But we are goats. We are the goats that people chase away whenever they come close to them. For instance, we have learnt to hide ourselves wherever people are. Like goats do, we move cluelessly, aiming, targeting what we want at a particular time and chewing another in our mouths. When they chase us, we come back. We don’t really go far. We lie in wait for them; waiting for them to be distracted from whatever they are doing; and then, we go again. If we are lucky, we will not be seen.
And we would eat to our satisfaction. A mother would spread her beans on the ground outside because her daughter had poured water inside them or the bag of beans was soaked in water. We must go there to see if we can feed ourselves. If we are lucky, she might have some friends who visit her in her shop to gossip.
They would stay there, laughing uncontrollably and we would advance, eat as many beans as we want to eat. Whenever she realizes herself and she sees us on her beans, she would carry a shoe and hurl it at us. We would dodge and run, but never too far, not to a particular place. We always stopped midway and come back when she had continued laughing with her friends and advance on her beans again.
Like this, we survive and live. We’ve learnt every easy way to make ourselves better. Because every time we break in, like the sweats running down our forehead, we cower, we become defensive, we become helpless; unable to position ourselves into what we are.
We are no longer beautiful people as you have known us before. Situations beyond our control have broken us. Problems ended us before we were born by our mothers.
Like every serious worker, we gather in packs, watching and hoping that something good will come out of every step we take. Sometimes we wonder how those children living in Lagos houses survive. Likewise, those children who are not in the street, how do they survive? If they strive just like we do.
Or maybe they don’t really care about how to survive. When you look at the tall houses in Lagos, you realize there are children living there. There are children born nearly just like our mothers gave birth to us. There are children who have the same features on their faces and bodies. They live up there, in skyscrapers and in mansions, and you would wonder if they pass through what you pass through every day in the streets of Lagos. You wonder if people chase them as they chase you every day for nothing.
You wonder if they actually watch two adults living at a bus stop making love in the middle of the night. You wonder if they listen to the moans of two lovers under the bridge when most parts of Lagos have gone to sleep. You would wonder if they had seen armed robbers gathered in a nearby bush praying to God for protection and success in their midnight operation. You keep wondering if these children have ever seen some policemen conniving with these armed robbers to break into houses or banks.
They (police) supply guns to them (armed robbers) for 30% of their ill-gotten money. This is yes and amen. Sometimes you wonder if some children have ever watched their own brother’s blood soil and warm the earth. This is not me writing, this is my emotion telling you how life has spat children like us into the deepest part of the earth to die. Does this move you? Try not to listen to yourself when you mourn about this land; it has nothing for you. This message may not return when it should return, but it’ll surely do so.
We are no longer beautiful people. Our eyes have seen much more than they should have seen. Our ears have heard much more than they should have heard. Our mouths have spoken much more than it should have. We are no longer beautiful, but contaminated children.
People see us and face another direction. They see us and spit us out, believing that our lives have no meaning anymore. Every day when we wake up, we don’t expect anything to come our way but death. Every human is like a flower; life plucks us at any time. We look at the sky, we smile, hoping that it will smile at us back, but it doesn’t often. We look on sometimes. We don’t know what we would do, but we look on with no answer. We are like balls; life kicks us here and there. Our destinies are nameless doctors and nameless nannies that know nothing about healing and recuperation. When our tears fall from our eyes to the ground, does it join the water we drink every day? If it does, it means living is as meaningless as the life of goats.
On a cold, scary night such as this, we listen to “How To Fail” with Elizabeth Day, featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talking about how she failed to save her parents from death. Almost all of us have failed in this one aspect of life. In fact, this was the fourth time we gathered outside our house to talk about this irreparable failure.
How could we not save our parents from dying? How we could not chase away the ailment eating deep into them. How we could not cry to save them. How could we not sell our clothes or beg the doctors to save them for us? They died right before our very eyes in the street. We learnt many years ago to blame ourselves for the deaths of others.
We are not saying that death is a leveller, because it has done us so many bad things, but then, there is that shared grief, that darkness, that shared failure among us, and because a person as powerful and wealthy as Chimamanda had this failure, then, why should we keep living daily on our own?
We are here learning how to look a child on the face and study its smile. For every river that doesn’t know how to swallow every foot that comes to it is not meant to be a river. Some pains will not go, they’ll keep itching until one’s death
What did they tell you about love? Our mothers didn’t teach us anything about love. We grew up to find love but it always goes immediately. One said to the other
“Go find a girl and love. It is a
“I will try to love a girl if she
accepts my kind of person” another said
“Do you even know how to love”
one asked another
“I wasn’t taught what love is”
Another replied to One.
Yesterday was 5 years since sickle cell took you away. You were one of the reasons we had lived to this moment. Yesterday made it five years of trauma, pain, and agony without you. We begged you to stay a little longer with us, but you said you wanted to go and rest.
Today, we are at home in our sack clothes, our faces painted black, listening to Maroon 5 – memories and Enya’s flora secret, crying. Last night, when you breezed into our room, you whispered quietly. Obinna, your boyfriend, tried to grab your hand, but you were too swift to go, and your voice was calmer and gentler. He couldn’t pretend anymore. He told us everything, because, like the negros —“a brother knows another brother’s story”.
Today, your mother asked us when we were going to heal. We didn’t answer her. We know that time doesn’t heal all. We would live with these memories till our last day on earth. However, with your pictures scattered all over the room, there is no way we are going to heal. You were a friend to all of us. There won’t be any shoulders like yours till eternity. We remembered all. We remember those songs we sang together.
The days at the beach were five of us; Emeka held two bottles of Campari, Richard swirled here and there and then, Obinna held your waist, ready to dance away his shame. I remember the day in the clubhouse in Surulere. We took some pictures with African China and then Olamide and Wizkid. It was during those days that Wizkid was developing his art. There was no Starboy or Wizkid FC. He was still under Empire Mate entertainment. You once told us that he was your favourite.
Then, Obinna said he was going to break up with you. He’d preferred Davido to Wizkid. There was a day when both of you were fighting over who was going to allow their favourite to play first. I could remember that I carried the DVD player outside with the remote controller when the argument heated up. You chased after me while Obinna locked the door behind you. These beautiful things and moments died where you died. I remember our days in the classroom.
The days in Mama Suwe restaurant. The days in the hospital, how many times do we have to rush you to the hospital? The many times you suffocated in your own breath. The many days you spent without opening your eyes. The many days you called and asked me, or rather Obinna to pray for you because you were losing it all.
The tears we shared, all of us: Emeka, Obinna, Richard, Odion and I-I do remember. I do remember them. The pain you narrated to us softly while we sat by the side of your bed. For today and those days you were not here, we were totally useless boys, roaming the streets for nothing.
Today, I summoned the courage to write our pains out to the world. Perhaps it would be a comforter to your mother. She has become a shadow of her old self since you left her all alone with her troubling thoughts. Remember, Anyafulugo, not all runners remember their way home.
When I passed through Akoka yesterday, I sat at our favourite spot. I didn’t tell others that I was going there, but I went anyway. I picked up those flowers by the orchard tree. That was your favourite flower. I picked a soldier ant too. I turned it around, held it up and looked into the face, like you always did on our many trips to that place. Later, I dropped it on the ground and allowed it to crawl away. I have no reason to kill it. You’d always told us the importance of letting every ant live like us.
While I was coming back from Akoka, I passed through Mama Suwe’s Restaurant. She asked me how I had been coping. She asked me about Obinna, your boyfriend. You remember she doesn’t even know who’s befriending you. Lol. I told her I was doing fine. She says she misses you every day. She showed me where she kept the clothes you bought for her. She showed me your favourite plate in her restaurant. She said she hasn’t served anyone with that plate for the past five years. She kept it for you, to remember you. It will take grace for us to see someone like you again. But for now, hunger means nothing to us as long as the food is not coming from you, Anyafulugo.
Your brother called Obinna today. After that day, they fought because of you. He hasn’t called him. Obinna didn’t pick up until he called my line. I heard you in his voice. I heard the echoes of your laughter in his. I couldn’t talk to him. Obinna couldn’t talk to him either. It was Emeka that dared to talk, and while they were talking and laughing, Emeka put the call on a loudspeaker so that we could hear what he was saying. After his call ended, I slept, and woke up later to cry. I wanted the day to go dark so that Obinna could rush into the room to tell us that you had come to see us. Anyafulugo, I don’t know when we’ll heal. I don’t know when these tears will go away, but one thing is for sure, they won’t go away as long as we live here.
I was able to frame your picture as you said. That picture of you at Elegushi Beach, where you were in a yellow bikini, the one Obinna bought for you last December. Every one of us loved it. I hung it on the wall in the room. Some of our course mates who visited us in the hostel said it looked beautiful.
“God took the first selfie when he made Anyafulugo and I took the first glance when I saw you” Obinna confessed the first day I brought the picture home and he held the frame to his bosom.
I met you a few years ago in the Department of Communication at the University of Port Harcourt. I took my younger brother there in 2015 for his registration. He had recently gained admission to the school. When I saw you, our eyes locked. You paused, and I paused. We paused at the same time, looked at each other, and smiled. We didn’t know why we smiled, but we smiled anyway. I still remember the very way you smiled. Later, we met again at the University of Lagos. We exchanged numbers.
The day you visited me at the hostel, you met Obinna and likewise the rest of the gang. At first, I thought we could start up something, but it was Obinna that your heartbeat was for. I had to let it go as long as you would be all right with him. Ever since then, I have been cool with Obinna and you. Why did you have to go this way? The mistake of your father and your mother taking you home so early.
You were stronger than sickle cells and life itself. You were bold, courageous, and kind-hearted. You were going to be the most influential woman that I have ever met, but you left before the sunset.
My pains are nearer to me; I could touch them. The days are gone when they told us to be brave as men. We are no longer brave. We are vulnerable men. Men who are not stones. Men who cry for the love of their lives. Men who love endlessly. We are no longer the men of the past; we are as vulnerable as ever. We are no longer those men who hide their pains and allow them to drain them.
Each time I walked past your house; I dreaded entering there to even say “hi” to your mother. I am scared of how she would look at me or how I would see her grief. The last time I entered, she told me that your dog had given birth to four puppies. I saw them. They were pretty puppies. I wondered what you would have done if you had been alive.
I have dreadlocks now. You wanted it. I could remember how you loved guys with dreadlocks. You wanted Obinna to lock his hair, but, because he was from a fanatic Christian home, he
couldn’t. Remember how we all teased and laughed at him the night he said his mother would kill him if she ever found out that he was wearing dreadlocks. Because of you, I have locked my hair now. I took some pictures with it at Osas Super Studio. I didn’t forget to wear my earrings either. I don’t know how you would get to see it. Besides, Obinna and I recorded a song for you at the studio. Our first ever recorded song in the studio. I don’t know how you would get to listen to it.
Obinna made us fried rice this afternoon. He cooked it just the exact way you taught us. But we couldn’t eat it. We shared the rice on six plates. We waited for you to come home. We invited you to come to eat with us, but you were nowhere to be found. Since you didn’t come, we left ours. Perhaps we will throw them away when night comes. Do you see? Love is a tormentor, just as emotion is light in chaos.
While at the market the other day to buy a book, an old woman told me that ghosts move around, watching over their loved ones. I don’t know how true this is, but it got me thinking. Are you seated beside me or Obinna in the room watching us in our confused state? LOL. I would arrange my clothes right now. I would go to Badagry. I would stay in the same hotel where we had our first date before Obinna happened. I would ask the manager to show your signature again. I want to see it and remember how fast you used to sign it in those days. Do you remember that we got to Badagry very late that day?
I could remember that I lost my wallet on the bus and it was you who paid for the three days we spent there. We had hurriedly pushed the door open and found ourselves in the bed. A few minutes later, we were breathless. It was a magical night.
Goodbye has no shame or conscience. It has always chosen to appear at everything’s loss. Until we remember again to not forget. You are still: beautiful. Brilliant. Intelligent. A woman and more.
We have soiled our land with blood. We have desecrated our houses with the blood of the innocent. A mother who sent her son to a public school down the street has waited patiently for him to come back home, but he didn’t. She cried for many days and went to the government house, but they were busy looking into the year’s budget instead of her missing son. She learnt to bottle it up. She learnt to roam the streets in search of nothing in particular but emptiness. This is what we have turned our home into. Our home has become the mouth of a shark, thirsty for blood, thirsty for sweat, and we made it this way. A wife once said goodbye to her soldier husband, and he turned and kissed her on the forehead. And that was the last time she could see her husband.
The only time he came home again was as a piece of breaking news. They said he was blown, his head flew over a fence and then landed on the ground. We made this land this way. We are no longer as people as we used to be. We wanted more power. We wanted more wealth and we thought the only way to get there was to get our brothers and sisters into it. To soil our hands with the blood of our mothers and fathers.
A teenager once was caught with the head of his girlfriend. He told them he was looking for money. Do you blame him? Do you ask a goat why it goes about for every piece of yam it sees on the ground? Or do you ask a hungry child why he eats the food his mother kept on the dining table? Even the mother of the said teenager won’t ask him where he got his wealth if he had not been caught in the act.
This is the very way we have structured our lives. We come back to hurting ourselves more often than we expected. If Emeka’s mother had not wanted much from him, perhaps she would have not compared Emeka to other boys who had bought their houses in Banana Island for their mothers, or bought them houses on Unity Estate, or Diamond Estate, or bought them the latest Benz; perhaps, Emeka could have not thought of going to visit the Asaba woman ‘to be cut soap for.’ Do you see? Sometimes, we lose concentration on the fire we set by ourselves.
We are no longer those people our parents wait to hear how we struggled to make it. We are more social media freaks than normal people. We want to know what is trending online. We want to know who is to be bashed or trolled on Twitter. We want to live fake lives on social media, buy the most expensive car on social media, and post beautiful pictures on social media to make our friends or neighbours jealous. We want them to see the latest house we live in. So, we go to the most beautiful houses in Lekki, Ikoyi, Victoria Island and some other beautiful places, stand in front of them, take pictures and then hashtag it:
“Behold my latest house, built within the
space of one month. What God cannot do, does not exist!”
“From grass to Grace. God is ever
The next day, we probably pay the security men to get into the apartment. We sit on the sofa opposite the 56-inch flat-screen television, hung perfectly on the wall of the parlour. We snap with a Snapchat filter and then straight to Instagram, to show our friends how good our parlour is. Then, we borrow clothes from friends, or sometimes, if our friends refuse to lend us their clothes, we hire them. There are many lucrative businesses now. People who own boutiques put their clothes on hire to slay queens and slay kings.
After snapping with the so-called hired clothes, the pictures go straight to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to show our friends how big we have become. We want to feel included. We want to tell others that we have arrived. We have arrived online while, in reality, we are living in slums and life has been dealing with us mercilessly.
Our parents are hungry at home, hoping and praying that the daughter or the son they spent a huge sum of money to send to school, established or left a business for, would remember them at home; but no, you really want to feel among them. You want to ball with the high and mighty.
Isn’t it obvious the number of sick celebrities who cannot afford their hospital bills come online to beg for the money we have these days? Is this not what we have reduced ourselves to? Is this not what social media has turned us to? We no longer have human feelings and empathy. Every dog is let loose. Every cat is a holy cat. No more human farts. No human goes to the toilet again. Do we? No!
These days, people want you to tiptoe around their feelings while they tap dance all over yours. While they forget that not all heroes wear capes, we have become something beyond beauty. We are ugly people right now. We are no longer beautiful people, but broken people trying to fit into every sphere of the society we created.