Something tells you today is not a good day. You are in at a few minutes past nine as usual and don’t expect your boss in until about ten or eleven. You wonder how long you will have to practice Law like this – N35,000 a month, in Abuja, nine to five or six or seven or whenever the boss feels it is okay to let you go home. You wish you had more precedents and templates in the office. Those guys at the university, and Law School, they lied to you, evil people – they taught you how to be proud and look down on other professions but not that you would have to endure years of slavery to a senior colleague who while paying you next to nothing would demand sweat and blood from you. They didn’t tell you to warn your relatives and younger siblings that they should expect no contribution to the family from you, at least for the first few years of slavery as a lawyer. You hate them now, those Law School people and how they made everything look like heaven, when they should have given you the manual for hell. Three years at the bar and you still can’t prove to your girlfriend of five years that you are ‘serious’; you still take hot cabs to and from courts, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS), still take many drops to your home in Mararaba, outside the city.
This High Court sits at 10am. Or whenever the judge saunters in. As is typical on court days, the boss appears on edge and slightly hyperactive. You stay out of his way and make sure to never take your eyes off him in case he wants a book or a file or just wants to send you to get something from his really expensive car.
At 12, the registrar tells you the judge had to attend the second burial of his wife’s favourite stepmother. Or something like that.
Your boss tells you to go to the Ministry of Commerce to follow up a client’s job. He drives off in the air-conditioned car. You know he will stop at the expensive Biobak Restaurant before going back to the office.
You have been depressed since yesterday when you saw your classmates Musa and Jacob both parked by the road in front of the Corporate Affairs Commission, laughing loudly, exaggeratedly, and jiggling their car keys as they caught up. You wanted to avoid them, but the cab chose that exact spot to stop. Jacob told you he works for a bank in Wuse 2 and Musa you know does nothing but register companies and go to police stations to arrange bail for suspected criminals. Musa has done it so much he knows all the policemen in Abuja by name and how much to pay to release his clients on bail.
You can hear your boss screaming on the phone to the secretary Njideka-- a girl from his wife’s clan, the only person he trusts to deal with his raw cash. “Njide! If you don’t see the man wait o! When you get there, kpoo the man! Don’t come back here if you don’t see him o!”
Why do bad things happen to good people?
You oversleep and forget that today’s important case is in one of the few high courts that sit at exactly 9am. The Boss has travelled to attend the wedding of the daughter of his Local Government Chairman in Enugu. By the time you have taken a motor bike to the road, and sat in the bus through Maraba traffic, it is 9.05 and you are sweating. And you have to get the files from the office in Jabi before heading out to the court in Maitama. You do not take his calls when your boss calls to find out if you are there already. You try to call the lawyer on the other side but does not take your calls.
When you get to court at 9.50, they have already called your case and you learn the other lawyer has already gotten an adjournment and cost against you for not showing up in a matter you instituted.
You know the boss will kill you. He calls and tells you that apart from being useless, it is clear you will never amount to anything unless you stop this ‘unacceptable sloppiness’. He threatens to fire you. You kiss your teeth. You do not realise that you did it until he screams: “Are you hissing at me?” And now you are tired, angry, and smelly (because you rushed out without using deodorant). You do not deny it. You just remain quiet on the phone when he asks, “have you suddenly gone dumb?”
You break up with your girlfriend of five years because she was angry you didn’t show up for the movie at Ceddi Plaza yesterday evening and didn’t even ‘have the courtesy to call.’ You break up by text.
Your neighbour, Papa Ngozi, after returning from church in the afternoon is happy that the advice you gave him last week about the land he was trying to buy in Nassarawa saved him from paying money to fraudsters. He says he knocked your door “severally” yesterday. You didn’t answer because you locked your door to think of everything but killing yourself. He insists on buying you drinks in the evening even though you don’t want to leave your cramped studio apartment.
A free drink never killed anyone.
You both keep drinking until your voices are the loudest in this restaurant “Food Is Ready” which turns into a bar in the evenings. Until Papa Ngozi starts saying “call me Izuchukwu or Izu, are we not friends now?” again and again and tells everybody how you saved him from 419ners in Nassarawa. You know you are drunk when you find yourself calling him Izu and slapping his back when he says something funny.
You wake up at 9.30am.