Celebrating East African Writing!
Just like the urban world, street lit needs to be fast-paced and intriguing. A writer of street lit needs to make the reader feel the street. The smell, sight, touch, noise, taste (or lack of) should be felt by the reader, as he or she interacts with the protagonist or antagonist. Street lit should not be too obvious. It is great if readers discover something on their own- something that they did not anticipate. Like in the story below.
This conversation, I don’t know how it began. But I find myself sitting right in the middle of it, my face in a book, ears ajar. The mouths and hearts involved in it are enthusiastic.
‘… but, Brother Gabriel, my Bible says,’ one is saying, in that fervent tone of the neo-pseudo-Pentecostals, ‘ “thou shall not be unequally yoked with unbelievers—” ‘
The “Brother Gabriel’s” laugh is big and aptly profane. I enjoy it. ‘You look like you wouldn’t mind being yoked with my Unbeliever if you had the chance,’ he says.
His bosomy Unbeliever drops a giggle on his chest. He smiles appreciatively, and pats her thigh for the effort.
‘I am a Man of God,’ the accused defends himself— and his god— with the solemn vehemence that only a counterfeit man-of-god can.
‘A man. You’re a man first.’
‘A man-of-war, a man-of-letters, whatever man you’re of, you are man first.’
‘I am not ordinary man, my brother; I am a Man-of-God.’ This, with sombre dismissive emphasis.
‘That does not make you more, or less, of a man!’ Brother Gabriel fires in exasperation. ‘You are still a man. That you are of God does not absolve you of such human feelings as lust.’
‘Lust is not a feeling; it is a sin, my brother… And it begins with the Eye, then the mind takes—’
‘I don’t give a shit if it begins in the ass! All I know is, I see a sexy-hot body and I get a feeling… a feeling that makes—’
‘Ah! You “see a sexy-hot body”!’ he cries ecstatically as though he has seen one. ‘You “see”! That is how The Sin begins; with seeing, with the Eye, see?!’
‘The only thing I see from here is your hypocrisy, man, clear as air. And it stinks worse than the devil’s breath… Tell me you didn’t see these (he waves casually at his partner’s queen-size bosom) on your way in and wonder what they were used for.’
‘I did not.’
‘You would not make a good preacher if you weren’t a prolific liar.’
‘Proficient liar… A preacher and a politician; the only way to tell the difference— the one believes he is going to heaven, the other is convinced he is hell-bound… The thinning line between Faith and Delusion.’ This is an old respectable-looking gentleman that had been pretending at slumber so that his arm can fall limply into the Unbeliever’s miniskirted lap. ‘The thieving lot!’ he continues, seeing as he has gathered enough attention to make him a celebrity. ‘I used to be a politician. In the Second Republic. I made a lot of money. Then lost it all to sin. My father was a preacher— a Reverend. He died a poor man…’ He is using that faraway tone old people used when lying about the distant past. His ‘autobiography’ is rife with riveting ribaldry.
The attractive nun beside me crosses herself seventy-seven times seven times and murmurs prayers into the short gaps in the narration. The old one offers her paltry snorts of derision, and the occasional leer.
‘You have something to say, Sister?’ the Brother Gabriel asks my nun. ‘Say it loud.’
She murmurs more small holy words to herself, her chest heaving.
‘Take that Sister for instance,’ Brother Gabriel, he is regaining control of the conversation. And he is facing me, but his speech is aimed at a larger audience. ‘You think she does not harbour sin underneath that… that habit of hers? She does! Supple curvy sin!’
‘So what are you trying to say?’ The Preacher has been pushed back to defence.
‘I am not trying; I am saying that sin is a relative thing. See, I see promise under that habit there— latent lust— it is not a sin to me, what I see. But to her… see how she cringes? It’s a fuckin’ sin to her! See?’
‘I don’t. A sin is a sin. Irrespective of the angle you look at it from.’
‘From my vantage point here, it looks like pleasure.’
At the next stop, a new Sin gets on the bus. Towering heels, high wig, red lips, yellow face, tiny dress, identically buxom to the Unbeliever… She carries that heavy dimness of the red-light district in her eyes, the lovelessness; eyes weary from looking for love, and bearing the weight of artificial lust… She sees our man-of-god and the eyes light up, neonlike, with recognition, with hope.
‘Bros! Ha! You no even show our side again!’
He keeps his eyes down on the Book of Isaiah in his lap. Jezebel’s swinging hips close in on him. She drops her bottom into the seat beside him and nudges him familiarly, ‘Bros…’
He starts, looking up, ‘What.’
She raises eyebrows and nose— ‘Wetin?’
‘I say we no dey see you again.’
‘Have I seen you before? Have we met?’
Everybody is watching this new conversation with Schadenfreudic interest. She elbows him in the ribs, ‘Bros, na me o— Joy.’
He squints his eyes like one trying to recall a faded memory— a name, a face; one trying to make out a figure in the misty distance. Joy rearranges her buttocks on the seat so that her dress is hiked up two inches further, to jog his memory.
Brother Gabriel offers a helping hand— he taps him on the head. ‘You don’t remember her?! She seems to know you very well.’
‘Ah, I must have preached to her sometime,’ he smiles. ‘You know, my evangelism takes me places. I have carried the Gospel far and wide; I can’t remember every starving soul I strive to save—’
‘Seems to me you have spread more than the gospel around, Mister Preacher.’
‘What are you insinuating?’
‘That we are not all saints. Or angels.’ Brother Gabriel seems to be savouring this serendipitous turn of events. I am enjoying it as well.
‘I am a Man of God,’ The Preacher begins to protest, plaintively. ‘This is obviously a Satanic ploy to disparage the Anointed of the Lord and—’
‘Look, I am a veteran sinner; I can tell when a man and a woman have shared an intimate experience—’
It is with a grieving heart that I get off at my bus stop. So I cannot tell you how that conversation ended, or if it did.
I just hope that one day sin will find me.
©Olubunmi Familoni 2012
Now, with that in mind, get on with the story you are going to submit to the Street Lit Contest. The deadline is 24th August 2012.