BY WOLE OGUNTOKUN
I SIT in an airport lounge on my way out of the country for a few days, taking in the people passing by and their idiosyncrasies.
Walking past is the fair-skinned film actor, Shan George, boisterous, full of life and strength, enjoying her day as she goes. I have never had the opportunity to have a conversation with her but I can tell this is a female who does her best to be happy.
I see a man sitting quietly across me, legs crossed across the large hallway and it looks like Kojo Williams, the one who talks so confidently on football matters.
I muse on the fact that I recognise Mr. Williams from newspaper articles and television appearances seeing that we had never met and it makes me appreciate again how powerful these media are.
Further down the hallway, some young man (probably approaching forty) who should take better care of the paunch he appears to be developing; it is incongruous when compared to his diminutive frame.
I contemplate him for a while as he yells down the phone in his hand. I look at the women going past me (I am The Whisperer and I always have), appreciating them the same way an artist would look at paintings and meditate on beauty and then my phone rings.
It is someone I would rather not engage in conversation with. I have come to the conclusion that time is precious marking the seasons of our lives and I will no longer waste it on inanities and meaningless conversations.
The only reason I have such numbers on my phone is so I can ignore them when they come in. A minute has gone by.
We are instructed to move to the last point before boarding the plane. A flint-eyed security operative looks at my passport and checks to see it is me under the hat.
I look back at him indifferently and he lets me go. His colleague pats me down searching for underwear made out of explosive material and I silently curse the young man who added to this country’s woes by deciding to attack strangers on Christmas day.
Finally I am let through and I sit in the “point of no return”, that place where we watch the flight crew flounce past, the pretty female “cabin executives” looking as determined as any astronaut I have ever heard of. Halfway into any six-hour journey, they are usually too tired to appear as if they are there to save the world.
I see Joe, the male cabin crew-member who was a part of the Big Brother Nigeria house and I smile to myself at the coincidence, remembering he had come along with a friend of his to see my stage show only two days before.
WE are let on the plane, and I take a comfortable sit by the window. There are advantages to checking-in early.
My phone rings again and this time it is a number I do not know and a voice I have not heard from in a long while. For those who have been reading my column, they might remember the story of my female friend and I at a petrol station and how a complete stranger, female as well, came along and propositioned her even though I stood next to her. That’s right.
I was not the one propositioned by the female stranger in heat. It was my friend she addressed even though I was dressed in the full protective gear of a person who rides a Suzuki 750 cc bike and I looked like something out of The Terminator or Robo-Cop.
Anyway, it is my friend calling, we had been estranged for a while and I am glad to hear her voice. I tell her I will be away for the next few days and we agree we shall talk upon my return.
It is a call that makes me a happier person and I am glad the erratic network providers on my mobile phone allowed that call come in. Two minutes.
The announcement that the aeroplane is about to take off can be heard and I switch the phone off.
All around me, I hear the muted conversations of travellers, strangers getting acquainted or talking to their friends. I watch a movie and then a second; blocking me from watching television was the most painful punishment my father could mete out when I was growing.
The plane lands and I am in that cold climate again. Weather as cold as the African continent is hot. I brace myself, waiting outside the terminal for my brother to come pick me.
The phone rings again and this time it is a person I did not get a chance to spend time with on my last visit. We agree to meet up and my brother’s car arrives.
WE do meet up and the get-together is not as impressive as I thought it would be. Sometimes we lend too much to the persona of those we are with, and then are disappointed at the outcome.
This might be a two-way thing of course, with the person we are with, disappointed in us as well.
Before the meeting is over, I am calculating the fastest way to return to my brother’s and how long it will take me to crawl under the duvet when I get there. Three minutes.
My phone rings and it is someone I have searched for, for well over a decade. I have described her on these pages before.
I call her “still waters” and only recently we managed to regain contact. For each other, we have become “the road not taken”, but still, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
If there are any friendships I want to keep for the rest of my life, this is one of them. Around the time you are reading this, I will be sitting quietly in some park, talking, by the “still waters”. Four Minutes.