I resumed school as an undergraduate in September 2000. Sometime in early 2001, I took my first creative writing class in the department of English under a very brilliant professor (now author of several books). One of the first tasks he gave us in class was to write a piece of creative short fiction which we would eventually come to discuss with the whole class sometime before the end of the semester. I was barely twenty, and was just beginning to develop some of my political and literary sensibilities, so my first attempt at fiction was a combination of both in order to make a satiric point. The story was titled Sam’s Tragedy. It was a story of a fictional feud between two women, and the tragic way in which they exacted vengeance on each other mostly at the expense of the clearly incompetent husband.
A few months after I finished with the class with an excellent grade, I expanded the work into a play of the same name. This time however, the characters became less fictive and more resembling of real life characters in world politics. There was a Sadman, a Sam and a Chinese character whose name I’ve forgotten now. Sam was an oppressive landlord and Sadman was a neighbour – his nemesis – who also had his very disgusting attributes. The play – a quite anarchistic experiment – ended with an explosion that took with it all of Sadman and much of Sam’s very famed real estate in the neighbourhood. This must have been around June or July of 2001. I showed it to a few friends, explained a few of the conspiracy theories fueling my creativity, and expressed the desire to put more work into it until it became something more worthy of the stage. On the afternoon of September 11th of that year when I was called frantically to the tv viewing room of my hall of residence to watch the two airplanes crashing into the World Trade Centre, one of the things I remember my friend asking me about was “How much of this feeds into your gloomy prediction, Mr. Playwright?”
It was a sad day, one of the most horrible I’d ever witnessed. Human beings were having to choose between burning to death in a building and leaping down to their deaths hundreds of feet below. I remember feeling very confused about the extent of my own creative condoning of a sudden chaotic intervention in world affairs which had now come to pass, and the real life implication of a tragedy brought about by people far more sinister in motives than my fledgling creative mind. For many years afterwards, I read lines from the play occasionally and wondered if it was still relevant – first because the doom it predicted had already happened in a far more sinister way than the absurdist play could have predicted, and secondly because I grew increasingly discontented with my own playwriting abilities. America had fascinated me from then as I got increasingly removed from an ivory tower bubble that treated it like an isolated entity incapable of emotions. The movie 9/11 – the only movie I know that showed tv footage of the first plane hitting the building – gave distinct humanity to the residents of New York, particularly the brave fire-fighters that went up the stairs of both buildings as workers and other victims made their way out.
The world changed after September 2001, and so did I, slowly, and now here I am. Ten years after, it is hard to think back to that September evening in Ibadan without feeling just as overwhelmed as I did then seeing so much destruction the worst I had ever seen outside hollywood movies. Thankfully, the world has learnt some good lessons since then. Some of the evil political players of the days before and after the attack have become irrelevant, and some of the perpetrators have already been brought to justice. We will hopefully have all learnt to work for a world where such an attack and the responses to it would have become unnecessary. As for me, I have stopped pursuing a career in playwriting but will one day take a look at that script and see which part of it can still be salvaged. Not much, I’m guessing, especially since I can’t say for certain in what part of my room in Ibadan the script is now gathering dust.
It has been a very bumpy decade and I wonder if our obligation to the coming one might as well be to do everything in our power to never stop talking civilly to one another.