‘Fire, Fire in My...’ By Onabade, Adedayo Adedoyin
‘Fire! Fire! Come down now!’ the voices sprang up to our second-floor apartment, alerting us of impending doom. At that moment, I knew what ‘in the twinkle of an eye’ meant.
Pandemonium struck. Neighbours scurried to and fro the compound, in a last-minute move to salvage whatever they could. The fifteen-flat building was aflame from the flat in the middle, right beside our apartment. Getting out alive was miracle enough – we were at the most vulnerable position in the building, and I had planned to retire to bed after my family set out on an inter-state trip that Sunday morning.
Days later, I walked into the ruins that remained, the still-searing heat - a testament of what had once been home. With the concerted rubble of wood, bricks, and soot inert beneath my feet, each step I took within those charred walls bore a query in my heart: Is that it? Is life so vain that what mattered at this moment could be gone the very next?
As a teenager, my young mind grappled with this incident and its implications for my family. While it birthed confusion, anger, sadness, and even regret, it spurred something more: I sought to give words to my thoughts, to draw reflections from the seeming day-to-day trivialities and recreate outcomes.
This new perspective drove me to keep a private journal which, over time, piqued a fascination with human-social experiences.
I write to explore life – the greatest repertoire of influences from which to draw inspiration. I write because I want to know, and I want to tell.
I write to preserve me, to rile you up – yes, you, to keep a record of the things we should not forget. The experiences of victims of the world, like me, like your sister, like the girl next door; we who have been silent too long because tradition says, “This is how it must be done.”
I write to exhale the despair that clutches at our throats, that which if we spoke it we would be termed “too passionate,” “too agitated” and “too zealous” by those who’ve not lifted a finger in the face of wrong or a voice to ask why the world is the way it is. I write that it may testify against them – these words – and highlight what we must know and what we must change so that the world may change.
I write to see beyond the now, to discover what lies beyond our propensity to imagine.
To say why I write is to say who I was before I knew this fate. It is to define who I have become and who I can be, conjuring and creatively exploring possibilities before they happen – if they ever will.
I write to be a vessel for these stories within me that indeed do write themselves when we begin to fashion eventualities ad infinitum: to kill or to save? To love or to leave?
I write because I want to escape reality; because I want to live many lives in this single one; because the words weave themselves within me, leaping up to speak of experience, of a moment, of a lifetime.
In the words of Susan Sontag, “A writer is someone who pays attention to the world – a writer is a professional observer.” I write because all that I observe of the world must be expressed. First, it was a fire in my home; now, it is a fire in my soul.