Sometime in 2019, I desperately needed to move out of the apartment I was in for many reasons, two of which were, the services the landlord was providing me were way below par, and my tenancy was long overdue.
Before you start to judge me, know that it was not my intention to overstay my welcome. I had initially indicated my intention to new the tenancy on the condition that the landlord fixed some of the obvious issues the property had. However, for whatever reason, he was taking longer than needed to get to it, hence the need to move out urgently.
I sat down in my living room that Friday evening lost in thoughts about what to do next. I had just lost the property I was gunning for and was not particularly sure how to proceed. Suddenly, I got a WhatsApp message from an old acquaintance asking if I knew anyone that wanted an apartment in the compound she was living in at the time.
My guts told me to say no but I was desperate, and I obliged.
The first few weeks were mind-numbingly blissful, I for one had mastered the art of keeping to myself and minding the business that paid me so getting along with my neighbors was somewhat easy. However, by the second month, I started feeling the heat.
So, let’s call my friend-cum-neighbor who introduced me to the property, “Peace”.
Peace was extremely quiet and unassuming. She was so gentle and soft-spoken. One would have to strain their ears to hear her speak. People were immediately drawn to help her when they met her, partly because of her thin high-pitched soprano voice and partly because of her small frame. Little did I know there was a wolf budding in her.
I got my first introduction to the real Peace the day we decided to get a chef together. It made sense because cooking was my least favorite chore and since I worked long hours, I could use all the help I got. We agreed on the meals he would make, and the fees he would charge. She sent me the price list the chef had presumably sent her. I promptly sent her my half of the total bill , without haggling, eagerly expecting to come home to a variety of home-cooked meals. I closed from work later than usual that day, so I hit the bed immediately I got home, forgetting to ask her about my food. This late-night work pattern continued for about 4 days, and it was on the 5th day I reremembered that I hadn’t gotten my portion of the meals made. I was livid and attempted to confront her but the story being circulated was that I was fighting her because of food. Not surprising that, people were drawn to her version of the story.
There was also the persistent, unnecessary and unjustifiable lies. She would lie about something so trivial and put up a fight when confronted. She exaggerated our service bills so that I would cover her portion on it, lied to obtain money from me just because, told the entire compound made up and untrue stories about me; ranging from the fact that I was a part-time prostitute to the fact that she rescued me from the clutches of homelessness. Even though, I was a paying tenant.
The most fascinating incident in my opinion was this:- we had a generator set that powered our side of the compound and we alternated buying petrol for it, especially wherever either of us had to use it. I made sure to always kept it fueled but no matter how matter times I fueled it, whenever I asked the security guard, Friday if there was petrol, he always answered in the negative.
Now the thing was, power was constant at the time, so we didn’t need or use the generator as much, hence, it was weird that the petrol we never used was always somehow finishing. Nonetheless, since I am not one to get investigative over negligible sums, I did not give it much thought.
However, just as the first pandemic-induced lockdown was starting, I had Friday buy petrol for the generator just in the event we ended up needing it. It turned out that we indeed needed it for a few hours that same day he bought it. The next day we were having a conversation about how we needed to restock up on supplies. Me, Peace, and Joseph, our third neighbor, considering we weren’t sure how long the lockdown was going to last. Peace mentioned that we needed to get fuel as our generator’s tank was empty. I was stunned as to my mind we had barely used up the one I had gotten the day before.
Joseph claimed this was untrue as said he checked our generator and the tank was full, Peace however maintained her assertion of it being empty. Tired of the argument, I went down to check myself.
On my way down, I ran into Friday and asked him if we had petrol and he said “No!” so I proceeded to check the tank myself, just to be sure. I got to the generator house, opened the tank…and Viola! the tank was filled to the brim with petrol. Turns out that Peace had given Friday a standing order that whenever I asked him, he should always say “No”, whether we had petrol or not.
To be honest, at this point I was more frightened than angry. My fear heightened when I found out she was addicted to painkillers, so most of her erratic behavior was drug-induced. The fear turned to concern when I realized that she had, over the years, been involved in several accidents that resulted in a series of medical conditions and her apparent drug abuse.
How did I deal with it? I had to keep reminding myself of the scripture that mandated us to live peaceably with all means, as much as possible. I kept showing her love as much as I leaned on God’s grace for strength to, and I interacted with her only when extremely necessary. On the other hand, I kept counting down to the expiration of my rent. The truth is, whether we like to agree with it or not, we all have our excesses that people around us must deal with one way or another. For me, I have learned to make allowances for other people’s fault and forgive those that wrong me, together with avoiding them altogether or like they say, “loving them from afar”.
Long story short, although her name was Peace, she was definitely not a peaceful neighbour.
Havilah is a lawyer and a writer who has a knack for storytelling and creative writing. While she dabbles into fictional writings, she has a reputation for brilliantly narrating personal experiences with a splash of humour and a dash of suspense.You may stay updated on her writings by following her on Instagram at: @scribbles.by.havilah