MEMORIES OF KERUBU: The Splendour Of Nostalgia (5)

By Ikenga Chronicles February 24, 2018

MEMORIES OF KERUBU: The Splendour Of Nostalgia (5)

— By Remi Oyeyemi

He was big. Yes, physiognomically big. He was as big as he could get. Big and amazingly athletic. Athletic beyond conventional expectations that one would have had from people of his size and stature. His size would ordinarily discourage a recruiting coach, unless he has seen him in action. His size belied his buoyancy. He was bouncy, resilient and energetic.

If you engaged in anthroposcopy as a means to figuring out his ability on the field, I am very confident that you would get a wrong result. Misled and deceived by his size, and probably weight, it was possible you would not give him a second look. Yet, he was what experts would call “all rounder”. When he walks, he rolls like a tractor. He rolls like what in our local parlance was called “caterpillar”. This “caterpillar” was always fast paced as he rolled. He was swift in his motion and movement. Rather than be hindered by his size and weight, it appeared he was actually ferociously propelled by them.

Caterpillar was and still is a brand name of a tractor manufacturer. To the extent that the types common in our area are big, strong, resilient, expansive and irrepressible. Caterpillar became a figure of speech as in a metaphor, for strength and resilience in our conventional diction. Thus, when a man manifested irrepressibility, resilience, endurance, perseverance, strength and determination, the word caterpillar would be used to describe him.

He could do it all. He could throw the javelin and make it swirl like a comet. When he threw the shotput, it was like tossing a tennis ball. When he made long jumps or triple jumps, it was like watching the agility of a Mount Kilimanjaro, as he took off. When I watched him trying high jump, I could not but wonder how an elephant could exude such dexterity and make nonsense of his size as if it did not exist. And on the soccer field, tireless like a horse, he never failed to amaze.

Ebony black and shiny, he was what the Yorùbá would metaphorically refer to as Ó dúdú bìi kóró isin. Alluringly fresh, like an Ìyeyè waiting to be plucked and be savoured, he was handsome and charismatic to boot. He was dazzling. He was magnetic. He was fascinating and flashing. Glamorous and enchanting, his charm was imbued with a high modicum of grace that made him unavoidably lovable. Though, I was never privy to his love life, with the way he was built, with his exploits on the field, he was a dream catch for any woman. I had no doubt then, and I still have no doubt now that many girls threw themselves at him.

We all call him, Sir Bèbè. What a nickname! That alias could not have been anything other than taxonomically inspired. The origin of that name still remains a mystery. Heaven knows what could have informed it. In my own opinion, there is nothing weird about the name. Hopefully, Ègbón Agboolá Ìlòrí, would one of these days tell us the story of that amazing nickname – Bèbè.

Sir Bèbè, was the KERUBU’s Sports Prefect during his set. There was no way it could have been any other person–not with his limitless talents on the field. Not with his dexterity to make the most difficult look so simple and ordinary. He was numero uno, no question about it. To suggest or assume that he was “primus inter pares” would amount to belittling, and what the Yorùbá would describe as Ègàn. He was special.

I fell in love with Sir Bèbè because of his exploits on the field. To me, he was phenomenal. To those lucky enough to witness him in action on the field, he was a legend. If I was a woman, I would have probably found a way to get him to date me. He was that awesomely irresistible. He was a darling. His acts on the field inflicted delirious joy on the crowd. The swiftness and dexterity with which he was able to pulsatingly manipulate his size made him more amazing.

But to me, he made a lasting impact on me, off the field. It was not an auspicious situation, but it was undoubtedly an auspicious moment for me. It was a moment that was worth more than millions were it to be converted into money. Nothing lasts like indelibility. Nothing endures like a positive idea. Nothing inspires like a Vista inadvertently disemboweled unto the tabula rasa of an adoring youngster. Such an act lasts forever, forever inspires and guides eternally.

It was during one of our preparatory classes popularly referred to as “Prep.” It usually took place between 3.00pm and 5.00pm. I was fooling around with some of my classmates and had ran out of the classroom on to the veranda. And I ran into him. He did not need any other proof that I was breaking the rules. I just provided him with an incontrovertible one. He stopped suddenly, took about twenty seconds looking at me with an expression I could not decode. Obviously, he was evidently contemplating what he needed to do with me.

Meanwhile, I knew I was in trouble. My heart palpitated with harrowing trepidations. My mind, in top gear now, was racing at high speed, wildly scanning the possible punishment awaiting me. I thought to myself that I might spend the remaining period of the prep on my knees with about ninety minutes to go. I thought that he might ask me to go look for a Cutlass to cut some grass or bush. “That would be a terrible option,” I soliloquized to myself. And I said a prayer, “Please, God, don’t let that happen.”

Gently, he pulled me to the side, stearing me by my shoulder. In a period of time that was actually not more than two and half minutes, he counselled me. He pointed out to me that I was wasting valuable time. He noted that I was filtering away the time I ought to take advantage of and do something tangible. He expressed the hope that I was not copying others. And if that was what I was doing I should stop it. “Do not follow others, follow your own mind. Be true to yourself always,” he had said.

It was a two and half minute that felt like two hundred and fifty years. Not with my palpitating heart still worrying about the probability of a punishment at the end of it all. Regardless, it was so brief and snappy but eminently impactful. Though, it was only two and a half minutes, but it is one that has lasted a long time. It is one that would last a life time. It is one that would endure. Seared permanently in a comfortable corner of my head, it would last forever.

That Sir Bèbè did not ask me to kneel down, which I would have richly deserved; or get me to look for a cutlass to cut some bush or grass, which would have been within his authority, but rather counselled me, gave me a food for thought, before letting me go, had created a profound memory for me. He had, unwittingly and unknowingly, given me something that stuck with me till today and would definitely stick with me for the rest of my journey on mother Earth. That simple act of his, formed part of my memories of KERUBU, our KERUBU, the Cherubim and Seraphim High School, Ilesa.