I grew up in the boondocks. Yes, that is true…I am a country boy. You did not expect me to call myself a village boy without any fanfare and big oyinbo, did you? The usage of jaw breaking words is a characteristic of the typical village boy.
Growing up in the village was a lot of fun, if you know what I mean. You do not have to worry about much. You are at peace with yourself and the world. No worries about rent or pollution or “area boys”. It is like the Garden of Eden; God stretched out His almighty hands and gave my village fruits and foodstuff. He provided sunshine and heavy rains, he provided corn and pear and glowing fire to camp out during the rainy season.
Sometimes there is a serpent in the garden; the serpent comes in the form of an old lady popularly known as the witch. This serpent does not deceive with an apple (we do not have any apple tree in my village); Her duties include making sure you write JAMB and WAEC more than ten times, making sure your father’s harvest is lean and she is allegedly responsible for the recycling of abiku. Those are the kind of menial jobs she does.
Luckily, the witch usually leaves with the strong harmattan. She is so wicked no one fetches her firewood during the cold season. And when she dies no one cries. Another serpent gone. Life goes on.
Among all the beautiful things God provided for us in the boondocks (that big word again) is the moon. The moon is a very valuable part of nature in a place with sparse or no electricity.
It is a full moon,
The ripe breasts and beaded
Waists of the village maidens
Salute the night with their purity
While sonorous voices
Croon the moon
And serenade their men with
Songs woven in tiny colors and bleeding
Songs of forefathers and conquerors
Tensed the night with ambiance
Songs of planting and songs of harvest
Songs of creation and songs of death.
Dance to the rhythm of the palm trees.
On moonlit nights, a lot of things happen, especially in the romance department. Unfortunately, in the midst of all these, those of us in the village have very limited vernacular vocabulary for asking a girl out on a date or expressing your feelings to the opposite sex. The few we had could only be expressed in a “Love Letter”. A love letter takes a couple of months to construct and perfect. If you thought the Emancipation Proclamation was crafty and excruciating for the slave owners to write, that means you have never written or seen a country boy’s love letter…to Agnes.
Wait a minute, writing it is the easiest part; it is the delivery that is the camel’s hump. It is like bad news, no one wants to carry it. Any other country boy that accepts the dirty job from you is your Jesus Christ…because that is one heck of a cross to carry for a friend.
Things would have probably been a lot easier if there was technology in my village, not just ordinary technology. I am talking about AOL or MSN instant messenger (The acronyms AOL would mean Africa Offline and MSN would stand for My Slow Nation). Here is a sample of what a village boy chatting with a village girl would have looked like. Here we go folks, log on with me to my village network in Edo state, Nigeria.
SOZABOY: Hey Agnes, how are you?
AGNES: Who are you, and how did you get my scream name?
SOZABOY: Do not panic, it is your junior brother that gave me your screen name. I bought him peppermint at Amos Store. It is me, Victor the son of…
AGNES: If you are Victor, why are you using a strange scream name? Answer me now…
SOZABOY: You are not supposed to use your real name on instant messenger. I can find some cute name for you…like “pretty-dimples” or “cubic-eyes” or “damsel”…there are cyber witches and wizards crawling on this village network, they could use your name for medicine. You better be careful oh…
AGNES: No thank you Victor, or is it Sozaboy? Anyway what do you want, hurry up because I don’t have time to waste, I only came online to see if my friend Angelina has come back from the market.
SOZABOY: Well today is your lucky day cubic eye…I was just wondering if we can meet tonight during the maiden dance at the village square?
AGNES: For what!
SOZABOY: Take it easy. Do I sense some tension in this conversation? I want to let you know that I am…em em em…
AGNES: What is em…em…do you have snail in your mouth?
SOZABOY: But I am not using my mouth, I am using my fingers…anyway I just wanted to see if we can meet to discuss a burning issue in my heart.
AGNES: Since when have I become water to quench your burning issues? Look I don’t have time for burning issues, if you have anything to say you better say it now before NEPA takes light.
SOZABOY: Are you coming to the dance or not?
AGNES: I do not know if I am coming to the dance or not. Even if I do I will not be looking for you…so if you have anything to tell me you’d better say it now.
SOZABOY: Well, I just wanted to let you know that since I set my eyes on you my heart has been restless. I want you to be the only sugar in my tea and the butter in my bread. I will do anything for you. As you know my father owns the largest farm barn in the whole village…We own two bicycles and a zinc house…I can not think of anyone else to share my heart and wealth with but you…so what do you say?
AGNES: What do I say to what?
SOZABOY: Does it mean you did not read all that I just sent to you…
AGNES: Look, if you do not have anything else to tell me apart from your two bicycles and zinc roof, I am off to help my mother finish her cooking.
SOZABOY: All I am trying to tell you is that I am interested in you…Agnes why are you making yanga for me now?
AGNES: I do not have time for that kind thing…and I don’t even know what you are talking about.
SOZABOY: I want you to please take my proposal serious and I hope to see you at the dance.
AGNES: I have told you that I do not understand what you are trying to say –
SOZABOY: (Sudden darkness) NEPA has killed me oh!
Ok, folks we are back to reality. Come to think of it, I still would have preferred a love letter. You have time to prepare it and word it nicely. Or, if you are bold enough it is better to face your nemesis face to face. That way you can watch out for these village signs I am about to give you:
If she is chewing on the edge of her wrapper that means the girl is listening to your overtures.
If she is plucking leaves from nearby twigs, you are communicating; keep going.
If she is loosening and re-plaiting her hair with her head looking at mother earth, you are about to hit a home run, please do not stop.
If you launch your opening statement and all you hear is a hissing sound like a vexed snake and you suddenly find yourself alone in the middle of a lonely road, you need to go home and write that Love Letter and look for Jesus Christ! And most of the time this is the case.