I grew up in the Agbara/Satellite/Festac Town axis. Fun times. When I think back now to the stuff I got up to…Sigh.
It was a great place to grow up, to make mistakes.
This story has two versions- The first was bleh. The second was published by a website. This is the third. Nothing much has changed between the second and third.
Anyway, I hope y’all like it. Use the comment box o. It was put there for a reason. 🙂
For Satellite Town and its wealth of childhood memories…
There is this girl I know.
She likes to linger at the movies. She is the type for whom endings are only a reason to start afresh, the type of girl for whom closing credits are mere justifications to begin a new story.
The next time you go to cinemas, if you are patient and quiet enough, you will see her. She will be sitting quietly in one of the back rows, waiting patiently for everyone else to leave, before bringing out the yellow note book that goes everywhere with her, before writing new endings to tales that just played out on the screens before her.
Green is her favorite color because it helps her blend in with the trees. Yellow is another favorite. She tells me it is the color of dawn, the color of beginnings. Some days she tries on black. These are the days when new endings are hard to come by. We all have such days; some people just choose not to wear them as clothes.
Her name is Imole; a five lettered word.
Back when we first met, I played the popular name game with her name. It was a game that every child knew. It involved crossing out the alphabets in the name of someone you liked that were same as the alphabets in yours to determine if you were destined to be Friends, Lovers, Admirers, Married or Enemies.
It was a simple test really and as children we had more faith in it than we did in anything else. Whenever a new girl showed up in our lives, my friends and I would bring out little pieces of paper and use the test to determine which one of us was meant to end up with her.
If your name and some girl’s name fell under ‘Enemies’, well that was that then. You couldn’t date her unless you wanted to jinx your future. We only dated girls whose names had passed the test and promised a future as ‘Lovers’ or ‘Married’.
‘Friends’ were boring and a no go area. As for ‘Admirers’, we were nine year olds and really didn’t know what the word meant.
The first time I fell in love with Imole was the first time I laid eyes on her as she got in the way of the movers that had ferried her family’s belongings to our street. She was wearing a green lace dress and skipping happily, unable to contain her excitement at her new surroundings. She saw me staring and waved a hello at me. I knew right there and then that it was love.
But rules were rules and my love had to first come under the test of the FLAME before I could act on it. I didn’t know her name then to try out the test immediately but I should have guessed.
Imole. For light. For new beginnings.
It took me two weeks and many scraped knees from eavesdropping on our new next door neighbors to learn it.
I tried it out immediately with the FLAME test.
Imole and Efe.
The FLAME pronounced us mere ‘Friends’ and the pain I felt was worse than any beating the drinking bouts of my mother usually resulted in.
‘Efe, there are plenty other girls at school.’ My best friend, Ike said to me, pointing out the obvious, after I told him my dilemma.
‘But I want this one. I am in love with her.’ My dramatic nine year old self replied.
‘Well you can’t have her. Remember the rules? We only ask ‘Lovers’ or ‘Marrieds’ to be our girlfriends. Anyway, please spell her name; let me see if she can be my girlfriend.’
He stopped being my best friend after that. It was hard but I soon gave up on my love for Imole and asked Adaobi from the next street to be my girlfriend instead. The FLAME test pronounced I and Adaobi headed straight for the altar even though we were only nine and she smelled like the Fufu her mother sold to the residents of Satellite Town.
I dated Adaobi and other girls with suitable names but it was Imole who held my hand as I watched my mother pack her things and leave my father and Ifor another man when I was twelve.
It was Imole whose mother became my mother, packing me lunches, scolding me when I needed scolding, dancing when I got admitted into the university…
It was Imole whose eyes watered while she applied Aboniki to the bruises I suffered from the relentless bullies during my first week at Learning Field Secondary School.
She was the ‘almost’ woman with tiny breasts that hung onto my every word and laughed at my dry jokes at an age when I needed reassurance that my pimply face and scarecrow body were good enough for any woman.
It was Imole to whom I looked to advice on buying an engagement ring for the woman who would become my wife…
Imole’s father once told me he had named her for that first light that heralds dawn. I have always known that when God said ‘Let there be light’, in the life of a sometimes unhappy little boy, he meant let there be Imole.
Still, it takes me 22 years, one failed marriage, another set of packed suitcases, the pieces of my broken heart and two tear-filled eyes, to finally see what was there all along.
It was the suitcases that did it. I watched the woman I married two years before, pick up suitcases that looked strangely like my mother’s and walk out the front door. I had married a woman who only felt good when she was abusing those that loved her. I had married my mother. As I watched my wife walk out the door, it felt like I had walked back in time. Only Imole’s hand on mine had kept me from running after the taxi that took my mother away. Only the thought of Imole kept me from running after the Jeep my wife drove off in.
I have always known that to find her, I must search at the cusp of dawn, a place where the lines between endings and beginnings are blurred. It is to this place that I go when I finally know what it is I have been searching for all my life.
I fall in love with her for the second time as I watch her chew on the pencil she is using to write new endings. I wait till she notices me in my dark corner before going to sit beside her. She is wearing a green t-shirt and no bra. The air conditioning in the theater pose a threat to her body that her nipples are well aware of and so they stand ready in her defense. The yellow note book is on her lap and there are one or two lines on an otherwise empty page.
‘Hey you!’ She says, looking not even the least bit surprised that I have found my way here.
‘The movie is over, you know,’ I tell her.
‘There is always room for a sequel,’ She answers.
I take her hand in mine and we stare at the dark screen together.
‘Maybe you can write a sequel for us, something with a happy ending,’ I finally say.
She squeezes my hand a little.
‘I thought you’d never ask,’ She says and reaches out to kiss me.
Someone should have told nine year olds that the best people to be ‘Married’ to are ‘Friends’.
Song of the day: George Michael – Careless Whisper