There were the tangy smell of rot, dust, rust and neglect form a major part of the general scent, where the fresh smell of wet grass after rain tantalized the nose, where walls are erected so ugwu and amunututu can grow on them, where the wicker of the lamp is always hung by the old wooden door, where cowries tied to a cutting comb with red, black and white threads depict the trilogy of life, there were the creaking of the door gently lulled to sleep, there were the chirping of the bird drew one into a world of imagination, stories and innocuous beckoning of the other realms, where a path leads to a road and the road stretched further onto another world, where whispers become loud you cannot hear them, where staring at the broken part of the asbestos covered with a sack of cement is as good as having a conversation with the occupants of the netherworlds, there, lies home.
The bus coughed, sputtered and rolled to a stop as the passengers shouted as if it would alleviate the eventual delay the bus would encounter. The bus conductor a dubious, haggard looking young man jumped down, telling all to keep calm while a man dressed in suit and clutching a file as if his life depended on it kept elbowing a fat sweating woman who emitted the smell one would get from mixing the water of locust bean and that of cassava that has being soaked for many days as she kept moving around trying to find a convenient place to fit the large cushion of her behind. Another woman, slim and bronzed with cornrows neatly plaited on her head sat behind the man, earpiece plugged in and constantly hitting the back of the chair with her knee.
A man whose voice was so loud that could rival a boom box was telling a story to the attentive passengers. “This was how it happened to our neighbour too, he was travelling in a bus too. These buses are unreliable I tell you. Whether it is an accident, a robbery or a combustion, they can’t prevent any. I still remember when I first boarded a vehicle in 1978, or was it 84? I don’t know, when you are as old as me, you tend to forget dates. Memories are what matter the most. Why? One must remember these things as they form an…”
Now, a man sat in the corner of the bus, trying to hold the man’s voice but failed “A lady called Sidi, Oh! That was the lady I met when I went to…”
The man decided to leave the bus, after all he was almost at his destination, it was a fairly trekkable distance, it wasn’t as far as the distance he used to trek when he was still a boy and…
Now the most important thing about returning is that one never knows how much one has missed many things until the forgotten is seen again and the mossy, muddy or dry earth slowly intoxicates the mind with memories infused with the echoes of the airs boxed tightly up like the Pandora Box. Now one never knows how important, buildings one seems to want to escape from has in the blurry, shady, foggy, film of one’s memory have become rather symbolic and larger than life like the carving of the cross, or the ever benevolent Mary his mother, with her palms clasped, praying for the church or how much those settings had so much dignified the memories in such a way that one can almost smell, feel, taste, or see a memory that had happened so long ago. It could have been from another life, not unlike a man reminiscing in black and white in a movie.
He walked with the weight of his knapsack packed haphazardly on his shoulder like the weight of a generation casually chastising him. He felt forlorn like a warrior who had been to war for years and had felt no comfort safe for the loud, deafening sounds of bullet like lightning tearing through the roof
He knew the road more than any, he walked through it as a kid and when he grew older. It was the road that led him away from home to search for knowledge, necessary in a word overall by the effectiveness of technology and lesser need for man with his superior and peculiar genealogy to a world which demanded so much and gave too little, which twisted and turned man until he was so unrecognizable even to himself and cannot stand to stand in front of a mirror.
He walked until he got to an abandoned food canteen which had served travellers and sometimes the people for years and he had enjoyed playing with Timi, the daughter of the portly and homey woman who ran the canteen.
Timi was a little older than him, and together they had enjoyed the innocent comfort friendship brought when they were young and older, they had enjoyed a friendship not totally platonic. It was after all with her hat he first enjoyed the pleasure of being with the other sex.
In the memories that blinded the conundrum of one’ existence like the clouds blocking the silver light from the moon, in the lone wishful feeling that followed these memories, in the cacophony of images preserving the easy flow of these memories like a river flowing down a slope, in the remembrance of bad memories with a smile upon one’s lips, one will realize that the world has moved on as assuredly as it has remained stagnant.
He walked by a group of children running in dirty, slacking, sagging panties on the road, their hair uncombed, boys and girls not yet restrained by the views of the world around them and he remembered hose times he ran down those untarred roads laughing as loudly as the carefreeness of childhood allowed him to with friends who in the years that followed had become mere acquaintances.
First, he had played on those roads, then he had walked through those roads as calmly as growing older dictated he should and it was those roads he had passed through when he was leaving and they still remained when he returned because a letter had arrived informing him of his father’s death, a letter which was already months late.
He walked towards the front of the house that had served as a home for him for years, the walls that had kept his secrets, the door that had opened for him faithfully more times than he could remember, the place that held more memories than he could ever hold on to.
He grabbed his knapsack as he pushed back the memories threatening to choke him, stepped over the threshold and knocked on the door.
Knowing is as effective as learning, while wanting, craving, yearning is as effective as having itself after all you yearn for what you don’t have and you don’t learn what you already know. Perhaps the heart will crave again, the sweetness of journey, leaving to abandon all that one once yearned for, after all what ends all if not death?