There’s a demon in my room in Jungle City. A haunting demon that stares me in the face without blinking, without looking down. This demon is inanimate but somehow it assumes life and taunts me. The demon wasn’t there when I was moving in, neither did it move in with me, it grew with me. It grew more than me and has now turned to oppress me.
Before the Federal Government of Nigeria announced the enforcement of the lockdown due to the novel corona virus pandemic, before the world came to a halt, before every day became weekends, I managed to cohabit with the demon by using work as a getaway from madness. I’d leave home for work around 8 in the morning, occupy my thought with activities at work, dismiss by 5pm and join the Lekki-Epe Expressway hold up back home. I usually get home by 9pm or thereabouts and am often happy to meet a dark room, NEPA has been faithful. Anyways, I love them for this. What this means is that I’d be the one to use my torchlight to control my room’s illumination. It means I’d steer my torchlight off the direction of the demon. It means I wouldn’t have to behold its cold, sinister stare. It means that on such nights, I’d maintain eyes-left to my wardrobe, undress and walk into my bathroom with my back against my demon, after which I’d make the bed and roll on it till sleep drags my eyelids into closure. But on the nights I’m not lucky, NEPA would keep the bulbs shinning and I’d have to go through the indignity of beholding my demon and forcing my neck from time to time to disengage my gaze.
My demon is an attention seeker. It has a way of making you look at it without being overtly demanding. Its face is like that of a retired witch who forgot to clean off the white powder she used for night raids. It is white, dry and watery at the same time, shapeless like an amoeba but continues to grow gradually, steadily on the walls of my room. This demon has grown into an eyesore. It has diminished the suaveness for which my room longed to retain as a masterplan. The demon has a smell, an unpleasant smell that gives off an arrogant air of a graveyard. Sometimes I smell death playing across the holes of my nostrils, sometimes I feel irritation, sometimes I sigh and laugh, a wicked laugh, at the demon, at the property agent that deceived me. He didn’t inform me that I’d have to battle with a demonic wall all the days of my tenancy here. And yet there it was, a demon veiled beautifully to trivialize the enormity of its ugliness, but terrorizing me daily with its wet, disorienting patterned omnipresence.
I have given up on receiving visitors because I don’t want to lure them into the torture I have had to endure, because I can’t withstand the shame of knowing that people now know I have a demon in my room, because I can’t shoulder the weight of the embarrassment of having to explain how I became roommates with a demon. I have sought all sorts of help; spiritual and physical, but like an adamant Pharaoh, it has refused to let go.
When I was moving in, I saw early intimations of its presence, but the agent assured me that it wasn’t what I thought it was. He insisted it wasn’t water from a broken drainage but a portion of the new paint that didn’t dry properly because the painters shut the door and windows of the room immediately after painting. He needed the money I had with me badly, I needed to move in badly too because my rent was due in the former house and because I had made up my mind to move out due to bad water, I didn’t make any plans to renew my rent. It took me longer to raise the complete rent for a new apartment making my former landlord pressure me into renewing or moving out. I chose to move out. But I delayed because, aside the money, I was busy looking for a comfortable house with portable water. The indignity of going to other compounds with kegs to fetch neater water in this 21st century bothered me so much that I vowed to end it by getting a house with clean water by all means. The search was long, as most houses around Badore and Langbasa axis of Ajah were notorious for bad water, so agents leveraged on it to rip tenants off; tenants like me who needed good water by all means. I was in a hurry so I ignored what was clearly a water leakage from the bathroom of the adjoining room, hoping and praying it doesn’t get worse.
It wasn’t up to a month of living in this room that the demon reared its unnerving head with a croaky laughter that sounds like “here I am, what can you do? I waited for you to move in so I can torment your sorry arse”. Initially, I thought I had won the battle by acquiring rolls of quality wallpapers to cover the face of the wall, but because Satan, the elder brother of the demon in my room, still possessed all the powers he was sent down from heaven with, the demon contrived to steal away from the grip of the wallpapers and popped up in another corner of the wall where there was no need for wallpapers and where it has finally habituated to show me pepper.
The lockdown has forced me to live with it, to face it, to stare back at it with indignation, to even find a way to accommodate it. Though I am not infected with the coronavirus but I suffer its consequences through the agony of watching, daily, the other walls of my room get soaked in water from the bathroom of my next door neighbour who has a waterlogging issue he has refused to fix. So, it happens that he bathes, and the water takes awhile to drain off. During the long, gradual hours of draining, my monstrous wall drinks up as many quantities as it can and my room keeps getting messier, keeps getting demonic.
The lockdown is in strict enforcement here. There is no place to go, nobody to visit, so I sit in my room, eating the foods I bought, seeing movies that I earlier swore not to see, rereading books that I’ve read countless times, starring at the ceiling and measuring time and acquainting myself with my beloved demon. My beloved demon? Yes, because I have made room for it in my heart, I have gotten used to it by realizing that some things just stick there without wanting to go away, that life happens from many angles, that things must not always appear how we want it, that to have peace of mind, one must be ready to live with certain things. The agent suggested I screed that part of the wall to get rid of the demon, but considering the cost, I am not sure I want to do that. Moreover, I have accepted it.
I have resumed work now, due to the easing of the lockdown, but I am no longer worried about the demon in my room. Visitors can call as much as possible. The demon remains part of the artless design of my room, a reminder of the social pathologies that Jungle City, together with its lawless and shylock landlords, inflict on vulnerable tenants.
About the Author
Ifesinachi Nwadike, poet, broadcaster, YouTuber and freelance writer is the author of a new collection of poems, How morning remembers the night. His YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVhn9tXENo7zeKVrlNZzQSw