I am doing my thing. Scavenging through the garbage heap, searching for anything that catches my fancy. Sometimes, I tear them into shreds, at other times, I hang them around my neck, take it home or just gulp it
“Papi Johny Johny,” “Papi Johny Johny,” the children in the neighbourhood would drum and sing to me. I laugh at them, smile and murmur to myself. But when those spirits come around me, I frown and chase away the kids.
Such days, I detach from all the nosy people always staring at me. I talk to myself. I slow down the traffic because, I do not care if my soliloquy happens right in the middle of the road. On such days, I see men and women in cars screaming , I hear them honk their horns, the
hawkers stare at me but the spirits I commune with matter most to me.
“Common get away from here!” The men around my crib do not find it hard to say.
“Morons,” I mumble under my breath.
“Nye num ego,” I insist, staring into the eyes of any passerby.
Some of them give me some money. Others shake their heads without saying anything. Some of them notice me and move away. And some other morons would bark at me like the men around my crib.
The women are scared of me the most. I watch them distance away from me whenever I pass. They are confused. They avoid me the most but their eyes never gets off me. Especially the days I go without my clothes simply because left them in my crib or lost them. And I become the cynosure of all eyes. The mothers, ladies and girls always seem to find something fascinating below my waist. I care less about those confused bunch.
There are some young men I like. Yes, the ones that buy me cigarette. Smoking, is my source of joy. When I inhale it, I transcend to the skies. It takes me back to the days I was like every other person.
When, I tended my crops and went under the tree in the market square to take shots of whiskey like other men. There, I found greater joy in Igbo.We would wrap papers around the dry Igbo leaves. All of us, the drivers, conductors, agberos, politicians, traders and some of those men that worked in offices. And we would light the papers and smoke.White smoke would stylishly emit from our mouths and nostrils.Gradually, it would rise up into the air and disappear and more fumes would replace them as we puffed. There was a great connection. To me,the bond was stronger than the one I had acquired in the church choir which never lasted because I found many people there to be unreal.Here, it was unity in diversity.
Eunice, was the only woman that joined us under the tree. The other woman, saucy and ugly brought us food. She was the only one that could withstand us. Other women stopped coming, when we start touching them and urge them to be our lover.We never urged Eunice to join us back home. It was all about patience.She would gulp several shots of whisky and smoke the herbs she rarely paid for. And if you are the lucky one she picked for the day, she would join you home. But I pitied the married men. They paid for a space in the neighbourhood if she chose them to be with her.As for me, I take her home.Eunice rarely talked, but she was a cat in bed.
“Give me some more, Johny.”
“Johny more more more..!” She would scream in her husky voice,wriggling her waists and holding tight to my buttocks.
We had a spiritual connection and love making took us to the greatest crescendo. The bush lantern would project our silhouettes to the wall in my shack. Rapidly moving shadows of two lovers, squirming; a bouncing mattress, heavy breathing, squeaking and moaning. I could boast that no couple blended like us.
“Bad boy,” she would call me, gently slapping my cheeks.
I would laugh and tap her buttocks and it watch it wobble.
Some days she laughed out so loud that I felt like cupping her mouth with my palms. “If no be Igbo and strong man wey be like you, I for don die,” she would say. Other days, she would be visibly shaken and cry. She would lament about how life has been mean on her. But she felt better after I give her hemp to smoke.
She was the first person to leave us. She suddenly got ill. Then she died. And tongues started wagging. Her family said it was kidney failure but the women in the market said it was HIV/AIDS. I cried because she was real. She wanted to be herself and do her thing. But her family never gave her peace. They called her names. Yet, they often called pastors to pray for her.Eunice, found peace under our tree. Amongst all the men that stayed under the tree, she spent the most time with me. And I still miss her.
“Papi Johny, Papi Johny!” “Papi Johny, Papi Johny!” the children screamed. They make melodies as they tap the back of their buckets with their hands. I wave them and acknowledge their cheers. The music suits me and I want to dance. But fleas crawl around my body. Lice bites me on my armpits, head and pubic hairs. I cannot endure anymore.
“Chaririririrrri!” I cry.
The kids laugh and quickly compose another song with my cry.
“Papi Johny!” the drummer sings.
And other kids reply, “chaririri cha, chaririri cha!”
I feign as if I want to dance and run away as fast as I can. It is not a day for dancing. I can feel the dreadlocks on my hair dangle, as I run as fast as I can to Iyi. Nobody ever stood in my way whenever I ran with such speed. The kids scramble away to different directions with their buckets and cans. I can see scattered foot wears and containers as I make my way into the stream.
“Chachachacha get away!” A man shouts. I ignore him. He thinks he can chase me away, the way he chases away his dog. I fart and I fart once again. The children giggle, I can hear some of them clap. I turn and see them all gathered at a corner, staring at me as if they were watching cinema. I know I have always been important.
I get out from the stream. I walk towards the path. Some people still cover their noses as I pass them. The itching I felt was not as much as before.
The sun is shining now. I can see butterflies. I want to catch them.
They flap their wings and I chase them.
Now I can see a gust of circling wind. It is moving as if there is a man inside it. Papers, polythene bags and dry leaves move up and around with it. I stand and stare at it . I laugh and scratch my buttocks. But others avoided the moving wind.
“This is my chance,” I whisper. I run towards it and it moves away from me. I want to embrace it. I want to hold it tight so that it can take me with it. It is my chance. I want to run away from these morons. . I want to go with it to the world beyond where I would see Eunice and be with her always.