An African Sunset

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 9 (v.1) - Chapter 9

Submitted: February 08, 2018

Reads: 18

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Submitted: February 08, 2018

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A few kilometres South along Jos Road, away from Bagauda is the Tiga Dam. The reservoir glistened in the sunlight with crystal clear water. The Harmattan was retreating and the sun was making a slow gradual comeback. A hostel of several stories high rose on the banks of the lake for tourists visiting the lake. The reservoir covers 178 square kilometres and the water stretched far beyond the visible horizon. Some few fishermen rowed on canoes and threw their nets into the water. Two boats carrying tourists sailed towards the Eastern bank. They climbed the rocks at the banks and looked down a small area of the bank secluded by rocks where swimmers huddled around. A small crowd of actors from the Kano Film Industry were shooting a film close to the banks with the water as a background. A song was playing and a man and a woman danced to the tune while the video cameras followed them around. Na’imah walked towards them and Kamal followed her. Mustapha sat on top of the rock and remembered his contempt for Hausa films to suppress the temptation to go down there to see the movie stars.

Furairah climbed up the rock behind him and stopped to pluck a mushroom that grew on a rotten log. She brought the mushroom close to his face.

“Do you know that mushrooms are more closely related in their DNA to humans than to plants?” She asked.

“I don’t know, I usually just step on them,” he said.

She laughed and threw the mushroom at him. Her eyes squinted when she laughed and a dimple appeared on her cheek. She squatted and rolled the rotten log towards the water. It rolled down and splashed into the water, floated for a moment then it sank.

 “Have you any idea why the human brain is like a retarded mushroom?” He asked.

“What?” She asked half amused and half confused, then she added with a smile: “No, why is the human brain like a retarded mushroom, Musty?

“I have no idea,” he answered.

 She raised her brows in feigned anger and clasped her hands between her thighs. Her lips parted and she smiled again.

“You once asked me what I think when I’m quiet, well, this is the kind of things I think about,” he said.

“You are a weirdo, you know that…you are my weirdo,” she said.

They sat on the rock and talked about Venice and Paris and Rome, Furairah’s favourite places.

“I have always wondered why girls love Paris. What’s in there? Is it the shopping?” He asked.

“It’s about the love. Paris is the world’s city of love. I’d be disappointed if I should go there and didn’t fall madly in love,” she said.

“I suppose I should take you to Paris then…and keep you really close,” he said.

She smiled.

“It’s a deal, then,” she said.

“It’s a deal.”

Kamal and Na’imah joined them later and they all walked through the shallow waters to the Southern bank. The Southern Bank was wild with bushy thorns and thistle and small acacia trees. The place was isolated.  Kamal sat next to Mustapha.

“You need to stop following her around, Kam,” Mustapha said.

“She’s my fiancée. I’m supposed to follow her around, Musty. I’m in love with this girl,” he replied.

“I can see that and it feels good to be the one saying take it slow.” 

“Love is a game of wit and risk, if you are not on the offence, you are the victim. When all collapses, you’d regret the things you did not do more than the things you did and failed at them,” Kamal said.

“It’s your funeral. She’s going to dump you and find herself a less clingy and less desperate boyfriend,” Mustapha said.

“Na’imah is the type of girl that wants you to walk up to her and say what you need to say while she looks you in the eyes to see what part of what you are saying is true. If she is bothered, you know as much as I know that she will say it,” he said.

“She’s in love with you, Kam. If I was you and I have any doubts about that I will cast my doubts away,” Mustapha said.

“She told you something, didn’t she?” Kamal asked.

“Never mind that, how much do you want to bet that they will both strip down and swim?” Mustapha asked.

“No way are they going to do that,” Kamal said.

“How much are you betting?” Mustapha asked.

“Nothing, but they won’t,” Kamal said.

Soon, Na’imah dropped her sneakers on the conifer. With an air of casual elegance and sophisticated movements she unbuttoned her shirt and dropped it close to her shoes. She slid down her Jean and dropped her veil too. Inside, she wore a black short knickers and a swimming trunk. Kamal frowned with embarrassment. He gave a look of accusation to Mustapha as if he was the one who by some mysterious power made her to. Furairah gave an accusing look at Na’imah too then a tentative one at Mustapha before she removed hers.

“You owe me Ten Thousand Naira,” Mustapha said.

“How do you know they will strip?” Kamal asked.

“It’s in the eyes, Kam. That imploring look, searching and tentative… it’s always in the eyes,” Mustapha said. He looked on as Kamal made for the water and he whispered after him a line from an old movie:

“Son, someday I shall have to teach you the facts of life.”

Kamal removed his T-shirt and trouser and with his very old and faded boxers dived into the water. Mustapha sat on the banks and watched the trio swim. They swam farther into the lake and each time they swam back Furairah threw a splash towards him.

 

*******************************

 

Mustapha, Salman, Halima and Femi were sitting in the auditorium waiting for the lectures to begin when Aisha walked up to Mustapha.

“Musty, thank you for last night, I had fun,” she said.

“Me too,” Mustapha answered.

Salman turned to Mustapha with excitement, his jaws dropped in a questioning smile. There were some topics that were sure to pick Salman’s interest and that one was one of the foremost.

“What did you two do last night?” He asked with a suggestive grin.

The question was directed at Aisha and she murmured a vague explanation and slid her attention away to her friends on the back seat. Salman will not take an unsatisfactory explanation so he turned to Mustapha.

“Bro, what did you do? Tell me the truth,” he begged.

“We read at the Tchad hall and when we finished it was late...”

Salman interrupted with a sound ‘ahaan!’ and Mustapha continued with emphasis: “It was around 1 a.m. and I accompanied her to the girl’s hostel. We had a nice discussion.”

“You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?” Salman asked. He didn’t believe any part of the answer and his face showed it. He was immensely disappointed.

“You don’t have to,” Mustapha said.

“Alright, Mandela,” he said.

It was Salman’s custom (which has become popular with the male students) to call womanisers Mandela. It started some weeks before. Mr Yusuf Ajimobi started the day’s lecture with jokes as was his custom:

“So there were these two friends who were sharing a room in campus: Mike and Obi. If any one of them brings a girl back to the room, say mike brings a girl; he will start a sham argument with Obi: ‘Obi, I’m just wondering how many years Nelson Mandela spent in prison?’ Obi will say, ‘Mandela spent one year in prison’ and Mike will argue that ‘Mandela spent six years in prison’. They will argue until they come to agree that Mandela spent three years in prison and Obi will leave the room for three hours for Mike. So they kept doing this until one day Obi brought Mike’s sister to the room. Obi started their code argument: ‘How many years did Mandela spend in prison?’ Mike frowned at the question and answered: ‘No, Mandela did not go to prison.’ Obi insisted. ‘Of course, Mandela went to prison, I’m sure.’ Mike said: ‘lailai! Mandela didn’t go to prison.’

The class had laughed.

Salman began to call Mustapha Mandela and was determined to make both popular. At the restaurant a few days after, Mustapha sat with Furairah. She watched him eat with her flask of food beside her which she was taking back to the hostel. There are certain things a Hausa woman does not do in public. Eating, to a Hausa woman, is an inelegant activity which like passing stool should be done in one’s privacy. Eating should be done in the midst of other women or postponed to a convenient time. She stood up and brought him water to drink. Salman was going round the tables in the restaurant and having hearty discussions with friends. His voice rang in the restaurant in that peculiar accent. When he came to the table where the two sat, he roared:

“Mandela!”

“Why do you call him Mandela?” Furairah asked.

Mustapha pleaded with Salman with his eyes not to say anything he was likely to say but either because he didn’t see it or because he wanted to punish him for not telling him what he believed was the true story of the night ‘that was fun’ or perhaps because he doesn’t consider it as anything, he sat down and told Furairah, with some exaggeration, the story of a girl (Mustapha had refused to tell him her name too) who came and said ‘thank you for last night’ to his friend.

Furairah listened. Her face creased into a gradual frown as the story progressed. Salman may have misunderstood her expression for a lack of interest in his story (or perhaps out of pure malice) so he introduced some more colour and exaggeration into it. By the time he was done (and already going to the next table to a more interested audience) Furairah was sad. She stood up and left Mustapha in the restaurant. He will not see her again for a long time and when he did, things would change a lot between them.

 

******************************

 

Friday nights were PES video game nights. They played the game on Kamal’s laptop until late in the night. It was there that Mustapha met Henry. Henry was a graduate of the University of London and he took care to mention it every few minutes. He lived in England for fifteen years and he had an American accent to prove it.

“What the fuck mehn, I thought I gat you that time bitch, shit!” He said.

The boys always loss to Kamal and Henry was a bad loser. He won’t let go of the game handle when he lost.

“What the fuck is wrong with this country, mehn?” He spat out in a loud startling voice.

“What do you mean?” Kamal asked calmly.

“Mehn, these fuckers are detonating bombs in Maiduguri. What the fuck do they want?” He asked and continued: “Why can’t people just live in peace?”

 “Where’s the fun in that?” Mustapha interrupted.

He was silently angry that Henry won’t let go of the handle when he had lost several matches. He kept pleading selfishly to be allowed to play some more. He resents Kamal’s double standards too. Salman once followed him to Kamal’s room but Kamal kicked him out when he refused to stop speculating about the likely shape and size of Na’imah’s breasts. He explained then that he likes people to mind their language but he allowed Henry’s implosive slangs unchecked. The two boys looked at him and he continued:

“We need a little war there, a little conflict here and once in a while a bomb blast in a marketplace full of innocent people.”

Kamal knew and understood Mustapha’s moods, Henry didn’t. Henry looked at him and he decided he doesn’t like him.

“That is what happens in a place where racism is rife.” Tunde offered energetically and continued, “racism is the root cause of all these.”

Tunde was thin and hungry looking. He wore glasses and he was always on his way to and from the restaurants at the Mamy market. He always complained to Kamal that he was broke and he had no money to eat, hence he always felt the need when he meets them on the way to explain to them that although he is going to Mamy, he is not going there to eat (because he was broke) and while coming back he will explain that some persons just paid for his food (again because he was broke). He once complained that his most important problem in Kano (apart from been broke of course) is racism. The People of Northern Nigeria in the Law School Campus were been racist towards him. Kamal tried to convince him that the right word is tribalism when he explained what he meant, but he won’t take correction. He had his definition of tribalism and when he said it he lost most of his esteem in Mustapha’s eyes.

“We are the same race, Tunde. We are Africans, Black Africans or negroes if you like so we can’t be racist against one another,” Mustapha corrected.

“Yes, that is how it’s supposed to be. We should live as brothers and not be showing racism towards one another. One of the Ausa traders at Mamy market was speaking Ausa to me, can you imagine that? They will not speak English to me.” Tunde said with vigour. He had the Yoruba accent that does violence to the ‘h’ sound and then realizing something he continued with less vigour directing the explanation to Kamal. “I went there with these my friends so they wanted to buy bread and eh… they just bought one for me because you know as I told you I don’t have any money.”

Mustapha interrupted the lamentation: “How comes, Kam, that when I bring Salman here you kicked him out because he won’t mind his language and you bring your own and he is all ‘what d’ fucking’ around and you let him?”

Kamal smiled. “I thought you would like to meet him. He’s Mary’s boyfriend.”

 

He met Mary on a cold Harmattan morning. It was the first week he arrived. She was like him too; a latecomer and they went through the late registration while the classes were going on. They sat in the lobby of the student affairs department to wait for the Head of Student Affairs. Femi sat between them and they talked about the campus. The boys were trying to find a way to deal with the cold except her. She had an elfin face and a small fragile looking body. She had the appearance of a school girl and the face and calmed grace of a young woman that does not grow with her age. Mustapha saw her and he wanted to talk to her. He strained his neck from the discussion with Femi and asked her:

“Where are you from?”  

“I’m from Ebonyi State,” she replied.

“How do you find Kano?” He asked.

“Well, Kano is good. I miss my family and friends but I like it here. I just wish it’s not so cold,” she said.

“Don’t worry about the cold. In a few weeks the cold will be gone and you’d be regretting that it’s gone,” he said.

“I have never been to the North before, this is my first time. It’s a different world entirely,” she said.

“Me too, I’ve never been here before,” Femi said.

“Are you Moslem?” She asked Mustapha.

“Yes”

“And you're Hausa too?”

“Yes”

He knew the questions were soon coming. Every discussion sought to know one’s tribe, religion and state of origin. She had taken a quick interest in the discussion when he talked to her and since he has been explaining the North to Femi he expected she will want to know too. She might tell everyone about the Hausa boy she met who speaks fluent English and does not confuse Ps and Fs so much so that you can’t tell whether he is Hausa or not, and she did.

Several weeks after, on a Saturday she called him to escort her and her friend Chinwe to Kano to use the ATM. The two girls stood wearily with genuine fright at the thought of venturing into the big scary Hausa City. None of them speaks Hausa. He agreed to escort them and they decided to go on the next day, Sunday. In the morning of the next day, they set out for Kano. He felt protective about the girls he was taking to the City, that is his home and he was eager to assure them that it is the safest place in the world. They held on to him and stuck close to him at first but they gradually loosened up and warmed up to the city. He was asked to translate the Hausa written on huge billboards and he did. He had noticed that women are attracted to the leader and the powerful no matter how silly the position is.

They wandered through the markets of Yan-Kwari. They ploughed through the crowds of people in Bata. Mary and Chinwe haggled for wigs and hair extensions. Mary asked him what he thought and he replied:

“I don’t think you want my opinion on that.”

“Why? Just say it. What do you think?” She insisted.

“I think you’d look much better wearing your hair as it is,” he said.

“Why?” She asked.

“To me, attaching artificial hair and wigs is like standing on a table and crying out ‘hey look I’m tall’.”

Chinwe laughed. Mary smiled lightly. She explained:

“Maintaining our natural hair is a heck of a problem. You just cannot handle that level of stress and especially in school.”

“Alright, I get it,” he said.

“So which do you think I should choose?” She asked and she showed him the two hair extensions. One was bright red and the other was blonde.

“I think you should mix the two. I think it will look great,” he replied.

She didn’t get the sarcasm at first. She brought the two packets close to examine the colours together. She raised her head to tell him that it is ridiculous and she saw him smile a very innocent smile and she knew.

He took them through the streets of Sabon Gari. He thought that seeing a multitude of Ibos in the urban community will put them at greater ease and it did. They walked pass bars, churches, restaurants, and shops and saw people of several tribes in the country but mostly Ibos. Ibos and Hausas sat under canopies and drank beer from big green and dark brown bottles of beer. Some shops sold gin in small bottles. Sabon Gari is a designated residential area but commerce from the adjoining markets have crept in and every block of flat has its fair share of it. Chinwe remarked delightedly: “I feel like am in Aba!”

Mary held his hand with her thin fingers as they ploughed through the crowds. She was small and she lagged behind several times. They had to wait for her to catch up. Pedestrians walking by stopped briefly to stare at the strange group of young people.

“Why are they looking at us like that, Mustapha?” Mary asked.

“Why? We are a spectacle,” he said.

“What is so spectacular about us?” Chinwe asked.

“We have had a century living together but we are still quite dissimilar. Two Ibo girls and a Hausa boy all dressed in a way that unmistakably tells who they are and walking hand in hand in a market in Kano. It’s like three masquerades from the Eastern region, the City of Calabar and the Western Region collaborating to walk it out in a Northern market. Why else do you think they will be looking at us?” He replied.

“We didn’t say we want to marry you,” Mary said sullenly.

“Actually, you will find, that it’s not marriage they are worried about,” he replied.

“So what is it?”

“It’s hard to say. It’s not really worry, perhaps a curiosity, an exciting feeling that we can get along despite our differences and a feeling of unease about what changes that will cause. Marriages between the tribes are not quite new in Kano but such a public show of getting along is.”

They returned to the campus in the evening. Mustapha felt exhausted a little from walking and mostly from talking and hearing the two girls talk. He was asked and he taught them the Hausa and English names of the fruits and nuts they saw and he listened to them tell him whether they grow in the Eastern region or not and comparing prices. He had to pronounce the names of streets and markets and explain whether they mean anything or not. The most difficult question he was asked was why is a Hausa Muslim man drinking alcohol and gambling in Sabon Gari and why was a prostitute sitting on his lap. He didn’t know how to answer that and he almost replied that they should go back and ask the man themselves. In the bus, he tried to sit silently but Mary saw his lips moved and she asked:

“What are you saying?”

“Nothing”

“I saw your lips move.”

“I just remembered something.”

“What?”

“Some verse from a poem.”

“Say it to me.”

He recalled the words from the last verses of al-Garnadi’s poem.

 

Mark the tear of the mother-then say O how true,

How vile yet how lovely’s the city of sin

 

“Did you write it?  She asked.

“No.”

“What is it about?”

“It’s an old Arab poet writing about a Syrian city,” he replied.

***

 


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