coughing, as everybody watched. I knew I was in trouble.
I could feel some of the droplets from his wooping cough on my skin. The police have put my life on the line, I thought. The man who seemed to be their boss left our midst to make a phone call. He talked for minutes, looking at us. I knew he was counting us. He finally walked back, shaking his head.
“This is what you get, when you disobey the law. The NCDC are on their way. None of you leaves here.” I just remained on the ground, as many thoughts ran through my mind.
Within few minutes, we started hearing the noise of a siren from faraway. Nobody needed to preach to us it was the NCDC. For all I cared, I was infected already and needed treatment. I was still imagining the possible results, when two NCDC vans stopped in front of us. Some medical and security personnels jumped down, covered from head to toes like masquerades.
They had a short dialogue with the senior policeman, before directing us to enter into the van. We marched in like sick criminals. In fact, I was already experiencing trouble, breathing.
“This is what happens, when you’re disobedient.”
The man who led the medical team said, putting his hands under his pot belly. His facing was not smiling, but the sun wasn’t scared, as it beat his hairless scalp. The young man who was coughing was immediately taken into the other van, as we rode away. We all were as gentle as the dead. Nobody could say a word.
The only thing I could think of was my state of heath! What if I never recovered from the virus? I believed I already had the disease. We zoomed off, plying the dead streets. The journey was very short, since there was no obstruction on the way. There were other health workers waiting to receive us at the isolation centre, immediately the doors to the vans were opened.
We were taken to one of the rooms, and the isolation centre looked beautiful than most hospitals. The beds were very okay, and I must confess I enjoyed lying down there. Our blood samples were taken for the proposed test. The young man who kept coughing was kept in a separate room. We were made to understand the results would be out the following day.
Just like the strangers thay we were, none of us could say a word. We were all left to face our fates. We were were well fed, and I appreciated we didn’t end up in the prison instead. One of us later broke the silence. I guess he couldn’t hold it anymore.
“What if we die or something?”
He asked. I looked into his face. I wished I could tell him I already gave up on life. He looked sad and older than everyone of us. He kept staring at the screen of his phone. I can tell you he was viewing the photos of his family member. Unfortunately, the poor nan didn’t get anybody to answer him.
They all kept minding their businesses, bothered by the outcome of the result. At that moment, I wanted to pick my phone to chat, at least, clear by head before the deed gets done, but I couldn’t. I kept staring at my phone’s screen. I finally looked up to the ceiling and what happened next was that I woke up the following morning.
It was a long night, I must confess. We were showed were we could shower and use the toilet. The toilets and bathrooms were sparkling clean. Breakfast was served and it seemed we were being given our last special treat. I suspected our tests results were out, but they didn’t want to disclose we were positive. At least, not yet.
I took breakfast like it was my last. I prepared a good bye message just in case. Again, none of us started a real conversation. It was all becoming boring already. At one time, I tried to sleep, but I was awaken my a bad dream. I stared at my phone one more time. I finally went to my WhatsApp app to check out the right person I could have a chat with.
Unfortunately, only my ex-girlfriend was available. I wanted to back the page, but I discovered I needed her forgiveness. She broke up with me, when she discovered I was cheating on her. Instead of apologizing, I had justified my action, claiming it was just for fun and she was the only one I truly loved. I knew I was wrong, but my ego was all I cared about.
What’s the essence of an ego without heaven? I asked myself. She was online, so I decided to write a full apology later. I made her know I was wrong and needed her to forgive me. I didn’t ask for a second chance. The epistle was so long, I wondered if she would read at all. I sent it anyways.
I immediately went offline, imaging what her response would be, if at all she read it. I decided to check back, and to my surprise, she had forgivern me. She confessed she missed me, and I could see her missing me forever. I tried not to reply, so I wouldn’t break her heart. At least, I got what I wanted—her forgiveness.
It was noon, and lunch was served. I also finished it, scrapping my plate like it was my last lunch. I remembered it was possible my ex called, since I didn’t reply her message. I switched off my phone, tried sleeping, but again, it didn’t come.
It was finally evening, and all I could see was my result. All I could see in it was ‘positive’. I was not scared a bit. I only pitied my loved ones. Someone came in, just when I was still thinking. It was the same NCDC boss from the previous day. He had some papers, and kept the same look.
We were all at alert. Some looked really troubled, while few of us were relaxed.
“You have tested negative to the disease.”
He finally announced. His countenance changed immediately. I didn’t know he could smile. Some of us jumped up rejoicing, while the relaxed ‘we’ smiled. Of course, we were all happy.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience me might have caused you, but it is all for the best.”
He left without apologizing. I was over joyous. It was not what I expected. Everybody was happy! We congratulated each other, and again, the door opened. We all looked at its direction, as the young man who had been coughing stepped in. We stepped back immediately. He smiled before sitting on my bed. My bed was close to the door.
“The cough from yesterday was fake.”
He whispered. We didn’t say anything. We just kept staring. We could not risk being infected, after testing negative.
“I had to do something to avoid being arrested. I’m sorry guys.”
He said. It was there we understood it was only a trick. Nothing was really wrong with him. At least, he saved us from going to jail.