I am at The Palms Shopping Mall, Lagos, buying popcorn and a drink before I proceed to the cinema theatre. My popcorn, a warm mixture of sugar, salt, and butter, sends my taste buds to heaven with every crunch. This is the preamble to a wonderful evening.
Friendly and professional staff check our tickets and wave us in. We make our way to the last row at the top of the theatre, a vantage spot for viewing pleasure, and sit mid-row. The easy banter of friends, shuffling feet, and polite excuse-mes, set the mood in the theatre before the lights go out.
Panic erupts from my left side. Stampede follows.
“ Rat! Rat! Big rat!”
We scamper in a radius of confusion. Questions hang like clothes left to dry in the sun: “Where?” “Did you see it?” Eventually we regroup at our row. Some people brave the popcorn-littered floor and the “invisible” rats to collect their belongings, while others take our places. My popcorn sits intact in its paper carton, but I decide to donate it to the rats.
We settle for another row of seats. Governor Fashola’s message hits home. Kate Henshaw tells us to park our cars at home and ride the BRT buses like her. Funke Akindele tells us to pay our taxes so green Lagos can extend beyond Alausa. Eko o ni baje o.
The movie begins. It is fast-paced. I like it. Soon, a bluish light amplified by the darkness, irritates my vision. It emits from the row in front of us. Ping, silence, ping; a BlackBerry in motion. It must be important. Ping, ping, ping. Maybe her mother is dying. Silence at last, but the light keeps harassing my eyes. I ignore the luminescence the way I ignore a stubborn particle in my eye that refuses to leave after a thousand blinks.
A phone rings from the row above us—someone who forgot about silent mode. I commiserate inwardly. My phone has rung at inopportune moments too, like laughter at a funeral service. I imagine him quickly switching off his phone and apologising.
“Tunde! My man, I dey Palms.”
A relaxed conversation ensues, as if he is sitting in his living room drinking Guinness Stout with his mates. I wait for the reprimand that surely must come. Instead, another phone rings from a row several levels below us.
Quiet resumes as the movie draws us into a web of suspense. The actors are clueless. People shout hints so the actors can hear them. I am not perturbed enough to proffer solutions. Don’t they know that the leading actor never dies?
The action scene over, calm replaces the excitement of moments before. A holy hush descends as both the leading actor and all of us recover. A baby’s cry pierces the quiet, followed by a mother’s insistent, “Sssh, sssh!” A baby in the cinema? What were the mother and father thinking? What were the staff at the entrance not thinking?
I expect the Occupy Baby movement to arise. I am not disappointed.
“Madam, abeg give de pickin breast!”
Not long after, the baby’s cry teeters to a stop.
I give up watching the movie on the screen. Real life offers colours and sounds that Technicolor and Dolby Surround cannot match. The sporadic flash of cellphone cameras blinds me. Babies protest against the ludicrousness of being in the cinema theatre. Cell phones ring in programmed sequence, one after another, as when you snooze your alarm, it startles you out of sleep fifteen minutes later. I drown in the conversations and debates floating up from below and drifting down nonchalantly from above.
How can I describe the cooing in sync when the leading actor achieves a milestone? This is it. He typifies our lives, the relief that washes over us when we cross difficult hurdles. It is a Kodak moment. We coo without cue, a sound so tender, goose bumps chase prejudice away. The fantasy that we came to revel in for ninety minutes is over. We applaud, burying our irritation underneath a shared experience.
Outside, my friends apologise for the people’s behaviour. I ponder their apology. Dutch people do not apologise for being Dutch. French people do not apologise for being French. English people do not apologise for being English.
I take their advice and return the next morning to watch the film in peace. The theatre is empty save for about ten other people. A man slips into the seat next to mine.
In the dark, confidence buoys his voice, “Wetin dey happen? Wetin de man talk?”
I smile, “Make you come watch for night; dem dey show de pidgin version for night.”
I watch movies in the morning. Then I return in the night to watch the same movies again because I cannot get enough of the beauty, the diversity, and the insanity that is Nigeria.
©Timi Yeseibo 2013
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Image credit: curtain vector: zcool.com.cn
font: Carpenter Script: http://fontzone.net/font-details/Carpenter+Script/
font: Disco Diva by annyluswonderland: http://fontstruct.com/fontstructions/show/668749
All people illustrations, animes, avatars, vectors by Microsoft
design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013