Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Saturday, January 27, 2007


(We're in the Junction again, and Zack is talking to Nat who is looking very, very dejected. Just then, Max turns up.)

Max: My brothers in kunu! How are you?

Zack (irritably): I'm fine, but your friend here is... well, I don't know what his problem is anyway.

(Max turns to Nat, and for the first time observes how unhappy he is.)

Max (in a concerned voice): Brother Nathaniel! What is the problem?

(Nat just sighs in response.)

Zack: That's how he has been all evening. He's just been sighing, shaking his head and saying "I don't want to talk about it" in response to everything I've said.

Max: And it doesn't look like you're helping his case. (to Nat) Come on, you can talk to Uncle Max.

(Nat looks at him with a look that says, "You cannot possibly begin to understand my problem" and sighs again.)

Zack (exasperatedly): I've asked him whether any of his relatives or friends have died, whether he's having problems at work, or whether his pastor wants him to take on more responsibilities, but he's just been shaking his head non-stop.

Max: Have you asked him if Starcomms have cut off his home internet connection? Perhaps he's experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms.

Zack (in annoyance): Can you not be serious for one moment in your life?

Max: I am being serious. Our friend here takes his online life very seriously indeed. (Looks at Nat who seems to have ignored his last response) But obviously, that's not the problem, so let me see... (he bows his head deep in thought, then suddenly he jerks it up) Aha! It could only be one thing...

Zack (with dawning realisation): Of course... it has to be...

Max and Zack together:

(Nat sighs again and nods his head, while Zack snorts in contempt.)

Max (resignedly): OK, what is it this time?

Nat: I don't know... I just feel that there is a connection between us, and we should be moving beyond just being friends.

(Zack rolls his eyes and shakes his head as if to say "What a sad, sorry situation this is".)

Max: But we've had this discussion before. You approached her, you told her how you felt about her, she smiled, she said she liked you too but she wanted to "take things slowly and see how they developed". In other words, she likes having you around, but she doesn't like you enough to consider having you as a boyfriend.

Nat: That's a lie. Why hasn't she got a boyfriend, then? At least, you won't deny that she's beautiful and intelligent enough to get any man she wants. I'm sure she's waiting for the relationship to mature... but it's such a long wait.

Max (patiently): Look my friend, I know you don't want to hear the truth, but she's probably very picky and is looking for someone very, very exceptional.

Nat (in a disappointed voice): So... you're saying that I'm not up to her standards?

Max: Come on! The way you say it makes it look like you've been condemned to an eternity of pain and torture. So what if you're not up to her standards? Look at Zack - I don't think he is even on the radar when it comes to her standards, and yet he seems to be very happy with his life.

Zack: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Standard Measurer, but it will also interest you to know that she is not even on the radar when it comes to my very high standards.

Nat (defensively): Why? What's wrong with her?

Zack: She's too caught up in all that 'image' thing. She wants someone who looks this way, dresses that way, has this car... that kind of thing.

Nat: That's a lie. When we talk, she hardly dwells on those kinds of topics. She always talks about deep things, imaginative and interesting ideas, the goals that she has for the future, that kind of stuff. It's very rare to hear her talk about who bought what or who is wearing what.

Max: Eh, now - she might not talk about that kind of stuff with you, but you know how it is - we have different friends for different reasons. So you're her 'Ideas' friend, and she probably has her 'Clothes' friends and her 'Events' friends, and so on and so forth.

But I don't think she's materialistic in the sense that she dwells on material things endlessly to the point where those are the main things in her life. I think she's actually a very smart and classy lady. (Thinking to himself) And if she had never been involved with you, I might have thought of making a move on her myself. (Aloud again) The thing is, wearing good clothes and looking after herself is such a deep part of herself that she doesn't even have to explicitly make a show of doing so... and I suspect that she wouldn't come out openly and say she wants someone who looks like this or dresses like that - but she would feel subconsciously uncomfortable if she was with someone who didn't match her in the dressing department.

Nat (even more disappointed): So what you are saying is that my dress sense is rubbish?

Max: Well, Nat... with your 'koko' trousers that can't quite decide whether they're long shorts or short trousers and your shirts that look like they're two sizes too large, let's just say that your dress sense is... erm... well, it's just you. But it could definitely do with some improvement if you are interested in getting Jennifer to pay more attention to you.

Zack: Rubbish, Max! Why are you encouraging this guy to pour money into a bottomless pit? It's clear that she's just using him - he should cut loose and find someone else who will appreciate him for who he is - someone who he can truly be himself with.

(At this juncture, Max bursts into laughter. He laughs so hard that he falls off his chair and lands heavily on the ground. Even then, he continues to roll on the floor laughing his head off. The other patrons are beginning to congregate to make sure that everything is alright, and Philo is thinking of calling his 'boys' to deal with the source of the disturbance when all of a sudden, Max stops laughing and gets to his feet.)

Max (to the assembled crowd): Move along, now- nothing to see here. Have you never seen someone enjoying a good hearty laugh before?

(As the patrons return to their seats, Zack rounds on Max.)

Zack: What's so funny about saying that he should be himself? Are you saying that Nat should live a fake life in order to attract this girl who isn't even interested in him?

Max: No-o... you're getting me wrong, Zack. Tell me - how did you end up marrying Lizzy?

Zack: It was a straightforward matter. I saw her at a party that a relative was hosting, I liked what I saw so boldly approached her and I told her that I liked her. Then I suggested that we should get together and start going out... and a few months later we were married. Simple.

Max (slightly taken aback): Er... OK, maybe your own case is different. Maybe Lizzy was so impressed by your boldness... or I don't know, maybe she was actually so terrified by it that she had no choice but to agree. I mean, are you sure that you only 'suggested' that you both get together? You didn't 'order'? (Zack glares at him, so he hurriedly carries on.) Anyway, you'll find that when a man meets a woman, certain 'games' are in order.

Nat: Games?

Max: Oh yes. The man has to 'sell' himself to the woman - he has to present a CV that shows him as a caring, sharing, emotionally sensitive yet strong, confident and stable individual. He has to be funny but not unserious, financially comfortable but not money-obsessed, image conscious but not inordinately vain, and of course fantastic in bed.

Zack: I notice that you didn't put any 'but' in that last criterion of yours.

Max (carrying on): But of course, no man born of woman is like that, although some men come quite close, like yours truly for example. (Zack mimes the act of someone's head swelling up.) So what you have to do is to put your best foot forward and present those aspects of your personality that will meet with her favour. You have to polish those aspects that are not quite up to scratch. And you have to put on a new image which will showcase features that she likes that you may not already have.

Zack: In other words, you have to lie.

Max (in a mock hurt tone): Ah-ah, Zack - I said it's only for the duration of the introductory period. Once she's become comfortable with you, you can drop the image.

Zack: You think that a relationship founded on lies can endure? (To Nat) Listen - just be yourself. Let's say you follow Max's advice and become Mr. Fashion just so that you can get Jennifer, and it works. Then you want to drop back to your own style, and she now starts dropping hints that she doesn't like to see you like that. Will you be able to deal with her continuous complaints?

Max: Rubbish! By that time, she will have fallen in love with you - so it doesn't matter whether you dress like
Charlie with his prophet's robes.

Nat: There is a problem with your suggestion, Max...

Max: What?

Nat: It wouldn't work with me. I'm not very good at lying - you know that I'm a very open, honest and transparent person. So it would be very obvious that I was trying to be someone I wasn't, and that would be a huge turn off to Jennifer. Besides, she already knows how I dress - so if she saw me being fashionable all of a sudden, she would suspect that something was up.

Zack: Exactly, Nat. Just forget about her altogether. I'm sure that if you look around, you will find that there are many young women who are dying to get to know you if you would allow them space in your head...

Nat (miserably): It's not as easy as that - even if I want to get Jennifer out of my head, I can't...

Zack (exasperatedly): OK, you know what? Let's do it my way. What you're going to do is to go up to her and demand an ultimatum. Let her know in no uncertain terms that either she agrees to be your girlfriend, or you walk. If she says no, you cut her out of your life completely. End of story.

(For the second time that evening, Max bursts into laughter and falls off his chair as a result, although the patrons don't congregate round this time - some can be heard to murmur "only God knows what is in that kunu he is drinking".)

Max (after he has picked himself up from the floor): Can you imagine that Nat will have the courage to approach darling Jennifer - the Apple of his Eye, the Soloist of his Choir and the Goat-Head of his Peppersoup with such a decisive ultimatum that could banish her from his sight for ever? No way!

(Just then, Nat's GSM phone goes off. Nat picks the phone up, and his countenance changes completely from despair to radiant happiness. After a few minutes of murmuring words into the phone, he ends the call and rises to his feet.)

Max: Jennifer, right?

Zack: She wants you to meet her somewhere, right?

Nat (beaming): Yes - there's this event that she just heard was happening somewhere, and she has a free ticket, so I'm out of here to join her. Thanks for your advice guys - I'll see you around some other time!

(As Nat leaves the Junction, Max and Zack shake their heads.)

Zack: I think the words I am looking for here are 'dog', 'return' and 'vomit'.

Max (sighing): I know what you mean. But the truth is that we can advise our friends on what we think they should do, but we can't compel them to do what we want. Otherwise, we stop becoming their friends and we become some authority figure, and in so doing we lose the closeness that makes them want to confide in us in the first place.

Zack (sighing too): I guess you're right. But it's very hard to stand by and watch a friend wasting away his life.

Max: He'll learn eventually - I'm sure that she'll find someone soon enough to replace him. It'll be tough - but he'll get over it. Anyway, tell me more about this meeting between yourself and Lizzy - are you serious that she just agreed like that?

Zack (smugly): Well, I sometimes wonder about it myself... I wonder whether it was my manly muscular build, or whether it was my rugged handsome looks, or my confident poise or... (Zack carries on in this vein, as Max mimes the act of someone's head swelling up.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Moaning Mister Moses

(Max and Zack are chatting in the Junction, while Nat has momentarily detached himself to engage in a spot of people watching. Then Max notices a thin sour-faced man shambling into the bar, and he breaks off what he is saying to Zack.)

Max (whispering sharply): Guys - look out o! Moses has entered the building.

Zack: You mean Moaning Moses?

Max: Yeah, that's right - Miserable Moaning Mister Moses - no, don't turn around - just look to your seven o'clock out of the corner of your eye. All he does is moan, moan, moan, moan and moan! I don't want him coming over here and drowning us in his tales of misery.

Nat (turning round): Sorry, Max - what was that you were saying?

(Unfortunately for Max, Moses notices the sudden movement, changes course and starts shuffling towards the three of them.)

Max (whispering angrily): Thanks a lot, Nat!

Nat (in dismay): Oh no - it's Moses. (exclaiming with false cheerfulness as Moses reaches their table and slowly settles into a chair) Moses, good evening o! How is life?

(Moses stares irritably at him for a few seconds.)

Moses: What kind of foolish question is that?

Nat (taken aback) Ah-ah, what now? I'm only greeting you.

Moses: Did I ask for your greeting? What good is your greeting going to do for me?

Nat (lifting his hands as if in surrender): Ah. OK o. I'm sorry o. It seems as if something has seriously annoyed you this evening.

Moses (in a low voice): Do you want to know what has annoyed me this evening?

(Zack and Max are frantically and surreptitiously gesturing to Nat to say "no", but unfortunately he doesn't notice.)

Nat: Yes... why not?

(Max slaps his forehead and rolls his eyes in despair while Zack grinds his teeth in fury - but Moses doesn't seem to notice, as he is readying himself to deliver his tale of woe.)

Moses (raising his voice): Then I'll tell you what has annoyed me this evening! In fact, I'll start by telling you what has annoyed me all day! First of all, when I woke up, I found this big fat mosquito feasting on my arm. I killed the evil thing, but I ended up staining my shirt with its blood.

Max (in an aside to Zack): Technically speaking, it was probably his own blood...

Zack (back to Max): I don't agree... the act of sucking the blood means that the mosquito is now the de-facto owner of the blood...

Moses (carrying on as though Max and Zack don't exist): Then when I got out of bed, I found that my wife had thrown away my chewing stick. Imagine! The stupid woman thought that I had finished with the thing, when there was still at least a good inch of chewing left. I think that that woman was put on earth to frustrate me and prevent me from achieving my potential.

Nat: That's a harsh thing to say about your wife, surely...

Moses: Nonsense! What other conclusion can you come to about a woman who cannot manage a household of five people on five thousand naira a month because she's probably spending it on frivolities? Imagine!

Max (in astonishment to Zack): Holy Kokorioko! I spend more than that a day on recharge cards when I'm chasing a woman.

Moses: Then I got out of bed and I realised that I had to take my bath with a bucket of water in the common bathroom.

Nat: But - you always take your bath with a bucket of water in the common bathroom.

Moses: And should I be doing that? Why should I, a fully responsible adult, have to take my bath with buckets of water when we have a government that should be laying pipes to provide us with water in the privacy of our bathrooms? Imagine! Am I a lesser human than the people abroad who enjoy such comforts?

Anyway, after having my bath with the pitiful amount of water I was able to collect from the leaking tank, I dressed to get ready for another eight hours of under-appreciation and drudgery at work. Then I picked at the badly prepared meal thrown together by my wife which she alleges was made from real food, and I picked up my briefcase and prepared to do battle with the world...

(Moses continues in this vein for another ten minutes, complaining about how hellish his day has been, while managing to heap the blame on President Obasanjo, the Federal Government, the PDP, the proprietors of his children's school, the Nigerian Police, PHCN, God, the IMF, women in general, the State Government, the military, Charles Taylor, area boys, NNPC, amala and ewedu, lizards, advance fee fraudsters, religious extremists, religious moderates, the Nigerian Stock Exchange, President Obasanjo again, the African Union, the West, Dora Akunyili, President Obasanjo yet again, Bill Clinton, his boss at work, street hawkers, Saddam Hussein, the rainy season, INEC, the Internet, West African dwarf goats and finally President Obasanjo for making his day a study in suffering.

While he is doing this, Nat sits listening while doing his best to conceal his utter boredom and stifle his yawns. Zack and Max attempt to be polite at first, but as Moses drones on, they throw all decorum to the wind and make increasingly derisory comments which Moses either ignores or pretends not to hear.)

Moses: ...and on my way here, I boarded a bus in which all the seats were as hard as stone. As if that was not bad enough, the bus was bouncing up and down along the bad roads in this area, so by the time I got off, I was in agony! Imagine! Of course, I blame the greedy conductor and driver who wanted to make money without caring about my comfort. I also blame the greedy owner of the bus who put pressure on the driver to make as much money as inhumanly possible. Then I blame the grasping relatives of the owner of the bus who were probably disturbing him to give them money - most likely for a frivolous party. I blame the musicians who frequent these parties and encourage them to continue, I blame the businessmen who sell these musicians the instruments they practice on, I blame the banks that help these traders finance the import of these instruments, I blame the staff in these banks whose work keeps the bank afloat, and finally, I blame the bus drivers who ferry these staffers to work!

Zack (throwing his hands up theatrically): Won-der-ful! Behold - a Virtuous Circle of Blame. Moses, you have shown that when it comes to spreading fault around, you are truly an impartial distributor.

Max (shaking his head): I've seen some dubiously tenuous chains of deduction in my time - I've even spun a few myself - but that has got to be the most fantastically contrived and logically unstable string of statements I've heard in a long time!

Moses (turning to Max and Zack with contempt): Well you can babble on as much as you like - but I am the kind of person that tells the truth as I see it. It's obvious that even though this country is finished, I'm the only one who seems able to see it. Everyone else is just deceiving themselves thinking that things are all right, or that things will get better. Well, keep on deceiving yourselves! Don't let me stop you from living in your fool's paradise!

Zack (patiently): Look Moses, everyone here knows that things are not as they should be in Nigeria. In fact, we spend most evenings here discussing what is wrong. I even spend more time than these two criticising the government. But we don't dwell on the negative endlessly - we try to come up with answers sometimes, and most importantly we admit the possibility of improvement. After all, if you don't believe that things can improve, why stick around?

Moses: Have you not heard what I've been saying all evening? There is no hope of improvement - so I don't waste my time coming up with solutions that I know won't work.

Nat: So why do you stick around? If things are so bad, why don't you go somewhere else?

Max (to Nat): It's obvious - he wants to grind everyone else down to his level of negativity so that he can derive some kind of perverse happiness. Besides, where could he go? However paradisiac the place was, he'd end up stinking the whole place out with his relentless pessimism.

Moses: You call it pessimism - I call it realism.

Max: OK, Mr. Realist, you say that there's no hope for Nigeria so there's no point in coming up with a solution, right?

Moses: No - there's - no - hope - for Nigeria. (Shakes his head vehemently.) No hope.

Max (smiling): But of course, that's because Nigeria is led by idiots and buffoons, right?

Moses: Idiots, buffoons, ignoramuses and nincompoops!

Max: Yeah, that's right - not people like you.

(Moses gapes for a while. Then he slowly responds.)

Moses: I don't know what you mean.

Nat: I think that what Max is driving at here is that you probably would do a better job if you were president.

Moses (shaking his head): Well, I'm not president, and I'm not likely to be president, so let's not bother about it.

Max: Oh, come on! You're honestly telling me that if you had the power of the President of Nigeria, you couldn't do a thing to correct even one of the problems you've been wailing about all evening?

Zack: Think about it - a whole President of Nigeria!

Moses: I told you already, I don't waste my time...

Max: OK, OK, I can see that you are a man with your eye not just on power. Let's say that you're not just President - but you're President, and the price of oil has shot up to five hundred dollars a barrel!

Nat: Yes, and let's say that oil has been found in abundant quantities in twenty-eight of the thirty six states of the nation. Think of it - money and power!

Moses (less confidently): Look, I don't know...

Max: Man, you drive a hard bargain! OK, forget about President of Nigeria - that's obviously not enough. You're now Supreme Life Dictator and the Holder of the Keys of Life and Death of Nigeria. You have absolute, total and complete power resting within the palm of your hand. Now tell us how you would go about fixing Nigeria's problems.

Moses (hesitantly): Well... er... I would... erm... I would put measures in place to ensure that things were all right...

(Max looks at Zack and Nat in disbelief. Then he turns back to Moses.)

Max: My friend - you are the virtual god of Nigeria - and all you can do is to "put measures in place?" Are you that completely bereft of any idea of how to solve Nigeria's problems? Is it really just "complain, complain, and complain?"

Moses (protesting): Look Max, honestly I don't think very much about these kinds of things...

Max: ...and it shows! So if you ever accidentally become president - and accidents do happen - may God have mercy on all our souls! Then we really would be finished!

Nat: You know, Moses, as Zack said earlier, we guys sit here and chew out pretty much the same kinds of people that you complain about as well. But you know what your problem is? Whereas we don't take ourselves too seriously and we have fun while doing it, you treat it like some sort of death march mission. Listening to Zack criticise the government is like eating bitter leaf soup. Listening to you criticise is like chewing Nivaquine pills.

Zack: And not just any Nivaquine pills - we're talking about the kind that make you itch all over!

Max: So lighten up! Even if Nigeria is doomed, surely it's better to spend your last moment with a smile on your face rather than a bitter frown.

Moses (obviously uncomfortable): I have heard what you've said. Look, I have to go now - I just stopped off to have a drink. (He gets up and shuffles out.)

Zack (watching him leave): What do you think? You think he will go forth and spread glad tidings of joy amongst all men from now on?

Nat: I doubt it. Such habits aren't unlearned in a day. In fact, I feel sorry for him, because I'm sure he wasn't always this way - he may have developed this attitude as a coping mechanism.

Zack: Well, I wish he would learn to 'cope' in his wardrobe or his toilet or somewhere else where nobody can hear him. Thank God he's gone.

Max: Come on, you don't fool me! The real reason you're glad that he's gone is that while he was here, you actually had to put your moaning on hold. Imagine! Anyway, now that he's gone, you can resume where you left off on your diatribe on that Senator...