There are blackbirds outside my window. There have been blackbirds outside my window for the past week. Sometimes there is one, sometimes there are two, and sometimes there are three.
Those sentences should tell you two things.
- That, I, Afam, the determinedly happy, believe that the truths of the Universe can be found in the lives of Blackbirds.
- That, I, Afam, the incredibly Nigerian, am no longer in Nigeria.
You should have known from the first sentence that I have moved country because no Nigerian that I know of ever begins their day by studying blackbirds as they hop from branch to branch. Even if they did they would be distracted by the following thoughts in rapid succession.
MONEY, GENERATOR, MONEY,DIESEL, MONEY, PETROL, MONEY, DIEZANI ALISON-MADUEKE, SCARCITY, DIEZANI ALISON-MADUEKE, JOB, UNEMPLOYMENT, MONEY, MONEY.
In Lagos the blackbirds could never hold my thoughts for very long because try as they might they couldn't compete with the tyranny of my everyday. There was always a hope, a worry, a dream, or a prayer more important than the birds. When your world starts and ends with your inner turmoil it is impossible to see any beauty that may exist in the world. And even when you do look outside your world, the news is so horrible that you run back inside it. For example, every time that I hear the latest allegation or accusation thrown at one Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke I'm tempted to crawl under my duvet and bid the day goodnight. As she has yet to be found guilty of anything I will not commit defamation, but if she's found guilty of even half of what has been written about her, I've got one sentence.
"GUUUUURRRRRRLLLL you a bad bitch."
Now, that I am no longer in Nigeria, I see the blackbirds singing in the light of day. They're telling me to take my broken wings and learn to fly. That I was only waiting for this moment to arrive.
Part 2 - My cousin is more than a little bit of an arsehole! Save my soul!
In as much as I'd like to continue talking about Blackbirds and how they're essential to the Universe at large, this piece is not that piece. That piece is called The Undoubtedly Profound Contemplations of Blackbirds in Flight and other stories. This one is called The Probably Improbable UnLikelihood that Afam will Actually Apply for a Masters.
I was at Freedom Park one night, for that incredibly popular monthly concert called Afropolitan when I ran into my cousin. I loved him in the way that our common ancestry demanded but little did I know that our ideas of love were as different as Pg Tips and Twinings (or Ijebu Garri and Yellow Garri. Ijebu garri is always and everywhere more useful than yellow garri).
When I saw him, I was pleased. I was so pleased that I declared an extremely enthusiastic greeting to the world.
"Hey Man! How the hell are you? It's been ages!"
When you're happy to see someone, it is important that you let all of God's creations know about it. If you cannot be heard within a kilometre you have failed, and you should take the how to have a conversation with all the entire world course taught almost exclusively in Nigeria.
My greeting was returned with more gusto than a baboon in heat.
"Hey" he yelled.
"How far with that imaginary Masters?"
My face changed. I looked around in horror to see the reactions on the faces of our mutual acquaintances. Their faces were not nice. They squeezed themselves into a "Somebody bring the popcorn because these cousins are about to rip themselves."
He cackled to himself like he'd delivered a joke worthy of a million dollars. I on the other hand was mortally wounded.
My body staggered away before my mind could process what had happened. I knew that there was blood on the grass, and that all of it was mine. He'd gathered daggers from the whispers of family conversation and thrown them all at me when I was most vulnerable. Unforgiveable.
Do not fear! I am Afam, the humble braggart, the merciful! I am the man who screams about how unaffected he is by all the nastiness directed at him in the world and returns to his mother at night to have his wounds licked. I am a mummy's boy till the end.
As ambivalent and forgiving as I am, every action must be paid for. In this account, I am a tax man. His well worded arrows of pain have been returned with a shield of indifference and an aura of skepticism. The first and best tool of the gentleman is his politeness. There is nothing sweeter than the delight gained from managing to be so polite that you are in fact well and truly rude.
What? I'm a nasty little turd? Yes. I know. It's the Napoleon in me.
Jokes and grievances aside, I was wounded because it was true. I'd been speculating about this masters for months but had done nothing to see it through. At that point it did not look like I was going anywhere.
The drinks flowed that night from money that would be better spent unspent. An Orijin for me and all my friends, and another for me and all my enemies. A whisky and coke for all my fears and another for all my dreams. I drowned them all in the exuberance of youth and the jolly foolishness of the drunk. But alcohol only quietens devils for a night at most. All the things you dose numb with vodka, rise with your vomit in the morning.