Kayode Taiwo Olla
I could not believe I was seeing him live! But I was.
The MC’s baritone voice bringing him upstage had just faded out amid the frenzied roar of his audience. I looked back at the peopled tiers of seats behind, from the around the front seats that I was. I looked back, and boy, I could only see a sea of hands in the air!
I was so lucky I made it to the front seats. So lucky.
I dart my gaze towards the stage again.
Lights of different colours flashed and flickered frivolously onstage. In frenetic race they crossed and re-crossed over and again, producing starry sparkles in the hazy air.
He had just mounted the stage, with such glamour, such elegant strides, and such charisma that were his emblems! And with a deft, elegant sweep of a hand, he lifted his rhythm guitar and passed the belt over and across his neck. His dreadlocks swayed sideways in graceful sweeps in that moment. He struck a powerful chord on the guitar. And all the big speakers reverberated with the powerful sound.
The whole amphitheatre went up in an ecstatic frenzy again.
I yelled his name; yelled it on top of my voice. God, I really wished he picked my voice in the midst of a thousand indistinct chants of his name!
I paused for one sweet moment; I paused and took a long gaze at him.
‘God, he is gorgeous! I love, love, love this dude!’ I mustered, pressing my hands against my breasts softly.
I wished I could tell him I’ve always been his number one fan! That I’ve been his passionate fan from my teens, in fact! I didn’t miss any of his albums and major shows on TV. But I didn’t know I’d be seeing him live. A few metres away from me! On our campus.
My mind raced back, for one moment; raced back to younger years. The memory was not too far-flung into the quaint past. And it flipped through my head like pictures as clear as some not-so-far yesterday’s. It flipped through my head like pages of an album of good memories. Memories you want to live in again for at least some sweet moments of reminiscence.
I closed my eyes lightly and I could see them. Those girlish days in high school. Wow, lovely. I could see them. Yes, how we girls used to do some petty bet on who knew his lyrics best. Ha-ha! I always won their bet anytime!
Yes, yes—how we sang his love songs in our dormitories at night, hugging our teddy bears and pillows. I remembered this one—ha-ha, funny days! Remembered how we girls once sneaked out of the hostel, to go watch him play in town. We had some crazy girlish plans to enter the hall even without us having to pay the gate fee. Cos we didn’t have any! Silly us—it didn’t work, ha-ha! That would’ve been the first time I would’ve watched him live.
And then I remembered how I had so much believed in my early teens that I would eventually marry him. That one, ha-ha! And I meant it then!
Oh, I didn’t know I’d chuckled aloud. The girl beside me darted a kind of girl-you’re-crazy look at me and chuckled.
I gave her one what’s-wrong hard look and gestured. I followed it immediately by a mind-your-business stare. She hissed slightly and turned away. I muttered, ‘Whatever!’
The cheer was subsiding now as he began his first performance, my idol. He held the microphone’s head with a masculine grab and bent the stand slightly sideways to him. And then the speakers reverberated with his rough deep enchanting voice.
‘Love me gently, love me hard,’ were the words he said.
‘WOW!!!’ I cried among a thousand other shouts. That was one of my favorites among his tracks! That is why I just love him, I said to myself. He was just too good! His selections were a blast!
It was a slow R&B. The amphitheatre shook with the strong rhythms of the music as his band began to play. His whole audience joined in singing. Who would not know how to sing the hit track of his recent album? Whoever did not know the lyrics must pretend they knew!
I was lost; I was lost in the music. It reached to the soul, tugged at your feelings. And you were left thinking about romance.
I sang along. Of course, I knew the lyrics! I was head over heels in love with music; when I heard good music I knew. His music was good food to my soul.
I steadied my gaze on him while we all rocked from side to side. I steadied my gaze on him to catch his eye. Ah, I wished so hard I could just get his attention. Just one moment.
I adjusted my breasts and made sure they sat just well enough to attract him. I tried to look at the girl beside me if she wasn’t looking with the corner of her eye. She wasn’t; that was fine. She was carried away with the music.
I glanced at him again, my idol. But he wasn’t looking my side. And now my breath was racing a bit.
God, what am I thinking? I must really be crazy! Do I think he would have the time to think of me?—
Wait! I thought I saw him just now looking this way. Casually, though. He’s looking another way again, aw!
I tried to get myself together, my breath pace, my composure. I tried to look sexier. The way I swing my waist, swayed my body, dancing.
The other girl was beginning to look at me now.
I didn’t care.
Wow! He’s looking here right now! Looking this side. I only hope it is down right here he’s looking. At me. Directly at me. I really hope so!
I danced the best I could, my body gliding easefully, gorgeously, and sexily. I let my tongue roll out sexily. And then he looked toward another side.
I guessed it was me he saw. I guessed he saw me.
I hoped; I really hoped he saw me!
The song ended with a loud cheer. And dusts rose in the air like a haze, with sparkles of colourful lights piercing through. We sat as he talked and then performed another piece, a solo.
And then he stepped down from the stage, elegantly. And there he was, standing in front of me. A few steps away from me on the apron. But he was not looking; he was not looking at me.
He said he was going to give his microphone to any girl to sing. It was any of his recent tracks he wanted. A sea of hands went up. And diverse feminine chants of his name. And several ‘Oh me, please! Oh here, please!’ swallowing my tiny voice.
He picked my hand; I thought I was dreaming! I must have been dreaming!
I glanced swiftly around to see if I could find a pen. It was a marker I saw; it was a permanent marker. But it was with the same girl beside me! And her eyes—I almost could not stand on my feet at the jealousy in them! I darted my hand in her lap and took the marker.
‘Kindly lend me, please,’ I said.
Before she could storm ‘What the hell…!’ I was off. Yeah, to my idol’s stage, my long-held dream!
I could not believe it; I could not imagine it. All I knew was I sang his track and he said that was damn good. I gave him the marker and asked for his autograph.
‘Where you wanna have it?’ he said in his deep hoarse voice. I flushed and I unbuttoned the top part of my blouse. I said, ‘Here!’
All of amphitheatre screamed with a wild frenzy of excitement. And yes, he did sign—with a permanent marker—on my breasts!
I turned about to go and he said, ‘Hey babe, what’s yer name?’
I turned round and could have blushed scarlet if I were White. ‘Debby,’ I said.
‘That’s sure a pretty name,’ he said. ‘You wanna see me any time after ma show? Here,’ he said, handing me a small card. ‘You show this to ma boys and they gonna bring you right in to me—you get that, right?’
I bit down my lip and flushed in stark embarrassment. The audience shouted and guys teased really hard. I felt the ground under me should cave in and I should simply sink out of sight. I walked the longest distance in my life back to my seat. I could feel his eyes boring into my back. And all eyes were on me!
As soon as I was getting to my seat, I remembered the terror waiting for me from the jealous girl sitting by me. I quickly returned her marker with many thanks. But the look and the words hauled at me were so much killing her boyfriend by her had to signal to her to stop.
I had to leave there. And leave the amphitheatre itself. And wait till the time I’d see my idol.
* * * * *
This second time was not like the first. This second time was different.
It was his offstage person that I saw. It was the man.
The first time when he came to my campus and gave me a pass to see him. The first time—that I would have this great star in bed that night, it was like a dream!
‘I have to pocket my church things,’ I mused silently before I went to him. ‘I shouldn’t let him know that I sing in the choir in my fellowship. That would discourage his interest in me, of course. Of course—certainly—I shouldn’t even let it out that my mum is the very spiritual type and we were raised that way.’
I paused and then it was as if I just became aware of me. ‘Why would I say all those, in fact?’ I chortled. ‘Why am I even thinking that, in the first place? I hope I’m OK?’
I got him a pack of flowers that night and he seemed to really love that. I didn’t know how the talk went but he came to know I was a member of the choir in my fellowship on campus. But he liked it. It seemed he liked me more for it. And after the night’s fun he did ask me to see him again, when he would be having a show in town a month from then.
Yes, this second time was different. This second time I was meeting him in his room in the hotel. When he came to town to perform.
I had been told by my close friends to play a prank on him and say I was already pregnant for him. And then I should watch his reaction, and see if he actually wanted to hold onto me.
And after the night’s fun I told him I was pregnant. For him.
His reaction was strange. And frightful. I thought I could scare him a bit. I thought I could hold onto him by saying that. I wanted to be his forever. I really wanted to be his.
‘You ain’t gonna f**cking scare me with that, girl!’ he chuckled. ‘And you ain’t gonna fool me! And come,’ he whispered in my face, raising my chin with his index finger, ‘I’m gonna do the damn test myself, and if you lying to me, if you f**cking lying to me, then you’re gonna see the devil himself! And if you pregnant for real, girl, the baby’s not staying there—do you get that? And you can f**cking sue me if you have the money!’
‘I was only joking, baby,’ I said. ‘But please,’ I added—‘please let me go with you. Please, let me be your girlfriend, please.’
‘Are you sick?’ he yelled at me, gesturing with his index and middle fingers raised to his temple.
‘Please,’ I said a bit tearfully—‘I have adored you since I was a teen! Since my early teens, in fact! I love you more than you ever know! More than you can possibly expect! Let me be yours, please! You’re a star; you’re my idol! I’m serious—please, baby, please!’
‘A star!’ he chuckled and paused for a moment. It was as if he had something running in his mind. He paused for quite a while and then chuckled again. ‘You don’t know me,’ he said, and then stood up from the bed and went towards the window. He raised the curtain and glanced out for a while. He was silent and just looked out. I could hear the hooting of moving vehicles downstairs and the noise from the street. They seemed to work to distract him from a heavier thought, perhaps.
He spoke at last. ‘You can’t be my girlfriend’, he said in a low voice, ‘cos there ain’t a thing as my girlfriend!’
I stood up gently and went to him. I held his hand and said, ‘But you can make me one, uh? Or at least, give me your mobile number and let me have a significant place in your heart, please.’
He turned around swiftly and shouted in my face. ‘You can’t be with me; don’t you f**cking get it?!’
I ran to the bed and fell on my face against the bed. I took the pillow and sobbed tears into it. He did not move for a while. But then after a minute or two he came to my side and sat on the bed. He touched my hair, brushed it lightly and said, ‘Hey! Are you listening?’
‘What?!’ I shouted into the pillow.
‘Hey, you don’t know me!’
Those words made me sick: ‘You don’t know me!’
I bounced up from my face-down position, brushed the pillow aside and sat up. ‘What don’t I know? You’re a star! For goodness’ sake, you’re fulfilled! You have money! You’re at the height of your carrier! You’re one of the top musicians in this country! For goodness’ sake you’re…’
‘I am not,’ he interposed in a pained voice; ‘I am not as fulfilled.’
I took his face in my hands and searched his eyes. ‘No baby, you are!’ I whispered, bewildered.
He just looked away.
It didn’t make sense. What was he talking about? Why was he talking like this? I wanted to encourage him; I knew he must have been depressed somehow.
He buried his head in his hands for quite a while, sitting at the edge of the bed. It appeared he was in some heavy thought. He began to tremble slightly. ‘What is it?’ I asked. But he didn’t answer. He only got up and went to the wardrobe. He opened one of his boxes and took out some ganja from an inside pocket. He came back to the bedside, opened a bottle of Vodka and poured himself a glass.
‘You use… erm, drugs?’ I said quietly—‘That is it?’ I said.
He did not answer. And I could see his hands tremble.
I was going to help him. Help him in this. I held his hands with all the force I could muster. ‘Please, don’t take it,’ I said.
‘I don’t wanna!’ he said, his voice pained, his hands quivering.
‘Yeah, that’s it,’ I said encouragingly; ‘try—don’t take it!’
His hands trembled more and he began to force my hands away. I didn’t know where I got that strength to hold his hands. Perhaps it was my determination to help him. Or perhaps he was allowing me. It was now about three minutes I was holding him. I looked up to his face to encourage him some more; and his eyes glowed red like dull embers. His skin, too, began to be covered with goose pimples. My goodness, he trembled pitifully! And with a bit more force, he threw the whole bundle of me against the bed. And he threw the whole substance in his mouth and started chewing hard, his head buried in his palm. I looked on helplessly, not knowing what to do again. At a point, I just buried my face in the pillow and cried.
And then, done with the ganja, he reached his hand to the glass of Vodka; and I just moaned, ‘Please, stop now, baby.’ He did not say anything; he just gulped the whole glass down his throat. And finally done, he sat on the bed, buried his face in his palms, paused a bit and then shook with tears. I guess he just let himself feel the sorrow, and let himself shed the tears. Like they were what he really needed at the time. Like they were a catharsis.
I crawled on the bed to his side and placed his head on my laps. I ran my hands through his dreadlocks and his whole body trembled with pained long-drawn-out sobs.
He wiped his teary eyes with a handkerchief and raised his gaze sideways.
‘My doctor advised me’, he said, ‘to cut down my drugs and alcohol intake. He let me know I’m presently at some terrible health risks. I am dying, yet I can’t stop it. I can’t go without either in three days! And this has continued for years I can’t tell you the number now!’
He paused a bit.
‘Oh heck, I’ve done many bad things!’ he gasped. ‘Many dirty deals you don’t wanna know! I’m still in a lot; a lot of mess I can’t tell you. My money is not my own; you don’t have to know who owns it. Maybe my life itself is not my own! Perhaps it belongs to some guys; perhaps somebody. I actually am not living a life! I just wanna be ordinary for one day! I just wanna be me!’ He bowed his head heavily, and groaned.
‘Aargh!’ he cried and shook in fits.
A tear trickled down my eye too.
He sat up. ‘There are a lot I can’t just tell you; that you don’t need,’ he said. ‘But please, Deborah, I am addicted to drugs and alcohol; I am badly addicted!’ His voice had begun to quiver now. ‘I may go crazy sooner or later or even die if I keep to this miserable life!’ he said. ‘I’ve tried to be rehabilitated but I fell back into the addiction.’
He stretched a hand to me now, his look forlorn.
‘Debby,’ he said, ‘you’re a worker in your fellowship—’ He paused a bit.
‘Help me—please, help me!’ he moaned.
‘I am enslaved to myself. I am enslaved to my desires,’ he added ruefully.
I held him close to me and laid his head in my hands. Ah, I wished I could just help him! I wished I could help him. I wished I had some power, some ability to do what was needed to help him. I wished I was free too. Or pure.
I was a member of the choir in my campus fellowship and in my home church. But I couldn’t tell him, of course, that I was also suffering from addiction. It had been six years already I had been terribly addicted to sex. It was unhealthy; it was self-destructive—yet I could not stop. When the urge came and I didn’t have it almost immediately I would sweat and shiver so badly I could almost die. When I had it I was greatly relieved, only to crave for more again later.
I would crave, I would work, and I would fight to have it again and again!
My first boyfriend knew my problem and he agreed to always satisfy me. But it was never enough. It would never satisfy. Until I began to go all out for it, and had sex with any guy I could find or meet. And still I wanted more!
Aargh, such bottomless gulf! Such insatiable urge! Such enslaving desire! God!
When I started, my faith made me sorry for the acts. But in time, I didn’t feel remorse anymore. I felt I can give expression to my urges; but now they were those controlling me! And not the other way.
The first time I aborted, too, I cried badly. God, I cried; I felt so sorry. I promised never to again—ever! But soon, the second time came, and then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth, and… aargh, please God, have mercy!
And now I gazed at my idol again on my lap. And I wished I could be able to help him. I wished; but I couldn’t. I was enslaved too. I needed help. Ah, I wished I was free. I silently prayed to Jesus I dearly wanted to be free.
I gazed up with teary eyes, and cried inside me.
Help me—please help me!