Get out! Henry! Run! Save yourself, while you still can.

GET OUT! HENRY! RUN!

On a cold Tuesday evening around 5.30 p.m., I was seated in the business-class lounge of the Heathrow Airport when I suddenly pressed my bag against my chest and started to sweat.

I was flying back home for the first time ever since stepping my feet on the soil of the United Kingdom.

I was scared.

I had never thought about it in a very long while. The trauma, the scare, the tears I shed a day before flying out of the country. What started as a day of sweet-sour joy went south really quick.

My friends and I were reminiscing on the good times together and at the same time packing the last of my bags and furniture. My sister, Victoria, was at one corner of the living room ironing all the shirts and pairs of trousers I was travelling with.

“Have you packed the foodstuff mother sent to you?”, asked sister Victoria as she carefully folded a shirt she had just ironed. “You know she would ask you tomorrow evening at the airport!”

“Talking about food, Ogbeni Henry, boys are hungry o! We have been working since morning”, said Gbenga.

“If boys don’t eat now, boys will start to faint”, added Timilehin as he winked at Matthew.

“Henry! Let us go! I am driving”, said Matthew as he picked up his car key from the centre table. “We are going to buy some delicious fried rice and chicken”, he said excitedly as he walked towards the door.

“If you bring fried rice and chicken into this place, Matthew! The thunder! The thunder that will fire you! It will not only roast your ass. It will also rain down roasted chicken from your mother’s poultry”, said Gbenga as he pointed his finger at Matthew.

Everyone started to laugh.

“I am serious”, added Gbenga as he picked up his glass of water. “Please get us some amala from Mama Skye!”

“And some small chops from Becky”, contributed Timilehin as he lifted up one of the boxes we had just packed.

“Who is Becky?”, asked sister Victoria.

Gbenga asked sister Victoria, “You don’t know Becky?”

“Becky with the good hair, sis”, answered Timilehin. “She makes the most delicious small chops in the whole of Lagos and beyond. Her doughnuts are not from this world. You can even see the angels descending from above to deliver it.”

“Timilehin! You love to exaggerate! Geez!”, I shouted as I followed Matthew out of my apartment.

Thanks to the Lagos traffic, instead of 30 minutes, we were gone for about 2 hours and 42 minutes.

“This food box is quite heavy”, I said as I alighted from the car with the food container and waited for Matthew. Matthew carried the cooler containing soft drinks then locked the car.

Before taking five steps, sister Victoria ran out of the apartment. “Where have you, big heads, been?!”, she shouted as she ran towards her car. “Gbenga has been rushed to the hospital!”

“What happened?!”, asked Matthew.

“We were robbed”, she answered as she took a last look at us and drove out.

We ran into the apartment. Matthew fainted. There was blood everywhere in the living room and my white walls had bullet holes in them. The whole apartment was filled with the smell of burning fabrics. I realised that the pressing iron was left on one of my shirts.

Broken glasses and tiles were everywhere in the kitchen, all the shelves and drawers were broken.

“What has happened to Gbenga?”

I walked into the bedroom. All the framed pictures, we had packed, were shattered all over the place. I sat at a corner of the room across my bed and started to cry. Then I noticed a river of water flowing out from underneath my bed. Out of curiosity and fear, I lifted up the mattress.

I shouted, “Timilehin!!”

“Please spare my life! I do not have any money!!”

“Timilehin, come out from underneath the bed! It is Henry”, I said angrily.

He crawled out in the pool of his own urine and started to cry. “I hope Gbenga is not dead”, he said as he cleaned his nose with the tip of his shirt. “They entered into the apartment and started to fire shots. Gbenga was standing right in front of them. I was just about to enter the living room when they started, so I ran into the bedroom and hid under the bed”, he tried to narrate as he was shivering. “I could hear their footsteps. They were searching everywhere looking for valuables. I was hearing gunshots. I hope sister Victoria is okay?”  

I ran out of the room immediately. “We have to call her, right now!”

Timilehin ran after me. “Never leave me alone”

We resuscitated Matthew as we tried to reach sister Victoria on the telephone.

“The number you are trying to call is not reachable at the moment. Please try again later”. We listened to the phone lady’s voice five times before it dawned on Timilehin that sister Victoria’s phone had also been stolen.

The shock and fear we were experiencing made us sit close to one other near the coolers of food and drinks.

We just sat quietly, patiently and prayed for Gbenga.

 4 hours and 35 minutes later, the headlamps of sister Victoria’s Honda Accord chased away the darkness surrounding us outside the apartment as she drove in and parked.

We all stood up in unison as sister Victoria alighted from the car.

“Is Gbenga okay? Is he doing fine? Is he alive?!”, I asked as we moved closer to her car.

Sister Victoria did not say anything as she leaned against her car with her head hanging low. She wiped off her face with a piece of cloth, then looked up.

“We thank God for his life”, she said as a little smile ran through her face. “Don’t just stand there! Help Gbenga out of the back seat of the car”, she continued as she looked in our direction.

We opened the car’s door and found Gbenga in bandages laying sideways on the seat. There were bandages on his neck, shoulder, knees and arm. We lifted him gently out of the car and helped him walk into the apartment.

“You should have seen me!” He opened his mouth for the first time as he laid on the bed and faced the white ceilings. “I was dodging bullets like Jackie Chan. I was moving like Bruce Lee. You should have s….”

“Sh-Sh-Shut up!”, shouted my sister as she interrupted him. “Is it not your blood that is everywhere in the living room?”, she asked and hissed. “The baby in my stomach can throw better punches than you with those your chicken arms!”

We all started to laugh.

All of a sudden Gbenga’s laughing turned into crying. “They took everything! Those little boys. Just because they were armed with sophisticated weapons! They stole everything”. He cried even more.

“We thank God for sparing our lives”, said Matthew as he led us in prayers. “Thank God we have packed some of your bags into sister Victoria’s car”, he said after the prayers.

“That’s true”, Matthew immediately added. “Or else, you would not have anything to travel with tomorrow! All your travelling documents, credentials. Wow! We should really be grateful for that!”

I could not sleep in my apartment, so we all went to my sister’s place.

The next day, we met my parents at the airport. Sister Victoria narrated the whole event to them as we waited for my flight.

All of a sudden, Gbenga grabbed my hands from the wheelchair he was sitting on. He said, “Get out! Run away from this failed system! Do not come back until you have achieved something for yourself. Show the world that you are the best. Make all of us proud!”

He hugged me with his arms around my waist.

“Brotherly, please let him go! Don’t let him miss his flight”, said Matthew as he pulled me out of Gbenga’s arms.

I hugged everyone as I prepared to go to the check-in counter.

For a very long time, I kept on hearing Gbenga’s voice echoing at the back of my head as he kept on shouting, “Henry! Do not come back!”

That was the voice that kept on ringing in my head as they made the final boarding call for my flight to Lagos, Nigeria.

I was about to chicken out.

“Should I go or should I stay?”

I did not know what to do as I was fidgeting.

I was confused. “What should I have done?”

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