December 24, 2013

The Fridge

When it rains, it pours, and then some. 

I have been writing nonstop all week and loving it. I started this story (the first paragraph) sometime this year and abandoned it. This week I was tying loose ends in preparation for 2014 and thankfully inspiration was on my side.

Merry Christmas everyone. Here is wishing you a full fridge and a heart filled with love and Christ now and always.

He had not changed the locks.

A fact that meant everything and nothing at the same time.

Sikemi closed the door behind her before she could change her mind. Everything was just like she remembered: the house plants had grown a few inches and there was some dust on the mantel but aside that nothing had changed. 

Kitan had always been the neat one and she, the scattered one; the one who failed to put anything back in its place and left his house in disarray everytime she visited, the one who left one day and failed to put back the scattered pieces of his heart.

She sighed as she touched the painting she had made of him. She was surprised and glad at the same time to see it was still hanging in its place. In the painting, his lips were thicker than they really were, his eyelashes longer than God made them and his ever present smile was non-existent. There was a seriousness in his eyes that was not his but she had painted him the way she wanted him to be. 

It was the way she painted. She would look at something and immediately see in her mind’s eye how she could make it better. She was always trying to make things and people better than they were. She never stopped, not even when the people or things were like Kitan and had no need to be better.

Her first painting had been of her father or at least the father she wished her father could be-kind, with a rotund belly, and smiling. Her father never smiled in real life. In real life, he didn't have a potbelly either and was not known for kindness but Sikemi had taken care of it. She had painted him kind and into the father she wanted him to be.

“I don’t think we should be together. “ She had told Kitan the last time she was here. He had been facing her, with his back to the painting and it had crossed her mind that for once he looked a lot like her painting; serious and missing his smile.

She took off her sandals and let her feet sink into the plush rug they had bought together at a flea market on their first and only vacation together. They had made love  many times on the rug so that as she looked at it, she could see them entwined on it. It was a painting on its own, a painting of a life that she wanted back.

She walked to the kitchen, tiptoeing even though there was no one in the house to hear her. She had written the note before leaving her house. The plan was to leave it in the fridge, just like she used to do.

It was stupid really, all of it; her coming here, her falling in love with someone so good that saints would gladly give him their halo, her still being in love with him even though she knew she did not deserve that kind of goodness and could never paint herself into deserving it.

She had spent more than three hours writing the note but as she stood by the fridge, she realized that words would not do. Words were the weapons with which she had torn his heart out of his chest in the first place. Words were the excuses, the ‘I am sorry’s, the ‘goodbyes’, the ‘no mores’. Words would not be the balm to heal them. Words would not do. Not this time.

She crushed the note in her palms and started to cry. The tears flowed fast and freely as she looked around the kitchen for how to make it right. They continued to flow even when she found a fresh sheet of paper and a pencil.

Kitan would get home late. The traffic was worse than usual but he never noticed anymore. There was nothing to go home to anyways; Sikemi was gone so traffic and the mad drivers of Lagos were a welcome obstacle to the emptiness that awaited him at home. It was late evening when he finally arrived and he needed a drink badly. He didn’t bother to turn on the lights but made his way in the dark to the fridge. He stopped just before opening it. It wasn’t really a drink he was looking for. He had done this for every day since Sikemi left him. He would come home and go straight to the fridge hoping that she had finally realized that she needed him as much as he needed her and left him a note in the fridge to say so, just like she used to.

Most people looked to their fridge for food and drink, he looked to his for love and forgiveness and hope.

It was time he moved on, his head whispered to him. It was time to pick up the pieces of his broken heart and to stop waiting for the woman who broke it in the first place to heal him. It was time he got rid of that horrible painting of him that she had drawn. It was time.

He slammed the door of the fridge loudly and walked fast, almost running to the place where the painting hung.

The thud of the fridge door woke Sikemi from the rug where she had cried herself to sleep. Kitan was home and from where she lay, she could see him standing in front of the place where her painting of him used to hang. He had turned on the lights and now they blinded her.

She waited for her swollen  eyes to adjust to the brightness of the room and of the man she loved.

“It is perfect” he said when she came to stand beside him.

“I love you.” She said.

“It is perfect” Kitan said again, never taking his eyes of the new drawing that she had done on paper.

The drawing was of a fridge and a man standing beside it. The man looked like he could stand by that fridge for the rest of his life; his eyes were filled with hope for what lay within that fridge, for the treasure that lay within, for the happiness the treasure would bring. His smile was content and sure of what lay within that fridge and what the future held. The man looked a lot like Kitan and he was alright with that.

He reached for the woman beside him and kissed her hair. Because words would not do. Not this time.

Song of the day: Lauryn Hill - Turn Your Lights Down Low

December 21, 2013

Circle of Love

I have long eyelashes. They curl upwards and are pretty cool so mascara companies don't get any of my money. :)  I got them from my dad. His are even so much better and fuller. This was inspired in part by that and also by my relationship with my mum.

Parents are pretty special people. Let us remember to appreciate their sacrifice always. Merry Christmas people. God bless you.

'Roli! Stop rubbing your eyes,’ I tell my child as I follow her journey from her bedroom into my kitchen.

‘But it itches! My eyelashes keep getting into them. Besides you have been telling me the same thing since forever. I haven’t listened yet.’ She answers me with a smug smile, all the while rubbing her large doe eyes.

People tell me all the time how much Roli looks like me. I think she is a lot prettier than they give her credit for. Her face is shaped like a heart. Her lips are inordinately full and will be the downfall of many a man. Her eyebrows are full as well while mine are sparse and thinning out. She has towered over me since she was fourteen and has the kind of body that models would die for while I am squat and plump.

It is the eyelashes; those long curly eyelashes are the reason people are misled into thinking that we are more alike than we really are. Roli is more of her father's daughter than she is mine in that respect. 

‘Do you need help, Mama?’ She asks when she is done blinking and rubbing her eyes.
‘I thought your eyes itched.’
‘I will be fine.’ She answers taking the knife away from me and starting to cut the ugwu.

She cuts almost the same way as I do and I smile. I have taught her well. She is as ready as she will ever be; ready to be a woman, ready for life, ready to face the world without my hand in hers, ready for it all. I look at my  child and tears blind my eyes so that I cannot see anymore. I find my way to a kitchen stool and pretend to rub at something that got into my eyes.

'Oho, look who is rubbing their eyes now.' My daughter says to me. She has her father’s smile.
'Must be the onions I was cutting earlier,' I lie.

‘Why are you looking at me that way?’ she asks when the ugwu is all cut up.
I smile at her from the stool. ‘What way?’
‘The way mothers look at their children. The way you always look at me.’ She smiles back. ‘Do you need help with something else?’
‘I think I can take it from here’ I say as I get up and turn on the stove. I know she is in a hurry to get back to her packing.

She leaves for her room and I chuckle to myself. My daughter can only stand the kitchen for so long. Even as a child, it was never her favorite place to be. 

That thing that people said all the time about children growing up fast was not really true. Growth requires some kind of slowness, some kind of waiting, a period when the seed you plant remains the same for the longest time before it eventually sprouts. There is nothing  of that sort with children. They don’t wait for us to notice and say ‘oh your flowers are beginning to bud so I shall water, fertilize, build you a sun roof…’ They fly past us like they are in a hurry to get somewhere and we are slowing them down. 

One minute they are relying on you for  their everything and then just as you are finally settling into this motherhood part you have been chosen for, you find a woman in place of the child you were just making cooing noises to. Our children don't grow, they fly past us and we have no clue until we are being dwarfed by six feet tall 17 year olds leaving home for college, until we are watching them drive off into the sunsets while we are left with the empty homes we built just for them to fill.

I place the wet pot I washed a few minutes ago on the stove to dry out. The hissing noise it makes fill my ears so that I do not hear the footsteps that steal behind me. I only feel the arms that circle my waist and hold on for dear life. It is the same way she used to hold onto my legs when she could not reach any higher. ‘Roli and Mummy’s circle of love’, I called our hugs. It has been a while since we indulged in one of these circles.

I turn around and take her face in my hand; a face that is exactly like mine. It is covered in tears but my own mother taught me to never look a gift horse in its face so instead of asking questions, I close my eyes and cradle my six-footer baby. Underneath those eyelashes, our pain is the same. I cradle her and kiss away every fear of the unknown, every waterfall, every empty nest syndrome, every gray hair that has found its way to my head. I kiss whole every bruise, every hurt, every disappointment that life holds in store for her. I kiss my child whole and goodbye.

We stay in each other’s arms till the smoke alarm goes off and we burst out laughing.

We make dinner together for the last time for a few years. The next time we get to make dinner together, our circle is a little bigger and there is another little girl with long curly eyelashes in our lives. 

Song of the day: Andrea Bocelli - The Prayer

December 16, 2013

The Wrong Man

So this is Aisha from The Wrong Woman's tale... Mr Le_Maxx helped me out with this one. Y'all know I don't do sequels well. This is not Nollywood abeg and I am not Zeb Ejiro. Anyway, enjoy, and encourage Mr Maxx biko using the comment box. He really tried for me. :)

She did not know if there was a ‘right’ person for her. Truth be told, she did nocare much.
It was not that the thought did not cross her mind occasionally. Every girl dreamed of the ‘right’ man after all, that knight in shining armor that would cross over seas and land on his white horse just for her. It was why Barbie came packaged with Ken; so little girls could dream of forever afters with blue-eyed boys with buff bodies.
Nefe had brown eyes that he covered up with his wire glasses and buff was not a word even a blind man would use to describe him. When he asked her to marry him, she was actually convinced that he was either drunk or ill. The voices within her conveniently grouped themselves into two camps: the “yes” camp and the “no” camp. She said yes but the "no" camp never disbanded.
She had considered the disparities between them long before the moment he got down on one knee - He was studious; preferring the company of his books and magazines to that of their friends. He loved numbers and figures. He worked like a clock, steadily and predictably drawing up charts and analysis that made him almost revered at his office.

He did not say ‘I love you’ often but when he did, it was with a finality, a confidence that dwarfed everything else, that buried all her fears and made it hard to remember why she had any doubts in the first place.

She was his opposite in almost every way – She loved the company of people and went out of her way to make friends. She found words much more easier to deal with than numbers and percentages. She said ‘I love you’ at the most inopportune moments and her favorite thing in the world was getting Nefe to blush. Just like that time at the Palms when he was being grumpy because he had to go all the way to the ground floor just to get her an ice cream. Aisha had waited till he was climbing back up the stairs before screaming at the top of her lungs ‘I love you Ufuomanefe.’ 
It was one of the best days of her life even though Nefe swore never to take her to see another movie.

But sometimes she worried. She worried that love would not be enough to cover their disparities. She worried that Nefe would leave her for someone more suited to his personality. He was the star after all. The man every girl would give an arm and a leg to be with –with his boyish good looks and his warmheartedness. She was just plain old Aisha who snored like a train that had run out of fuel.
'Did I keep you up?’ she asked him after their first night together and she had seen his puffy, sleep deprived eyes.
'No. I was trying to do some financial modeling for this new stock the company might be interested in.'
'On your honeymoon eh Nefe?' She responded. He smiled sheepishly and went to make them breakfast. She knew he was lying and she had kept him up so that afternoon she bought him some ear plugs. 

He had taken her hand as she offered the ear plugs to him, closed it and kissed her - 'I don't need them. I like watching you sleep anyhow.' 
There was no right woman or man; Aisha had learned that long ago. There was however faith, hope and love; and love covered all 'wrongs'; snoring wrongs, Wall Street journal wrongs, and every other wrong that needed covering

Nothing else mattered where love existed, nothing at all.

Song of the day: Keane - Somewhere Only we Know

December 11, 2013

The Wrong Woman

Happy December People! It snowed yesterday. I have this love-hate relationship with snow. Can it come without the cold please?

Anyway, it has been an amazing year and God has been God-perfect. Stuff happens to us, a lot of stuff that the world tells us is just wrong and we agree. The truth of the matter is wrong is only wrong if we let it be wrong (Aristotle in the house yo!). Today, choose to right those wrongs, choose to see things the way your Heavenly Father does -

'And we know that in all things (wrong or right), God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.' Romans 8:28

Enjoy the story folks

He knew she was the wrong woman by the third day of their marriage.

The realization didn't really come to him as a shock. It was more of a dawning; like how you know the sun is going to rise so you are not even the least bit shocked when sunlight nibbles at your neck.

For someone like him who loved numbers and who saw percentages and probabilities in every scenario, he had considered this possibility many times. There were millions of women in the world after all; a couple hundreds of thousands of marriageable age in his vicinity of Lagos. What were the chances that he would get lucky and marry the right one out of all those numbers? Mighty slim! And the probability that he would make an error? A resounding 99%! He had done the calculations many times, you see, so he knew exactly what the numbers were.

It was the third day of their marriage and the second day of their honeymoon. She was swimming in the pool while he read an article in the Wall Street Journal. So what if he was on honeymoon? That didn't mean the world had ended or that he didn't have stocks to think about. Aisha had given him hell when he put the newspaper in their beach bag as they started out in the morning.

'We are supposed to be honeymooning not working,' she had said rolling those huge eyes of hers. 

He was glad now that he had ignored her. He found the pool boring. He was on the Investing page when he heard his wife laugh. He glanced away from the paper for a second to see what was causing her amusement and it was at that very moment that he knew for sure just how wrong he had been about his choice of life partner.
She was talking to an old couple she had only just met and they were all already acting like firm friends. Anyone else would look at the scene unfolding before him and be enamored by the beautiful woman who could put an old couple at ease so quickly in this place where only the young seemed  welcome. Anyone else would consider themselves lucky to have her in their life. Anyone else would think her the perfect choice to spend the rest of their life with.
But he wasn’t anyone. He was Nefe and all he could see was a woman who was nothing like him; a woman who snored like 3 pigs at once and kept him up at night, a woman who warmed up to people easily while he preferred to stay in the background, a woman who didn't know the first thing about bonds or stocks and fell asleep when he talked about his favorite subject, a woman who was definitely not the woman of his dreams but had pushed her way into his reality. 

It was a mistake of gigantic proportions.

She was bringing the old couple to meet him and Nefe swore under his breath.

‘Suck it up,’ his head told him. ‘This is you for the rest of your life - schmoozing with the old and senile!’

His heart laughed at him as he shook hands with the old couple and heard himself invite them for dinner at their rental home later that night.

 As they ate, he thought about how the situation could have been far worse. For one, he could have married a woman who didn't know how to cook, Nefe pondered as he listened to the old couple talk about their grandchildren.

'So how many children do you both want?' The old lady asked them. Her name was Anne.

'Nefe wants one but I want a full house so we might settle at ten,' Aisha said.

Everyone else laughed while Nefe's head whispered childcare costs to him.

He waited until the couple left before going for a walk himself. Aisha didn't even ask why he was going on a walk without her. The other women he had dated would have insisted on coming along for the walk. But not Aisha. She was just wrong on so many levels.

He walked to the beach and found somewhere he could sit and watch the stars away from everyone else.

The truth was that she was as wrong for him as much as he was for her. He wondered if she had come to this realization as well and if she had, whether she would consider leaving him? His heart missed a beat as the thought came unbidden.

He walked back to the rental a lot heavier and weighed down by much more than beach sand.

She was reading a book in bed when he walked in.

'Hi Baby' she said, her eyes never leaving her book.

'What is the probability that you married the wrong man?' He asked as he leaned on the dresser.

'99%.' She answered without missing a beat or looking away from her book. 

'I don't want ten children.'

'I do – I can do three myself and we will adopt the other seven,' She replied, still on her book.

‘Where is my Wall Street Journal?’

‘Where it belongs –in the dustbin. You can play stocks when we get to Lagos,’ She answered as she turned a page. 

'You really shouldn't be so friendly with strangers. They could have been serial killers.'

'They are the same age as your grandparents.' She placed the book by the lamp and yawned.

'Dinner was delicious. You cook well.'

'I ordered takeout Oga! Abi since when do I cook Chinese food?' 

'I hate you, you know right?'

'The feeling is mutual. Come to bed, you weirdo!'

He started to laugh as did she.

There are very few things in life to which there are no wrongs and only rights; foremost amongst them is love. This was a truth that they both knew.

By the third day of their marriage, he knew he had married the wrong woman but from day one, it didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was love – that he chose to love her despite everything and that she chose to love him too. It would be the only thing that would matter till the curtain call of their lives.


 Song of the day : Emeli Sande - Clown

December 4, 2013

Painting Wura

She is wearing one of her 'cover-up' t-shirts; those pieces of clothing that she is
convinced hide the things she wants hidden.

The soft, drooping mounds with tips that burn holes in my chest every time we dance.
The heart that has been broken and put back together again by the same ancient culprit-love.
The ripples on an otherwise smooth belly - a testament to how nothing escapes the law of gravity, how nothing escapes time

She is convinced that clothes can conceal these secrets, that mere cotton can stand between her and a man that knows what he wants, that all the things she wants hidden can be completely cloaked by silk and wool.

The t-shirts come in different colors.

Yellow for good days. For days spent idling away in bed; me with one hand up her shirt, tracing my way into the hidden recesses of her heart. Yellow for a woman named after gold, yellow for her smile that is sunshine and tastes like sweet lemons.

Red for in-between days. For days when there is blood, love and fire. For days when love is hard to do but we do it anyway.

Gray for the cloudy days, For the days when she hides under more than just t-shirts, days when I am the enemy, a mere thief who is trying to break through enemy lines and into her heart. Gray for storm clouds that block the sunshine.

"Can we take off the t-shirt" I ask on yellow days.

"Why? Taking off my panties isn't enough?" She asks, smiling the answer I want to hear.

"Can we take off the t-shirt?" I ask on other days.

Red days are tougher than yellow days but the t-shirts eventually find their way to the floor too.The gray days are the days that I curse him; the man that had her heart first. Gray days are the days that I curse myself too; for not getting here on time, for waiting till the autumn of my life to find the woman I was meant to spend spring and summer with.
I fell in love with Wuraola on a yellow day, married her on a red day; I will never leave her even if all she has left are days the color of her graying hair.

Lately though, there have been more gray days than any other and even as we sit here drinking wine and smiling at each other, I am not still sure what day today will turn out to be.

She is wearing a color I have never seen her in. It suits her, this color. It mutes the age that is beginning to show up on her skin. It helps me imagine what she might have looked like as a young woman. It is a good color but I'd rather have her naked. I haven’t seen her naked in a while.

The new t-shirt also fits better than all of the other shirts; I can easily make out thethe ravages of time. She doesn't seem to be trying to hide anything with this one.

 "Nice t-shirt" I say to her.

She says nothing, sips some more wine and smiles at me from beneath the dregs of her wine glass.

"What are we celebrating again?" I ask . She is sitting across from me, her small frame swallowed up by our sofa.

The sofa is the only thing in this house that is jointly ours. Everything else are mementos from the lives we lived previously, without each other. We haven’t gotten around to redecorating even though it has been 6 months since we started living together. We keep butting heads over colors.  

I like it when she sits on our red sofa. I like it even better when she is naked on it and I cannot tell where my love begins and hers, ends.

"Your nipples are at attention," I say when she ignores my question.

 I dodge the brown throw pillow that she directs at my head and it tears open, unleashing the God-knows-what material it was stuffed with. I have never liked that color anyways - maybe we can buy nicer colored pillows someday.

"Look what you have made me do now. You are such a dirty old man."

The silvery ball of curly hair on her head  is shaking with laughter and her eyes are twinkling. She is happier than I have seen her in a long time but I am still not sure what color today is.

Pink is the color of this new t-shirt. It is also the color of scar tissue, the color of wounds that are ready to begin healing, the color of quiet, unconditional love, the color of hope...

She finishes her wine and gets up from the sofa. She walks towards me slowly and deliberately. I do not have to ask to take off this t-shirt.

When our hearts are back to beating out their normal rhythm, she tells me about the lump she found last month.

"The results came back today. The lump is benign." She says.

"You tell me now?" I ask incredulously.

"I didn't want to scare you," She says.

"You scare me every day already but do you see me acting scared?"

She laughs again, that tinkle that I could hear anywhere, even in my grave and my heart would beat faster.

"I got you a pink t-shirt too. I know it’s a girly color but you can wear it indoors..."

"And the doctor is absolutely sure that the lump is benign, right? We can do more tests just to be sure…" I interrupt.

"Yes, yes he is sure. We are ‘in the pink’! "

"Then I will wear a thousand pink shirts anywhere, anytime."

"As you should, " she says, just in case I had any doubts about who is queen and what colors her knight will be wearing.

We laugh and she falls asleep. I stay up a little longer to silently say my thanks for this new color in our lives; it could easily have been black, the color of mourning or some more gray. I say my thanks for pink days, for benign lumps, for wounds that are ready to heal, and lastly, for the extra time that I have been given, with the woman that is my rainbow.

Song of day: Beautiful Nubia - What a Feeeling

November 19, 2013


To anyone looking at them from without, they seemed like strange bedfellows. She was small and when he stood beside her, she seemed smaller still. When I first met them, before the great trial of their lives began, and laughter had become a stranger, he used to joke about how he was her tree, providing shade from the sun. She would respond by rolling her eyes and mumbling about trees without leaves.

It was not only the difference in height that made them seem so incongruous. There was also the fact that she was round like a ball and he was thin and spare. He wore glasses but her eyes shone and when she laid them on you, you felt like she could see your secrets.

The mis-match didn't stop there.

The first time they walked into my office I immediately knew who was boss. She talked a mile a minute but he was a man of few words and they became even fewer after the great trial started.

They are sitting in the same seats they had sat on the day that I had first met them. It has been four years. She is still as beautiful and as round as she was back then. She has weathered the storm better. Only her eyes and the lines on her face tell tales. Everything else is instructable. I turn my gaze to the man but even before I do I can feel his pain. It enters the room before him, announcing his presence. It enfolds him like a shell but unlike shells, it does nothing to protect him.

He only comes here for her, to be the tree that towers over her and shade her from disappointments, to be the one she can lean on after hope has failed.

I smile at him but he does not smile back. We share a moment while his wife continues to talk about everything except why we are here. I know he blames me for his wife and her continuous effort at hope – he has said as much. I am the reason Adannaya continues to hope. I am the reason she finds her way here faithfully every third Thursday of the month. I am the reason she drags him here for this charade, this dance that starts with hope and ends with disappointment.

But not this time. This time, the dance will continue long into the night and when it ends, it will leave behind joy. I wait for her to miss a beat before interrupting

"The results are in.” I say.

Adannaya nods her head and I can see the beginning of fresh hope in her eyes. Her husband frowns at me. He folds his arms, protecting himself from a heart that has been broken too many times.

“Zee, what is it? Tell us; it can’t be worse than anything we have been through these past three years.” Adannaya says. She is sitting on the edge of her seat now and I can see the excitement coursing through her.

“I don’t know what you are excited about Adannaya. It has been four years actually and not three, four years Adannnaya, since Zee and his friends in Europe and America and Singapore started poking us like lab rats. I don’t know what is different this time.” Dike sneers.

“Dike Okoli!!!” Adannaya scolds. She turns to me and her fair face is flush. I am not sure if it is from anger at her husband or from hope. Her hands are trembling and I am glad I am not Dike.

“I am sorry, Zee. It has been hard on all of us, especially with Uju gone and all. Dike doesn’t mean any of it. He appreciates all you have been doing for us. Even when we couldn’t afford the procedures, you did them for free. And Uju’s gift; we can never thank you enough. Dike is just having a hard time at work, that is all.”

“I am still in the room and can speak for myself.” Dike says but I can tell the fight is gone out of him. He loves her with a love that is like the love I once had. He would give her the world if he could. He would fight his way into that place in heaven where the children were kept and steal her one if he could.

It is their love that has kept me going these five months.

“Adannaya is pregnant. Two months pregnant. It worked guys, the last procedure worked.” I say calmly even though I have wanted to jump and dance ever since the lab called me this morning.

They are both quiet; Adannaya holding her hand to a heart that must have been going a mile a minute, Dike staring at  the floor, shaking his gray head, as if, if he shook it long enough, he would wake up from this reality that casts him as a father.

They say nothing for the longest time. I don’t know whose tear is the first to fall but soon it is a free-fall. I don’t know when or how they find their way to my side of the table and wrap their arms around me. In four years, we have never hugged. It occurs to me that even with all the knowledge I have  amassed over four years about these bodies that now embrace me, I do not have the slightest clue about what it feels like to hug them. I feel their tears mix with mine and water the marble tiled floor of my office. Someone reaches out for the tissue box on my table. I am not surprised that it is Adannaya. She takes her time; wiping away mine and Dike’s tears like we are children. She will make a great mother. I have always known this.

“We will name her Uju.” Adannaya declares when we finally pull ourselves together. They are leaning on my table while I sit in my chair.

I nod and smile.

“She will be your daughter as much as she is ours.” Dike tells me and I nod again.

I don’t know if it is the tears or the fact that Uju is still gone, but I suddenly feel very tired. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but it wasn't for the emptiness that still assails me as I stare at the picture on my desk.

“You both should go home.” I tell them.

They share a look and say “No!” at the same time.

We all laugh.

“Well you have to go home sometime. Besides, Eloho has a ballet show that I need to go see.”

“Can we come?” Dike asks. I look at him, amazed at how quickly good news can change a man. “We need to practice at being parents anyway for little Uju.”

“You both don’t even know if it is a girl.”

“She will be.” Adannaya says. The fire is back in her eyes and she winks at me.

I laugh and the emptiness isn't as bad as before.

“No, you guys. I need some time alone, really. I will be fine. Go home and celebrate.”

They finally leave. I had lied about the ballet show and they knew it. Eloho in a tutu? That would be the day, I smile, thinking of my  rotund child.

The bottle of cognac hidden in my drawer is almost empty but it will do.

“They seem happy, don’t they?” I ask my wife.

“We did a great thing, Zee.”

You did a great thing, Uju. I just did my job.”

A year ago, my wife found out she was dying. As a her final laugh in the face of death, she asked me to harvest her eggs for Adannnaya. We had all become friends somewhere along this road.

“You should go home.” My wife tells me.

I haven’t been home since Uju died in this hospital. I am afraid that if I leave, I will leave her behind.  

My daughter lives with her maternal grandparents, orphaned by death and by grief.  I see her often but retreat to my rehab as soon as she starts to remind me of her mother.

“It feels like you never left, Mrs Eburu. You were always on my case to stop working and come home.” I tease my wife.

She smiles and moves closer to kiss me.

“Maybe that is because I never left. Maybe that’s because I will always be with you wherever you are-whether in this hospital or at home.” She whispers in my ear.

“I love you.” I say to her as I let myself breathe in her scent.

“And I, you. Go home, Zee. Go home and be a father to Eloho. Go home and help Dike be a good father to Uju. You have spent yourself healing others. It is time to heal thyself, o physician.” My wife says to me, her lips lifted in a teasing smile.

I squeeze her hand and she squeezes back. When I wake up, it is dark and raining but I take my wife’s advice and go home anyway.

Song of the day: Lagbaja - Never Far Away

November 13, 2013


You have just gotta love Funminiyi's style of story telling... this is an excerpt from his story 'Amara'.

Please read and leave a comment to encourage my friend and egbon in this story telling business... :)

They sat beside each other on the cold cement floor, their legs stretched out in front of them.

Amara stared at her legs. They had grown fat and lumpy, like a woman’s own - a woman who had given birth to four or five children. And even though her neighbor was farther gone, Aniekan’s legs on the other hand were skinny like the rest of her. Her shoulders were bony too, extending into hands like tree branches. Her arms rested on her big stomach, their long green veins evident, straining against her flesh. Her head was hung on one side, an absent look in her eyes.

“Are you okay, Aniekan?” Amara asked. The other girl did not respond. She just blinked. She had not spoken for almost two days now. She just sat there and stared, and blinked.

Amara got up from her sitting position and looked out of the window above them. It was noon, and the sun sat lazily in the sky like an old woman. An occasional bird crossed its smiling face, punctuating the laughter in the compound beneath with loud squawks. Amara eyed the teenage girls. They were all busy, washing clothes, sweeping, clearing debris, chatting and laughing.

Here was a nightmare.

She had thought that it was only children who could find happiness in dark places. But she had come to find she was wrong. Here she was, in a place where happiness had been wrested from the hands of every inmate, yet, life went on as if all was well.

She wondered what was going on back at home. Were they looking for her? Or had her father, after the first few frantic weeks, come to terms with the idea that his daughter was missing and with a shrug, retreated behind his endless newspapers? What about Ada? She was sure Ada would have gone on with her life, with her provocative dressing and the reckless use of sexual allure to fund her life and education.

The girls were really having a good time. She could barely hear what they said because the louvers were shut, but one look at Oma, the tough round girl with unmade wooly hair who sat on the pavement told Amara everything. Oma who rarely mingled with the others was smiling indulgently at the chit chat of the younger girls around her, filing her nails and spitting intermittently into a gutter.  Her spittle was startlingly white, compared to her charcoal complexion.

“See this mumu? Na one thousan’ them take fuck you?” Oma guffawed, pointing the piece of metal in her hand at Chinenye, an awkward girl with a long thin face guarded on either side by hair weaved strong and erect in black thread. Chinenye’s back was turned to the window and Amara could see she was bent over a bowl of clothes, washing vigorously. The water in the bowl was a dark color and had little lather. Beside her gritty heels that were marked with Y-shaped lines like cracks in a wall was a mashed remnant of green bar soap.

All the other girls laughed at Oma’s jokes, more out of deference than funniness. They all showed Oma a lot of respect because she was the oldest there. They said that she had produced up to four - all of them male. She was carrying the fifth

 “I have saved some money. Hundred thousan’,” she had told Amara on one of those rare occasions she had been in a chatty mood. “After this one, I will leave and never come back,” she had said as they sat on the balcony downstairs and watched a shooting star.

“Did you see that?” Oma asked, pointing.

Amara squeezed her eyes shut and palmed her boiling forehead. There was a turbulence brewing there, and sometimes she felt as if her brain was in a vortex, and her skull was readying to cave in, to implode on her

“But, aren’t you worried? Amara had choked, ignoring the other girl’s question. “I mean, about them, that you may never meet them in the real life?” Her second hand was cradling her own swelling stomach. An inferno had traveled down through her chest down there. She was burning all over. Tears fell freely from her eyes.

Oma looked at her, then away. “Well, sometimes...” she had replied, pensively. She had looked as though she wanted to add something else, but then had shrugged it away. “You should do the same too. Have two or three, save some money, then go an’ start your life afresh. Obodo bu igwe. Life is hard, nwanne’m. You have to use what you have to get what you want.”

It was funny that was the same thing Ada had said to her that night, six months ago.

October 28, 2013

Choosing to Live

Your body hates you. This much you know. It is something you have always known. It is something you do not need to be reminded about.
For who better to tell of the many times your body has let you down than you yourself, the victim? Of the numerous  times when as a little boy it had chosen the shame of urine over the fear of monsters that lay beyond the door of your bedroom and guarded the path to the bathroom? Of the blinding pain it inflicted on you, crisis after crisis? Of the many diseases it has embraced with open arms over the years-malaria, typhoid, cholera, mumps, measles, asthma, diabetes- the names sounding more complicated as you aged. Of the day it succumbed to fear and the heat of Lagos as you gave your daughter's hand in marriage to a man you knew would never make her as happy?

And now, this...

You listen to the doctor go on about new research. He suddenly looks so very tired-like a man who has given the same speech too many times to too many people and no can longer hear himself. You want to tell him it will be alright but your body again refuses to do your bidding. So you stay silent and let your mind wander instead.

You think about your grandmother, your father's mother. You remember that time your father had dragged his reluctant city living family to the village to visit a woman as far removed from their world as night was from day. It was so long ago and yet you remember the events of those days like it was yesterday.  
You remember seeing her for the first time and falling hopelessly in love with the bald head and wise old eyes. You remember how she had looked at you suspiciously at first; and how when you had bowed in greeting, she had caught you before you could touch the ground. You remember how small her hands had been but also how strong. How she had held you to her and began to sing. Later, your mother would tell you, the song was your Oriki.

“What is an Oriki?” You had asked your mother.
“It depends. Sometimes, it is a song of praise. Sometimes it a celebration of an identity. Other times it is a prayer.”
“Which one was mine?” You had asked your mother as you watched her dole out your prescriptions later that night. Flagyll for the tummy aches. Ibruprofen for the joint pain. Chloroquinie to fight malaria. Calcium tablets for your bones.
She had looked at you for a second or two before saying.
“Take your drugs and go to bed.” As you slept on the soft mattress, you had wondered if the way your mother’s eyes glistened as she looked at you had anything to do with stars that were a little brighter in the village. You had hoped with all your heart that it was the stars and nothing more.
You had spent hours sitting with the old woman in the days that followed; watching her weave her baskets, listening to stories about your father that you were sure were made up but you loved anyway. It was she who told you that you were an Abiku. A child who didn't want to live.

"But I want to live." You had said to her, coughing as you said the words.

"So why then did you die four times already?" She had asked you smiling.

It was from her that you had heard of the ones before you. It was from her you finally got an answer to the question you had peppered your parents with for so long.

"Can I have a little brother? Or sister?"

It was from her you had learned the reason why you were born in Nigeria even though your parents had always lived in London. They had come back because the old woman had insisted on birthing you herself. She would see to it that you did not die like the others had done in Charing Cross, she had promised your parents. She would birth you with her own hands and you would live, she assured them. And so they had gotten on the next plane they could find and put their faith in the old woman.

 It was your grandmother that told you everything and when she was done with telling, you said "I will live, I won't die this time."

"I believe you." She had replied. "Now go and drink the ‘agbo’ I made for you this morning."

You had made a face but acquiesced. If drinking the bile inducing 'agbo' meant proving to her, to the world, to your body, that you wanted to live, then you would gulp it down by the gallons.

You look at the doctor now and smile. He knows nothing about you. Even though he has known you for years now, even with his fancy tools, complicated diesease names and all the information he has on your body; he knows nothing about your grandmother or the 'agbo'.

You interrupt him to say.

"When do we start treatment?"

You can tell he is caught off guard and you almost laugh. You miss your grandmother and her bitter elixir at that moment, her easy solution to living well.

"Olu, it is Alzheimer’s. I am not even sure where to start from. I have to consult with other doctors. There are no cures for old age, Olu. You know this, you are a doctor yourself. You can stop teasing now. There are some medications of course but there isn't much they can do to halt it. All we can do is prepare for it."

You smile again at him and tell him you would like to go home now.

The drive back home is short and you are thankful the traffic has chosen another part of town to belabor. Your driver is quiet and you want to ask him if everything is alright but then you know the answer to that. You still remember regaining consciousness to find the poor boy crying like the world had ended. You can tell he is still not over it and so you let him be and watch the world from your car window.

Your daughter is waiting at the door when you arrive. You wonder who it is that called her. Probably that pesky housekeeper of yours or the driver-it would explain why he kept mute throughout the drive. Her hair is starting to gray and you are taken aback by the realization that she too has not escaped the disease of old age.
"Well , well, what did the doctor say was wrong?" She asks wiping her hands on the dish towel she is holding.

There is a reason you named her ‘Yewande’; for that old woman who had made you feel like living was worth doing. ‘Yewande’ to remind you of your promise to live.  'Yewande’ for the nights when you wanted to give in and give up to the pain. ‘Yewande’ for the good times, Yewande for the bad times; Yewande,an ‘agbo’, a ‘cure’ for every season.
She is smiling but you can see the worry in her eyes. It is alive and breathing; waiting in the shadows, ready to take over the rest of her and leave you with nothing to remind you of the amazing woman you have created. You don’t want that. You want to remember her as the reason you have stayed with your body all these years, even though it has let you down one time too many.

“He says you need to start minding your own business and to leave this old man alone.”

You take her hands and kiss them- they are small and yet so strong, just like the old woman's. She blushes and it warms your heart to know some things do not age and never grow old.

“How are the boys?” You ask her.
“You can ask them; they are here too.”
"I should wander away from home more often then. I try it once and the whole football team is here to see me.”
“Don’t joke, Baba mi.”
You smile at her and want to ask her forgiveness- for the tears she will cry, for the emptiness that will soon replace where you now stand, for the diseased and old body you will leave behind.
“The doctor  says hello and to make me some agbo for the malaria."
“Agbo??? Since when do medical doctors prescribe ‘agbo’? You better not be lying to me, old man. You know I will find out. ” She says as she kisses you on the cheek and takes your hand to lead you inside.
You hold onto her small, strong hands for as long as you can because you know that when the time comes and you have to make your way from life to death, from one world to another, from everything to nothingness; the only way not to lose your way will be by holding on to the hands that guided you into this world, the hands that saw to it that you did not die, the hands that saw to it that you lived.

Song of the day: Jason Nelson - Nothing Without You