You know you have become an ajebo when you find one dead Daddy Longlegs in your bathing water and, after scooping it out, you hesitate, grab a towel, run to the kitchen, break open a fresh bottle of Dettol and empty two caps in the bucket before proceeding. This is a sure sign. When you are handed a plate of iwu ngwo and your spoon hovers over it because there, under the thin strips of cassava, you see a small shiny insect taking a leisurely stroll. But village brother to the left and village cousin to the right are wolfing it down without scrutiny, so you rotate your plate round and start to eat from the side opposite to the strolling arthropod, and when you get to the vicinity of its ambulation you pat your stomach and announce loud enough for all to hear, ‘aho e ju’. I am full. And swiftly cast plate and insect aside. This too is a sure sign.
It’s been that kind of weekend, you know, one in which I studied the bandaged hand of the roadside roasted corn seller, and wondered if the incomparable pleasure of striping the crisped ube of its purple skin so its sour sweetness could blend seamlessly into a mouth full of meticulously masticated corn, was worth the risk of sharing this girl’s unknown ailment. Well, I finally decided it was, yes, but my brother what other sign do I need than the length of time it took, this evaluation of risk and reward, to know that I am now an ajebo? Or the fact that I who buried and mourned my father till the day I said, I will not mourn again, please, o gini? Life must go on. Then stood staring into the freshly dug grave of his sister and thought – Damn! I thought I was immune to this thing. Damn! Because the baby on the flight back, two rows in front, and looking back made me want to start making funny faces, with his round eyes like tear drops, making me wonder why there is so much hate in the world.
Or the airport taxi that waylaid me right out of the doors of Arrivals trying to sell me a N6000 ride back to town. Is it not N5000 again? Ok. Let us not argue – I told him – Let me see if someone will agree to take for N5000. And he buckled. Walking past me, he buckled and said – Oya come, Oga, rather than lose the entire goat is it not better to just lose its tail? Ever attentive for fresh metaphors, I said – What? And he said, Is it not true? To God who made me, Oga, I have been here for 3 days waiting my turn. We are over 700 taxies here. Is it not better I take the N5000 and go than keep waiting in this stinking place? And he lamented the lack of jobs, his desire for a new one, the distance to his home in Masaka. And I caught a fleeting look of his eyes in the rearview mirror, dull and crinkled with worry. Not my business. But the ajebo in me was stricken. What can we do in the face of overwhelming odds? I got to my destination and paid him his N6000.
Would he have come back if I didn’t? I don’t know. Because he drove away with my phone lying where it had slipped out as I struggled to pull out that extra N1000. You know how it is, patting your pockets at your doorstep, realizing the car speeding off is carrying your contact list, pictures of your wife and children, irreplaceable videos of moments in time you can never recover. Like the movies, I thought – I’ll cut him off! So, I ran down a side-street, sprinting like the day I lost the 400m final in JSS. That day too I ran my heart out. Like that day, I was seconds from the top of the road when he went roaring past, unnoticing of my flailing arms. So, I jumped into a nearby taxi and gasped, ‘Follow that car!’ But this is not a Hollywood movie. No. My very Nigerian taxi driver refused to start his car until I told him what exactly was pursuing me. That meant catching my breath first while all the time watching my phone disappearing down the road. No matter. I went back home and called the phone from my wife’s own. He answered. In that time, he had gotten to Lugbe already. But turned immediately and came back, holding out the phone, apologizing profusely, swearing he had no idea he had a phone he could have sold for thousands lying in his backseat. And I smiled at him and thought to myself – Hmm. This one too na ajebo…
#tolerance #originality #nsw7 #madeinnigeria
If you like things like this, then keep a date with me on Friday 30 Sep 7pm, or Sat 01 Oct 6pm, or Sun 02 Oct 6pm where I will be presenting ‘MADE IN NIGERIA’ a performance poetry production that explores key aspects of our 102 years history as Nigerians, and the distinct characteristics we have evolved in that time. It’s the 7th Edition of the Night of the Spoken Word (NSW7) Poetry Show, and buying tickets online qualifies you for a raffle draw. No lie. You could win a weekend for 2 at the Transcorp Hilton. For updates follow me on twitter and Instagram @nswpoetry, and like our facebook page – dikechukwumerijensw. Live Life Your Way.
Cover Image: http://naij.com
This is also part of our #LoveNaijaSeries. Read the first, ‘Singing the Song of Wrong’ Here