University Graduate: Short Story
Chigbo, a Nigerian, and graduate of the University of Benin in Nigeria, had to go for his one year national service expected of any graduate of a Nigerian institution of higher learning. He wished his service year would end in a flash because he was in a hurry to move over to Lagos from Ibadan, in search of a job that would guarantee him decent living. On getting to Lagos at the end of his service year, Chigbo rented a room for a year, in a very remote area, a swampy area where a part of the sum of money he had saved up during his national service could afford him a roof over his head. The room he rented was in an uncompleted two storey building that he first feared would collapse one day. But Chigbo’s fears were quickly put aside because he believed he would get a job fast, being a university graduate, and move into a decent apartment.
Chigbo had to share just one pit-toilet and one bathroom with twenty other tenants and their families. The sight of human waste on the bathroom floor was not a rare one at all. It was also common to hear polythene bags containing human waste, being tossed off windows into surrounding bushes at night. The state of poor hygiene in the toilet and bathroom degenerated to the point that Chigbo had to start going to nearby bushes to defecate, in addition to having his bath only at night in an open space, beside the building in which he lived. Chigbo got fed up but could do nothing. Jobs he searched for were proving elusive. He was becoming worried now. The roof of his room was peeling off and his Landlord didn’t care. Broken bricks nearly fell on his head one night. His room had windows that couldn’t keep the rains out, so his clothes and small mattress on the floor got soaked whenever it rained.
Time for Chigbo to renew his rent was approaching, and he still had no job. Feeding himself was now proving difficult. Thanks to the charity of a few of his fellow tenants, Chigbo was able to eat just once in a day from little money he got from them on weekly basis. He could not eat more than once because he didn’t want to be left with no money to go around in search of a job. He intensified his search for any type of job, but got none, all to his disappointment.
Then his rent expired. He couldn’t believe one year had just passed by at jet speed. Chigbo’s Landlord came banging on his door as if he wanted to yank it off. Chigbo quickly explained his predicament believing his landlord would understand. His Landlord issued threats and gave him only a week to pay up. Chigbo’s heart throbbed as if it would rip off his chest each time he heard footsteps approaching the door to his room. He always thought it was his Landlord. Fear engulfed Chigbo’s whole life as the last day for him to renew his rent got closer. His Landlord eventually came and made good his threats. Other tenants had pity glued to their faces as they watched the little drama unfold.
“Have mercy, Sir,” Chigbo pleaded with his Landlord. “My luck will soon change and I will be able to pay.”
“Nonsense!” His Landlord thundered and kept busy. “How much are mercy and your luck worth? Tell me!”
“Have mercy please…”
“I am a Lagos Landlord! You ought to know how we do it!”
“You’re most unserious!”
Chigbo took few of his belongings only. These consisted of his few clothes, pillow, blanket and mattress, and a pair of worn-out sandals. He had to leave behind some of his things his Landlord had thrown out that evening, which included his books, partly broken plastic bucket, soap dish, and cooking utensils. He planned to come back for them once he settled down again. He walked away as twilight arrived, sure of only one place to find shelter, having no relations and no friends in Lagos, and still harboring a glimmer of hope, against all odds, that the long elusive job he needed so badly would spring up someday.
“Under a bridge will do again,” he said to himself in a low consolatory tone that would easily pass for a whisper. After all, it was there that he lived before he could rent a room.