YOU REMEMBER AKE
by Mobolaji Olawale
Tomorrow is Monday but it gets further as the clock ticks. This night you are putting on your orange Ake tag and catwalking backwards. You leave your house. You are in Lagos traffic, your vehicle is in reverse but no official stops you — every other vehicle is moving in the same direction anyway. You find yourself in Raddison Blue Hotel, ungiving hugs and pocketing your hands. You sit and watch Theresa Lola pull back her lines of poetry like ropes from your mind out of your ear drums and into her mouth. She stops being a GOAT, reclaims her human status and sits among other people. A dark veil lifts off your face and you smile as Lola Shoneyin shows up in front of everyone to thank nobody. She says nothing about goodbyes and meeting in subsequent Ake festivals, and then she disappears. One after the other, everyone leaves the hall. You plug in your earpiece and unstop Maroon 5’s Girls Like You on your phone’s music player. You leave the hall and find yourself in front of a couple, both of them taking back their compliments of how good a photographer you are. You collect the slim lady’s phone, delete beautiful pictures and return it to her. She is collecting back her phone and her “Bros abeg, you fit snap us?” You walk into another hall, watch Lola Shoneyin take back her explanation as to why Toni Kan is on a panel discussing menstruation and the audience starts mumbling. Toni Kan unsays a thing or two about his experience with his children. The two ladies to your left swallow their “duh”s. You forget the name of the dark short girl directly beside you. Your brief discussion with her about her writing blog never existed. You have not spoken to her. You stand and go to your initial seat at the back and wait for the discussion on menstruation to start. Mona too is waiting, to use the F-word and patriarchy in a three-word sentence repeatedly. You walk through the dark corridors with three boys and enter the art room, dump snapshots from your retinas on the real life paintings and leave. You walk into the hall and stumble on Nnedi returning a portrait of herself to the incredible Abdulkareem Aminu. She sits and watches Afopefoluwa Ojo peel layer after layer of smile off her shiny face. You hover around for a while and leave Raddison blue unmaking a promise to make more friends today.
You hate yourself for missing out on The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives play. You stand up from your bed and go back to Ake. You get back just in time to vomit books in the kitchen. You are back on the Ake floor watching Betty Irabor erase her comment and signature from your book while her face loses a smile and flattens out. You walk into the hall and sit, looking on as Betty Irabor, Frank Edozien and Olalokun Soyinka unearth the audience and undo their work of tricking everyone into a conversation so deep. Then they walk away as ordinary people. Seats are filled up again but while Brymo is taking back his apology and leaving his seat, you are outside the hall taking turns with Veralyn Chinenye in sucking in words like cigarettes, till you swallow your “Hi”. Now you have never spoken to Veralyn. Both of you walk back into the hall separately. Tolu Daniel is backpedaling on his fanboying over Paul Beatty while Nicole Dennis-Benn laughs in Jamaican Patois. Veralyn is standing from the seat where you are seeing her for the first time and walking away. You have never seen Veralyn in real life. You watch a beautiful pong-ping of Yoruba ball before you approach the elevator to descend and leave. Tolu Daniel and some other people moonwalk with you into the elevator. You don’t tell him it is nice to meet him in person. He doesn’t say “Hello. I am Tolu” You are looking at him thinking he is familiar and wondering if he is Tolu Daniel. You step out of the elevator and the hotel.
1 and Before.
“Music is journey from silence to silence. Forwards or backwards, the start and end points are the same”. You are forgetting to think about this as music begins to die. Music re-enters drums and hands that once beat them, re-enters Queen Salawa’s mouth, re-enters bones to sit calmly in wait. Once again, home training holds everyone by the wrist. While Dami Ajayi is reserving his questions about the future of poetry, you are in the open space watching the person beside you wipe a phone number off your phone. Both of you are moving farther away from each other till you reach the spots from where you first saw each other. You become strangers. You begin your journey into unliking Chibundu Onuzo by watching her swallow her answers to dwindling questions on Welcome to Lagos. You walk to the red carpet and retract your “thank you” to the guy who is unmaking pictures of you. You collect your phone and casually walk to the registration area. You drop your Ake tag and leave the hotel. You are in Lagos traffic, swallowing your enquiry into directions to the venue of Ake. You are at home. You are burying your head in your hands wondering how the next three days will be. Your phone vibrates. The twitter notification: “Ticket number 10 goes to @theBolaji” disappears. You have never attended Ake.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mobolaji Olawale has works in Afridiaspora, Brittle Paper and several other literary platforms. He tweets from @theBolaji