Truth be told, I never attended a writing school or program. Where I’m from, such things don’t exist. Even back in my secondary school days, I can swear I never learnt or doubt if I was ever taught the fundamentals to the rules of Grammar. All I new was the difference between a Noun and a Verb, and sometimes what an Adverb was, because that one was always easy to know. I often mistook what an Adjective was. Sounded like a lost cousin of the Noun. And don’t even go beyond that. I still get confused what a Preposition is, or where a Gerund comes into play.
Yet I still wanted to write.
Growing up in the eighties in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, reading was the least thing on a young kid’s mind. It’s even worse presently. Most kids find it hard picking up a book to read than they would reading the sports pages of a newspaper. I remember how mine started: my eye sight got blurry until my primary school teacher deemed it necessary that I started wearing glasses. My Dad wore glasses, so I guess it was only natural I’d get to follow him. The glasses changed me in more ways than I didn’t expected. I realized I couldn’t play sports anymore. I became a bench-warmer while my friends became soccer fanatics on the field. Often I remember sulking back home.
My Dad had a lot of literature books, some Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Nigerian literary greats like Chinua Achebe and Elechi Amadi. A lot of his books were becoming food for rats and roaches. I decided to start taking care of them as only a bibliophile naturally would. And then I started reading them. I read Achebe’s classic ‘Things Fall Apart‘, and it showed me what the heart of a Nigerian man was like. James Baldwin’s ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain‘, castigated the religious aspect inherent in a lot of African-Americans. ‘Black Boy‘ by Richard Wright made me cry. I hadn’t even read Alex Haley’s ‘Roots‘ at the time.
At the time I was learning a lot about American Pop Culture, almost the same time I was investing my simpleton mind in the artistry behind Marvel and DC comic books. I remember the first time I heard about Malcolm X, the first thing I thought of was he was a member of the X-Men. What sort of man anywhere would go by a last-name called ‘X’? Got to be a super-hero, wasn’t he?
American movie culture, too, invaded my world. As kids, we all loved ‘The Godfather‘. We all wanted to be Pacino in ‘Scarface‘. Throw punches like Balboa in ‘Rocky‘, and grow ape in a city like DeNiro in ‘Taxi Driver‘. But we all loved Eddie Murphy, too. Who wouldn’t want to dream being a prince like he was in ‘Coming to America‘?
Growing up as a kid in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, we were in love with the idea of America even before we knew about America. It was the idea that provided us the dream of someday making it big. Of becoming a star: for me, I wanted to shake Marlon Brando’s hand, and attend a Springsteen concert and listen to him belt out ‘Born in the U.S.A.‘ Though that was before I discovered Prince.
The years went by, and we grew from kids into manhood. Dreams died, and life gave us reality. We hated the reality that was the military rulership in my country. Never did I know such dreams would remain locked inside me, bidding their hour of birth. Never did I realize that when the time came when I would pick up the pen to write, first with poems and then later graduate into short stories and full-length novels, that these dreams I thought I lost a long time ago were growing inside me, waiting their moment of sunshine.
Sure thing it’s still growing. I’m not there yet. Hopefully soon . . . but first, allow me to remember where to put this lousy Past-Participle.