Putting yourself on a course of friendship tablets to arrest your fears could be very therapeutic
All my thoughts were always racing towards the same direction whenever anyone pampered me with love; directions that were never parallel. Everyone who really loved me was served a dinner of kola nut by my late mother and that they really fed on it to their satisfaction, so I thought. The passionate smile that circled around Craig’s face when he caught sight of me seemed glitzy, nollywood-style. Unfortunately for him; I did not take a blind bit of the warmth that permeated around his smile; the forces in me were not really that generous. At that moment, I was blinded only by the two dimensional images on his fore head, deceased mother weakened by tears and three siblings soaked in palm oil; their black and shinning hair turned blonde, some sort of poverty stricken blonde. The youthful radiance of his beauty was combative as it fought the imaginative images that almost made his forehead a teary abode for me. I watched as he removed his velvet bobble hat out of frustration and swerved from a petite girl who was garnished with a pink tattered gown from her neck region to her thighs but was carrying a tray overflowing with fresh fruits on her head.
The dude smiled faintly again at me. That time, it was a smile that made his chubby cheeks became touchy like that of a newborn’s skin. He was adorned in a short-sleeved velvet shirt and black pair of jeans that flashed a flamboyant light on his fair complected skin. That painted a sharp slapstick in my realistic self, that I was not the only curious one, even the beach water that glorified itself in Lagos bar beach had a curious feeling as it almost swept his feet along. The beach was curious to stupor as though we were floating on air. Desperately I fought back the tears that I had invested in my face and like a speedboat; I made my face brightened even when my mind never seemed to brighten. It was a really grim smile, a grim smile that made him think of how naïve he was. His curious blend of naivety and impoliteness struck me on the forehead as he broke the ice. He caressed my shoulders passionately and offered me a bowl of strawberries. Crouched ready to strike, I flipped through his stupidity and smashed the glass bowl into a thousand pieces right before him. He did not back off as he gave my heart a gloss, with just a nod as though he were an agama lizard and a sincere apology radiated slowly in his countenance.
‘I am Craig. I know you are Valerie Atta. I am sorry for being uncivil. Please try to smash that bowl on my head next time. It is really from a sincere heart since it is the price that I will have to pay anyway. I am sorry again.’
I smiled a slow smile and brushed past him without breathing a word. Some wrinkled leaves brushed my cheek and rested on the ground. I bent low to pick some of it and sent the leaves on a permanent exile. The leaves brought back lots of good memories. Like a stubborn grass, the memories of Kwabena and me with other children tarried. Being the eldest of them of all, we acted as the wicked father and mother who ordered erring children to look for ten wrinkled leaves each and crossed the Birim River ten times to send the leaves to its ancestors. One of the unrealistic dramas that kept us temporarily away from home, away from life threatening farm works and away from the bully we faced constantly from rich fools on our way to school. That evening, I tried to blank out the whole experience and it did work. All I decided to recollect was how I accompanied myself out of the beach with folded arms to the bath tub in my room at Eko Hotels and dozed off; the hotel that my course mates and I had been striving after we arrived from Ghana on a filming project. The hotel was full of atmosphere, sacred, open and classy. The calibre of people that lodged there was always basking in their expensive gowns and tuxedos. They were the kind of people that bounced from one conference hall to the other like birds for board meetings without any courtesy for the young, even apologetic words seemed like squeezing a bitter leaf juice into their mouth whenever they stepped on weak toes. It was a bitter-sweet story that pointed violently to people who stayed in the Executive Suite and Diplomatic Suite in the hotel. The other group of the people in the Standard Room, Classic Superior Room, and Deluxe Room thrived like an ordinary man of my own mix except for the club suite that almost massacred sacredness. For million days, I did not have the tongue and mouth to tell the tale of being beaten to the pulp by the right hand man of a company’s director .It was something big and serious. He shoved me out of the way while he was rushing to his ridiculous meeting and I could not stand such frivolity. I gripped him by his throat with his shimmering red tie almost paying the last respect to him and then I started feasting in hell. Craig was right when we bumped into each other at the swimming pool in the morning.
‘I saw it coming. Mr. Williams is an easy man but you were really the rude one. Lagos is a very busy place. Most Lagosians are hustlers. They can’t afford to annihilate anyone that gets in their way. This is how the world is operating too. Desperation changes a man from being a lamb to a monkey. Keep this back at the back of your mind, we are not in the University of Ghana where we are bound by petty rules that handcuffs us. Babe, don’t get your bones broken because of ignorance. Usher yourself into reality, there are rules everywhere but they are just above reality, more like a fiction in certain circumstances. You cannot always have your way.’ He said, smiling.
I stared at him in anger that was cemented with passion. I was eager to know whether one of the mental screws that tied his brain together had broken into pieces. I did not agree with his perceptions but I could not do anything to prove him wrong. I felt suffocated and wanted to leave with my transparent swimming trunk closely hugging my body. My frustration was broken by a slight tap by Craig as it sliced through my bony shoulders.
‘Go and change your clothes. Let’s take a stroll after that. Shall we?’ He said.
Such affability and condescension roused a general excitement in me but I did not show it. In a twinkle of an eye, I was already dressed in my usual denim jacket, blue jeans trouser and black trainers. No makeover or any attractive coiffure surfaced on my head, just an oily face and brown ponytail but I was still pretty. The slight glimmer of tenderness in my eyes was the only thing that seemed arresting. We were stuck in stilted silence as we walked with quick light step to the Lagos bar beach. The hotel was a long step from the beach. As we dragged our feet, there was a smile on my face and a spring in my step. We walked down some stone steps to the beach and positioned ourselves on a floral patterned mat behind a blue beach buggy. The glamour that encircled some beach combers right behind us drew our attention, we sat there drank in the scenery of their groovy pose amid groovy pictures. And our conversation flowed rhythmically with the atmosphere as if it was not going to end.
‘Come to think of it, I think you really went overboard with the dramatic performance that we had here yesterday. Practically, you ignored all the instructions of the director that even the script was all Greek to me. You were really too aggressive. Have you experienced it before? I meant the experience that the lead actress has in that drama.Why did you break the bowl of cherries?’ He said, the goitre at the mid region of his neck connived and protested with his mouth.
I was very much disappointed. I thought his greatest power was always to be alive with a hint of humour and succour but Craig’s eyes was really terrible enough to slaughter a lion. The same eyes and croaky sounds that father’s parrot made when I flung the remnants of my fufu and kedjenou at it for being a sly old devil. Why is it such a big deal to him? I was forced to be rooted by the misadventures, scratched my ponytails and mouthed few apologetic words with some traces of pretentiousness at him. Craig was looking away and so I just piped.
‘I am sorry but that was me. I would fight anyone who tramples on me. So I brought reality into drama. That’s how I was made but at the same time, I was not totally wrong. The Script portrayed me as a feminist who worships feminism like a goddess. What would be the reasonable reaction of a feminist who was caressed at the back of her neck or shoulders by a strange man? Vent her anger vulnerable things or person? The script was faulty, guy.’ She said, her mouth twisted with a broad smile.
Craig found my words shockingly laughable. I wavered for a long time and flashed my eyes at him like lightning out of curiosity with my eyebrows moving up and down like a water bird. Why is he laughing so loud? Was it funny? All of a sudden, his mood changed. I could tell from his visage that he is actually on a self-exile to the vascular community of sensuous conquest. His beady eyes remained focalized at my unwavering thoughts just like a camcorder would be fixed at an actress.
‘Are you a feminist? You seem to have a good grasp of a feminist language’. He piped.
The question was like those firm wheelbarrows that tend the limitless bags of imported foods from Makola Market in the city of Accra, it drove Agyekum, Tracy, Jessica, Laura, Jack, Shandy and other filming partners to us. Still not totally used to the craziness and notoriety of those six demons, I could not massage the curiosity of Craig. We were completely distracted by their funny dancing steps as they twisted their twenties old body in a humorous manner, more like a Yoruba demon but it wasn’t. There was no music, style or even conversation from the dancers. Were they following the unseen movement of the breeze? I perceived the Kpanlogo dance style by the Gas. I was really pissed with their actions, but then I saw the funny side of it. Laura and Tracy’s knees and back were bent because they wanted to flex their muscles with some cultural condiments, some funny chaps; their petite stature almost made them a frog with that dance style. Maybe I had to like Kpanlogo because it was the only goodies from the Ghanaian tradition that I can swallow with vigour, the only exposure I hung around my waist like coral beads. I hated Kpanlogo from the day father asked me to practice it with my siblings. I did not know how the police seized the musical instruments and almost detained us. Was it that traditions had started to lose ground in the society to the point of arresting us for exercising our cultural rights? So I thought. Even though Father belonged to the Twi, he wanted us to suck the juices of almost every culture and tribes in Ghana so that we won’t have to suffer oppression from the police anymore because of simplicity, something more of liberalism but mother told me never to subscribe to the tradition of a drunken and thoughtless man. At that moment, I knew she was distancing me from father. I took the mantle of a Nigerian and deserted Ghana vibes like a piece of rubbish even though I was still living there. It was natural because I savoured the breast milk of a Nigerian with intense relish but I could not live like one. I lacked the courage. Jack plugged the feminist answer at the tip of my heart with his saucy pidgin language. Jack’s twenty one year old face looked as shabby as his character. He had always been like that, adept at treading people’s face to soothe his heart.
‘Chale wasop? How e be you? Couple’s treat?’ Jack thundered, sitting conveniently on the floral patterned mat opposite Craig.
The mat was larger than life itself, an object that welcomed the driest of all clowns without splitting off. Craig was boggled by his friend’s petty actions but he could not be frank with him. Was Craig’s thought flowing in the same line with me?
‘Guy, how far na? Why you de talk like your head no correct? You know I don’t joke with exam scores, they mean a lot to me. I had to make Val understand that fact, in relation to our innocent misinterpretation of our drama script. We are in the same team. So any glitches will affect the both of us and other persons in our team. Your madness distracted me from such intellectual conversation. Of course, you are one of us and I shouldn’t make amends without you being there but the thing is, you no fit at all, I cannot even take your brain to hold belle till my potato boil.’ Craig challenged Jack with a faint sneer of dissatisfaction.
‘ My heart juss cut! Masa , that thing no dey oo. You make I make sad.’ Craig’s eyes met his icy gaze.
Craig’s harsh words really hit Jack, it crystallized into the cancer of the heart and that made him more disturbing than ever. The evil weevil sparked into life the shitty sound of the chewing gum in his mouth, saliva oozed out from every outer region of his mouth in the most annoying manner for a while and he left in anger. I nodded like a mango fruit that was set to fall from its tree. Nothing had ever freaked me out since the demise of mum. I was the only one that could really freak me out and that was by feasting on psychological books. I think I changed a bit. I was able to stay in a loose company of course mates and other partners with expression. I could really cry when nature prevailed. In the evening, I ran away from that company to my room with a heart full of emotions. It was too sudden. Craig almost overtook me with his charming words.
‘Val! Valerie!’ He shouted.
Craig must have thought so hard that Jack’s uncivilized manner drove me away. He had no idea that it was a different ballgame. The ballgame, no one was able to fathom .The ballgame was only between my instincts and me. Jack,Tracy and Jessica joined in the search. Agyekum, Shandy and others were glued to the beach side trying to figure out the realistic background of the incident. Has she really gone loco? They would have thought that for million times.