Just Imagine is a Zikoko weekly series that takes fictional pop culture icons and reimagines them as chaotic Nigerians.
When you take a closer look, Romeo and Juliet is a classic Nigerian story. Boy meets Girl. They fall in love. But their parents refuse to agree to a union due to irreconcilable differences. Sounds familiar?
The only part of this story that doesn’t quite gel is the dying part. Nigerian men will say they’d die for you, but believe that at your own risk. On this episode of Just Imagine, we turn Romeo and Juliet into a Nigerian couple named Romanus and Julie.
Romanus, a young Nigerian man in his early 30s, walks into a dark quiet room. He switches on the light and there Julie is, dead on the floor, with a bottle of pills in her cold, lifeless hand.
Romanus runs to her and starts to scream.
24 HOURS BEFORE
JULIE’S PARENTS’ HOUSE
Julie is standing in her parents’ tastefully furnished living room. She is twiddling her fingers and sulking while her parents scold her.
Julie’s mother: Who did you say you want to marry?
Julie: (mutters) Romanus.
Julie’s father: The boy that does not have bagrand?
Julie’s mother: That spent 9 years in school getting carryovers?
Julie frowns and grumbles.
Julie: It’s ASUU strike that caused it. He forgot everything because of strike.
Julie: (mutters) That’s who I want to marry oo.
Her mother throws a slipper at her and she dodges it.
Julie’s mother: Which job is he doing that you want to marry him?! I say which job?!
Julie mutters under her breath.
Julie’s father: You can’t answer your mother?!
Julie’s mother: Ehn?
Julie: Hypeman at burial.
Julie’s father: Who… who is he hyping?
Julie: He hypes them to heaven. Like spiritual tour guide.
Julie’s mother removes her gele and chases her with it. Her father is still confused.
Romanus’ living room. There are only two chairs, a table and a small TV.
Romanus’ father is passed out on a couch facing the TV. There is a bottle of local gin in his hand, which is almost slipping out of his grasp. Romanus walks in from behind.
Romanus: (louder) Papa!
Romanus clears his throat and starts hyping his father.
Romanus: One for my father, Papa Romanus. One for my Baba in heaven. One for bros Baba Jay. One for…
Romanus’ father jerks awake.
Romanus’ father: ARE YOU MAD? WHO ARE YOU HYPING?!
Romanus: Papa. You’ve not died?
Romanus’ father: Is your father that will die!
Romaus: You’re my father.
Romanus’ father: You can never be my seed!
Romanus: When you didn’t answer, I thought you had died.
Romanus’ father: It’s you and your mother’s family that will die.
Romanus: Look Papa, I don’t have time for all this one. I came to tell you that I want to marry.
Romanus’ father: (takes a swig from his bottle) What’s now my business?
Romanus: We will pay bride price.
Romanus’ father: And then?
Romanus: Won’t you help me pay it?
Romanus’ father: Is it me that want to marry? Don’t you have work?
Romanus: See Papa, people are not dying and they are not calling me to do hypeman again… You too saw how I quickly started hyping you that time? I’m really looking for work.
Romanus’ father: So should I die?
Romanus: If you can die this July, it will really help me.
Romanus: But even if you die, nobody will pay for your hype.
Romanus’ father: …
Romanus: So if you can pay for it now before you die, it will be good for me.
Romanus: Papa! Papa! I am your only child oh! PAPA! WHO WILL INHERIT YOUR SHOP!
Julie is humming by her window when a stone hits the glass. She opens the window and steps onto a veranda. Romanus is downstairs professing his love.
Romanus: Ah Julie! Your face is like the rising sun!
Romanus: Whenever I see you like this, my head is not usually correct!
Julie: And that’s why you want to spoil our window?
Romanus: No vex now. You are always vexing! You know I can die for you now!
Julie: Eh ehn?
Romanus nods and Julie smiles.
Romanus: This smile is what will kill me.
Julie: What I am reading in this newspaper is that they are choosing people that will go to war. And if the person should die in war, they will give their wife money.
Julie: So can you go? So I will collect money?
Julie: Yes baby?
Romanus: Hope you’re not mad.
Julie: Ah ah.
Romanus: What is ah ah! I say what is ah ah? Me, I should be going to war so I can die!
Julie: But you don’t have money to pay my bride price so that’s what I am thinking now…
Romanus: So if I die, who will you marry?
Julie: Shebi our hearts belong to each other.
Julie: You too you’re mad.
Romanus checks his pocket and produces a ring.
Romanus: Anyway, I brought ring for you.
Julie: (blushes) Romanus!
Her mother comes into the balcony.
Julie’s mother: I said I don’t want to see you here again!
Romanus: Ma, I have future! I love your daughter!
Julie’ mother: Carry that your nonsense korope and leave this place! (to Julie) Look, someone has come to ask for your hand and he came with gifts.
Julie’s father comes in.
Julie’s father: Is she not ready y…
He sees Romanus.
Julie’s father: Why is this vagabond here?!
Romanus: Sir, I love your daughter.
Julie’s father: GET OUT! I SAY
Julie’s father starts coughing and spluttering.
Julie’s father: WHAT?
Romanus: Is it doing you like you want to die because I don’t know maybe you know that I do hypeman work.
Julie’s father throws a paper holder at Romanus.
As Romanus walks out of the compound, he sees a ram and starts pulling it away. He starts loading it into his bus.
The man who has come to ask for Julie’s hand in marriage, Chinedu, comes running out.
Chinedu: Are you mad? The ram I brought from my inlaws!
Romanus: Is your own?
Chinedu lunges for Romanus, and they start to fight. Juilet comes running out as Chinedu beats Romanus to a pulp.
Romanus: Julie! Julie! Come and help your husband oh.
Julie: I don’t use to put my mouth in fight oh.
Romanus is on a bed all bandaged up. Julie is by his side.
Romanus: You know you are a useless girlfriend? That man was beating me and you did not say anything!
Julie: Who ask you to carry our wedding ram?
Romanus stares at her and Juliet stares back, challenging him to say nonsense.
Romanus: Doctor said you should give me kidney.
Julie: For what?
Romanus: That stupid man destroyed my kidney and now it’s only remaining one.
Julie: If I give you kidney, how many will I have?
Romanus: You know you’re young. It cannot affect you like that.
Doctor walks in.
Doctor: He is doing well. I think he can be discharged.
Julie: What about the kidney?
Doctor: What kidney? His kidneys are perfectly fine.
Romanus: What?! Won’t I sell something to pay your bride price?!
Julie: This is how I use to know that you’re mad!
Julie is crying in her room. There is a bottle of pills by her side and a glass of water. She cries as she sends a text message.
She opens the bottle of pills and pours some into her hand. She grabs a glass of water and switches off her bedside lamp.
Romanus comes running into her room. He finds Julie on the ground.
Romanus: Julie! Julie! Julie Noooooo!!
Her mother comes crying into the room.
Romanus: Julie, I don’t want to live without you! Take me too!
Julie’ mother: This is the note she left for you.
Romanus takes the note and reads it.
Note: Romanus, I love you and I don’t want to live without you. We can get married in heaven. Just take 122 capsules and join me.
Romanus wipes his eyes and stands up.
Julie’s mother: What?
Romanus: She say I should use 122 drug.
Julie’s mother: Join her my son.
Romanus: Who is your son? My mummy is in prison. Me, I don’t even like drug before. It use to affect my stomach.
Julie’s mother: Ehn?
Romanus: I say I don’t like drug! I can’t drink drug o.
Julie’s mother: (gives him a knife) Use a knife then
Romanus: Knife? Do you want me to die?!
Julie’s mother: Isn’t that the plan?
Romanus: When I have not blown? I can’t die o. Last last I can do is use the knife to cut my palm small so you can see blood. But me? I can’t die. Who will do hypeman for my baby ?
Julie wakes up.
Julie: Romanus, are you mad? You can’t die for me?
Romanus: You didn’t die?
Julie: It was a test!
Romanus: Don’t be testing me like that please.
Julie: You know Jack from Titanic was not up to your age when he died for woman.
Romanus: Enter boat and marry Jack then!
Romanus: I am smelling palm oil soup. I don’t know maybe I can see small to eat before I go.
Julie slaps him.
Romanus and Julie lived separately ever after. Emphasis on ‘lived’ because nobody is dying for anybody in this Nigeria.
Check back every Friday by 2pm for new stories in the Just Imagine series.