AUTHOR’S NOTE: Good music can be used to enhance the reading experience. The audio accompaniment inspired the story and would be a nice touch to play it on repeat as you immerse yourself in the prose; for what I call a full sensory experience.
Click Play to Listen to DJ Klem Feat. EFA – Six8Ten (Try Again)
July 24, 2010
“Chioma mehn, there’s no love out there for a rapper sha.”
“Don’t say that, Ubi. Don’t”
He laughed his very deep throated laugh that seemed to always get her. Ubi and Chioma had known each other for as long as any two people could. Both their parents were senior staff of the University of Ibadan. They had been in the same creche as toddlers, shared the same class a few times through primary and high school but ended up in different faculties in the university.
Ubi had turned out to be a tall and well built young man. He let his sideburns grow to a stubble that accentuated his caramel complexion. Living two buildings from each other and having both their mothers as friends, it was only natural that they became friends.
While Ubi had been on the Cricket team for the University, playing at the NUGA Games; Chioma had been the soft spoken wall flower who only recently blossomed into a woman. She was short and petite as he was tall, with mocha colored skin and eyes that spoke of some untold oriental origin.
She would probably head on to MIT for an M.Sc possibly in Robotics to complement her Computer Science degree, and he, well he wanted to be a Rapper. Which was why they were sitting on a rock that overlooked the University: a place where they both quietly came, to talk and just hangout. Ubi’s girlfriend from Sophomore year had called it quits. It was ok to have a boyfriend on the Cricket team who also rapped on the side. But once you finished school and he wanted to make a career of it, that became a problem. And the girl, Halima, had made it very clear that she’d have no part in it.
“You need to move on” Chioma said, as she moved her hands on his shoulders. Slowly caressing as if that would smooth out the clouds of pain swirling in him.
“I have… And it’s why I’m on the first bus to Lagos tomorrow…” He said. Still looking out over the ledge. “Oh…” She said failing at hiding her sadness, the tears welling up in her eyes. “Okay, I wish you all the best…I–I need to go now. Let’s see before you leave”
For some reason, Ubi didn’t turn around or say a word to her. If he had, she’d have seen his eyes clouded with emotion and heard his choked up voice.
They never said goodbye, because by 6.00am he was at the bus park on the first bus to Lagos.
August 6, 2010
Let the rain come down/
And Wake my Dreams/
Let it wash Away/
Hilary Duff’s 5 year old song belted out from the speakers as she stood by the window watching the rain pour. Raindrops stained the picture windows in the large kitchen, making it impossible to see beyond the glass. But Chioma stared like she was watching some unseen drama. The sound from the speakers in the living room merged the raindrops hitting the roofs.
I’m not playing the song because it ‘s raining or because my heart is heartbroken – that’d just be cliché. Ubi frowns on that.
She frowned as if in agreement with her thoughts, with a contradictory little smile on her face for his ability to shy away from every nuance of emotion with a joke or a snide remark.
Why then am I playing it? She silently asked as a lone tear coursed down her cheek.
What do those two have in common? She thought.
Then she remembered. It had been one of those nights at their special place. And in one of those long companionable silences, he had asked, Why does it rain? Even though the sky had been clear as glass.
“I guess because some sky bound maiden has been separated from her lover. And the only solace she can find is in her tears,” she had said looking at his strong profile as he stared out into the night, her lips aching to graze over his sideburns.
“Pah! That’s some fairytale bullshit!” Raising a freshly lit cigarette to his lips. “It’s probably some sky bound god that had too much beer and needed to take a long leak.”
“Ubi!” She cried, as she swatted his shoulder and laughed with him. “That is so gross! I mean the thought of that!”
A sharp rap, twice, on the door of her apartment drew her out of her thoughts . Only one person knocked like that in the whole world. She walked away from the window, out of the kitchen and towards the front door. She dried whatever tears had been on her face and eyes. She smoothed the nightdress around her body, at the thought that by some miracle he had found his way to her again.
All it takes is one thing. Just one. Sometimes, seemingly menial event to jolt the neurons in your head into proper position.
It was something that had been bothering him over the past few weeks since he’d moved to Lagos to pursue his dreams. It was much more than the doors that seemed to slam in his face at radio stations he took his songs to be played. Apparently, if you weren’t a star, you had to pay to be played. To pay to be played you had to have the money to do so. How then do you become a star if no one listened to you? These thoughts had plagued his empty bellied nights. Somehow, someway his thoughts always drifted back to Chioma.
She had been more than a friend. Even he couldn’t deny the stirrings he felt – far from his loins, when he saw her. He wasn’t one for skipping hearts and butterflies – but he knew how he felt different every time he felt her eyes on him or when they had those long silences. He literally craved to hold her and claim her for himself.
But he shoved all those thoughts aside again and again, focusing on his hustle. The same way he had put his phone aside every single time he felt the urge to call her. His reasons were simple, they couldn’t work. He had no concrete reasons why they couldn’t, except that he felt he was not emotionally ready after being so ruthlessly dumped. But, they just couldn’t work.
The day had begun like days of that type usually do – a seemingly innocuous event in a string of misfortunes. One more centimeter of the sole on his trusty Chuck Taylors had gaped open when he struck his left foot, right outside his apartment. Everything went without incident, until the bus he was in, began to cough and eventually died right in the middle of the 3rd mainland bridge.
He had stood watching the cars zip by, felt the constant vibrations of the bridge and then looked over the water contemplatively. Can it get any worse? He silently asked. After 30 full minutes of an unrequested sunbath, the driver-turned-mechanic got the bus coughing to life once again.
10 minutes and a bike ride later he was in the vicinity of XYZ fm. He made sure to get off the bike a few blocks before the radio station. Experience had taught Ubi that some guards ajudged you unworthy of entry simply because you alighted from a bike.
He walked confidently past the gate-house and had almost reached the reception thinking he had slipped past another sleeping guard. “Ayss! Where are you going?!” He heard a gruff voice behind him bark. He sighed and turned around with his brightest smile.
“No vex, Oga.” Ubi said, hoping smile would reach through the hunger laced smile of the guard. “I think say una don go chop”
“If I go chop nko? You no suppose mark awa logbook?” The security guard who looked as young as Ubi himself but a lot skinnier and weathered visibly by the elements. On entering the gate house, Ubi saw two other security guards – one who was much older and looked to be sleeping very deeply and another, that seemed to be a twin to the first.
“Na wa for you oh, Oga! Odion dey call you, abi you no wan answer.” Said Guard No. 2. The first guard, Odion opened the large logbook, handed Ubi a Biro and chimed in: “No mine am” openly assessing Ubi. “Who you be sef! An’ wetin be ya business for here?”
“I be Artiste and I come drop my Demo” Ubi said, uncertainly.
Odion laughed in Ubi’s face, some of his thick saliva landing on his face. “Akhere!! You hear wetin ‘im talk? Hahahaha! Oh-bwoy!”
The second guard, Akhere was silent and then spoke, “We sef we be hatiss. Odion an’ me we follow go primary school with P-Squeer for Jos. We-we jus never blow” He pointed at the Old man sleeping, “Baba Commander, na ‘im Ebenezer Obey collect that ‘im name from. Im sef be hatiss. So no bring that wan. Wetin u get for us?”
“Who be that?” The sleeping old man, Commander, growled from his bench without opening his eyes.
“Na one of dem hatiss dem, baba” Akhere chimed before Ubi could say a word.
“E get money?” Commander asked, still with his eyes closed.
“You get money?” Akhere barked from behind him.
“This one no fit get money oh. See as ‘im convass don open mouth finish” Odion said, before Ubi could say a word.
“Ehn, if e no get money, wetin ‘im come dey fine for here?”
“Ehen, Mr. Hatiss, you don hear baba. If you no get money make you fork away from here! In fact sign out and comot for here with your face like Lucky Dube”
Of the 26 radio stations in the Lagos area, he’d saved this one for the last batch because of the horror stories he’d heard. He had just become another casuality and it hurt. Being turned away so harshly was all that it took, and he had his mind made up. It wasn’t like that was the first time he’d experienced such. Or that it would change his predicament in anyway. But it definitely helped in getting a lot of that load off. With just the clothes on his back and his backpack straps on his shoulder. He was at Oshodi Bus Stop in 20 minutes, and on the next bus back to Ibadan.
Cheesy as it may sound, he felt tonnes lighter. The 3 hour trip had seemed to take only a few moments. He had only gotten to the University gates when the rain began to pour. He smiled, remembering their conversation about the mythical origins of rain.
He was barely able to see more than a few feet before him, because it was past sunset and the rain clouds had further darkened the sky. But he trudged on, with his clothes already sticking to his body from the wetness. He chuckled at the reason he had given her, it certainly didn’t feel good knowing it was someone in the sky pee-ing on you. But if she was right, and some damsel was crying in the sky, why didn’t the Bozo just find his way back to his lover?
He was soon at the door of her father’s house, and his knuckles rapped on the door. Twice.
He waited a few minutes, just as he was about to knock again, the door cracked open…
Summoning up courage, she finally turned the knob, and swung the door open. And she ran into his arms.
“Chinedu!” She screamed, as she quickly ran into her brother’s arms, to hide the tears of disappointment in her eyes. How could she have been so stupid to hope against hope that somehow Ubi had made it from Lagos to Massachusetts to see her.
When he saw the look on her mother’s face as she recognised him, he knew. He just knew. He knew that somehow, he’d been too late. She was saying something “Oh, do come in…
She left the day after you went to Lagos…let me get you her…” But he couldn’t hear her over the roar in his ears and the sound of the rain…
He turned and walked back out into the rain, the guitar riff Green Day’s Boulevard Of Broken Dreams playing in his head.
I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone
I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps….