Gentlemen in Skirts | By Damilola Yakubu

“What is art but a way of seeing?” – Thomas Berger

Tonight, I hear Sifa speak about the irregular flow of the human life, the up-and-down line of our heartbeats. Somehow I reflect on Tolu’s statement, a few days back, that as humans we love things the way they are, and change takes an effort. For the first few days, a lot of us sat around the same place in the bus, to and from class.
Other than the fact that I see some truth in their reasoning, I can’t help but notice that they are a bit contradictory.

‘We call them gentlemen in skirts,’ I interjected.

‘And that has nothing to do with gender?’

‘No…’ I argued that the phrase ‘Gentleman in skirts’ has nothing to do with gender but code of conduct.

As we return to the bus, Chimamanda tells me to write a story on this.
As much as I want to have something to write, I feel a void unfilled. I see so much I want to fill with words and opinions, but for the life of me they never seem to come.

‘Why do you use the gavel?’

‘I don’t know really, for order I guess. A sign of authority…’ Abdul laughs, but I get a different perspective.

Do I perhaps, bring a sense of normalcy, a part of things being the way they are, into law? Or do I allow so many seemingly big things I have argued against, affect me that undertones of abnormally seem to glide on the surface without notice.

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” – George Orwell

Perhaps, I so much respect the law and its tradition that that respect has made me blind. Not blind as to not seeing, but blind as to seeing and having no words to understand what you see.

“Without the eye, the head is blind. Without the head, the eye is adrift.” – Darby Bannard

Perhaps I see more the literacy of the law, than the humanity of it. What astounds me is not that I think the Nigerian legal system is ingrained with gender bias but that I never even considered it, or so many other rules of conduct I never seemed to question. The wig? The robe? Or even the fact that a female Judge is referred to as a ‘sir’?

I feel an ache in my chest. I feel like a fool perhaps – that you see something so much, and not put so much thought to what it really means, or its necessity, until someone causes you to see secondly or thirdly, like a photograph, with new eyes. The photograph was my memory, and seeing it differently felt strange.

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.” – Ayn Rand

‘Don’t be a lawyer, be a writer.’ Binyavanga said.

Sight is important to a writer. Perhaps, it is even more important to a lawyer. Normalcy is an enemy of sight. It normalizes the old, reconstructs the new and uniqueness is lost.

One of the major reasons I write is to create better perspective, sights of what world was, is and can be. I guess the joke is on me.
So as much as I want to write a story on this complexity, I do not know what I see. I have new eyes, but with familiar sights seen. This familiarity makes my memory vague, so I can’t see through memory. Like desperately wanting to see what’s behind a mist, you need to walk there to see. I need to walk there. I feel incomplete, thirsty to have this void filled. But my memory fails me. The memory someone said is a bad storyteller. It is coloured with selective subjectivity.

“We never see anything completely. We never see a tree, we see the tree through the image that we have of it, the concept of that tree; but the concept, the knowledge, the experience, is entirely different from the actual tree.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Sifa, Tolu and Maryam talk about the hotel, about being by the sea, taking pictures and the unusual beauty it gives us. They say that probably those that live there see it as normal. I see how normalcy removes the beauty that differences give us. I see more, why we need many eyes to see the world through. The world is beautiful, many eyes make it so.

Sifa calls it the parable of life.
And I think I just got played.

“One who returns to a place sees it with new eyes. Although the place may not have changed, the viewer inevitably has. For the first time things invisible before become suddenly visible.” – Louis L’Amour


Damilola Yakubu is a graduate of Law from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He lives in Nigeria and was a partipant of the Farafina Creative Writing Worskshop 2013. He blogs at idiace.wordpress.com.

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