The day he died was like any other day. He woke up at 6:10 am after several snoozes on his two mobile phones. The first alarm went off at 5:10 am but he was too weak-willed to rouse himself from sleep and was surprised he had changed that drastically.
Festus, some eight years earlier, was different. He used to teach in six different regular and remedial schools at the same time, a man whose closing and rising hours overlapped. This man was a bit strange but not odd; he would go to bed at 3:30am and still could make it to work at 7:30am on his motorcycle. Festus could work from morning till 8:00pm without any form of food or nourishment. He was a committed caffeine addict, one that would drink a cup of the dose without milk or bread before his bath, and thereafter, was good to go for the whole day. He would only pause work to top up the water level in his system. He thought he was a happy man. Was he?
Now at 38, no wife, no car, no house, no plot of land, no savings, no investment. He had a stockpile of debt that drained his bank account on a daily basis but he wore the semblance of a happy lecturer. When he came around from his reverie, he made it to the kitchen to warm his soup while warming a pot of water for a warm bath. When he realized their prepaid electricity metre had switched off automatically, he said not a word because he knew what that meant. The only worry was that he had not ironed his shirt. And what about the mails he was about to send on his desktop computer?
He went over to the draw, pulled it open and touched the gun he had just acquired. In a stock gesture, he cocked it and put it to his head while walking to the bathroom, still holding the gun to his head. He had always dreamt of killing himself in a bathroom early in the morning because he considered it romantic. He wondered from whence that evil novel sprang, for no one in his family ever committed suicide, at least not in living memory. When he was about to pull the trigger, the aroma of the soup simmering reminded him it was time to turn off the burners on the stove.
Work went rather smoothly. He sat at his desk alone in his office for hours. He avoided the free lunch provided by his employer for obvious reasons, reasons he never would share with any mortal save the old lady. He felt like leaving, he couldn’t explain but the desire to die was stronger that particular day than on any other day. He, however, braced himself against an afternoon death. Besides, he should not die on an employer’s property.
The thought of what might happen to his students, those 20 Level 400 hundred students whose long essays he was supervising plagued him. But they were always mocking him, not for the content of his lecture but for the other thing personal about him. Then he began thinking about the possible reaction from those who appeared to have loved him genuinely. First, it was the lady he was going to marry in few weeks. She deserved it. A gigantic, gullible, gluttonous girl of great guffaws. He did not pity her. Then his only child with the fetish priestess! They would miss him because of his money. The priestess was the main reason he was poor; she was a woman who drove him to his wits’ end and pressured him to borrow and keep borrowing. When she had made him addicted to borrowing, she now coerced him to borrow from her with interest. Was he aware? His mother, siblings… Well, SSNIT benefits should be able to take care of them. They were all a part of his woes.
Though it was a Tuesday, he was surprised his students gave him that peace of mind, that liberty. They did not come for one-on-one consultations as they used to. He was happy they did not come because their countenance could have changed his mind. Festus was burnt on killing himself that day so he pulled out a piece of paper and began to draft a suicide note. In the middle of it, he stopped and said he had to protect his integrity even after his death; that’s after realizing he was giving out too much information.
When the first text message tone beeped on his mobile phone and he checked it, his Stanbic Bank account had been debited with the regular monthly amount in hundreds of cedis. Then came a Bayport message in a quicker succession than ever, as if both institutions were competing for something. He did not understand Bayport for one. When he contracted that loan from them few years earlier, he had needed the money to pay his own school fees. Bayport, the most regrettable financial transaction he had dealt with so far, refused an upfront cash payment just days after he had contracted the loan. Now what? He’ll soon be dead and gone to a place where his creditors could no longer bother him.
Then another message arrived on WhatsApp messenger. It was his ex-girlfriend who missed him for a quickie. She sent a photo of their most recent nudity and stupidity. What did she want now? …not a comeback too. She just wanted to disengage herself from self-employment on such matters. She knew he could now afford suite in a hotel for them both to fool in. Where was she eight years earlier when he was terribly poor? But why did he also fall into her trap last Christmas!
He took the suicide note and tore it into shreds. Just then he began to recollect how he himself had earlier counseled others against suicide. He was seized by a kind of spasm that set to torment him so he increased the intensity on his office air conditioner; it had read 20 degrees Celsius but he now brought it to 16. He put his head on the table trying to doze off. His next engagement was two clear hours away and it was a lecture to the Level 300 students, those who mocked him the most. He slept briefly, making up for the perennial and chronic loss of sleep he suffered on a daily basis.
He was jolted to reality by the e-mail alert tone on his laptop computer. He checked it and was surprised at what he saw. He had won a cash prize of 33,000 pounds. He won it from a writing competition had entered earlier. He never knew he could win such an award. He was just trying his luck and that’s it. The top prize.
He did not take his time to read through the rest of the prize list. For sure, he remembered “a week’s stay at Buckingham palace” among others. He had hit the jackpot! He was now sure he could pay the bride price without borrowing. And he’d settle his mother who pawned an heirloom to see him through high school. What about his cousin who sold his car to pay his university fees. Then he could do this, buy that and all that…
It was time to leave for the lecture. He carried his external hand drive, the only thing he needed and set forth. He began to plan how he was going to … and got lost in his thoughts. He was supposed to travel with his spouse and at most two children to the UK for the grand ceremony. No spouse, no passport- the latter could be fixed in a week though. The university should be proud of him now.
He got to the car park making his way to the taxi rank when it happened. A 17 year old first year university student who was experimenting with his father’s unlinsenced KIA Rio with a manual gear box could not manage the clutch pedal that well. In the process, he took off with an accidental swish and run him over. Dead on the spot.
Festus had earlier decided to keep this great news to himself, at least for the next two days but this was momentary. It remained a secret until a friend from the UK and another one in his neighbourhood sent him links to the pages announcing his prize. These were moments after he himself had read all about it. He was surprised how the organization secured his photo, his favorite on social media. Now he was dead, bad and sweet news about him would soon compete for speed.