Possibly I am about to display my insanity, or maybe appeal to your kind judgment to see through my wit. Sometimes I snap, sometimes I switch moods, but I am always quick to realize the difference and call myself to order. Call myself to order? Again that I can’t ascertain; the last time it happened, I slapped a man touching a girl's buttocks at the mall. Maybe I took it too far, maybe it’s a mistake, but how am I supposed to know?
I never met the girl until that night at the mall; one of those nights I sneak out of my apartment and find myself wondering, partly for pleasure, partly to look at people and wonder; the laughter, the kids swallowing candy, the mothers that can’t control their kids, the fathers dragged out the house, the boyfriend that loves the girlfriend.
I sauntered towards the north side of the mall. I heard a girl cry. I heard a man trying to hush her by a corner, dark. The girl panicked and screamed.
I tried to stop myself, but there was this impulse; I didn’t see it coming, I couldn’t really understand it, it moved me, I couldn’t hold it. I walked into the dark, yanked him off the girl and held him by the throat. I slapped him twice, knocked him down on the floor in one swift blow. My lips trembled; he spread on the floor, alive, bleeding through his mouth.
Let’s say I have come a long way in life; yes I know, what has a long way got to do with slapping a man? But you see, inasmuch as I try to stay away from people, from thoughts and actions, there are some things I cannot ignore or look away from: one is abuse; be it man or woman, as long as the abused cannot defend himself or herself, I will intervene. I repeat, I will intervene. My slap sent him staggering to the other end of the wall. I must confess that I took it a little bit too far because the man fainted. I watched the face of the victim take another shape; from deep display of angst to a display of surprise. It still puzzles me to remember seeing her display of compassion, just a few seconds ago, she was the abused and he was enjoying it.
Let me tell you a bit about myself. I am big, really big. My biceps are really massive; I don’t think you will like to pick a fight with me unless you are crazy. I have seen crazy too, knocked a few out. I could squeeze the life out of a man. I am from Nigeria; here I don’t refer myself as black, that identity makes no meaning. Here I am a bulky man that hates bullies, anything for bullies, and even those that pretend to be bullies.
I love porn, especially on Sunday evening; the ones that have to do with gagging, choking, and hardcore, they excite me. I am big, but I love a woman that can sometimes realize that in my massive body lives a little boy, stranded. The grown-up part of this little boy wants to be choked in bed; I want that fragile hand around my big neck, trying. They say that big men have small ego; I have no ego at all. I just want someone soft to hold me.
But that’s not why I decided to pen this. Most importantly, I want to see continuity in objectivity, I want to see every side of an argument properly weighed out, measured, and carefully calibrated. But I have discovered that objectivity is close to impossible.
I have seen men try to weigh life, living, and existence. They try to see several sides of the debate, and they always fail. My boss always presents himself as an objective man, one devoid of favouritism and one whose emotion doesn’t subdue his decision making. But recently, he promoted a lady at the office to a management position, my junior, while I am still a junior officer.
I know it is not about qualification, it’s about integrity, the person who is ready to uplift the goal of the company, but here, that isn’t the case. I must repeat that I have never licked my boss’s ass and never will, to hell with that. Ten years with this company, I have never been late to work. I always arrive thirty minutes early before the start time. I do whatever task I am presented with; I am not trying to praise myself, but I know that I am the best accountant in that office.
Well, the lady he promoted does her job quite well, but not with the same dedication as I. This is not self-loathing, this is self-preservation. To be sincere with you, I was happy the day of her promotion and drank the expensive champagne wine with her, ha! I can still see her dancing, smiling, as if the whole world belonged to her.
This self-debate started when I found her with my boss in a hotel; yes, I caught them kissing.
Yes, his judgment might have been right, and to my detriment, but is that the objective? What if logically I and I alone stand as the person truly qualified to be promoted as I performed my duties quite well?
You see, even in my pondering, I cannot achieve objectivity. I cannot see clearly; it’s all about me, I must say, and I want to step closer to attaining my own goals in life. But you see, over a cup of coffee, I would not admit this; I will do my best to stand objectively as if my logical fountain was the key to unlocking the maltreatment. But you see, I cannot see clearly from this point of view; the view of the victim, it’s an obscure vantage.
Yet, I do recognize that a certain folly in me is undefined for trying to view this scenario from two points of views. I try to lend a perfect score to both thoughts, so that I can effectively arrive at a logical conclusion.
Am I a genius? No, I am not, maybe I am, but again, it’s up to your judgment. You might ask who I am. I will answer this, modern man has embraced the tools of profiling in gauging who is smart or not, dangerous or not, etcetera. You might as well check me on Wikipedia, trust me you will find no result. Nothing worth your view will come up on Google. What about the good days of no Google and Wikipedia, what happened to the wits of man, that striking approach by which formidable thinkers have been raised and discovered? Well, I might not be making any sense with this, am I? So I will give you the answers you need.
(Now, the Story.)
I am the son of a farmer, a man that tilled the soil, not with modern implements, but in a crude way, in a manner that leaves the palm bleeding after his labors. I watched him farm. I farmed with him; in that process my hands blistered, bleed, dried and now feel like a stack of thick cardboard. Sometimes I wonder if there is blood in them.
I went to school early, but I couldn’t learn how to write until was in primary six. I was flogged, beaten by my teachers, and made to pursue those rigid curriculums. I was made to recite the robotic rhythms; all the children on earth know what I am talking about. It’s stupid, blatant stupid. If Alexander the Great, Michelangelo, and other immortals portrayed in literature spent their whole childhood learning this farce, I wonder if they would have been immortals, I wonder if their points would have counted.
But again, it’s the societal rite of passage. I passed through it. I am a robot too. My grades were never good and never bad; I managed to pass the classes, honestly who cared anyways? Well, just my parents and my scared self that has to always wait for that report, shrinking, shrinking, smaller, smaller; I always know what I was going to get, and I always knew what papa was going to say, mostly: study harder next time, idiot. Not just only the system that failed me, papa failed me too.
At the university, I listened to another set of gimmicks from magicians disguised as lecturers; they stole my head. I redeemed my head at a very high price. I hated my teachers. They taught me nothing apart from replicating knowledge, apart from telling me that I would amount to nothing unless I follow the curriculum. Rubbish. Know it today that without curriculum, physics and other branches of study would have sprouted from an entirely different soil; one never tilled.
I left school with a degree in Accountancy after bribing lecturers. I found a job. I worked hard and now I am being humiliated.
(Well, this is who I am and I hope you understand that I have to see things this way, but now, here is a different story.)
I walked into the office today with a resignation in hand. Ambros my best friend is there, I let him read the letter. He opens it, scans it, brings out his spectacle and starts reading. He looks at me as if I am mad; I look at him as if he is mad too. The only word he says is, “Repeat it again?”
“I quit,” I say.
I am walking down the stairs with all my personal effects, I meet Ambros on the way, and he doesn’t say anything to me. Well, he murmurs, “Good luck.” Just good luck?
The same Ambros I used to drink with, chat with, and go to night clubs with? Well the answer is easy, I have dropped from his status automatically, I am now unemployed and can’t make a monthly wage. Now tell me about friendship? Tell me what I don’t know?
You too will realize it; no friends exist between two unequal points. Well, I am now below, I have nothing to offer Ambros and in turn, he owes me nothing. Ha! I accepted life as it is. This is it, I am not mad, I am sauntering home, whistling beneath my breath, a song by Andrew Bird, holes in the ocean floor. Andrew Bird is a musician that I haven’t met, but I know he will love me; we are both together in this one.
Ambros is a good man, I cannot dispute that. In the past when I was in his level, he used to loan me money occasionally, and I paid promptly each time. Don’t get it twisted either, I did the same for him. Ambros is a Christian. We go to the same church. We attend the same Bible group. We drop the fat envelope in pastoral development at the end of each month to the church. Well, the Pastor said that we will get it back in ten folds; to be sincere with you, it’s been all about his own well-being.
Quitting my job has given the solace I long sort for to meditate on these affairs. Ambros is not the only person that abandons me, the pastor too.
The moment I break the news to him that I am no longer in service of labor to the society, he asks me to kneel down; I kneel. He begins to pray for me. He says, “The angel said that God said that you will get another job in a week.”
Well, it’s been two months now, nothing, and honestly I am not looking for a job. I have a lot of money saved up, so how God sent an angel and the angel spoke to the pastor is what I don’t understand. I have to be stricter with my affairs and contributions to the church, so the pastor starts to ignore me.
My role in the front seat shifted to back the seat, the attention I used to enjoy, plus several invitations to church programs are all gone, nothing now, no one invites me to any events. The last three invitations, I donated nothing; I bet that infuriates them.
It is laughable how religion has played me. My ancestors will be better received in Heaven than these men sitting here in church. Ambros still pays tight, Ambros still enjoys life, Ambros is still a man of God, but, has he been his brother’s keeper? Again, I leave it to your judgment.
I have come to realize that heaven cannot be bought by my own pretentious goodness and fake service in the name of religion; therefore I am leaving. If Ambros has morally and intentionally cared, he should have been more direct in being his brother’s keeper. Call me selfish, yes I am. At this point of being down, I have come to realize the anatomy of religion, the truth is that we often neglect the anus, it stinks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t attend the Sunday service, I sit at the back now and listen to choir sing. I enjoy it, clap and praise God within the comfort of my own heart. Does that make me a coward or a hypocrite? Again it is up to your judgment.
I am forty years old, unmarried, unhappy and not ready to settle. I know it sounds absurd, almost unheard of in my society for a man who has climbed the corporate ladders, a man who by all standard of the society will be considered successful. Deep inside, I know that I am the biggest failure on earth. I work out every day to make up for all those sneers, smirks, and backbiting.
I have 33 letters from my mother, all asking me when I will tie the knot with a woman. To hell with knots, I said in my shrouded mind. What is marriage if it doesn’t lead to happiness? What guarantee does one have for happiness? Seriously, I have seen it all; maybe I am unlucky to have met all the wrong girls.
My dad’s last letter ended with a question mark, "My son, are you impotent?" Well, that’s my father; he doesn’t understand anything at all. He has been just after having a grandson.
Oh, this society will never let me thrive, they want me to relinquish my last freedom to a nagging woman. Just like my last girlfriend, who I dated for ten years. Her raging madness stuck in my head, drove me to the other side of the earth where a man begs to be free again. Yes, I bought my freedom back; I wonder what torment her husband is encountering now. For her, I will willingly say good luck, Lucile, good luck to your husband!
Is not like I am crazy, but the last time, I simply said, “Clean your plate, Lucile, clean your plate.” She reminded me that the world is no longer about patriarchy. This argument ended with her breaking of those plates, and a glass stuck in my wrist.
I enjoyed the sex, I must confess; there is nothing sweeter than Lucile. Each night, punctuated by a glass of wine and candle light dinner, we spread on the giant bed in my bedroom, she hooked my neck nicely, taming me, letting me know that massive body frame means nothing to her. Oh, it was beautiful.
But come to think of it, to hell with that beauty. Beauty that is masked in shrouded anger is nothing worth living with. That insanity added to mine will only lead to pain. As I write now, I feel a pang of madness steaming from my head. Yet in that madness, there is a beauty, one to be exploited at will, it cannot be enslaved. Well, she is just the perfect work of art immersed in flaws, one that makes the maker go crazy.
Love is an asshole, let me be. I will let the women be too: Let them thrive in their own world. I don’t give a fuck. It’s just that everyone wants to have a kid who will carry your name. We are all selfish, the society is selfish. You give birth because you are selfish. Uncle Sam did the same, Uncle Joe did the same, Kelechi my friend did the same. I listen to them, I listen to all the wishes they have for their little kids, kids not old enough to think for themselves, they will say: “He will be a lawyer,” “he will be an architect,” “he will surf the moon,” “he will be storm rider,” “she will fix this wild world,” “she will make me proud.”
What if they choose not to make you proud? What if they choose not to be doctors like you’ve planned it? It is wicked and selfish to dream for a young soul, a soul that hasn’t realized his existence on earth. Well, again, I am thinking like this maybe because I am forty, unmarried and unhappy and trying to justify my non-conformist views.
I will be sincere with you: I do feel sorrow at times and wish I had my family living with me. My sorrow comes only at night, but in the morning I will be fine. You see, even us that live life just like we want, do sometimes think about it. This is life; there are no actual balance and no guaranteed happiness. Well, most people pretend they are happy; we all sorrow at night.
A while ago, I met a certain strong sister, the strongest I have and will ever meet, one not to mess with, tough on men and tough in her soul. Her gait has a manner that displays her zero tolerance for mannish gimmicks. I approached her at a conference, because for some reason I am attracted to Amazons. Upon our conversation while waiting for the speaker to mount the podium, she laid out her rules by which she engages men: “Please, no close contact, don’t tell me I am beautiful, I don’t like wooing in the instant or the act, I choose my men, some men are just idiots, my last date was a special one that I can and will never get over, I don’t like kids and I don’t want to have one.”
Don’t get me wrong, all these rules were laid during our conversation. These rules are clearly repellents compressed in a can and sprayed on my face, but they didn’t stop me, they drew me in, it clearly made me want her even more, maybe to know her, maybe to dissect her head and ideologies. I pressed further and further until she agreed to spend a night at my place so we could watch a movie and discuss. It didn’t come that cheap, it came with extra sets of rules, which included, “At no point should you see my real hair, we can’t be in the same room while I undress, please let the movie not be emotional.” Well it clearly spells out the intent, no sex. I obeyed. I played by her rules and her motives. I succumbed and pretended I was going to spend a night with a man.
We soaked in the comedy, but the storyline got to the point of deviation; to the point she dreaded and abhorred. The little kid in the movie ran to the father and hugged his legs. I felt the scene dearly; I broke inside of me too. My guest curled up, and to my surprise the Amazon was weeping. Honestly, I never thought these things hold sway in her heart. Before then, to me she had no emotions; she cared less about such affairs and focused on her career. I never knew things like this could melt the lady.
“I love children,” she cried.
I tried to stop her from uncontrolled sobbing.
“I want my own kids someday,” she said.
Tears were dripping from her eyes. I was caught up in the thought of this singular insane act, a swift change that marveled me about us; our strength, the strongest, the toughest; have you ever thought they might be the weakest? I still think about all the walls she built to protect herself, to defend herself, to be that Amazon, the lone wonder woman in a world of patriarchy. The tiniest thought of her longing for these never did occur to me. I kissed her. She melted. All the walls she built broke down. We made love all through the night. It was a sweet night. In the morning she manned up again and asked me to pretend last night never happened. She left with her chin up, with the same attitude which she walked in.
(We are all vulnerable; hate me if you like.)
Life with rules, principles, and guards is shit, because none if truly tasted can stand time. Time is the only bird that never perches, it flies by and it’s a bitch that doesn’t give a shit. Maybe her nature broke the rules, not her, but is she willing to live by that nature and not bug her mind with transmitted ideas, live free, be free and just free. That is up to her. But by my measurement, she is miserable. I do accept that even within my rules, principles, and self-governance, I am miserable too. The ideal life which I ponder upon is yet to be discovered or lived, and maybe cannot be discovered or lived. We are all a mistake, in our act, in our clever and not so clever executions.
I am no longer waiting for an angel; I don’t want to be in any arms to be happy. I have gladly accepted my miserable life. I will live within its comforts. It took me years to arrive at this point, but that doesn’t stop me either from weighing or considering.
The truth be told, I have been cheated by everything: the government, foes, and forces of nature. I have been abandoned by faith, religion, and friends. But I have gained something new: insight. Insight is sufficient enough to take me to death.
(This is how it ended.)
Windhoek is everything I expected it to be: beautiful. It is everything Abuja can’t be. I arrived here yesterday; when a society doesn’t want you, you leave. The old lady has been kind enough to rent me a room in her farm and offer me a job as a farm helper. I have worked on a farm before, with my father. If I ever loved anything in life, it was my days on the farm with my father.
I marvel at nature here; it provides me with the inner peace that I need now. I will tend to her chicken and cows as if they were my own. I will learn how to milk a cow, and pick the eggs in the morning.
My room is made of wood and built beneath the main house. It’s mostly dark during the day, but the sun rays strike through a singular crack. It’s beautiful; I assume it’s always night whenever I am not working. This is the life I have always wanted: travel the world, work, and make a stop in beautiful cities.
The job I have now pays less, but to me it sounds wonderful, it mesmerizes my soul and nothing can be more beautiful. I must walk ten miles into the city to send e-mail to my friends, and buy a phone card to call my mother and father. Then I will rest and think about nothing until I start to think of something. I will work until this beauty fades, then I will leave Windhoek; who knows where I will be next? Maybe I will be in Addis Ababa breaking stones before the end of the year. How beautiful to do what you want and have denied yourself. How beautiful to be free.
I am forty, but today I feel younger. I just want the world to know that a man like me exists somewhere in Windhoek, taking up major jobs, traveling because it is what I love to do. I know it sounds absurd, but take it from me, it’s my reverie.
Now I will pour myself whiskey. It’s a cold morning; it’s a whole new life here. I will write again when I get to Addis Ababa, or when something beautiful happens. I will share my thoughts, my life and experience with the world. Please read and be kind.