The trip from Lagos was long. Very long. I thought the driver looked vaguely familiar but I didn’t recognize him until the bus stopped for the first time to drink water. The water in a grey five liters keg splashed on my legs several times before the driver asked for it. I remembered the bus from a bad trip long ago that left me stranded in the rain far from my preferred stop. After the bus had a sip of water for its jaunty metal body, a few bolts loosened from it and the driver brought them in. We made three more stops like this and I feared the bus would come apart like it was made of Lego blocks due to the sheer number of bolts and nuts the driver kept on the dashboard.
At Iwo Road, none of the porters approached me. I would have gladly paid them a hundred naira just to get my luggage across the road. The porters were mostly thirteen to fifteen year old boys. But there were middle aged men who muttered curses when they weren’t given bags to carry. I almost got hit by one of the ubiquitous Micra cabs as I crossed the road at the bus park and people screamed: ah!
A close shave of death does not faze me, where is the real deal?
The room at the end of my journey had a treasure of books and I didn’t hesitate to start with one right away. I saw my cousin not long after my arrival. He had searched my eyes with intent the last time we met but he averted his eyes several times when I tried to hold his gaze this time. He had just recovered from chicken pox and was very conscious o his face.
I decided to start seeing Ibadan immediately; visit an old friend and to get reacquainted with the University of Ibadan. I had not seen a more beautiful and magical evening in a long time and I was vindicated for going to that city to get my creative juices flowing. The sky went from bright sunny afternoon to overcast in a second. Dark clouds covered the sky and a wind blew gusts of sand,sweeping the road intermittently. The sun already in the west wasn’t orange yet, it shone. Traders harried themselves and packed up their wares, an ecstatic eagle sailed the wind far above the trees that ran along with the road.
I spent the rest of the evening walking once familiar paths in the university, the roads were deserted and I had an invisible hat of melancholy on my head.
The driver nudged me a few times as he changed gears and I sat upright the first time to become mindful of the moment as I had been drifting in the car hitherto his first touch. We were three seated in the front seats as the car sped toward the university. The hills on the left side of the road held churches precariously on the precipices like the smile of a sparsely toothed man. On the Westside of yester-wonder; an old man in agbada and a white skull cap folded his hands behind his back as he stared into the distance ignoring the cab which might also be a giant white crab for all he cared, two exhausted farmers and a load of bananas sat in front of a petrol station watching the road, a motorcycle emerged from a side-street that joined the thoroughfare, three men were seated on the motorcycle and the exhaust pipe was in the mouth of one. The driver nudged me again; I turned to look at his face properly, thinking: are you my cousin? Everybody in Ibadan is constantly searching for la familia.
I got to the studio where my friend S. lived. He had a new girl whom he introduced and I promptly forgot her name. I peeped into the studio booth and found the usual crowd of amateur artistes there. S. told me: “We wan record” and I knew he meant that he probably had a few hours to entertain me. We left the studio to buy cigarettes and also for a little time to catch up. We climbed the rooftop of the building to smoke. I lit up a joint to behold the glory of Ibadan from that height. I thought of recording all I saw in Yoruba. It was dark and I only saw white lights, yellow lights and blue neon lights.
Ina funfun, ina pupa, ina aro niwon tan kale nigboro Ibadan.
I met F. my best friend at a bar. He had locked his hair and he thought he looked like Kendrick Lamar. A white pit-bull dog was tied to a tree nearby and I was the only one that smoked and drank beer. He opted for a Malt drink to wash away the taste of the eba that wasn’t so good. There was a minor road accident near the bar; a motorcycle hit a car by the side and I wondered if death was shadowing me. We left for the studio to meet S. At the studio, we discussed plans to record music as usual and I smoked a joint. I was inebriated so I went into the booth to rest while F. told the story of a drugged caked he ate:
“I first dey form say Oga nothing dey your cake, na bullshit. Na so the thing hit me. I comport myself comot the bar go my house wey no too far. I first pour water for my head but I no feel anything wallahi! I go knock the door of one of my neighbors, the girl no quick come out, she talk say: “I’m naked F.”. As the girl comot, shelook me from head to toe. I come ask her: “Abeg water dey my body?” she talk say: “F. what the fuck! You’re fucking wet” Na so she come dey panic, me sef come contact the paranoia. Them come ask me wetin happen, I tell them say I chop cake. Them ask me say who give you cake chop, I mention the guy name, them go call am. As one person mention hospital like this, I don over think am, naso me sef they shout “hospital!”The guy talk say make them leave me inside room make I sleep say the thing go wear off. Plenty people don gather on top my head by this time. I just dey talk say: “Na so people dey run mad” I don forget who I be. I dey ask them: “wetin be my name?”, “where I dey?”, “Wetin I dey do for here?” Them talk say: “You be F., you dey Ilorin and you be Corper wey dey serve here.”
I talk say: “na so people dey run mad”. When them leave me alone for room, e come be like say I comot my body, I come see five versions of me wey they fight for my body. We come dey argue say who go enter the body back. I dey argue with my selves say na my body! I think say I go die if no be the original me enter back. I come sleep off. The next morning, the thing still dey my body but I just dey look. I come dey wonder say shey those things happen true true yesterday abi I dream am? I over gentle for the next three days before the last trace of the thing comot for my body. I still dey chop that guy cake but na little at a time now. The cake na one-kay for one.”
I felt better by the time he finished his story, and it was about 4:30pm when we decided to leave. He said: “no let car jam you” as we parted ways.
I got off the minivan before we got to the gate of the university. I waved goodbye to my family and I trudged to the boys’ quarters behind the clinic for a smoke session rendezvous. B. lived here with her new boyfriend ( called T.) and she wanted us to talk. I had no idea what she wanted us to talk about, I just wanted a place to smoke a few cigarettes and a joint if I was lucky. I loosened my tie, took off my jacket and lit a cigarette. There was a skull on a small table and I picked it up to examine it. I asked T.: “do you like skulls?” He mumbled a yes. He said he plays the piano and the bass guitar. I asked him to roll up a joint which he did. I told him that I’m fascinated with jazz. He lit the joint and brought out a big jazz textbook from his drawer. I flipped through the pages and asked him who his favourite artiste was, he said Miles Davis. He passed the joint.
We were all getting high when he suddenly became taciturn. B. said that I was the first person that expressed doubt in the existence of God that she knew. She asked her boyfriend: “did you read that Satanic Verses book I gave you?” His answer was inaudible. B. made me connect my phone to the portable stereo via Bluetooth and I played Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. The vibe was cool with the jazz accompanying the high chatter. I told B.:“I’m not exactly an atheist, I am agnostic and I’ve been thinking about the immanence and transcendence of God lately. I’m on a search for God”.
B. said: “of course you’re searching for him intelligently and not dumbly accepting everything you’re told like everybody else”. T. got up from the chair to lie on the bed. B. settled on his crotch, gyrating slowly to the music while I took a heavy drag of the joint. A face that B. recognized appeared at the window suddenly. She got up to open the door for a dark young man with the face that just appeared at the window to come in. B. introduced the newcomer as V. to me. V. added that he is a poet. I was very interested in him then, so I told him that I am a poet too but he didn’t believe me. I passed him the joint after he eyed it a few times and then proceeded to show him the poems on my blog after he was visibly high. He chuckled a few times at my mad poems, showed me his poems too from his blog and we ignored B. and her boyfriend. B. feeling resentful got up to get a whiff of the joint and she said to V.: “who said you write like Bukowski?” V. looked at me apologetically and he said:”Yeah I read a lot of Bukowski sometime ago”. I thought V.’s poems were poor because he read too little and he was trapped in archaisms and generalizations. T., determined to join the conversation said: “I am a poet too but I don’t write my poems down, I write them on her”, he pointed at B. He got up and began to roll another joint. V. chortled and asked T. if Dead Mouse had read his poems. T. said: “Dead Mouse knows everything”. B. said: “Dead Mouse is a cool guy and I love him”. I was lost because I didn’t know who Dead Mouse was but I assumed he was an alternate persona of T. I asked B.:“who is Dead Mouse?” T. answered: “Dead Mouse is a guy, he is my mentor and he is a music producer”. I must have had an incredulous look on my face, because they stared at me, maybe it was just the weed. To deflect the attention, I said: “Let’s record this session”. T. said: “Yeah, let’s do it, it will be so cool with the jazz playing in the background” So we did it. The conversations trickled off as B. rocked her donkey on T.’s crotch and the poet V. was so high he couldn’t keep his eye open. B. and T. giggled and whispered to themselves, the scene began to dim in my eyes, so I got up to take my leave. B. hugged me and I left for the cafeteria.
I hadn’t ordered food when I called S. He showed up with his girl who smiled a lot but said little and K. who was an autodidact on most days. It was my day so I bought food for the gang but I couldn’t stay there, it was much too hot and I was still high. I left the cafeteria to sit under a tree at the gate of a hall of residence. I met a girl sitting there, she gave me a quick once over then she smoothened the creases on her dress. I was overdressed for where I sat, a few residents of the hall that walked past me dropped comments aimed at me like “strategic positioning”. I left that space and began to walk home. It was probably going to be the last daylight hours I’ll spend in the university for a while and I wanted to mingle with the crowd leaving the citadel at the closing hour. The men wore safari suits and the ladies were angelic and calm from the long hours of study. My footsteps were sure and firm and I walked out of the citadel to begin the journey back to Lagos.
Adeyinka Olanrewaju talks too much and writes a little. He’s looking for inspiration at the bottom of a draught keg of Heineken. He’s a veterinary doctor on most days, a sloth on others.