A Dance ‘pon the TL

The following exchange began very randomly and continued surreptitiously.

The above exchange is a work of collaborative fiction and does not refer to any occurrences in reality, past or present. This may possibly occur in the future, in which case we make no claims of clairvoyance.

Martins’ Placebo

A Christmas tale.

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Martin disembarked from the bus and just stood there staring at the bag in his hand.

This was not him.

He’d never taken these things seriously. Instant, temporary remedies – if at all they worked – for overly superstitious, small-minded and guilt-ridden peasants. No one in their right mind would pay attention to such drivel. But here he was. Sigh.

* * * * *

He hadn’t been prepared when the man beside him suddenly stood up and in a loud voice which scraped into every cranny of the dead coaster bus, boomed…

“Yah having problem and I have di ansa foreet.”

Martin had visibly but inaudibly groaned even as the man reached into the old rugged bagco bag he was carrying and pulled out a jar of red pills.

“You see dis one here, it do cure hedik, diarrhea, shit block… dat is dat one somepipple are calling constipation, or pile, typhoid, malaria, running stomuck, staph, gonoh, piss piss…”

With every ailment he reeled out, the man fiercely gesticulated with his right hand, rattling the jar of pills in his left as he did so. As he mentioned ”hedik”, he’d rested the knuckle of his open hand on his forehead. “Diarrhea” had seen his hand go behind and signify pulling something out. Possibly for the benefit of those who sat behind but had him in their line of vision. When he said “shit block” and clenched his fist right to his behind, Martin had had to look away to keep his sensibilities from being offended any more than they needed be.

Still though, he could do nothing to unhear as the man went on and would even pull out two more jars from his sack. Martin wanted badly to be incredulous when people began pulling notes out of their pockets, purses and wallets in exchange for these magical pills but he knew his people. They believed anything they were told, no matter how ridiculous it sounded.

He was still looking out the window when he felt the peddler fall back heavily into his seat. He hadn’t noticed the transacting stop and he was about to blissfully forget the man’s act when he heard his name.

His reaction was slower than you’d have expected. You would imagine he would whirl around in shock but instead, he turned in a somewhat lethargic manner, like it was a companion sitting next to him and he’d expect them to know his name. He had not fully processed the import of hearing his name in a crowded bus in which he was absolutely sure he knew no one, until he was staring in the eyes of this stranger who looked back at him. Then his eyes widened in shock as he gathered his wits.

He first looked down to see how this man could have possibly recognized him. He had no ID card on him. He used to dangle it proudly from his belt hole on his way to and from work until it was taken from him many many months ago by the telecoms company who, as stated on the back of the ID card, it had always truly belonged to. He wasn’t wearing the work shirt he was required to at his present and far more lowly job. That shirt had his name displayed on a scrap of cloth sewn above the left breast. Everything else was in his wallet. Nothing visible could have given his identity away to a stranger. He looked up and forward, trying to convince himself he had only imagined hearing his name.

The peddler leaned in a bit and spoke to him in a voice far different from the grating one he had used earlier. This voice was well-spoken, unaccented, cultured and steady at a volume that he was sure only he could possible hear…

“Martin, you don’t believe in my pills do you? You don’t think this is real.” He very slightly raised the worn bag hanging between his legs for Martin to throw an uncomfortable glance at. “I used to be like you, you know? I believed everyone like me was a fraud, until I was shown the truth. Now, I make a ton of money from hawking these…” He reached into his bag and pulled out a full jar of brown pills and a wondrous thing happened. As he looked up to finish his statement, Martin thought the word, even as the peddler said it, both looking right into each other’s eyes.

“Placebo.”

Martin could feel certain gears in his head come to a grinding halt and suddenly begin turning in the opposite direction. He looked at this man from head to toe, his terribly faded, oversize and worn out yoruba traditional attire sewn from inexpensiveankara and then took into consideration the voice which had moments ago been directed solely at him and how greatly it contrasted to the one which had been used to confidently address the rest of the bus and came to the conclusion that while this drug peddler sounded pretty convincing, he wasn’t buying whatever he was trying to sell him.

The man chuckled and continued,

“You haven’t even heard what I have to say yet and you have already come to your conclusions?” More chuckling “I’m Martin by the way.” He extended his hand for a hand shake and Martin, the one in the faded shirt and jeans, tentatively shook it, a puzzled look emblazoned across his face.

“We don’t have much time left, we will soon arrive your bus stop” This was true. “I have a christmas gift and a message for you.” He reached into his bag and continued rather rapidly now as he pulled something out.

“You’re on your way to Shoprite to look into the windows of toy stores at items you cannot but wish you could afford to buy for your son and two daughters. You’re even contemplating stealing them. It will not work, they will catch you. The charm bracelets you’re hoping to add to your wife’s collection as you have every year except for the last, you cant afford or steal those either. Yah having problem and I have di ansa foreet.” He grinned at Martin in the jeans.

Martin in the ankara was now holding an interesting contraption in his right hand while extending his bagco bag to Martin with his left. Martin took the bag, not eagerly, but not tentatively either. He was sold.

“The jar of pills will never empty out. Sell them the way you’ve seen me do today and with the sales you make, you should be able to live a moderately good life until christmas next year. Who knows, you may even be able to buy those gifts for your nagging wife and her annoying children by the end of today. You have exactly one year to fulfill this exercise after which you will hand this bag and advice to another Martin on the next christmas day, in another bus just like this one. Never sell on fridays or sundays, because those are the days people have the most faith in their… other religions. All the other five days of the week, you’re in business. Those are the only conditions you must adhere to to attain the immense wealth I am about to walk into. It has taken me a while but I have now been able to determine exactly what kind of wealth I want. With this.”

Martin handed over the contraption. Martin took it with a puzzled look on his face.

“That is a camera. It’s a 1960 Diana. Google it and read up on it. It’s pretty cool vintage stuff. I never even knew I could be interested in photography until I handled this baby. I’ve amassed quite a few great pictures in the past year. I like to consider myself something of a luxury photographer. Wish I could show you my collection but we’ll probably never meet again…

Oh, we’re almost at your bust stop now…

“Anyways, what you do with the camera is photograph the things you want to receive for christmas next year. One way or the other, you will definitely receive them. Wash the film, keep the pictures. If you’re wise, you’ll be sure to invest your photography in things that should sustain you for a very long time afterwards, if you know what I mean.

“That’s pretty much it. I would take questions but you do have to get off here, don’t you?

And at that, ankara Martin sidled over to the left with not a word more while denim Martin shuffled past him, trembling from head to foot, and staggered out the bus, hassled all the way by the bus conductor and driver.

He was still pretty shaken when he checked the bag to see the 3 jars still filled to the brim with pills, despite all the sales the other Martin had just made.

He took the interesting looking camera and turned it over and over trying to figure it out. He was a novice when it came to photography but he had handled a few analogue cameras as a teenager and knew there should at least be somewhere for film to be loaded.<

He had only just begun to wonder where the hell he would find more film for a camera which was designed in the 60s once the one in the camera finished when he found the latch. He was thinking perhaps that was the catch here, finding more film for a camera which had gone out of production decades ago, when he sprung the latch to open the film compartment.

There was no film in there.

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This story was published on TheNakedConvos a year ago.

Viva Las Gidi 3: Fine Boy

This story is fictional and again, inspired by @88factor”s illustration but is also based on actual occurrences and experiences.

See the first here and the second here.

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Idris was working the back of my head when it happened.

I knew it had happened. He knew I knew it had happened. I could see from the way Baba Lasisi flinched and, catching my reflection’s eye, quickly looked back into his newspaper, that he too knew it had happened. And yet, none of us said anything; we all just acted like nothing had happened. I think it’s called denial what I was going through as I sat there and let the buzzing go on behind my head. I can’t speak for Baba and Idris though. I can’t say what made them not say anything. I can’t speak for anyone else either, all the other folk who discovered what had happened later. What happened must have had a way of leaving everyone who saw it dumbfounded and unable to tell me when they discovered it.

I’m still not sure what caused it. It could have been one of or a combination of several things…

Goal!

Spain had scored again and the entire stuffy room of young men and the odd girlfriend here and there had either groaned, winced or just fallen into a grave silence at the occurrence. I witnessed Idris through the mirrors visibly wince while glancing up at the suspended tv to see the replay. Everyone seemed torn by the goal, all except Peter. He had jumped out from behind his customer and lifted Idris clear off the ground screaming “Gooooooooaaaallllll!” directly in his face. Followed after dropping him by, “Tiree zero! I don win, men. You musto pay me my money today. Next time you no go bet wit shampion! Haha! Rubbish Eagles.” As Peter returned to his customer, leaving a dejected man in his wake, Idris’ girlfriend, the daughter of theiya alata  who also sold indomie and bread just outside, came over and gave him a peck, which drove the entire Fine Boy Cutz into a frenzy of slobbering catcalls and whooping hecklers. In all of this, somehow, the device buzzing never left just behind my head.

It was when Idris’ full attention returned to what he had been doing I realized something was amiss. From the way he froze for a few seconds, the gears in his head audibly whirring and then looked up to see if I was looking, I could tell that a problem had presented itself. If that was not enough to convince me, seeing Baba Lasisi, who sat directly behind me, look away the way he had made me sure. And yet, none of us said a thing. Idris just returned to what I would later discover were attempts at corrective measures.

The match came to an end, the spectators dragged their dank selves out and away dejectedly and the fresh air was let back in, thankfully. Idris finished his work and removed the protective cloth around me, letting me up, all the while refusing to meet my eye. I paid him and tried to make small talk while I expected he would be trying to swindle me out of my change as usual but no. He seemed really distracted as he handed me my correct change and stepped out. Probably in search of his gehfren. I looked in the mirror one last time, swiveling my head this way and that to be sure I looked good and having assuaged all doubt, left, hailing Baba Lasisi on my way out. Ordinarily, the old man would choose that time to reminisce on the years back when he was more tormentor than mentor to us kids while I would be trying to escape his nostalging, but not today. Today, he seemed really engrossed in whatever stale news it was he was reading in those papers and replied my hailings with only a grunt.

As I made my way down the street, odd stares burned into the back of my head. Everytime I tried to meet one of them, the eyes got averted, a mischievous twinkle in the eye every time. Friends I had grown up with, new neighbours, ex-girlfriends, street boys, young uns… They all would just looked away.

I arrived home and stepped in front of the small mirror hanging in the bathroom, wondering what it was that had happened back at Fine Boy that had Idris so spooked. As I turned my head this way and that, my little sister, Yimika, steps in behind me and bursts out laughing manically.

In turning to look at her, I catch a glimpse of the profile view of my shadow, cast against the wall by the lone bulb affixed to the wall just above the door. My previously nice, round afro is now flat at the back of my head, forming a wedge-shaped crown.

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VIVA-LAS-GIDI-MID-RES

The Big Picture Viva Las Gidi by @88factor

Viva Las Gidi 2: Shooter

This is the second installment in the Viva Las Gidi project inspired by (a section of) an illustration by @88factor. See the first here.

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Idris shoots. Stupid boy.

We discussed this before we started. “Don’t just be shooting anyhow o. Ees not only you daees playing.” And naturally, the missile he sent flying gets easily deflected.Stupid, selfish boy.

“Ah! Mo block e!

Haha. This Peter is just a clown. His heavily igbo-accented yorubanglish is a tragedy to the ears but a comedy to the spirit… but the comedy is lost on me right now. Who wants to hear the braggadocio in the nonsense omo-nna’s voice when he is flailing one with it in such ill-timed mockery? Him and Abdul are leading us 3-0. Somehow, his deflection brings the ball my way and it is revealed to me from above the perfectly-timed opportunity to teach this Peter a lesson in how not to kick men… or boys when they are down. This is divine orchestration and I am the tool the almighty has chosen to use in humbling this wicked child.

I can see the opening I need to aim at and I swivel on my dunlop slipper-clad toes to take the deadly kick that will transport our worn and patched double-leather into the waiting monkey post. My target is the space between the pile of school bags which make up one upright of our makeshift post and Peter’s heavily-planted bare right foot. The space is barely a foot wide, but that is more than enough to shoot through.

As I move toward my missile, I hear the crowd begin to cheer behind me. They can see what I am trying to achieve and, impossible as it seems, they are cheering me on to greatness. All around the arena, chants of “Tolusky! Tolusky!!” are picked up and echoed on till they rise up high and crash down into my ears and spur on my growing momentum. The dust around my feet whirls up excitedly creating a cinematic effect. My left foot is planted firmly into the ground just behind the double leather and my right begins the drive for the deadly shot. This is magical.

The dunlop on my right foot is hardening and expanding to envelope my whole foot. Through the soles of my now shoed left foot, I feel the studs sprout out underneath and create a firmer rooting to the ground. My focus is still on the ball but I can make out from the corners of my eyes that there are now socks and shin guards on my swinging lower limbs. Flashes of light appear and disappear in the periphery of my vision distracting me momentarily. I glance up in the middle of my hyper-timed drive to realize that Idris is now clad, like me, in full gear; as is Peter in his full goalie regalia. The stark white upright has replaced our school bags and shoots into the ground a good yard, at least, from Peter’s right foot. My target has increased, but then so has the distance between us.

My right foot connects with the glistening Brazuca with a resounding thud which silences the entire arena. I can see the ripple effect that the impact makes on the lush carpet grass around me even though that should only be visible from some distance. As the ball sails away towards my target, it spins wildly, clipping and sending grass flying up and away from it. It slowly comes out of hypertime, its speed increasing by over a thousand times in the process. Peter’s eyes cannot even see the shot anymore; it is that fast. This is proven by the big ‘O’ his mouth is frozen in. But for his neck swiveling to allow his eyes follow the ball as it rockets past him into the net, he doesn’t move. The crowd goes wild!

“You dey crase! Why you dey shoot like dat nah? You think say na full field you dey play?”

I blink away the sounds and images from my mind’s eye to come to terms with the realities of Idris yelling at me for my correct lago. Apparently my shot went wide. Very wide. Sailed over the fence and into the next compound.

“Eyss! Amokanshi! Odabi pe like ees you dat will be climb di wall and bring di ball o. Daz how Baba Lasisi catsh me last week.” says Peter as he rubs over his buttocks, reminiscing on last week when he got a nice walloping for his sojourns over the wall.

I break into a jog to gather enough speed to make the leap and first perch atop it.  Scrambling over the moldy not-so-high fence into the Ajagajigi compound is usually a simple feat, but not as simple as retrieving the ball itself. We always have to look out for Baba Lasisi. What are we expected to do? He won’t toss the ball back and he chases us around the compound with a stick every time we enter the compound, whether by gate or fence. This time seems easy enough though, no Baba Lasisi in sight. I grab the double-leather and also seeing the felele we lost just last week, make for it.

I am still bent over, arm outstretched and fingers wrapped around it when I hear a low, undoubtedly canine growl behind me.

Uh oh.

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Omo-nna – Yoruba slang for person of igbo descent
Double-leather – Soccer ball popular in the 90s designed with white pentagons and black hexagons and made from a layer of rubber and one of leather.
Monkey post – Makeshift miniature goalpost
Brazuca – New FIFA-approved soccer ball for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Lago – Slang for a missed shot
Felele – Small, single-layered rubber ball

Viva Las Gidi 1: Ajagajigi

I know… I know… I’m here to make amends.

This is the first of three serial posts which will go up today at 3hr intervals. That should help me catch up nicely on my Every Day This October challenge 😉

@88factor is a fellow illustrator and sometime last year, a beautiful piece he did called Viva Las Gidi inspired a series of tales I wrote for Art Stories on TNC. The illustration was a collage of sorts and so each story was inspired by a different section.

Please enjoy…

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Alhaji Ajagajigi throws the best parties in town. No one can ever rival an Ajagajigi owambe. If you ever catch wind that an Ajagajigi groove is going down near you on a certain day, you must do one of two things: one, move very, very far away the day before the party and do not return until at least twenty four hours after you have heard the party has finally come to an end. Two, if you will not run away, you must surrender entirely to the Ajagajigi groove machine. Cancel all appointments, turn away all visitors, exit your abode and yield yourself totally to the gyration that is about to go down!

Shortly after we moved into this area, my baby sister was born. As is customary in Yoruba land, she was to be named in a celebratory manner in the presence of family, friends and well-wishers eight days after her birth. On mama’s arrival from the hospital with our new bundle of joy, the neighbours came to wish us well, sneak a peek at the new baby and… inform my father that he may (would) have to shift his baby’s naming a day forward or two days back. Didn’t really matter which, papa could just not hold his daughter’s naming ceremony on the day his customs said it was to be held.

I remember Baba Lasisi licking the tips of seven of his gnarled fingers counting the days to the day Ajagajigi had announced he would be celebrating his latest marriage, to his wife number seventeen. Looking upon Baba Lasisi’s heavily scarified face, one could see the relish with which he licked each finger tip, like he could actually taste the shaki and brokoto and pomo and cow leg and orishirishi and turkey and lots and lots of beer that he would undoubtedly be having that day. He and the whole neighborhood had been invited, as they, we now, had been since Alhaji took wife number six and the neighbours seemed rather convinced that we could not possibly hold our own modest celebration a whole three streets away from the Ajagajigi’s. Papa was and still is a traditionalist and would have none of it, he would name his daughter on the day he was supposed to. He was not convinced. We have long since been convinced.

That fateful day, the realization of what an Ajagajigi party entailed began to dawn on us from early in the morning when we would awaken to what appeared to be a great exodus occurring outside our gate. The sound of rustling clothes and slippered feet accompanied by excited chatter and anticipatory chuckles making their way up to the Ajagajigi household would soon mingle with the talking… no, sorry, shouting drums. The shouting drums, ranging from the konkolo omele to the mighty Dùndúnwould be present all of that day… and all of that night. Tents would magically appear, coloured plastic chairs under the tents would follow, with iron tables of course, then the guests would fill the chairs, then their stomachs, and as the skies darken, the chairs would be pushed aside and the tables folded up to make room for the many green and brown and a myriad other colours of bottles that would then make their appearance, ushering in the gyration that is bound to come along when such bottles appear. The noises would begin to subside around four or five a.m. the day after.

That year, my small sister was not named until three days past the day she was supposed to be named. You see, an interesting occurrence was discovered. Because we had only recently moved into the area, many of our few guests had not previously been to our house and so, on reaching our neighbourhood and discovering a party going on, assumed it was ours and just settled in. The few who made it a duty to find the celebrants to greet them specially and make their presence known, would wander through many streets in search of us or our house until they would either tire and just settle into the party too or turn back to whence they came in frustration. When daylight returned, our guests would be found strewn in the streets all around alongside the staggering drunks and Ajagajigi guests who had ensured they were nicely entangled in the much refuse that it would take the entire day to clean up. These guests had to be cleaned and rested before they could join in any new celebrations. The ones who had returned home, after being placated over our old Nitel phones, would be given a new date and clearer, more precise directions to the house.

We were convinced, oh we were… No party like an Ajagajigi party. In the following years, we would time our celebrations, much like others in the area, to coincide with the Ajagajigi parties. This was found to be a rather economical way of celebrating… co-celebrating sef, our own ordinary little celebrations and turning them into a bigger thing than we could ordinarily afford. The only challenge which would then exist would be our guests locating each other… but what does it matter? The most important thing was that there were celebrants, there was a celebration and there were friends to celebrate with. One could celebrate, drink and gyrate with friends they were just meeting, could they not?

Me and mummy have been planning Yimika, my younger sister’s eighteenth birthday party. We hear Alhaji is about to take wife number twenty-two and that the celebrations will be occurring two weekends from now. Yimika turns eighteen next week thursday. Perfect timing.

The Way Here

I watch Ayomide sleep and can’t but wonder “How close am I to the real thing?” Does the child see me and think “Farce”? Am I good enough?

The road to get here was murky, thorny and stony all at once. Before I found myself here, it was easy to look into the eyes of the man I blamed for the childhood I detested. Now, I look back and see with pristine clarity that I perhaps judged the man too harshly. No, not “perhaps”. Without doubt, I judged him wrongly.

“Walk a mile in a man’s shoes…”

I cursed the man and his shoes. Who wanted to wear such smelly, stupid shoes? Then in trying to put as many miles as I possibly could between the man, his shoes and myself, I stepped right into the same shoes and walked the same miles I tried to run from. The more I tried to be different from him, the more I became him. What’s worse, the man I tried so vehemently not to become wanted as vehemently as I did for me to not become him. But in my foolishness at the time, I found his methods incredibly, and interestingly, foolish. Such foolishness.

I was wrong. Clearly.

It was when I must have just hit puberty and had begun to try to find my way for myself that I realized, or so I thought, how wrong his was. How could all the other kids have mums except me? How could I not even know her? …what she looked like? …if she loved me? She couldn’t possibly, and it was all his fault. Why else would she leave? Certainly couldn’t be my fault and if it wasn’t mine, whose could it be but his? It was my father’s fault my mother left and no one could tell me any different. It was my dad’s fault I had no mum…

Sigh.

Such utter foolishness.

With that entirely flawed notion in mind, I went against everything the man ever told me: the lies, the truths and the misyarns. Everything. Everything the man tried to protect me from, I flung myself at. I went shining lights into the places he’d always hid in darkness; went seeking the people he’d barred from me; went digging up the dead things he’d buried away. And everything I sought, I found.

I found out the man I thought was my father was not.

I found out the woman I expected would be my mother was my grandmother.

I found out the man that was indeed my father was long dead.

I found my mother wanted nothing to do with me. Never had.

I found that the man I had always thought to be my father was the most selfless person ever walked the face of the earth, as far as I was concerned.

But all this I found out too late.

“A man who knows not the mistakes in his-story is doomed to repeat them.”

Already, Morolake was pregnant and we were expecting Ayomide. Just like my father had impregnated my mother out of wedlock. Just like my father had been conceived before the man I call father had wed my grandmother.

Rolake and I were to be wed though, that was the plan. We would be wed after Ayomide was born. We would be the generation in which everything changed. We would not be like the men before me, bringing children into the world who would have no mothers. We would be different. We would be different.

We turned out to be the same, just not in the same way. Morolake died before Ayomide was even a year old, leaving me all alone to raise our child. And thus, once again everything was much the same. One man, one child.

Perhaps our entire lives are all an effort in futility. Perhaps everything we fight to not be are the very things we are cursed to become; doomed to endlessly repeat the cycle. Perhaps I shall strive all my life to be as good a father to my daughter as my grandfather was to me and she would only run run run from me and everything I try to teach her.

I see now that my grandfather, was indeed the best father and mother he could possibly be, considering all his shortcomings. A man worthy of emulation. An inspiration to me and to  my daughter. The way she looks at him, the way she stretches her hands for him to lift her, the way she says “gwampa”… Sigh. I wonder if I can ever be as good a father to her. I wonder if she will ever look at me with the same eyes. Eyes filled with pride and joy.

“A man who knows not his history…”

How can I show her? Show my daughter the shortcomings of all the men who came before her. How can I raise her without protecting her from the horrible realities of her past? Am I to repeat the mistakes of my father? Am I doomed to fail before I even begin?

Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t.

Now I see even clearer the dilemmas my father was forced through while raising me. Now that I am faced with same, I see the wisdom in his choices and I realise that I must protect my daughter from his ugly truths. I must maintain, for as long as I can, the hero vision she has of him. Wise, strong, dependable grampa.

“Gwampa will catch me before I fall.”

“Gwampa will always be there for me.”

“I love gwampa.”

I love grampa aka daddy. I appreciate him. He knows that now. I’ve told him in thought, word and deed. Now, I can only hope that one day, Ayomide will say also “I love you, daddy”. And if we are lucky, we won’t have to go through half the murky route my father and I had to go through before we arrived here.

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This was one of several pieces which made up a week long series titled For Our Fathers hosted by @Rolayomide on her blog</em>

Super Woman

You see them everyday but pay them nothing more than a cursory glance because you’ve come to see them as the norm rather than the exception. You forget that to achieve the feats they do under the kind of conditions they endure on a daily basis, they must be super human. Deep down, you want to admit to yourself that if you ever let yourself dwell even a little on their circumstances, you would probably crumble. But you do not dwell on them long enough.

When you see them now, you do not even think at all. Not of how they ended up in their ‘little’ predicaments. Not of the kind of shitty existences they must live. And certainly not of what hopes or dreams they must have. When you see them, you just honk your horn to get them out of the way as fast as they can so you can roll on by. They cross the road in front of your vehicle and they’re so sluggish that the people in the next lane chance you before you can rush forward. And then you arrive at work late. All because you were nice enough to let one woman like that across the road. Now, so scarred by such events, you try to kiss the bumper in front of you just a little bit everytime you’re in traffic, just so no one can cross in front of you. From the corner of your eye, you see them begging you to make room for them so they don’t have to walk all the way around you and your car but you just troway face, memories of the tongue-lashing your boss is infamous for haunting you. You send dem message? Bloody pauper women.

You’re on your way home from work when this one crosses in front of you at an intersection. Perhaps it’s because of the longness of the day you’ve had; or maybe it’s the relief you feel at the fact that you’re just around the corner from home anyway; but this time, you do not honk. For whatever reason, or perhaps the lack of it, you enter into a moment of sober reflection as the woman waddles across the road and you actually dwell on her for a few moments. Big mistake.

She is heavily laden. She is heavy laden all around. There is a bundle balanced on her head, one protruding from her front and another strung to her back. The bundle on her head is big. Bigger than anything anyone should have on their head. Yet, perhaps miraculously, her head and neck have not somehow sunk into the crevice between her shoulder blades. That bundle could contain anything: bales of okrika clothing you would never touch again in your life; or human skulls strung together tightly and padded by swaddling cloths on the outside to disguise their appearance; or the cinders of the hopes and dreams she strives everyday to stoke and keep alight for the children she bears on her back and within her.

The woman makes it safely across and is beginning to get swallowed up by the ocean of other desperate people and the yellow-painted vehicles which ferry them, when you make out something. The very small boy who is saddled to the woman’s back such that he can move nothing but his head turns his head in your direction. His big eyes catch your staring ones and you both hold each others’ gazes for a beautiful moment in time. Despite the distance and the motion, you see many marvels in that small frame of time. Marvels which go beyond the way the bright lights reflect off the shiny innocence in his eyes. Marvels which are darker than the darkness beyond your headlamps which is now swallowing him and his mother up. Marvels that are more likely than not only the figment of your over-active and now over-stretched imagination.

The mongoose behind you is honking away your reverie. And even as you ease your foot off one pedal and unto another, you have already forgotten what colour or colours the woman might have been wearing or whether her little boy was fair or dark of skin. You’ve forgotten if her hair was braided up into a convenient shuku or if she had a mismatched scarf tied around her crown. Only a few seconds later and you can’t remember any details about her appearance or if perhaps, she and her laden self were even nothing more than an apparition. That same woman could pass you tomorrow, even in that same spot and you would be unable to recognise her or her child. There’s one thing you can’t forget though, just that one thing…

The certainty in your mind that, regardless of her situation, her attitude towards it or what she may be doing to drag herself and her children out of it, she must be Superwoman.

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Road Race

Today’s tale is dedicated to the Yellow Mitsubishi crew. Thanks for the adventure this weekend.

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This was a race. Mr Alani knew it and the truck driver knew it too. Races of this sort were usually short, with both racers having different objectives and the race being over when the driver of the smaller vehicle achieved his (or hers).

Mr Alani drove a fifteen-seater bus of unknown make. It must have once upon a time been of a particular brand but now had recycled parts and stolen pieces from so many junkyards that identifying the original brand was an impossible task. The truck driver drove an eighteen wheeler twice-and-a-half as high as Mr Alani’s pot-pourri of a bus.

Mr Alani’s simple objective in this race was to get past the truck. The objective of the truck driver was to keep this from happening for as long as possible. Sure, there could be only one winner, but when?

For over ten minutes, Mr Alani had darted and shaunted, horned and charged, all to no avail. The truck kept swinging from one lane to the next, sometimes dangerously, using his bumbum to block the bus from shooting beyond. At times, the truck driver wouldn’t bother moving to block the bus. An approaching vehicle occupying the other side of the two-lane road would force him to dart back behind the truck. But for how long more?

Mr Alani was getting frustrated and soon, something drastic would happen. At this point, it was easy to imagine one or both vehicles flying off the road and into a ditch or one slamming into the other resulting in a huge ball of flame and Mr Alani’s passengers had already begun to plead with him to “take it easy o” and “leave the lorry nah”. But all fell on deaf ears. And then the bus fell silent when Mr Alani finally broke free and raced toward the front of the truck which couldn’t possibly move as fast. That wasn’t the reason for the silence though. The silence was because everyone waited with bated breath as the bus charged towards a tractor which had occupied the other lane of the interstate and was now flashing it’s lights desperately at the oncoming vehicles, neither of which showed any signs of slowing.

It was close. Real close. So close that when Mr Alani swung sharply in front of the truck, with inches to spare from crashing into the tractor, there were no inches to spare on the other side and so his right tail light was sprinkled and spattered all over the road, causing even the truck to slow dramatically immediately following the small impact. Mr Alani didn’t slow down though, he just charged on with a small, victorious smile on his face till he mounted the next hill and could no longer see the diminishing truck in his rearview mirror.

It wouldn’t even be until he arrived at the bus park where his last few passengers would alight that he would check the extent of the damage to his vehicle.

Click

“Eyss! Snap us.”

There was no way this dude was talking to me. I turned to look around me – for effect – to see if there was anyone else towards whom the directives may have been hurled.

“You nah. Snap us.”

The way I looked down at the great machine in my hands and then at the two standing on the red carpet just across from me, I was sure a message had now been passed. “I am not some wait and get photo snapper, I’m an artist”. Because normal people received those kinds of messages straight up, no need for words. But not these two. They followed my gaze to my hands and when I finally looked up at them, they beamed me their biggest smiles and struck a pose.

The best way I could think of to pass my message across was to simply turn around and walk away. The look on their faces would be priceless, even if not seeing it was the sacrifice I’d have to pay to achieve the full effect.

But that’s not what I did. What I did left even me surprised, and when in the coming years, I would think of my actions in that moment many times, I would still be unable to explain it…

I lifted the camera to my face and took a single burst of three shots, then emphatically lowered it again to let them know I was done, but again, the message was lost on the couple. Without even a “thank you” or “let me see di pishur”, they were gone, allowing the actual celebs on. And I would never see them again.

It would be many many years later, almost a decade in fact, that I would hang up the first and only print of the second of those three photos in my friend’s gallery and let the world see what has become my defining piece.

The photograph which has won me awards and earned me international recognition and given me access to kind and presidents and world leaders and taken me to the farthest reaches of the earth was almost never taken.

This photograph of an aged man and his bent wife, arm in arm and dressed in simple clothes, looking out of place on the red carpet of a long forgotten event.

Jury

I have a lot of drafts. A lot!

This is very unlike me. I procrastinate sometimes, but typically, once I take that first step, I’ll see it through. So for a long time, my wordpress had practically no drafts. I mighh have a ton of ideas in my head at any one point in time, but I would rarely jot or draft or sketch before I am ready.

So why do I have a lot of drafts?

I draft Art Stories here. If you need to know what Art Stories are, go here.

You should see the back end of TheNakedConvos. I bet even thetoolsman and the Alchemist get lost in there sometimes. Utter madness. So I draft here and then when I’m ready to post, I paste in there, fine tune and then publish. But the drafts here remain.

So yesterday, I added a new category to this my small cranny in the blogosphere. It’s called Every Day This October and I’ll be posting … Well, everyday this october. Duh, right? I know. I’m sorry.

Well, I thought I’d start off easy and serve you the very first Art Story which went up on TNC. This intro could serve as a post all in itself but…

Okay, let’s not overdo it. Enjoy the story, and the accompanying art 🙂

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Alhajai1

We walk in and as always, I can feel the judgmental glares being flung in our direction, smacking us rudely in the face and then dripping down to the floor. A shake of the head here, a grimace there. From a mere glance, they know our whole story, and there is great disdain towards him and pity towards me. His tall, imposing figure and my diminutive one do not help matters much. I can see what they see when they look at me. I can see it in their eyes as they judge him, indict him and sentence him to a thousand deaths.

I can see how wrong they are.

I can feel the righteous anger beginning to stir. It will soon claw its way out of me once again if not suppressed. I can feel its frustration, and so can he. He lazily puts his left arm around me to soothe the beast, calm it down some. But his action only releases the other beasts in the room. Hisses and dirty little whispers defile the air around us.

“Oma se o…”

“Animal. Old bastard…”

“All these dirty alhajis sef…”

I’m already spinning around to release my angered demon in response but the soothing arm around my shoulder has becoming steel, he won’t let me. He presses me close to his side, again, the wrong move. This time around, a chair or two scrape back in response as a customer or two rise to leave in disgust. I can’t take it anymore, I release my demon by bursting into sniffles and sobs. Hot angry tears are not the way my indignation had sought to be released, but they would have to do for now.

I can never understand these people, these people and their dirty judgmental selves. Can’t a girl choose who to love any longer? Why can’t a 20-year-old girl decide for herself? Why can’t I just…

The gentle squeeze I feel on my arm, just above my shoulder, a squeeze that is not from my husband’s hand, is the one that opens pandora’s box. It is barely a touch but it speaks volumes.

I understand. I’m here if you ever want to talk. I can rescue you, just let me.

The demon is unleashed. This time around, the husband’s steel will not, cannot, hold it back.

“Don’t you dare touch me again, you dirty whore! Who told you, any of you, that you can judge me or my husband? Did I come to you people to beg for help? Did I tell you I did not love my husband as he loves me? I can marry whosoever I choose regardless of what anybody thinks. Unu agaghi ekwu maka nke gbasara unu. Anuofia!”

I see the desired effect as I scan the room. Confusion. Shock. Remorse. The igbo was a nice touch, wasn’t it? I’m not so good at it, growing up in Lagos is to blame, but the chances of these people in the heart of Ogbomoso being able to tell that is highly unlikely.

My eyes come to rest on the middle aged woman who touched me, she is smiling. I am confused.

She replies, “Unu abuo yiri ka di na nwunye. A na m eche otu mu na di mu no mgbe m dika gi. Ka mkpuruobi ya zuru ike na ndokwa. Lee anya, a na m ahu panti gi.” I was just thinking how you both make a cute couple. In fact, you remind me of my husband and I when I was about your age, God rest his soul. I only meant to let you know your skirt isn’t quite zipped up at the back. I am shocked.

I have judged this woman and all these people, perhaps too hastily. It appears I am guilty of the same crimes of which I have accused them, in thought and in words. The tears keep pouring as I look from my kinswoman to my husband. I am remorseful.

The end.

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See ya tomorrow 🙂