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THE CROSS I CARRY (EPISODE 4)

Wednesday, 4 April 2018



Episode 4


Later in the day, I dial Rotimi’s number while I am in the truck. I have already parked by the road.
“Hello, this is Chief Olarotimi Ariyo. Who am I speaking with?” A voice from the receiver says.
“This is Dele – Bamidele Olaonipekun.” I reply.
“Dele, I have been expecting your call since morning.”
“The number is just going through since morning. I think it’s network.”
“Sorry about that. I am in the office right now. Just trace the address on that card.”
I told him I have misplaced the card and I did not really go through it when I collected it. He explains the direction to me, and I can sense warmth in his voice as he does.

At last I arrive at one of his filling stations at Alagbado. There is an eatery there too. I meet a receptionist who politely ushers me to the office. When I am about to enter the office I adjust the collar of my navy blue T-shirt, and I examine my trousers. They have been neatly ironed by Lara.
I was hoping Rotimi will welcome me with a handshake, but I am surprised when he welcomes me with a warm embrace. We had been friends since our college days in Ahmadu Bello University. Although I knew him to be a humble fellow then, but I thought his high status would have changed all of that.
“Have your seat,” Rotimi gestures towards the white couch that is located far away from his office desk, “I am really happy to see you.”

The office is painted white. It is more or less a sitting room, for its wideness. It’s lavishly and sophisticatedlyfurnished. A tall bar is fixed on the wall, full of all expensive wines. There is a glassy table in between the two sitters and one-sitter couch. A flat screen hangs on the wall to the left.
Rotimi sits in the opposite two-seater after phoning his secretary to bar any other visitor. A pretty young lady comes in at that moment. She asks what kind of drink I would like to take. She lists almost all the wines and soft drinks in the world.
“A glass of table water is okay by me.” I flash a smile at her.
Rotimi objects to my request. He says I wouldn’t take a glass of water alone. Somehow, he knows I don’t feel comfortable. He asks the lady to bring two bottles of Pomerol with the water. He knows my best wine. Several times we had dined together when I was still wallowing in money. At last we set to business.

“When I returned from France almost two years ago,” Rotimi says, after sipping a wine from a goblet,“ I couldn’t reach you again. I misplaced the phone I was using then. So I lost all contacts… I went to check you in your office at Port Harcourt, I was told the place had been sold out… same thing your two mansions. I have been looking for a way to meet you, until yesterday when I saw you packing some things behind that truck… I was not pleased with the way I met you at all. Dele, hint me… what is happening to you?”
I take a sigh, and grunt sorrowfully. I explain to him how the ship that was bringing my goods from Spain had drowned in the sea.
“I lost about a billion naira worth of goods,” I continue, “The bank had to sell almost all my properties to recover my debts.”

“That is a sad story,” Rotimi sighs, stooping his head. He pauses for some time and continues, “ anyway, such is life. So you are now driving for a living?”
“Yes,” I reply, shrugging, “what else can I do? That is my fate.”
Rotimi’s face is etched with concern at my statement. He reminds me of over two years ago. He makes me realize that the six million naira he asked me to lend him, which I eventually gave him, is the source of his fortune today. I am surprised to hear that.
“How is that possible?” My voice is toned with doubt, “How did you acquire all these wealth with that money?”
He narrates to me how he had gone to France for business. On getting there, he visited a white man whom he had met on the internet. The man offered to help him by signing a contract with him. He requested Rotimi to store some wares in his own shop with the money he had. It was there he made huge sales that made him a multimillionaire. Rotimi was a banker who received hundred thousand naira per month when I met him three years ago.

“If I decide to divide my wealth into two and give you a half of it, you really worth it.” He says with gravity in his tone, “But I will make sure you rise to greatness again.”
I shift to the edge of the couch, “I will be grateful if you can help me with a token which I can start a business with.”

Rotimi’s mouth widens with a smile, “Dele, you are very funny. What business do you want to start with a token amount?” He pulses his lips and hums thoughtfully for a moment, “Okay. okay. Let’s do it like this … Give me your account number. I am going to send thirty millionaire into your account for a start. The money will be there before nightfall. I won’t tell you the business to do. I know you have a business sense.”
My heart almost bursts out of my chest as I adjust on my seat, “All that for me? May God continue to bless you, my friend. You shall not face a downfall in your life…”

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