Deoye opens the door, takes a look at me and sighs. “This man,” he says as he turns away, leading the way into the house and scratching somewhere below all the while, “Wetin carry you reach here now – man or dog?”
I intend to laugh – to show some sort of commiseration with his humor. What comes out of my mouth however; is a croak. My friend looks over his shoulder at me – and seeing something on my face, disappears into the corridor while I stare patterns into the black and red Persian rug on his living room floor.
I see movement in the corner of my eye and turn in that direction to see Deoye returning with a bottle of – a bottle of something I don’t think I want to know. He hastily pours a healthy draught into one of the glasses he’s carrying and hands it over, spilling some of it. I calmly take it and sniff the contents.
I empty the cup in one swallow and grimace as the cold-and-bitter liquid hits my chest rudely. My eyes water, but I do not cough. Silently I hold out the glass to him and just as wordlessly he fills it. This time I drink till it’s halfway empty – and then I sigh.
My back finds the sofa and I fold into it, leaning my head back and closing my eyes. I hear my friend puttering around; his desire to ask what the matter is a palpable presence, but I know he won’t. He will wait for me to start talking in my time. It’s why I came here in the first place.
He does not have long to wait.
“It’s over, bro. It ended – in the worst way possible.”
My eyes are still closed but I hear him stop moving. I can hear the questions burning up his throat – he so dearly wants to ask what I’m talking about but he knows I am not to be hurried. I will speak in my time.
“It cannot be a relationship, can it?” he ventures to ask after my silence stretches for longer than he can bear.
I do not say anything but the smile that stretches my stiff lips is as good as an answer. My eyes open in time to see him smack his knee in frustration. “Seun! Shebi you said no romance this year! You said that!”
I lean forward. “Put yourself in my shoes bruh…”
“I know – I mean you know what you said…”
You know what you said. ‘No romance’, you said to any and every one who cared to listen. ‘I’m just going to focus on my career’. And focus on your career you did, and the changes started to appear in the physical plane. One of such changes is the thickness that suddenly invaded your midsection. But it didn’t bother you.
You are as fit as a fiddle.
So life continues with you taking everything in stride. You keep moving and working, the only time(s) you allow yourself any kind of social life is when you see a movie with Deoye and Banky – or when you go eat fish pepper-soup with Uduak, and a little stolen moment with my daughter.
Moments that have become few and far between.
But you tell yourself everything is fine, and since you actually look better than ever nobody minds. Nobody notices anything – least of all you.
And so it is, you walked into that store that afternoon to get some Fruit and Fiber; stuff you like to chew on as you write. But you’re detached, the active part of your mind is caught up in scripting scenes for the TV series you’re working on. You handed the box to someone you thought was the store attendant and turned back to the shelf for milk when a deep, cultured voice colored with mild amusement asked; “How long am I supposed to hold this for?”
You turned around to answer and found yourself staring at the most beautiful mouth you have ever seen – and you have seen your fair share. Movies, TV commercials, newspapers, models, billboards – name it.
“Ah – I’m sorry. I thought – “
She was smiling – and that smile somehow made you stumble and stutter for words. You were tongue-tied in the presence of a female, and because that was a new experience for you, you became irritated.
“Sorry,” you said again, snatched the box out of her hand and stomped past towards the cashier’s desk. You felt some kind of heat underneath your collar – you kept sneaking looks over your shoulder, hoping you would be done before she came up to the payout area. When the salesgirl handed you your receipt you exhaled with relief and hurried out of the store – only to stop outside, stumped.
You couldn’t remember where you parked your car.
You stood there, looking around and wondering if someone was playing a joke. Putting down your purchases, you stretched to rest your arms and then bend your brains to the problem.
“Excuse me – is everything okay?”
You couldn’t help it. You jumped a foot in the air before you realized it was the same voice. Barely restraining yourself, you turned towards her and barked; “Of course I’m fine! Thank you!”
She recoiled – and then, in eyes that were suddenly as clear as the sky on a sunny day you saw a myriad of emotions – fear, terror, guilt, shame – and before you could react to any of that she stepped away. You barely heard the ‘Sorry’ she mumbled as she hurried away, nylon bags bumping against her legs, and you felt a familiar sensation.
Without thinking too much you stepped after her and caught up with her just as she opened the trunk of the red Camry and dumped the bags unceremoniously. She turned away from the trunk, fingers impatiently brushing hair out of her face – and then she collided with you full on. She was so surprised she staggered backwards, saved from falling only by the car.
You stepped away to allow her recover, and then slowly, to not startle her, you step close and lightly touch her arm. “I’m – I’m sorry I spoke to you the way I did,” you said, somehow better self-possessed then. “I was just – there’s a lot on my mind is all.”
That gorgeous mouth smiled at you – smiled; not that lip-twisting grimace Lagos girls have perfected – and she spoke, “It’s okay. I was wondering why you were so grumpy. I thought you had a headache.”
You cocked your head to the side, trying to guess her meaning, but her smile didn’t dim so you figured she was joking.
She joked a lot, as you came to find out.
Later that day, as you laughed and talked over drinks at Yemi’s Bar and you told her how you stood outside the store trying to remember where you’d parked your car – meanwhile you left it at home, she asked how old you were and you answered.
“That’s too early for Alzheimer’s,” she said, looking serious as she sucked Orijin Zero through a straw from its can. You almost snorted Smirnoff Ice through your nose; laughing gustily as you were. She was beautiful; beautiful like you had never known and somehow it seemed the hardest thing for you to let her go. You were fawning over her, preening as your neighborhood friends came over over and over again, stumbling over themselves to say hi.
You laughed and smiled and soaked it in and tried not to think of when you would have to tell her goodnight.
But all good things…
And even though you were expecting it, the look that jumped in her eyes when she asked what the time was and you said, “Almost ten” put a frown on your face. It was the same look she had earlier, and you intended to ask her what the matter was but she shrugged it off and said goodnight to you reluctantly – or maybe that was just wishful thinking on your part. Whatever the case, she stood and held her arms open to you – and as she ended the hug she brushed her lips against yours lightly.
She said her name was Nike.
Three weeks later and you allowed yourself accept that the life is good you have been telling your friends since was nothing but a lie; a joke, a lame attempt to color something that soaked up all the paint you applied. Nike was a light in the dark world you inhabited, and in spite of your reluctance to open up to her because of your fear that just like everything else, this too was going to wait till you couldn’t do without it – and then disappear into that valley happy memories disappear into. But she was real and in 3D and you dared to hope.
And contrary to your excuses, your career did not suffer a setback. In fact you wrote as though your fingers were alive and they were working in synch with your brain. You wrote some of the best work of your entire career in that short time – and you particularly liked the look that came into her eyes when you read some stuff you just wrote to her.
She listened to you, following your words with the patience you have come to associate with her – and when you were done, she mouthed her favorite parts of what you’d read and kissed you.
You were alive.
So when she called you that night sounding like no Nike you knew, fear stole your voice and replaced it with frog-like croaks, freezing your brain at the same time.
“….he’s going to kill…me…”
After clearing your terror-stuck throat like nine times, you were able to get some words out. “Who? Who is going to kill you, Nike?”
And then, you heard a heavy object smashing into something solid – something that sounded like a wall…or a door.
“Nike?!” You yelled, fear giving strength to your vocal chords. “Who is going to kill you?! What’s going on?! Where are you?”
She moaned – and only then did you realize the love of your life was in pain.
“My husband…my husband is going to kill me…”
Everything suddenly made sense in the worst way possible. You understood why she was terrified of staying out later than nine sometimes, or why she had bruises and discolorations on some parts of her, or why she told you where she lived but begged you stridently to not visit.
A scream jerked you out of your pointless woolgathering and you jumped out of your house and into your car. Surulere is just twenty minutes away; you thought, and it’s Saturday. There shouldn’t be any traffic. With trembling hands you connected your phone to the car speakers and tried to keep her on the phone.
“Nike,” you said, “Isn’t there some way you can get out of the house? Don’t you have neighbors – aren’t people hearing you screaming?”
There was something in her voice when she answered – something that had you slamming the brakes though you were in the middle of the road and had vehicles behind you.
It was an air of finality.
“There’s no point…I cannot…I cannot run….I’m trapped here…Seun….” She says your name with some kind of whisper. “Seun…I love…”
“Don’t tell me that over the phone!” You screamed into the air-conditioned interior of your car, screaming just as loudly as your tires as you whipped the wheel around. “I’m on my way – I’ll be there in a few…”
Her laughter – the same laughter that put many a shiver in your loins chilled them now like they were doused with cold water. “Oh…I love your stubborn nature…it’s too late…I’m dead…”
Over her voice you could hear something finally give way – the door; I think – smashing into pieces. You heard the scream of flying wood as pieces hit walls, furniture…
“Ni – “ you began – and then suddenly had to hit your brakes again because you had been driving without looking and suddenly there was traffic up ahead.
Traffic. On Ikorodu Road on a Saturday night.
You cannot believe your luck. Tears started their patient journey down your face as, over the blaring of horns and the screaming and cursing of aggrieved drivers, you heard heavy breathing and the whimpering of a scared woman. “Nike! Nike!!” you screamed desperately – as though that could slow down what was about to happen by a second.
Suddenly she screamed – a loud, keening cry that had you covering your ears – and fell silence as you heard the sound of something heavy smashing into something yielding – like a car tire squashing an overripe watermelon. You could hear the snap and crackle of bones breaking, the putt putt putt as blood and organic matter turned into paste.
You couldn’t disconnect the call so you heard every bit of it…
“…you – sorry, I mean I got there just as the police were taking him away. He had killed her…Deoye, he pounded her head into the floor with a pestle. He…”
I close my eyes again and let my head sag wearily against the back of the chair. But that does not stop the tears.
From the end of a tunnel I hear Deoye speak, “Come on Seun. What…what is this, ehn? Another of those your crazy stories that will have people asking if it really happened? Okay, you try. It worked. I almost believed…”
His voice trails off and I open my eyes to see what interrupted him. He’s staring at my feet – and my eyes follow his. My left Converse sneaker is covered in blood from the previously-white sole to the ankle.
I nod sadly. “That’s all that’s left of her, man. Blood and an unrecognizable mess – all that remains of someone I – “ I choke, and to my horror start sobbing.
“She…she said her name was Nike…”
So April 2nd was World Autism Day.
I wouldn’t know. I was busy saving the world some other way.
But there are people who care. People like Tomi Adesina, whose production outfit Blue House Films put together a short film project to commemorate that day and people who have autism.
Read the PR for the project below:
The Other Me tells the story of Olamide, an autistic young man as he prepares for the biggest day of his life; a date with the love of his life, Sharon. Due to his condition, what seemingly should be his most exciting day becomes a nightmare.
Written and directed by Tomi Adesina, The Other Me is a compelling short film on Autism which raises awareness on the condition and speaks against discriminating people living with it. It is produced by Tomi Adesina and Michael Tayo Babalola’s BlueHouse Films in association with Omobolaji Opakunbi’s Phalanx Pictures.
The film stars Taiwo Adeboboye and Adebukola Oladipupo, among others.
On World Autism Day, April 2nd, 2016 awareness was raised by various people on Autism. BlueHouse Films and Phalanx Pictures is doing same with this project.
The date for the official release of the short film is yet to be announced.
For sponsorship; please contact: 08139263829 or 08039446273
Join the conversation on Social Media by using all or any of the following media:
Twitter: @bluehousefilms #TheOtherMe #AutismSpeaks
Now peep some more material:
Now peep a trailer here.
Don’t Miss This!
Something crazy this way comes.
I couldn’t make up my mind whether to post a review of Dawn of Justice – or post something that missed my This Ain’t Poetry release.
In case you missed it; download This Ain’t Poetry here!