There is a boy beside me; a small boy. He is eating bread and akara. The woman beside me is eating bread and akara too. Everybody in the bus is eating bread and akara. But I do not join them. I do not follow the multitude to do evil. The woman offers me some but I smile and say thanks. The boy beside me is a small boy, perhaps 4 or 5 yesrs old. He has dreadlocks; real dreads not those tiny spiky things people carry about these days. There is a crucifix hanging from one of his locks. He is one of those boys who grow up wondering why their parents never cut off this mass of protein on their head. They get worried and one day, someone makes fun of them in class and they’re like, ‘That’s it! I’m cutting off this shit!’ And then mummy sits this small boy down and tells him the story of Samson. And then she tells him that he is no ordinary man. Hr is from the lineage of prophets. He is a prophet and his hair is a sign of his prophetic anointing. He should never cut it off. Such a pity: the things that happen around us…
SIDENOTE: If you watch Nollywood movies, you’ll be able to imagine this better. Be happy. At least you’ve seen one advantage of Nollywood movies. So stop crying over Game of Thrones and grab your copy nooooowwwwww!
The small boy beside me is sleeping. His eyes are closed but his mouth is open. It’s funny how our body can put us to shame when we are not watching. But I’m not thinking about this sleeping prophet. I’m thinking of something else. There is a girl in my heart and the thought of her will not let me rest. I now know why movies like Titanic happen. I know why songs like The Scientist exists. I’m comprehending the love puzzle bit by bit. The more I understand, the more I realise there is still more I don’t know.
Some weeks ago, she asks me what we are? Classmates? Friends? Just fellow writers? Or something more intimate. I smiled and said whatever she wanted us to be. And then she smiled too and dropped her head on my shoulder. I swallowed. I think I am in love. But there is a boy beside me.
There is a boy beside me. We live together, eat together, laugh and crack jokes together. We enjoy life. It’s a funny way of living. When we have no money, we laugh at ourselves.
SIDENOTE: One of Nigeria’s greatest writers who lectures in the United States, when asked what she missed about her country, she said Laughter. ‘I miss the laughter. The way we laugh at things in Nigeria. We laugh at our stupid leaders. We laugh at our deplorable condition. We laugh at ourselves. And that’s how we survive. The laughter, I miss that.’
When we have money, we cook and then no one wants to wash the plates. And then one day I decide to wash the plates. He comes back and sees the plates washed and thinks there is food because the only time we wash our plates is when we have food. So he opens the neat pot and meets it empty. I laugh at him. He frowns and then laughs at himself. Laughter, Nigeria’s personal medicine.
This a very different journey. I am going home. But that’s not what makes it different. The difference lies in the desperation with which I am going. Some 3 hours before now, I was punching keyboards, writing a CBT. Now, I’m on my way home. Usually, I wait a day or two before I go home or even decide to not go at all. The first time I tried this was during the last semester break. It was the Easter period and I did not want to be home. I needed some personal time with myself so I called mum and told her I won’t be home.
‘You are not coming home for Easter?’
‘I am not coming home for the break’
‘So you won’t come home for Easter?’
‘I’ll be fine, mum.’
‘But you won’t come for Easter?’
‘No mummy. I will do the Easter here.’
I did Easter in Awolowo Hall. Woke up late, stretched my body and gave thanks to the Father for sending the Sin to save me. It was not that ceremonious. But it was glorious.
But this time around, I am running home. This last semester was a wicked one. Empty stomach. Empty pockets. Dry books. Postponed exams. Annoying humans. Unstable heart. Thoughts of love. And then pimples.
All these and many more are the reasons why I am in this bus, with this boy beside me, on my way home. Nothing can be more glorious.
The boy I live with laughs and I laugh too. We laugh a lot just like every other Nigerian. We laugh at a country without a president. We laugh at a state without a governor (LAUTECH). We laugh at ASUU strike. We laugh at our campus. We just laugh.
And then we are laughing one day when he suddenly asks me,’What would you see in a girl that will make you want to marry her?’
‘Errr…I don’t know. She must be a Christian-‘
‘All the spirituals apart… I know them already!’
‘Okay. She must be… I don’t know, guy.’
‘Come on, think!’
‘Okay… She must be brilliant. She must be a reader; a lover of literature. Not necessarily a writer. I would love a girl on low cut or some natural black hair or some extremely long dreadlocks! Mehn, I love dreads. And I would love her to have a cool set of teeth. Seeing I don’t have one, hers would complement.’
He laughs and I laugh too.
‘I dunno…maybe… I would loves girl with glasses. A brilliant girl who reads and keeps a low cut and uses glasses. See, I don’t know…’
‘Dreadlocks, glasses, teeth, literature; you sound like Tyrion Lannister or something!’
We laugh again and I look at my phone. She has all: cool teeth, glasses, literature and the hair. I look at the boy beside me and he is sleeping already, his big mouth open.
The boy beside me is sleeping too. I wonder how people manage to sleep during a journey. Of course I sleep too but not all the time. The driver is feeling sleepy. I can see it in his eyes and the heavy bags beneath them. He yawns and the woman beside him exclaims.
‘Driver wan sleep oo!’
Everybody wakes up! The two Hausa men are the back are shouting something no one understands. The woman beside the boy beside me is shouting at the sleeping boy who has now woken up. Someone suggests that we park and let the sdriver rest. I give the creature a piercing look and he shuts his mouth. I am not about to spend another hour on the road because the driver is dizzy.
The driver clears his throat and tells us not to worry. He will take us home safely. The boy beside me returns to his sleep. I try to return to my heart but the girl within will not let me rest. I go to my gallery and look at her picture. The woman by my right smiles and asks,
I look her in the eye and say, ‘No.’
She is still smiling as she says, ‘So she is your….tolotolo?’
I shake my head and plug my earpiece. Tolotolo…such a pity, the stupid names we give our ladies. Sugar, Pepper, Doll, Mama, Lost Rib and now, tolotolo. Humanity? Some of us should donate our brains to monkeys if we won’t use it.
It is dark. Everyone is sleeping. I am on my bed thinking about my day. I got home around 6pm and this is 9pm. I pick up my phone and dial her number. She picks up after a while.
‘Hello,’ she says in a dreamy voice.
‘Hey, did I wake you?’
‘Er..I was sleeping.’
‘Sorry dear. I’ll call you back,’ I say and cut the call. My heart is beating like drums. The girl in my heart is sleeping but my heart isn’t. I close my eyes. And then I am dreaming.
In my dream, I am chasing a tolotolo. I run after the poor thing and it runs from me, flapping its feathers. And as I am about to catch it, someone calls my name and I look back.
My phone wakes me up. The time is 11:37pm. She is calling.
‘Hello.’ I try not to sound sleepy.
‘Oh…Tobi. Did I wake you?’
‘Oh no…it doesn’t matter.’
‘I’m sorry…it’s just that…I find it hard to sleep.’
‘Should I come online.’
I can hear her smile over the phone. ‘Yes.’
I cut the call and go online. This time around I am alone with the girl in my heart. This time around, there is no boy beside me. My heart is at peace.
PS. Thank you, Michael, for delivering me from the pit of laziness