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The Will to Love

The old man held my hand with surprising strength. I wanted to pry my hand of his, but he didn’t budge. I did not want to create a further scene on the highway, but as he dragged me to a corner of the road, I fought the urge to push him and bolt. He was dressed in a dirty green cloak that covered most of his small, wiry frame. He had small, beady eyes that bored at you as if they had no other preoccupation. His full lips were cracked and dark. Most annoying of all was that he reeked of cigarette smoke and booze.

I did not want to regret saving him from that vehicle, but I guess I didn’t think before jumping into the road and pushing him away from death. Somehow I guess I was daring death to take me in his place. At the thought of dying, the events of the evening came rushing back. My heart constricted in such unimaginable anguish, and I had to resist the impulse to howl in pain.

I worked with my best friend, Uju, in an ad agency, and after work she had invited me to a round of drinks. I had wanted to decline, thinking that she was on another of her drinking games, in which the person who finished the seven shots of the drink fastest got to be treated to lunch the next day. I had lost to her on three consecutive occasions and I wasn’t in the mood to lose again. Uju was a special breed of woman; she drank like alcohol was water and she was a fish, and smoked like she was a chimney; yet she was amazingly clear-headed. When it came to adverts, she was the best. And I was madly in love with her.

When we got to the bar, she had just ordered for a fruit drink and then she had flashed a diamond ring in my face, gushing on and on about how her boyfriend, Mark, had proposed to her in front of her parents. I had mechanically done my duty as her best friend: saying the right things and congratulating her, while my heart shriveled and writhed in agony.

When we parted ways, she had told me that she was going to her boyfriend’s—no, fiancé’s house—and might come to work late. I had trudged home with a bitter heart and heavy feet. I had been in love with her since our university days, and I had always known that I was not her type; she preferred sporty and outdoorsy men with strong muscles and stronger personalities. I was the exact opposite: barely five feet two inches of fat and sluggishness. I had witnessed four of her relationships go up in flames, and after the second one (the boy had taken her virginity), I had decided to man up and told her how I felt about her.

She had not been surprised as I had expected, neither had she told me off; instead, she had cupped by chubby face, gave me a kiss full on the lips, and had told me that she knew that I was love with her, but she simply didn’t fancy me.

“I really love you, no doubt,” she’d said, “but as a friend. I cannot date you.”

I had wanted to correct her that I never asked her to date me (I’d just confessed my feelings to her), but I guess she was trying to make the message clear—I wasn’t her type. Period.

So it was that as I wanted to cross the road and head into my street, I saw an old man wobbling in the path of an oncoming vehicle. I did not think about the consequences as I dived into the road and had pushed him to the other side. He had thanked me endlessly and as I made to leave, he still held my hand and dragged me to a secluded corner of the street.

I opened my mouth to give him a piece of my mind, but he placed one skeletal finger on my lips and said, “Open your palms.” His English was refined and I was surprised by that too.

I obliged him (anything to make him leave me alone), and as he placed his hand on mind, I felt like a thousand volts of electricity was channeled into my body. I shook and felt my brain shutting down. I thought that the man had chosen to repay my kindness by killing me with supernatural means. But at the last moment, he removed his hands and I gasped as I took in lungfuls of air.

When I got the ability to speak back, I asked him, “W–what… did you just do to me?”

He smiled. “I have given you the power of the ancients in thanks for saving my life. You have within you the power to bring any wish of yours to life. Anything you want to happen will happen the way you want it to happen.”

I opened my mouth to say something else, but my phone rang. I checked the caller ID and it was my mother. I decided not to pick it since I was a few walks away from home. I raised my head and the old man was gone. I searched everywhere for him, but it was as if he had just disappeared. With a final shrug, I headed home, to where I lived with my mother and two sisters.

*********************

I was in the office one week later when the call came that my mother had been admitted into the hospital. She had been diabetic and had suffered a major stroke. I ran out into the streets, boarded the first bike I saw and headed to the hospital.

When I met with the doctor, he had been sympathetic in the classical way doctors were while stressing the fact that he couldn’t do anything for my mother unless I made a deposit of two hundred and fifty thousand naira. According to him, my mother needed a surgery within the next forty-eight hours or she might not be able to live.

With fear and anxiety hugging me like passionate lovers, I headed back to my office to ask my boss for help. He was a stern man who was branded a sadist by all the workers in the agency. We all tried to avoid him at all costs, preferring the assistant director any day, any time. But unfortunately for me, the assistant director could not help me, I had to go to the big boss. I took the stairs to his office two at a time and at his door, I muttered a silent prayer, knocked and went in.

The first shock I got was that he smiled when he saw me, asked me to sit down and listened keenly to my story. The second shock was that he wrote a check of three hundred thousand naira and and asked me to take care of my mother. Then the third shock was that he told me that I was to be promoted to the head of marketing.

I had been so utterly astonished that he had to snap his fingers at my face to bring me back to the planet. I gushed my many thanks to him, and with speed, went back to the hospital. Within ten hours, my mother had her surgery and was saved. And two weeks later, I moved into my new office as the head of marketing.

******************

Two months later, I was with a friend of mine, Kene, who had been pestering me to invest in Forex. I had told him severally that I wasn’t interested, yet he would not let me be. That Thursday evening, he had come to my house and after his incessant yabbering about how Forex had made many to be millionaires, I decided to show him that it wasn’t for me. With the little explanation he gave, I opened an account, funded it with one thousand naira and proceeded to waste the money.

Only that I wasn’t able to waste the money. Instead I was winning by the minute, as I correctly predicted the trends of the currency business. Kene was equally stumped and with growing enthusiasm, we both watched as I predicted and won, predicted and won, till I made five hundred and forty-seven thousand dollars. That was when it hit me that I had become rich instantly. I gave Kene the forty-seven thousand dollars and kept the five hundred thousand.

It was strange how I had become rich in an instant, but my joy was not yet complete. I had come to realize that the events of the past two months had been because of what the old man had done to me—I now had the power to will anything into reality. Anything.

I left the agency and opened a fashion line, and within three months, I was making more money than I could spend. Yet I was hungry for one thing. Uju.

My chance came on the 7th of June, 2019. She came to my house and with tears, told me that her fiancé had called off the marriage because he was no longer in love with her. I truly wanted to be sad for her, instead I saw that as my opportunity to make her mine. All I had to do was wish that she was my woman, and she would become mine.

One thing though, do you advise me to do that?

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