I had gone to return a friend’s PS3 control pad. The skies were over cast. Dark clouds rolling in overhead and a chill breeze blowing. For a moment I considered doing the drop off another day, but I also had to buy fuel and since one was just further down the long stretch of road from the other, the thought of killing two birds with one okada made up my mind for me.
I was at his gate waiting for him to come and collect his pads when the first icy drops of rain splattered all around me, and on my head too. Then as suddenly as they came down, they stopped.
Pads returned, I hopped another okada and urged him to go fast in a race against the downpour that was looming.
We were halfway to my house when we rode into the rains. The dark clouds still loomed behind us, so we really were expecting the rain to come from there. We turned a bend and literally walked into this sheet of rain pouring down from the skies. We made it to the petrol station a little wet, and decided to take refuge there till the rain subsided.
There were other cyclists and passengers marooned there, waiting out the rain. One of the attendants even offered me a seat fashioned from a plank placed over the ‘fire bucket’- I had some goodwill going for me there, but I declined because I had picked a spot where I was shielded from the rain. Then the winds changed direction and I shivered as I got sprayed with icy showers, the back of my shirt soaked through. I stood there and considered the distance from the fuel station to my house; I was in a “what’s the worst thing that can happen” state of mind.
I gingerly stepped out from the shelter of the roof. Poking first my toes, then my calf, my right foot and finally jumping out into the rain. The water hit me full blast and the stinging caused me to close my eyes. Blowing water mixed with spittle from my lips, I wiped my face with my right hand. I held both arms to my chest trying to keep warm as the rest of me shivered involuntarily.
Squinting, I scanned the horizon for the others. Just like me they had shed their shirts; nobody wore trousers or jeans. Out of nowhere a felele ball appeared and teams were quickly selected. Posts were measured – it was monkey post season, and with the toss of the ball and a combined chanting of “O-J-O-Ojo!” it was game on.
Street soccer was only one of the games we played in the rain as kids.
If no one had a ball – either because it was burst, or Baba from the next compound had seized it – the activity changed.
Teams were required to play this game. It was either Cowboys and Indians, or Police and Tiff; and they usually start with someone bellowing: “Waaaaar staaarrt!” And then the neighbourhood would be rent with cries of “peeshaun, peeshaun” and the arguments about whether you hit your target or not, and if it was possible to dodge a bullet at point-blank range – we did not have Matrix or X-men then or we would have saved ourselves the split hairs by claiming someone pulled a Neo or simply stopped time.
In retrospect it makes sense, but as a six-year old I could never understand why I was always pressed in the rain. My bladder seemed to me to absorb the rains and then trouble me or slow me down or get me killed as each time I stepped out for my pee break I got shot. That was until I once accidentally peed myself because I would not take a pee break.
The warm sensation coursing down my left leg and the cold rivulets running off the rest of my body were so different and complementing, I relaxed and let gravity do the rest. The relief I felt when my bladder finally emptied caused a soft “ahhh” to escape my lips, but that was nothing compared to realising I did not get killed!
After the rains we raced broomsticks or matchsticks or whatever would float. I grew up in a village and the erosion action there was legendary. We would just pick a spot and toss in all our ‘boats’ at once, then follow the winding course of the run off water. For me it was better than kayak racing in the amazon rapids.
Days after we would go in search of ‘gold fish’. I later realised these were actually tadpoles, but to us, the fact that it swam and glinted each time it caught the sunlight, it was a gold fish. We would catch them from the gutters and put them into our ‘pangolo’, tins of everything ranging from peak evaporated milk to the giant Ovaltine cans. For days I would cut up or grind Mama’s crayfish to feed my new pet. Then one morning I would wake up to find it floating upside down in my makeshift aquarium. I would check with my cohorts and the results were always the same. We usually took the ‘fish’ back to where we got it from, toss out the dead and leave with a fresh batch.
Then there were the termites and crickets. At night after the rains, we would put out a basin of water directly beneath the single electric bulb that hung from the ceiling on the verandah. By morning would find scores and scores of termites drowned in the water. There were the occasional queen ant and winged soldier ant too, these we separated and the termites were then sun-dried and later roasted. To be honest, I cannot now remember what they tasted like, but I really used to like eating them. That was until the morning I came out and saw a rat struggling in the bucket. That cured me for good!
We hunted, caught and roasted crickets too – sort of like you do marshmallows, except these were brown and crunchy.
Fast forward a few years to school days and rainfall. Because I would wear both sets of uniforms before washing them, if it rained on the day I washed them, there was always the problem of getting them dry for school the next day.
I always resorted to one of two options, since wearing a wet uniform was out of the question. After rinsing and squeezing by hand, the piece of clothing is then wrapped in a towel and, with the help of another one of my siblings, to wring the clothes dry with a towel to absorb more moisture. Or I would just wring the clothes out by hand and NEPA permitting, I would hand them out behind the fridge. The heat from the fridge worked ten times better than the towel.
The next morning early, I would iron the uniforms either with the electric iron or using the stove iron, taking care not to get soot on my white shirt.
I stood there contemplating what the rains could do to me, considering I am not fashioned from salt. Then there is a vibration in my right hand trouser pocket. I wipe my hands on against my thighs before pulling out my BB to read and reply Oyin’s ping. “So whatchu up ta?”
“Stuck in a fuel station tryna keep dry” and then I knew I could not go running or walking in rain this heavy. Not only would I get sopping wet, my BB’ll be history.
So I stayed there chatting back and forth with Oyin till the rain subsided enough for the Okada to take me home.
This morning the clouds darkened again, but I was in the comfort of my pad. As I think rain, rain go away, it is not because of my laundry that may not get dry for another few days, it is because of the memories it engenders. Things from a lifetime past that, much as I may want, I cannot indulge in anymore.