Stop Calling Me A Criminal

I noticed the other guys on the table were uneasy too. The tallest guy stood up and walked briskly away from the table. “Stop there.” A policeman barked at him so he halted and the policeman handcuffed him. The other policemen formed a perimeter round our table and roared “You are all under arrest”


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Please listen to my side of the story before you vilify and condemn me. I know you think you know me just because you heard a garbled account of my story. I take full responsibility for my predicament but I am not who you think I am. I swear I am not. A saying pretty much sums up my story: Bad company corrupts good manners, and in my case it left me locked up holding the iron bars of a prison cell.

It was late in the night at about 11:30 pm; the traffic lights never work around here so everywhere was dark. I was heady from the smoke of marijuana that pervaded the whole car. I coughed intermittently as the “bad boys” kept on smoking and jeering at me. We were five boys in the car and I was the only one without a wrap of igbo in between his middle and index finger. I was surprised to see my friend Komo smoke without coughing. I watched in awe as he took in the smoke and let it out through his nose.

“You are just a sissy, smoke you no smoke, you con dey cough like goat,” a guy wearing a black Nike cap said as he puffed the smoke in his mouth directly into my face. I held my breath as the smoke enveloped my face and assailed my nose. I rummaged through my bag to check for my saviour – the inhaler. I searched frantically but I couldn’t find it. I wasn’t having an asthmatic attack but I had a premonition it could happen anytime soon.

“Where is this thing?” I shouted in exasperation.

Komo looked at me and replied, “What are you looking for?”

“My inhaler!!!”

“What do you need an inhaler for? If you have catarrh let me give you Robb to put in your nose.” I placed my palm on my cheek, shot him with a look that was mixed with disgust and anger then I shook my head, I didn’t know whether it was the marijuana or he was just dumb. I was an Efiko, what was I doing among these dull heads? Well, needless to say, the nerds don’t know how to party and they didn’t get the hottest girls in the University, the ones with the tiny waist and the coca-cola body shape. The ones that danced provocatively in parties wearing miniskirts or bum shorts, these same girls I heard turned themselves into employers giving “jobs” at the club toilets. I wanted to be cool and have these wild breeds that even referred to themselves as bad bitches. I finally found my inhaler in the small zip beside my bag and put it in my pocket where it might come in handy.

Komo passed me a sachet and a sweating bottle of water and said, “Take two of those tramadol, soon you will forget all your sorrow.” I collected them from him. I held the sachet with both hands, used my index finger to push the pill out and used my thumb to remove the covering as I dropped it on my tongue flushing it down my throat with the very chilled water. I guzzled the water till the last drop, rolled down the glass and threw the bottle out. I was introduced into a world where painkillers made people high, unbelievable. We finally reached our destination. I saw scantily clad young women standing by the gate. They were of varying features. Some were slim, others were plump. There were light skinned ladies and also dark skinned ones. This was the first time I saw prostitutes at night, I never go out when I am at home talk less of going to a hotel at night. None of them fully covered their breasts it was out for display for everyone to see and I heard it was up for fondling provided you can afford their price. They lived by a simple code – money for hand back for ground. There was no complication whatsoever. Different cars parked in front of these young women negotiating with them. We all alighted from the Honda end of discussion and walked towards the bar by the swimming pool.

“What will you drink?” asked Komo.

“Just give me Coca-cola.”

“No you can’t go out with me and drink Coca-cola lai lai,” he said raising his voice.

“Okay I will manage smirnoff…”

“When you are not a babe,” he interrupted disapprovingly.

“Okay I will take red wine,” I said tentatively.

“You must finish the whole bottle, don’t waste it o,” Komo said in a tone that made it seem as if he was talking to his younger brother. I didn’t say anything I just nodded in agreement. Komo ordered the red wine for me and told the bar man to bring the usual for everyone else. The bar man came back with a crate of star and my bottle of red wine. He dropped the crate on the floor and put the bottle of star in twos in front of everybody including me. He handed over the bottle of red wine and wine opener to Komo. He uncorked the bottle and poured it into a glass for me. I had taken red wine a couple of times but not the whole bottle.

“Where are the guitars?” the tallest of the boys asked.

“It is in the boot, under the rug.” Komo replied.

I interrupted, “Komo never told me you guys were musicians, are you a band or something?” They all burst into laughter. I didn’t understand what was funny about my question so I just assumed they were drunk. Maybe my question sounded like a Basketmouth joke to them. I ignored them and kissed the wine glass as I took a little sip. The DJ played my favourite song “Don’t dull by Wizkid”. I made an attempt to stand up to dance but I lost my footing and found myself landing on my buttocks. I was undeniably drunk. I got up clumsily and managed to get myself back to my seat. Komo stood up and told me he was coming back. Not too long after, I spotted some police men coming towards us. I was a bit scared not because I had committed a crime but because I had heard of stories of policemen rounding up people randomly even if they were innocent just to make some money off them through bails. I remembered my Dad’s warning in his very strong Yoruba accent that made it hard to forget.

“hif you eva get into trouble and poh lis arrest you, don’t call my numba o So gbo?”

I noticed the other guys on the table were uneasy too. The tallest guy stood up and walked briskly away from the table. “Stop there.” A policeman barked at him so he halted and the policeman handcuffed him. The other policemen formed a perimeter round our table and roared “You are all under arrest” We were all escorted to the police van with guns pointing at us in case we wanted to try anything funny. I wanted to tell them that it remained one more person but they didn’t listen. They kept roaring move!

I later got to know that Komo and the remaining guys were cultists and armed robbers. They stole the Honda end of discussion and killed the couple that owned it. I also got to learn from some inmates that guitar meant guns in the dictionary of criminals. Hmmmn, no wonder they were laughing at my ignorance the other day.


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