I was locked in the wardrobe, ironed to perfection, glowing with trend. I could be seen in the latest fashion magazine. I was the best and I cost a fortune. But I left me with doubts. Then, I knew I had not found me, at least not my best. My trendy clothes were not me. Even in them, completeness eluded me.
So I stepped out of the house and headed for the city mall a few streets away. My eyes were fixed and my heart was racing. My mind was searching. It was sure it would recognize the best of me when it saw it. And it didn’t in the laptop shop, not even among the latest models, as sleek and gleaming as they looked, as sophisticated as they appeared.
‘The best of you might not be sophisticated or have a gleaming shine’, my mind said.
So I walked on amongst the sea of people at the mall. Some had fixed destinations, things they wanted to purchase and then get out. Others had all day to loaf. I saw it in their eyes, in their gaits, in the raised or sloppy slant of their shoulders. They reminded me of the world. The world is like a busy shopping mall. We buy and sell. We hope to end up with a nice bargain. We hope for the best version we can afford. But the question is always “where?”
My eyes were fixed, just like my mind was. I ignored many shops and the traders with their wares because my mind said to me ‘not there, walk on’. So I walked on.
I did not see him in front of me. He had just emerged from a shop and was trying to get into the flowing stream of foot traffic, when I bumped into him or when he bumped into me. His purchase flew off his hands and was soon all over the passage. Thankfully, they were books, paperback novels. He was angry at first and blotted out “watch where you are going punk!”’ But as I began to profusely apologize and retrieve the books from the floor, he softened, till he was smiling and thanking me as I handed the novels to him.
“I am so sorry” I said, and because my mouth had a mind of its own, it added, “I am looking for something”
He paused, still smiling, eager to help a polite fellow like me. He appreciated my politeness.
“What are you searching for, perhaps I could help”
“Well, nothing specifically, I am searching for me. Something I can connect to. I seem to be incomplete. I need something to complete myself. I am just not sure about myself. I am not the best I can be. I feel incomplete” I said, not finding the right words to explain my dilemma. How does one say that you are searching for you? In what shops are people sold? Where can you update yourself or buy a better version of yourself.
He smiled knowingly, “I understand perfectly. Sometimes we need to reconnect to the deep part of ourselves. Sometimes we just need to free our minds and find ourselves.” He gestured with his hands as he spoke, stressing some words by a continuous movement of his hand and a tightening of his face.
“What you need is a good novel”, he continued. He let this settle in for a second before adding “And I know just the author. Jacob Jonderd will take you to places where you will lose and find yourself. You will connect to the inner you as you connect with his characters. He is a tactful writer and you will surely find yourself as you are lost in his work. What an irony”.
I stood unsure but was beginning to get convinced because the stranger seemed convinced. He spoke like he had found himself in a Jacob Jonderd novel, like he had proffered a similar solution a hundred times before and had seen it work wonders all the time. So I believed, though my mind said otherwise, I believed all the same because the stranger was sure. Sometimes, strangers are sure.
I walked with him into the bookshop he had emerged from and got myself three Jacob Jonderd novels. The stranger kept reassuring me that my search had come to an end. That destiny designed my bumping into him. That the best of me was bound within the covers of Jacob Jonderd novels and as I lost myself in the novels, I would find me. He kept saying “what an irony, lose to find.”
We parted ways. But because my mind said, “no, not in the novels,” I continued my search.
I got hungry and settled for meat pie and a can of coke in a little eatery. It was the outdoor sort with high stools arranged around a counter, such that customers sat a few steps from the foot traffic. I sat on one of the stools and watched the people hurry past, loaf past, laugh past, frown past, chat past, and complain past. I ate slowly, allowing my mind to work on the location of me.
A young man appeared and took the stool next to me. I was drawing from my coke with a straw so I looked at him from the corner of my eye. He wore earpieces in each ear and was nodding vigorously to whatever was playing. His fitted T-shirt had short sleeves and a black and white photo of The Beatles in front of it over his flat chest. He removed the piece in his right ear and ordered something. He glanced at me and said “hi”
I nodded in response. I was thinking about something my grandma always said when she saw me.
“Sorry for intruding, but you seem to have a lot on your mind, you want to share?”
I looked at him in disbelief.
“I am a stranger. Are you sure you want to hear my problems?”
“So you do have problems. Yes, a problem shared is a problem half solved”
I immediately knew his kind. He must have spoken to a hundred different strangers. He has made a habit of meeting new people and striking up conversations. He would have thousands of friends on Facebook.
“Well, I am searching for myself. I seem lost. I don’t know the exact words to use but my problem sounds like that” I said.
He stared at me for a few moments. He removed the second piece from his left ear, squinted and said “I understand.”
Those words struck me as cliché. Everyone understands, even when they know very little. ‘I understand,’ easy to say.
“Are you a music lover?” He asked.
“Not lover per se. I listen to music but I’m not much of a music lover”.
He was nodding as I responded, as if to say ‘I guessed as much.’
“Music enlivens the soul” he said.
I thought of this for a moment, while he busied himself with his snack.
After gulping down a mouthful, he said “Maybe I should transfer some helpful songs to your phone.”
He was pointing at my Blackberry™ that lay on the counter in front of me.
“Sure. I hope it will help”
“Definitely it will. Music enlivens the soul”
Another stranger that believed his own words, that believed the solution he offered was the solution I sought. Again, that confident look of a person who has seen his cure work marvelous things. He transferred ten songs via bluetooth and we exchanged phone numbers.
He left the eatery before I did. As he walked away, I knew that songs were not the answer I sought. Yes, they enliven the soul but my soul was alive, just searching for the best of it, just incomplete. My mind wondered back to my grandma and those statements she always made as I hugged her: “You have your grandfather’s gait. In fact, you look just like him.”
The best of me must be in my grandpa. Or not.
I left the counter and joined the flow of foot traffic.
…the story continues