Scripted potpourri

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Shadow, shadow

shadow2When your neighbours and church members begin to call you by your sister’s name instead of yours, you do not realise that you are receding slowly into the muted world of shadows. You know very well that ‘receding’ is a more apt word than ‘advancing’ because you are now here in this world of shadows and you know that something similar to “missing the bus” has happened to you. Yes, missing the bus—it’s the only way you can describe how you feel in this cruel world of shadows; a world that does not care who you are because it does not even know who you are. Here, you are not a human being with an identity and a personality. You are just a disembodied entity, defined by silhouette and void of substance, wafting airlessly, noiselessly and purposelessly. Of course, you did not intend to end up here, but somehow, you know you have a hand in your getting here. Your mind recalls now to that time when someone said, “Hi! You are Somto’s roommate, right?” You should not have said yes. You should have said your name because you are more than Somto’s roommate. You are you. Rather, you chose to be Somto’s shadow; you chose to be an extension of her personality; you chose to be remembered as Somto’s roommate, not as you. Well, sadly, you got served.

Now, as you rummage through your memory, you begin to remember those many times when people referred to you and your group of friends as “Victoria and co” or “Demilade and co” but they never made the mistake of saying your name “and co” even though it was three of you that were friends. You were never that important. You could only be viewed and understood through the personalities of Victoria and Demilade, but never through yours because you always passed across as someone without a personality, as someone with nothing to offer or to be remembered by, even though that was not the case. When you did not try to prove everyone wrong by showing them that you are an excellent  sprinter and a talented still-life sketcher and a mind-blowing juggler (apart from being intelligent enough to be among the top three in your class all through school days),  you really became Victoria’s and Demilade’s shadows. This is a painful realisation for you now.

In the midst of all this reminiscing, it is now etched in your consciousness those three lecturers who never really knew your name while you were in school even though you always had A’s in their courses. Whenever they saw you, they will say with much gusto and sincere concern, tinged with that unmistakable filial regard, “How are you, Kemi? I hope your CGPA is still steady. You must make a first class o!” Of course you were not, and never will be Kemi—the other egghead in your class who got as much A’s as you—but you smiled and assured them that your CGPA was steady and that you will finish with a first. In this again, you chose to not be you. You chose to be Kemi’s shadow.

There was that other time too, you remember, when you got that gown that your first boyfriend thought was nice. You did not really like that it showed too much skin, but you let him buy it for you anyway. On the day you wore it, nobody said you looked good; not even him. What he said was, “Wow! You look so different!” and Demilade said, “In this dress, you remind me of Antonia!” You knew Demilade was not complementing you because none of you thought of Antonia as good-looking—Antonia with her old-woman face that she tried to conceal under layers of clownish make-up; Antonia with her sorely bleached complexion that she liked to show by wearing dresses that showed too much skin; just like that gown did. You should have hated being your boyfriend’s shadow enough to break up with him, but it wasn’t until eight months later that you broke up with him, not because you called the shots, but because he decided he was tired of being with you. And what about when you went for that camp meeting with your volunteer group and there was a discussion on respected world leaders. You did not want to say you really liked Niccolo Machiavelli and Adolf Hitler because everyone else was mentioning Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill. You let it slip past you that everyone was saying why they respected those leaders and you could, in the same vein, also defend your liking for those leaders. So instead, you said Mother Teresa and everyone nodded. But when Alfred said he thought Adolf Hitler fit the bill and went ahead to say why, he got a resounding ovation. So nobody knew that that ovation could have been yours.

Now you know that the doors of this world of shadows are always waiting for ‘those’ who are ever quick to acquiesce than to believe in their beliefs; for ‘those’ who prefer to be nice than to be true; for ‘those’ who would rather swallow it all than to chew it first; for ‘those’ who would rather be others than be themselves. Knowing that you are among these ‘those’, you now have only one question gnawing at your consciousness: For how long will you remain in this world?

At this point, you’ll be foolish to not know the answer.

This is the answer: It is for as long as you continue to stay mute; and for as long as you continue to betray yourself; and for as long as you continue to not get irritated, inconvenienced and frightened by the sights and sounds of the world of shadows, where the eerie “shadow, shadow” song is chanted day and night… until you are ready to catch–and ride–the bus of your life, and only your life.

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