Friday, 19 September 2008

Life on Mars

I arrived in the US as a naive, highly inquisitive, very excited 13 year old in my beige Rayon suit and nylon shirt with the psychedelic designs and my patent leather black shoes. I, along with the other transit passengers was whisked from JFK to LaGuardia (or was it vice versa?) via helicopter (no advance warning oh.) to catch my onward flight to Ohio. Everything was a blur, mad, unreal. A small taste of what was to come.

I started in the local high school almost immediately where I was one of maybe five black students but the only one from the "motherland". I scared them small with my accent and I think my reading of a page of literature in English class in that first month will probably stay with those lucky enough to be there for life. They probably still talk about it at the school reunions. Along with the very tight flares and unwieldy platforms that I once showed up in on the misguided basis that I looked "cool, man". One wrong move either way and it was either a broken ankle or give up any plans for having children.
Life after school revolved around homework, going to films, watching TV and taking long walks around the campus where we lived. It also revolved around finally having access to my one downfall in life. Cakes, cookies, candy, chocolate. See mum used to work at NTC on Marina and everyday after school we would "pop by" to visit her on the way home. This visit normally involved totally bypassing her floor (after all I can see her at home, abi?) and heading straight for the canteen which stocked all the finest delicacies and sweets and the latest comic books. If the place had a bed I would never have left.
Anyway, one day after school, in the US (please keep up) I went home, got my laundry and made my way to the laundry room which was in the basement of the block where we lived. I threw the washing in the machine, along with the soap powder, got it going and decided that after all this hard work and effort I deserved a treat. I made my way over to the machine and bought myself a Mars bar. I slowly unwrapped it looking forward to the sheer bliss of it and then my head exploded.
As I bit down and chewed on the sticky chocolate the room started to move and swirl. Everything turned rubbery. The colours became most vivid. The sounds much too clear. I slumped against the wall and dropped the bar. I traced my way to the elevator and pushed the button. I crawled in when it arrived and by this time I was in a cold sweat. I fumbled my way to my room where I collapsed into my bed after putting the aircon on full blast. My heart was palpitating, colours swirled around in my mind, I felt myself floating. My head was pulsing, my heart thumped in my chest. All I could see in my mind's eye were these swirling psychedelic colours and shapes. They were very intriguing, they way they kept moving around, changing shape and form and hues.
I lay like this for God knows how long before I finally came to. At first I wondered if it had all been a dream but the soaked sheets were evidence to the contrary. And so it was that I discovered life on Mars.

Monday, 15 September 2008

A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall....

Talk is cheap. I know that. I was always the quietest one in my social circles. I was viewed as an oddity. An enigma. An old soul in a young man's body. I once went a month year barely uttering a sentence to the people I lived with.

I wrote a poem about words back then. I only remember these lines:

Some people throw words around

like left over currency

after a cheap foreign holiday

I guard my words like diamonds and gold

for they are the currency of my soul.

I am content to just be. To listen. And listen some more. But deep within me the emotions churn. The facade might be calm but the interior is aflame. So much so that sometimes I break out in a hot sweat.

So what is this all about? It is about the need for change. The need to do something. As the comments on my last post have revealed we are now getting to the stage where words are no longer enough. Enough words have been written and printed to flatten the Amazon rain forests and yet we are where we are. Or even backward. So now what? I also realise that whilst we sit here on our blogs postulating and agitating for change there is only a small minority of us. After all how many people in Nigeria even have access to the internet? Well, it is my field so let me tell you - less than 5% of the population. And that's being generous.

So what to do? How about a million (man) march? Would that make any difference? Could we even garner a million in this days of apathy? How about a strike by civil servants? Would that get support? How about a petition delivered to Aso Rock? Would it even get to the door? What do we have to do as citizens of this great country to get

- constant power?

- proper education for our kids that does not cost an arm and a leg?

- proper healthcare - ditto the above?

- transparency in government?

and that's just for starters. Another poem

Someday a hard rain is gonna fall

and strip us naked one and all

where will you run when its falling down?

where will you hide when it's raining all around?

Hard Rain, Hard Rain.

In my view we have run out of hiding places. We are exposed. It's raining all around. Hard Rain.