The Compromises We Make

Written on May 18, 2016 ·

When my close pals asked me: “Solomon, why? The person you’re crushing on is not Igbo”, I answered that: “well, there’s a place for reasonable compromise”.

What am I saying?

Times there are when what you want seems unreachable while what you need is just before you, maybe begging for your attention. But because you’ve a preset mind, you’re too blind to see the importance of making do with what is available.

If it’s reasonable, and expedient maybe, compromise some standards, reorganise your filters and get on with life.

When Linguistics came instead of Mass Communication or English, I took it joyfully, later realising that it’s not what you read that always matters, but what you carry within. What I would do with my desired courses if I’d got them, I’m presently doing much more than, – and I can boldly say I’m doing well at it.

I told my Law-desiring classmate in 100L that she had to just embrace Linguistics, I told her it would be tragic to spend four years hating what you’re studying, or spend four years studying what you hate. Like, what is the point? She’s now doing well after we discussed, but some things had been affected negatively before then.

When I couldn’t get my desired Android OS phone, I picked up a readily available BB. Today, the things BB has enabled me to do, I wouldn’t have been able to do with my Java Nokia phone. And the pieces of information that I’ve got through its internet strength are just awesome. This brings me to the question I asked on twitter yesterday: “Your phone is smart. But are you?”

Life may not give you what you want. In fact, life is not ready to give you anything at all. But if what you need is available, brother, say to your neighbour, “brother, just grab it”.

I rest my case. *slices onion for turkey eggs*.

HEY NOTE: For a prospective romance customer, a.k.a bae in the marriage market, I can allow for compromises o, but the day I find out your toe nails are dirty, it’s just over between us. Plus, if you now make that annoying sound while chewing gum, my ancestors know that the ultimate search for another bae is just about starting all over. Thanks.

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Of Names, and People

It took me several years to unlearn some things.

When I was much younger, people called me by my first name; Abiodun.

Abiodun literally means “born in the festive season”.

Now this is it, in Yoruba land, there is what we call “oruko amutorunwa”, that’s “a name brought from heaven”. It’s the name given to a child as a result of the circumstances surrounding its birth. This name is most likely adopted by the parents as the first name. That was how Abiodun was bestowed on me for being born early January some decades ago. (I’m old o).

You wonder where I’m going with this post. Abi, o ya, slow down.

There were some families in the neighbourhood when I was a child. These people liked to parade themselves as the more educated folks who spoke ‘Englis’ to their kids.

These were the people who gave me the English version of Abiodun. It sounded very close. It was almost impossible to argue against it. And many people preferred to call me by this English equivalent of Abiodun, which is…

Abbey!

Imagine, Abbey of all things. But there was no one to refute this semantic malapropism.

How can a boy be an Abbey? Eh, a home for monks?

Some people even exacerbated my confusion by adding other particles. Such thing as:
Abbey City. Abbey Lincoln. Abbey Judge, etc etc.

The inquisitive me picked up a dictionary much later in life, I think when I was in JSS1, checked up the word. I was so disappointed. But it was hopeless trying to persuade people to just call me Abiodun.

And when I changed residence in 2011, I introduced myself either by my second name; Solomon or my nickname; Ablad, both of which have a predictable reaction.

When I say Solomon, I get the response, so, do you like women? How many wives will you have. Like seriously, who would want to have more than a wife in this century?

And when I say Ablad. It’s either they corrupt the name or ask me the meaning. Truth be told, the meaning I had in mind when I coined Ablad in JSS3 has now been upgraded, though still in the same line.

The ritual is to tell people that ‘Ab’ is from Abiodun which I blended with the English word ‘lad’ to mean the young boy Abiodun who will grow but will forever look young.

But past its meaning, the name got so much fame in high school. People didn’t care about the meaning, just mention it and they knew whose identify was being mentioned. A classmate whose name was/is Abiodun wanted to steal the name. I was so angry with him. How won’t you be able to coin your own nickname, or at least allow friends to bestow one on you either as a reward for a feat, or a punishment for a misdemeanor? The yeye guy even went as far as using the name to ask one of our classmates out after graduation. He did it over the phone, and that one, thinking it was I, almost said yes. What he hoped to achieve with a fake identity, I won’t understand.

But I digress.

So, from Abiodun, to Abbey, to Solomon, to Ablad, people will always have a preset opinion of you. Some people naively believe bearing Solomon means I’ll have most of my life dedicated to the appreciation of God’s most beautiful creation, (a story for another day). But that is a lie.

Truth is, there is more to a name than just a means of identification. Leave Shakespeare alone, he was just an English guy, that’s why he could say “What is in a name, that which we call rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”.

In Africa, we don’t just choose any name. “Ile la n wo ka to s’omo l’oruko.”

But beyond this, are you what people call you?

Someday, I will write on some Yoruba names and their meanings.

So long a post, right? So what’s your take?

They All Become Real, Everything.

I didn’t realise, until the end of the last episode of Merlin, that Merlin had become real to me. I had not gained admission when I saw the movie. Actually, I only had to wait for season five in 2012. I saw the first four seasons at a stretch: afternoon, evening and at night. And some night, Merlin became an old man and alighted from a city bus. It was the end. I was heart broken. Merlin was gone and I was only left with the remnants of the spells I’d learnt, mental images of my favourite characters, Gwain, Elyan, Merlin, Arthur and of course; our beautiful queen Gwen whose name I was going to give my first child (and yes, I want a female first child).

But the images were beyond mental, the story was a truth to me. I found it difficult to bear it that Merlin ended. It was painful. I started stalking Colin Morgan, Angel Coulby, Kathie Mcgrath, Bradley James, even John Hurt on the internet. The few times I saw Bradley James, he was acting in some high school movie….Oh no, I want you in Camelot, but well, the best I could do to myself was shut down the laptop. And it became clear that I had to give up on this sorcery series.

Things become real to us.

After service on Sunday last week, I went upstairs to pick some stuff…..and there I saw it, clear, scary even, on the ground and unaware of what it had done to me. It was a nail, quite long, the size of a pen. The moment I saw it, a sensation ran through my body. I still can’t explain the feeling. But I cringed, the same way I would do after seeing a snake. First I was immobile, then I tried moving. No way! Then I closed my eyes and the tormenting reality became even scarier. As if I was there at Calvary, it became real to me. I saw the sledge. I saw the soldiers balance the nail on the palm. Then the hammer was lifted, and I saw the blood spout, first in a thin long line, then as the hammer hit harder, the blood gushed out without effort. All these in less than thirty seconds. And it had never been any more real to me. I’ve read it myself in the Bible. I was taught as a child that many years ago, Jesus was nailed to the cross and though I believed it many years ago, it became a revelation knowledge to me with my quick, spontaneous experience with the nail on Sunday.

These things become real to us.

Well….

I was returning from church on Sunday, last Sunday too. And I saw a car slowly drive past me. It was along OAU religion centre. I caught a glimpse of the face at the wheel, Dele Odule. Yeah, with his regular blank face. And though I have not seen a Yoruba movie in about five years, I was excited seeing this actor and his name came quickly to my mind. “Dele Odule”, I screamed and I didn’t mind that he could only do as much as look at me without showing any interest in a regular OAU student that was excited to see him. He became real to me.

These things become real.

Come to think of it, all of the abstract nouns become real when you give them a body to dwell in. Beauty for example is nothing if it doesn’t dwell in a body. Sadness and happiness only become real to us when we give them space in our body. You probably didn’t know what love is until you had your first crush…it became real, yeah, that butterfly feeling you can’t explain. And Gbam! The day you suffered your first heart-break, a different feeling consumed you. Without a body, life will be abstract. And in the end, even death needs a body to be real.

So, all the abstract things need a body before they can become real. And when this reality dawns on you, the understanding comes to you. Others May not know what’s going on with you…and even you May not be able to describe it in words, but you’re certain something is happening to you. This is what we call reality. And even reality needs a body to become real.

In all, man is a spirit, he’s got a soul, and he dwells in a body. So without the body, the real man (the spirit) cannot dwell among men. We experience reality. Our souls get the signal and communicate the reality to our bodies. This communication is multidirectional, it could be the body that has the first contact with the reality in which case the soul processes it (touch fire for example). The soul could also get the signal first. The Spirit can also do the first contact (in higher reams), and communicate it to the soul which then tells the body what to do with the information. I prefer this direction of communication.

But what am I saying? Reality dawns on us, someday, sometime, and we begin to try to get others understand us, understand our feelings. But there’s no need forcing them to feel anything. Every man will experience reality, good or bad, quickly or slowly. Whichever way, reality is not mechanical, reality is spontaneous.

Reality will come, in life, and after life. Certainly.

NOTE: Merlin is the only series I’ve ever finished.

Abiodun Adekanmi (Ablad).

A REQUIEM FOR DREAMS

“Write your obituary”. The bespectacled old lecturer barked the order at the students. The response was not unexpected; shocked looks with incoherent murmurings.

“Write your name, your matric number, your obituary and your signature. You have five minutes.”

The students began to make moves, tearing sheets of paper out of their books, and holding their pens in the way they would when writing. But neither was sure what the other was writing. How does a lecturer ask students to write their own obituaries, and worse still, ask them to append their signature? But Akin who caused this was already writing, and he could feel his classmates’ eyes feeding on him with confusion. He could care less if they all began to curse him.

But how did this happen?

***

Akin looked out through the window next him in the lecture theatre. He saw another egret swoop down and perch on the newly mowed lawn. There were five altogether, the egrets, projecting their necks to and fro while helping themselves to a lunch of insects.

Akin beamed a benevolent smile at the birds. The scenery was a welcome distraction from the boring Philosophy class. The vast lawn was a tender, vegetable green which extended metres away from the classroom and to the edge of the road. The egrets were marked out by striking white and long pink legs that looked too thin to withstand the weight of the birds. When one of the bird beaked an insect, it swallowed in such a dramatic manner, ran after another insect, picked it, swallowed, and then stood at a point, its neck, the shape of a question mark.

Question mark. There were so many questions running through his mind, especially about life and human endeavours. If only one of these egrets could answer them, just, if only. Three years ago, he had applied for admission to study Law, but he was offered Philosophy. He took it with joy, having stayed at home for so long after secondary school, yet his parents would not let him be as they always reminded him their plans for his life; get a degree in Law, go to Law school, graduate and practice.

It was a triangle of confusion; on each edge was an interest conflicting with the others. His parents had it all planned out, ObafemiAwolowo University where he was a student countered his parents’ plans, but above all, his idea of himself was an adventurous fine artist. Life really is a complex question. And he might never find its answer.

He found himself asking the egrets so many questions, without speaking a word. Do you egrets ever have to wash to be this white? If I make a painting of you, will you appreciate it? Why do you feed on innocent insects? Is this some kind of power? Why does my girlfriend toy with my feelings? Why have I never had an A in any course? Isn’t this like my lecturer feeding on my grades? Do you think I will make it as an artist? What is the answer to life?

He must have said the last question aloud, angrily perhaps, because everyone in the class, including the lecturer turned in his direction, as if controlled by some supernatural force, their eyes peering quizzically at him.

“What did you say?” The lecturer asked, his face a somewhat squeeze up expression of hunger for an answer.

“Sir?” Akin turned away from the bird, but he caught a glimpse of four of the birds leaping into the air while the last one was on the ground. He registered the scene in his mind.

“You just asked a question. It is besides our discourse. Why did you ask that question?” The PhD holder adjusted his spectacles so that the frame sat firmly on his nose. He peered through the thick lenses, waiting for a response.

“Sir, what is life?”

“What is life?” the lecturer struggled to hide his confusion, it was a futile effort.

“Yes sir. I mean. You are here teaching us abstract topics. Aren’t you wasting your time? Aren’t we all wasting our time?”

“Excuse me?”

Other students were taken aback. One would adjust her sitting position, another dropping his pen and then some were focused on the lecturer, others pensive about the turn of events in the class.

“Yes sir. This is my third year in the university and this discipline is still very abstract to me. Yes, I mean, what do we hope to achieve with Philosophy. True sir, we engage in arguments after arguments. You call it critical thinking, but I don’t see the point. I have never had an A in any course.”

“And how is that my problem?”

“Well, sir, because so many times, I have been torn between choosing what I believe is right and what the lecturers want. Including you sir. Perhaps you are frustrated too.”

“Have you lost your mind, Akin?”

“I think I will find it when you answer my question sir. What is the answer to life?”

“And you think a frustrated lecturer would be able to answer you?”

“Well, sir, I think your coping mechanism with frustration is to frustrate us too. Maybe this is a societal structure.” Tears were beginning to drop from his eyes, nobody, not even the lecturer understood him, or why he cried. “Sir, there are so many questions, and no answers. For example, what do you say to that bird?” he pointed to the bird. “Why didn’t it fly with its mates?”

“What is wrong with you?” The lecturer questioned calmly, went to Akin and made to touch his head. But Akin stood to the table and retorted with a deafening yell; so loud that the lecturer backed down.

“Tell me, I say tell me, what is the answer to life?” And he broke into a loud wail.

The confusion was tense, and written all over everybody except Akin, whose cry was now in fitful pitches of acoustic syncopation.

“Okay, I will answer your question.” The lecturer said after returning to the lectern-like table upon which his course materials were placed.

But before he could say another word, a fair-complexioned, petite female student raised her hand.

“Yes, Sola?” the lecturer prompted.

“Sir, I think we need a doctor.”

“Well, goes without saying. Have your sit. We need a doctor, but first, we need an answer to Akin’s question.”

The lecturer then instructed that everyone, including Akin should tear out a sheet of paper, write their obituary and append their signature.

***

“This is the answer to life.” Dr. Femi said after the students submitted their sheets. “Life is a complex question with a simple answer. Man is too caught up in the question’s complexity than to trust the answer’s simplicity. Many puzzling questions of life have very simple answers.”

He pursed for effect.

“But the ultimate answer to life is death. This is the essence of life, as long as you leave, these questions will come. Usually, as challenges. But death answers them all, because the day you die, you do not have to worry about these questions. I just hope you understand this. See me in my office, Akin. Good day.”

***

This was three days ago. And Akin was now in a pair of black suit and red tie. His lecturer looked at him, eyes behind lenses. Akin’s classmate, who had opined that a doctor be called, was also present. His parents were also present, and their only son looked what they had always wanted him to look like, a lawyer, dressed for the profession and making them proud. Only now they were not proud of him having embraced the ultimate answer, wearing his suits, shoes and tie only to be lowered into the source amidst wails and sobs between every measure of sand, every movement of the shovel and every word of the cleric in black; “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

Sola shoved a piece of paper into Dr. Femi’s hand. “He sent this to me. We could have rescued him, but we were too late.” She broke into tears.

Dr. Femi opened the paper. It was a painting of the lawn beside the class in which Akin asked his question. Four egrets were airborne; on the ground was one with a broken leg and a withered wing. Below the painting were the words; “when your dreams are the objects of a requiem, you embrace the ultimate answer.”

Ablad (2017)

 

Celebrating a Gem

Kemisola Olamiju ARIYO       –           (My reading partner turned an everlasting friend)

The best gifts I have received from God come in form of friends.

Just like your date, 29th February which comes once in four years, I have come to realise that I have very few friends, they don’t always come easily. There are many people around me, but very few friends, about half a dozen of them.

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Tell me, what can I say about that look?

You, Kemi, are one of these few friends I am no more afraid to lose any more than I am to lose my life. I remember almost losing you. I remember two occasions in which our friendship was going down the drain – all to my fault, and on each occasion, you worked hard to sustain it, you gave me time to realise my mistake, you gave me time to reluctantly eat the humble pie, you gave me time to water down my ego, to come apologise, to come strengthen the bond again.

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Those little teeth

I remember meeting you in our first year in the university, Kemisola, you initiated it, but I am sure it wasn’t just you, it was God. I came to the university to be a loner, I wanted to be all to myself, didn’t want to be known, wanted to hide, but no matter how hard I try to hide, some things in me would just throw me into the light, and that was how you knew about me, something around the social messenger (Whatsapp), something around talking in the class, and you thought you needed my help, not knowing the reverse was the case, I was the one who needed your help, I was the one who needed to be discovered, there were many things hidden in me, some good, some bad, and I needed to discover them, to improve on them, to make the bad good, to make the good better, and all the time you never stopped helping me, thinking I was helping you.

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keep smiling.

You made me realise my fears, my desires, and joy. You encouraged and still encourage when I need it. We share certain things, our lives converge, and then diverge, and the divergence I have come to appreciate, I saw things in different view, I learnt to be less rigid, to bend few rules in favour of others (and I have broken some rules for you – in case you don’t know, you are the only female friend whose food I have eaten on OAU campus), to accommodate more, to love more. You have been my own foil character, and each time I think about meeting you, I think about having met an angel.

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This must be a Monday.

I became more of Kemisola, and at a point people began to think up something romantic going on between us, they were supposed to do that because we ‘were’ always in each other’s pocket. People would call me to know where you were. They were always right. We were always together, like we were meant to be. Until a change of hostel took me farther away from you in the beginning of our second year, and people began to think we had “broken up”, Imagine, break up, in which sense? Well, with location, we went a bit apart, a bit less in each other’s pocket, but out friendship remained ‘pristine’, and when I almost strained it, because of my masculine ego and ‘discipline’, you gave me the chance to come back, to be your friend.

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Someone asked if this was a pre-wedding shoot, and I was like “That is some east-west separation.

I remember nights, when reading became boring, we would talk and talk, and people in night classes would stare and stare at the ‘unserious lovers’ that we looked like, talking away their time. Hmm, reading helped us, it helped me through you, but talking helped much better, the little trivial things, the very serious things – and I ended up discovering we share so much in common. And despite this, we were only meant to be friends, no strings attached, just friends, and it was difficult convincing people we are just friends (who are not just friends), and I gave up trying to convince them.

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African! Purely African.

I remember your pair of glasses. You loathe wearing it, and I was instrumental to its loss. You always looked good wearing it, but you didn’t like it until it got lost and you were affected to an extent. You actually look better without it. And I am praying you don’t have to wear it again.

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We all love you.

I remember how you always tripped when we were in our first year. Three days would not go without you tripping and falling at times, and I ended up calling you Windy.

I remember you saying your brother and I look alike, that we both have big heads, but that we are both handsome. I have never met him, but his pictures validate your statements. He is handsome, he has ‘big’ head. And then again, he has a bit of agidi, just like me. I am sure I will equally love him.

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your own version of shakomended glasses, looking good.

I cherish our friendship, the way we kid, smile, laugh and frown. You puzzle me with your mood swing (upon which you have now improved). You are one of the people who make me say “one of the greatest puzzle God has given men to solve is the complexity of women”. You would want this now, and that later. I would say I am giving you the benefit of the doubt. We would bet, and I would lose most times. I lost when I said I would get about 90% in a paper but ended up with around 80%. I have lost to you on many occasions.

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Let’s say you love flowers, you are more beautiful than they are.

But I have won once. I got the trophy. You have always said ‘something’ would not happen to your ‘heart’ until our third year in school. You said it with resolute determination. I saw it, that determination to make a choice when the time ‘comes’ – and you lost it (positively). I was right, loving (romantically) is not a choice, it is spontaneous, it just happens, but staying (in love) is the choice. We can choose to stay in love.

And I was right after all. It happened to you. It happened when I least expected it. I am not supposed to know how it happened. Our mutual friend and you. Two of you felt it, I don’t know who did first, but two of you made the choice, such Chemistry. You asked me for a piece of advice. I had very little to give because I didn’t have the experience, or the testimony. If I must advise, I should at least have something to back my point, and so I gave the little I had, when it happens to me too (preferable with an Igbo lady), I may have to seek your advice too.

I can continue typing and typing and I will not be done in a whole day. But I will have to stop. I cherish you. I love you (as a friend should). I pray that God give you long life and good health, make you fulfilled, give you happiness and extend it to your family, make you grow spiritually (helping you to fulfil you present assignment as a cell pastor in your fellowship), help your academics and protect you from going astray.

God bless your new age, Kemisola.

Happy 5th Birthday!

NOTE: I used the past tense in some cases, not because we are no more friends, but because we do not do those things as much as before.

A SAD LOVE STORY

The room was brightly lit so that I could see about three silhouettes behind the window blind of our dining cum study. Coupled with the inaudible sounds of wrestlers and their crazy fans that welcomed me into the house was the savoury aroma of well seasoned egusi soup and amala that caught me salivating immediately I entered. This made me forget that my early homecoming from prep at the school hostel was unplanned, because the boarding house mistress had suddenly entered the hall and screamed my name over the public address system to inform me that I was needed at home.

I had ignored dad’s stern look at the table. It was the kind of look that reminded me that something related to doom was awaiting me. However, I couldn’t think of anything bad I did that might have earned me the proper correction that dad’s pankere was believed to make to any erring child. More so, the instructional material wasn’t on the table so I chose to devour the dish awaiting my judgement.

In less than five minutes, what were left of the dish were crushed bones of ogunfe. I looked at the empty plate and wished the food would resurface. Mother was such a good cook. The meal caught each of my five fingers taking its turn under the laundry expertise of my tongue. I was allowing my tongue to explore every corner of my mouth for any remaining taste and particle of the food when my dad’s throat-clearing sound snatched me from my pleasure.

“Tell me Dolapo, who wrote that letter in your bag?” His voice drowned the sound over the TV and panic took over me completely. For once, I prayed under my breath that the chair on which I sat should sink into the floor under it. I shut my eyes so tight hoping that it was a dream from which I would wake up.

“Answer me now!” Dad growled again and I didn’t need to be told of the weight of his lividness, I had experienced it before. I immediately started picturing myself soaking my bed sheet with salty tears and crying my way into dreamland or worse still, a place of nightmare.

In my moment of unspoken litany, dad pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and because my hand was so shivering that I could not take it from him, he flung it across the table and over my head. I had to stand up and pick it where the dining room curtain had terminated its flight.

“Now, sit there”. Dad said, pointing to the chair I had vacated to fetch the paper airborne by the anger-induced force of his hand. He stood and firmly banged his clenched fist on the table so that my empty plate jumped and landed back on the table.

“Read it to me, Read it!” he ordered then brought out the popular instructional material; the pankere from under the table. He had hidden it there so well that even the bright lights from our chandelier couldn’t reveal it to me. Even if it had been revealed, what would I have done? Nothing!

On other occasions, if it was my younger brother who was to be punished for anything, I would have stayed at a corner of the house and be singing “Jeun k’oto j’egba”. “Eat before you receive cane”. It was a song that suggested that it was better to first, eat and then be beaten as this would help you to sleep. Now however, I was the theme victim of the song.

“Dear Love…”

My voice broke into pieces the moment I started to read the letter. I wanted to look up at dad but I dared not, for I may be welcomed by a round of hot slaps. More so, I had the advantage of studying dad’s shadow on the table and monitoring his movement, perhaps, if I calculated well, I would be able to dodge some of his too-many-for-a-fifteen-year-old blows.

“Continue or do you want me to land this on your back? Do you?”

“I pick my golden pen from the basket of love to write this letter…”

My voice faded into a loud wail. I drew back, into my head, the mucus that was already moving down my nose. Few minutes ago, I had been relishing the pleasant taste of food, now, what I was going through made it seem like I last tasted salt over a century ago.

“This is what you do with my money” dad’s voice raised in the same tempo with his cane that would have left my back with a mark like the trace of an earthworm on the ground after rain if it had not been suspended by the fan blade rotating above the two of us. It seemed to weaken dad. I was glad the moment he said we would sort it out the next day and he dashed out of the dining into his room mumbling some inaudible words that faded into the air; something like he would not allow the devil to take over him the same way he (the devil) had made me disobedient. That night, I had the ceiling fan to thank for my escape.

Dad went with me to school the other day and explained everything to the principal who also expressed his disappointment with me. And because I couldn’t tell a lie, I had to produce Segun, my to-be ex boyfriend. We got the beatings of our life that day. I don’t know about Segun, for boys had a way of wearing jeans under their school uniform to reduce the effect of flogging, but I sure had three days before I could sit properly on my buttocks. Segun was suspended for two weeks. His parents were summoned and he had to write “I will never write a love letter again” five hundred times before he was readmitted to school.

***

That was about fourteen years ago. And I should go home to thank my parents for many reasons. One, I was not the girl who got impregnated by Segun six months after the incident. Two, I have become a practising medical doctor and owner of a specialist hospital in Abuja. Three, this man on his knees, holding a ring will get a ‘yes’ from me and I would be a woman, married, untouched and undefiled. This should not be a sad love story. It should be a happy one.

GHOSTS

It wasn’t surprising how people gathered with the speed of light whenever an alarm was raised on our street. Usually, the first group of spectators, or rather gossips consisted women. You would see one tying her wrapper as it fell flying while she ran to the scene, and another holding her cut, worn out slippers. It was yet another of such days when an issue attracted public opinion. I had helped myself to a space of comfort on the second floor of my father’s uncompleted storey building.

“I saw him”, Mama Risi said assuredly, as if to prompt someone to disagree with her. “Who saw him?” another woman asked. I adjusted my stool upstairs listening intently and smiling when there was need to.

“What is it?” Iya Kabira voice arrived at the scene earlier than she, barefooted like many others while her five year old Kabira ran after her, mucus dripping her nose; she used her tongue to do the cleaning. I spat in disgust, sending to oblivion, the fact that I was worse even when I was much older than she.

“It is Baba, it is Baba” another woman answered Iya Kabira, panting heavily, unclear if she was reciting a psalm or chanting a spell. My eyes drifted to Iya Kabira, now at the fore of the whole crowd, throwing her hands into the air as if the matter had more to do with her than others. “What if she had even seen the ghost?” I thought.

If I had not seen Baba myself, I would never have agreed that such thing existed. I however was unaware that it was Baba whom I was leading to the house beside ours, his house. An old, frail man had stopped me on my way from school and demanded that I lead him to Baba Ewe’s house, a request to which I consented.

I had taken him to the house entrance when one of Baba’s children, an eight year old Aina had shouted, “Baba Ewe”. I looked up to his face and immediately, a blanket of cold seemed to encircle me, causing me to shiver and draining all the courage I had. I released a scream that seemed to deafen even me and cut through the street to summon all the women.

Iya Risi continued her explanation of what she hadn’t seen. I smiled upstairs, wondering if I would also grow to become another gossip of a woman in the future. I wanted to tell the horde that Baba Ewe didn’t put on white garment as against Iya Risi’s claim. She couldn’t have seen him, I thought, Baba had disappeared the moment I yelled, almost as immediately as our eyes met. Not even Aina’s explanation could save the crowd the mendacious information that Iya Risi had begun to propagate on the street.

I encircled my hands around my knees then placed my head on them. I reminisced on the incidents around me. Yesterday made it exactly seven months after Baba joined his ancestors and seven years, two weeks after my own father died. I raised my head and surveyed my father’s uncompleted building, if only he had not died when I was ten, I would be living in one of the rooms closest to the kitchen, where I could easily sneak my way inside and eat enough of the fruit that would be in our white chest freezer, one like those I usually saw in movies.

Gone were the days when my father had just died, for three consecutive months, I had sat beside his grave late in the evening and wept my eyes out hoping he would appear, so I may do, one; challenge him on why he had to die, leaving my unemployed mum to take care of me and my three siblings; two, give him two options, whether to take me with him, or find a way money would always be available each time we were in need, then I would report Mama Risi, how she rained invectives on mummy each time she could not pay up her debt  for gari as agreed. But father never appeared, the poor man, I later concluded that he had been the one sending crickets to chirp and frogs to croak so I might be scared away from his grave.

“Ghosts do not exist…it is the work of demons. Demons put on the image of the dead and make men believe in reincarnation”. Pastor Biodun had said in his glorious, all-knowing voice that drowned the noise of the crowd. This made the people pay him enough attention as the most revered man of God on the street. His opinion provoked counter opinions. Whiles some agreed, others disagreed. Whatever the case was, I remained indifferent, for to me, it wasn’t a matter of weather ghosts existed, but rather that I had led a dead man to his house in the image of the living.

Iya Risi was the first to leave the scene, after it was reported that a goat had made its way into her supermarket, a shed made of joined planks, and helped itself into a lunch of dry gari. The population reduced just the same way it had been made up and everyone left with these erroneous stories that Iya Risi had cooked up. This only intensified my fear, for it had been three weeks of uninterrupted power failure and mum would not allow me use candle while sleeping, plus, the thought of ghosts had successfully found its abode on my mind.

Two weeks later…

Pastor Biodun sat in front of his house, enjoying the fresh air that power failure had denied him. He had been reading his Bible with a torch whose battery had been drained of energy but charged enough to create his silhouette in the dark night.

“Who is that?” he had asked when a figure in pure white went past him in what seemed like a calculated ghostly movement without speaking. Another figure followed, but with a humming, frightening sound. By this time, Pastor Biodun raised his torch which could not even create the wanted picture. He stood up and raised his Bible but was forced to retreat when another white figure charged towards him with a chirp. The fourth figure, in the same colour from head to toe moved swiftly towards him with an eerie laughter that caught Pastor Biodun throwing his torch against the scary figure, reciting or rather chanting “the Lord is my shepherd…” and running frantically to the entrance of his house with a wail that condescended his age.

I quickly ran away, avoiding being caught by the crowd who later rushed out of the house to see the ghosts that had come to attack Pastor Biodun. I went upstairs our house to join my three other friends, looking through a window and listening to how Pastor Biodun relayed his ghost experience to the people two houses away. Good job, I thought, even Mama Risi’s make up story could inspire much.

We silently began to remove our pyjamas and clean ourselves of the white paint. We really had a long time doing that, thanks that mum wasn’t at home. I smiled; wondering what would have happened if Pastor Biodun’s torch had hit me. “Even Pastors are afraid of ghosts” I thought.

A NIGHT OF BAPTISM

A NIGHT OF BAPTISM
We were all out in the veranda. Some of us unclad save for shorts and signets. We were there, at about 9.30pm, each of us holding anything, anything from parker to book covers and hand fans to blow air to ourselves, for the heat was there in the room like a terrorist, posing a death threat to anyone who dared enter the room without first staying outside for the cool breeze and then bathing with the water, laid outside in bowls to get cooler, calm enough to mirror the full moon up in the sky.

The hostel had been interesting and uninteresting of late, especially because our exams had been concluded and despite the fact that we got food that was inversely proportional to the number of days we had spent in school, we were allowed to go out and source for feeding from our day student friends or from the canteen when we were lucky enough to get money, even when we ended up eating more toothpicks than pieces of meat.

“My dad will come on Wednesday”, Kunle said, while his face beamed a smile with a gesture that showed how happy he was about this development. His father had called the boarding house master earlier in the day and informed him of his imminent coming for Kunle.

“I am happy for you”, I told Kunle, envious of what it meant to get out of school earlier than others. You would have the comfort of your parents to run to and be fed like a baby at home. But Kunle was luckier; his parents usually came for him as soon as the exams were finished. We finished on Monday and his parents would come two days after. This meant he would not have to serve seniors who seemed to get their last days enjoyment from only one thing; oppressing the juniors.

“When will your dad come?” Kunle asked and I blew a measure of air to myself before answering him that my dad was not to come until the following week. The man seemed to enjoy my absence more than my presence at home.

In the time I spent thinking of another thing to say, a tall SS2 boy walked up to us and stood menacingly above us, JSS 3 students.

“I need a bucket of water”, he said with a voice that carried the determination to get what he wanted at any cost, to be paid by us.

“Senior, the hostel well is locked. It is past nine already, and the taps are not running” Kunle replied.

“I have not asked you about the well. I said I need a bucket of water. And for speaking, I need your water”

“But Senior, but…” Kunle muttered his defence against what was something he had little or no control on. The guy cut him off.

“I said I need water. Which one is your bucket there?”
By this time, all JSS3 students in the veranda had stood, unable to say anything for the fear of being punished by the angry senior.

“It is not fair senior. I have kept my water in the open so that it will be cool and here you are, wanting it by any means…”

“Do you want me to slap you? Go and put that water in SS2 bathroom for me now” the senior said and went away with an authority that could only be practised when there was no superior one.

With that Kunle made for the water, banging his legs on the ground and repeatedly dangling his head to both sides in protest to the order of the senior who had already gone into the room to get his toiletries. Kunle returned after putting the water in the bathroom. I consoled him by offering to share my bucket of water with him.

It wasn’t long before the senior ran out of the bathroom, clad only in his towel that he loosely tied around his waist. He screamed and writhed in pain like a salted earthworm. First we had thought he had been stung by a scorpion for there were many of those arachnids in the school hostel. However, the school had just be fumigated few weeks ago.

The senior was muttering, menacingly, though in pain that whatever guts Kunle had to have peppered the water would lead Kunle to trouble that night. But I trusted Kunle, he couldn’t have done such bad thing because someone forcefully used his water. Besides, he had taken the water straight to the bathroom and returned almost immediately.

But what could I say? Here was the senior squirming in pain and dashing for the buckets of water and emptying the contents on himself in the open, screaming pepper. It looked funny, though we dared not laugh, that someone who had threatened to slap my friend few minutes ago had returned, almost crying and displaying to the delight of his juniors.

“Senior, I didn’t put pepper in the water” Kunle pleaded feebly, rubbing and showing his palms to the space as if in supplication to the Almighty. By this time, the senior shot him a deadly look, one that could dry up the blood in the person at its receiving end of it was sustained more than ten seconds.

A heavy slap landed on Kunle in the same tempo with how fast the senior furiously uttered his “You did not do what?” “Ah!” We screamed as we watched Kunle gasp for air like a fish taken out of water.

“This is the last time you will ever do such thing in your life”.

“I said I didn’t do it, Senior”. Kunle said sobbing, yet we could feel the usual insolence that always accompanied the excuse of a junior who felt oppressed.

“If you say anything again…” the senior warned, and continued, “Your punishment begins tonight. Every morning and evening, you will sweep my dorm and get bath water for everyone sleeping there, including your juniors”. The senior then left, his tall, tiny frame fading to the darkness in his room.

I drew Kunle closer and wiped his face with my palm.

“Don’t worry, we will serve that punishment together” I promised.

“But I didn’t do it Ayo. I didn’t…” and his voice broke into another round of sob.

Just then, Samuel, the notorious boy in JSS 3B walked up to us and whispered to Kunle “You escaped this right?” I didn’t understand but I suspected he must have been the one who peppered the water. I could remember he had a bet with Kunle to make him cry. And if my memory served me well, he had been out earlier in the day with some other guys. This could explain how he might have come across grinded pepper. Besides, he was one of those last set of students who set their buckets out in the open.

“So you did it Samuel” Kunle asked, “you put pepper in my water just because of a bet to make me cry? I am going to tell the senior” he turned to leave before Samuel dragged him by his hand and said in a whisper how stupid Kunle sounded, a tyrannical senior just got served a piece of his own cake and Kunle was still trying to inform him the source of his reward.

“Just serve the punishment, and I even offer to help you. At least I have made you cry and that yeye senior has learnt his lessons the hard way. Sorry Kunle, sometimes the righteous get punished for the sinful.” He offered his hand for a shake; Kunle hesitantly took it and managed a smile.

I looked at the evil planning Samuel, how he had made a friend out of someone whose misfortune he had architected. I also looked at Kunle and wondered at his large heart, so how he found it easy to forgive never ceased to amaze me. He usually said that someone who never forgave could not live long. I thought about the senior, how he had used Kunle’s water and stormed back to beat him up for a crime Kunle knew nothing about. I wondered if Kunle would also forgive him after serving the punishment. But I didn’t have to worry much, for Kunle wouldn’t even have to forgive him, in two days time, his dad would be coming for him and serving the punishment with the help of Samuel and me could as well account to a last day in school fun.

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