At 10 am this morning, I still had not received my salary for the month after my MD had promised that we would be paid yesterday being the 23rd of December. I had my eyes on my phone all day, reaching out to it each time it beeped to see if the message that came in was from my bank, bearing my salary.I got was from my mother; she said she did not know why I would rather go visit a man than to come home for Christmas.
The first message
The first message
Visit a man? I wished that were the case. I wished I were indeed in a man’s house and not in this one bedroom apartment I shared with Amina really scared to go home without a dime in my pocket. What will I tell her when she asks me for money to buy chicken and groundnut oil and rice and every other thing that would make our Christmas celebration a good one.
The next one was from my network provider wishing me a merry Christmas. I almost threw my phone away in annoyance, if not for the voice of reasoning that made me realize that being broke, was better than being broke without a phone.
4:30pm and still no show. All the while I had been pressing the home button of my phone to check if any message had come in mistakenly without my knowing. I got tired of this ritual and finally decided to distract myself somehow. I started to clean up the house, clean up the mess my friend and room-mate left the room in before leaving the house to spend the Christmas with her family in Yaba, somewhere around Iwaya.
Half way into my cleaning, I got another text message. This time, I ignored the bleep bleep sound my phone made, because I did not want to disappoint myself again. Five minutes later and my curious mind could not take it anymore, I picked up the phone from the brown wooden cupboard directly under the triangularly shaped dressing mirror that was screwed into the wall –one of the many things Amina owned in the room we shared- to see who the message was from. Haa! Finally, it was the long awaited message. It was a credit alert from my bank and it read: Your Acct 303XXXX730 Has Been Credited with NGN80,000….
I screamed out in excitement and called my Mother immediately. The tone of her voice made me realize that calling her was not the wisest move to have made after such a good feeling.
“When are you coming home Bianca?” she asked with so much impatience.
“Hello mama. Good evening, I will be home first thing tomorrow morning” I replied.
“So it is true what you brother said, that you went to spend time in a man’s house before coming home abi?” she asked.
“Haa, No mama, I was waiting for my...” I had not finished my statement when she said
“Please, please, it is okay, before you start lying to me. You know we have not bought anything for the cooking tomorrow. As the first child and the only one working for now, you have to see to it that we have a good Christmas celebration . I cannot keep carrying the whole expenses of the family alone. I have been doing that since your father decided to follow that stupid secretary of his and abandon his family for three years now. It is just God that will punish the both of them for me. Anyway, you have come of age to do some things for the house now.”
“I know mama, I will be home tomorrow morning and I would do what I can for the house.” I said and cut the call.
Oh God, what is this? With this ongoing recession. I wish I could just tell my family that I did not have money. But how can I look into the eyes of my younger brother and sister and say I do not have money this period after I had sworn that as far as I am alive, they would not feel the impact of papa’s stupid decision to run away with another woman. What do I do now?
A crate of coke is now about N1,050, a pack of juice N3,600, a de-rica of rice N300 and I have to buy like 3 de-ricas, a kilo of chicken N1,150, then fuel to power the generator as PHCN light is certainly a luxury the residents of the Iyana-Oba part of Lagos state have been finding difficult to afford. All these totals about N6,700, if I take it out of my N80,000 salary, I would be having just N73,300 left. I haven’t even considered the money I would give my little cousins who would come visiting during this period. Hmmm…, I am really confused.
What do I do? Switch off my phone and run away till this period comes and goes? Or what? What would I tell mama on the 26th, 27th and the remaining days I will be home for? Come January, what will I do? How will I feed myself afterwards? Where will I get money to transport myself to work all through the month? With the ongoing rumour about increase of fuel price come 2017 and the way conductors increase transportation fare these days. How many times will I beg conductors to take N200 instead of N250 from Ajah to Sand-fill and back each working day?
At this point, I wish I were not the first child. I wish I were not even working, because at this rate, it would have been better for everyone to know that I do not have a job than to keep saying I do not have money when they know I work and earn salary.
Two years ago, I was sure N80,000 was good money, at least to begin your career with. It was worth way more than it is now and one could live life to an extent. But now, the reverse is the case. Just yesterday, I bought pure water for N20. Pure water that used to be N5! And I also heard that Gala is now N70.
Hmm… What is happening? And this is supposed to be the regime of a new administration that promised us heaven and everything around it. If this is what the first Christmas under this government feels like, I can only wonder what the future holds…#FICTION