UPBRINGING ® – By P. Ogbaje

December 22, 2020
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We all carry around some registered trademark of our past, present and future.

 It had been unclear what started the scuffle. Eyewitnesses had varying accounts of the fisticuffs and ensuing fracas littered here and there with exaggerations and sprinklings of spice. Somebody even swore he heard subdued gunshots. Nobody wanted to break the opportunity for a video or the fight. Some were already replaying the recorded action with glee as if they just stumbled on a small fortune. I walked over to the bloody young men and asked a generic question for concern’s sake, “are you alright?”. They looked at me with exhausted eyes, panting and looking away, assessed their injuries as if to say “can’t you see? Of course we are not”.

 As I wondered what moments of wild rage could have blinded these two to the edge of sheer mortal termination, I asked again, “can any of you stand?”. The younger-looking lad mumbled, “I no fit stand”. The other simply muttered, “he broke my knee, oh my Gawd!”. Then, with the remaining anger, the younger one said, “no be you no hear word? I tell you say make you comot for road, you no hear. You jus dey waka like say na you dey run paro for this zanga. Comot for road make motor no hit you na bad thing? Na you make I enter you so. You jus dey yarn yarn okpata becos dem pamper you. “Oga,” he called out to me as if I wasn’t paying enough attention, “if to say people no come, na so this ‘Orobo’ for carry delete my destiny”, he confessed. I looked at them empathetically and asked that they, at least, move away from obstructing traffic before a vehicle or other pedestrians complete the scene. “Aahh!, the Orobo gasped in pain as he tried to move, “what am I going to do now? What is all this nonsense?” he asked as if he really needed an explanation for the consequences of his choices. “Now I am going to be all over social media going viral because of this buffoon”. It was all just a simple misunderstanding, I already realized!

“Na ya fada be bufu, you hear me?”, the buffoon retorted then silence as they seemed to realize the futility of starting all over again.

“What is your name?”, I asked. They responded simultaneously.

 “Godstime” said the buffoon.

 “Prince”, the orobo said in a shamed posture and added, “who trends like that?”

They still tried acting oblivious to the situation which presented bills for their unbridled anger.

“Okay’, guys, let’s get y’all to that pharmacy over there. I will pay for your wounds to be cleaned up. You both are bleeding!”.

“Thanks, sir,” Godstime quickly acknowledged. Prince said nothing and started trying to lift himself up with a grimace and limp.

Finally, I had to get them some clothes from the street hawkers because what they wore were now pieces of shredded armory of caked blood, mud and soupy spirogyra from the gutters that have a permanent pungency of disease. The cleaner from the pharmacy obliged them a shared bucket of clean water. As they cleaned up right beside the street with some of their underwear on, many passersby barely took a second look while the more affluent in their wound-up, air-conditioned vehicles pulled out their phones for sneaky shots and videos. It became clear what Prince had complained. He was pained above words and turned his back to face the pharmacy wall while his partially torn boxers exposed part of his buttocks. He needed to cry. Godstime was almost done bathing himself while he kept an eye on his clutch of now mostly unusable and assorted face masks, shields and a few bottles of hand sanitizers that also required a bit of a wash-down. I looked at the small heap of torn clothes and realized that they both dressed alike in ripped jeans, partially tattered in fashion and from the mortal combat.

As they settled down, a barrage of moral lessons and admonition flooded my thoughts for them. Those would be badly timed, I reasoned. Should I point out what they already just realized or are realizing? Whatever lesson or experiment at free madness this was, they got reasonable practical experience. Adrenaline junkies. As amused as I finally got, I thought about my own upbringing and how my perspective to things may appear to be dysfunctional and misguided. Perhaps in a moment of unnecessary selfish pride and needless self-defense I could be enraptured and forget my concerns with catching a blood-borne disease from exposed flesh in a fight or even losing a body part, an eye, broken bones or more, God forbid it.

Godstime looked at me gratefully and said, “thank you sah”. I responded with a nod. Prince kept quiet for a long time then casually said, “thanks. Can I have your number so my mum can call and reimburse you?”. I shook my head in disagreement. I said, “make una no dey fight o. I think you understand some pidgin English, Prince?” He nodded and said, “yes, sir.”

“Oga,” Godstime chipped in calmly without an excuse, “na him first insult me o. E jus begin para for me say im mama go lock me up throway key. E say I go regret ma life. As I dey so, which kain regret never know my name wey I don see ninety-nine finish? Even sef, no be dem dey happy pass me sef. Some of dem na film tricks. One day I go leave streets and this hustle sef.” I raised my hands to calm him and not provoke another smack-down. “Na only say I talk say because ya mama love you no mean say she be good person na im make am slap me.”

Afterward, they were both quiet as I ordered an Uber for Prince while Godstime got back on the streets to hawk his salvaged goods after offering me a free face mask in deep appreciation. Prince mellowed in confused realization of all that just happened. As I blended into the crowds again I recalled and mused my mother’s words when childish exuberance whispered to me. She always said that when children start acting as if their ears no longer had drums, other body parts begin to hear more. 

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