The Girl Whisperer
as published by
the Sunday Guardian of March 23
Tonight, as I drive down the quiet, wet Lagos streets, street lamps casting their faint glow on the deserted roads, the headlamps from the occasional car lighting up my vehicle’s interior and then passing on to unknown destinations to leave me in comfortable darkness again, my mind drifts to beautiful things as it does whenever the rains come, for I think it must have rained the day I was born.
I am reminded of beautiful people, girls with beautiful spirits, thoroughbreds whom I have met through the years of my life and tonight, I pay tribute to some of these women who have added joy to my days.
There was the university era and ’yinka, who had a heart of gold and looked out for me. She who called me her “hero”, and now every time I see that word, I remember her still. Olayimika, life, really, is what we make it. At some point in life, we will all look back and with the strength of hindsight, recognize the beauty of those we have met in times gone by and whom we see no more.
And I remember she, whose name translated into “a drop of honey”, and the goodness of her heart. We were classmates and friends, and her purity and goodness were unforced and apparent to all. The only way I can describe her is that she was good, she was gentle, she was kind. She was my friend, this young woman whose name is ’kanyin.
There was ’kemi, whom I met during the orientation camp period of a compulsory youth service year in Akwa Ibom, she who taught me to like the song, “Walk on by” by Dione Warrick. Kemi, gentle, soft-spoken and kind. The computer scientist from a state university who had a keen, keen mind.
I remember the poet, yemisi, who opened like a flower opens it petals as I got to know her. She was funny, she loved life, she was brilliant and she made me laugh. We would talk forever on the phone about poetry, about books, about ourselves, our hopes and dreams. All these women in their different ways, brought sunshine into my life and it is interesting to observe that in all these cases, we did not need physical intimacy to add a beautiful dimension to life that will last for as long as I live.
Of the “fantastic four” recorded here, three of them live abroad now and I muse on how goodness has been dispersed all over the world, by the economy, by necessity, through the betrayal of hope by those who should have done better for this land. The poet, John Burroughs wrote as if he was addressing me- “To his sorrow he learnt this truth/You may return to the place of your birth/You cannot return to your youth/.
But I know that someday, I will have a daughter, bold and beautiful to behold, with keen eyes that radiate the beauty that lies deep inside her. And, on a quiet night, as she and I sit, reading, on a porch, on a veranda, a balcony, I will tell her to come sit on my knees and gaze out at the falling rain with me. And as we look out on the street ahead on that quiet, quiet night, the sound of the rain acting as our backdrop, I shall whisper into her ear. “Listen to me”, I shall say, “...and learn from he who is known as the Whisperer. He who has met women from across the length and breadth of this earth and has been a confidant to a countless number. You must grow up to be yourself, a beautiful woman in your own right, confident of who you are and your capabilities, refusing to be put down by life or circumstances or by any human. You may learn from your mother who brought you into the world, for if she was not a good woman, I would not have gone near her. Humans make many mistakes, but the mistake of allowing the wrong sort partner you in child-birth is one you may never recover from. I have been careful. I have been careful. You be careful too.”
“Therefore, daughter of the Whisperer, learn greatly from she who was the vessel that brought you to this world. But if by some chance you display the traits of these four women who added magic to the life of your father, I shall take no offence. For it is not every angel that has wings. And I have met angels.”
The past is made up of many memories strung together. The trick is to fill it with as many beautiful memories as possible, and to jettison the garbage. Selective amnesia is essential here, for why remember ugly people? A waste of time and hard disc space. This is the Whisperer’s mission, for when he is old and grey, only the beautiful memories must remain.