There was this man in our street.
He was a regular face and I would always greet him whenever I passed him.
He had a sad look on his face every time I saw him. He was about sixty and he always looked unkempt.
I knew his children and they looked rich, nothing like their father. His wife too looked too good.
He definitely wasn’t a poor man.
One thing stood out with the way he looked at me every time I passed and greeted him. He looked too intently like he was searching for something in my face. He’d look and his mouth would go wide agape. He looked and got lost every time.
I would go past him and each time I’d look back and still catch him looking.
It became creepy and scary.
I would try to avoid him whenever I saw him but somehow we managed to catch ourselves staring.
We never had a conversation.
He always looked like he knew me. Like he had known me all his life. Like he missed me.
It was two days to my 18th birthday.
I was walking home from the market where I had gone to buy a new phone.
The sun had me sweating so much and the only thing I wanted was to get home and pour really cold water all over my already drenched body.
I walked fast.
I didn’t mind exhausting all that was left of my strength because I knew I was close to home.
I opened the gate and heaved a sigh of relief when I realised the light was on. I bolted the gate and turned to meet the frame of a man sitting with head-on palm and he had grey hair.
The dog was barking. The man was sobbing. Aloud.
“Nnaemeka nwam,” his voice was shaky as he raised his head.
His eyes were bloodshot and his nose ran.
“Are you okay?” I asked him.
He nodded and asked if I was okay too.
It was the same man that always looked at me.
He asked if my mum was in and I told him that she was.
He asked me to sit on his laps.
He begged me to. He said he needed to tell me something very important.
I asked him to go on, but he insisted I sat on his laps.
Then he started crying again.
This time I remembered him.
It was him, the man in that one dream I always had on my birthday.
The man that cried so hard when that truck hit me from behind in that dream!
“Yes, it’s me,” he said.
“How did you know what I was thinking?”
“You’re him,” he said as he brought out a picture from his pocket.
In the picture, there was a man and a young boy that looked exactly like me.
“That was me and Nnaemeka.”
I took the picture and looked. I was lost.
That was me in an obviously old picture standing next to a man I had never had a conversation with.
“Two days to his 18th birthday, he had gone to the market to buy a new phone and a truck hit him from behind. He never got to eighteen.”
He stood and tapped my back and I felt pain.
Mama came out and started talking to the man and asking him what he was doing in our compound and why he was crying.
I called out to Mama and tried to explain.
But she didn’t hear me.
The man said, “Sorry for your loss, ma’am.” as he walked away.
Mama stood bewildered and called out to Nnenna, my sister.
“Who went out?”
I called out again and she didn’t seem to hear me.
She brought out her phone to make a call and as she paced about the compound, Aunty Nneka ran into the compound and fell on the ground.
“Ogini mere?” my mum asked as she dropped her phone.
All she could say was,
“O Ifeanyi. Ify, Ify!”
Mama ran out of the gate with Nnenna following behind.
Aunty Nneka still sat on the ground weeping and wailing with shouts of my name in between.
“Aunty, I’m here now. What is this?”
She got up and ran out of the gate too.
I turned and saw that man again. He looked as sad as ever.
“Come let’s go. Nnaemeka is waiting for you.”
There was this man in our street.