is three in the morning and almost everyone is asleep.
in bed, wide awake, feeling so light and at peace. I am waiting for Chekube to
turn off the light. Ordinarily, I would walk to the door and turn it off
myself. I try to shake it off…the weightlessness, and perhaps the guilt of it.
Chekube will not just…How long does it take him to pray? Must he pray with the
light on? Hopefully one of the other boys in the hall will decide to go out to
pee. Soon. Very soon…I might as well dart my plastic torch at the bulb and put
us both to sleep. Naaaaa…I would rather not ruin it. I am still too cold, too
was a relief.
cannot imagine how deeply intense I feel when I can no longer reach me. Perhaps
when I am too coked up with the sound of my mind’s voice trying to echo and
memorise lines from my Bible and other books that I borrow from Elijah.
Priesthood! - Or the training for it. I wish there were other aspirations that
were vast enough to conceptualise my dream- not the one I have when I sleep.
But in some silly way, this ‘vastness’ often cages me in routines and one
memory verse too many. I know I am salt. But somehow it gets to the point where
I’d rather be washed away than have anyone taste the woodiness of my mind.
Sometimes I just want out. I want to be touched. I want to be held. I want to
be told that it is okay to have fantasies of being touched…especially when I do
not go out of my way to create them, when I dream them.
not tell anyone: I have been dreaming some more these days.
now I dreamt:
hands were laced with veins. They seemed to breathe as he clenched on his white
Gideon Bible. His wrists were bound in cuffs, tightly. His bald head, skinny
arms and feet stuck out of his blue uniform. Sitting in the midst of seven
other accused persons in the court that day, he stood out. Let us call him
Tobi. He caught me. Every part of him caught me- and the very other possible
stories that there were to him.
was all grown up and in training to be a priest. I do not recall what I wore
but I am sure I had the white collar and the polite afro. Tolu, my cousin sat
amongst the lawyers at the bar.. He did not say much to me. He seemed busy,
they all seemed busy. He did not turn back to look at me. But I could tell from
the gold spot on his head that he was him.
The court was full and everyone seemed to be
presided over one matter or the other- Lawyer to lawyer, judge to judge, layman
to layman, everyone except me. I sat still at the gallery waiting for the
actual court session to commence, to see Tolu address the court…and to watch
caught my eyes. I had never been captured by a prisoner before. I believed that
once a person is incarcerated, or on the path to being so, he is as good as an
outlaw. He is as good as a person not worthy of being looked at. But there I
was stealing one glance too many. I found myself thinking of what could have
brought such a beautiful black man to this point- the point where he is
conscious of God and judgement. Perhaps he was like me a little. Perhaps he was
like me a lot.
probably had a good life before now. Perhaps he was such a reader and had kept
a long hall of book shelves for a study. Perhaps, he took notes too. Or he
wrote in his diary…perhaps he slept on his books .Or he stacked them away
neatly. Perhaps he was not one to sleep on a book. Perhaps he was not one to
sleep at all. My mind raced and stopped, then raced some more.
he not been surrounded by so many officials from the Nigerian Prison Service I
would have approached him. I wondered how many matters would be called up
before his. I looked through the window, shooting a glance at the ixora shrubs
case was called up. He was not Tobi. His name was Amaechi. His voice charmed
the court. He could not have been anything above nineteen years old. He had
been charged with unlawful assault. Though he had no lawyer, the court
discharged him on health grounds. The magistrate addressed him as one who was
on his death bed, he demanded that all the cuffs be taken off. Amaechi’s guilt
was still hanging. Tobi remained a saint. He was free for the time, and I
sought so much to see him. He was still clad in blue, and he was headed for the
courts gate. He would probably be welcomed by the world with sympathy for the
ailment that ravished his body or he would be embraced with the several
questions that surrounded. Still I was on his trail, forgetting that Tolu was
in court, I dashed out. Out of the court and out for Tobi.
had covered some poles and I followed stealthily behind. I did not want to draw
attention to myself. I regretted that I was not a lawyer, then I would have
offered my services free of charge and I would be permitted long sessions to speak
with him as my client- the questions that I would ask…God help me. Then again,
I may not have met him, had I not been in court, that court.
thought of the several other opportunities I may have in the future had I not
had this one- Perhaps, when I had become a priest after my graduation from the
theological institute. May be then, I would be there to christen his babe or he
could come to me for counselling. Perhaps, at worst I could be the one with
whom he would share his last prayers at the gallows or I could be invited to
his funeral and never know who he was.
this time, I was half way across the town- a few seats behind him, in the same
bus. I had ignored the several opportunities I had to approach him- even when
we locked eyes on my entering the bus.
had absolutely no idea what I was doing. However, it fascinated me.
was he going? I wondered if he had family…. I had never been in so much thought
while remaining so lucid. I wished…I saw that it was just Tobi and I on the
bus. If we had met before now, perhaps I would have driven him home in Tolu’s
boarded another bus and we were leaving Enugu when I sent Tolu a text message
letting him know of my plans to sleep out for the night. And like Tolu, he
called and called. I never picked. He should understand…I had never been so
enchanted, so caught. Enugu was now far behind us and evening had come. He had
been awfully quiet throughout the ride. Though we sat next to each other now, I
had still not said a word to him. I was uncertain of the first words to say. I
wished that I was an artist so I could sketch him a rough portrait- in hopes
that it would thrill him.
brought you to court today,’ he finally said. He knew that I had followed him.
came with my brother,’ I said, ‘He is a lawyer and one of his matters was in
he said turning to face the window. ‘ So why are you headed to Osha?’
name is Wole, by the way,’ I said reaching for a handshake.
he said, shaking my hands. Leathery palms…firm.
bus jolted as it ran across a pot hole, and I woke up. Tobi had still not said
anything to me and we had not yet shook hands.
felt a strong connection. We must have met before. Perhaps I even followed him
Twitter. Perhaps, we had shared an earlier life. Perhaps, he was one of those
strangers with whom I locked glances, uncertain of whom there were or where
they were headed.
closer look, he had little strands of curly hair on his chin. Perhaps, we had
appeared in the same picture previously, or he had once dated my friend. ‘Who is
this boy?’, I thought, ‘...this man.’
imagined that we had visited the same places, but he had always left in good
time before I walked in and I may never be as lucky again. I could not take
that chance. I leaned over and kissed him. It was beautiful, and he did not
flinch. I knew I was dreaming. This could not be happening. I tried pulling
away but I could not. I felt Maleficent fly past. Then another Maleficent flew
past. My eyes were open now. I was atop a hill. One so high I could reach the
clouds and pluck it. Tobi…no Amaechi…no Tobi…whatever his name is, he was with
me. We were standing by each other, holding hands. I willed him to speak. I
willed him to speak again. I searched for words too. His palm grew warmer. Or
what is it mine? Suddenly, the clouds seemed to descend like cotton drapes. I
felt someone embrace me. I could no longer see. I felt. I only felt.
is cold in my bed, wet on my crotch and dry in my mouth. There is no Tobi here-
just nineteen other male secondary school students of Amara Government
Secondary School, farting at intervals and talking in their dreams. I am still
turning on my bunk bed, in attempt to out-squeak the two ceiling fans- that
have been threatening to descend since we resumed this session. It is not
wondering what Elijah will say about it. He had earlier warned me not to eat in
my dreams so that I do not get initiated into the witch-craft. Then he warned me
to stay away from Bisi and Olumide-who he said turn to ikwi-ikwi the night bird
at night to attend ikwi-ikwi meetings on the school’s cashew tree. He even told
Kayode that it was revealed to him that his mother would die on one of her
trips to Dubai. He then sold a bottle of Olive Oil to Kayode for the contents
of a fat white envelope. Things turned around for him soon after, I mean
Elijah. His seatmate, Fola, could not bear the strong smelling perfume he wore
to classes. His inner vests got brighter. He bought new locks-the ones with
codes-for his locker and Ghana-must-go bags after someone accused him of being
too stingy with his Corn Flakes and threatened to raid his locker. And to say
the least, he has never run out of Cornflakes, even in the toughest of times.
Since he came back with that Jerusalem cap, and accurately predicted the
questions of the last mathematics examination, he has become supernatural.
I want to be a priest too, knowing stuff before they happen. I want to have
lights are finally off. ‘Nepa’ took light. I jump down from my bed, groping in
the darkness to the end of the hall. I am trying to keep to the middle of the
aisle so as not to bump into metal suit cases or knock over water stored in
plastic buckets. Sweet Lord, guide me to my locker.
I am stark naked, staring into distant dark, holding my penis up with my right
hand, blindly wiping off nearly dried semen from my scrotum and thighs. Suddenly,
someone barges into our dorm room. A bright beam of torch light scourges me. It
is the house master, Mr. Okpati.
Battery take light. Battery take light now.