It is all a game. The demure gaze into the space between both your feet; or to your right or left, when he speaks to you. The standing at attention, arms tucked away behind his back. The affected dance of urgency in matters that require none. The receiving things with both hands and the offer to take whatever you are holding when you return.
He doesn’t know yet that apart from a couple of young ladies at the back of the compound, you are the only one who does not own a car in the compound. Despite your reluctance to enlist his help, you need him, because you cannot carry in the fridge you have brought home alone. You give him some money when he does, not because you are a generous person, but because you think his job at the security post does not make him a domestic servant; because you do not understand people who make shared security men do their private chores; because you believe in dignity in and compensation for labour.
You suddenly remember it is Valentine’s Day on your way back the house. You decide to give him one of the three packs of juice you have bought. He doesn’t expect it and almost tumbles over receiving it. He attempts to take the other things you are holding, to carry it from the gate to your apartment. You refuse and walk away.
He starts referring to you as ‘oga’. He genuflects and greets you with shouts and exaggerated gestures just in case you something would, god forbid make you not hear his greeting. You hope he will not begin to expect things from you. Worse, you hate this unnatural show; you want to tell him that being a security man means only one thing: that he does his job and nothing more. He does not owe you anything else, not even a greeting.
After many days being oga, the mystery about you is diminished. It is clear now that you have no car. That you do not leave the house in the mornings like most other tenants. Enough time has passed to destroy any suspicions that you might have been on leave. Worse still, no gifts have followed the pack of juice. You know how people wonder about men who do not leave their homes in the morning. With women they make easy assumptions: she is either a kept woman or a sex worker. With a man the gossip is more complicated. Is he a ‘Yahoo’ boy who works out of a laptop? Is he some other type of fraudster? Is he some madam’s boyfriend? Or is he, god forbid, unemployed?
The security man could not hide his shock one Monday morning when you emerged at midday in shorts. He looked scandalized and his eyes asked, oga, why are you not at work? It is interesting to you how in a country with such poverty, people are unkindly judgmental about underprivileged or unemployed people. Or people who cannot be defined in familiar terms like formal jobs and businesses.
On the eve of the second week after the juice when you are heading out in the evening with a friend of yours, having spent all day indoors, he violently strips you of your unsolicited title without the ceremony with which he bestowed it upon you. At the gate he performs the disrobing. ‘Well done bros,’ he says, sitting on a bench, waving casually at you.
Somehow you are relieved that perhaps this means things are back to normal, that perhaps he is one step closer to seeing you as an equal human being. Because really, you would rather be bros, than oga.