Diaries can be such amazing treasures when they display their record-keeping ability in the face of our failing memories. They never add, they never take away from events. They never protect anybody`s image due to their social status they have attained long after their deeds were recorded, or whatever other reasons. As long as events were recorded as they happened, diaries tell no lies.
The first person I ever saw keep a diary was my dad, SAS, as his friends called him. SAS was his initials. SAS recorded everything! And to think that those were the days when we had no handheld devices for storing data, I admire him posthumously. Or maybe such devices existed, but they weren`t as accessible and affordable as they are these days. In essence, SAS wrote everything traditionally, with his pen between the index and middle fingers of his right hand, — that was how he wrote, quite strange — but that wasn`t all to SAS` strange writing style, as he also wrote in uppercase all through.
So much for SAS` writing style; his diary`s content was more surprising. I told you SAS documented everything, right? He really did — from his expenditures to who visited the family, how long they stayed, places he visited, events that happened, actions of domestic workers, and even some minute details you wouldn`t imagine. You`re probably wondering how I know his diary content — well, fine, I secretly read it without his consent, and don`t even judge me, because you wouldn`t have had this story without my inquisitive nature *wink*. But really, I knew more of his diary records by some other way, beyond the aforementioned, and I`ll tell you. SAS could just send for you, and as you stood before him, the bespectacled grey-haired man with his pen between his index and middle fingers, eyes focused on his diary, then you interrupt him with an “I`m here sir,” and he goes, “I sent you to buy me bread on Wednesday, 29th,…” and then in your head, you go “Wait a minute, I wouldn`t have remembered that!” And then he continues, “…did you give me the change?” At this point, you don`t even remember that there was ever a change, even though you may remember faintly that he sent you bread. So you probably scratch your head, impulsively search your pockets, forgetting that you have different clothes on, and you just try to remember. Then he continues, “I gave you 200 Naira (the currency used in Nigeria), to buy bread worth 70 Naira, did you bring back the…” Then boom! The memory comes so vividly, ah! Diaries never forget. You then hurry to check what you wore that day, and you find his change intact. So SAS wasn`t one who you could make some earning from his change.
Another interesting experience, one which I remember so well, was when Sunday, a young man who did SAS` laundry said he needed to be away from work for a while. By the way, how can I remember Sunday without checking the scar by the left side of my tummy? The young man gave daydreaming me an electric iron to hold while he cleared the ironing table after work one day. He had unplugged the iron, however, it was still hot from his hours of ironing. So I got distracted while I held the iron, and my hand drew closer to my tummy. You can imagine the rest. So Sunday, the freelance laundryman said he needed to be absent from work because his mother died. That`s pathetic enough for a domestic worker to have some time off, innit? Well, unforgettable SAS simply went to check his diary for the last time Sunday had some time off. This is where it gets funny. A few months before this time, Sunday sought permission to be away for the same reason — his mother`s death. SAS, in his interesting way of interrogating, asked, “Sunday, how many mothers do you have?” It`s been two decades, however, I remember vividly how shocked Sunday was at this question. He stuttered before answering that he had just one, then SAS reminded him of the last time he had some workdays off, and the reason he gave. Still shocked, Sunday stuttered again, then explained that that was his grandmother who he often called his mother, and the second that just died was his mother. Of course, he didn`t expect SAS to believe that. SAS suspected that at least, one of the stories was false. He thought Sunday just presented a reason that would make his time off justifiable, and his job secured. And perhaps Sunday thought the story could get him some money out of sympathy. SAS was that shrewd.
Except those of us who lived with SAS and knew he kept a detailed diary, other people thought he just had an exceptional memory which enabled him to remember every detail. For such people and us who knew the real reason, one thing remained: it was almost impossible to make him believe a false story or reason you did something because he would record it, and ask for the details later when you probably don`t remember it anymore. What else? It was impossible to keep his change or take his money without him finding out. He recorded everything.
Maybe his diary-keeping would be easier if he did it at such a time as this when you could easily save anything in a handheld device. Maybe he wouldn`t have had to spend some minutes looking for Sunday`s previous reason for some time off work. He would only need to type “Sunday” in his notes, and in a second, load all the details. But he`s gone now. And his diaries? I`m not sure anyone cared to keep those treasures. What a pity.
So I deemed it fit to keep a diary too. I copied the act from my dad, of course, however, I never had the courage to write in English as he did. Sadly, it was the only language I could write in (it still is). So I came up with a coded language. I wrote all my thoughts and experiences in this coded language — the girls I liked, the memorable events I attended, the wild imaginations I had. I must have been eight or nine years old. I didn`t have the dedication or the commitment to record every detail. No, I didn`t. I only recorded details I considered interesting and worth a revisit. It’s funny how I hid the diary, despite the code. I grew up secretive. I still am, sadly. Yeah, I think it’s a problem. A number of things could have been better about me if I wasn’t as introverted and secretive.
I must have kept this diary for months; I had filled about two or three jotters with my experiences and fantasies. But then I stopped. I don’t remember how. I think I got tired of it. Or I made myself believe I had outgrown it. I think I was partly lazy to document my experiences and fantasies which increased and got wilder, respectively. I felt bad when I found the jotters years after, and all I could do was stare. I forgot my own coded language. I almost cried. The only thing I understood in the diary was “La wa oh.” My Nigerian Pidgin was so poor, I didn’t know the right thing was “Na wa oh,” an expression used to show surprise. I didn`t code that. I thought of keeping a diary again, but this time, I was already in secondary school, a boarding school precisely. I had my peers to discuss with, so I didn’t think it was necessary. We talked about the girls with the big boobs and backsides, girls who wore what kind of underwear, as we managed to see through their school uniforms, or even clearer between their legs when we pretended to pick our pens which we intentionally dropped. What`s more? We discussed who we would like to date, and for what reasons. I’m pretty sure you can relate. *smiles*. We were only in our first year in secondary school though. But of course, we weren’t too young to discuss these things. We had these things going o in our individual minds before we got into secondary school, and many of us had nobody to discuss them with, or maybe no experienced and safe person to discuss them with. But we yearned to discuss them, we really did, but sadly, our parents neither looked welcoming enough to entertain such conversations, nor did they look like they had such experiences as we did when they were our age. This was why even we coded our diaries, this was why we locked our diaries, this was why we hid our diaries from them. This was why some of us spoke with the wrong people, this was why some were abused, and some grew up scarred adults. Some never trusted people of certain genders anymore as a result, some never found certain acts pleasurable all their lives as a result, some got infected as a result, and I can keep listing the saddening outcomes of these ugly experiences, which mostly had the same root of not finding a diary in the ears, eyes, and hearts of our parents and guardians.
We Needed Human Diaries
We didn`t need my coded and hidden diary, or my classmates` locked diaries, We needed diaries that had ears to listen, eyes, that we were sure had seen what we saw, mouths that could guide us in love, and hearts that were loving enough not to condemn us.
We needed human diaries that…
Watch this space next Sunday for the second part of Diaries Never Forget.
Written by: Akinsiwaju Sanya