Merchants-of-Memories(MoM): A New Way To Die

by ahjotnaija

Let me start. Anyhow. A day like that, Agbako and I wandered two streets away. No destination in mind. Sun was hot. Open gutter. No sidewalk. We walked barefoot. No. We were not barefooted, we wore slippers. I can’t remember what we talked about, but we laughed and laughed until our voices touched the sun. I knew this because she hot hotter. It was a good day. Or maybe not. Because of what followed. Till today I still wonder which kain spirit possessed me, I almost got my friend killed, if not that the Okada rider braked fast enough. It was a Yamaha, the machine full ground with confidence, the man must have been a damn good rider.

Hear what I did: I looked back, saw the Yamaha bike, and fiam! I pushed Agbako. Right in front! It must have been Ogun, the Iron-God, who braked one of his children on wheel! We were all in shock. At least for a while. When what happened finally dawned, I picked race! I ran as fast as my legs carried me. Behind, trailing me was the bikeman. I began to shout! Egbami o! Egbami o!! Egbami o!!!

When I saw shouting and running was as good as attempting to run and scratch my yansh at the same time, plus there was nobody to hear, I rested shouting. Instead, I added the shout-energy to my fleeing legs. The bikeman did not stop. I was in trouble. I saw a bend. I took it. The flight continued. The bend was my salvation. A Baptist Church was in sight. Good enough two Jesusmen were at the door. I branched in their direction, hugged them tight as if my life depended on their pity. With my pursuer in sight, I changed story. Won fe jimi gbe ni o! Won fe jimi gbe ni o!! Won fe jimi gbe ni o! If they believed my story I never could tell in that moment. They calmed me down, and we awaited the arrival of my potential kidnapper. The bikeman told them I was a terrible child. They begged him. I was scolded. I apologized. Then, he rode off. That problem being solved, I realized I have only solved one problem when my victim-friend Agbako appeared from the bend I had negotiated into the church. I turned to the Jesusmen and pointed to Agbako. ‘Sirs, you must help me beg him. If not, I’m dead!’

I wished I had listened when mother told me not to cause trouble when she was not around! These were mother’s words: ‘I am going to the village. Please cause no trouble for me. Iya Tope will give you food. Don’t trouble her. If she send you message, go and do whatever she instructs!’ Hardly had mother left when I broke all injunction one after the other. Iya Tope wanted me to sit still for a while, I wanted to go out, she thought it was time to read, exactly in that same moment did I think it right to smack her daughter. When it was twelve pm and she felt I could hold on a little longer, that was when my hunger skyrocketed. The last straw that exploded her anger was when I pushed Saburi when we played football. The whole house gathered, first to revive Saburi, then to remove woodsplitters from his forehead. My push had landed him on a kaputt shopdoor! My eyes cleared, cry-water was gushing out of my eyes. I was scared like shit. If anything, I never wanted my stubborness to kill him! When Saburi was revived and his head bandaged, he was taken to Chemist, who injected him with whatnot. Iya Tope only wanted my mother back for good! ‘Kini ma ti se oro e si bayi ki iya e tode!?’

Thinking of Community High School in Agege Area, especially during interschool riots, I remember what pure anarchy is! When I was school pupil in Araromi Primary School, many secondary school students that time also doubled as butcher-apprentices. Their nicknames were tell-it-all; names like Shalake or Ake UTC, Student, Community, Riot, Ijongbon, Experience, Rambo etc etc. Of particular interest were stories of thug-heroes which we fed our fantasies after these interschool cum communal unrests. Overtime I realized we peppered our own version to outshine the goriness of the other. This is not to say it was untrue that people were butchered alive, I wont put this evil beyond those fierce thugs who troubled our schools and neighbourhoods. All one need to do to get the exact picture is, If you hear that Shalake killed twenty people, deduct ten to arrive at the correct number of death victims. When possible we stayed indoor. If caught on the street in a riot, we cut tree branches and visibly place in hand or in front of cars to show neutrality. Community was another student rioter whose name was a household name at any point in time. If there was trouble and his name was not mentioned in our peppered after-narrations, then the stories were incomplete.

Like the rioters and hooligans, it wasn’t all good memories growing up. There was a man left to rotten on a road. Each time we passed that road, I wished he was not lying there. He laid dead for days unend. I can’t say how many days or weeks, but I’m sure it was a pretty long time for my child-eyes. I didn’t like it. I asked and asked when he would be removed, but not even mother could tell me when this corpse will go! There was a day like that a waste-truck stopped beside him. I thought, finally he will be removed for good. How wrong was I! The truck left only with the communal rubbish but not the corpse. Was I traumatized? I don’t know if it was a trauma, but I could hardly eat meat each time my mind flashed back to this deadbody in the weeks that followed. I saw the corpse everywhere. I once dreamed he was being carried away in an ambulance and that we were happy he was gone. When he finally was removed, I did not know. We had gotten far used to our troubles to not forget a man was rotting away before our very eyes.

Talking about hotdeath is not my favourite but when it is part of my life there is little I can do to not talk about it. Memories are who and what we were and are. Good or bad.

Igashi. Goodnews first: Life in Igashi was paradise. For me. I enjoyed every bit of my stay in that part of the world. In fact, I will visit again when I am Nigeria in July.

Only the memory of the young woman who later died a hotdeath was one I did not like. Her stomach was permanently bloated, like she was pregnant. Her countenance was infinite sadness. She lived in a room with her father in my grandfather’s house. She followed us to the farm. I am not sure now, but I overheard Iya Idowu ask her how she was doing. Many times. Then later Iya Idowu talked with mother about this sad woman. She wished there was more she could do to cure her bloated stomach. Years later when I heard how she died, I was terrified! In her honour and many in Nigeria who died a death that clearly was avoidable, I will tell how she died.

So, her father knocked Baba’s door to inform of his daughter’s death. ‘She’s no more breathing’, he said in a voice ladden with sadness. Burial arrangement began immediately. Baba informed the gravedigger-agegroup. News of the death reached all households almost at once. The whole village gathered to mourn a passing away. The corpse was wrapped in a clothpiece and placed in a casket. The gravedigger were about finished when the presumed dead began to breathe again! It was Baba who noticed there was a sign of life in the casket. He called attention of the woman’s father to this development. His response was at best indifferent. As if the young woman knew her father had long given up on her, she started to cry. It was at first a fainted voice, it then gained momentum. She must have wished she could cry down the whole village so they know she was not dead! Indeed, the village heard her cry because she was not thrown into her death with life in her. The whole village waited for her to die again. This sadness lasted the whole day. When she finally seized to cry, it was concluded by a large concensus that she was dead again. If she really was dead, was of course questionable. Apparently, her death was a new way to die- you are dead when the community agrees you are dead! She was buried in my granfather’s backyard.