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When two griots met

Driving into the city’s central station, I was watching out for the governor of words. He was supposed to be standing outside the station. It was a real summery day with a high of thirty degrees. I even turned on the air in the car. It was like the Gulf of Alaska. One moment the conditioned air was on, the next moment, the fresh air was on. I was still looking out for the governor, when the front passenger door whished open and the governor struggled to fit his frame into the front seat. His entry into the tiny Yaris car, seemed like a structure caving in under the nature of nature’s pressure.

“Why you dey look out for me?” the governor questioned me.

“Didn’t you recognize me?” he continued with the interrogation.

“Have I changed that much?” he asked.

“Where do I start from Guv to answer your queries?” I managed to reply.

“Not in any particular order. Start from anywhere” the governor commanded.

Driving off the station, we headed towards “Oxley Park”. We pumped hands and embraced. This embrace was not an ordinary embrace. It was an embrace that spoke volumes – it spoke of age, it spoke of being contemporaries, it spoke of fraternity – fraternity of words, it spoke of cult and occult, it spoke of brotherhood, it spoke of friendship, it spoke of age, it spoke of history, it spoke of a future, it spoke of shared dreams, it spoke  the same language. We were home. The moment we met, we were home. Home to our dreams, home to our literary cult, home to our ambitions, home to the sacrifice of the poets.

At my lodgings, Guv sat with a glass of orange juice, hazel nuts and hobnob biscuits. With a thoroughly pumped face, he was clad in a pair of denim pants, moccasin shoes and that editor’s jacket, that he was noted for. The jacket squeezed his abs. The two sides of his jacket wouldn’t meet without a conflict. I was struggling to locate his neck. Here sat a man that I once sat with decades back in a classroom. He used to fit into the lecture hall chair nicely and effortlessly. This same man sat with me today and the sofa we both sat on, was whining under the aegis of our weight, volume and history.

Guv laughed so meticulously and each time he laughed, he threw a hazelnut into his mouth.

“You hungry Guv?” I asked.

“Yeah. But I no wan chop oyinbo food o”.

He narrated to me how he went to visit an old uncle of his and what his old uncle did was offer him tea and biscuits throughout the entire duration of his visit. He did not offer his kids anything apart from kind words and ‘oyinbo’ greetings. He was so disappointed that he vowed he would never visit the man again.

“So, what were you expecting from the man?” I quizzed him.

“Oof. Oodles of oof. He hasn’t seen any of my kids, his nieces and nephews, since they were born. That’s our culture” he concluded.

“Yeah, but this is a different terrain” I reminded him.

“it’s a different terrain but we have a culture and that culture is what makes us what we are regardless of where we are positioned.”

“Well I agree with you to a large extent.”

“The only thing the man did was express his anger and disappointment at how I would go and pay for accommodation when he was right here with a big house in a big city. How could he possibly house us when he can’t even give a dime to his nieces and nephew?” Guv argued.

Pulling into Stadium parking, where lots of eat houses arrayed the area, we located a lot and parked the car. We walked off to find an eat house.

It was a laughing galore all the way. Smacking of fists and holding hands. it was a spectacle to behold.

“Excuse me” an elderly lady asked.

“Yes ma’am, how may we help you.”

“I just couldn’t help wondering why you guys are so happy and full of life” she stated.

‘Oh, we are long lost brothers, reconnecting. Aren’t we Guv?”

“Yep” Guv grunted.

“We are just on our way to look for a nice restaurant to sit down, chat some more and enjoy a good meal and bantering.”

“Aww, aren’t you so lucky to have such an  opportunity in this day and age. I wish it was me. Enjoy your happiness.”

“Thanks ma’am” we said in unison and slapped our mists and moved on.

“Excuse me. Please where is the ticket machine” I asked a middle aged lady.

The lady looked at me in a strange way. He must be a stranger here from the big city, she thought.

“No machine darling, parking is free here” she replied.

“Oh wow, really, that’s nice to know” I said.

Sitting comfortably in Chimichanga restaurant, we devoured tacos, nanchos, guacomoles, sweet potato fries and baked chicken and beef. We ate to our full and off we set, for our legendary expedition. We took photos of our nearly bursting bellies, we asked strangers to take shots of us, we took selfies. We asked the waiters to take photos of us devoring our meals with mouthfuls and laughter. The only place we did not take photos was the loo.

We made telephone calls to our contemporaries in different parts of the world, over the phone, whatsApp video and Skype call services.  We told tales and we laughed like we used to do many many years ago. We remembered items from our past, like lanterns, candles, corner shops, and mattresses on bare floors, the institutes, the ladies with agenda and the ladies without agenda, our tuition fee services and our tuition free services. We talked about noblemen and the not so noble men. We managed to fit into the car and drove off to the woods to walk like poets and writers, to talk to birds and nature, to laugh at how we could see squirrels and yet could not hunt them for bush meat.

We walked a long while, saw fat and slim people, saw dogs and people cleaning dogs’ poop. We saw old and young people talking about how lovely the weather was. “Don’t they have anything else to talk about apart from the weather?” Guv asked me.

“Oh yes, they can talk about football and Brexit, that they don’t understand a jack about.”

We walked on sliding in between brushes and watching the flowers stare at us in pure beauty. The birds flew over us. The butterflies hovered over us. The sun stared down at us in pure bliss. The clouds smiled and parted revealing a clear blue sky. Lovers laughed a distance a way. We heard a little child scream “grandpa where are you?”

A squirrel came to us and asked us whether we have seen his relative. He smelt us from a distance. These are the runaway squirrels. They ran for safety because they would not want to rest in peace in our bellies. They travelled for months and years, from motherland to the free land for animals. They hid as stowaways in ships, they had heard of a land where they were free. Some made it to the free land safely and some didn’t make it.  Man frustrated their efforts. They were caught and sent straight to the belly. When this one saw us, he smelt that, the love for bushmeat was still in us and had the cheeks to ask us about his relative. What an audacity!

Just like it was written in ‘The rite of passage’, in the forest of words we wandered, we did the maze, we saw our forebears, we had conversations with them. They gave us messages to those living. They consoled us and comforted us. They reminded us of the tasks ahead and how we must speak lest we die with these words buried with us. We developed a headache, the message was too much and too weighty. We could not afford to forget a single word. We borrowed extra RAM space from the son of Anavhe. We carried the words, every single word from the forest back.

In our hearts, bubbled these words. In our hearts, these words were concealed and straight to our tables must we sit and dip the feather into that pot of ink and spew every allowed content out. That all may hear and learn.

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