Goats and sheep, I read somewhere, are equally capable climbers, but goats are more disposed to climbing. I have a goat’s—a young mountain goat’s—inclination to climb and jump, as opposed to other sheepish people *tongue out*.
Leaping up onto the sidewalk at Orile, a foot and a half higher than the road, and thrusting my hips slightly forward to cushion my backpack as it swings back and smacks into my hipbone. Ducking across brisk traffic and vaulting over the waist high median divider along Ipaja Road. Hopping onto curbstones in Alagomeji, Yaba and walking foot before foot on the zebra-colored strip with the occasional hip wobble to maintain balance, like an inexperienced tightrope walker, and toppling off every now and then and hopping right back on. Clambering up the ladder up to the overhead water tank behind my distant uncle’s house in Ajah, I survey the landscape around from that eyrie, although I feel a little vertiginous doing this. Bounding up the stairs of the CMS Bus Stop pedestrian overpass, I take them two or three at a time, and gallop down it on the other side of the road, not minding my calf muscles’ protests.
I once scaled the four or five foot high fence running through the bus terminal under the Oshodi overpass rather than walk the 50 yards to the end and switching back on the reverse side. I could have gently slid down the wall but I don’t know what impelled me to jump down (not leap off, thankfully). The shock ran up my legs, a sharp pain jabbed my right knee and my bag slammed hard against my kidneys. I got curious looks from people around which I thought had to do with seeing a bearded, flat-hatted oldie totting a backpack and jumping about like a kid (pun intended). I didn’t totally understand the looks until much later when I saw that, a few yards to my left, there was a four-foot gap in the fence that I could just have walked through. The pain in my right knee remained for about two days and I remain grateful that when I jumped, my knee hadn’t buckled and sprawled me out on the floor howling like a Dingo dog with its testicles in a clamp. I have also learnt to pick my hurdles some shades shorter.
I like taking the stairs up. Okay, scratch that; what other option do I have? Shinnying up and down a rope between floors, Indiana Jones style? That won’t work; I haven’t found a trusty rope like his, don’t have enough space in my bag to pack a lengthy enough rope, and I suspect civic minded people would feel compelled to bundle me to Yaba Left if I take to ascending buildings like an urban ninja. Not to mention the likely fall.
I like jumps. The spring-leap into the air; the momentary, but seemingly long lasting, suspension in air, when the air seems more than just air, maybe fluffy like clouds or colloidal like thick akamu, when you wonder if perhaps gravity would freeze and buoy you up, or cease and float you away, a kite with cut strings, or be reversed and your jump would become a launch into the far clouds above; and then the sure lock-on of your feet striking the floor (suweee-CHAK!) like the fluid fit of high-tech manufactured machine parts (Made For Each Other™) when you land; and, oops, slip—just kidding (really getting your goat now, eh?), I never slip.
You know why? I do a thorough visual scan of all my potential jumps, and when I decide, totally confident, that I can vault over one successfully, I skip it and find another a little lower to leap over. In the unlikely event that I slip, I have contrived and practiced to perfection a series of dance steps to prevent a fall. The moves should look like a choreographed martial arts scene out of Matrix or Jet Li’s Bodyguard from Beijing, but , in moments of unmitigated honesty, I think I still look like a man who narrowly missed wiping a piece of ground with the seat of his jeans. This is because most times this elaborate dance ends with me facing the direction I backed at the start, with my hands splayed out in front of me, my legs apart and knees bent, looking like I suddenly felt pressed to poop and decided to take an emergency dump right away. In case of emergency, break PANTS!
When I was seven or eight or nine, it was my duty to take lunch from home to my mother at her shop. Sometimes, lunch would include liquid food and would be placed in containers with loose lids which we had to carry in a plastic bag in a stiff-armed manner to avoid spilling the food. And I hated doing that chore. But who cared? Someone had to go and we did, I usually wearing a sulk for an hour or more. Long face, with a minor stormy cloud formation percolating before my face, threatening to rain (I was quite teary back then). Up Akpo Street, turn off right into Abba Crescent, round the Crescent’s curve into Igbariam Street. Because Igbariam Street was crescent shaped too, had no sidewalks, and the house in the crook had a low fence around it, it was dangerous to walk in the streets as you could get swiped by a car coming around the blind spot. We would walk on the adjoining concreted-paved front yards of the houses on the left side of the street. The front yard of the penultimate house was a foot or so higher than the yard before the house in the crook of the curve and we would hop down this height. By the time, we were around the bend my face would have cleared up and by the time we had arrived at her shop, I would wonder if I was ever really sad earlier? This happened several times and I eventually realized that the turning point was the small jump. It appeared to have jolted the downturned corners of my mouth up into a ‘U’. It was a great ‘Eureka!’ moment for me.
So when I got mad for being sent off on that delivery, usually with my brother, and I wished to dispel my moodiness, I’d start to jump right from home. Our house had four flights of eight-step stairs. I would send my brother down the first flight with the food bag, lean forward into the first flight while sliding my hands down the rails, pivot and let my legs swing out from under me, and leap down to the landing (very risky exercise; the swing of your feet could tug off the pivot of your arms and smack your ass dab into the lower steps. Major ouch!). We’d switch roles until we got to the last step, and then we’d skip gaily off to the shop, likely as not swinging the bag, hopping across and back over gutters, and capering about, possibly spilling the food in the process and get chewed out for that. However, if I wanted to indulge in a great deal of sulk, I would take care not to jump anything, taking deliberate steps to avoid it, taking the steps one at a time, walking woodenly along the way, and taking extra care not to cross the front yards of the houses along Igbariam Street. This usually meant I delivered the food intact; anyone minding the store would have had my bad mood to thank.
Negative feelings are heavy, dark lumpy stuff that sink into the pit of my stomach. Chunky, rough, jagged edged, or at least, squarish. Sitting there in that murky cave, vertices jutting out and cutting into my insides at every turn when they budge. Little wonder we squeeze our faces when mad or sad.
Jumping jostles my feelings, these lumpy things, grinding them together, the friction between them filing off irksome edges and smoothing these feelings into lighter spheres of joy, floating up into lighter ether spheres. There is a practical truth in the saying, ‘jumping for joy’.
Happiness is like orbs in a harness, and jumping jounces them about, jogging them bit by bit out of the harness until they pop out swinging in the open, bouncing unbound, gamboling, in glee and hanging free.
If you had any dirty thoughts reading the last statement, tufiakwa! You need to wash your mind, ye goats. All of you stand in line, single file—after me. No pushing!