The little boy’s pose would have made Auguste Rodin proud. He sat on what was once the concrete base of a streetlamp with his chin on his hand, and his elbow on his knee. The burning harmattan sun didn’t seem to bother him. His slippers on his ashen feet had seen better days and were askew from the way his feet rested on the concrete. Across the road from him, past the cars zipping by on the busy road, a man took an aim with impressive looking camera equipment and seemed to take pictures of the little boy.
From a far, you’d think the boy frozen in thought, and the camera man had some kind of agreement. The photographer seemed pleased by the picture he took. But he took another and then another. He looked at his camera, to get a preview. He smiled and crossed the road as quickly as he could. Still the little boy did not move. You could tell by the faraway look in the photographer’s eyes, he probably had a caption for the picture — The Thinking Boy. He would probably change the picture’s effect to sepia to lend a sense of despair to the picture. The photographer was within the boy’s line of vision but it seemed like he didn’t notice or he didn’t care. Snap, snap, snap. He took more shots.
Iconic, he thought to himself. He took more pictures of this boy in profile. He really did look deep in thought. His little hand in a fist, supporting his chin. His eyes were slightly closed in contemplation. He walked carefully up to the boy, now very curious but still cautious of scaring him away. Taking pictures all over Lagos had made Leke wary of his subjects however interesting they were. Lagosians were very self conscious, in some cases very superstitious and could get very violent at the sight of a street photographer like him. He was simply content to steal moments and be off to process the images on his Lightroom application.
“You should leave the sun, you know?” Leke said, tentatively but in a way that was bold and reassuring. It was that soothing voice that made it easy for in-studio subjects to relax with him. The boy broke his pose and looked at Leke, his big brown eyes seeming to pierce into the photographer’s skull. The pain in them was palpable. But the boy said nothing. Instinctively, Leke’s hand went to his camera but he stopped himself. His hand was hanging mid-air when a lone tear slid from the boy’s left eye and down his cheek. As if on cue another tear slid from his right as well. No sound escaped his lips, neither did his expression change. Just tear after tear slid right down to his blue oversized Superman t-shirt.
Leke was puzzled by the tears. Where did they come from? He must have done something to trigger the little boy’s emotions. A closer look at the boy told Leke he was about six or seven years. Still too young to be sitting in the sun and deep in thought. There was only one way he was going to find out why the young chap was here, so he tried again.
“What’s wrong little man?” The boy turned his face away, almost as if he was hiding something. Leke made room for himself on the concrete and brought his over six feet frame down to the hard seat. They sat in silence for a while. Very awkward silence. Leke kept starting conversations in his head but he always stopped himself.
“Can I see your camera?”
Leke was startled by his voice. He pulled up his camera strap and showed the boy the camera, he was about to start describing the parts when the boy asked if he could see his pictures. He showed them to him, slightly embarrassed when they got to nude shots he had taken for a friend.
“I want to be a doctor someday. But I also like pictures.”
Leke smiled at the innocence that ensued from the young chap. It reminded him of when he also had dreams of being an engineer, until he found a greater passion- photography.
“You can be anything you want to be. My big sister used to tell me that.”
The boy looked away again.
“I don’t think so anymore. There’s not enough money for my school fees. My mother sent me out this morning to sell bread. She said the money from it would be added to my school fees money.”
“So where’s the bread? Have you made your sales for today?” As if one cue, Leke spotted a rusty metal tray lying bare on the pavement.
“They stole the bread and my money.”
“The boys that live on Transformer road. They told me they wanted to buy fifty Naira bread but I told them I didn’t have, but I had the one worth seventy Naira. One of them called me a thief, that I wanted to sell fifty Naira bread for seventy Naira. They started abusing me and then they attacked me. One woman saw them and told them to leave me alone, they ran away. They took all my bread and the money I made. Now I can’t go back home. What will I tell my mother?”
Leke felt pity and rage at the same time. Such wickedness should not be condoned! But he was also helpless towards the boy.
“How much were you going to make altogether”
Leke brought out his wallet and checked its contents. It was slowly emptying out and he really didn’t know when his next paycheck would arrive. He brought out a thousand Naira note and gave it to the boy. He watched his eyes widen, and his face brighten up. What he did next caught Leke by surprise. He went straight for the floor and prostrated. Leke felt his heart melt and his eyes get wet. He picked the little boy up and watched him dust the dirt off his clothes. He said thank you again, then picked up his tray and ran all the way down the street.
Leke guessed he was going home. He took one last shot of him and then turned to go his way. He may not be a superhero, but he had helped one little boy get an inch closer to his dream.
Photo Credit: 123rf.com
Rolayo Williams is a soon-to-be dentist by profession, a writer when inspired, and a wannabe chef to a certain few. A total product of grace, and a non-apologetic Christian. She loves LOVE and has big dreams. Rolayo shares her thoughts on her blog – Heartstrings & Keynotes.