ÈLÈFÈ (Joker)

ÈLÈFÈ (Joker)


It’s been ten years since he last breathe the air of home, of Nigeria. Ten years in the extreme cold and bright warmth of America’s winters and summers. But all those morning, he felt woken up by the crow of cocks. Very native cocks. Sometimes,  it was the neighbour with whom he shared garage that will be honking for several reasons he never thought rational. Sometimes it will be his faulty TV, that popped on whenever it felt, other times a knock from an artisan (plumber mostly). But never an actual cock crow. But those happened in the past years. These last two days had nothing symbolizing the crow. No TV popping on, no honking, no knock, just he woken by the actual crow into the foggy brightness of harmattan sun.


He gets off the bed that centered the sitting room and heads for the bathroom bumping on everything however small or big and cursing along. In the bathroom, the tap fails. He cusses louder now and sends a punch at the faucet. Then a gush bust from the faucet, but it is brief. He looked at it and laughs. Laughs hard even until he’s in his blue jumpy jean and loosed white top. He turns to the mirror that served as one of the pairs for the wardrobe door also. He was all pale. He doesn’t find any  body cream or oil in his bag, so he says ‘fuck it’. It is never about the paleness, it’s about the gold and bars. So he weighs down his ears with his earrings, and his wrist with: on one wrist, bangles; on the other, a wrist watch. And then just before leaving, he remembers the faucet, his punch, and the brief water gushing response and imagines the faucet as a child refusing to take his pills. Then on getting a knock on the head, takes overdose. Then he laughs aloud. He places a cap on his head, then takes it off. The year should begin with him flaunting his locks. He takes one final look in the mirror, rubs his goatee with the side of his index finger and laughs harder.


In Ohio, when it was summer, it wore a whiteness of snow. Here in Lagos, there is whiteness that partnered with dryness and dustiness to paint the city a sepia  yellow or sepia red. In this redness there is also a stinging cold, but it seems he feels it alone. Everyone one else seems to be going about everything with elation, a hurrying elation. He walks along this gay, his sight wandering over neons and non neons signs that coloured the streets; wanders over children and young adults uniformed in fancy clothes and shoes and glasses parading the streets in colonies, half walking, half hopping.

About the neon lights and displays, this has always been. Then, Dumebi would yell and hiss every time they walked this street.

‘What on earth got you living in a marketplace’. And he would laugh and apologise for laughing, then laugh again. He liked the way she showed irritation, perhaps, feigned irritation. The way her brows arched, her eyeballs rolled and the hole in her cheek deepened beside her pouty lips. He would take his hand around her waist and say, ‘even in all these noises, I hear only you’. And they would kiss.


He trips over a can of malt now. He decides to continue his walk with one in hand. At the store he goes to buy one, the woman jokes about him getting only one malt on New Year’s Eve, but all he worries about is what cream exactly was capable of bathing this woman red with purple sores on her knuckles and knees. He doesn’t open the drink. He will not. Now he sees a small abattoir. Three men struggling to hold down a cow.

I thought only chickens are killed on days like this. He thinks. As if his thoughts has been announced, a group of uniformed-in-fancy-clothes children hops along ringing aloud,

Every goat say meh

Every cow say moon

Every chicken say kookoorookoo koo

He laughs. A hard surprised laughter. The ringleader of the children reminds him of the girl he home tutored in Ohio, they both have cornrows that dangles because of the protrusion of the back of their head. He laughs on remembering this and laughs harder on remembering the scenario behind his getting fired.

The girl’s mother sued him for trying to sexually harass her minor by sexually stimulating her with his arm in between her legs. In the courtroom he laughed before saying that her daughter reporting this too her only told a lot about the young girl’s mindset, about her parent’s and about her teachers’. This statement got the woman run up to him and hit him across the face.  He was acquitted and the woman imprisoned for 7days for court disorderliness. He laughs really hard now.


His phone rang for a long time now. So a text comes in. It is Yemisi is older sister. She texts, your Nigerian number is going through, how the hell will you come to Nigeria and not tell your family. He laughs.


He can see Dumebi’s house now. It’s been ten years they saw and seven, they spoke. He feels nervous, his feet tremble as they sprint over the evidence of human merriment left on the ground.


At Dumebi’s gate he turns to the screams of an elderly woman who sits on a chair on the balcony with low railings.

‘Happy New Year!’ Her voice was shaky and thin. It made it reverberate. A perfect replica of his mother’s. On her face, she holds a smile – the kind that is held after a long laughter – and her eyes seem blurred with stifled tears. She had the aura of one who didn’t expect to have made it into the new year, of one who thinks it unmerited of her to live this long. He wants to go over and hold her hand, tell her a joke and have both of them laugh hard. He wants to whisper between those laughter, that she could say happy new year again.


He knocks gently on the gate. He thinks of Dumebi now. She would open the gate and shut it against him afterwards, perhaps hit him in the face first. Then she would open again, and whimper, ten years Ade. Perhaps, just jump into his arms. Then either of them would be compelled to say happy new year ten times. Then laughter. But he wouldn’t laugh. He will only highlight every line that made up her face structure with an unwitting grin.


When she does come out, she wears a flowery gown that hung on her shoulder so fragile. They hold each other’s gaze with a smile. Minutes pass before he notices the laughter from the house float into them.

‘Who are those laughing’. He chuckles.

‘New year comes with a full house,’ She chuckles too. ‘A house filled with laughter’.

*Èlèfè is a Yoruba word meaning a Joker

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