It all began with his love for whistling. The simple art of rolling his lips and making a piercing noise made him feel like a grown man. He whistled on his way to the bathroom every morning. He whistled in and out of the gents. He whistled to every song that tickled his simple mind. He even whistled when there was no music. And then one day… he died.
He did not die ten days before his eleventh birthday – like the Nigerian British boy whose first name consisted of five vowels and three consonants. The controlled breeze of North Peckham had once caressed his lips, when he whistled on his journey. He could tell it was the place to be. But maybe he was wrong. Maybe North Peckham Estate was simply a brood of selective bullies, because when he heard about how the helpless, little African immigrant like him fell on the stairway, and bled to death from the gash on his left thigh, he stopped whistling for a few months.
But he didn’t want to worry. All lives mattered. Some things were hard to explain and were better left unsaid. All he needed was good music to whistle to. And if he could whistle his way out of every vicissitude of living beyond borders, he thought, he could someday drown his fears with the sound of his whistling.
As he grew older, would watch himself in the mirror as his tiny moustache jutted forward whenever he whistled. Being fifteen earned him fifteen pairs of cool trousers, with mixed friends from different races. Together they whistled around the streets of London. They talked about their love for music. They couldn’t resist talking about how their love for Michael Jackson made them scream and pull their zippers. But a fine blend of classical jazz, laced with acappella and vocal overtones, became his favourite kind of music.
Yet as he grew older in this beautiful part of the world, he was also left to answer some ugly questions. Sometimes during school; sometimes on his way back home; and sometimes in the news – he would be faced with these questions. They queried him about the colour of his skin. They wanted to affirm if he was once a primate, and if he hid his tail in his trousers. They sometimes queried why he didn’t tie a bandanna across his head like some rappers. They wanted him to use eff words like the boys on the street did. But he never did. Instead, he filled his music playlist with old and new songs ranging from classical music to jazz, from hip-hop to Afro beats. The Afro beats especially reminded him of the warm country he left behind.
One day he returned home with a black eye. He lied and told his mother that he knocked his face against some of the red bricks that coloured the streets of London. And when the still-faced cops stopped and searched him twice as much they stopped his white friends, he managed to whistle away the prejudice. But whenever a cup filled with drink was thrown at him from a moving car, he wondered if the colour of his skin reflected a heap of refuse far away in Ibadan.
And on a certain afternoon, like every other afternoon, he was cornered by some mindless teenager who felt disturbed by his whistling. They told him his whistling made their stomachs turn, and it was clothed in a garb that was pitch black. Black, they told him, was bad. There he was, before a kangaroo court, without a lawyer. He pleaded and got no help. He was stabbed on the neck, and the paramedics were far from sight. By the time the police arrived, he had stopped whistling on the street of London.
His name was…
His name is of no use. He is black, and his life didn’t seem to matter.
Now there, is this story I wrote
I hope you read it line by line
Like good little children
Don’t worry, be happy.