March 31, 2013

Heaven’s Children

Happy Easter people...I am in love with this story like I haven't been in love with any story in a long time. I hope it makes you smile, more importantly, I hope it makes you hope...

A few minutes ago he had kissed her goodbye.

A few minutes ago, she had gotten into her car and pretended she was headed to work. He had done the same.

A few minutes ago...
Yet here they were, parked in front of a famous crèche in Ikeja.

She couldn't see him but he could, her. She wasn't trying to hide or be discreet about any of it.

Last week, Bode's colleague had casually mentioned seeing Imoke near the crèche his three year old son went. Bode had brushed it off until yesterday evening at church when someone else had mentioned the creche and Imoke in the same sentence.

It was one of the best known 
crèches  in town. Many people they both knew brought their kids there.

He could see why she chose to come here. It was peaceful despite the blaring of horns, the chattering of kids on their way to school, the yelling of harried parents hoping to drop off their wards on time…

It wasn't too hard to understand why she would come here. It wasn't too hard to understand why she stayed until the last child was safely cocooned in their classroom.

He was going to be late for work, He had foreseen that and so he called in sick. He wondered what excuse she gave her boss every morning for showing up late. Knowing Imoke and how highly regarded she was at work, he doubted that her tardiness mattered much.

He waited till the traffic of the parents and their children had thinned out before he got out of the car. It was June and yet it hadn’t rained in weeks. Bode wasn’t sure if it was the rain he missed or the woman who loved to stare out of their bedroom window and make up stories about the rain.

‘Maybe an angel is washing?’

‘Can you just come back to bed? Where in the Bible have you read that angels wash?’

‘How come their clothes are always pure white then?’

He would laugh then because he couldn't argue with that.

‘Maybe these are the tears of all the babies in heaven that can’t wait to be born.’

He would stop laughing and get out of bed to hold her.

‘Maybe it is just rain and God is telling you to stay home today, in bed with me.’

‘You wish…’

He knocked on the car window, startling her.

‘Open the door.’ He said when she wound down.

‘What are you doing here?‘ She asked as he made himself comfortable on the seat beside her.

‘I could ask you the same thing but I won’t.’ He answered.

She kept quiet then and they stayed that way for a while, both of them looking into the distance, into a future that might be devoid of the noise of children.

‘Did you see the little girl with the Power Puff school bag and pink ribbons?’ She finally said.

‘Yes. Like anyone could have missed her with that massive tantrum she was throwing? Her mother looked like she was just about ready to abandon her for good.’

They both laughed and he reached for her hand. Somewhere in the distance it thundered.

‘It is going to rain soon. We should get out of here.’

‘Yeah, I hope the kids aren’t frightened of thunder.’

‘Our kids won’t be.’ He said.

She didn’t reply.

‘We can adopt, we can do the whole surrogate mother route… Dammit we are Christians, Imoke, we believe in God, just because the doctors have said no doesn't mean God has said no.’

‘I know, Bode. It is why I come here every day before work. To imagine what it would be like when I have to drop them off. I come here in faith. I come here to remind God that I can do everything these mothers do and much more. I come here and I pray, promising Him, that even if our little girl has a twisted fashion sense and wants to wear Power Puff branded clothes to school, I will be nice and indulge her. I won’t force her to be anything she doesn't want to be. I will take good care of His children. I will be the best mother ever.’

The thunder was closer than before but there was still no sign of rain, except in their eyes. He wiped away her tears with his hand and she returned the favor.

‘I will race you home.’ He said.

‘Last one is a chicken and has to do dishes for one week.’

‘Deal. But you don’t get to start your car till I am in mine.’

‘I love you.’ She said.

‘More than words.’ He replied.          

They made it home before the babies in heaven, that were waiting to be born started to 


Song of the day: Donnie McClurkin- I 'll Trust You

March 22, 2013


So there is this boy...

He is different from all the other boys
He is kinder than anyone else I know
He is smart
He is humble
He is patient, so annoyingly patient
He has the sweetest smile in the world

When he smiles, the pieces of my heart find their place in this puzzle that is me.

Sometimes I wake up and lie in bed, wondering how this happened.
I have taken love for granted before. Probably because it happened so easily the first time. And then I got burned, burned so badly I never thought I could heal. 

But here I am...all healed. Yes the scars are still here but they no longer serve to remind me of the pain, only of all I have to be grateful for.

He is my brother, my friend, my biggest fan, my biggest critic (yesterday he told me my story was ordinary!!!), my prayer partner, my lover, my hero,...

The Bible tells me God loves me; preachers preach it from their podiums; yet no time am I more sure of God's love than when someone created in His image shows it to me. I sincerely believe that is why God made more than one person- so when we doubt Him or His love for us, we can look into our neighbors' eyes and see His love reflected.

I tease him all the time about how very lucky he is to have me. The truth is I am the lucky one. I only have to look beside me and see God's love for me reflected in eyes more beautiful than the sunrise.

Song of the day: Donnie McClurkin- I'll trust You

March 21, 2013

The Laundromat

He was waiting at the Laundromat again today. Just like Annette knew he would be. Just like he was last Thursday; and the Thursday before that.

Thursdays were the only day Annette could do laundry. Her weekends were taken up by the rowdy children she looked after for the extra bit of cash their parents paid her. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, she had to work, massaging Miss Lydia's pale limbs, limbs that had done nothing but be appendages to the rest of her body these past 50 something years.

Sometimes during the nights Annette had to work, Miss Lydia would ask her to read to her. Annette did it even though she knew that the 20 dollars she was paid per hour didn't cover this task. But she had always loved books. Even as a child in Ogwashi-uku, while her age mates ran around playing tag and other games, Annette had preferred to read the worn books the Priest gave her after Sunday Mass.

Back then, her name wasn't Annette. Everyone called her 'Ebele'. Only the Priest ever seemed to remember her baptismal name ‘Anne'. One time he had told about the saint she was named after. It had made Annette smile to know she shared a name with someone so important. ‘Ebele’ was so ordinary. No one important was ever named Ebele. Anne was the kind of name the authors she wanted to be like bore; Anne Frank, Anne Rice…

After hearing the story, she had gone around the village insisting everyone called her ‘Anne’. Her parents had laughed and acquiesced; her friends laughed too but went on calling her ‘Ebele’. When she had come to America, the agency that had helped her with papers and settling down had insisted on a 'more exotic name' and ‘Annette’ was the only one of the numerous names they plied her with that she could identify with. ’Annette’ could pass for an author, better than ‘Ebele’ or ‘Lakisha’ ever could.

Adam was different from the other men Annette had met in the city. For one, he did laundry every week. And he always folded his clothes after they were dry. His nails were always well groomed and he smelled clean all the time.

When Annette had first come to America, the only place she could find work was in a college town. She had gotten used to college male students with their long untidy hair and dirty jeans. They always seemed lost; like branches uprooted from their mother tree and grafted into a place that would never be home; no matter how many new friends they made or how many cans of beer they consumed to drown the pain.

The first time she noticed Adam was when Miss Lydia let her borrow Pride and Prejudice. She had been reading the book while waiting for her clothes to dry when she noticed the man that kept giving her furtive looks. Fear had gripped Annette’s heart as she looked around and realized she was alone with him. What if he was a serial killer; just like the ones she had read about in all those Dean Koontz and Harlan Coben books.

She had gotten up to fold her dry clothes when she heard him behind her. His accent was different from all those college boys that thought they could score with the pretty African girl that cleaned their dorms. He opened his mouth and Annette knew she would never need to fear this one.

‘My mother made me read all of Jane Austen’s books.’ He said and that had been the beginning.

He told her his name the next Thursday. He had never asked hers and she had never volunteered. His accent was different because he had grown up in Canada, he told her. They talked about books and their dreams. His was to travel the world. He was tired of visiting famous places only through his books. Hers was to write a book someday. She told him about Cyprian Ekwensi, how his books always seemed real to her, like things that really happened, like people that really existed. She told him about the characters in Jaguar Nana and he asked if these people were her friends, she spoke about them so lovingly, he said. Annette had laughed long and hard at that.

Thursdays were the only days she really laughed.

Today, he was wearing a red shirt. She smiled at him. He smiled back and without saying anything took her basket and emptied it into the machine. A few minutes later, they were deep in conversation about the book he had lent her last Thursday, John Irving’s The Water Method Man.

He waited for her while she folded her things. His clothes were already folded.

'I brought you something.' He said, looking at her with those eyes that reminded her of the blue skies of her childhood.

'Another book? ‘She asked smiling, 'I haven't even finished the one you gave me last week.'

He smiled shyly and quickly bent his head to look at something that had suddenly caught his interest on the white tiled floor of the Laundromat. Annette stopped folding her clothes. Something told her that this had less to do with any book that was already written and more with the pages of the book that Annette dreamed she would write someday.

He reached for his laundry basket and lifted out a wrapped box he had carefully hidden in the clothes.
She took the box from his soft hands and opened it. She had to sit down then because she knew that if she continued standing she might fall.

'Oh Adam.' she whispered as she stared at what lay in her laps.
'You don't like it?'
'You didn't have to…' She said, ‘Thank you, thank you so much…’

It has been a while since anyone had given her anything. He waited till she had blown her nose and then they both started to laugh like children caught in an act.

'Thank you Adam. Daalu O...'
‘Daalu…’ He said and she laughed at his intonation.

Annette knew then that this man would become a major character in the book she would start to write that very night. She could write about him and the empty pages of the book he had just given her would fill up fast. Brown hair that was the same color as her skin; pale hands that would cup her breasts so perfectly, eyes that were indigo pools she could drown her dark fears in…

He held the door for her as they left the Laundromat. He was walking to his car when he heard her yell out to him. He turned around and started walking towards her, one hand cupped around his ear to catch the words the wind threatened to steal away from her lips.

'What did you say?' He yelled back at her.
She hesitated for one spilt second but then there was no need to yell anymore, he was standing right in front of her.

'Ebele, my name is Ebele.' She said again, this time without yelling.
‘Ebele..?’ He asked.
‘Ebele’ She answered.
‘Ebele, Ebele, Ebele…’ He said, testing every syllable till it sounded right.

He laughed then and waved goodbye. Adam and Ebele, he thought to himself as he walked back, a beginning as good as any. He couldn’t wait to read her first chapter.

Song of the day: Shola Allyson- Imoore

March 14, 2013


When everything you know changes

When even the sun refuses to shine for you

And the rain falls on every other person but you

When the people you love...

Yes, those ones you grow your hair for

Tell you love is nothing but a fairytale

No different from tales of godmothers, tooth fairies and Rapunzel

They tell you,

That there is no need to let down your hair

There is no one waiting at the bottom of the tower that is your prison.

March 8, 2013


It is my Dad's birthday as well as International Women's Day. My Dad is a gynecologist, an amazing one at that. :)

This one is for you Dad; for all that you do. Happy birthday.

She felt wearied by their presence even though she knew they were all there for her. Or so they told her over and over again. The band they had hired crooned song after song praising her maternal skills, her perseverance, her beauty and other things that made her think they were singing about someone else. The wine flowed, heaps of food continued to disappear, people danced and brought presents paying her homage. From where Mgbaku sat and watched, it was a disaster of enormous proportions.

It had been her first son’s idea; he with the deep pockets and propensity to outspend everyone else. He had brought it up at the last New Yam festival celebrations as he shared palm wine with his siblings. Their mother was going to be 80 in 7 months’ time; surely that was more than enough reason to throw a party like had never been seen before in the village. No one thought to ask her what she wanted even though she had been sitting right there amongst them. Not even her daughters, now resplendent in their red and gold lace dresses, who should have known better.

The madness was three days old and yet showed no signs of subsiding. Children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, cousins, inlaws ad all kinds of relatives had poured in from whatever corners of the world they had been hibernating. She had never seen so many people in her lifetime; not even on the busiest market days. One by one she had been introduced to each and every one of them, until she thought that she would go mad from having to remember all the names.

There was one name though that had stuck in her head, so that she had even muttered it to herself that first night as she fell asleep. Nneoma; the strange child that never smiled, not even upon meeting her great grandmother for the first time. Her mother had dragged her over to meet Mgbaku and it was all the old woman could do not to reach out for her and fold her in her bosom. They were strangers after all. All they had in common was a couple of diluted genes and the look in Nneoma’s eyes that Mgbaku immediately recognized without wearing the glasses her children had forced upon her.

Mgbaku searched the crowd of people for the child now. She was tall for her 11 years and it should have been easy to find her even in this bulging throe of people. The child stood out without meaning to and Mgbaku’s heart clutched as she remembered those eyes on the first day of their meeting. Those eyes had seen true evil and now reflected it. Even now, she knew she should have said something. But to whom? She barely knew the child’s mother. Her own children were too preoccupied with throwing her a befitting birthday party. Nneoma herself had proved elusive since that very first day so that Mgbaku thought she must have dreamed up the heart shape faced child and her haunted eyes.

Now she stood away from the crowd, as disinterested in the ongoing celebration as Mgbaku was. She would not look at anything or at anyone except for that thing they called BeeBee that she carried everywhere with her. Mgbaku’s heart clenched and she wondered about the stories she had heard of children in foreign lands that sniffed white powder. Her neighbor in the market’s grandson had been eventually locked up in a home for mad people. The woman could never hold her head high again. Mgbaku looked at her grandchildren and tried to remember which one of them Nneoma belonged too. She was too old for all of this; all these children that she could not recognize, all this noise that threatened to drown out the sounds of pain within each of their hearts.
She bent her head for one quick moment and when she raised it, Nneoma was gone. Fear seized Mgbaku’s heart. She looked around as much as her dim eyes could manage. Maybe she had gone to ease herself or something else had finally held her interest. Yet Mgbaku could not shake off the feeling that something bad was about to happen.

‘Nnem, where are you going?’ One of the young girls her children had hired to attend to her needs asked as she stood up from her seat of honor.

‘Last I checked I was an adult and able to find my way around my own compound. Sit your buttocks down where it was. I am going to the toilet and you are not to follow.’ She snapped back.

She knew it was a waste of time. They would let her walk a few steps and then follow unobtrusively but Mgbaku was resolute. It was time to find the child and save her before evil consumed her.

The insides of the 2 storey building sweltered as Mgbaku made her entrance. But it was quiet and a welcome change from the noise of the party. She began to take the steps her husband had stubbornly insisted on erecting inside their home.

Before marrying Nnadi, she had been set on the path of priesthood, being the first daughter of the priestess of the hills. Then Nnadi, her husband had showed up and Mgbaku had rejected her mother’s gods and followed after Nnadi’s Jesus. It had not stopped her from dreaming things before they happened or seeing things normal human beings were not meant to see.

She was on the final stair when she heard the child’s cry. She made for the room where the mingled sounds of pleasure and pain were coming from. On the bed was Nneoma and on top of her, the devil. Mgbaku recognized him easily. She had seen him many times before when the man her mother called husband had brandished his sticks and whips on Mgbaku and her sisters. He had the same red eyes her step father had when he had raped her on those nights when her mother’s priestly duties took her far away from home. His grunts were not very different from the sounds that animal had made when he spilled his seed inside her.

Now she waited for the man to gather up his clothes before speaking. She could tell whose daughter Nneoma was now. She was Azu’s; her grandson who had died in the motor accident and whose wife had replaced with another man before weeds could grow on his grave. It was this man now that sought to destroy her great grandchild just like her own step father had almost destroyed her all those many years ago.

‘You will go away from here and you will never return. You and your wife must never reach out to Nneoma after today. You may think to yourself that I speak the words of a frail old woman with no more time to back her.  You may seek to test your mortality but that is none of my concern. You may leave now.’

He hurried out of the room and the maid who had closely followed Mgbaku rushed into the space he had vacated.
‘Nnem, whom shall I call?’ She asked Mgbaku.
‘Noone. Not yet. Go back to the party. Tell them I am resting.’

Mgbaku looked at the child. She was curled up on the bed with her back towards Mgbaku, a back as strong as Mgbaku’s once was. Mgbaku set down her cane and sat beside the curled up child. She began to sing Nnadi’s song, the lullaby that had chased away the nightmares that had haunted her in the first few years of their marriage.
By the second stanza the child had joined in; her voice strong and unquenchable, rising above Mgbaku’s shrill soprano. Mgbaku knew then, that just like her, Nneoma was a survivor and love would be enough to save her.

Song of the day: Luther Vandross - Buy me a rose

March 2, 2013

A Thousand Words

So someone challenged me to use this line ' I took your picture while you were sleeping' in a story. She said it sounded creepy and I assured her it was the soppiest thing I had ever heard. So this is an experiment; to prove to her that it is all about context. :)

It is in the smell of her nail polish. She brandishes the brush like a weapon and spills 'blood' on my white t-shirt.
It is in the scent of her body splash- she has so many different kinds. Somehow she manages to make them all smell the same.
It is in the way she walks; one step closely followed by the other, always in a hurry, as if to slow down would mean an unforgivable sin.
It is in the swing of her hips, in her smile, in her stubborn jaw line, in the soft rolls that is her belly, the perfect mounds that are her breasts.

I took her picture while she was sleeping; and then I paced around the room, waiting impatiently for her to awaken so I could take some more. She is perfect in sleep but she is even more perfect with her eyes wide open. 

I have tried to tell the world what it is that I love about her. But a wise man once said 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. So I pace around the room some more, waiting for that perfect moment when there will be no reason to speak, no reason at all.

Any moment now.

Song of the day: Michelle Branch- Tuesday Morning