You’re taking a walk. It’s a hot day afternoon in Lagos, but needs be and you’re out in the glorious, scathing sun. You have a camera, but you wish you had another one.
You see her. Hair braided, no doubt with some add-ons. She’s fair. Her white shirt is punctuated by faint gray and vertical stripes. The shirt runs smoothly into a modest rump. Black pants cover the rump all the way down, till the pants meet black shoes, and then back off. As you trudge along the road, coming closer still, you observe her regarding her phone, with curiosity written all over her face. She’s as beautiful as she’s oblivious of your observation. Just then, her face dissolves, and with it the curiosity. Her smile is easy, and her face stays lit up. Your mind churns over quickly, same way as the many stuff that make up concrete churn in a cement mixer. It’s a text message from a boyfriend. It’s a credit alert, but no; it can’t be, it’s not the end of the month yet. It’s a broadcast, one of the funny ones, one of the many ubiquitous messages that snake their way all over the Blackberry network. You can bet your life on this: it’s a message from a new admirer. Yes, that’s it. They say the eyes are the best cameras ever made. Yes, the brain is a veritable memory device. But, what if you could record everything your eyes see on to a memory device you could detach and plug into your TV, or into your computer, so you can play the day back, take out the best bits and splice them together to make a YouTube video? Moments such as curiosity fading into glee – the girl – would make a great movie moment.
And then ideas begin to dance about your head. They must be doing Psy’s Gangnam Style, given the ferocity of their movement. You’ve passed the girl now, and your attention moves on to something else, the memory of her half-wiped, the exact reason you need a detachable memory device lodged in your brain.
There are butts everywhere. Female ones. You begin to observe closely, from a safe distance. What are the odds of finding identical butts on a Lagos road? Slim to rare. You observe the heft and the tilt. Low-hung butts are never small, and they jiggle funny. They look funny too, because they don’t appear to be in the right place. You could set up a YouTube channel, and call it The Butt Show. Fleeting cuts of jiggling butt flashing by. Small, big, onion, shapeless, cute, flat, wide, sunken, perfect, moderate… all sorts. Only yesterday, you saw the most perfect butt on a girl at Onipanu. You would have gotten sufficient footage and played it back for any Thomases. Here, this is where the nail crushed skin and bone. One and a half minutes of perfect – clad in clingy low-back black – negotiating the pedestrian bridge. Maybe they’d go viral. Then you spy another butt, and beyond that, you observe how this girl walks. There’s a lot you can tell from the way a girl walks. This one would be really squirmy in bed, you conclude. She only walks like she can take and hold her plunger. Her eyes would bulge and she would run if she could. She walks waywardly, like she’s experienced but there’s some other quality only you can discern. Maybe if you played it back on a computer and have experts pore over it; maybe you’d find a name for that quality.
You bump into a man who regards you as one would regard slime. You shrug him off with a quick and insincere apology. You’d have laughed at him later on your computer.
The man pulls the door open for you. He looks like he’d rather not be doing that. But his clownish uniform means he must do it. There, you would have recorded that. Here’s a man who doesn’t like his job. But you have to be content with your power of description (or lack of) to tell anyone what his face was like, when you could simply have played them a video. You sit down. You wonder if this cool artificial air isn’t better than the stuffy one that has now blessed you with a runny nose outside. Someone beckons over. She’s the better looking one of the two girls in the room. Record: small mercies. You turn and the door opens again. He’s looking for an Nneka. The two girls insist no one in there bears such a name. He insists. Turns out New Guy’s boss asked him to look for an Amarachi instead. He’s made a fool of himself already. Nneka is as close to Amarachi as Delta is to Ebonyi. Someone this old. You chuckle inside and film away.
Then you’re going back where you came from and you run into someone you know. Actually, it’s someone you wished you knew better, on the back of one encounter at the printing press where she’s a designer. She beams a white smile at you, and does a small wave. The camera dies. The battery drained suddenly. She hurries off. But this time, you have this one recorded somewhat permanently. Frizzy hair, fair face, beautiful white teeth, big ol’ eyes that bore holes, modest, very modest “features”. Etched. Scratch that. You wish you could play back her face, that white smile, on your computer.