Nnena was tired. She was going to give it one last shot when she saw Ducat walking down the same road she had driven for the sixth time in a bid to locate him.
She drove up close to him and honked. Ducat turned around barely recognizing her.
“You act like you don’t remember me.”
“Oh no, I don’t.”
“About two months ago on Allen Avenue, you bailed me out that night.”
“Ah, yes! The lady with the Mazda.”
“Hop in” Nnena invited Ducat.
Ducat jumped into the BMW X5 vehicle and Ducat inquired how the other car was doing?
“You know I have been here over six times trying to locate you?”
“Yes. I just thought to myself, let me give it one last shot today. I mean I was sure of the road and everything. I came to where I thought I dropped you off and when I asked of you, no one seemed to know you.”
“That’s true, no one knows me around here. Why did you come back looking for me?”
“Well I feel I owe you and I want to know more about you.”
“Seriously? You don’t have anything better to do with your life than to come looking for me?”
“Well I don’t have anything better to do with my life, that’s why I am here looking for you.”
“Thanks. That makes me feel important for once.”
“Well you are very important. The night you bailed me out. The sacrifice you made and yet you did not take a dime off me. I have never met a man like you.”
“Tell me what made you to do it?”
“It’s the voice that keeps me in check, sometimes it haunts me.”
“What voice are you talking about?”
“Never you allow a good deed to be embellished with some instant gratification. Let it stand out in the beauty of integrity of sacrifice. The reward is always more beautiful” Ducat recited.
“Wow! That’s so profound. Where did you get that from? Where would you like us to sit and talk?”
“I am cool with anywhere as long as there are no Alhajis there?”
“Because I have an allergy for Alhajis. There is a certain Alhaji owing me money and till date he has not paid up and anytime I see any Alhaji, I feel like strangulating him, so, like the saying goes prevention is better than cure.”
“Well. To begin with, I don’t think you would hurt a fly with such a sacrificial life that you live. Secondly, I couldn’t tell whether there would be an Alhaji where we would go.”
“Don’t worry I am just teasing you, it’s my sense of humour.”
In the open air restaurant at Ojuelegba, Mercy served them pepper soup and cold palm wine. Nnena had never been to such a down to earth place. She is used to elegant and posh restaurants. But here you had real local delicacies with some local owa mmbe* music at the side and the real folks.
Nnena watched a potbellied man walk to the music stand and spray the musicians some money. The denominations were low. From the lyrics that followed afterwards, she knew the history of that man who sprayed the money. His name was Patrick. He was from Orlu in Imo state. He was a young barrister and the most eligible bachelor in town. They even sang that his fame had spread to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Mercy kept coming back to check if they were okay and Nnena couldn’t help but ask who she was and their relationship.
Ducat explained that the only relative he had in Lagos was Mercy and that Mercy was his lifeline.
“Mercy wants to study at the university but she has no money and I want to work my way through apprenticeship scheme to become an automobile engineer but no opportunity.”
“Mercy and I are bonded by one thing – hope.”
All through the drive back to Surulere, her mind was on these two people that had such a connection and commitment to their friendship – bonded together by hope.
Here she was, having schooled in one of the best middle class schools in Nigeria and Europe, she couldn’t boast of such a relationship. Everything for her seemed orchestrated by her social standing and that of her family. She couldn’t decipher the difference between reality and fiction anymore.
Nnena was now a regular at the open air restaurant Ojuelegba. She had found two new friends whom she spent her weekends with and they thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. She soon invited them to her home and they would sit together and tell tales and dream dreams. They would cook and eat together. Ducat looked after her cars and Mercy handled the cooking. Mercy studied for her entrance exams into the university and Ducat prepared for some tests with Exxon Mobil. Mercy left her restaurant job and joined Bella Chambers as an admin assistant. She passed her entrance exams and got admission to study Business Admin at the university of Lagos. She got a study leave with full pay. She worked with the chambers during holidays. Nnena also supported her. Ducat got a job with Exxon Mobil’s apprenticeship scheme. Nnena could now experience how Ducat felt the night that Ducat helped her. Never you allow a good deed to be embellished with some instant gratification. Let it stand out in the beauty of integrity of sacrifice. The reward is always more beautiful. That voice echoed in her head as she felt good having done the right thing without expecting anything in return.
*Owambe – local Yoruba music listened to at parties.