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​2016: The year I lost my nose.

He lifted his jersey and turned around. This action revealed bruises and deep lacerations on his back. Each of those marks is a story. But here is the picture:

Life dragged him behind her. She did not drag him by the waist of his trousers like a police would a criminal, nor was he dragged by the wrist like a reluctant child. No, 2016 will be a great year that way, awesome even. Life pulled him by the ankle; both ankles. And 2016 unrolled before him as the Dakota in the summer; a terrain of sharp sand and angular pebbles. Life looked resolutely ahead and pulled forward at a trot, her body tucked solidly between his legs. She was deaf to his pitiful groans and as it were blind to the bloody trails his back left.  Sun bit his face. He bled. But he did not die.

And for a singular episode, he won’t see this picture as anyone else would.

“Useless people!” he blurted out as a police minivan drove past him. It was past midnight, and the city was Aba.  Our friend was drunk.  A red light flashed into his eyes.  The red turned to white, and he heard sounds of the sudden opening and shutting of doors. Useless people now stood in front of him- two men and a woman–and asked him to repeat himself. He did. Screaming at the top of lungs, he lent vent to all his pent up anger against the NPF. He was finally dragged by the arms by the two useless men, one on each side and hauled into the trunk. He slept off at once.

It was voices that woke him at last; voices of men praising the Lord. He rubbed his eyes and tried to focus.  He saw the men through a grate of steel bars; he counted thirteen of them. They were bare to their briefs. His head was still aching, and he felt giddy. By the wall, there was a glow of light. Tongues of transparent smoke rose from it.  The small room was rank with caustic smell of antiseptic which wafted in from where the men stood. Someone had covered him with a piece of cloth overnight. He too had on only his briefs.  He just noticed. He closed his eyes again. But he couldn’t sleep.

The voices now prayed. They prayed for their friends and family. They prayed for their jailers.  They cried unto the Lord. Their voices rose from their hearts, beyond the bare floor, beyond the steel bars and the concrete walls to the open heavens beyond them.  Then they thanked Him. They thanked Him because He has answered. They thank him for keeping them safe. They thanked him for their new friend. They thanked Him because for lesser offences, some are in Kiri-kiri and them, just in a cell. They broke into songs of joy and victory. They danced.

And for the two days and two nights he spent in that cell, they accepted him as one of them.  They bathed together in that small space he first heard them. They played Whot together. They shared their foods and their stories.  When he was leaving, his eyes were wet with tears. Never in his life has he met a group of individuals, despite several predicaments, now toughened in concrete and steel bars, have unshakeable believe tomorrow is set in better things.

Before he left Aba, he took back to that station rolls of tissue paper, bathing soaps and bottles of Dettol. He bought a new pack of Whot. Any day they opened the pack, they would see two one thousand naira notes folded beneath the pack of cards.

The new perception:

Providence always does the silent thankless job. Thankless because when we pack our luggage; hopes, aspirations, dreams, plans, disappointments and problems, we expect the load be lightened from a particular part. It becomes our prayer point. We become sad when that heavy part has met with no change. But Providence is ALWAYS putting a hand.  And that’s why irrespective of the load, we can trudge ahead, else human will sink faster and hopeless into misery.  Life will have no meaning. The police could have shot him that night; it’s much a disposable body at that time of the day.  Mom could have become lame and bedridden forever; her call woke him up one early morning that her legs wouldn’t just support her body any longer. Different forms of therapies were sought with equal dedication; clinical, alternative and spiritual. Over seven months and a lot of money later, her legs regain use as it had left it; suddenly.  A member of the family could have damaged a kidney and he would be a perfect match, his debtors–that’s how he got to Aba in the first place- could have put him on the hit list, life could have cut someone else open and he, the one to bleed to death.

Anyone with a nose will perceive the silent blessings that keep us going.  As silent as being able to use the toilet with ease! But that again is the problem; everybody’s got a nose. The nose is a useless organ. It is sentineled permanently and clumsily to obstruct the keenness of the sight and as soon as it perceives the small blessings, it forgets. This is why humans forget. He lost his nose in that cell! He sees those small blessings now.

He looks forward to 2017 as Steph Curry would look when he is to take a free throw. He knows it will be a hit. It might be a miss, this he knows too. But he bounces the ball cautiously and looks up, focuses his eyes, steadies his arms and shoots anyway.

This line is dedicated to his family.

If he’s not been in the thick of things together enough with someone to call them Fam, they are just acquaintances. No in-betweens.

Remember that glow on the wall? That’s tissue paper made into a twist before being glued to wall with candle wax.  The hanging end is thus lit and instantly extinguished to leave an ember. This eats up the tissue upwards gently and curls of flames are released to occupy the room quietly. This is the finest mosquito repellant ever!

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