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The drifter and the box

I cannot say I did not see it coming, for I knew it was a question of when.

A stack of boxes

That could only have meant one thing. All year long the body counts had been rising, the casualty list was growing longer and men were falling like flies. I cannot say I did not see it coming, for I knew it was a question of when, rather than if it was going to happen.

As I hung up the phone, took a deep breath and made what looked like a long walk to his office, for the first time I admired the beautiful paintings that hung on the wall. How I passed them by unnoticed all these while was more than I could tell.

The laughter of colleagues that usually characterised the few minutes leading to the close of work all hushed down as they saw me heading towards he HR manager's office with my laptop. Everything I had taken for granted all of sudden meant much just by virtue of a phone call.

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I wished he spared me the rhetoric and ceremony, we both knew I knew what was on the menu.

“Due to crippling economic situations, management has decided to restructure and we are sad your services, though highly appreciated, are no longer needed. We wish you success in your future endeavour".

So read the last paragraph of the release and termination document he gave me. I appended my signature made a last walk to my office and picked up all my personal belongings, safe for the jacket I usually wore to protect myself from the cold, since turning the AC off was prohibited.

I left the jacket for Kemi, if I had an office bestie it surely was her.

I took all my PPE, tea cup, photos and diary and was gone for good. Calls came through that evening, from colleagues with kind words to make me feel better. I remember making such calls to those who fell before me.

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I left town and headed homewards. To see the doctor and spend more time with loved ones. I was trying not to let anything ruin my Christmas but the discomfort was much and the doctor said the growth was now matured and had to be removed. I was scheduled for 3 January, which was now barely a week away.

I had been away for long and so had not seen big aunty for only God knows how long. I took advantage of the ample time I now had, to reflect on the things that really matter and strolled over to her house.

Excited to see her nephew as always, through the pains in her leg and failing health she got to the kitchen to fix me her afang soup and pounded yam. I can never be in a mood too bad to turn down aunt’s meal nor loose appetite for her delicacy.

As she got busy in the kitchen, I soon drifted to the basement of her house were we kept most of our stuffs when we relocated some ten years ago or so. Rats and cockroaches scampered for cover as I gently opened the door.

The cobwebs that hung all over were strong enough to bind Samson and showed that no one had come in in ages.

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The pair of shoes my siblings and I used in secondary school first greeted me and the memories just overwhelmed like a flood. The TV set my younger brother spoilt stared back at me and I remembered how daddy beat him up that night.

I bounced the lawn tennis ball like I did many years ago. I took the rackets to school in primary 5 against the rules. My teachers seized, till this day only me knows what happened to those rackets.

Some of the kitchen utensils Mummy used to prepare my beans caught my eye, and for a moment the irresistible aroma of her beans filled the air.

Every corner I turned held something special and for a while I felt like I was in a time machine, I forgot the sack that was just behind me and the surgeon's knife that was ahead, until an insect stung me and brought me back to the present.

Big aunty should almost be done, I thought to myself. I better leave before she starts searching for me all over.

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As I turned to head for the door, I couldn't help but notice the box that laid there almost isolated covered in a thick layer of dust. It was curiosity that killed the proverbial cat; thankfully the proverbial cat has nine lives.

If I knew what I was going to find inside I probably would have left it all alone. Placing it on a table, its years of being behind the door had outlined a mark on the tiles. It didn't seem heavy when I lifted it, what made it scar the tiles only aroused my curiosity further.

When I took off the lid, for a while my whole world stopped spinning.

There laid a faded picture of a German trained engineer, his teacher wife and their light skinned daughter, leaning on their blue Peugeot 504, parked in front of a simple 2 bedroom company flat.

I remembered the entire story behind the photograph; daddy said mummy had just conceived me, while my younger brother was still up in heaven. Mum still looked as pretty as always and the smile on daddy's face told the story of a man who had it all; a wife, a daughter and a son like no other on the way.

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Just by the picture was a rusted gold coated wrist watch he wore the night he left. The hands had stopped moving, and I wondered if they stopped working on that same night.

As I unpacked the box further, I found a blue jeans T-shirt he used for many years neatly folded. The collar had turned white bearing witness to the years of service it had given. Pictures of him in that shirt kept running through my mind.

His thick medicated lenses seemed to be the final straw as a teardrop rolled down my cheek and hit his lenses. I remembered how my brother and I would help him search for it once it was time for network news.

Holding it from a distance and looking through it used to give me headache instantly, and it still did after all these years.

That was it, I had seen way too much than I could stand and tried to pack the stuffs back, until his worn out brown leather bible fell from the folded shirt. The shirt was used as a cover and I didn't take note until this time.

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As I flipped open the cover page I saw the name of the German priest that gave it to him as far back as 1980 while he schooled there. Since he was not yet quite fluent with the German language, it was special to him because finding an English bible there was quite difficult for non-German speaking people back then.

I quickly recalled how he read it morning after morning for years during our devotions. His favourite passage was Psalms 91; in a week, he would read that scripture five or six times that I could recite the entire chapter accurately before my 5th birthday.

It was the most worn out page of the bible and I had no difficulty locating it.

As I read those sixteen verses, each of those familiar words, felt like words of a long lost love letter from a father to a son, a timely reminder of where I needed to turn.

What was I thinking? What was I looking for when I drifted from underneath the shadow of The Almighty?

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All I need and more were right here and in search of vanities, lured by ephemeral gratification I drifted.

Just before I closed that box, a light as bright as the sun shone and therein I found the strength to carry on, for he said "I shall call upon Him and He will answer me: He will be with me in trouble; He will deliver me, and honour me. With long life will He satisfy me, and shew me His salvation".

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