I stand in front of the mirror, observing my aging face. Face, aged by disappointments, failures, drug addiction. My hit single “Take Me on a Long Ride” (1982) plays at the background, as I rehearse my written speech to myself. The music fades away in a long distance just as those years have become a distant memory. My music no longer plays in their memories, but my crime they never forgot.
At age 17, I broke into the industry. I paid my dues, I made the money. But fame got into my head, and it led to a scandal. Running from a rape scene I had committed, drunk, I killed a kid. It was a-hit-and-run scenario. She was just 17.
At 25, I was locked up…I lost everything, my name, my fame, my past and future.
Now, I’m back after 25 years, and I want the forgiveness of my fans.
I need to concentrate, there’s no way I can go in there with a paper in my hands, I need to speak from my heart, I need to commit the message to heart. I put off the music, its getting into my head…I need to face the future and let go of my past. I rip off the paper.
“You are up in 2 minutes”
That is Wole, my new manager, or say a fresh graduate I just picked up to represent me.
“Is there a lot of people out there?”
“The place is…crow-ded.”
He stammers in reply.
Poor lad, he’s tensed, he hopes to kick off a career starting with a junky like me.
I stand up, look in the mirror the last time, adjust my tux and black tie. I open the door of the Islanders Theater backroom, where we rent to host my fans, to welcome me back home- into their lives, their homes, their audio systems- actually, its more of an apology speech. There will be tearful moments, no doubt, I only hope the crowd empathize with me. I will say I’m sorry, I hope they see its true. I will say I regret what I did, I hope they believe I do. These thoughts ring through my head causing it to ache as I walk the long passage that leads to the stage. My heart beating in between my steps.
They clap as I step on the stage, a scattered clap it is. How many of those in the crowd are actually happy to see me? Ten? Twenty? I’m grateful the lights are off, at least I’m oblivious of their preying gaze. The only lights on the stage are those directed at me. I freeze for a moment. Then I start to speak with a broken voice.
The nonsense I had written, the nonsense that will not bring back the teenager, the nonsense that will not raise the esteem of the raped girl.
I stop reading.
I can see fury flames moving out of my nostrils.
I want to see the faces of those critics who had caused this in the first place. Those who made me go into crisis because they said I never lived up to how I started. I want to see the faces of the hypocrites who think their lives are cleaner than mine. Right now, I don’t give a damn about music! Why are the lights directed at me anyway? Like the crowd wants to X-ray my life and point out more flaws.
“Who da fuck put off da lights!”
“Let there be light morons!”
Then, the lights flicker on, one by one.
And I see their faces.
Just seven of them!
My mother; whose face have lines drilled in by tears.
My wife, Opeyemi; who endured the bashings I gave to her, day and night, saying dead or alive, I own her.
My son, Israel; whom I never gave the home he deserved, his childhood I denied, because I was never there.
My brother, Tunde; whom I sent my guys to deal with after taking my wife in, one of those times I threw her things out. I was responsible for his nickname “Ojutunde” for he lost an eye to it.
My sister, Itunu, who was the age of the girl that I knocked down with my car that year.
Even three-legged granny is present.
And there is uncle Sam, the one the youths, that riot after the accident, had burnt his home in Idinmu.
There is silence.
“After all this years, I thought you’d have learnt a thing or two.”
Uncle Sam raises his voice.
“You want the light son? Now you have it. And that’s what the light does, it reveals the truth. These ones have stood by you all along.”
He begins to point at each one sitting on the table one by one.
” Your real fans are not the faceless crowds who cheer when you are up and boo you when you are down, nor are they the critics who underestimate your worth. Your real fans have faces, in your wife, your son, your mother, sister, brother, granny and your uncle, yea…me!”
“Why don’t you come and join us for dinner and save your boring speech till you get to heaven. Because its only God, your creator, who can judge you. Nobody can.”
They are sitting on a long dinner table, there’s an empty sit for me, there’s a place for me.