When I said that I wear fear around my body like a necklace, you said my words sounded like the quacking of a duckling in the morning. It wasn’t my weakness that I spoke of then. It wasn’t how I wanted to renounce my body after I buried the ashes from my brother’s body. I spoke of a brother who once stood with me yesterday fighting a demon but later turned around to say that I look like a demon. I spoke of a brother who looked me in the eyes and said that I looked and smelt like the ghost of our late father. That day, I ran out and asked my mother how ghosts smell; she said I should go to the mortuary and smell my late father’s body if I could.
I have decided to leave you on the other side of the road. Where a girl is painting her lips, telling other girls seated beside her how her mother has planned to police boys. How she has recorded on her diary how she would police the boys in her womb. Just as society has taught mothers to police girls.
She remembered what Mama Ekene, one of her neighbours, told her mother. That over the years, mothers have learnt to praise girls for keeping their virginity. But have in their foolishness failed to praise boys for virginity too. And that surprisingly, this has never worked out over the years.
Now, I am policing my thoughts into your mind as a careful reminder, and an honest answer to everything that comes in different shapes and memories between our beings and the rest of what we stand for as humans. I am very interested in knowing you, but the more I try, the more I am rejected. I have become a changed version of myself. I have become a refugee to my own body, ever since you told me that I no longer mattered to you and your clan.
Nevertheless, we are still those boys that society failed to train the right way.
I may not bear the mark of an orator. I may not come as a saviour. However, the testimonies you see are part of the reasons I may stay longer than expected. I may go now or later, but in the meantime, the future of boys like me, like us and the boys to come rest on the shoulders of those who may not understand who they are. Those who may not understand what they have. Those who may not understand what makes a boy cry at the sight of his father’s misery. Let’s say you carry your thoughts like pregnancy. And that the day you labour to put to bed, your mother comes to tell you that your sister’s car has killed a boy in the street. She was texting while driving. That was the conversation you had with her the previous night.
She had promised you that she would change. Now, a boy’s ghost is making a journey towards the end of the world and the only thing your sister could remember was the name of the girls in her class those who told her how boys are mean to girls.
Your thoughts made me believe that I should be ashamed of my nakedness. That I should be ashamed of my body. That I should be ashamed because I wear the face of my father. That when I look at myself in the bathroom’s mirror I should look away, almost immediately, because the picture on the mirror may swallow me. You said I may not stand the picture I have on the mirror. You swallowed hard the day you saw me trying to prick my future and you returned with your finger coloured with your own blood.
You seem not to understand why. But do you know that when the sky thinks of coming down to the ground, because of the missiles humans send up to it daily, the ground also thinks of going up because of the human feet that walk on it daily? You said I was like smoke that goes up majestically, smoke that goes up to the sky on a parallel line. But have you forgotten what your mother told you? What she said to you some time ago. That “the language of boys is often a language of ownership, not a language of partnership.”
My Uncle, Odenigbo, shares the gene of his father’s failed marriage. Gene of his miserable life and broken relationships. Each time we see him wearing the shadow of his father’s doubt, we shudder and look for shelter to hide ourselves. His successors provide a panoramic sweep of four family generations who are known to have histories documented in the pocket of madmen. The short-lived patriarch of his predecessors probed into songs interwoven into war and death. My Uncle, Odenigbo, watches his wife every night wearing her depression. She wears it on the face of her doubt when her shadow protests that it is being overburdened. My Uncle Odenigbo is a man that life has painted differently. He represents different boys, and I am one of them.
His wife is the melody in every song her children sing at home. She is the lyrics that break out in moments of silence. She taught us how to say goodbye. That, we say goodbye in chaos, not in peace. That “goodbye” said in peace makes one forget the importance of leaving. But that the one said in chaos makes, you want it. It makes you want to feel the last heartbeat of the one who is leaving. She says that “goodbye” is better said in the middle of the night; when nobody would see your smile or tears.
This is how we forget cities like Nkporo and Aba: We embrace them like a child embraces his mother. We pull a hair from our sister’s private and swallow it. We forget the smile of our mother. We forget how much we have missed our fathers and remember to look into ourselves. We remember time and chances, after saying the names of those cities and knighting them into our archive. Then, we amplify the memories they hold, into bearable songs, which we give to children on the street to sing. A city may wear a beautiful gown like the colourful ones made in Aba. But the more we walk alongside its wall, we don’t always remember them because they are like smoke which we don’t understand how it goes up.
Before leaving Aba, I dusted off the dust it gathered on my trousers. To embrace the arms of another city, I had to forget how Aba made me feel. Likewise, forget these lines after reading them. They are not meant for you but for the Celestial bodies who understand that words are pregnant beings too. They birth different species to different minds and eyes. And every mind and eyes choose to take care of its child according to its understanding of it.
For the sake of your sanity, forget these lines after you have read them. I do not want to torture you just like you are tortured by your own breath. I do not want these lines to do the same to you.
For boys who are to come, whenever you see me in the smoke rising from my mother’s fire, hold up to your glee. I am the spirit that goes up and down when the market is empty of human beings. I will always fight in the form of a goodbye even when my words sound like the cry of a falling girl.
About the Author
John Chizoba Vincents writes from a small dark room in sub-area of Lagos State, Nigeria, West Africa — where powers of the universe sometimes do disapprove the thoughts in his head. He is a restless boy by night seeking for knowledge and wisdom in books and sometimes, awake in the middle of the night to join broken words together to form a team of voices and by day, he is a Filmmaker. Whenever he is not writing, he is either shooting and directing a music video for his client or making a movie or documenting the lives and achievements of some unknown and known people. John Chizoba Vincents represents the coloured boys in the street of Nigeria, Africa, and the world at large. He lives and writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can connect him on twitter @Ijele_Igbo, Facebook @JohnChizobaVincents.