There was the blind drummer boy who sang of tales that nobody ever sees until they come to happen on a person. This is what the harsh breeze of the jungle that tingles Layla’s bare skin makes her remember now. The story made sense to her now. It told of the evil that men do to men. It told of the no love lost in a society of people only after their own gain. Of minds gone cynic and of people with their mind and life messed up. She had been out here in this jungle of a forest for a while now. It was lonely her, far from her sweet bed in her mother’s house in Oshodi. Layla was just like the girl in that blind boy’s story.
Layla is on the cold floor of her new home. They put her there. She did not like it here. She was under house watch. The wooden cell was no less than a box. Men suffering from the casualties of their own mind were on vigil outside. They do what they do since they believe it is the right thing to do, that they must terrorise individuals and government. They must take people away from their small web of safety and tell them their bodies and minds are not theirs to control.
Layla ponders to make her escape today. She watches as a fat gecko runs down the cracks on the enclosure’s wall chasing nothing obvious. She reasons if there is any hope for her present state. Warm waters annotate her round face with heavy eyes. Layla remembers what her mother would say, “There is hope in God. You just have to pray to him.” She now remembers the final note of the blind boy’s song that people are casualties of their own mind.
This day is just like every other weekday not a weekend. It is only that the weather from the outset did not speak well. Maybe she was the only one who did not notice. It is in Nigerians to be typically superstitious. The way a day starts decides a person’s day. This is the belief of Layla’s mother. She believes in the stories some so-called educated and civilised Nigerians would call myths. Mama as Layla would call her is a devoted believer in Christ. “There is light and darkness on this earth,” she would tell Layla. “You have to choose light, there is also a darkness that permeates our mind- fear of the unknown is one of them.” Mama is cleaning the cemented floors of the house, it is a Saturday and this is her daily ritual. Mama adjusts her sparsely tied wrapper, with a wrinkled barefoot gifted to her by hard work, she works gracefully but slowly on her art.
“Don’t go too early today,” Mama speaks without looking up from her work.
“But, you know I have to be in school early today,” Layla reminds her mother.
“And you know I have to get there early to find a good chair and table to use.”
“The weather does not speak well today, I am uneasy, don’t leave early till at least thirty minutes to the start of the paper,” her mother replies.
“Don’t worry mama, God will protect me.”
“You know my teachers won’t care for that reason,”
“Bye, Mama, see you in the afternoon. It’s a three hours paper.”
“It’s just 7:30 am, nothing can happen to me,” she blurts out.
Layla coughs these words out before her mother can give her a reply.