You Cannot Step into the Mind’s Shoe

Certain things that happen to us in life occur for a reason. They don’t just emerge out of the blues. They are not in semblance with the Big Band Theory that attributes existence to chance. They are not on similar footings with Darwinian Evolution. They don’t just occur. Rather, they occur and for a reason.

In this occurrence, the mind is a key player. So when your mind tells you of impending danger you had better listen carefully to it, and know whether it’s just sheer display of fear or something real. I once had an experience where my mind forewarned me of things to come. Did I listen to my mind? How did my mind speak to me? It is this purpose that brings me to my desk, scribbling down experience of bygone days on white paper, and watching the ink of my pen play marathon on the paper edges.

I was born and bred in the city of Port Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers State, Nigeria. Growing in the city of Port Harcourt came with its own challenges and bright sides as well. It is about one of such challenges I write about. I was nineteen years old at the time and I lived with my parents in Mgbuoba Area, one of the suburbs in Port Harcourt city. The part of Mgbuoba Area I lived in was well-known for armed robbery attacks. This grew to a level of notoriety such that daily robbery attacks at night were recorded at alarming rates. Night life habitués could no longer hang out late in the night.

On one of such days at night after the rain had fallen considerably, I was returning home from a church service. The street was unusually lonely at 8:30PM. I found myself musing over the reason for this unusual desertedness in the street. Perhaps something terrible had happened or was about to happen. I just couldn’t conjecture any likely reason for the desolate state of the road. One part of my mind told me to go home by okada, a commercial motorcycle in Nigeria. The other mind felt this wasn’t necessary because my house wasn’t far from the church. It was cheaper I trekked home, this mind persuaded. On the other divide of the mind again, I was persuaded to take an okada for security reasons because the end of the street where I had to pass was known to be notoriously rough. Unable to make up my mind, I found myself thinking in a jumbled way. Eventually I decided to trek home. Nonetheless my mind was active; musing here and there, fear having gripped my whole being.

As I approached the end of the road where a right turn led to a foot path leading to my house, I heard the sharp screeching of car tyres right beside me. The driver obviously going on high speed had applied the brake suddenly bringing the car to an abrupt stop. It was a commercial bus painted in a combination of blue-white-blue used by commercial transporters in Rivers State. The side door of the bus was drawn backwards and a stout looking policeman of average height came down immediately. As he came out I kept wondering why police officers would sometimes resort to using commercial buses as a means of cornering unsuspecting pedestrians while on their night security patrols. It had become a strategy they used to arrest these unsuspecting pedestrians for monetary gain under the pretext of combing the streets to rid it of criminals. He called at me in a very sharp tone of voice.

“Hey, will you come here!” he said to me as I walked further down the road.

I stopped. I was shaking visibly and vibrating uncontrollably out of fright. The dull headlamp of the bus was sufficient enough to reveal the stark fear written all over me.

“Where you think say you dey go!” he said in Pidgin English.

I opened my mouth to speak but nervousness had taken the better part of my charisma. I mustered some courage to speak in-between stammering lips,

“I…, I…, I am co..o..o..ming fr…o…,…,m…” I found myself stammering.

“You no get mouth?” one of the officers at the front passenger seat said.

“I de come back from church!” I said, beginning to regain my confidence.

It no longer occurred to me it was dark. I was with company but not good ones, rather stiff-necked law enforcement agents looking after their own belly. However, this company assuaged my fear of the dark to an extent. I rarely walked alone at night. On this particular night I had decided to walk alone since I could find no company after service in church.

The officer who came down from the long drawn door looked at me sharply. A new emotion stirred inside of me. Anger pushed its way up and I discovered I was bold enough to snap back at the officers.

An officer at the front passenger seat came down from the bus. He stood in front of me, sizing me up, perhaps trying to mentally place my age bracket somewhere. A look of marvel and wonder appeared faintly on his cheek. The officers interrogated me for over five minutes, a barrage of leading questions hitting me every now and then. Surprisingly, I stood unruffled.

They asked me if I knew about the crime situation in the area. I replied in the affirmative. They tried severally to arrest me but to no avail. I was asked to make a monetary offer or face arrest and subsequent charges for the crime of stealing. I refused complying. They got fed up and eventually drove off.

I stood in the dark watching their rickety bus steal into the cold silence of the dark. I couldn’t believe I’d done this and come out unscathed. To have confronted a set of callous and corrupt officers who were after their pockets really boosted my self-confidence.

I turned around to look at the bushes that bordered the road on both sides. In the dark, their complete shape was imperceptible, and faint, a moving set of objects that float like spectres in some African tale. I screamed aloud in the dark. Not a scream borne out of fear but one that signalled triumph. I let my voice rise up with a deadening pitch in defiance of the fear which I had for dark places. Turning around, I continued my walk home, the feeling of triumph lengthening inside of me, my sense of pride fully gratified, alive and kicking. Gradually the reason for the deserted state of the road became clearer to me. I recalled my ambivalent state of mind before leaving the church. I had thought I could let my instincts take the place of the mind. Ever since that incidence, I now picture the mind as a living being given to each human. As a being it does everything humans can do. It can talk, laugh, scream, jump, walk etc. I had tried to take the mind’s place, hoping I could step into the mind’s shoe. If only I had taken that okada all this would’ve been averted. If only I had listened carefully to the mind’s real voice, not instinct which only attempts a parody of the mind’s voice, I certainly would’ve gone home safely. In usual teen exuberance style, I told myself then, here was just another experience my peers will hear from me the next day.