Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble makers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the one thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. Apple Inc. 1997 advert.
“Its time to go.” Yemisi said. It was still dark outside. The city was rousing from its hibernation. In the distance, she could hear bus conductors energetically screaming their lungs out, as if the commuters would patronize the loudest. Several muezzins were already enthusiastically calling the faithful to prayer, their multiple loudspeakers echoing eerily across the city, also competing. Therein was a lesson in the greatest city in the world. Competition was everything. People were always competing, always in a hurry. There was no rest. For the wicked or for the godly.
She stretched out her hand to her daughter. Simi’s face was downcast, fiddling with a rather big locket on a slim gold chain around her neck. She was dressed smartly in jeans and a t-shirt, the winter wear tucked away in the rucksack secured around her shoulders. Yemisi looked over her daughter with pride. At thirteen she already had the face and figure females from her side of the family were renowned for. She would make a deserving man happy one day, Yemisi thought. Simi disengaged a slim hand from around her neck and took her mother’s hand. Her face was inscrutable. The taxi was already, blowing his horn. She did not look at her father, Dare who was sitting at the table. Seemingly relaxed, he was smoking menthols. Simi knew he had been up all night, and he never smoked that much, but yet on the table beside the ashtray were two empty London White menthol packets.
“Your passport and tickets are in your bag Apple?” His voice was surprisingly soft for such a bear of a big man. He had always called her that, Apple. She had thought at one time that it was here real name. Simi nodded but reached behind and felt one of the rucksacks pockets, just as he had always thought her to confirm and re confirm things.
“We are good to go then. The Lord be with you Simi.” Simi faltered. Her father was not a religious man, but for as long as she remembered, he always took her to church, actually, her earliest memories were of him sitting outside of the church waiting for her to be done with Sunday School. She looked at Yemisi, then with a tightening of her jawline, she walked out of the door, head held high. She did not say goodbye. Yemisi said her formal goodbyes and stepped out of the house into the balmy dawn. How she hated that house. She was never ever unhappy to dust her feet of it. In a few moments, daughter and mother were ensconced at the back of the taxi, and soon it navigated its slow, sure way through Lagos traffic towards the international airport, both of them lost in their thoughts.
Yemisi Dada was without a doubt the finest, shapeliest girl when ‘Jambites’ finished registration. She quickly stood out on campus, witty, intelligent, full of energy, always doing something new. She was from a rather well to do home so it came as no surprise when she started using a car on campus, the perks of an over indulgent father. What was a surprise was when she started hanging out with Dare Farotade, a campus activist who sported a Che Guevara beard and talked in esoteric Marxist sounding jargon. She found him refreshingly different, original, unspoiled and unsullied, maybe even arrogantly disgusted at her wealth and that excited her greatly, so she pursued him with all of her heart. Dare was a person who rejected many of the conventional standards and customs of society, one who advocated liberalism in sociopolitical attitudes and lifestyles. And he drew into his world of economics, politics and liberalism. He would talk knowledgeably of Henry David Thoreau, Hillel the Elder, Jesus, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, and J.R.R. Tolkien and in the same vein of Awolowo, Sarduana, Azikiwe and a pantheon of lesser known gods. And there were the days, she would scale the fence of the boys hostel, get high on palm wine and cannabis and they would make love for hours and hours, locked in his tiny one bed only room. He was larger than life then, a force of nature to whom lower beings worshipped. Yes even then he was the unspoken leader of his tribe of bushy bearded philosophers. They were going to change the world or at least Nigeria. There was Peter, now a professor of nuclear physics at Harvard, Maji, owner of several oil blocks and a small telecommunications outfit, there was Nike, who went on to be the only Nigerian on the Forbes 100 list, there was Hassan who was currently a deputy central bank governor. So many of them in so many successful positions in society. She looked back at those days with a nostalgic mix of regret and misguided idealism. Dare however, was Dare. Dare never grew up, still haunted by a dangerous mixture of idealism and child like curiosity. Disgusted at his former colleagues for having abandoned the ‘struggle’ he had retreated to a hermit like life. She sighed. She had to grow up. Abruptly, two years after she married him, a year after she gave birth to Simi, she served him divorce papers and moved to the United States. Alone.
She had kept touch over the years, the printed pictures Dare posted in big manila envelops of Simi, graduating becoming digital ones he emailed, chronicling the seasons of Simi’s life. Her first walk, drinking from a cup with both hands, her small head almost obscured by the giant cup, feeding herself with a plastic spoon staring defiantly into the camera. In a way, those were the watersheds in her life too Yemisi thought. It was hard not being there to mother Simi, but she had lost so much time playing at life that she gulped it in, taking huge breaths of it like oxygen. Information Communication Technology was new and she grabbed it like Simi grabbed the cup with two hands demanding sustenance from what was in it. And Yemisi grew. And grew. And grew.
She met Grant, a shy fiercely smart Greater Boston boy who was half Native American and who seemed to be genuinely interested in her mind and she married him. Three years after with no kids, her mind began transversing the thousands of miles back home to Simi. The third time she woke up sweating from a nightmare, Grant thoughtfully, quietly bought her a return plane ticket to Lagos.
The times passed, a blurr, she remembered the first time she saw Simi after a decade had passed, she remembered thier first ‘date’ together, watching a movie at a huge new multiplex in Lagos, filled with long uncomfortable silences. Yemisi remembered Simi’s almost ethereal dissociation with the trappings of wealth. Cars, jewellry, overseas trips, big screen TVs, even the gadgets of the now generation: iPads, cellphones, laptops and the like. She was in many ways the superhuman thing that Dare had concocted to change the world. Yemisi tried to explain to the young girl that life was not like that, that one could change the world only in little bits. But she was her fathers daughter. The years passed.
Yemisi knocked at her daughters door.
“Dinner is ready sweetheart.”
Seconds later the door opened as if she had been waiting for the call. Yemisi looked over her daughter once again. It was as if five years had not passed. She was devastatingly beautiful and had fleshed out in all the right African faces, but her face was like it had been from the very first day she landed in Massachusetts. She had adapted well, spoke ‘Americanese’ with a soft almost nostalgic lilt, and was one of the top three academically at school. But she floundered socially. And she never once took off the gold chain. Yemisi looked down. She couldnt bring herself to stare at those honest eyes, eyes that were older that the world. eyes thta belonged to a creature, a specie not of this world. And she knew she had lost. Not that she ever competed with Dare. No it was not Dare. It was the everlasting battle between accepting the status quo and the crazy ones who pushed the world. This one, her daughter was one of the crazy ones, destined to change things. America was the land of opportunity, and God knows she had tried to give her daughter all she wanted. Love, a home, material things…she was too much like her father.
“I made a mistake baby, your place isn’t with me. I loved him once and perhaps inside of me there is still a little left of that love. I see how you long for him and God knows I know he loves you to bits. I think it is time for you to go home.”