It was Giwa, my friend.
It was as though he had waited for my father to leave the room before he entered. I hadn’t seen Giwa in two months and all my attempts to find out his whereabouts had been futile; that was why I was surprised when I saw him standing at my door.
Giwa had always been slim that I often wonder if he’d ever add weight. He was dark complexioned with a funny looking nose. But he was friendly. Though I’m not used to having lots of friends; he was someone I couldn’t do without and I had no idea why.
I got off my bed, pushed past him without saying a word and headed straight to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
When I returned, I noticed the bewildered look on Giwa’s face. I guess he had observed the changes in my room: I’d changed the position of my book shelve; replaced my plastic reading table and chairs with wooden ones; covered my transparent silk cotton with a wine color flowery curtain; something that kept the room cooler, something that could delay the penetration of the morning light till about 8a.m; hung somewhere on my wine color painted wall are the framed-pictures of Prof. Wole Soyinka, Late Prof. Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, and Dan Brown – my heroes.
“Nice room,” he muttered.
“Thanks.” I murmured and sat on the bed.
“What’s the problem?” Giwa inquired, “Why are you frowning?”
“Nothing,” I replied bluntly.
“Nothing,” he mimicked with a wide grin.
“Yeah, nothing,” I snarled.
He sat on the chair and placed his hand on my shoulder. “What is wrong with you, young man? I’ve never seen you in this mood. Tell me, what is it?”
I knew somehow that Giwa was not going to give up on asking me what the problem was so I shifted from his irksome hand and pointed to the brown envelope.
He got up almost reluctantly to pick up the envelope, tore the lid and peered into it before checking the contents: my passport, a ticket, and a Thomas cook money order. He opened the passport and studied it with rapt attention. “It’s a visa to the states!”He exclaimed with enthusiasm.
He jumped at me on the bed and gave me a hug. “I am so happy for you…”
“Happy about what,” I interrupted. I am a cynic; I don’t believe that people will do something for you or like you without a reason. But somehow, I have reserved my cynicism towards Giwa and I don’t know why. “Why are you happy about…”
“You are going to the states!” He cut in.
I scowled, “But I am not happy. It’s not even a student VISA, it’s a visiting VISA.”
I could see he was so happy; his eyes glazed over with a film tears. “You have to be happy. At least many people don’t have this kind of opportunity be it student or visiting VISA”
“You don’t understand, Giwa.”
“I do or you should let me understand.” He replied.
“There is no place like home.” I said.
I think I heard him muttered something like there is no place like home. Yes! I saw his lips move. I could see that he was confused, that he couldn’t comprehend the phrase I’d uttered. I guess he was probably wondering how someone could reject a Visa to the states.
“Pardon me?” he said.
“Yes, you heard me.” I stressed.
“But I don’t understand you; it doesn’t make sense”
“Let me make you understand.”I adjusted. I could see the bewildered look on his face; the curiosity buried somewhere in his eyes.
He relaxed on his seat and folded his hands across his chest; I could tell that he had given me his attention. “For real, there is no place like home.”
He stared, bewildered.
I began, “In my home, I can eat whatever I like in my car and litter the road with dirt and nobody will harass me. It is only in my home that you don’t need a radio to dance in your car and where the road is good; you can kill yourself with over speeding. No law against that. No law against anything. But in the states, everything is unlawful.” I said all these as though I was reciting a memory verse.
Giwa refolded his hands while I continued, “In my home, we have the best education system. The one that puts pressure on one and helps one to think of a way out of a situation; think of it, sometimes pain is good because it brings out the best in us. If not for university strikes, ASA would not have discovered herself.” I nudged him. “Look at me, I wrote my first novel during a short-spell strike. But in the states, the education system is uninterrupted that I think it make things prosaic.”
He looked at me with disgust and said, “Can you hear yourself?”
“Yes I can. So now you listen to me.” I continued. “Though in my home, you can be scared of being kidnapped – which on the other hand it is a source of income to some folks – but at least it’s better than serial killing. Imagine a serial killer; someone who just kills for fun. What if I am a victim?” He wanted to say something but I did not give him a chance. “Imagine me touching and kissing you, Giwa. They’re called homosexuals right? That’s absurd!”
He nodded as though he agreed with me on that and I continued “Though in my home, a man of 50 years old can marry a 12 year old. But at least it is better; some folks want to catch them young…”
“Listen, Michael and shut up! Shut up! What is wrong with you!” he shouted at me “Are you dumb?” touching his head.
“No I am not! Because if I am, I will pick up that ticket and travel; but I won’t.” I shook my head. “Imagine a place with 24hrs electricity. That’s irrational. In my home, we’re fair and rational. Everyone gets his share: the generator seller, the candle seller, and the petrol and kerosene seller. Which to me it’s fair compared to the states where everything is run accordingly.”
“Now I am sure that you are crazy,” said Giwa with a wry smile.
“No I’m not,” I rebuffed. I stood up, walked to the front of my mirror and stretched out my arm.
“No I’m not crazy,” I reassured myself. “In my home, we do not disrespect our elders. Remember the musician that disrespected his elders because he thought we’re in the democracy era, he was taught the lesson of his life. So you want me to go there too and return home to start talking to my parents as my mate? Another thing, prison is part of a black man’s life over there because it is [a]luxury facility not correctional facility as they say. The real correctional facility is here in our home. Now who is crazy; you or I?”
Giwa took a deep breath as though he had just heard the most terrifying thing of his life.
He shook his head and said, “It’s true.”
What was true? I wondered: Was I crazy or was he? Had all I’d said about my home been bias or real? I saw the look on his face and I could relate with it. With the half smile buried somewhere on his face, I knew he understood I had been sarcastic about all I’d said.
I wanted to tell him; that in my sarcasm lay an iota of truth, that indeed there is no place like home so rather than run to the states, we should just work together for a better future. I wanted to tell him that in our home we’re kings but in someone else’s home, we’re slaves. I wanted to say all these and more to Giwa but he was already on his way out.
When he got to the door; he stood for a while and without looking at me, he said, “Grow up buddy.”
He shut the door carefully behind him as he left. I was thankful, at least, that he didn’t bang my door like my dad had.
The phrase grow up buddy resounded in my head a million times. But who really needs to grow up; Giwa or I?