It is said that some beings are devil incarnate. I did not believe it until I met Enyioma. She was not queer in any way’; neither was she rugged nor harsh. She had a high sense of judgement, was very intelligent, seemed to be humanitarian. But there are people-whom I assumed were similar to Enyioma-wherever they enter, evil follows them.
Seven years ago, on the second Monday of September, I met Enyioma. She had visited me in the office the previous week and had promised to visit again. I had forgotten everything about her over the weekend: I had gone to visit nne di m, my fiance’s mother. The visit was not eventful but it gladdened my heart. When a girl is shown to her would-be mother-in-law in the Igbo culture, it means that the girl has been taken home. It gives the girl a sense of belonging and there is usually that sense of peace and joy that goes with it. Such was the feeling I had over the weekend preceding Enyioma’s second visit.
Enyioma had left a note with the Customer Service personnel as she did not meet me. We had not met before, yet, she appended mere ‘Enyioma’ on the note. The Enyioma that came to my mind easily was my aunt, my mother’s sister. She was the Enyioma that I could remember. I examined the note: the language and the handwriting showed no indication that it was written by my aunt. Enyioma also forgot to leave her phone number. I threw the note aside as I had no inkling of who she was.
It as morning. Before 7.00am, I was in the office making contacts and outlining my movement for the day. As soon as I was done with my morning routine in the office, I left for Aba City General Hospital. That was about 8.00am. A friend had told me in confidence that the hospital management was considering establishing a cash-point for all the hospital’s internally generated revenue. The idea was still in the closet; I was to prepare a proposal, giving details of how the cash-point would be managed with little or no stress for their patients.
“Your proposal must be patient-oriented,” my contact person had stressed. I prepared the proposal with the help of our branch manager. We did a good job. The commission for the bank was made low as was the practice among the new generation banks. Banks such as ours made their money through administrative and other consultative charges. There was also hope that the hospital’s management would be applying for loan from time to time.
I prayed that the proposal be accepted by the hospital’s management. Its acceptance was to be my highest hit and would engrave my name in the Achievers’ Record of the Century Bank where I had served for ten years. But it was not to be; Enyioma saw to it. And for this singular act, I hated her. I might have forgiven her for other things she did to me: she nearly made me a psychiatric patient; she also ruined my relationship with Emeka which made me marry Chief Kalu Agwu, a man about thirty years older than I am; she exposed Emeka to life-threatening risks which I felt claimed his life. Enyioma perforated me, both body and soul, and added salt to each hole, making me cry out in pain then and often, and every time I recall the incident.
My grandmother said that a dog that follows a child with a swollen stomach prays that the child either vomits or excretes, because either way favours it. Such was the nature of my relationship with Emeka. I gave Emeka whatever he needed. He was a student in Aba City Polytechnic. I danced to whatever type of tune he played. My prayer in all was: at the end, let us be husband and wife.
My prayer was in earnest but was answered as the prayer of a suckling child whose mother had travelled. When he saw the mother returning, his face was lit in joy. The mother took him and placed him comfortably on her lap and was ready to breastfeed her hungry child. As the breast was close to the child’s mouth, a malevolent spirit, from an unknown place appeared on the scene and cut off the mother’s breast. The child was dumbfounded, angry and wished he could unleash his anger on the spirit but also knew that he lacked the ability.
I was like that child when Enyioma appeared in my life. Till date, my head goes haywire when I recall how close I was to having Emeka as my husband; how close I was to bringing heaven down to earth. Anytime I consider how joy was snapped off my heart in a few days, and by a fellow woman, I bow down my head in shame. You may wonder if I ever considered what fate had ordained for me, and so should bow down to destiny. I am among those that believe that every man’s destiny is in his own hands. I believe that man directs his destiny just as a captain directs the ship.
So, I went to Aba City Hospital that fateful day. By 9.30am, the Medical Director has not come. I decided to wait a little. Thirty minutes into the waiting, I received a call.
“Hello, ND.” It was Enyioma. “We have appointment by 9.00am today, remember? I’m waiting.”
The line went dead giving me no opportunity to say a word. Did she break off deliberately or was it a network problem? I contemplated on it. I would not know what had happened; I only remember that I was gravely annoyed.
“Who on earth told her to call me ND?” I had grumbled. I never liked people calling me ND; it made me look like a man. Most times when I feature in other people’s discussions and some one refers to me as ND, the others always mistake me for a male. I tried to call her back but her line did not go through, still, I could not make up my mind if Enyioma was being mechanical.
“not this morning”, I had grumbled as tried to control the anger wailing up inside me. The worst was that I did not know the source of my bitterness. Definitely, it was not the mere reference to me as ND. She was not the first to call me that and may not be the least. All the same, I was annoyed. I checked with the Medical Director’s Administrative Ofice. Like the CONSEC, she was not sure when their boss would come to the office. I looked at the clock in the room; it was getting to 10.15am. I remembered Enyioma and decided to return to the office.
Enyioma was sitting on one of the visitor’s chairs by my desk when I returned. I was glad she waited, because I would not have been happy to miss two appointments that morning. It made me feel that she had serious business.
Before I went to meet her, I assessed her from the customer service section. Like I said, she was neither queer nor ugly though she would not be called a beauty. She had every thing in good proportion. She should be about 5.4 inches. Her make-up was decently worn. In fact, she looked responsible and at that time gained my admiration. The knots of anger in me dissolved immediately and in that instant, I forgave her for calling me ND. I walked to my seat, ready for business.
“The name of my friend is Roxanna,” Enyioma said after introductions.
“She wants to operate Executive Savings Account.”
Enyioma knew what she wanted. Executive Saving Account, ESA, was a new product in Century Banking system. It was a Savings Account that made use of cheques. The cheques could be cahsed in any of our branches where they did not have to go for clearance. I gave Enyioma detailed explanation about ESA. She listened. It was what she wanted for her friend. I told her to bring the friend.
“She can’t come to you. She’s psychologically displaced.” The bomb fell! I had one explanation to give for a psychologically displaced friend: madness. I looked at Enyioma to see a hint of confirmation of what rang in my head, but her face was blank.
“Does that means madeness?” I asked at least. Enyioma shook her head.
“She may be said to be mentally unsound at present, but she’s not made”.
“What does she want the account for and how can she operate it from the mental home?” I asked while I mentally considered how to dismiss Enyioma.
“It was recommended by her doctor. She used to be a bank worker. The doctor wanted her exposed to those things she was used to, to get busy. She’s becoming restless and it’s not helping her recovery.”
I listened as well as sympathized with the situation, yet, I still found it difficult to accept Enyioma’s proposal; she was yet to convince me.
“Tell me about her experience,” I demanded. Honestly, I did not know why I wanted further explanations about the made woman; that was how I saw Roxanna at the time. And nothing better could explain her situation. A person locked away in a psychiatric hospital for months had nothing else to qualify her situation but madness. If Enyioma had observed me coldly, she would have seen when I shook my head, that was when I had dismissed her.
“Roxanna had an ugly experience. She lost her husband to other women; that knocked her off balance.”
Enyioma was clam but I saw great confidenc e in her expression. She was the type that would not accept defeat easily even when it was clear to all that she was defeated. She was the type that would see that all chances were lost and still would want to stake in her last card. And not until the last card was staked and lost would she give up.
“Other women?” I asked wanting to be sure she was conscious of the plural gender she used.
“Yes, other women,” Enyioma smiled wryly. “Not one, not two, not three but many women.” I became uneasy. The way Enyioma looked at me at that instant made me feel guilty. I was not sure of the source of the guilt. I was dating two men; they had no wives: Emeka was a young man still in school and never had been married. Chief Kalu on the other hand lost his wife in the hands of death. He had a female child from the marriage and the girl knew about my relationship with her father. Although it could be said I wormed myself into Emeka’s life, but it was not so with Chief Kalu. In fact, Chief had, or thought he had, both the ball and the racket. But the look in Enyioma’s eyes seemed to accuse me of something… something I could not place my fingers on immediately, I dismissed the guilt as immediately as it started. I had not dated any woman’s husband.
“A gigolo?” I blurted out. Enyioma laughed heartily and I was glad she did because he look in her eyes changed to that of one being impressed.
“My goodness!” enyioma exclaimed. “You must have word. Chamber in your brain. I’ve been working on this case for sometime now and that word never crossed my mind.” She paused and looked at me seriously. “Whatever tag you may decide to give to the man, don’t let Roxanna hear it. She loves her husband dearly.”
A few minutes silence reigned. It was as if Enyioma wanted the discussion to sink into my head and for me to understand what she wanted. Honestly, I seemed to understand or I thought I had the right interpretation to some unspoken requests; she seemed to say even if it was against banking ethics, I should overlook it to help Roxanna. And why not, since as Enyioma said she was not made but psychologically displaced. Roxanna was a fellow bank worker, I reasoned further, and act would of my type. I would be doing a hell lot of good if this singular act would help Roxanna have quick recovery.
Enyioma also wanted me to follow her to Mgboko, where Roxanna was incarcerated to assess the suitability of my customer. I knew that Enyioma was appealing to my sense of pity and had not exhibited any selfish interest. She assured me that Roxanna’s friends would help in maintaining the account.
“Can we go now?” Enyioma had asked. I read conviction in her question. She believed she had won my pity and honestly, she had but I was not prepared to give in without protecting myself and the bank.
“I accept your proposal on the condition that you have a joint account with Roxanna.” Enyioma was calm for a while. I knew she was contemplating it and was not finding it suitable. I prayed inwardly for her to accept my condition because I knew if she went to other banks she could get her request met without hassels. The banking industry was at that moment in disarray. Many accounts were opened by proxy. What we needed were completed forms and photographs of the customers. It did not matter who the customers were, dead or alive, sane or insane. We operated accounts with fictitious names and signatures. We needed to beat deadlines but ended up beating guidelines.
“I accept,” Enyioma conceded at last.
“Good. We will go to Mgboko but not today.” I told her about my engagement at Aba City General Hospital which was more important to me than Roxanna’s case. Beside, the following day was Emeka’s birthday. I was yet to concluded all arrangements involved. I told Enyioma about the birthday. She did not say anything. She was still calm, unimpressed. I wondered what could thrill her. She was married. One would assume that the story of boyfriend-girlfreind smile falsely, instead, she started at time.
“Those that attended his last birthday talked about it for some days,” I concluded my story. Enyioma merely looked at me. To my surprise, I saw pity in her eyes. “You’re invited” came out from my mouth unchecked. I did not know much about Enyioma to invite her to my house. I then thought it might be the look in her eyes that caused it. Instantly, other baneful thoughts invaded my thoughts” let her come and see how Emeka and tell me he was not worth marrying. Let her come and see how Emeka doles out his love to me. Let me see if her look of pity would not change to that of admiration and envy. Let her come and see! She shook her head.
“You wouldn’t want me to be there. I might spoil things for you.”
“How?” Her reply was amazing. “You do not know Emeka, do you?” She remained expressionless, and sensing her refusal to answer my questions, I said “If you’re thinking of Roxanna and her husband, forget it Emeka and I are happy!” I observed her face for some moments and seeing noting worth holding unto, I mischievously added, “I do not think you have what it takes to snatch him away from me, “I said unchecked. Besides, I did not know why I was exposing my private life to a customer.
“Don’t bet your life on it!” She said and got up to leave. “Will Saturday be all right for you for the visit to Mgboko? I’ll be busy throughout the week.”
“Saturday is all right,” I feigned unperturbed at the change of topic. But at her departure, the thought of her visit and all our discussions ste me on edge. Most worrisome was her statement that I should not bet my life on keeping Emeka couples cheat on each other sometimes but the most important thing was their coming home to their regular dates, my grandmother had taught me.
I grew up with my grandmother until I was twenty years, my mother having died earlier. I was the only living child she had with my father. When my father got married two years after my mother’s death, my grandmother convinced him to let me live with her. The request was granted in my sixth year. My grandmother never forgot to tell all who cared to listen how beautiful she was before my grandfather met her.
“Your grandfather too was also handsome,” Grandma had acknowledge, smiling briefly at the recollection of many incidents that led to their marriage. “But my dear, whether handsome or not, they have the same principle to existence. They’re like roosters that sleep in the same pen with the hen. As soon as the door of the pen is opened, they kiss the hen briefly and trail other hens. Ironically, when the rooster’s back is not seen, although on rare occasions, other roosters track the abandoned hen.”
When this story was told, I was eighteen and did not make any sense out of it. But later in life, experience began to shape my thinking and attitude to life. I remembered the rooster-hen story, read meaning into it and embraced it. I never also stopped to wonder if my grandmother had also allowed other roosters into the pen. After all, was she not the village beauty?