• Friday, December 01, 2023
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Changing times, changing values: Old buddies at the table


Some of us, old friends – had chosen to congregate again after so many years. Time has flown between our last meeting and today. The four of us – Jide, Uwem, Charles, and yours sincerely, were really looking forward to this meet. Like we all anticipated, there was a lot to talk about. Banter to share. We are all children of the seventies. We understood that time and the eighties so well. Eighties found us in our teens. Life was sweet – so much energy and so much fun. Musical videos were not less obscene. They were not obscene. Musicians walked the track-path of decency and dance-steps showed more of creativity. Than hmmm! Not defined by sexiness. The seventies and eighties were decades of less sophistication and less of gadgets. We still communicated. Somehow, the expectation added some sweetness to the wait. Uwem once referred to that period as some of the best in human history. I thought that was too overly; thinking, he had been completely swallowed in by plain nostalgia. If not in the excess. It surely dominated his thoughts at the time of the statement.

‘Good to see you again after over five years, Tony,’ Jide called. He looked truly excited as we pumped hands. He has always been the most boisterous of us all – right from the day we set foot in high school. ‘Time has flown so fast in the interval but…’

‘Time didn’t fly. We flew. Time stays… as humans, we come and go. Time remains… time is timeless,’ I cut in. A gentle smile clutched his face. A split second later: ‘Where are the others?’ I asked, meaning Charles and Uwem. Charles and I had been Elementary Schoolmates. We only met Jide and Uwem in High School – Ojota Secondary School. Charles, Uwem and I were the original members of the ‘gang’ right from Form One, but Jide joined in our penultimate year.

‘Ol boy, forget about them and acknowledge me,’ Jide fired. I called to mind when Uwem thought Jide’s success had given him some arrogance. Things got quickly bad between them, but we resolved their differences sooner. Jide has always been himself. He fires from his waist all the time, saying things the way he sees them, feels them and knows them. So far, nothing seems to have changed. Boy Jide has evolved to being man Jide, but those values/qualities he held dearly in the past still hang on his shoulders.

‘Oh sorry, apologies for my bad manners,’ I threw in. ‘Charles informed you all would be coming together.’

‘Plans changed in the dying minutes and you know Uwem struggles to keep to time,’ Jide informed. I led him to the living room. ‘Nice apartment,’ he complimented.

‘Thanks, many thanks.’

‘I can hear the sound of a car engine,’ Jide called, as he settled down on a couch. ‘That must be Uwem – he’s fond of throttling hard before he kills off the engine.’

‘Give me a minute.’ I went out. Jide got it right as I spotted Charles alighting from the passenger side. Charles was dressed to the nines. Dressing right was his second nature. In fact, it was through him I heard, ‘dress the way you’d want to be addressed.’ It was many, many years ago. Through Uwem’s action, some dust rose to the sky.

‘Hey Brother!’ Charles exclaimed. The smell of his perfume ruffled my nostrils for a few seconds. I got used to it. His voice had come out loudly. So loud that I worried it disturbed the neighbourhood by a quarter. I looked up and caught sight of someone shifting his window drape in the building beside mine. Uwem stepped out. He carried his short frame majestically. He had grown bigger than the last time. His pouch presented itself before its owner. Jide was at the door-post, leaning on it and. Waiting. Jide said something funny. And, again roars of laughter shattered the mild calm of the early evening. Old buddies were meeting. A mild panic escaped me. It was `cause of some concern for my neighbours. A few seconds later, I felt okay. For much of the calm in the vicinity had come from me. Not them – neighbours.

All man was at his usual. Jide and Uwem came with bottles of non-alcoholic wine. I wondered why. Both don’t teetotal. Midway through, Charles broke the unwanted silence that flung itself on us.

‘This generation of young men and women aren’t like us,’ he said.

‘But no two generations are completely alike,’ I let out mildly.

‘Between our high school days and now, things have witnessed some drastic changes and I think for the worse.’ It was Jide, shoving me on my right side.

‘How do you mean?’ Uwem asked. It’s an aged character of his to understand first before making any contribution.

‘Everything has gone E… electronic,’ Charles answered.

‘Time defines its values,’ I pointed out. Thinking. ‘Or values define the time.’ Wondering which was more correct.

‘The under-twenties are in a hurry to age us out quickly with the speed of change taking place,’ Jide contributed, downing a glass of water. ‘Values are upside down and everything tends towards wacko.’

‘I am sure our parents must have felt that way about us but they just sat there and watched,’ I chipped in.

‘Sure, sure,’ Charles acknowledged, taking a huge gulp from his glass. ‘But this scale is bad, really bad,’ he added.

‘Their hands and mouths are rather too engaged and busy for my liking and honestly, this generation has no thinking time again,’ Jide contributed.

‘Explain.’ It was Uwem, he dropped, slunk in his chair.

‘You see, young people don’t read anymore,’ Jide said.

‘In that case, that’s true,’ Uwem acknowledged. He seemed lighted up again as he straightened up. In high school, Uwem used to be a metaphor for book. If he had any passion. That was it. ‘In our days, we competed with books, remember Tony?’ His eyes were at me.