Sam crouched over the waste drum that stood outside of the office complex. He had watched from across the street as the fat lady brought out the trash and dumped it into the drum. He had waited till dark when he thought all the office people had left before heading to his newly discovered dinner table. 2 days ago he had discovered the hidden treasure: Leftover chicken pieces, whole doughnuts, pies, and even pizza. Yes! Even pizza. That people hadn’t eaten or merely just took a bite of. Who said he wasn’t a wealthy man in his own right. At least when others boasted of delicacies they had tried, he could boast as well.
Tears stung his eyes now. His pride had been so shattered to the point that he could boast of eating out of a dustbin. He hated himself for a split second but shook it off. He had to survive and feeling sorry for himself was not going to cut it. But still, he felt sorry.
He was an educated man, at least he made it to his second year in the university before getting mixed up with the wrong people.
I don’t have to do what they do, I could just hang out with them and command the respect of others on campus. They would fear me or who they think I am .
So he thought and what a fool he was.
He stuffed half-eaten meat in his mouth. It tasted sour but it was better than nothing. The owner probably threw it away because it was hard. His teeth ached but he chewed on.
He laughed at himself. How foolish could he have been back then? He was just at the right place at the wrong time- If there was anything like that. He went to visit his girlfriend when a shooting broke out in the hall. She hadn’t come out yet. Everyone went from ground to window, some into an invisible bush. How they found the bush at that time no one knows. Unfortunately for him, someone just said they saw him there at that time and that he was a cult member and that was how he was arrested. He later found out that someone died. That ‘someone’ till this very moment he still doesn’t know, but the wails of a mother crying for vengeance for her son had persuaded the judge to convict him to 20 years in prison. He was upset of course. He was sad too but he thought 20 years was not so far away. But now he was 43. No home, no family, no money. No nothing.
That was in the past. He was out of prison now for about a week. No one had come looking for him. Not even his mother, his only guardian. They had moved to Lagos when he was still in Primary School. After his father had died they simply had to escape from village troubles. She was always loving and caring but maybe the fact that she tried so hard to provide for them kept her from seeing just how much he needed her around. While she was financially available, she wasn’t emotionally available. He was alone. After he was convicted she was so upset that she said she would not see him and she didn’t. But one day she came. She brought clothes and food and prayed for him. He was upset but none the less grateful for the support. Then she didn’t come again.
He kept wondering if something had happened. He was bitter after that for a long time. Some times he was scared because he wasn’t sure what to make of her sudden appearance and then disappearance.
He burped. Probably that meant he was okay with the food. But he felt tempted to take some away. But to where? How would he take away already decaying food? He shrugged. He scrambled through the bin for something small he could take with him just in case he got hungry again in the night. He stood up straight with the trophy in his hand. Chicken!
“These office people like chicken o-”
He looked up into the sky. He wasn’t expecting a reply to his otherwise rhetorical comment and there were no angels in the sky so who was it.
Sam suddenly realized that his calculations were wrong. All the office people hadn’t left after all. The young woman was bent over. Fingering her toes. He squinted in her direction. He was not sure whether to move or just stay put. His feet were stuck to the ground. He didn’t want her to see him and panic. They might keep an eye out for him and not allow him to visit his treasured food can. Stay put it is. But maybe it was a stupid idea because she saw him anyway. She froze as well not sure what to do. She was staring at him and he was staring at her and the street light was in between them casting small shadows on their faces.
He squinted again. This time with a furrowed brow. He still wasn’t sure what to do and she seemed to be waiting for his response too. She stole a glance at the office gate like she was trying to calculate the running distance. Then he recognized her.
Like thunder in a storm, she screeeeaaaaamed and dashed for the security post inside the building.
To be continued…..