IDHEBOR KAGHO l Monday, November 01, 2021
LAGOS, Nigeria – The sound of children singing Christmas carols coming from outside made me look through the window. There they were, between the ages of 6-11 years old singing in merriment.
Their parents stood behind them. The sun was overhead and it looked like the boys had just closed from church. I thought to myself. “Do children of nowadays love other kinds of fun or probably the exposure of reality through the social media has pressured folks to be more reserved?”
Understanding the times we live in, children don’t go out visiting people on Xmas like in our days as kids in Warri. By this time, the kids around our neighborhood were all dressed in random colorful clothes walking from house to house, visiting families and friends around areas not too far from our houses, collecting money which we shared amongst ourselves at the end of all the waka-about of which we’d probably use to purchase fireworks in anticipation for the New Year’s eve blast.
My brothers and I would always visit our grandfather’s house first. Chief Joseph Kagho-Omomadia was a very influential man and he lived just down the same street at Lower Erejuwa Road. It was always an ukodo(local delicacy) feast at grand papa’s house on Christmas Day, and before we left, he would give us clean five Naira notes and sometimes ten Naira notes and say “go straight home and don’t go anywhere else”. He already knew it was a culture for Warri children to group up parading on Christmas day. Whenever he sat at his balcony, he could spot anybody from a distance but we would always find our way around and get involved in the merry-go-round.
It was safe, and fun too as we mostly commuted by foot working with a map that connected the houses, back and forth in our neighborhood. We were always in different groups of three to four kids with a leader most times the senior who carried a small waist bag to keep the money collected and it was always a big competition who dressed the most amongst us. This made us to be on the lookout for the clothes our parents could afford for us for Xmas.
I remember one certain Christmas my dad could not afford to get me and my two brothers clothes early enough. And by 24th December, well, there was still no sign of clothes for us. On the 25th morning, a strange beautiful lady showed up at our door carrying a big bag and holding a note for my dad. My Aunty Eruke who lives abroad had sent some designer clothes and shoes for my brother and I and it was an overexciting Christmas that year. I guess life always has its surprises as there’s always hope.
The group of singing kids was far gone and a few more had passed similarly. Some other groups of kids were already set up to play football at the front of the next compound. I closed the blinds making the room darker but I could still see outside through a small opening in the blind which was flagging in light on one part of my face. I lay down on the bed covering myself with a blanket. I was feeling feverish and sweating at the same time.
My phone rang and it was my mum who was calling for the third time that day wanting to know if I was getting better. She insisted that I try and take a walk and eat so I can have some strength.
A mother who has just lost a young child is more worried about her other children. I could not talk much because I had a severe sore throat, the kind that comes with a serious fever and pains. Still looking out the window from the small opening I was beginning to miss my kid brother Phoenix. He was always my roving partner during this festive period in Lagos. We attended concerts and we never missed BEZ LIVE and The SHOWDEMCAMP Palmwine MUsic festival. Phoenix loved the palm wine music festival so much because of its vibes, the ambiance and the selection of artists that always graced the event, and the feels it could sprout with some sort of alternative movement as time went on.
The aroma coming into the room got me on my feet. I walked to the kitchen to see my wife who was happy to see I was up. My condition was worse the night before. She smiled and continued her cooking. My lioness is always very vigilant anytime I enter the kitchen when she’s cooking because I have a fast finger of picking and eating stuff from the pot and that gets her mad. But this time, I opened the pots and noticed she did not even look in my direction because I couldn’t eat.
Nothing is as painful at Christmas when you are looking at the delicious colorful dishes and you can’t eat. My kid brother Phoenix would have taken the next bike straight to my house. Like a jolly fellow he was, he would have laughed at me first and cracked some jokes like “who gets a sore throat on Christmas day?” and he would say “Bichop please don’t say we should write a story about it”. Phoenix always told me I think like a writer and I can write my own stories.
I was back on the bed and covered up in the blanket. My phone was my companion and going through social media. Indeed it was a good family reunion for families and friends.
But I have learned not to believe most of the things I see or read on the internet or social media because a very large percentage are false.
Few days after my brother passed I received a call from a friend and she let out a very loud relived sound when I answered the call. She sounded frightened as she asked, “ Bichop is that you”? I said, “yes, of course, it’s me”. She had just seen my picture on a certain blog on Instagram that I was dead. Shocked, I checked the page on Instagram and it was there – my picture but with a caption that had my brother’s name. I left a comment that the information they had was wrong.
Though the post was taken down to date, if you google my brother’s name Akpor Harley Kagho you will still find a bunch of wrong information published by different blogs and media houses addressing him as a Nollywood actor instead of a writer and a filmmaker he was. Now imagine the number of wrong information out there. It’s crazy, really.
I sent messages to friends and family wishing them Merry Christmas, and got messages as well and was asked if I was having a good time. Have you ever tried telling five different people you have an illness like sore throat? Well, you will get five different solutions as everyone has got something to say.
The day passed very fast and the sun was already setting, and from the small opening on the blinds, I could see the golden yellow sun in the distance setting in between buildings and electric wires. I could also see two birds cooling off on a wire silhouetted by the golden sun, and I remembered a conversation I had with Phoenix. We talked about how we are not scared to die at any time but one should only be worried if not working on living a mark on earth when one dies. But now, I experienced the infinite pain death leaves in the heart of families. I missed my brother Phoenix. I missed that he passed away very young but in him and the likes of his kind will continue to justify that you don’t need to live long to make a mark.
I was still pondering in my thoughts, still covered uptight in my blanket wishing that maybe, if only I can see Phoenix again when I heard a knock on the door, and Phoenix entered wearing a beautiful gold shoe that her mother bought for her for Christmas. My little daughter is my kid brother’s namesake. My dad named her Phoenix when she was born four years ago.
The sun rays entering the room created a beautiful pattern on the floor and she was just standing in the light smiling, looking at me. She said, “Daddy, I have a surprise Christmas gift for you”. Curiously I told her to show me and she said: “I learned a new dance and I want to dance for you”. Her words brought out a big smile to my face and I sat up and she slowly started to dance in and out of the light while the sun reflected on her gold shoes and it cast a beautiful golden reflection around the room and also on my eyes. I opened the blinds letting in a little more light into the room and I noticed she was all engaged in the beautiful ballet dance with her eyes closed.
I look at the sun which was fast disappearing behind the buildings and I noticed one of the birds flying away ascending at a building top and the perspective created a formation of the golden sun that had cast it, a golden glow on the ambiance just beneath it. This created an illusion of a bird ascending from a rage of fire and I thought that could be a Phoenix bird. And as it ascends higher, the other bird sits also watching the sun leaving so it can come back and shine again another day.
Life is so beautiful I thought to myself, and still watching my daughter dance I prayed to get better soon so I can jump around and make the festive season a happy one with my family.
Nadia Denton once told me my brother had lived before his time or was misunderstood and I thought Phoenix probably would have been present during the rise of the #beatgeneration movement because I thought my brother’s way of life, writing, and thinking is no other different from people like #jackkerouac.
“Something good will come out of all things yet- and it will be golden and eternal just like that — there’s no need to say more” Jack Kerouac.