In them days, I had a buddy; a great guy. You know the kind of guy who knew where all the parties were happening or will shele in campus. Invited or not, to every party he donated himself and his correct paddies. He was a lightening rod, with raunchy jokes and, of course, he had his guitar in case the lights went off, so he kept the groove rolling. The girls loved him too.
He had a jalopy, a beat Beetle with creaky doors that flew open at top speed, sweeping round a bend. One had to hold tight to seats, for he was a daredevil driver, crushing the speed pedal to the floor. Paddy was one tough bugger who loved fights. He wore a deep gash on the right cheek of his handsome face like a trophy. I am not quite sure what the girls loved more about him: his good looks or his riotous recklessness. Perhaps it was the constant air of unpredictable tension. He drank all comers under the table and he was brilliant – an ‘A’ student.
But he had a chronic weakness. He was a dyed in the wool romantic. No matter the flocks of beauties giving him the eye and with whom he flirted, it was only Julie he loved. Well, Julie knew it, that my paddy would run through a concrete wall for her. But Julie, pretty, petite and pesky, could not stand the open adoration from the other girls and hated his flirting.
Julie’s face was like the clouds, silvery and shinning with summer sunshine this minute, then dark and pregnant with thunder rumblings the next minute. We watched her heart shaped face like weathermen and took the cue to check out once the rumbles began. You never got into their fights. Damn!!! Screams, curses, threats that often crash, pretty suddenly, into coos, tears, kisses and rush off for make-ups. All of us, their friends were mystified. But that’s how they rolled.
A few times, the fights didn’t end all dovey-dovey. Their cold wars could take days or even weeks. We always waited for them to make up. Nobody interfered, because it’s no use. They fought and made up. By themselves and at their own time. But their cold wars affected everything for as the tiff raged, my paddy goes to pieces, becomes an emotional wreck. No parties, no lectures, no bathing, a silent gnome nursing a bottle of brandy, with a misty lost look, sitting up on his bed in his junk filled room. We didn’t need to enter his room to know he was in melancholy, that our week was ruined.
There was some little pattern to the madness. Once we heard the music of Don Williams wafting from his room, we knew it was bad news. My paddy was cooked. If the song was: “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend”, then the cold war will take a day, two but not more than a week. Just like rain you never know when it will stop. He would play that song again and again, all day and all week:
“Coffee black, cigarettes
Start this day, like all the rest
First thing every morning that I do
Is start missing you
“Some broken hearts never mend
Some memories never heal
Some tears would never dry
My love for you will never die.”
If however the Don Williams song was: I’ll Never Be In Love Again”, then the cold war would go beyond a long week. There was a nerve wracking one, in which we pleaded with my paddy to eat, everyday for the two weeks that song belted on repeatedly like a cracked record:
“You can write your own ticket now
I’ll get by without you somehow
Don’t worry about what I”ll do
I’ll be fine without you
“I’ll never be in love again
My poor ‘ol heart will never mend
Oh, I’ll find someone to hold now and then
But I’ll never be in love again.”
The plaintive cry from the ghostly prairie of the Americas, weaving heart wrenching country lyrics up, in and around the weepy twang of the guitar stirred the soul and plunged my paddy into depths so deep, only the enchanting presence of his Siren would make him break surface. The best our cajoling got from him in these low moments was: “I just wan mellow with Julie.”
And she did come when she felt my paddy had suffered long enough. Then everything returned to normal – the parties, booze, ride in the flappy Beetle for which we contributed money for fuel and oil, the guffaws and sunshine fun. That was until the rainbow appeared again on the horizon and Don Williams sang in my paddy’s room.
One day, my paddy with a wistful look, suddenly said to me:
“I have given out all my Don Williams music cassettes.”
“That dude wan kill your guy, I swear. As I dey listen to his songs na melancholy and depression wan finish me. The man lyrics dey drive me to madness. I love the paddy to pieces but I no wan hear am again.”
I knew something was in the offing.
“So what if Julie reggae for you again?”
“Julie don waka” he said simply.
Then he added: “O’boy, leave matter. I beg make we go shack.”
Well, good night Don Williams. I doubt you truly understood the full power of your impact on us, on our psyche, in them days. It was megaton.
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