November 2020

The occasion is very important and you must be there. The goddaughter you’ve waited for all these years is finally here. Actually, you wanted a godson. You planned on telling people he is one of your many nephews, when you post on social media. They won’t know you are not even slightly related. This ‘nephew’ will be special to you, one you’d watch grow, whose questions you’d find answers to, and with whom you’d play chess. Of course, he’d have to be taught how to play it first—by you—and it would be all fun and very bonding. You really do not plan to teach him all the tricks, though. That way, you can beat him all the time. Or almost all the time if he is anything like his dad, your friend—shrewd, calculating, resolved.

Long before he ever becomes a teenager, you will tell him a lot of things about being a smart millennial, and tutor him much on how to be brave and dream big, whenever he visits you on holidays—if his mother agrees.

At twelve, you’ll have made him read ‘Think big’ by Ben Carson, or one of Dale Carnegie’s self-improvement books. The Leader in You: How to Win Friends, Influence People and Succeed in a Changing World will be fine. He’ll also get to hear both truth and lies from you about yourself, and by the time he is fourteen, you are already his hero!

But no. All of that won’t happen.

It’s a baby girl. And girls certainly do come with a different kind of manual. They’re armed with various proclivities. They have innate complexities you just can’t figure!

You must not be reluctant to present the gift you bought. Yes, it’s blue, but who cares these days? Cloth is cloth. Even your mother who hoped you’d be a girl went ahead to use all the pink clothing, ‘girlish’ socks and ribbons she had bought before your arrival. After your birth, she stopped trying to have a baby girl, one who would look exactly like her—why must her beauty go to waste, without birthing a replica? Poor woman. Now you also must stick to the silent creed: it is important to get yourself a beauty queen or something close, like each of your five older brothers. Your mother subtly rejected all the ones you briefly fancied.

She didn’t kneel down properly.

Her laughter is too loud.

Who visits an in-law to-be empty handed?

So off went Cynthia, Abiola and Salewa. Into the arms of other men—not that you care much. You dodged behind one of the shelves at the supermarket the other day, so Abiola wouldn’t see you as she pushed her trolley slowly down the aisle, a baby in one arm. But unluckily for you, your hand hit the woman turning the corner, and your can of shaving powder, the only item you went to get, flew out of your grip, landed quite loudly and suffered a bad dent—this did not go unnoticed by everyone on the row.

Your eyes met Abiola’s as her baby started to cry, perhaps frightened by the little disturbance you caused. You smiled (Why did you?) She hissed. You clumsily picked the damaged can—you didn’t expect her reaction, (after all, what was so wrong in telling a lady you don’t think you can put up with waking up to the sight of a tiny mole on her nose?) She pets her baby as she walked away. You are not worth a ‘Hello’. For that, you did not shave for two whole weeks! Your dented can of shaving powder became a sworn enemy that you paid to bring home.

But now you are clean shaven. Clean shaven and dressed in your favorite mint green Agbada, and on your way to Nikasen Events Centre. That is where very upper middle class Kwarans hold their ceremonies.

Even if your friend is still in debt over the cost of all the failed IVF procedures, this naming ceremony has no other befitting venue—one does everything for a child who took six years to arrive. It is as simple as that.

Inside your car, you switch on two things: the AC and the radio. The coolness spreads. It kisses your face lovingly and quickly slips under your agbada, where your armpits are beginning to gather sweat. But the radio must soon go off—you’re already tired of listening to updates about it. Especially not now that you are on your way to a social gathering of possibly more than a hundred people. You mumble some prayer and check your glovebox: it is there. You will use it as soon as you enter your car, immediately after the occasion, on your way back home. You’ll remember to rub every single spot on your hands, carefully, for much more than thirty seconds. As for during the program, you will be in front, right beside the wife of the priest who is to christen the newborn. She certainly does not have it. You haven’t seen her sneeze.

Ever.

Not even when you both dated back in secondary school. She was your junior by a year, and you both enjoyed sneaking around the Physics lab to steal kisses and exchange letters.

Now she’s married to your priest. And pretends she only vaguely remembers you.

As just a schoolmate.

But you are certain you are a passionate kisser—surely, she hasn’t forgotten the feel of your 16-year-old lips on hers. She must remember it each time she says ‘God bless you my brother’ on those rare Sundays you happen to exchange greetings.

Or maybe old things are really passed away. Including the memories thereof.

You are driving too slowly and you know it, consumed by how far everyone else seem to have moved on and up so fast, leaving you behind. You are driving slowly, at the speed rate of your very life. So, it is no surprise when someone lightly bumps your car from behind.

Argh…!

‘Are you sleeping?!’ The man who hit you has come up to your side. He aims his heavily contorted face at you before he speeds off.

You step on the accelerator, too, to the carol of loud honks and exclaims. Everyone makes way for you.  You feel a rush of happy hormones: even though your goods are stuck, and the prophet who warned you strongly about the shipping business may have been right, at least you are still alive and well, the plague hasn’t knocked on your front door.

To be continued……………………

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