“Smooth creases are waters burning in the air, la la,” I sing softly, tapping the edge of my reading table with my thumb. The feather is flipping through the pages of my mind, interpreting the pictures in my head, and penning them in words whose fonts I change at will. All I have to do is to create a font by drawing a picture of it in my head. Just today, I’ve created so many fonts–very funny-looking ones. The funniest one is a lower case ‘g’ that looks like the inverted diagram of a pregnant woman.
Everyone wonders why I prefer to write with a pen, rather than on my phone or laptop. The “you dey try o” remarks I get from people are as many as potholes on the roads of our street, while some simply wear bland looks that mask ‘smh’. My cousin, Jola, falls in the last category.
“You won’t write much this way, and if you don’t, the writing won’t do itself” he’d say.
“Dey dia,” I’d reply, clicking my tongue in contempt.
The feather chuckles and stops to talk.
“Jola no sabi, the writing is now doing itself.”
“As it should be,” I reply, barely looking up from my phone, on which I’ve been roaming on Pinterest. Pinterest is an app that comes with pre-installed peace; it is devoid of violence and cruise that overflows on Twitter, nor does it possess oppression and Godwhen-ism which are the major features of Instagram, or even the headache that comes with stepping in the street of Facebook. Just that on Pinterest, you have to suffix any search with ‘for black whatever’ before the search engine can come up with results that match your reality. When I wanted to bake a red velvet cake last week, I had to type ‘how to bake red velvet cake for black girls’ before I could see videos and recipes of our kind of red velvet cake. It’s ridiculous, abeg. Besides this, the P in Pinterest stands for peace. It feeds my eyes and I’ve always hoped it’ll feed my stomach too, someday.
Today, it seems Pinterest is not willing to feed my eyes, not to talk of my empty stomach. I’m searching for dodo, and I keep seeing light-skinned ones that look so dry, like ìpékeré.
“Wetin dey happen today?” I hang my head in frustration. Oh! I remember! I add ‘for black’ to ‘plates of dodo’ that I typed earlier and boom! plates of black, soft dodo glistening with palm oil and vegetable oil fill my screen. My stomach starts to growl like our neighbours’ dog does whenever it’s warming up to bark hard.
“Boy! I’d like to eat from these plates of beauties,” I say, patting the screen of my phone. Suddenly, it starts to quiver. This phone should not do this to me in this tough economy o. Wait! What am I seeing? A red fork popping out of my screen? Pinterest is inviting me to come to eat from any of the plates? I grab the fork and start eating like a thief. Man! The beauty of dodo is in the mouth of the devourer; averagely burnt dodo, just like I prefer them.
I’ve downed two plates, and I’m now on the third. Wait! Where’s this feather? I can’t find it on the page it was writing in. I look around confusedly, only to see it right before me, peering into my phone, and eyeing my fork.
“What?!” I scream.
“What is what?” it shrugs.
It keeps staring hard at the Dodo inside the phone, so, I realise that it wants some Dodo. I knit my eyebrows into a deep frown.
“You want Dodo too?”
It nods a yes.
“I’ve been writing since morning nau, won’t you pay me something at least? Remember that everybody in this country is hungry o.”
“What? Has the writing not been doing itself?” I ask hotly.
“Can the writing do itself?” it asked.
“You know what?”, I ask, shutting my eyelids in anger, “Leave, this minute!”
I open my eyes to see it has left my room. But, there’s nothing on my desk as well. Not the phone, dodo, fork, even the page the feather had been writing in had not even an alphabet in it.
“What on God’s good earth is happening here?” I rub my eyes with the back of my palms and straighten up in my chair.
A sudden burst of shrill laughter resounds behind me. “Nothing is happening,” the owner of the laughter says. I turn around only to see Anne standing in the hollow space between the wall and the other end of my bed.
“Nothing?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, nothing. Your laptop which has been hanging on its dear life all this while packed off yesterday. You had no choice but to write with your phone, but sadly for you, there hasn’t been power supply since yesterday, your power bank is flat and your phone too went off this afternoon–”
“So, that’s your phone there on your bed,” she pointed her index finger to my phone, “and that’s the book you tried to write in,” she points at my desk. “Whilst wishing that the writing would do itself, you slept off and wandered off to dreamland.”
“So, I was dreaming?” I ask, unbelievably.
She nods. I regard Anne for a moment, trying to figure out who she is. Not from here, I’m certain. Her skin is pale and– oh! I remember. She is the protagonist of the novel I just finished reading. I remember wishing I could exchange places with her, she’s a student in Florida state university whose major distress is her height. The girl no sabi say her condition no permanent at all. If you’re insecure about anything and you attend any tertiary institution here, you’d surely graduate as an ear of roasted corn or booli from all the roasting you’d get in your nine years of studying a four-year course.
I stand up and head towards my kitchen. I’ll come back to her matter after drinking garri. I gats knock sense into her head. Wait, what’s she even doing here? I stop momentarily and turn back. Is this how characters in books visit their readers? Or is this another dream or pure witchcraft?
“What are you doing here?” I demand.
“To pay you a visit, so, you can see how tall I am.” She straightens up and saunters out of the crammed space.
Almighty God! I thought she has been standing all along. She begins to match towards me, swerving sideways. I fall back and let out a shriek. She looks like a human giraffe. As I crawl towards the door with my back, her neck and hands begin to grow longer and she stretches them towards me.
“Christ Lord, accept my soul,” rigid with horror, I yell and fall out of my door, bounding down the row of staircases that lay ahead.
“Dara, are you fine? Open the door.” Jola’s concerned voice floated into the clearing fog of blackness that had veiled my vision.
“I had a dream,” I croak.
“Na wa o, so, it was a dream that made you scream at Christ to accept your soul. This strike has done you strong thing o,” he laughs and leaves my door.
I pick myself from the floor and look around my room, trying to discern if Jola was talking about bandits’ strike or ASUU strike. The most common news these days are ‘Bandits strike in Sokoto, kills farmers and kidnaps children’. ASUU has also embarked on an indefinite strike since March. Whichever he was talking about, I don’t care. I grab my denim jacket and hare off to the living room. I may not survive another encounter with another Anne, real or imaginary.
“Dara!” Jola calls after me as I run to the gate. It’s Jola every time. I hate that the bobo is staying with us. He attends UNILAG and his parents live in Kaduna, so he’s staying with us in Lagos till ASUU calls off the strike as the roads are not safe and the bobo claims he has aviophobia.
“Ehn?” I respond, fumbling with the lock of the gate.
“You want to take a walk, abi?”
“I’m not saying you should not trek from Agidingbi to Oshodi o, but if you care to know, the time is 11 pm, therefore, make sure whatever vibe you’re carrying with you is supported by Insha Allah, SARS dey road o, maybe you should tie your jacket on your white head,” he says, referring to my white dyed hair.
I turn back and run past Jola, to my bedroom. The fear of SARS is the beginning of knowledge and safety in Nigeria. I sink on my bed and cry into my pillow. I hate this country now more than over. We celebrated the sixtieth year of independence yesterday and we’ll have to celebrate our shackled freedom for a whole year. I continue to cry, freeing all my pent up emotions.
The taste of my tears on my hanging tongue must have jolted me up. I stood up from my reading table and stretched. The novel I was reading before I slept off is awash in tears. I had placed my head on it. It’s quarter past six in the evening, I must have dreamt for over seven hours. The last time I checked the time, it was a few minutes past 11 am. I sigh, patting my throbbing head. I dab my eyes with the hem of my shift dress.
It was one of the fucked days since the indefinite ASUU strike. A fucked day, like every other day in our absurd world.