It was not the first time I was seeing Moonchild in my life, but an eerie flux of wonderment veiled me in auspicious dilemma this time, because it was the first time I was seeing him in person, in a state of 2 ,365,000 people. The yellowish coloured sun had set with wee rays, the red lanky haired cock from only God knew where had crowed a number of times– signalling an end to the days of hankering for his arrival. Thank God I woke up hearty and hale, and much alive. I unfolded the blanket off my shallow-sleepy body and placed it on a brown boarded table close to a rattle bell. Outside the room, it was hot and bright, meaning I had overslept despite my eagerness for the day and for the man. I dashed into the toilet and had a lukewarm bath. The thought of how the day would fare kept floating and swooping inside my fast thumping heart: Halima Factor’s Initiative is a light veiling darkness where creativity is not only alive but breathing life into others – both institutions and personalities alike.
An airplane buzzed aloud overhead, so close to my ear that I thought it would fall on my head. I swerved to a sideway and continued walking on the direction of FCE where HFI adorned with glittering literary crown, would parade all what were hitherto hidden in the light of the day, bringing out live what I could earlier have seen only on my Plasma-TV, now in reality. Another wave of buzz arose. I began to think perhaps it was the great Moonchild arriving. But then I thought he should have arrived even earlier. It was election season, there were numerous posters of gluttonous corrupt politicians, who have nothing to offer the people, all over the streets. It had never saddened me seeing their posters flashing their photoshopped faces because I had grown used to seeing them. But seeing them now caused a hot roaring fury to begin raging inside me like a cyclone. People like Moonchild have been doing wonderful things for the country and humanity, but instead of us seeing their faces as impetus for other would-be wonder workers, why are we seeing only the faces of those people who have disappointed us over and over again and will go on disappointing us till thy kingdom comes? Why?
At a glossy glass door, familiar and unfamiliar faces came over for handshakes. Most of them had bushy beards. There were glinting smiles and sprawling grins all over their hairy faces. As I sauntered in, I saw innumerable literary enthusiasts seated with curious apprehension on crimson adorned stage and, yes, there were coloured posters of Moonchild, the Virtuous Woman, Spellbound and ANA. With these, I felt strongly inspired that the day was going to cut that expected lingering zeal of impact on my life.
An agitating string of bewilderment swooped on me: Where was Moonchild? Was he on the way? Was he not coming? I felt the premonition of that perilous pain that would befall me if for any misadventure the long anticipated presence of this great man was to be postponed now. I prayed in silence it would not happen. I hungered for his blessed presence like one hungers for Nirvana.
I found bone-blend with plastic and cretonne remnants chair and sat down as the programme commenced. People from near and far kept yanking the door and entering, steadily overgrowing the already pulsating crowd, unhidden anticipation, eagerness and curiosity boldly etched all over their faces. Tender-faced students sauntered in too, dressed in their multi- coloured uniforms. Some in blue and white, some in white and black; a veritable parade of rainbow grace. We are tomorrow taking roots today.
A proliferation of hymns and applauses took over the realm when the first Northern Nigerian novelist entered. She was still the semblance of the one I often saw on the covers of Invisible Boarders, her benign face was awash with grin. She walked to the front seat with an unhurried grace of a goddess. And in truth she is an undeniable goddess of literature. Our own!
In her keynote address, she dived into things we saw everyday; things that ached and touched our lives. Her exceptional oratory delivery imbued by the uniqueness of her position in Northern Nigerian literary environment was exemplary. I hoped she would speak forever.
Time passed swiftly, I sauntered into a yellow bulb lit room where volunteers sat chatting and arranging NNPC T-shirts and caps in school sequence. I asked them in a low voice was Moonchild not coming? I was then becoming exasperated with expectation. He is at the gate heading directly here. A pale faced lady responded with a husky voice. I felt it was okay. I made a hasty U-turn to my seat with obvious ease now thinking of the proximity of the expected hero.
An acrobat brought my mind back to the stage. He somersaulted many a time, he would curl his legs to the mouth, strengthen it northward and back to its position. He swirled a stick, of two-spoon’s length, rolled it until it began to swirl continuously on its own on a tray, the tray itself rolled and it went off his hands and became erected loosely in his open mouth, his face facing the ceiling. He bent his leg and took a chair with his right hand and placed the middle of the chair’s left leg on the rolling-slim two-spoon’s length stick and whirled it as if it was a flapping leaf stirred by a fast rolling wind. I would deny the authenticity of the show if it had been a computer’s work or it was in a movie, but it took place in my presence, before my wide glowing eyes it happened. I began to ponder if it was mere magic but I had another opinion immediately I remembered the omnipotent power of passion and I concluded it was his talent and passion induced dexterity. A gift he had horned and practised without relent.
After he left the stage I took a recourse to my phone in absence of anything better to do, Moonchild had not come.
Then there was an all – pervasive silence, people hastily turned their heads back. I felt something burning at the back. I ceased scrolling through my phone and turned mine also. Behold it was Moonchild in flesh and bones. I sighed and my heart pulsated aloud: Here is a man who sacrifices today for tomorrow.
It was always to me like thirsty throats refreshed by cold water. Each day I saw him, a new story yearned to be salvaged out; I always felt it was imperative to put my name at the peak of literary firmament like this man had done, like this man was doing. Luckily, whenever I felt I should see him for a lift, for inspiration, all I needed doing was looking for his stories. I would readily find him in them. I have always found him in them.
After the very warm reception, an announcement went swirling through the hall and flickered into our ears. In the morning, Moonchild would not talk, but in the evening he would not only talk but take us on a journey to explore the story of his writing life. My mind rolled back like a leaded flavoured ice water to the digital world.
IN THE EVENING
The weather seemed pale and dreary, there was this carryover from the cold elements of the morning – it seemed like it would rain. I sated the worms in my growling stomach and prayed. Then, I went back to my chair. Seated now, I could see Moonchild walking about. Stares and glances were cast over him, they were full of love, they were full of adoration.
I always recognized his chaplet, rolled, and wrapped around his neck downward, one edge curled to the back while the other edge went across the neck downward the chest. Maybe it was another story that would need being told one day.
Before ever the events commenced, solemnly in my heart I knew I had no time to watch or harken to every event, not because of their cringe-worthiness or their shallow depth, but because I knew there was always a master in everything, and everything perfected to its highest possibility would remain superior to the inferior.
When he came at last to the stage, it was electrifying; and an ethereal feeling of readiness flooded our faces. He transported our minds back to the threshold of his entrance by bursting questions he was asked like the astute gladiator he was, he peeled their garments off layers by layers. When he was entering the hall, he was faced with a lot of questions – whether he was the replica of the one on his book cover, whether he was the one whose Germany snapped pictures went viral the previous day. Some even went on telling him upon entering why he looked different from the pictures of him they saw on book covers, newspapers and Facebook. He smiled and sighed and answered them jokingly in such a way that befitted their equally humourous questions.
He was to take us on a journey to the very beginning of his writing, the middle also, and why he is what he is to the world today. He began to imploring us to read books as he did when he was like us–he said he read all the books in his father’s shelf, and reread them numbers of time. When he said he read all the books in the shelf in his parents’ house, I began to think of what my own story would be; growing up where I had to bring the books in, and not where I could find any inside – what a contrast! A benign amusement flipped through my mind when he leaned enormously on the need for us to sacrifice. I knew my explication of sacrifice in my life so far was the compulsive choice I had made to flip through pages of books and scribble mine down, sometimes in daytime when fellow friends were in the field playing their hearts out, and sometimes in the evening and early night when they were busy chatting and gisting outside. I was always by a slit window beseeching airs and exploring further ways of sacrifice to attain the peak of my chosen career. Writing Season of Crimson Blossoms by Moonchild from Nigeria and be globally recognized was not only a fortune to him, but likewise a source of inspiration for upcoming Northern Nigerian writers.
There were a lot of things he wished to tell us had time been a malleable dummy. I could see in his 39-years old face, hankering us to wake up from slumber; to read books and read, and if something itched or wanted a birth, we should arrange it in winsome words and weave it into a compulsive story that compels readership. Not only did he hankered us to be immortal, but urged that we send such stories somewhere for feedback.
In evening, I have come to the realisation that some days could be ordinary but some were special like that day, and that on that particular day, the evening was an exception. It was an evening of bed of roses.
It was not the end of the sweet things, but alas! the sweetest session had ended.
Chairs were arranged in circle. One after the other the idols were called: Prof Saleh Abdu, the critic, one who never get tired of grilling new things in me – about poetry, about writing. Prof Zainab Alkali, our mother; Dr Othman, poetry itself; Halima Usman, Spellbound and HFI founder; Moonchild, the person behind The Whispering Trees and Season of Crimson Blossoms. They were on stage to hear from us, to pour into our earlobes endless ‘love poems’ for writing, and to serenade the reverberating sermon of reading and reading and reading.
The session ended with an argument on which time of the day is best suited for reading and writing. Obviously some endings were the beginnings of new days embedded with newer events. I was sure the conclusion of the day’s events marked the beginning of our futures’ literary ascendancy.
The next day I heard would be a compendium of live drawing competition, live poetry performances and feast of words. There was no announcement that Moonchild would do anything on the day. Since there was nothing he would do, I didn’t feel the urge nor the compulsion to stay and pay heed to anything.
Bunch of flowered farewells, handshakes and wavings veiled the GDL (Gombe Day of Literature 2018).
Inside the car with squinted eyes, weary and yawning body I craved to talk to Moonchild, to just say a Hello but an adamant little spirit in me silently said no. I chose not to go home however but to follow the bus Moonchild was inside, I knew hours spent with Moonchild would.never be spent in vain, it would yield something. We passed blacksmiths busy beside their bellows by the road side, cobblers under a logs’ thatched tent, Bean cake maker stuffing her pot with the bean cake balls and a madman drenched in the sweat of his relentless antics. I could perceived his stench coming through the slit window. The stench was more of a burnt shisha mixed with morasses and smelly flavor. Meanwhile I disregarded sighting him remembering the embrace of words that awaited me.
Perhaps because nature lives in many of Moonchild’s stories, flair choice made his next port of call GSU. As we entered the university, trees were flapping their leaves endlessly, birds were chirping and humming gaily as the day was being veiled in wee darkness of the fast approaching night.
We entered the parlour amply decked with three sitters and two sitters and sat down. It was a hectic day not only for him, but for all of us. My first time meeting him was at KABAFEST. He was the very semblance and replica of the man I had seen and heard about, no any variation as others thought and expressed. Seated now,he stretched his legs and repositioned them. Then the dilalogue began afresh. It was initially more of a repetition of what he was once asked and what he talked about the day before. Then it veered into the dynamics of his works: how his words were organized, how his usage of language was unique and perfect. Of course, some questions led him to telling us more about how he often sat in silence, how when he wrote stories and poems and kept them; how he got to know his brother had read almost all he had written, and how on his bed he would create characters who till today remain mere figments. When the hand of the clock tickled, signifying it was an hour to 10pm, he talked on how to write one’s name in the everlasting book and history and light.
There was a rattling knock on the door and a voice asking permission to enter, after being permitted. A man with HFI T-shirt walked in requesting Moonchild to prepare to leave. I didn’t like it one bit, I felf it was more of striping the moon from the gloomy night. Why not asked him to leave only after I might have been satiated to the fullest of his words of wisdom?
I took the privilege of escorting him all the way to the gate where he would be taken to his new residence for the night before he left for Abuja. Along the way, I stole a glance at him while he was scrolling through his phone and I spoke in the void of silence. This is the man behind Season of Crimson Blossoms, he is not looking like Hassan Reza anywhere. I put my face down and continued walking, laughing and talking. He stopped scrolling through his phone and asked me if I knew the neighborhood well. Knowing the perilous nature of the area, I told him there were many Rezas in the area and this dampened his zeal of visiting the neighborhood even though he knew someone there he could have visited.
We arrived at the final barricade: a barricade to the laughters, banters, dialogues and seeing him in the Jewel City. We shook hands, as always he encouraged me not to let the noble quest sleep. As I looked at him the last time, I felt it was not only a farewell but a process of giving a soul to a new story to be written one day on meeting Moonchild in the Jewel City.