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.