Put aside logic, reasoning and science, do you believe in fairy godmothers or godfathers?
I will narrate a tale of my meeting with a fairy godmother whose action will continue to shape my life. I had the privilege of attending the 2016 Ake Book and Arts Festival at Abeokuta. My first book festival.
I was elated to finally meet and converse with people whose existence have been little more than names on the front covers of my books. These people, who opened portions of their imagination to me through their published pieces. The event took place close to my university, so this took away the cost of accommodation. However, transportation was a pain and spending over N500 per day for three days left its imprint on my account balance. With no choice but to snip my budget for books, I was miserable.
“Being around these great writers brought me enough satisfaction.”, I consoled myself after purchasing as many books as my meagre student account would allow. “I don’t have to buy all their books or get their autographs just yet.”
Cue Fairy Godmother…
On the last day of the event, we had a book chat with one of my favourite authors, Laila Lalami. I sat in the front row, propelled by the zeal to soak up as much of her presence as possible. “I can’t afford to get her book.”, I thought sadly.
After the book chat, I sat gloomily in my seat while my friend, Aminah, and other attendees went forward to sign their copies of Laila’s book, The Moor’s Account. I love my friend, believe me, but in that moment, I was incredibly envious of her. Laila didn’t have a pen to sign the books, neither did the eager crowd. Everyone was too elated that they forgot the tool with which she would seal her presence in their hearts and books. I stood up and offered her my pen, sat back in my seat and watched the proceeding with interest. Taking little notice of my immediate environment, the presence of my fairy eluded me like worries evade toddlers.
“I wish someone would buy me this book.”, I said with a long sigh. The series of events that followed this statement will stay in my memories for a while.
A hand, with neat wads of #500 notes, shot out in front of me followed by a voice echoing, “Let me buy it for you.”. I turned to take in the features of the being to whom the hand and voice belonged to.
Dreams still come true.
I was in shock. For what seemed like millions of seconds, I just stared at the woman. I collected the money and ran out. I didn’t stop till I got to the book stand and grabbed the last copy of the book like my life depended on it.
Getting back to the hall, I meet Laila Lalami coming out, with my pen. Add the shock of a wish fulfilled and the excitement at meeting one of the best writers your generation has seen. You get a girl whose legs have turned to jelly.
“You have to sign my book before your leave.”, I said to Laila.
She collected the book and began to sign. I told her the pen she was using was mine, she got all cute and wanted to return it. I told her to hold on to it. “It would continue to bring joy to me, the thought that my pen is in your possession”, I told her. After she signed my book, with love, I shook her hand and walked into the hall.
I went to my fairy godmother and relayed the good news to her with a joy I could not describe. She smiled back and stated that it was her pleasure. Just like that, without long conversations, bonding or proper introductions, I met a woman whose small act of literary kindness I’ll cherish for a long time.
My friend, Aminah, still marvels at my luck, when we speak of how I acquired my autographed copy of The Moor’s account. “Girl!!!! You lucky!!”, she always says.