…..My name is Saint Cristiano and I am fighting for my life.
I am pitted against Diablo Malvado the bone crusher and the odds are totally against me! The whole world does not give me a chance since the last opponent he faced is almost a vegetable receiving care in some intensive care unit. However, this was a make or break match, it is either I win and become the world champion or join the long trail of broken boxers who might have been.
I have struggled through the first four rounds with my breath sounding like that of a farrowing sow.
The bell rang for round five and he came out of the blue corner charging at me like a raging bison high on amphetamines. Black, big, brutish with a shaven head attached to his shoulders devoid of a neck, he is the stuff nightmares are made of. Thick, tall, dark, a jagged scar tissue ran down his left eye all the way to his lips, giving him a perpetual lopsided grin that taunted me. He launched a flurry of punches, a flood of agony that drowned my senses. It was all I could do to soak up the furious onslaught without buckling at the knees.
Through the fog of pain, the voice of Manuel Christos, my trainer, mentor and friend in one pierced through saying “stand boy! Do all you can to stand!”.
Despite his constant admonitions and the roaring chant of the cloud of witnesses in the hall cheering me on, I took a left hook on the jaw and crumpled. I saw stars and they were not the ones lining the Milky Way. The count was on and by the time the Referee got to seven I groggily got to my feet and was promptly saved by the bell. Coach has always told me, it does not matter how many times you fall so long you rise again. I walked shakily to the red corner battered and bruised but Manuel caught me just as I was about collapsing. I felt despondency wrap its thick fist around me.
OBINNA….His heart shattered into bits like fragile china vase as he watched her walk away with her usual panache laden steps.
“I cannot take this anymore!” These were her final words but they had been uttered with such vituperation that they became the sledge hammer that broke his soul.
Since leaving school, he had been working given that he did not believe in being idle but most of the jobs were owned by Nigerians which means you toil like a Hebrew slave with little or no incentive. Staff welfare is usually bad and most of the time the pittance paid does not show up until the end of the next month and in a lot of cases months go by without workers getting their salary while the owners of the companies trotted round the globe.
Thing is, this situation has crept up upon Ego and he with its clammy hands to kill the vine of their relationship. They had gone out for nine yrs and were supposed to be married this year but he could even afford to buy her recharge card lots of the time. She had come to the end of her tether and decided to move on with rich Ekene who had been piling a ton of pressure on her for ages.
His luck had petered out! As the fragrance of her perfume lingered in the Mushin one room apartment where he squatted, Obinna wept!
SANDRA……Their fellowship had gone sour like stale egusi soup after only three years. These days they lived like strangers in the house and did not even share the same bed anymore. She never thought the day would ever come when she and Omoregie would ever share different bedrooms (in days gone by, she used to feel such things happened to couples who lived in mars and not anywhere near her). Lately her husband was only consumed by work. It was either one miserable target or another and recently he had started staying out late. A couple of days back she smelt the fumes of alcohol on his breath and could have sworn there was a lipstick stain on one of his trademark T.M Lewin shirts. Passion had flown out of the windows of their love castle like a swallow migrating from a harsh winter to a warmer clime. Sandra felt so alone, so unloved and the only way she could see out of all this was for the unfeeling scissors of divorce to slash through the ribbon of their fellowship.
OLU……His name was missing on the list for the umpteenth time, he has failed again. As the sounds of jubilation from successful candidates erupted around him, he trudged back to his room crestfallen. Olu felt like a trapped rat, there seems to be no way out of the confusing maze of his dilemma! A predicament that had made him contemplate suicide a few times.
IYABO…..the threads of white hair escaped from her dark mass of curls like exuberant wisteria. The crows feet around her eyes were becoming more prominent everyday despite all the beauty products she splurged on. There was no way, she could escape the fact that she was growing older and was still single. Pressure from family, friends and folks squeezed her like the folds of a boa constrictor until she had become emotionally exhausted! It was not like she had the ability to create a husband from clay or sand but they would not let her be, everyone harassed her like angry hornets. These days she felt she was continually running against time that was ticking like a bomb….Iyabo felt tired, so tired!
TIFFANY….The pain ripped through her like a serrated knife in the hand of a maniac, slashed at her core like a pepper fortified axe. She still found it difficult to believe that her brother in-law waltzed into her matrimonial home and slapped her! He called her a shriveled yam that should be thrown into a bin. The main sting was that Odun her husband did not even say anything, behaved like he did not know what happened. In seven years of marriage, she had never felt the pain of her infertility so acutely
…..Round twelve, I am amazed to have made it this far. My eyes are puffy and swollen, I can barely see. The punishment continued. The tear above my eyebrow dripped blood into my eyes. I could not take it anymore. I sincerely wished that Manuel Christos would throw in the towel and save me the torture. It was time to quit but I knew if I capitulated that would be the end of my boxing career. He never works with quitters and he is the best in the world. It was great privilege to train under him and I was not about to lose that. He got me my first title and I never forget what he told me after he congratulated me.
“Saint, if you ever turn back in the heat of battle, my soul would have no pleasure in you. No one is fit for my attention who ever looks back once their boxing gloves are on. I and anyone who decides to stick with me are not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, believing all the way”.
So I dug in my head, fixed the prize before my eyes and slugged it out. I went at him toe to toe, squared up eye to eye. I made up my mind to win or die trying! I fought the fight of my life!!!
OBINNA…..The offer from Ette was quite tempting. All Obinna needed to do was cook the books and no one would have ever noticed. He would have made the easiest three hundred thousand naira of his life without any repercussions. It would have come in handy too. He was tired of squatting and would have been able to get a self contained one room apartment in Iju. Furthermore, it would also have been some kind of sweet revenge against an unfriendly and rapacious system. He tossed and turned for countless sleepless and sweaty nights weighing his options. After a long week of deliberations, he decided to pass albeit reluctantly because he could not stoop that low. Ette called him a big fool. The insult rankled!
SANDRA……Dennis was your typical ladies dream man. He usually looked like he just stepped out of the pages of the latest GQ magazine. A natural model, slick in his ways, sleek in his moves, smooth with his words, he was the type ladies would gouge one another’s eyes out for. Funny thing was that he was still single even though he could have any woman he wanted at the snap of his fingers. Lately, he started showering her with attention and being the most accomplished gentleman, he did a lot of things that her husband would not even do in the next millennium, simple things like opening doors and waiting for her to walk past. Since Sandra’s esteem had taken a hit due to Omoregie’s attitude, she lapped up all the attention like a voracious cat going at prime cream milk. Truth was, she was beginning to think her husband could go jump into a lake; he was not even half the dude her toaster was, not by a long shot. Hence, when Dennis invited her for lunch in one of the deluxe restaurants in town, she jumped at the invitation but on her way she called him, apologized profusely for not being able to go through with it and wept with her head banging the steering wheel. She felt like a fool who had torn up a lottery ticket.
OLU……..The big three knew of his dilemma and offered to help him out this time. For a paltry sum, they would tender the questions of the next exams to him. He did not want to fail anymore considering that some of the people he started with were already way ahead of him. He agreed to the offer but a day to the agreed date, he called them and called off the whole arrangement. They called him a failure and a loser.
IYABO…….It is so nice to finally have someone she could call her own especially on days like Valentine. However, she finally had to tell herself the truth; the guy had no values, was only interested in sex and only placed stock on ephemeral things. She figured that if she finally agreed to his proposal, her name would change from Miss to Mrs, her finger would bear a ring but she would be eternally miserable. She broke up and everyone called her stupid!
Tiffany…..it was dark and quiet, shadows and silhouettes loomed like otherworldly structures in the soft gentle glow of the moon. The hut was decrepit, beside the village river and the crone sitting in front gave her the hibbie jibbies. Her mother in law held her hand and pulled her closer to the woman that was supposed to have the magic that would give her a baby like she did for her sister in law. Tiffany felt she must have been out of her mind to have given in to the woman’s pressure. She snatched her hand and ran for dear life while the women rained all sorts of abusive words on her in a stormy rage.
My tenacity was getting to Diablo Malvado. He had always been the type who does not like long drawn out matches; he would rather sneak in and floor his opponents with a sucker punch. Ducking his wild round houses, I concentrated on making every punch count. This time I was not hitting like one hitting the air. Every punch was deliberate, each blow made to count. Head filled with Manuel Christos words, I was resolute, determined to floor this giant. Diablo could not withstand my faith once my fear dissolved. He wilted under my relentless salvos. All this time I kept talking to him, throwing Christos’ words, telling him how he was going to be toppled unlike the earlier rounds when fear gripped my voice box and made it impossible for me to talk. I gave him a thunderous jab and followed it up with a right hook which almost decapitated him. The rest was history. He could not get up for the tenth count and the whole hall went agog. I was carried shoulder high, the belt of gold was placed on my waist and Manuel kept applauding and smiling at me. I still cannot get over the fact that I won….
OBINNA…he came out of his latest Honda Accord sports and hugged Awele his wife while his son and daughter ran to him shouting “daddy, daddy”. He scooped them up and planted kisses on their faces. It was so good coming back home to his loved ones after his two weeks training in Dubai which the multinational company he worked for sent him on. Home is certainly where the honey is, he thought smiling.
SANDRA……“until death do us part.” As her husband said those words, joy exploded in her heart. His eyes were such oceans of love that washed over her. They had the tenderness, the softness, the passion, the love that she used to know. He declared them from the depths of his being and hugged her ever so tightly. They had had a rude awakening when they nearly lost their only daughter because of the break in their communication lines. It was a wake up call for them; he cleaned up his act, stepped up his game and she stopped nagging. They got back to winning ways and renewed their vows.
OLU…he threw the hat of his graduation gown into the air as the camera froze and immortalized the moment. Food and drinks were in surplus supply as he celebrated. To cap it all, he had gotten a scholarship for further studies in the USA. Life is indeed groovy; he mused as everyone congratulated him and danced to Frank Edwards “U too dey bless me”.
IYABO…after throwing her bouquet to the throng of her single lady friends, she ran into the arms of her husband who gave her a kiss that warmed her through like she were a chestnut in a fire. Smouldering and aglow with the warmth of love she wondered how someone could be this handsome. The heat spread all the way from her heart to her whole being and smiling to herself mischievously, Iyabo knew they were going to set the Bahamas on fire during their honeymoon.
Tiffany…the song “everything na double double” was blaring from the speakers as she danced carrying one of her twins while her husband carried the other. She had named them Manasseh and Ephraim. The canopies were spread across the field like multicoloured mushrooms with people milling about celebrating and rejoicing. It was a rollicking time for everybody. She was still stunned beyond belief, it was all like a dream, her mouth was filled with laughter and singing but she remembered what Ozioma her best friend kept telling her over the years……
He that endureth to the end shall be saved…
This piece is dedicated to Mohammed Ali, the greatest boxer that ever lived especially for his staying power against Joe Frazier in their bout“The Thriller in Manilla”.
© 2013 Ekpo Ezechinyere