December 22, 2012


I love Adele's song daydreamer. It makes me want to fall in love with the boy next door, the who has stars in his eyes, the one who dreams and makes you want to live out his dreams, the one who will try his darndest and hardest to make all those amazing dreams come true for you. Boys like these are too few and far between. 

This story does not in anyway support the marriage fraud that too many Nigerians engage in. This story does not judge either. This story is pure fiction and is just my imagination running away with me. This story is for all those boys with stars in their eyes and dreams everyone else says will never be nothing more than dreams; keep those dreams alive!

The world he woke up to was pure and devoid of color. There were no sounds except for the breathing of the woman beside him and the croaking of the pipes that heated the tiny apartment. He stared out of the window, seeking a sign that the world did not end last night.

His vigil was soon rewarded as children poured out from the other apartments in droves, like ants drawn to a world of pure white cane sugar. Chaos reigned supreme as they engaged in all kinds of play. It was Ibe’s first time seeing snow and he wondered if that was enough of an excuse to join the children in their play. He thought about the story a teacher had once read out loud to him and his Primary 2 classmates. The story was about a snow man that had come to life at night, after the children who made him had gone to sleep. The snowman had walked away that very night and was never seen again. The story had left Ibe feeling sad but as he watched the children play in the snow, he thought he knew exactly what that snowman had gone in search of.

The woman he called wife was awake. They had been married for five months now, yet this was only the 3rd  week they had lived together. She tumbled out of bed and smiled a hello. She was beautiful in ways he could not appreciate. Her skin burnt when she was out long in the sun and turned the color of the clay his grandmother used to make her water pots. Her eyes were green like the waters of the river he bathed in as a child. Her accent was soft and missing the rich timbres of the Igbo dialect that was familiar and soothing.

'What do you want for breakfast?' She asked as she stretched.

His stomach turned at the thought of bland eggs and rubbery pancakes, the limit of her culinary expertise. Usually, he did all of the cooking, even when they were together and she was supposed to be pretending to be his wife. This past week though, she had been especially nice and had gone out of her way to do things for him that they both knew were unnecessary in their charade of a marriage. There were little things any wife would ordinarily be expected to do for her husband; things like sewing his torn work shirt or ordering for pizza when he got home too tired to cook. But she was not really his wife and he was not really her husband and so the little things were really big things.

'I am ok.' He answered. 'I have to go in a few minutes anyway. I will grab something from Popeyes.'
She smiled knowingly and said. ‘Maybe for Christmas we can go to the Nigerian restaurant we went to with your friends after court the other day.’
She was referring to the 'little reception' they had had for a few guests, mostly his friends, after signing the marriage certificate five months back. The agency that had helped him file for his papers had said everything had to look as real as possible to prevent the immigration people from being suspicious. And so they had a reception, cake included, for a marriage that was never even true.

'It is a little expensive.' He replied, his palms sweaty at the memory of the hundreds of dollars he had had to cough up for that.
'My treat.' She said as she walked away from the bedroom.

America was supposed to be the place where his dreams came true. The dreams he had of sending his brothers to school, the ones of buying his mother a new wrapper every other day and not only at Christmas, and lastly, those of showing Ugomma, the only woman he had ever loved, the world. Dreams that would never see the light of day in Onitsha, had a fighting chance in that wonderful place called America, everyone else assured him. All he had to do was dream about going to America and make that one dream came true. Everything else would fall into place.

No one told him that in America, just like in Onitsha, dreams died every day. No one, not even him, with his 2nd Class Upper degree in Sociology, considered that maybe the dreams that came true in America were of a different kind from the ones homegrown in Onitsha.

Her name was Francesca and yesterday they had made love for the first time. Ibe would have loved to blame it on the fact that sharing sleeping space with someone of the opposite sex was never a good idea. He would have also loved to believe that it would never happen again but deep in his belly, he knew something had changed forever. 

She was making breakfast in the kitchen; a space that was 1/5th of his mother’s backyard kitchen in Onitsha. He was yet to pay her the monthly installment that was payment for helping him acquire a green card. She had not brought it up even though he was 10 days late and now she wanted to buy him food, real, expensive Nigerian food for that matter. He thought of Ugomma, the woman he had dreamed of showing the world. She had never been one to miss an opportunity to remind him of when the monthly allowance he paid into her account was due. He could not imagine her offering to pay for any of the stuff they had done together.

The radio in his tiny kitchen was blaring out a song about dreams and white Christmases and Francesca was singing along. Most of the dreams that had followed him from Onitsha were long dead and new ones had sprung up in their place.

Instead of school, he now dreamed of setting his brothers up in the lucrative Tokunbo car importation business. Instead of expensive George wrappers that his mother stored up for the moths, Ibe dreamed of the day she would come to America and join the mothers of his Nigerian friends who had taken to jeans and trainers like they were born to it.  Ugomma’s dream, he could do nothing about as she had stopped taking his calls once his promises of Moneygram had proved inconsistent.

But here was a new dream staring him in the face after last night, one that threatened to take up the empty space Ugomma had left in his heart. One that he had slept with and was still there when he opened his eyes. He stared out the ice crusted windows and replaced the children playing in the snow with his own. He turned away from the window, closed his eyes and relieved kissing her. Her thin lips had been softer than he could have ever dreamed. He took a deep breath and imagined the scent of the cheap shampoo he had bought her for Christmas. The cosmetics store salesperson had assured him that every woman would want to smell like that. He opened his eyes and found himself staring into her green eyes. It was everything he could do not to kiss her.

She smiled and held out a plate of steaming eggs and he could see the little slices of pepper and onions in them.

‘Are you daydreaming again?' She asked, the smile never leaving her face. 'I made the eggs a little spicy. Maybe you could eat these instead of Popeyes.’
'Maybe I could take you out on a proper date when I get back to night.’ He replied, daring to say his dreams out loud for the first time since he got to America.

She leaned in to kiss him and to open the door for one dream. 

Song of the day: Adele- Daydreamer (Well of course)

December 16, 2012

The Last Time

I tell myself that this is the last time. I move in sync with his rhythm, I moan when he stops, I shudder when he resumes, I cry joyful tears in his arms when it is over. These are things I never do with the one at home. The one who will be waiting with dinner ready, the one who would have tucked in the kids, the one whose diamonds adorn my finger.

I make to leave and he pulls me back into bed.
‘We need to stop’ I tell him the same thing I tell him every other time.
‘I know.’ He replies. ‘After this one last time.’
He takes one nipple in his mouth and we are back where we started.

I watch him watching me; the mirror reflects the desire in his eyes and it is everything I can do not to get back into the bed I just left.
I do not kiss him goodbye. I know better than that.
The drive home is shorter than it seems. He is waiting for me in the dark, wine glass in hand.

‘Hello.’ he says as I walk in.
‘Hi! Did you have a good day?’ I say as I take off the jacket, remembering how the lover almost tore it off me a few hours ago.

My husband does not respond. The room is silent except for his breathing but I hear the words loud and clear. I hear the pleas in his inhalations. He exhales and the sadness I have soaked him in is a loud cymbal clanging against the ears of my heart. I stand and watch him take another sip of wine. The bottle in front of him is almost empty. This is what I have done to the man I swore to love and protect. He sits there, sprawled on the couch where my lover once took me. I want to take him in my arms. I want to promise him that this is the last time and mean it. I want to make it better.

‘I am sorry.’ I say.
He says nothing still.
‘It won’t happen again. This is the last time.’ I say even louder.
He continues to breathe.
‘I promise.’ I whisper.

We stay like that for I do not know how long. The clock chimes and reminds us of how time stops for no one; not even when we need it to.

He gets up and stumbles towards me. I catch him before he can fall. This is who I am meant to be, the one who breaks his fall, and not the one who trips him.

He takes me there on the floor. I do not move in sync with his rhythm. I do not moan when he stops to catch his breath. I do not shudder when he resumes. I do not cry joyful or sad tears when it is over. He does the crying  and I just lay there and hold him, whispering promises that I cannot keep.

Song of the day: Matt Nathanson-Faster

December 3, 2012

Watering Holes

The first time I saw her was at the well. My mother had sent me to fetch water for my father’s evening bath and I had grumbled my way to a slap. I was still sniffing when I reached the well.

I cleaned my tears and snot away as soon I realized I had company. I knew almost everyone that came to the well and the child setting her pail down did not seem familiar.

‘Hello.’ She called out to me noticing my hesitance to come any further than I had done.
‘Hello.’ I said. Or rather, I croaked, the effect of my recent crying. I cleared my throat and tried again.
‘Hello. Who are you?’ I said in a stronger voice.
‘My name is Boma and I just turned 8 years old.’

So that was how it was going to be; I was not yet 8 and I could already feel her stamping her authority over our relationship based on her seniority in age. I had to do something quickly if i wanted to be friends with her. I looked her over and debated if she was worth it. She was wearing a yellow Superman shirt. He was my favorite super hero character and that was the end of my debate.

‘My name is Belema and I am 8 years and four months old’ I lied.
‘You don’t look older than 6 years old. Are you stunted in growth?’
‘Maybe. My mum always says I am small for my age but that if I eat my beans instead of throwing it out when she isn’t looking, I will grow more.’
‘My mother says the same too.’  She said in sympathy. ‘Bring your bucket nearer and I can fill it for you. I am almost done filling mine.’
‘Are you new here? I have never seen you by the well.’ I asked as she filled my bucket.
‘I live in the next house but my brother who always fetched water has gone to boarding school. My mum says it is my turn to be a big girl and help her out. I don’t like being a big girl as much as I thought I would.’
‘What is your brother’s name?’ I asked, my heart fluttering. 

The boy who always gave me sweets had stopped showing up to the well a little while back. Many times, he had helped me carry my bucket home while I skipped along the way. Everyone, even my mother, called him my husband and I would blush till my fair skin turned redder than an agbalumo fruit. I never asked his name and he never asked mine. Names were not necessary where we had love.

‘Ok.’ I said making a note to follow my new friend home one of these days and look at her family photos.

We spent the rest of the evening trading stories. I told her the best times to come to the well; when the sun was setting so it was neither too hot nor too dark to find your way back home. She told me how she missed her brother and how she really preferred Spiderman but she was wearing Ikechukwu's Superman t-shirt so she wouldn't miss him as much. I nodded my head and told her she didn't need to miss him so much since I was only a few houses away. The mosquitoes sang in our ears, telling us to go home but we ignored them and went on with building the foundation of our friendship.

By the time my mother found us and delivered another stinging slap on my buttocks, we were best friends. Day after day, we watered our friendship by the waters of the well. We went to boarding school and wrote each other letters. In one of those letters, I told her my true age and she replied with ready forgiveness. She never found out about my crush on her brother. He came home that first holiday and had new, sophisticated friends. There was no space for little sisters or their brokenhearted friends.

I haven’t seen her in ten years. Then I got an email last night;

 Hey B,
It is me Boma, your friend from the well. I met Somto, your brother yesterday at the train station. He recognized me and I am so glad he did. He tells me you are in London as well. I have the perfect meeting place if you have the time…

Of course I did not have time but I found it somehow. It is what good friends do; they make time, they find time. Like magicians, they wring it out of nothing. 5 minutes there, 30 minutes here...oil to keep the engine of friendship going. In this case, to revive it altogether.

I recognize her immediately. She is taller than I remember and I hear my mother’s voice again telling me to eat more beans. There is a small scar that I do not recognize on her cheek and her wrinkles mirror mine, telling tales of all the time that has passed. Still, it is easy to tell who she is. There is no mistaking her for someone else. With arms open wide and a smile brighter than the sun, I have had more difficult assignments than picking out my friend from all the people milling by Ceasar’s well.  

After all, a friend always, always stands out from the crowd.

Song of the day: Alicia Keys: Girl on fire

December 1, 2012

I Do Not 'Knock On Wood'

'Knock on wood'. 

A popular American phrase that irritates me to no end. It is representative of how skeptical we are about the good things in our lives. We 'knock on wood' when we talk about our hopes and good stuff happening presently in our lives. We 'knock on wood' hoping wood will prevent the bad from happening from us. Mere wood is now what we base our hopes on. 

The human race never ceases to amaze me. 

I do not 'knock on wood'.

And it isn't because i am in better moral standing than anyone else. Or because I know better. Or because bad things don't happen to me that cause me to be pessimistic or afraid of what tomorrow might bring. I am human too, as faulty and as flawed as the next; but I 'do not knock on wood'. I will NEVER 'knock on wood'.

Psalm 40 talks about waiting on God. I am not sure how much harder the people of the Psalms had it but I am sure they didn't have a lot of stuff we take for granted today. They didn't 'knock on wood'. They waited on the Lord. 

This month, let us wait on God, trusting that even when bad things happen they will turn out for our good. I am no preacher (the poorness of this post could have told you that) , no saint either but I do not 'knock on wood'. I knock on the door of heaven, on the doors of He that made wood. My hope and faith is in God.

Celebrate Jesus everyday. Don't wait for Christmas.

Song of the day: Aslan - Too late for Halleluyah