Of nights and strangers By Omoya Yinka

Many years ago, Mama sent me to buy a pack of sachet water across the street. It was already 10.00 p.m by then, but we needed the water to take our dinner. We always had our supper quite late, and Papa never ceased to complain about this. He always grumbled about why he had to have his meals when other men had long forgotten that they had even taken theirs.

The streets looked deserted, and only one or two cars passed now and then. Most shops were already locked with heavy padlocks, but I could see two afar off that were still opened. I hastened my steps.

 We lived in a street in Akure, the capital city of Ondo state. That explained why most shops had closed at that time. It was unlike Lagos, that busy state where streets were said to be bustling with a flurry of activities even at midnight. I hoped to go to Lagos soon someday. My elder brother had gone there a couple of months ago to work, and it seemed he was doing well. In fact, he had sent to Papa an android phone recently. But because neither Papa nor Mama could operate it, it had become mine. I loved the phone and was irredeemably addicted to it. Now, I even had the phone with me as I left the house in search of the sachet water.

“Good evening o,” a young man who was approaching me said. I tried to look at his face. He didn’t look familiar. I kept walking and ignored his greeting.

“Ahn-ahn, bros! Somebody is greeting you and you can’t even answer,” he said. He was now in my front. “Don’t you know me? I’m Ayo na, the one who works at the cyber café,” he continued.

I stopped in my tracks to check his face again. I still could not recognize him. I was disposed to believe him nevertheless because I knew a lot of people who bore the name “Ayo”, and I did visit a cyber café often.

“Good evening,” I replied coldly.

“Oh, you are going somewhere now, I guess. Em, let me give you my phone number then. At least you can call me beforehand when next you’re coming to the café,” he offered.

The man smelt of alcohol and cigarettes. The foul odour clung to him like a cloth. I felt a bit nauseated. I brought out my android phone to get his phone number. It was not that I needed his contacts, for I did not know him, but I was willing to do anything to get rid of him and go my way. I only wanted to be nice.

“My phone number is 080578… Wait, are you getting it?” He asked. I nodded as I typed the digits he dictated, digits I knew I wouldn’t save.

He kept calling out the numbers. As soon as he felt I was engrossed in typing the phone number, he yanked the phone out of my hand and bolted away. I stood there downcast, too dazed to shout for help.

I had often heard people say nights could be dangerous, and that one should be cautious with strangers. I was young and so didn’t understand what that meant. Now that I had had a firsthand experience of that, I couldn’t agree more. I had learnt my lessons, even though the hard way.

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