*This piece was inspired by and is dedicated to my only recent friend; the deaf and mute assistant tour-guide I met today at Olumo Rock, Abeokuta, Ogun state, who could handle a camera more than most talkatives can.
I couldn’t even have asked you for your name. Thanks for your help today!
I was born on the 23rd April 1993. I read the diary in which my dad documented his life (before he ran away from home and left his wife and a little boy behind).
The entry on the day I was born said.
‘1993 – 23/4
Michael was born today. His cry was the best sound I ever heard. I was standing just outside Aina’s delivery room. First I heard her scream so bad I thought she had seen her intestines come out of her, then she went silent. Few minutes later, I heard Michael’s cry. I wanted to cry’
Few days after though, the doctor had some bad news for my parents; or like my father put it, ‘some unlikely and infuriating speculations and insinuations’. His entry said,
‘1993 – 25/4
Doctor Sadiq is an idiot. Or maybe not. But I must believe that he is. For if he isn’t then I fear that Michael will grow to be mute and deaf. But how shall this be? For he is destined to be a renowned legal practitioner; how then shall he argue his cases in court? How shall he listen to cross examine? How? Yes, Doctor Sadiq must be a big idiot’
But I grew to be deaf and mute indeed and at the age of 5, when all I could do was make embarrassing sounds, my father ran away from home. His last entry reads:
‘1998 – 24/4
My life has been from one state of depression to another. Sometimes I feel like I’m struggling with water swiftly surrounding my lungs, then I try to swim out and I realize that I’m actually in dry land; land so dry I’m scorching and burning.
Michael turned 5 yesterday and all he could still say was ‘ahhrg daaa’.
I must leave before he truly comes to know me. I must not welcome him into this troubling state I’m in. I must never let him see me, his father, cry. But how? I cry everyday. So I must then leave and… Oh shoot ‘
Those were his last two words; oh-shoot.
My mom would tell me to read my father’s diary with a pinch of salt, thyme and Maggi. She says that he was always unstable and that his unfortunate ending in our lives was not my fault at all.
I do not believe. And since I read his diary, I have tried to no avail to decipher why he abruptly stopped and why he wrote ‘Oh Shoot’.
Giving up, I have now decided to take his words literally and be a photographer. Maybe indeed, my father was unstable in his head, but he still is my father and to his commands I will listen. His last words to me were ‘oh shoot’ and shoot I shall.
They wouldn’t let me in the Army because; the level of alertness required there is antithetical and paradoxical to the state of two of my senses.
But a camera embraces me; even more than a woman can. It doesn’t need to be spoken to, neither does it need to speak to me. It is my silent best friend and would diligently shoot anything I put in frame. After a long day of taking amazing pictures, neither my camera nor I have to say anything to each other. It just hangs on my neck and pats my tummy as I walk down the road – not hearing what anyone is saying, not speaking to anyone but ourselves.