|This is just a model I photographed at an event in PHC, Nigeria.|
On the morning of thirty, I woke up to my girlfriend by my side on a flat mattress in my apartment in Port Harcourt. There was no power, just a rechargeable lamp stood over us with its light, like it was something divine, seeing us bare. She had traveled six hours from Nsukka to Port Harcourt with personally baked birthday cake on her laps for me. It was what she did for a living; loving me and taking some decisions that I thought were too much for me. There were times that I was sick and she would spend days with me, helping with cleaning, cooking and loving. When I felt that I had no one out there when nothing worked out, the thoughts of her selflessness made me giggle and I’d flush the bad thoughts down by throat with a beer.
I was thirty and almost clueless but for her in my life and my addiction to beer, and maybe the occasional literary works I created. One of the things I thought about for the new journey was a postgraduate degree and a stable life so that Oluchi and my family would have something tangible to smile about. I make sacrifices for them but I think they make more for me. Being a first child had made me to think in the collective, to understand that I am not alone and whatever I carried out didn’t hurt those who shared the same parents with me. And of course, anyone who truly cared.
I had thought I would wake up differently – with some heaviness, of being thirty but what weighed me were more in my head, what I had done with my life and what I would do and how I would go about doing that so they’d come out good. I had published a book of my fears and appreciation on a mobile platform a day earlier and since it had a price tag of N500, I had just two downloads. Some friends said they had issues with payment on the site but I felt it was one of the things that happened to a thirty year old, expecting less and living, nonetheless.
For thirty, I was going to start being deliberate with whatever I wanted. I haven’t been less deliberate but this was coming with the realization that I was thirty and everything around me counted – like if I looked up at the petty trader by the street corner who sold noodles, what she pressed on her pocket calculator was not my bill but how much time I had left or hadn’t. If I did it well, I was going to be a successful man in his early thirties. If I did it wrong, I was going to make a bad example to the many great people who are quick to make anyone a role model and mentor.
There had been unrest in the south. The Nigerian Army had responded brutally to civil unrests by the Indigenous People of Biafra, a group that agitated for a sovereign state of Biafra in Igboland. She had to use the Owerri route and endured silly quarrel from a woman who sat next to her from Owerri to Port Harcourt. Oluchi and I met at the university. I was two years ahead of her in the department. She was the first and only relationship I got at the department – full of our little chaos but treasured. And it had been up and down but had survived. It had not started deliberately. She was a friend who stayed and whose life unfolded in very interesting ways as we stayed together. I discovered that there were a lot of roles to play and she had so much to teach me about living, women and love.
After I woke up and took a pen to plan the day, I realized that if I did not give out the major jobs of running around to folks that did not know how much the day meant to me and how I avoided failure, I would have a fine day. I made calls, reaffirmed collections and reached out to the venue for the birthday sit-out. When calls came through, they came heavily and had different messages. Songs and prayers came, teases and reminders, of the age and my gradual loss of boyhood. People who I had no ideas were there, sent messages on social media and as a tradition, I gave them attention and responded to as many as I could.
The birthday sit-out held and friends drank and teased and chatted and took pictures and while I cheered and almost ended up singing at the karaoke bar, I realized that no matter how serious one was and how greatly one achieved fame and riches, if one could place a call for an event and no one showed up, one has not succeeded as a leader of some sort. And I also learned that when the cheers are down, there are people who would be there, to tuck, to hug and kiss and tell you that all would go well. For what are lucks than partners who keep you aware that living is a great privilege.
Written in 2017