I like to think that from the day the human baby exits its mother’s womb, it begins a search for its next source of companionship. Two heads are better than one. No man is an island. It’s who you know, not what you know. Networking… From cavemen to modern humans, we’ve evolved to know we need others to survive.
By the time I turned 10, I couldn’t remember Tunde’s face, and that made me sad because Tunde was my first best friend. I think I was 6 years old when my family moved from my late grandfather’s house which sat in the middle of Obada market, the main open market in Ikire, where my friendship with Tunde had begun and thrived, into my parents’ fenced four-bedroom bungalow on the outskirts of Ikire where I could access Tunde only through memories of the moments we shared.
Living in the middle of Obada market introduced me to many interesting characters and strange phenomena. There were the Hausa onion sellers who, although barely spoke Yoruba, would haggle with Yoruba people and make good sales. There were the goat sellers – Yoruba people who traveled to Northern Nigeria and returned about three weeks before Eid-el-Kabir with the hundreds of rams and goats they sheltered in my late grandmother’s uncompleted house. In a section of the market, about five hundred feet from my late grandfather’s house, stood a row of clothing stores run by a few Igbo families. Immediately the clothing stores displayed any new T-shirt with 50 Cent and Awilo Longomba’s faces, you would start seeing kids and young adults in the T-shirt for months. Although the clothing stores dictated the fashion trends in Obada market and Ikire, they didn’t command as much admiration and respect as Iya Tunde – Tunde’s mom – did.
Iya Tunde was the most popular woman in the market because she sold food. Good food. While I don’t remember her physical features, I remember her, even in her iro and buba, moving around with a feline’s agility as she barked orders at her workers to ensure her restaurant ran smoothly. Iya Tunde’s busy schedule allowed her son to explore the market with me.
I don’t remember exactly when Tunde and I became friends. All I know is that all my childhood memories from when my family stayed at Obada market include Tunde.
Tunde and I would roam the market since it had enough personalities to keep us close to our homes where we returned for lunch, only to meet up again and do whatever until the market closed at nightfall. For some reason I have long forgotten (or that never even existed), Tunde knew way more about the market and its characters than I did, and I always marveled at how he could answer some questions I had had about some characters at the market. Tunde and I played together all the time, and I felt like he could always read my mind. Whenever we fought, adults would remind us that we were ore korikosun – inseparable friends – and that always helped us regain our senses.
For two weeks, I’ve had an unexplainable urge to write about Tunde and Obada market, and I’ve been questioning whatever has been serving me flashes of my memories of Tunde and Obada market every midnight. My best guess is that because the world has been so dark these days, my mind wishes to peep into a period of my life when Life seemed so simple because I was too young to identify sociocultural problems or acknowledge the evils that humans (can) do.
At first, I allowed my mind to roam – like Tunde and I used to roam Obada market – the vault of my memories of Tunde and the market. There, my mind stumbled on hilarious memories which I quickly noted so I could share them with my wife or write about them or both. The excitement of unlocking the hilarious memories encouraged my mind to probe further, and my heart squealed after my mind finally lifted the beautiful veil of nostalgia hiding the ugly face of childhood trauma. There was that loud afternoon when Tunde and I walked home in silence, heads down, used, ashamed, worthless. We sat together in silence many days after that loud afternoon. Misery loves company, and Tunde was good company.
Obada market wasn’t all fun for Tunde and me, and the good old days were not all good. So, where will the mind find the innocence to dilute the darkness of these terrible days? Time will tell.