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True friends, a true friend, true friendship, real friends, looking after friends, loyalty, kindness and love

Poster:  and

“Hello Mrs. Gilford, it is me Magnus, your tenant at Seven Sisters Road,” he announced over the phone. “Hi Magnus, how are you?” “I am well thanks.” “So, what can I do for you?” “I am going through a rough patch, so I don’t really have any money for my rent next month. While I try to sort that out, please could you cover my next month’s rent from my deposit?”  “I can’t do that Magnus. That is not how things work. I thought I explained this very well to you when you moved in.” “You did, but things have not really turned out as I had expected. There is absolutely no way I can pay my rent next month, so you are better off converting my deposit to my rent.” “In that case, when do you move out? And if something is damaged in the apartment, how do I cover the cost of fixing it?” “Nothing will be damaged madam; I can guarantee that. I will be moving by the end of next month.” “I am not too pleased about this. I don’t want to hear another story from you by the end of September. Make sure you are ready to move by then and make sure there is nothing damaged in the apartment please.” “I promise you, nothing will be damaged. Thanks for your consideration.” He hung up, placed his phone on the reading table and lay down on the bed. He had managed to buy an extra month for himself but he had no clue how the month after would turn out.
One week turned into two and then three, and he still had no meaningful part-time job. Magnus was a Ghanaian doctorate student at the University College London (UCL). His scholarship covered only his tuition leaving him to fend for himself with regards to his personal upkeep. He had been grateful for the scholarship when it was awarded to him, but since starting the doctorate program in Biochemistry, he had known no peace. He was torn between the laboratory and the streets, where he was frantically searching for job. He’d come to the lab in the morning, set up experiments, run down to the office, print several copies of his CV and hit the streets. The recession had just hit, so very few companies were hiring. While taking a master’s program, he was on a full scholarship with a monthly stipend and an accommodation, so he didn’t have to work. The stipend ran out when he graduated from the master’s program, leaving him at the mercy of the streets. He had saved about six hundred pounds from his meager stipend, which allowed him to get an apartment and pay his rent for the first month. Now, he needed a job desperately to keep the apartment and cover his other monthly costs, which were nowhere near meager in London, a very expensive city.

Armed with his CV, he’d walk the entire length of Oxford and Bond Streets, two of the main shopping streets in London. From shop to shop, he dropped off his CV, telling the owners or the human resource people how much of a hard worker he was. He tried restaurants too, eager to lay his hands on any source of income for a start. Each morning, he work up expecting a call for an interview…none ever came. He’d hit the streets again, dropping off more copies of his CV and reminding the same people of his hard work and dedication. Most of them promised to give him a ring soon, just to get him off their back. One evening, he was exhausted, having walked from Seven Sisters Road to UCL on Euston Road, and then from UCL to Bond Street via Oxford Street. Fagged out, he hopped onto a bus to return home. He pressed his travel card against the reader, and to his disappointment, his card was rejected; it had expired. Embarrassed, he got off the bus and walked along the road, wondering how he would get home.

He was too tired to make the same journey back to Seven Sisters Road on foot. He did something he had never done before. He boarded a bendy bus from the rear door. This time, he did not press his travel card against the reader. He casually walked to a vacant seat and sank in. Within minutes, he dozed off. He was woken up by the transport police. “Can we see your ticket please?” A transport policeman requested. He stared at him and his eyes became misty. Why today? He wondered. Why today of all days? I have never used the bus without paying and on this day of all days, I have to face the transport police. “I don’t have one,” he replied calmly. “I am afraid you have to come down with us.” Languidly, he strolled off the bus with them. They took his personal details and told him they’d contact him by mail. He thought of boarding another bendy bus, but he worried he might get caught the second time in one evening. Somehow, he dragged his fatigued body home on foot.

The next morning, he did not show up at the lab. He could not get out of bed. He had less than a week to find a new, cheaper apartment and pay for it else, he’d wind up on the streets. Besides, he had no food at home. He filled his stomach with water and wrapped himself up in a blanket and read a novel, just to take his mind off his problems. Sometime around 5:00PM there was a knock on his door. When he opened the door it was his friend from Nigeria, Brendan. They were lab mates at University. They had been master’s classmates previously. “Man, I did not see you today and your phone was off all day,” Brendan remarked.  “Yea, I decided to stay home today.” “Professor Dan came looking for you. I told him you may not be feeling well.” Well, you were not far from the truth. I am suffering from all kinds of ailments.” “What is it?” “He explained his ordeal to Brendan, who was touched by his friend’s plights. “I am sorry to hear that Mag,” Brenda sympathized with his friend. “I appreciate your coming over to check in on me.” “It is okay. I am really worried about your situation.” “I am sure something will work out,” Magnus replied trying to whip up some kind of faith.

Two days later, he turned his phone on but the phone company had cut him off because his bill was overdue. He dropped the phone in his bag and walked to Brendan’s house in Haringey. Brendan’s mother served him a hot plate of rice and beans with goat meat. He devoured the food delightfully. “I have something for you,” Brendan’s mother informed him when he was about to leave. “Have this,” she said handing him a bag. It contained some rice, garri, yam, oil, pepper, salt and other ingredients for making soup. “God bless you ma!” Magnus thanked her vociferously. “It is okay. Please don’t feel ashamed to tell us if there is any way we can help you.” “Thank you ma.” He repeated. He left for College with Brendan. “You told your mom I guess,” he asked Brendan as they descended the stairs. “I had to. You needed those items.” “Thanks man. I needed them. I have a little thing for you too,” Brendan added handing him a wad of notes. “You don’t have to do this man,” Magnus protested. “I have to. I know you’d do the same for me if you were in my shoes. Besides I don’t think I’d still be here today without you.” How do you mean?” “Well, I recall when I arrived at College to join the master’s program. I was late by several weeks. My dad had to send all sorts of documents to have them issue my visa back home. You guys were way ahead when I arrived.

“That day, the entire class was running a lab session when I got there. Everyone was deeply absorbed in their work, striving to make good grades. I didn’t know what to do or how to start, but you walked up to me and asked me to join your group. You made sure I was clear with what the group was doing by putting me through. And there was a test the next Monday. You made photocopies of the notes for me and told me where to focus on. You were the only person who bothered to help the new boy on the block, so I know you’d do even more if you were in my shoes. Please take the money and don’t bother paying me back.” “Thanks a lot man,” Magnus thanked him. With the money Brendan gave him, he managed to find a new apartment; much smaller than his previous one, hence considerably cheaper. Shortly afterwards, he got a part-time job near the University. He and Brendan shared the same computer at the office. One evening, Brendan left a pile of papers on the desk and while Magnus was typing, he nudged them over. The papers went flying to the ground. He began to pick them up, and that was when one of them caught his attention. He stared at it for minutes on end. Then, he ran up to the lab where Brendan was mixing and shaking. “Sorry Bren, I am not spying on you. I pushed your stuff over, and while I was picking them up I found this.” He waved the paper at Brendan. Brendan knew what it was. “I remember the date Bren. It was a day before you offered me money to help with my rent and stuff. You actually took a loan from the bank to help me?” Brendan smiled casually. He was an easy-going and laid back person who rarely worried about anything.

“Forget about that man,” he said nonchalantly. “Thanks Bren!” “Don’t mention it. You are like my brother Mag. You did more for me. You gave me the belief to work for my master’s degree after arriving several weeks late. That singular act of kindness gave me a massive moral boost to remain on the program. I was scared…terrorized mentally that I would not measure up because of my late arrival, and without knowing me, you stepped up to help. I would do it over again if I had to because I know you’d do the same for me or anyone else.” “I am moved. Thanks my friend. I will never forget this!” “Don’t even mention it,” Brendan emphasized with a smile.

This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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