The Consequences Of Loving Joan
When she followed you on Twitter, you were ecstatic. It wasn’t everyday that a Coke writing shortlistee-to-be followed an anonymous account from the back waters of the Niger Delta. Modesty was key, one didn’t want to seem crude or ill-mannered. At your desk, you shrieked and danced; online you tweeted : Thanks for following back.
At first you worried that it wouldn’t last. What on earth had made such a popular, pretty lady follow a nonentity like you? It did last though, longer than you thought it would. You were hard to love and sometimes your strong minded views on christian affairs made your tweets sting the eyes of some would be followers. From time to time you checked to see if she was still there; still following you. It was never a small consolation to discover that indeed she was.
You had met her once, at a book reading in Lagos for Eghosa Imasuen’s Fine Boys. She walked past you. Her elegant curves flattered by the simple pink blouse and black trousers she wore. She had a vacant look on her face and you wondered what it would be like to walk up to her and say,
“Hi, I am Saint, you follow me, on Twitter.”
You imagined her burnt tobacco brown face breaking into a smile and the lovely conversation that would ensue,
“Wow! That’s lovely! I never knew you looked so nice. So handsome…”
You charm her with the attention you pay to every word. The evening ends too soon, but not before you can coax her phone number unto your phone. You memorise it too. One can not expect such good fortune to occur again very soon.
Instead you stand by as the more famous, workshop-affiliated Tolu takes her hand. They hug like teenagers and she is giggling at something he says. Jealousy like hot okro soup sears your eyes. You look away but the imprint of their happiness has been stamped on your memory forever.
Nothing else matters that day. Not the lovely African curios in the well furnished bookshop, not Efe Paul’s souls stirring poems, not even Honey Adum’s mischievously delightful rendition of his song Olofofo. You sit in the crowd but you wish you were home; in your little hut beside the river Niger’s Delta, where you didn’t feel so invisible, so powerless….
The pain passes with time. Soon you are your usual ebullient self LOLing, Mchewing and ROTFL. You get bold enough to send her a DM after you learn her writing is getting national recognition. She replies without delay. You wish her well and smile through out the day like a drunk gorilla.
You read all her tweets and pray for her, she needs to get closer to God, to relent from this Someone-In-The Highest business. It doesn’t seem to change much but you aren’t bothered, there is no harm in hope. You love her in the way only a secret online friend can–with unbridled loyalty and blind affection.
When her story gets on the Coke shortlist you can feel your feet drift off the street. You levitate home and download the stories tweeting beat by beat. You download her’s first and despite its flaws anoint yourself its champion. Persecution comes, as it always does. This time through well meaning friends. They say you are ‘biased’, ‘blind’, ‘bribed’, a buffoon!. You shake your smiling head at them.
The Coke Prize comes and goes and she doesn’t win. It hurts a lot but you suck it in and tweet your undying support.
The matter would have passed and life gone on if it wasn’t for Chiemeka. Chiemeka had to call Joan ‘his girl’ and cause an international literary scandal.
Joan wasn’t the sort of girl to let the matter go by. Her retort was designed to kill. With it’s erotic imagery and culinary pictorials it left readers in no doubt that she was not Chiemeka’s girl at all. You took her side through the war that followed. The numbers, where in you favour and soon Chiemeka’s folks called for a truce. There was none forthcoming.
In between the satire and fine writing the raging controversy produced, you began to think that Joan’s retort, left a bad taste in the mouth.
Back at your hut that night, the images danced on your bamboo ceiling: Cocoyam chasing man-boobs, re-inflated manhood, and a workshop apprentice. After some thought, you decided to ask Joan if her retort could be removed. After all her point had been made and the message delivered. Everyone knew she wasn’t Chiemeka’s girl, why stir bad blood over the dude? Keeping the offending article up seemed in bad taste. It shocked many elders in the literary elite. Off colour jokes about her needing to grow a member or burn a bra were beginning to surface. Yes, taking the post down was the thing to do, you hoped you could convince Joan of this.
You took three deep breaths and prepared to word your DM with care. God forbid, that in your conciliatory mission, you ended up offending her.
Squaring your shoulders, you typed a conversation starter.
When you tried sending it though, you discovered that Joan was no longer following you.