TODAY, 2014-02-01, 6:15a.m-7:40a.m
Too early and I’m defeated by the darkness;
Too late, i can see too well, and I’m swamped by vertigo;
Some weeks ago, someone had to bring me down the bridge; Ikeja ‘underbridge’ that is.
Today, I train my eyes to the ground and put one foot in front of the other.
I clear half of Awolowo, half of Oba Akran, the whole of Adeniyi Jones and Aromire. It feels good.
I deliberately go through Ikeja underbridge. I want to walk amongst people, feeling their waking strength, and for some, their weariness as they trudge into another day. R. Kelly assures me that ‘if I believe it/I can achieve it/with Jesus on my side’ (the version with Bishop T. D Jakes), and I’m like, “yeah? Like when you abused those little girls? Get outta here!” then yank the headphones off.
The sounds intrude, assault; a cacophony of voices. I listen to them, unfiltered. I absorb it all; my blood hums.
I walk, and think ‘do they know who I am? Who walks among them?’ I am nothing. I am everything. I am a God, walking these grounds. Fashola’s Lagos. Gods’ earth (the apostrophe is not a mistake).
I don my haughty expression, the one Kollins described to me when I walked into a club one day and he didn’t recognise me for five whole seconds. Like I own these streets. Like I said, I am a God.
Yes, Gods, all of us. Ancient and modern. Foreign and traditional. we walk these streets, and this beautiful morning, we are out in force. Modern ones like me. Like all of them, these smiling faces, these scowling countenances, we are Gods. Among us in this crowd on the sidewalk are angels of life and of death; they smile at me and I smile back. I feel one with everyone here, so many people. A hundred people, a hundred lives, a hundred stories.
“Tell me your stories,” I whisper. They whisper back, “our stories are written on our foreheads can’t you see?”
The lifegivers. Us. I who sat by that man in Oshodi for nearly three hours till I got him to the hospital where the doctors were no longer sure they could save him, while the crowd swelled and ebbed around me (sometimes I think I can be as arrogant as I want to be, I have earned my humanity); the doctor who lay beside his patient and gave blood he didn’t have to; the stranger who stopped and pulled the accident victim, my ‘son’ James from the wreckage, despite the risk of an explosion; the uniformed woman who held up traffic for the kids to cross the road; the man who pulled me up as I hunkered on the bridge a few weeks ago, shaken and scared. I love them, love them all. I am feeling this goodwill, this unity…
Then I think how easily the tide could change; I could touch my chest and declare that my breast had been ‘stolen’ and I could point out a man. This crowd would turn, morph like creatures of the zombie Apocalypse. Slaves to their superstition, they would converge like pack animals, driven by irrationality. They would turn resourceful, producing from their meagre supply of things a tyre here, some fuel there, a match here, some stones and sticks there; weapons of their fear. They would fall on the man, a symbol of their desperation, insecurity and grief, and he a mere conduit, through which they will channel all the misdirected anger, impotent hatred of things unseen, people untouchable. He will become less and less a man and more and more an emblem of the despondency they feel, an icon of the desolation that eats up our land in bite-sized pieces.
And I, would I stand one with him and declare that they would have to kill me first. Was there anyone, ANYONE who threw themselves on the Aluu4 and said ‘would you kill an innocent person too?’ or, is there a silent communication that fizzles through the crowd and goes from ear to ear whispering, ‘He deserves to die!’ is there a general nod? An agreement. A handshake. A contract. Contagion what what! Take a breath.
So we are bound by these things;
The giving of life by speaking up for the things we stand for and believe in.
The taking of life, by our actions or inactions. By our speaking, and by our silence. We dance this dance of life and death. We are Gods!
I break into a run leaving them behind me. I let the breeze cleanse my thoughts and I clamp my headphones back on.
Now Bob Marley is urging us to, ‘emancipate yourself from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds.’ This, I like!
Have a beautiful month of February.