I had shaken off my shackles as I drove to Yinka’s house. The clouds were a dark blue colour since the sun had skipped behind them. The weather was in an indecisive state, whether to rain or not, so it blended an airy coolness with dark blue clouds.
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Gbedu was pumping in my car and the interior vibrated with continuous shivers. I was mouthing words from the song and dancing on the wheel, shaking my head like an agama lizard. The glowing glare my mind maintained had become too discomfiting so I handed it dark sunglasses. It now looked like a blind old fellow, but at least the glare stayed behind the dark screen.
Yinka stood in front of the rather ugly gate of No 12, Taiwo Street. Children in underwear, barefoot, and playing with sand and rubbish were all around. The houses on Taiwo sort of clung to each other and created a frenzy of mismatched mosquito netted doors and different shades of paint. The gutter that ran steadily along Taiwo contained green coloured semi-liquid matter that looked like it was boiling. In the midst of it all, Yinka stood with a sparkling white T-shirt that clung to his lanky frame, blue skinny-jeans and Paul Smith shoes. A sliver necklace nestled on his chest.
You live in a slump and own a BlackBerry? I wanted to ask as he climbed into the car rather confidently and slowly, like he wanted everyone around to notice him. He greeted me too loudly and too familiarly considering it was only our second meeting. I felt like I had known him for ages. He quickly explained that we were to wait a couple of minutes for a friend of his who was also to attend the concert. He was still explaining when I caught sight of the said friend bouncing hurriedly in our direction. He too was dressed in contrast to the neighbourhood like a blooming rose plant in the midst of a rubbish heap. His perfume took over the car the moment he stepped in.
We sped along to the XConnect concert, two friends and a stranger, in the stranger’s car, with the stranger’s mind sitting blindly in his head, glowing behind plastic darkness. The venue was a large event hall in the middle of the city. We parked blocks away because the parking lot and the roadside spaces were filled with cars. A young man clearly off his rockers checked our tickets at the entrance. He had spiky afro hair. His ears and nose were pierced and he had a lost look like his mind lived in Mars while his body roamed the earth. He was dancing to the music booming out of the hall as he checked the tickets and waved us in.
The only bright part of the hall was the stage. It was exalted and we all looked up as the stars performed. Blue and red lights danced around the rest of the hall in harmony with the music beats. Sometimes the beats sounded: ghum ghum ghum ghum like the steady sound of a mallet on concrete, and the lights appeared to be the mallet. A star was yelling obscenities into his microphone on the exalted stage. He had flung his designer shirt to the screaming audience and now his neatly craved six-packs where shining with perspiration as a heavy-looking neck chain hopped about his bare chest. Organised dancers, mainly young ladies in bikinis, flocked around him, moving in unison to the right and then to the left and then they would jump and squat and move right again and on and on. I joined in the rap immediately just like everyone else. Soon, the star held out his microphone to us, his fans, as we chorused punch lines of obscenities. We finished and all the ladies in the hall screamed while the young men hollered. The star thanked us, he told us he loved us and would be nothing without us. My mind was packing its bag for a trip out of my head.
A hungry looking comedian with wide eyes that exposed his monetary motivation for being at the event replaced the star. His jokes made us bite our fingers for forgetting to buy baskets of rotten tomatoes on our way. When we were going to die, Felix – Yinka’s friend – suggested that we go for drinks at the section of the hall where drinks were being sold. We drank several shots of pretty strong stuff. The bartenders mixed them expertly from fine bottles and my blind old man of a mind began to float away.
The comedian was booed off the stage and another star was introduced. Frenzy spread around the hall. The new music was the type that elicits mindless dancing, and dance we did, in pairs, with half nude ladies we did not know and whose faces we could not really see because of the dimness in the hall and the veils that cloaked our eyes. My lady was all over me and I caught sight of Felix sneaking away with his to a corner. Yinka had his hands on his head doing a crazy dance.
The star that followed had golden hair that nearly touched her shoes. She sang about Indian hemp and performed an on stage demonstration. Quickly, the substance materialized around the hall and we, her fans, joined her in what her song described as ‘blawing to that place where I dey bam.’ By now my mind had floated past the moon. It glided gracefully alongside the dark clouds of the night. Our ‘blawing’ left thick smoke hanging over our heads.
It was past midnight when the concert ended. I calmly staggered with my two strangers, towards the car. Some eccentrics where talking about a concert after party. But we ignored them and staggered along.
I drove with my mind settled on the moon. My right foot stepped a little too hard on the accelerator and less often on the brakes.
Felix was snoring heavily at the backseat by the time the Policemen stopped us. My sanity to stop the car was prompted by the metal drums and fallen tree trunks the Policemen has arranged on the road. Their eyes, like ours were blazing red.
“They are criminals” One of them declared as he peered into the vehicle with the aid of torchlight.
“Tell them to get out of the car” Someone barked from the near darkness.
The Policeman ordered us out of the car. I complied, as did Yinka. Felix looked dead.
“Is he alive?”, the officer asked.
The unseen commander heard this and responded excitedly “They have a dead body in the car?”
“No sir. He is alive”.
That was the last thing I remember saying because my mind was on the moon. Yinka and Felix did not remember much either. This partly accounted for our shock when awoke on a concrete floor, naked but for our boxer shorts, in a cold Police jail. Before the shock could wane, we were led out and arraigned together with mean-faced thugs as members of a notorious armed robbery gang. News reporters were present to film and take photographs. We (the criminals) sat on the sandy ground in the large premises of the Police station. Our legs were bound with a joint chain that connected all of us. I wore hand cuffs for the first time in my life. My brains were as bound as my hands so I could not think. I just stared at the weapons spread in front of me. A Policeman was telling news reporters that the weapons were recovered from our gang. I stared at the guns, the machetes, daggers, claw hammers, axes, in various shapes and sizes. Then my brain opened up a little and I remembered my usual fear of knives and sharp objects. I remembered that I had never touched a gun. And now I was in a criminal gang with people I’d never met. I stole things from places I’d never been, miserable things that my father could afford in customized versions!
My arraignment was aired live on the morning news. According to Nonye, my folks were having breakfast – bread and tea, coffee for Dad, Lipton for Mum and Grandma – and complaining about my overnight outing when the damning footage came up on our large flat-screen television. Grandma’s heart could not withstand it so she slumped and broke a tea cup. Actually, they all broke their tea cups and Nonye broke the jug containing hot water. She said they lost grip of the items they were holding as their nerves twitched. “I shock, no be small” She said.
When we were returned to our cells I sat quiet in a corner, on the cold concrete floor. My mind was back from the moon. It had lost the sunglasses while gliding in the clouds. Its voice had returned too.
What are you doing here? It asked.
“I don’t know” I replied aloud. “It was an ordinary night, a little outing with guys.”
You were running from me.
“You were on the moon most of the time, looking blind.”
You sent me there.
“Quit the blame trading”
If Yinka or Felix, or any of the other detainees noticed my monologue, they did not show it. We had not had any conversation since we woke up in jail. We even avoided eye contact like we were ashamed of ourselves. I realized I did not know any of their last names. My knowledge of their lives was vague, gathered from general chatter. I knew Yinka was Yoruba because of his name. Felix frequently made reference to a part time work place. They were final year University students like me. Then we had talked sports the rest of our time together. What Judge would buy my story?
“You know nothing about them?”
“Yes my lord.”
“Yet you say you picked them from their houses in your personal car and together you three attended a music concert and you were driving them back home in the wee hours of the night when the Police stopped you?”
“Yes my lord”
“Do you realize you are under oath?”
“Yes my lord”
“Are you out of your mind?”
“Thank you for mentioning that my lord. See, see, my mind maintained a consistent glare so I handed it dark sunglasses. It wore it and looked like a blind old man. Later, it floated off into the clouds and landed on the moon.”
Plain stupid. I’ll be killed or sentenced to a mental asylum. I’ll spend the rest of my time with mindless people who laughed when it was not necessary. The thought of a mental home began to appeal to me. Mindless people would be there, with no thought, no sensible emotion attached to pain, too stupid to feel pressure.
The best version of you is possible.
“Shut up! Shut up!”
No! The last time I did see where you landed yourself.
“You are a worthless piece of crap. Who asked you to return from the moon?”
Try ‘blawing’ again and I’d be on my way, perhaps to Jupiter this time.
“How about the sun? Where you can roast!”
I was yelling. An officer appeared and banged the metal bars of the cell with his baton.
“What is wrong with this one? The thing you dey drink never commot your head? If I hear your voice again, I go break ya head.”
I hid my face in my hands and sobbed.
…the story continues…