April 24, 2013

Daytime Heroes

I wrote this a while back; well at least I started it then and only just finished today. It was inspired by a woman I am yet to meet but love and admire already. She is responsible for bringing into the world and nurturing three amazing young men, one of whom is the man who owns my heart. She, my dad and every other single parent, are the stuff heroes are made of. :)

It doesn't show up in her smile. Neither does it make an appearance in her eyes. You can look as hard as you want but you will find no giveaways or chinks in the armor of this woman.

My father called her ‘Superwoman’. I sometimes wonder what he would call her if he were here to witness this new strength she has taken on.  His brothers and sisters whisper among themselves about her supernatural abilities. They have resorted to labels- witch, murderer, husband killer…She bids us pay them no mind but it is hard. Sooner or later, cousins and playmates repeat the words of their parents.

Most mornings, she coaxes us from slumber with kisses and songs. She caresses our sleep suffused bodies and bids us awaken to a bright new day.  The songs she sings are songs of hope and love. You can listen to her melodies for the longest time and still not be able to tell of what lies beneath the pillar that is my mother.

Some other days, she rouses us from sleep with the palm of her hand. Smack! Smack!; goes her palms on our pajama clad bottoms.

‘Wake up!’ she bellows in annoyance. We are smart enough to know that these are not the days to test her patience. We hurry to the bathroom to make ready before a cane replaces her palm. Even on days such as these, it is impossible to tell of the anguish that contorts her soul. You can only assume that she has had a bad night and nothing more.

She makes breakfast while putting on her work clothes. She multitasks all day long. Praying while driving, packing lunches while listening to the ridiculous notions of children, talking on the phone to demanding bosses while dressing up a 4-year old who doesn't know what it means to sit still. To see her from afar is to admire her and her abilities. You would never be able to tell what ails her.

I have no clue what it is she does at work. I only know that when she gets home she is tired and asks for a massage. She lies on the floor and we climb on her back, our little feet ministering comfort to our mother's solid back and shoulders.

She moans and we giggle. She laughs in response to our giggles and soon we are all falling over ourselves with laughter and love.

'Tomi pushed me off the swing at school today.' The little one tells her.

He is four years old and everything that aches his tiny heart shows up every time we watch our school mates get picked up by their fathers when school is out. All we have is Mr. Sammy, the school-bus driver whom our mother has entrusted our home trips to.

'Hmmm.' Our mother responds.
'I won’t let her play with my toys when next they come here.' He assures her with the confidence a child can only have with his mother.
'Hmmm...Jesus won't like that.'
'Jesus won't like her either because He said we should be nice and she isn't.’

She laughs and the heave of her shoulders remind me of the volcanoes I learned about in science class.
The four year old is done talking and it is my turn.

'Mummy!' I say as I play with her braids, straightening them out from the knots they had gotten into during the day.
'Ma!' She answers playfully as the four year old snuggles even closer to our mother's bosom.
'My teacher said I should ask you if you think you have enough money for the school trip to Ghana now. He says he can’t hold a space for me if you don’t pay this week.’

The sun is setting and the day is done. Darkness has already begun to take away from the world all that was bright and beautiful. She sighs at my question and the shoulders that were earlier buoyed by love for her children slumps. She reaches out and pulls my skinny 7 year old frame to her bosom. Our shoulders heave in harmony even though our grief is not the same. She lost a husband and I lost a father. I am my mother’s child-proud, strong, but only until dusk.

Grief only shows up at sunset, when the world is shrouded by darkness and it is easier to fall to pieces.  It holds off until the birds have gone to roost and people - uncles, aunties, neighbors are siting to dinner and finally minding their own business. It waits until the shadows fall across my father’s rocking chair before reminding his wife of how he will never again rock his children to sleep.  It stays its hand until we are under the protection of dusk.

When grief finally makes an appearance, there is no one there to view the chink in her armor or the tears in her eyes or the pain in her heart. Except for me and the four year old. But we know, better than the rest of the world, we know, that the pain never left in the first place. She is Superwoman but even heroes have the right to bleed. The only difference between them and mere humans is that heroes wait till it is dark, when no one else can see, to tend to their wounds.

Song of the day: Five For Fighting- Superman

April 13, 2013

My dreams are made of...

Today I danced to 'white people' music (as my Italian-American friend from New York called it) and  loved every bit of it.

Many things have changed about me since I packed my bags and left Lagos.

I can dance to white people's music and not feel awkward
I can see through people's bullshit a lot easier
I can be Nigerian and love it
I can talk gibberish to cute dogs and not feel weird and so alone about it
I can be comfortable in my own skin and accept my stretch marks, my baby fat, my D cups, my thick grass of hair....

Many things have stayed the same since Muritala Mohammed bade goodbye to my Burberry gym bag...

My eyes still shine 
I can still write up a storm
I am still stubborn as they come
I am always, and always will be in the corner of the underdog
I am a lover...still

The list goes on...

The weeks before graduation are some of the most hectic and emotionally draining. I have asked myself  so many times if these two years have been worth it. So many of my friends got married within these two years. So many have babies or are preggers (never mind that almost all my friends are older than I am-long story, will tell another day) So many got job promotions. So many dreams accomplished...

I tell myself this is what I wanted, that this was my dream; the chance to live and work somewhere else, the opportunity to learn Chinese and Thai and Spanish ('hello' and 'how are you' are my limits so don't start a conversation biko!) , the experience of meeting and falling in love with some of the most wonderful people ever...
I tell myself all the time that so many people would give anything to be in my shoes.
I tell myself so many things these days; all these talking to myself, it keeps me from going crazy, it does...

It however doesn't stop me from dreaming about little Kiahs who can say hello in Chinese, Thai and Spanish. Or little boys with their father's smile and his way with poetry...

Life is beautiful.

Song of the day: The Lumineers- Hey Ho

April 6, 2013

Every Time It Snows

So I am supposed to get a tax refund. Eh, the way things work in 'Amelika' still baffle me. Anyway, I hope I don't see no more snow for a while. I am ready for Spring. In fact let's just fast forward to the summer. :)

It snowed yesterday and I smiled.

Two things that never used to go together and still don't feel right.

It felt strange to smile while watching the heavens fall. It felt strange to smile knowing that snow meant you were happy somewhere without me.

It felt like trying on new shoes that don't exactly fit. It felt like your empty side of the bed, wrong but yet slowly becoming familiar. It felt like salt in my coffee instead of cane sugar.

Tade shows up every time it snows, and then some. 

She shows up, bags of food in tow, like she has a crowd of 5000 to feed and doesn't believe in miracles. But there is no crowd; it is just me. She tells me I am all skin and bones and in dire need of all the flesh I can get.

I want to tell her that food is not the answer not to heartbreak. I want to tell her Egusi will not keep me warm at night.

She will probably just ignore me. She does that a lot these days; puttering around the house and cleaning up even though I tell her not to bother, handling the laundry even when she knows I can't stand it when someone else goes through my things, showing up at the house even when I just told her over the phone that I am not receiving visitors...

She is as smart as a whip too. She took care of my taxes this year, just in case you are wondering how come you got your share of refunds so early.

Sometimes she brings the twins. They are as smart as their mother and growing up so fast. The first week after you left, the girl asked me 'Did your wife leave you because you smell bad?' I never thought I would laugh like that again or have a bath for that matter. I was ready to die a smelly old man till that question.

I still remember when they were born and we had gone to visit them in the hospital. You had taken one look at the wrinkled babies and sworn you would never let your precious body be invaded by aliens. Tade had laughed and thrown me a worried look at the same time; the girl I had grown up with on the streets of Festac knew I wanted to be a father some day.

The days when the twins are here, those are my best days. Those are the days I forget to miss you.

Have I told you how much I miss you?

The way we would tear off each others' clothes when we had run out of words that could hurt? The way I would take you on the floor, up against the wall. The way your nails would rake across my back and my teeth would bite your lips, each one of us trying to draw first blood...

Do you remember our last fight? The one that finally brought this house of cards tumbling down? It snowed while we hurled words at each other; pieces of the sky fell while we fought over things I cannot now remember.

We didn't know it until much later when you tried to walk out the door, running from us as you always were. I still remember the look on your face as you opened the door and the words that tumbled out of your mouth as you shut it behind you to face me.

'If I stay here, I will miss out on life. I will miss out the things that make me happy. I will miss out on snow...' You said as you crumbled to the floor.

So we waited till the snow was melted and we couldn't tell the watery ice from our tears, before saying goodbye.

Divorce is so much harder than I thought it would be. Tade says it gets better. I want to ask her how she knows this seeing as there is still a sadness in her eyes even though she left Joe 3 years back.

I have started to notice little things about her. The swing of her 'African hips' as you jealously referred to them. The hollow of her back and how my palm would fit perfectly in it if we danced. The way she smells; like a mother, like a wife, like a friend, like everything you were not.

I miss you but when it snowed yesterday, I smiled. Snow means Tade will be here today.

Song of the day: Bruno Mars- When I was your Man