Drowning

You’re on your way to work when the bike man reaches the stretch of road before the beach. You’ve always thought about doing this, so you tell him to stop. And you get down and climb one of the steps leading up to the beach shore. A few years ago, the state government had pushed back the shore.Before then, it often flooded the road and the buildings close by. At the top of the stairs, a gruff, omo-ita looking guy tells you an entry ticket is N200.

 

It is morning. You have a N200note in your back pocket but you reach into your wallet instead and hand him a N1,000note. You have gambled right. He doesn’t have change. He asks his red-eyed fellows to break the money for him. They don’t have change too. It’s not yet 10am. You get a free pass in. You’re sure the money goes to their ogogoro and not the state anyway. You climb some rocks and the concrete barriers that are in place. You are careful. You have a history of falling and these jagged slabs could injure you badly. A man comes and tells you they have fish. Beer. Who drinks beer at 10am? You think maybe you should. He walks ahead of you to the shore.

 

There are umbrellas and plastic chairs dotting the shore. You want to sit on the sand though, and you tell him this and ask if there’s a part of the shore that is clean enough for you to sit and read. He tells you it is better for you to sit under a tent. For security reasons, he says. You nod. You have your laptop in your bag. It has the past 7 years of your work and life. You never back things up. You accept his offer of a plastic chair and wonder how much he plans to bill you when you’re about to leave. You type this memo. After that, you will pick up Farad and continue reading it. The author had given you a copy to give to your friend. You had started reading it on the bus this morning. A line had caught your attention. To remind you that you have to put the pieces of your manuscript together. And that you have to put the pieces of your relationship together.

 

You sit and read for a few hours. People come and go. Men. The smell of igbo wafts around you. subtly teasing. You have always liked the smell of cigarette and weed. You call him and he comes. You go out to meet him. As the red-eyed fellows ask him to pay his N200, they say in Yoruba that you’re both bookish. You’re holding Farad. He’s holding Open City. You both ignore them. You both sit and stare at the sea, silent.There are things you’re thinking. Things you don’t want to say. You sit silent and think about drowning.You don’t tell him that… He puts his leg on the table. Sand drops from his shoe unto it.

 

You stare at the sand thinking about how the wind will soon blow it away. How the wind might someday blow your frailness away. He says, sorry. You ask him why he is apologising to you. He says he saw you staring at the sand and thought it annoyed you. You say no, it’s nothing. You raise your gaze to the waves. He makes a wisecrack about how you poets always describe it as crashing. You want to tell him you’re not a poet. You also want to tell him you’d been thinking about the crashing before he came. You don’t really think waves crash, at least not these ones. These waters swell, till they can no more, then rise and with frayed edges, curve, and then dissolve into foam. And again. He starts singing. He has a lovely voice. He teases you about getting free music… You feel the sand beneath your feet beat like a heart before you see the flash of hooves go by. He says you should both ride. You say the horse might go into the water.

 

You’re thinking about drowning again. You wonder what he’d do if you walked into the water till you were no more. You wonder if your soul would meet Olokun. You wonder why you’re wondering such. Why do you want to drown? Shock value? Or the longing for nothingness? You keep staring at the sea. He says random things. You reply. There are smiles. Little ones… You can’t remember what started the current fight. Actually you can. But in the books and movies they always say they can’t remember what started their fights. You hate your memory. You want to unclench it and let things go. It remains clenched tight, like a fist in an epileptic fit. It will be your undoing.

 

A boy passes by with a sieve full of fish. He beckons on the boy. He stares at the fish with curiosity. You stare at him staring at it. The boy says he is going to dry and sell them. He says they’re called eja olokun. Something inside you jerks. You don’t really understand your fascination with Olokun of all the gods, but it’s always been there. You’ve even put her in one of your stories. You tell him to come closer. You pick one of the fish out of the sieve. It is silver.He tells you they shine in the sun. You raise one and tilt it to the sun. It glints. You smile and stare at its dead eyes. You think how steps keep taking you closer to Olokun. You know you need to meet this god. A man walks by with beads. You like some of them but you don’t buy any. You dismiss him with a smile. You stare at the sea again. You think that someone might try to save you if you were drowning. The thought keeps you glued to your seat.

 

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