Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Night Season

I lost my best and dearest friend, Dare Sanya in a vehicle accident somewhere in Badagry on the 12th of April 2002. I've always believed that if somehow I were there in person, maybe he would have had the strength to hang on to life and would still be here today. I wrote this ficticious piece to express how things may have been different if I knew immediately the incident happened, and also to prod the believer whose soul is disturbed at night for no apparent reason. There might just be a reason why you are restless and unable to sleep. Maybe its time to be instructed in the Night Season.

Enjoy it and don't forget to drop a comment.

The night was dark and long. Too long. Every second seemed to inch by with tortuous precision as if someone told it to take its time. An owl cooed nearby and maybe a bat squealed as well, I don’t really know. The entire drama was not drawing me in anyhow. My eyes were fixated on the clock that hung like an oracle on the wall, dictating how far out of reach morning was, and how long my weary soul had been keeping vigil for it.

I turned, hoping that perhaps a new position would help. Maybe if I didn’t stare so much at the oracle, I might have some respite and it would ignore me to do as it was made to do. Yes, this did feel a bit better. If I can just focus on the dreary wall out there, which held nothing but a grotesque caricature on peeling wallpaper, maybe I might just catch a nap for an hour or so. Then the ticking and tocking got amplified. The clock somehow relocated into my head and was playing games with my eardrums. Solace and respite took to their heels and my misery returned.

I’d had it. I threw off the covers and got out of bed. For some reason my entire body felt limp like it had shut down for the night but my eyes were wide open like a spinning hard drive regurgitating information. Well, I figured if I can’t catch some sleep, I might as well catch something else. A freshly brewed cup of coffee sounded like an invitation to me. Unlike most people, coffee doesn’t keep me awake. I could down a drum a day and still crash out when sleep time came. For me, the aroma of the brew gave me the kicks and right now this is just what I needed. The kick was my fix. Ironic I would feel like it when I was struggling to get some sleep isn’t it? Naah, but I didn’t mind. I got out the coffee beans and began meticulously feeding the machine.
The Mexican aroma began pervading the whole house, confusing my brain about the time of day it was. I grabbed my fresh brew, creamed and sugared it, and curled up on the couch, remote control in hand, shuffling through the channels of tv. Then the phone rang…

It’s a few minutes past 1am and it’s not a weekend. I cursed under my breath. Surely the freak at the other end did not expect anyone to answer this call. I flipped the channel and the phone stopped ringing. Good riddance. My bachelor life is complex as it is. Your other problems can wait till morning. As my thoughts were running out of kilter, the phone began to ring again. It’s got to be my boss for sure! He either has his nocturnal sensors turned off or he never had one. I, one of his unfortunate subordinates, am plagued with enduring his incessant middle-of-the-night calls when he remembers something that should have been done or should be done. Still ringing, still flipping. As the ringing stopped midbar, I could picture the person on the other end hearing my voice message “Hi, you’ve reached Deji’s phone, please leave me a message, your name and call back number and I’ll return your call. Thanks”. Of course I never returned the calls. I never even listened to the messages. If it was important, they always called back.

And it did ring again. This time, with an uneasy chill that frightened me. Whoever was there really needed to talk to me. I reached for my mobile phone and looked at the caller id. It was a number I wasn’t familiar with. I swallowed the warm coffee in my mouth and pressed the green button:
“Hello…” I said in the huskiest laziest voice I could find in my vocal archives
“Deji, Deji, thank God” came back a very befuddled voice at the other end
“Who’s this?”
“Deji, it’s terrible, I can’t explain it, I’ve been trying to call you since it happened, maybe network, maybe…” I could hear utter confusion on the other end. Sirens, people wailing, shouting, screaming, horns blaring, a cacophony of sound like I had never heard over a phone.
“Relax and take it easy. What is happening? Who are you and what is going on there?” I tried to sound relaxed though my heart was racing like a cheetah and pounding twice as fast as I had ever known it. The suspense was pumping adrenalin through my veins with neckbreak speed I could almost hear it and it swooshed past the back of my head. I heard someone shout loudly “gerrout of the way!”
My caller fumbled for a bit, my ears assailed with fits and starts of the fumbling “Deji, there was an accident. Dare’s involved, and…and..”
“And WHAT?” I screamed
“…it doesn’t look good Deji. Please pray”

At the mention of the name Dare, I jumped to my feet, spilling my priced coffee in the process. It took me two days to notice the massive stain it made on my Persian rug. Dare is my best friend, my all time buddy, someone I often called my brother.
“Where are you?” I managed to say “Emmm…” he started to say, then speaking to someone around him he said “where is this place?” “We’re somewhere in Badagry town”
“Does this place have a name? Have you taken him to the hospital? Is there someone attending to him, what….”
“I don’t know Deji, I’m going to have to call you back with more details. For now, the best you can do is just pray. This is not a pretty sight”. With one click, the phone went dead on the other end. I stood there completely motionless and speechless. This was sure to rob me of sleep for the rest of my life. Dare had been my best friend for as long as I could remember, and losing him now was not one of the things I had bargained for. My thoughts began to concatenate scenarios, plot situations, postulate the future. Dare was too precious for me to lose. Badagry is 2 hours drive from where I was, and going there at this time of the night was almost an impossible task. Indeed this too, however important, had to wait till morning.

For some inexplicable reason, I dialed the emergency number of my employers. As the lousy buzz began to sound, I knew it was futile expecting my company to use corporate might and power to rescue my friend. “Can I have his staff id number? What department does he belong to? What is the cost center?” I hung up before the operator could answer. I dialed the public emergency line.

“My friend’s in an auto accident and he’s probably gravely hurt”
“Can you give me your location?” she replied leisurely
“I live in Festac, but the accident happened in Badagry”
“So how did you get to Badagry?”
“No, I’m not in Badagry. The accident happened in Badagry and I’m calling to make sure emergency services are at the scene”
“Come again…”
I took a deep fraustrated breath and began slowly
“My friend is in an accident in Badagry. I have just been informed of the incident. I want to know if you are aware and if emergency service has been dispatched to the scene of the accident”
“Where did you say the accident happened?”
“And your friend, if he was badly hurt, how did he call you?”

I hung up. This was not working. I slumped in my chair and began to perspire heavily. At that point it occurred to me that there was little I could do. Despair gripped me and sqeezed tears from my eyes. My best friend was probably lying somewhere, with life ebbing out of him and I could do nothing? All the mobile telephony technology, internet access and fancy gadgets in my apartment could do was stare back at me in my bewilderment. Nothing was now everything. I didn’t even have enough information about the accident. Gosh, I didn’t even know whether it was a road accident! I had no clues where they were apart from the fact that it occurred in the old run down town of Badagry. I couldn’t start the journey there until daybreak and even if I could, where exactly would I say I was headed. I started at the ceiling, still trying to conjure my response. My brain was working overtime to present the answers. I am a Consultant, I have the answer to every problem. I called the gentleman back to ask him a few more questions, but he wouldn’t answer. The noise and commotion around him had probably deafened him to the ringing of his phone.

The voice of the disturbed caller rang in my head again “…Please pray”. How can prayer be the solution to a life threatening issue that is at hand now? How can it possibly soothe pain and restore life? My hands wanted to reach out to my friend, to touch him and be with him in this time when he needed me the most, and I was too far away. How can prayer be a bridge in that gaping valley of despair? Prayer, well my Christian heritage does tell me of its potency, and it might be an option, but right there, I wanted a more actionable option…one I could do with my own hands. But here was my effort, all of it within my reach, all of it returning in blows of futility.

Where else could I have gone and what else could I do? I gave in. In final surrender, I crept to my knees and began to pray for Dare’s safety, his life, his health, his wounds. I prayed like my heart would drop out of its chambers. I prayed for other victims, for families, for friends. I prayed and prayed. Somehow now, time did not seem to matter, the ticking and tocking was now a distant decibel as I poured out my heart in intercession for my friend before our God. I was overtaken with sorrow and uncertainty as I prayed, but I prayed. The many what ifs ran through my mind as I called out his name in prayer, but I prayed.

My heart shed its weight before the one who could carry it. It was my night season, and I prayed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Word for the Road

I was invited as Special Guest to my former high school's valedictory day earlier this year and I took the opportunity to write a poem which I shared with them.

The words are really apt for any generation of people so I thought I might share it on this blog as well.

Word for the Road

Before you today lies your future
A path you must tread
The way that leads to your destiny
Is not one you should dread
As you begin this day your life’s journey
Bearing your experiences like a load
I thought I might share a hint with you
Just a few words for the Road

When you walk, stay focused
On the assignment before your eyes
Many will be present to distract you
When you’re off course, you’ll see how time flies
Take one step at a time, no need to hurry
You’re only running your own race
When you reach your finish line you’ve won
So keep on steady at your own pace

The Road has many turns
Winding, curving and bending
But it will grant its utmost respect only
To the man who knows where he’s tending
There are little signposts along the Road
That tell you which way is right
If you miss them as you will sometimes
You will stray into the night

Despair little when you stray
Simply retrace your step
For it is from where you missed it
That you will find your needed help
Be careful with whom you make allegiance
Choose your friendships well
They can help you or kill you
But as it happens, your time will tell

You need great strength for the road
You will travel a length you don’t know
On your own energy you can go only so far
Until stress and strain begin to show
May I introduce you to a someone
Who can help lighten your load
His name (of course) is JesusThe Master of the Road.