Friday, 31 October 2014

Remembering a 12 Year Old's little Birthday Wish

There is this very nice Karaoke Bar at the Capital, where my friends and I stop by after-work once in a while. Typically, we would listen and applaud others as they sang or croaked. Then as our bottles emptied and reincarnated speedily, we would boldly reach for the microphones, and the room would erupt in a riotous purgation of the spirits we had just richly imbibed. 
Whenever we skip the place for more than 2 weeks in a row, the Manager starts sending us frantic texts. 
Literally, we raise the spirits at the Bar. It is our escape from adulthood. An opportunity to slow the wrinkling hands of age and grow down instead.  

One day, I walked into the place alone. It wasn't a Karaoke Night and the Bar was empty.
But the Karaoke screen was lit and a lone voice rang across the padded walls of the Bar. It was a man's voice, a good voice too. 
I peeked and saw him at the VIP section. A bottle of Jack Daniel's and a half-filled glass sat with a crumpled packet of Benson & Hedges on his table. 

The man should be at least fifty years old. But he sang with the zeal of a teenager in a rare audition for a Record Label. I stood for a while, covertly observing him. He would stand, sway and waltz slowly to the tunes of Sinatra, Phil Collins and Elvis, all the while with his eyes squeezed shut as he chorused along. 
His only human companions, the Karaoke Attendant smiled patiently, and the waitress stood by silently to refill his glass. 
I left the place shaking my head and described the scene to my friends. We agreed that this must be some sad, rich man. Possibly deserted by friends and family, or just burdened with demons that he can only fight with solo nocturnal chants. 

When I was twelve years old, I always dreamt that by the time I attained my current age, I would be serving the world, as the UN Secretary General. Fueled by Quiz and Current Affairs Classes, fewer positions could compete with that office in the imaginations of a provincial 12 year old. 

And today?

Well, in a nutshell, I am not holding that office. In fact,  I am nowhere near...
I am in Nigeria's Capital, gradually becoming more of a technician than a lawyer,and still not glamorously affluent like a UN Sec Gen should be. 

If my 12 year old self saw me now, what would he think?

He would be sorely disappointed, I guess. Maybe this would have spurred him to read more books, instead of spending all that time watching the Wrestle-mania. 
Maybe, it would have made that 12 year old to avoid socializing and acquiring the darker tastes of peers, and instead, bury his head in World History. 
Being UN Secretary General means having an in-depth appreciation of world politics, which translates then to an all-conquering foray in national politics. 
But the me of today is not even yet a municipal politician. The me of today just likes music, drinks a lot of beer, and still listens to Eminem! 

My 12 year old self would probably not touch me with a long pole. 
But what does he know? 

If only he knew that the idealism of a perfect world would never happen. If only he knew of the schemes and guile of public offices and consequent disrepair to society. What did he know about the mortal terror of the young adult who must exist and survive in a world where the path to basic bread is fraught with thorns and needles. 

What did my 12 year old self know about utter despondency occasioned by heartbreaks, loss, betrayals and disappointments, and how these sometimes make a man want to throw it all away and just drink slowly to a quiet demise? 

If my 12 year old self knew the world out there, he would probably lower the standards a bit. 
He  may not totally let go of the dreams of becoming UN Secretary General, but he would avail me more options

He could say ok...make SAN and that's fine;
Or just become a Managing Partner, nay, Senior Associate in a good Law Firm
Or, yet...a mid-level officer in any good establishment
Or further still... just work and earn enough  to pay bills and live decently 
Or live up to this current age, in the first place. 

If he knew what I now know, my 12 year old self may not even wish anything at all. 

He may just utter a quiet prayer to never lack the love and presence of family, friends and well-wishers.

He may even further downscale the prayer to just one single point: 

That he never sits alone on a Friday night serenading a hall of empty chairs as an old man. 

Happy Birthday to me



  1. I don't think your 12 year old self had a long pole. And even if he did, I don't think he should be touching you with it - that would be taking narcissism a tad too far! hehehehehe. Happy Birthday, sha.

  2. Nice one Massai.We all thought that at this age, we would have built our own big mansions, had a fleet of choice cars and been very famous and important..I guess that's the beauty of childhood;the ability to dream without limits.Only growing up opens your eyes.

  3. Hahaha! Beautifully written with a good touch of wit here and there. I didn't expect less. Wishing you a new year laden with strings of achievements close to your childhood dreams, laughter and zero moments of loneliness. Happy birthday the Massai man... Chifan

  4. Hahahahaha...Ken Uzim abeg u. Some 12-year olds may read this. PG biko. Maasai, udo! Your 12-year old self wouldn't mind that football field corner office, or that new ride, or that little tot in your arms, or the excitement of corporate politics, or the pure joy of having Oduenyi as your lawyer

  5. @Ken: lmao! I am still laffin - 3 days after!
    @Uloo: Many thanks dear. But its still a beautiful life we have
    @Chifan: Many thanks, I appreciate
    @Oduenyi: Udo! Okwu gi kwuu oto

  6. Massai
    Good days are preparing for you
    Time, that's all!
    That's all.

    And you see that little 12 year old?
    That Secretary General?
    He is not wandering in some void, -grown
    And fleeing from his lot and portion
    In this world.

    That 12 year old is not trying to touch Massai
    With a stick
    Sticks dont get to the heart
    *they are always too fa, from it
    Especially @12.

    And though time is both
    our knife and our chopping board

    That 12 year old is not singing to Sinatra, or Collins or Presley
    That 12 year old has not a Karaoke Attendant and a waitress
    nor the failing promise of friends and family
    Who show up last
    Or never

    That 12 year old raps to Bone thugz n Harmony's "...friends, friends, friends..."
    nodding to every line of Outkast's Stankonia and chanting "...Ms. Jackson...i am for real"
    With Oduenyi na Nze,
    Ken, Da Rep, CJ'O, Onochie, Code042, Stainless, Slash, *even Chibyke's Calidob*,
    Countless others
    Like Odogwu (who arrives first), and
    Sometimes plays the Jester
    Just to 'deride' our contrived devotion to age

    That 12 year old
    Is that little girl in your warm arms
    Pure, innocent and
    Safe from Marauders (who put love on their menu)
    And turnaround and serve beer
    *bitter truth*that breaks the heart.makes the mouth sour
    Not to talk of the heart.

    That 12 year old is that resonating voice
    We stood as the last man standing
    crying out through the voice of a man
    we came to know as Hudson

    And praying God

    "Forever young.
    I wanna be forever young

    Do you really wanna live forever

    Happy Birthday Massai.

    1. Nice one, Martin. I just wonder if Odogwu is aware of both this article and the rejoinders. Just a thought.