He was O.K. the last time I saw him. Okay, that was quite a while ago, but he was O.K. He was on try-out with a soft sell publication and wanted me to link him with credible sources of human interest stories in the Nigerian arts and culture realm. H.A. was O.K…
Sure, he was a little upset that his degree in English from a Lagos based University wasn’t getting him any closer to a long nurtured dream of making music. But he was in good health, cheerful, O.K.
Now, H.A. is no more O.K.
He walks our unbearably lonely Lagos streets caged in layers of grime, barefoot, lost in a one-sided dialogue with a withered flower. If only he would talk to us instead, his friends… It will be so relieving to answer him. Laugh with him. Marvel at the creative blood flowing in the tangled tubes of his veins, the blood that had been spilled in a motor accident a few years ago. Wasn’t that sacrifice accepted by the “makers of the way”? He had recovered after all. He was healthy, cheerful, O.K.!
Not any more.
H.A is no more O.K.
There is an average range around which personality shifts can be considered “normal”. This accepted boat could be rocked by internal or external upheavals, but these are usually temporary and soon a state of equilibrium returns. Those who remain too long outside the range are considered “sick” in some societies. Help comes quickly. In Nigeria, they’re called “mad”. Blunt.
The Bar Beach has a large collection of this sort who gather at the shore of the most resilient element, water. Perhaps the waves speak to their malady in some unknown tongue.
Remember that unkempt young man who snapped abstractedly, “gi’me ten kobo”, and walked on without waiting for a response, totally disconnected from the economic reality of ten kobo? “King of the road” wielded a club to coerce motorists into doling out money. How about the naked woman who whipped a toddler with her deranged screams and then cradled him to her bossom, forcing him to suck dry dirty breasts? A most pathetic sight is the father of seven who raves and gets strapped into submission by his own frustrated children.
What thoughts crash through our minds when we meet our own on the road, talking to a flower? Does a tear drop? Do we blank out? Do we dust up the archives to replay those pleasant memories? Or do we just treat them as savages?
Experts assure us most mental disorders can be cured at this advanced stage of human evolution. However, many families in Nigeria live below the poverty line and cannot afford psychiatric therapy for the streetwalkers. Thus, somebody’s mother stays out there. Another’s father too. A brother, sister, wife, husband, daughter, son, friend.
In the throes of these strange times with all the intrigues and subterfuges, those whose capability to absorb shocks falter may already be roaming the streets, ignored by us all. It is another indicator of our collective failure as a people, our current inability to transcend mundanities and forge a front to rehabilitate all that has become “abnormal” in the waking world called Nigeria today.
My friend H.A. and others like him are lost in the fringes of our wonky reality. Many others are chained inside inner chambers, embarrassments to their family. A few are incurably ill. The handful who by therapy or wild luck manage to claw their way out of the vast darkness of disequilibrium are often rejected by our superstitious society and quickly shown the path back into the maw of relapse.
H.A. is no more O.K.
Those dreams of gracefully galloping poetry and unchained melodies are now beyond our uncaring grasp. Is H.A. really the only one who is not O.K.?