The Girl Whisperer
as published by the Sunday Guardian
of August 10
A Perfect World
In a perfect world, the beautiful memories of childhood would be carried into adulthood. The joys that were so strong then and the satisfaction derived from simple things would remain. There would still be pleasure at seeing a sunset, at smelling the freshly cut green, green grass on a summer holiday. The smile that would come to the face on seeing close friends would be genuine, and the admiration of certain members of the opposite sex (or the dislike of them) would be pure, totally lacking guile.
In a perfect world, there would be no two-timing; one partner being enough for everyone. The partner in issue would be the perfect partner, able to meet every need; a bit like some romance flick at the cinemas. You meet your perfect partner and you are always happy- a perfect world.
There is a problem with not being able to dream this way, with losing the ability to be like Peter Pan; what happens when you stop dreaming is that life loses a lot of its pleasures. You walk through the world with hooded eyes, contemplating, calculating and looking for the angle, the opportunity to take advantage. The loss of childhood and its influences is not a sign of maturity; it is some form of death. The ability to laugh from the heart is a thing of wonder and should be preserved even if you get to be as old as Methuselah.
‘Jamming Jay’, I called out to a friend one day, his name through the heady days of university (I went to a real university-Great Ife). He had become an influential banker, an important man. He answered back with a shout across the open, public space we were in. Another ‘friend’ of ours from those days looked on in disapproval and asked, ‘You still call each other those names?’ Jamming Jay (real name-Jaiye) and I turned to contemplate him with interest. We recognized without words being exchanged that this was an unhappy man and that he would make his children unhappy. ‘Don’t laugh’, ‘don’t run’, ‘don’t smile’, ‘don’t jump’. My favourite uncle is in his seventies. It fascinates me to hear his friends call him his nickname- ‘boy’.
It would be a perfect world if your partner didn’t leave you for someone younger, richer, better educated, more articulate. A perfect world would be one where loved ones weren’t taken away by sickness, where they didn’t fall into debt and have their banks foreclose on their property. A perfect world would be where you could hold your partner’s hand in public, ten years after you first met, and be totally engrossed with and in each other.
Sometimes, my heart is heavy because I recognise there are many people around me who have stopped dreaming, who have stopped believing, who have allowed life to dictate the pace they must move at. There is beauty in the world, a lot of it and we can make it as rich as possible by holding on to the things that we found pleasure in as we walked through childhood and thereafter became adults.
I met my friend, Shadow, many years ago, I was sixteen, my A-level days. He was 9 days younger than me and we clicked from first sight, genuinely liking each other. It was a friendship even our parents liked and encouraged. We found the same things funny, ‘hated’ the same people, ended up in the same fights, grinned at the same group of girls, and ended up studying the same course at university. (He was more of an influence on me in the university matter, much more than anyone else I knew). Shadow’s somewhere in Asia now, practising law and doing very well for himself, but the memories of those days keep me company sometimes when I am by myself. It strikes me as odd when people say they are bored. How can life be boring? Search through your mind, your memory banks, relive moments of joy, plan for the future, jettison the pain of the past but don’t tell anyone you’re bored.
In a perfect world, my childhood friend, Rasheed Thanni, would be alive. We would sit together over a cool drink and remember when we ran around the Shell Club area in shorts looking for adventures like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. We would recall when as twelve year olds, we would go to the beach (without permission) and swim till our eyes were red from the salt water and sand was caked in every orifice. And then the trip home where we would pray our parents hadn’t realised we’d been out all day. Rasheed would pluck an eye-lash and place it on the hair of his head. Apparently, it made those you were in trouble with, forget. In a perfect world, my friend Rasheed would be with his two daughters in Britain, and sometimes on the phone, we would recall how we used to chase after fire trucks in Surulere and swim in the murky swampy waters of what later became the Iponri Housing Estate.
We must preserve as many of our memories as made us smile, as made us better people. Life has too many reality checks already, better for us to sometimes travel in our minds, to a time when it was a perfect world.