The memory deafened him, the strong stench of urine, the haunting images of menacing spirits lurking in the dark, and the claustrophobic labyrinth he had had to transverse throughout the eternity of the night for seven years have made him as numb as a zombie.
He strolled like a sturdy robot with a worn-out control, like a junkie without craze. The slap of damp dewy leaves on his face was not good enough to jostle his rusty consciousness. The sweeping wind on this narrow bushy path eroded his sanity, the more. This is his journey to a comforting side of reality, a self-imposed protest walk to the other side of life.
Tears rolled down his eyes, he could see the end. He had suffered for seven years for a crime he did not commit. Seven years of eating watery beans, devouring rice with rat droppings and tasteless stew, seven years of consuming sandy garri, seven years of void-nothingness. For seven years, he didn’t write a single poem, who was he to write it for anyways? Moyin’s love for him melted in the heat of his trial, he remembered the love they shared and the lost they bore together.
“Richard, I am tired of all this, how do you expect me to believe that you didn’t do it?” she had said tearfully, the last time she visited him in the prison.
He knew he had lost her the moment she walked into the visiting room of the prison with a hallow grimace, the curve of those rare smile had diminished.
“I didn’t do it” Richard had replied, his voice could barely convince a child.
“I’m ending this relationship right now” she left, never to be seen again, he could still recall the red gown she worn, and the gawking of the prison warder as she left the visiting hall. He would have preferred to be a tenant of the ground than to experience this kind of lost.
No height of consoling from his worried elder sister could get the misery out of this comatose mind, even after he was released, her solemn words of encouragement had fallen on grief cast heart. “Stop crying, forget about it, God knows the best, he would restore the years you have lost!”
Richard’s response has always been the same “for what I didn’t know anything about, I suffered,” and tears would follow. She reminded him of his mother cracked voice, when she visited him in the prison with food, after bribing Gidigbo, the prison’s ‘sure man’. She would have been to different mountains to pray and plead his case with the God he thought he knew, he remembered that her eyes were sinking deeper into its socket every time she visited. The lucid memory of the day news came that she collapsed and died, as a result of days of prayer and fasting, sting his heart.
“I lost my mother because of what I didn’t do.” He would always say, biting his lips and holding his head as though they might fall.
Life is a big puppeteer, life used him as a scapegoat for its stage play, he had lost his faith as a result of what he didn’t do, God was no longer the loving father he knew him to be, but a director of people’s misfortune. He wondered how the so-called loving God could sit and watch while he was punished for what he didn’t do.
As he dragged his bare leg through the scrub, the hooting of a bird, brought back hot memories, this hooting bird reminded him of the only living thing he had peered at through the window of his cell every morning. he noticed, though, the rumpled feather of this one, a reminder of his faded dreams. Two days after been sentenced, his mother brought a good new that instigated hot tears, as though a bullet had pierced his heart.
“A company sent this letter to you” his mother had said, and then she hesitated to say more, it like she suddenly had a reason not to say more.
“What did the letter say?” Richard asked.
“They offered you a job”
He wished he never knew about the offer, he felt he was being pranked, or that he was in a horrible nightmare that would end anything soon, bit reality kept dawning on him. It seemed both funny and sad that he got a job after two years of being unemployed, but held by the wall of the Kirikiri Maximum Prison, never to attend to the job.
His mind rushed back to the genesis of his misfortunes. The remember that gloomy evening he had accompanied his friend to a cosy house where the Lagos Big Boys Party would be held, the uneasy feeling he had banished forcefully to the back of his mind, the cool guys and the pretty girls he shook hands with, he remember the crazy smiles, the deafening music and the flowing alcohol.
Then the climax came when policemen came to dislodge him of his sleep the next morning, accusing him of raping a girl he had spoken to. He never had any intention neither was he capable of hurting her. He could recall his disbelieve when she insisted that he was the culprit, he could see it in her eyes that she was made to accuse him because unlike the real rapist, his father could not engineer his slipping away from the grip of justice with the strength of his bank account.
Last month his jail term ended, he was a free man with a shackled mind, he wished death was as cheap as tears, he would have subscribed to it, he sat awake every night in his darkroom in his sister cubicle-like flat, hugging his anger and fear, massaging his slack mind, one that could only be renewed with the blood of revenge. Last Night he went to do what he didn’t do initially, he invaded his accuser’s house with a rusty gun he bought, raped her in front of her parents and then told his story.
Also, He visited the rapist house, declared who he was, and then shot him dead. His guilt was not heavy, he had paid for it with seven years in that dark alley of a cell.
Now, he walked to his end in the bushes grove, his hand holding on to a thick rope. For these crimes, he knew his verdict was death. His revenge did not rewrite his history, but it wrote part of it, his revenge was as gratifying as the sweet taste of death.