My curiosity began just at the time I hopped inside the train; the bag was right under the seat, staring at me in brownish colors. I sputtered that a man must have left his bag behind. I did not for a moment stop to think that a woman or some ladies could own it. It was all there in moccasin fatigue, masculine and zipped, from shoulder to shoulder. My glancing around assured me that I was not the only person that had seen the bulging bag. At once, dull and attractive, the bag must have seen better days from its handler.
I studied the people sitting in my side of the couch and checked out how many minutes the train would take to get to the connecting platform at Takanadobaba. I had enough time to execute a developing plan, all nursing in my brain, sending me reviewing my history, how poor I was, how rich I will soon be and how all the inglorious past will soon be actually as it is, a past; dead, forgotten, gone forever.
I settled back into my sit, my eyes on a surveillance mode and my brain ticking like Uncle Sam's public clock, all in motion, both eyes and brain on duty, aiding me to calculate my soulful desire. My eyes monitored who got off and from which sit; which person came in newly inside the train; what station was next; could there be hidden cameras at places I could not see; any physical being watching my body language and countenance. The brain thought about nothing except the money. It would recall the eyes to pay attention to the bag. So, at every moment, my eyes flashed back at the targetÔÇŽ.
My brain thought that those boarding should not be my problem. This gave it a focused function; forget about new entrantsÔÇŽmonitor those leaving the train at every stop. The boarding men and women live in a world of oblivion. They are unconnected to a sitting bag right under the chairÔÇŽwithin my arms grasp.
The guy sitting by my side wore face cap with boldly written characters, "ARE U CRAZY." It had no question mark and yet, I tried to answer this question by imputing it to my present situation, to my minds constitution. No! I'm not crazy. What happened was simple; someone forgot a bag willingly or unwillingly on a Sunday afternoon inside a train. I happen to have seen that bag just when I walked into the train and since I do not believe in coincidences, I think I have every right to that bag. In fact, I feel it's now more mine than even the original owner. Otherwise, how can one explain the forgetting? Why did I have to come inside this couch and not another? Could this not be the luck I've been waiting to happen? No! I'm not crazy and happily enough, the wearer of that insignia has moved to a different sit with his crazy question written on his forehead.
Two guys sitting directly opposite the bag boarded the train with me at same station. Obviously, they were chatting about the bag but they are not the owners either. However, I observed that the neck of one of the men had changed from apple yellow to red. I did not care if his eyes turn green or a mixture of ash and blue like that of an OWL; I will not allow him take away that bag because it is not his. Not long, they dropped off at Nishi-Kasai station and the Tozai line train zoomed off.
When we got to Yurakuchou, someone got off and I made my move immediately. The bag has steamed suspicion enough. I stood up, walked with the wiliness of a cat and sat where the last occupier had vacated. Several thoughts rushed up my mind competing for space and attention; what if the contents of the bag are notes of Japanese Yen? How much could be inside, I imagined. I was sure it contained something being a bag but how much? I did my best to think of the worth of its content based on how much money I needed. Can Fifty million Yen be enough? How about Five million? No, that would soon expire. Five million is just about USD50, 000 and will soon finish. What if that bag has clean mints of 100 million Yen? No, that is not enough.
Lands are expensive in Tokyo. I can't buy a land with that. Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, a political stalwart and kingmaker was accused of misusing campaign fundsÔÇŽusing the proceeds to fetch a piee of land worth 400 million Yen in Tokyo. I just hope the money in the bag is within that Ichiro's neighborhood or more. But I can grow the money to any level I want it. In fact, I should stop all these thoughts. How much do I have now in the first place to think that even a million are not enough? Yet, my mind will not leave me alone; I was angry that if the bag contained only a million Yen, it's not worth the effort of any thought. If I must eat frog, I must eat a fat one, so that when I'm called a frog eater, I'll answer. I continued to justify that money must be there in the bag. After all, some Japanese sometimes drop millions of Yen inside private letter boxes of unsuspecting people. Some say the attitude was to evade taxes. Others rumored that it must have been "ill gotten wealth."
Whatever it was, the present cash sitting under my ass is mine for keeps. I thought of what I could do with all the wads of note; I'll stop working for a few weeks and rest my head first; I'll go to China and connect some businesses; I'll build a hotel or properties in River state and Calabar as security against poverty; I'll bring Chinese managers to manage the hotel; there will be body massages inside the hotel done by Chinese; there will be executive lounge and special rooms even for Nigeria governors and rooms for discreet body attention; I'll take my spouse on a trip to Saratoga; I'll shop in Italy and not the obnoxious Paris. In fact, I'll not have France touch my money because they invaded my own Gaddafi in the name of saving humanity which to me, means saving French humanity; For same offence as France, I'll not visit Britain. They sold Gaddafi arms only to turn around to accuse him of using same arms to kill civilians. They took their accusation further, summoned NATO and killed Gaddafi's son and grand childrenÔÇŽall kids and civilians. I'll take my wife to Capetown and Jo'borg specially to see the beauty of red roofing sheets in those cities.
My mind brought me back to where I'm. When I pick up the bag and its content, I'll act normal so that I'll not call attention to myself. I also thought that it was better to wait and get the money first before determining what use to put it to. But I can still think of what use to put it to before I get the money to avoid confusion and regrets.
I brought both foot stylishly under the sit and tried to tilt the bag side by side. It did not move an inch. I spoke on top of my voices, "WHAT OTHER EVIDENCE DO I NEEDÔÇŽ" Commuters turned around and faced me. Those facing me before looked away. I saw a couple walk to another couch and they were not alone. Three people followed them and two boys sharing the long sit moved further from me. I saw two friends exchange silent smilesÔÇŽthat kind of smile only the eyes and chin can depict. I was sure that as soon as they disembark, they will explode into uncontrollable laughter. For, now, none of them pressed S.O.S. button on the train. I swore that I will control myself and not dash my hope. If this project fails, I'll most likely be poor till I'm eighty and rotten. Now, I had a large room and clearing all to myself. In every fault, there is a gain. As the men and women parted, moved to another couch, looked away from a rabble rouser, avoided any eye contact, and changed their sitting position, none of them made a move to take the bag. Yes, what other evidence do I need that this bag is mine? What other evidence do I need that all the money inside the bag is a divine intervention? I will abolish poverty. I will give my people scholarship. I will build schools for them. I will dig bore-holes for them. I will invest in education and help banish ignorance. My judicious use of the money must supersede whatever wrong it was to keep the money, that is, if actually there was any wrong.
But what if a bomb is tucked inside that bag? I looked at the faces of the people sitting and standing close to the bag, my bag. Are their faces like faces of death? If the bomb explodes, it will rip through the pants of that fat guy, scatter his flesh and leave him a mince meat. That student with the insignia, "ARE U CRAZY" will never wear his face cap again. How far can the bomb go? Probably, it would touch all the people in this couch. Those people who looked away when I aired a simple thought process will be affected. Two women in their 60's chatting away previously will be missed by their families. How about my miserable self? Anyway, I'm already a corpseÔÇŽso; does it really matter if a bomb concludes a part of destiny?
My realization that the bag must be death and not cash did not make me shudder with fear. It however brought envy to my mind. I envied the person who left this bomb for making mockery of existence. I envied those that are long gone and are free of dying. I envied. I envied those who died in Japan earthquake freeing themselves of taxes and all worth not.
I was not envious of myself for living and struggling with a bag. I did not envy the unenviable; I did not envy those who are living in a world that has continued to define itself by simpleton of big fish devouring small fish; I refused to envy my people lacking provision of drinkable water and steady electricity supply; I refused to envy those who live and point fingers at themselves, thinking more of the divide buried in the old time sake of Western Nigeria versus East; I did not envy those who crafts political sagacity that would finally rest on the altar of elitism and elites; I refused to envy demagogues who had all men stand up when they enter a room and yet, further the pains of market women that sells crayfish displayed on a tray worth about 800 naira, carrying an infant on her back, with one standing close by, running nose dripping. I see no reason to envy those who mount platitudes of how a country can get better and at a whim, turn their back against their recent opinions having been improvised into a fresh reality.
I envied only those who are dead and all these people on board the train with me, their faces like the face of death because there is likelihood that we may all depart this world, elevated to a plain only the esotericalized would cherish.
I leaned forward and zipped the bag slightly open.
What I saw did not make me seize my breath; it gave me the gusto to open the bag more. Stacked like a deck in clean and unadulterated fashion mode were Yen notes in 10,000 denomination prints. As I tried to gently zip up the bag, an untoward attention caught my left eye. It was a wire protruding from what appeared sulphuric, in fact, soap. The soap sat on two shaved wooden platform, each, the size of a Marlboro cigarette pack. I saved my face, zipped The Bag as the train stopped at Takadanobaba.
Patrick Nwadike wrote in from Tokyo, Japan.