The Devil’s Secrets

“The elders’ meeting is the sharpening stone of men.” My parents entirely subscribed to this old Kenyan proverb. They were not concerned on who actually made this observation, why and what prompted it, questions perhaps only Ene would ask. Proverbs were wise sayings. They could defend whatever foolish interpretation they practiced based it on the proverb. Proverbs developed new lives in the mouth of interpreters, it was able to clarify and bring strife. In father’s case it was reason enough to slap Ene. Ene my younger sister was only nine, Ene was tagged trouble maker. She suggested offhandedly, one hot afternoon, while sipping soda, that grandfather ought to be more polite. The words rolled off her tongue easily, the same way one would easily observe that the sun was setting. My father immediately marked his five fingers on her little cheeks; no child of his will utter abominations so naturally.

Ene puzzled me in my younger years, I was three years older with none of her beautiful dogged opinions. Ene had bright wide eyes, as if the largeness of her eyes made it easier for her see too much. She was continually asking questions and explaining her “irrational actions”. She would listen to each of father’s regulations then bubble out in frustration like boiling rice. She would pick holes in his carefully drafted plan. Ene was my enigma, years later she would run away from home. Today she lay on the floor spilling stories “Daddy is having an affair,” “Mum needs to stop giving away all that money to priests, Nigerians are hungry,” “I think you should spend all that time you use praying to learn a new craft”. I remained quiet; all I ever gave her was an exasperated look. She just sat there her tiny frame curled on the cold floor. There was something dark about her, her volatile thoughts, how they leaked and permeated into the atmosphere. She just sat there on the floor as if listening to the secrets of the home from the devil himself.

Leprosy of the Soul

My teenage years met me in the cold, poorly lighted store that was my bedroom. It was crammed with loads of stuff we would never need and what we were afraid to throw away. Finality is a fragile, terrible thing. Beside my tiny television, as if to dampen my entertainment was a baby pram. It reminded me father needed an heir, a male child. It was there so the request for a male child would never forget to seep into my prayers at night. My little brother’s name was to be Miracle, we had his life planned out and all. He was to save our name from dying, to cure the tears mama sheds daily on her knees. Those tears poisoned my own blood with each drop. I tried everything to make it stop, it was infecting me from the inside, chopping off my limbs bit by bit, it was a leprosy of my soul. I remember cutting my hair at age five to make it stop; I cut it so low and only wore trousers, I wanted to be mama’s boy. Mother never stopped crying, she didn’t give me a second glance, not even for a minute.

8 Tips for Overcoming Post-graduation Depression

From the depths of my vast emptiness and search for purpose, I’ve attempted to gather tips that can hopefully ease the transition process from graduation to whatever (NYSC, Masters etc.). Some recent graduates may have already been initiated into the work world, whatever path you choose, its best learn to live life a day at a time. PGD is usual feeling hopeless and irrelevant because of being tossed in a new environment. The cure is simple “become relevant”

1) Graduate: In a matter of stating the obvious, the first symptom of having PGD is a recent graduation. So in order to contact this illness, you first must attend those boring classes, turn the pages of those arid lecture notes and well, do what you do best to wear that cap.

2) Get a new playlist: You know that playlist with a lot of tracks off the magna carter and born sinner album you used to rap all night with friends. It’s time to move on. Download new ones; get new soundtracks to your life. Stop meditating on those nights you stayed up singing the tracks of Les Miserables or The Great Gatsby, tear your yellow dress and move on.

3) Find a hobby: no need to roll on your bed gathering moss. You’re just in time to discover those talents besides tweeting and eating. There are myriad of options you could choose from, my favourite include; playing tennis on weekends, write volumes of poetry, read large books, buy a camera and travel the world. You’re young and great people have hobbies.

4) Become cultured: In primary school we were thought culture is a way of life.

Question: How cultured are you?
Solution: Sophistication is worldliness. Read literature, find your favourite getaway in a book, memorize poetry, google art, test your culinary skill, appreciate nature, and learn about somnambulists from Soyinka. Get familiar with authors like Michael Ondaatje, Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison and Arundhati Roy. No need to even go far, look to African literature, talk about the famished road in your soul like Ben Okri, the thing around your neck like Chimamanda. You’re a deep artistic soul, analyse the art of Yinka Shonibare, and sing along with Nina Simone.
Learn quotes from your favourite books, then when asked what your favourite book is reply with something like “so we beat on, boats against the currents, borne back ceaselessly into the past”
If none of the above rings a bell, time to get busy with Google.

5) Visit that saloon/clothes store: I’m usually an advocate of you can’t buy happiness, perhaps you can’t but happiness but confidence isn’t as expensive, look good, it brings higher self-esteem. Grow that beard, Get those extensions. Grow dreadlocks. Do whatever makes you happy.

6) talk sophisticated: Now you’ve read poetry, it’s time to show the world you’re skilled in self-expression. You’re artistic. Quote Teju Cole in the middle of a conversation, create your own small fates. You’re beautiful and strong. You’re dark and poetic. You have scars, broken just like Bolanle in the secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives. Whatever artistic personality you chose, show the world you’re not empty. You’re getting too old to be simply the pervert with a taste for all things vile; you’re now the sophisticated pervert.

7) Stay Healthy: Stay fit, this can battle depression, what better times to grow those abs, visit the gym, find that pool, walk the dog, do yoga, eat healthy. Do not be that slob

8) Step outside: leave your zone for a while, breathe air, capture photos go hiking with friends. Heck make some new friends, networking is healthy. Connect with the right and wrong people, they all have advantages. Stay open, thrill them with tales of your new found sophistication. Make sure they can’t forget you.

I’m just a kindred spirit fighting away the demons of depression. If this doesn’t work kindly visit http://www.depressioncanbefun.com/

Fathers Misery

You’ve heard too much from mother and that her demented child. No one ever stops to ask what is going on with Father. You’re blinded by your own selfish desire to be the hero. You’re too quick to play providence and appoint fates. Look at Cinderella. Cinderella is beautiful and ill-treated she can do no wrong, no one notices her thirst for murder, i wish you witnessed her macabre revenge plots with her animal friends, they were humming tales of death, I couldn’t sleep. Her stepmother saw this but why would you. Why would Cinderella be evil? lets turn on her step sister, her name escapes me, the one in the green dress, green like her envy of beautiful Cinderella , oh look at her how big her skirt is, so much fabric, how greedy. We do not consider she’s gathering insecurity beneath her skin, cladding it closely to her skin. She will never be pretty like Cinderella, providence has chosen. She is the villain.
This is however not a pity story, neither can it justify the blackness that seeps from my insides. Hitting my wife was a terrible thing to do, I shed tears into my beer

Misery

Sundays are spectrum colored. Endless shades of yellow, green and blue, leaves and unexplainable art printed on our traditional attires. Sundays are loud happy chants and grown women dancing in circles. My chest always rises and falls peacefully, on Sundays I breathe easy.  Mother is dancing away yesterday’s quarrels on the altar painted cream and gold, she’s gesticulating frantically one foot after the other swaying her hips then bending, no malice or anger on her face, maybe there is good in mankind. All the women are surrounding mother; they wish they could sway their hips as much. I’m watching in excitement from the crowd clutching, my liite siblings, Taiye and Kehinde at both sides. Mother dances beautifully, whenever she was on the altar, I could feel my shoulders rise a bit higher, I wish Taiye would quit crying, he’s always hungry.

After church services I and my 6 siblings meet mother under the mango tree, we do not meet papa, he would never be in church in the first place, he told mama, he found God in the last drops of Alomo bitters. He worships at the bar at the end of the street, it isn’t far from our house “God always makes a way” he said. The haunting conversation still sends shivers down my back, it was last two weeks, I remember because that was the day Mama Bolu walked briskly to our front door,  tying her dirty yellow wrapper. It contrasted so much with her charcoal dark skin, she knocked violently with her fat arms, she knocked loudly waking the whole house, she’s lucky it’s a Saturday; papa is probably passed out in a gutter somewhere. He would have broken her head. The sun was just rising, that talkative of a woman, something was always chasing her. Mother is an early bird; she opened the door quickly and followed her to the verandah. Mama Bolu wasn’t exactly who you wanted to meet first in the morning, she was infamous as a deliverer of bad news, thankfully, they spoke in hushed tones.

For a minute I managed to drift back to sleep, that was until Mother’s loud wail woke me, I rushed out she was on the floor raining curses on papa, while at the same time pleading for his salvation. “Mama Bolu, has he fed these ones” she pointed at me as I stared blankly, I wish she would stop wailing in front of mama Bolu, everyone knew she was fueled by other peoples misery, Mama Bolu was always fully cladded in the latest gossip, she tried to feign sympathy “God sees you’re a virtuous woman, stop crying what we need is prayer.” I was irritated.

Later that evening Mother would serve Fathers Ogbono soup made with her tears and sweat, he would not be able to digest the food, choking on her accusations, I was in the next room when insults swarmed from both their lips it made disgusting buzzing sounds in my ears like houseflies. Their screams bounced off the walls filling the tiny room with more violence than it could permit. “Another child” mama was screaming “you are a useless man, it will never be well with you” , I was dizzy, Taiye was wailing loudly, my older siblings were separating them, papa was relentless, landing heavy blows over mothers face, her smile would not be the same. He occasionally screamed and slapped her, but today was different. He had something in his eyes, something desperate and vulnerable. “I am a man, I can do whatever I want” those words will stay with me a long time.   

Intimate emptiness

intimate emptinessYou knew several definitions for empty, why wouldn’t you? you were the best English student two years in a row from olumawu primary school. Empty meant unoccupied, just like papa’s room since he met aunty Sonia. Empty was deprived of content like mama’s bottle of gins. Yet you never realized empty could be so intimate, so loud, ringing continuously in your ears and thumping in your chest, as clear as pator Tundes call for salvation every Sunday.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Once on a yellow piece of paper with green lines he wrote a poem 
And he called it “Chops” because that was the name of his dog, And that’s what it was all about 
And his teacher gave him an A and a gold star 
And his mother hung it on the kitchen door and read it to his aunts
That was the year Father Tracy took all the kids to the zoo And he let them sing on the bus
And his little sister was born with tiny toenails and no hair 
And his mother and father kissed a lot 
And the girl around the corner sent him a Valentine signed with a row of X’s and he had to ask his father what the X’s meant 
And his father always tucked him in bed at night 
And was always there to do it.
Once on a piece of white paper with blue lines he wrote a poem 
And he called it “Autumn” because that was the name of the season And that’s what it was all about 
And his teacher gave him an A and asked him to write more clearly 
And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door because of its new paint 
And the kids told him that Father Tracy smoked cigars And left butts on the pews And sometimes they would burn holes 
That was the year his sister got glasses with thick lenses and black frames And the girl around the corner laughed when he asked her to go see Santa Claus 
And the kids told him why his mother and father kissed a lot 
And his father never tucked him in bed at night And his father got mad when he cried for him to do it.
Once on a paper torn from his notebook he wrote a poem And he called it “Innocence: A Question” because that was the question about his girl 
And that’s what it was all about 
And his professor gave him an A and a strange steady look 
And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door because he never showed her That was the year that Father Tracy died And he forgot how the end of the Apostle’s Creed went 
And he caught his sister making out on the back porch 
And his mother and father never kissed or even talked 
And the girl around the corner wore too much makeup That made him cough when he kissed her but he kissed her anyway because that was the thing to do And at three A.M. he tucked himself into bed his father snoring soundly. 
That’s why on the back of a brown paper bag he tried another poem And he called it “Absolutely Nothing” Because that’s what it was really all about 
And he gave himself an A and a slash on each damned wrist 
And he hung it on the bathroom door because this time he didn’t think he could reach the kitchen.
…anonymous

Graduation and Fornication (Part 1)

It was a month after I graduated, two months maybe, like most events in my “foolish 20’s” I can’t clearly recall, what I remember is how I always reeked of alcohol and married men’s perfumes, I was filthy and empty. I know this because Ayo, my third or fourth lover told me I smelt like an abandoned house. You see, I do not remember a lot clearly. What I choose not to forget is the restlessness I had, my recklessness was stemming from the fact that I was never going to see you again. You were a piece of my childishness, my innocence, I missed my panic attacks, the way I froze whenever you approached, I missed irritating my friends with long thrilling conversations we had in my fantasies. I missed you.

As an act of rebellion from my loneliness or whatever, I became what I became. The bar at the Nicon hotel became my favorite place in the world, I was there by six every Wednesday to drink alone, rejecting offers from my fellows here to seek comfort we will never find. The “darling, let me buy you a drink” line from one too many old men had a way of warming my insides; it convinced me that we were a lot of lonely people in the world.

It was no small surprise that cloudy evening in October when you decided to walk into my bar. You were standing by the staircase when my teenage stupidity found me. I walked straight past, what if you didn’t recognize me? What if you had changed? Millions of thoughts were pouring through me, my panic attacks were back. “I should stop being so stupid” another voice said, I ordered Martini to stop my shaking hands and travelling thoughts, I imagined your naked bare ivory skin “No, I will call Uche for company and you’ll probably meet up your sweetheart/girlfriend/wife, I didn’t care, you never searched for me”. I was on my third or fifth glass now. I tried to concentrate on the effect of my overpriced drink, still fiddling with the buttons on my phone; I didn’t want Uche’s company. I was looking everywhere but at the staircase when you saw me, I looked away too late, I could swear I saw recognition in your eyes, but you didn’t move, you were still on the other side of the bar, smiling at some girl, I hated that smile so much, it was like you knew something the rest of us didn’t. Obviously your charms were working at her, she smiled back enthusiastically, like some jobless wretch who finally got employed. I was bitter. You were heading towards me now, with that half strut, I tried not to look away, “I’m a grown woman” I wasn’t done bracing myself when you smiled, damn, you knew you were fine, I was staring straight at your eyes now, something about them had changed, they were filled with new stories, I hoped life hadn’t given you more than your fair share of troubles. I sucked in my breath, you still used bvlgari, it was draining my senses, I couldn’t speak, why didn’t you speak?

“it’s been what now, two years?” you said after an uncertain pause, you still had that husky accent, where was it from? I could never place it. I didn’t reply, I didn’t need to, I threw my arms around you, you held me much too tight. I hoped your mind was swirling too, with two years of my worries, why after I told you I loved you, we fell apart, I didn’t want to understand you had a girlfriend, I don’t want to know if you had one now. “You know, I have a room upstairs” the martini was speaking through me and I agreed with it. Today I wanted you; I would bother myself with shame tomorrow. You kept pulling me tight. “You’ve had too much to drink, you’re much too drunk” you sounded unsure. “I know” I said through soft martini kisses, I was tiptoeing pressing my lips on yours, you didn’t object, you parted your lips kissing me more violently. The voices in my head became calm, every inch of me was craving you, your hands were feeling through my clothes, all over my ass, “let’s see that room” you managed to say through ragged breaths.

To be continued…….

Ekundayo

The Yoruba’s believe the naming of a child carries great significance

This makes sense to me, so I’ll name you Ekundayo “sorrow becomes joy”

Your name is my silent prayer before day dawns, my desperate wish for a companion

For now I’m Bolanle in Baba Segi’s house marking your name on broken chinaware

I’ve always been fascinated by the little chips, imperfections on perfect pottery

I spend my days observing from crevices, watching rifts and drama plots unfold

Watching has made me skeptical, how does one unsee the world?

I’ve seen great men lose their desire for clothing, they roam mad in the streets,

They run mad precisely when the long drought is over and particularly on the day of harvest

Skepticism threatens to eat my womb from the inside,

Why would I bring you into this wretchedness? What can I tell you that would prepare you?

I torment myself with images of crying infants, even before I hold you

Stories Ben Okri told of rivers, roads and children induced by the spirit world

I search in vain to find the right words, to conjure sweet melodies that will make you stay

To assure you there is road where happiness and joy meets

To promise you they’re days when you wake up and the air will smell of good things

On those days you’ll put your tiny hands in mine; your smile will be my armor

Those days I would let my mouth whisper “I love you” through watery eyes.

– Mother

(retrieved from obafuntay.com)

How to read the Air – Dinaw Mengestu

“At the time my mother had thought to herself, I could never love anything called “fall”. There was fall and Fall. To fall was to sink, to drop. When my mother was nine, her grandfather came out of his bedroom at the back of the house wearing only a robe with the strings united. He was deaf and half blind and had been for as long as Mariam could remember. He walked into the midle of the living room, and having reached the center, where he was surrounded on all sides by his family, fell not to his knees, but straight foward, like a tree that had been felled, the side of his head splitting open on the edge of the fireplace mantel, spraying the wall and couch with blood. That was one way to fall.”