by Ovuoba David
As I stretched my hand to get the withdrawal slip from a transparent glass box in the banking hall, someone touched me from behind. I turned and beheld a shabby and bony woman, average in height, dark in complexion with a hungry looking baby sleeping on her rocky back by the grace of the air-conditioned banking hall which was as cool as coolness itself.
“Ee,” I murmured, brow furrowed, and cautiously observed her. What brought this one to the bank, I thought.
“Sorry to disturb you my son; I need you to help me,” said the woman in a strangled Pidgin English. She smiled too, but her smile was grotesquely odd.
“What is it,” I replied softly in Igbo and tried smiling back to shake off hostility.
“It’s my son at Enugu; I want to send him some money,” she said appealingly with an unfilled deposit teller, a paper containing the account name and number, and a pencil. My unhealthy imagination was cooking up some mischievous ideas—ideas which I wouldn’t follow if the world were a perfect place. But here in Nigeria, opportunity doesn’t show up always. I knew it could be sinful, but I had to eat. After all, we aren’t in heaven yet—we live in an imperfect world where the big fish swallows the small fish—and that day I played the big fish. Also, I had to take this chance because Jennifer, my babe, missed her period after the last fun we had in my room on my iron bed which has springs that keeps creaking, of which there was no need to use condom since we love each other dearly. Man must survive.
I dropped my withdrawal slip, took the deposit slip from her, and picked the Diamond Biro on the table. I scribbled my name, “Noah Chima” and my account numbers on the respective spaces provided for it and completed other details, filling a wrong phone number on the space for depositor’s phone number.
“How much is the money?” I asked.
She opened a black leather bag for me. I marvelled. It was a heap of five hundred naira notes. I carefully counted it; it was hundred pieces. I legibly wrote fifty-thousand naira in words and in figures, hurriedly joined the queue and paid in the money. I gave her the customer’s copy of the deposit slip and she warmly thanked me.
I came out of the bank elated, but something inside me rebuked me fearlessly. I suspected what Chidi and our pastor called conscience. I didn’t believe it existed because I have never noticed or felt its presence or pangs as Chidi claimed.
I’m nineteen-years and the only child of my parent. When I was sixteen, my parents who never stopped regretting—right before my very face—why they got married in the first place, fought and set our flat and the entire building ablaze. When our landlord sued, they pleaded guilty and went to jail. I managed to break father’s safe which though burnt, was not destroyed. I used the thirty-six thousand naira therein to rent a face-me-I-face-you one room which only had a mattress. I wandered the street of Abakaliki and wallowed in sins one of which was stealing that poor woman’s money—money which was probably meant for a worthy but indigent young student at Enugu city.
Chidi, my neighbor and friend, said I have a dead conscience because I do many bad things, including sleeping with Jennifer and running errands for prostitutes who reside at Hausa quarters without feeling guilt. I thought Chidi righteous. That day, I couldn’t say whether I felt guilty or not. But depression overtook me. I couldn’t puff up for playing smart. I had committed sin. My stomach had made some hungry noise, but I didn’t feel like eating anything. I’d to let the money be for sometimes. I’d to face the still, small but reproaching voice which accused me: Noah, you have sinned.
◊ ◊ ◊
Ovuoba David lives in Abakaliki, Nigeria. He was born in 1994. His short story was long-listed for the Awele Creative Prize for short story, 2014. His short stories and poems have appeared in few literary journals. He currently reads law at Ebonyi state University.