I wake up to the insistent whine of my cell phone. I try to let it ring, hoping that whoever it is will leave a voice mail but when the call ends there is only a respite of a couple of minutes before the next call comes in. I drag myself to my desk and pick up the phone on the third ring, it is my mother.
– Oohjay how are you, she asks.
I mumble something about being fine, and it being a little early to chit chat. Perhaps she senses my irritation, because unusually she cuts to the chase.
– Kuti’s getting married in two weeks, are you aware? What are your plans?
Kuti is the cousin who was closer than a brother. We’d shared a room since he came to live with us when I was 8 or 9. Alongside my kid brother, we had all our illicit football games together, played table soccer leagues with bottle tops and swapped girl stories. More importantly to my mother, he was the most visible one of her progeny who had refused to get married, well into his late thirties. He turned thirty-seven this year.
– I have no plans ma, I answer.
I have a couple of projects wrapping up at the end of April so I won’t be able to get two weeks off to travel to Nigeria. Plus getting a ticket at two weeks notice would burn a huge hole in my finances, which are barely limping along at the moment in any case.
– Okay o, she replies in a tone of voice that clearly is not satisfied. Keep me in the loop whatever you eventually decide.
We make some more small talk and then she signs off. It is only 5.44am. Sigh.
I am checking my emails when a LinkedIn notification comes in. Over the past few months, LinkedIn has morphed into a Facebook for professionals – never more so than in its ability, and willingness, to dreg emails and address books for connections to suggest. This particular suggestion is for a connection to a friend of my father’s from back in the day when he was a struggling academic, labouring under the especially onerous conditions of the Abacha era. I add him, and after a few minutes he accepts. He emails me, asking me where and how I am, how my parents are, and then adds the marriage question..
At a mere thirty one years of age, I appear to be at a stage in life where, when people who have not been in touch for a few years reconnect with me, one of the first things they ask is how my family is – implicitly accepting that I am married already. I wonder how the girls survive it.. Sigh!
On the 4th ring, someone answers the phone. The voice is distant, seemingly attenuated by all the miles of cabling and ether between me and the recipient. There is a certain sleepy quality to the voice too, as though I have woken them up from the depths of an afternoon nap. Its late afternoon in that part of the world, that time of day when the oppressive heat and the lack of activity on a Sunday afternoon combine to lull one into a dreamy haze.
Father answers the phone. He and I have not exactly seen eye to eye for a few years now. Not since that September morning in 2008 when I packed my bags, quit my job at a Fortune 500 company and headed back to full time studies. Thankfully time’s attrition has worn the walls we’d built up between ourselves down but the reticence between us is still there – sometimes seething, sometimes manifesting in monosyllabic exchanges that give the lie to our semblance of civil conversation.
Today is one of those days for the monosyllables. I want it over with as soon as possible.
At the insistence of some sections of the family, I was dragged away to London for the weekend… No complaints though because it included home cooked meals, no internet (sad but good – Twitter on my BB tried to fill the void) and some ‘transport’ money – critical for a bloke on a (self imposed) student budget. Plus I got the opportunity to bond with my niece whom I had never seen (bad ‘uncle’ abi?).
Got the opportunity to join the incredible folks at the ExCel centre too – loads of great music and some really burning words to muse over.. Sadly, the music concert confirmed my fears about an increasingly obvious generati0n gap between moi and young people.. All in all it was great though! Yup..