You are thinking of stories. Your special moments' quota for the week is exhausted. There is nothing ethereal, or scandalous, or epiphanic in the news, in your life, in the streets. Nothing spicy from eavesdropping on strangers, no special insight into their lives. Your neighbors are all behaving this week. And you desperately need a story for your deadline.
Even the weather isn’t inspiring. There aren’t ‘rays of the sun glistening through the mist’, no ‘shimmering lights’, nothing to make that gripping opening paragraph that you sometimes extend too long because you really have nothing concrete to write about. So you step out to buy a razor blade from the shack across the street from your house. For your toe nails that won’t be cut by your small nail cutter.
Malam Haruna is away in some market, getting little cartons of milk, cigarettes, sweets in funny looking wrappers and cheap, too-sweet bread that is too heavy on some days and has more hollow spaces than dough on others. You ask his younger brother, who has the same type of tribal marks as he does, if he has razor blades. He always has a bewildered look on his face, like a stray puppy that has been cornered by screaming kids. He searches and searches. You are not exasperated like you usually are when you are in a hurry and he can’t find what you want. You just wait.
A guy you recognize as one of the motorcyclists around your area in Lugbe screams as he approaches the shop: ‘A bani Goodluck.’ Give me Goodluck.
‘What did you say?’ you ask, giggling.
‘Goodluck.’ He replies and with a hangdog expression adds, ‘magani ne.’ It is a drug.
You collect your razor blades and ask him to show you the pack when he receives it. It is Tramadol, a highly addictive prescription opioid, used for severe pain. It causes feelings of euphoria and well-being, a mild high that lasts for a few hours depending on dosage. You know this because you almost got addicted last year when the doctor prescribed it for the pain in your broken leg.
You remember feeling guilty about lying to the doctor when he asked if your pain was still severe. It was there alright, but nowhere near the severity you implied by the vigorous nodding of your head when the doctor asked. On your way to the pharmacy, your body trembled at the thought of the feeling you were about to have. You stopped to check for your prescription again because the last time that you forgot it, no one agreed to sell the drug to you.
You knew Tramadol well by now- it made you feel so good the first time, you had to google this crazy drug- you knew how it worked; the increase in the levels of serotonin in your brain, the relaxation, the blocking of the transmission of pain signals to your brain, the euphoria, the feeling that nothing in the world matters, that nothing can hurt you.
You remember your bag of pills sitting by your old-fashioned steel bed on a small raffia stool, right under the bedside lamp, illuminated, so you could watch the pack, high, and marvel at the wonders of Tramadol Hydrochloride. You remember waiting, playing a game to see if you could tell the exact moment when the drug kicked in.
You remember taking more than two 50mg pills because you convinced yourself the pain in your ankle was too much to bear and you floated in a hot balloon and your girlfriend suddenly became a fiend who hated your guts, to whom you needed to send a text message: ‘I have had enough of this relationship.’ Your Tramadol induced thoughts rationalized: I don’t need her. I don’t need her. She drinks too much. She loves her job more than she loves me. She is not even Nigerian. ..
You give the man back the pack of drugs. Perhaps this is a story, you think.
As you sit to write, you think, the fact that drugs like Tramadol are sold so openly in Abuja, is not a story. It is a tragedy.