Infinite moments are deceitful. Perhaps between the rising and falling soprano of the choir and the steady bright light glaring on the class of 2009 we missed the angel swaying above sprinkling glitter of optimism on all below. Moments can be infinite when we misplace the truth or ignore fate sitting in the corner writing gory footnotes.
When she finally looked my way, I had to struggle to keep my heartbeat steady.
“I don’t want you to leave” I yelled again.
The absurdity of the situation slapped my consciousness in vain, my lips kept moving, words tumbling out stupidly.
Even as she stared blankly, I contemplated whether my Nikon could capture a moment so beautiful, her large curls falling over lined brown eyes and how the red lipstick was suffocated by the glow of her skin
“You’ve sat in this same coffee shop for 14 days straight”
With no time to stop and think I added “and this might sound crazy but I finally understood the weight of the word ‘incomplete’ when you didn’t show up yesterday”
The click-click of slides presenting charts with red lines was the only sound in the conference room. Founder, editor and newly hired creative director all watched the projector in silence, some kind of mourning for their failing magazine. The once-popular 50 year old magazine had lost it’s public appeal, even its name “Hero” had transformed in recent times to an obscure word of little value.
The fourth creative director this quarter was hired as a last resort, what the hero magazine needed was a hero.
“That’s not the prettiest chart” the director spoke up attempting a chuckle
He cleared his throat; he didn’t spend the last 48 hours wide awake to be put down by silence.
He flipped forward a few slides to the sales charts of the first 10 years. The era of fascination where the Hero magazine came into a boom
“The first 10 years of the magazine experienced over a 70% rise each quarter”
Another slide forward showed the covers of earlier edition and their bold headlines
Hero clears out the sambisa forest
16 year old hero detonates bomb
He waited a minute for any effect
“What has changed in the last 40 years?”
He skipped another slide reading out an excerpt from a recent edition
“Today’s hero Mr Oluwole demands justice behind his silver MacBook Pro”
The magazine’s executives were leaning forward, listening intently at this point
“There’s been a paradigm shift in the hero scene from daring schoolboys to anyone with internet access”
His voice grew confident
“These new heroes have something in common which is that they already blow their horns, the Hero magazine loses the opportunity to introduce a fresh hero everyday”
The director could feel their silence surrendering into interest
“We need to find the small heroes now, erase grand gestures or #savetheworld. What will save us are the small stories, the man who gave up his bus seat for the old lady, the designated driver and his bottle of coke, heck we could interview a child who learnt to spell his name”
There was admiration flowing from the eyes of the founder.
“Let’s step back from the lit screens, It’s time to honor little kindnesses”
Never love a woman who doesn’t fear hell, this single piece of advice will save you light years of heartache. I sincerely hope you find redemption through your own forgotten story; it was another lifetime when you met her.
Her name was Tola and she had whole galaxies in her eyes, nebula collapsing and stars being born. Perhaps that was enough to make anyone unstable, the extent of destruction that had already taken place within them. It sometimes seeped through her pores and settled on her skin like oil, and in that very moment of realization you wondered how could you love such a shimmering and terribly ugly woman. The moment was immediately followed by the same rational decision, the packing of several bags only to abandon them at the door. So many times, again and again you tried to leave; your room became the door at her house. The last time you packed your bags was when her father died; one look at her sinister smile and you were sure she was incapable of loving you.
There were also mornings after the night rain in which she could only be described in unknown beautiful colors, she would get so close and put your hands under her bra, there was the one time you made love on top your bags, filling her filled the holes in you.
You tried to save her, to warn her about hell and eternal damnation; you even burnt her finger, a lighter and burning skin without logic. Something about her turned people into beasts, even words escaped wickedly from her lips
“If you burn my finger, I would learn how bad hell could be”
You tried to help her if only to let go of all the wickedness tucked under her lips, to abandon her worship of Oya who pulled structures from their root, -like Oya, Tola didn’t have problem with pulling out roots- she shaved her head staring at the mirror one hot afternoon as her long dreadlocks fell on the cream tiles.
On the last day of your life she called you her angel and convinced you to fly off the building. That life didn’t end well.
When did you first realize you weren’t going to change the world?
I’m only asking to pinpoint the exact moment I stopped trying. It was probably those rejection letters or maybe the ignored applications, I can’t remember which hurt more.
I admit I had a lot of dreams, the NGO I was going to own, young girls need guidance you know -too many of them are accustomed to patriarchy- women, raised to bear pain and massage men’s egos.
I still dream a lot, there’s time for that when my husband is away at work. There’s enough time to pick out each insignificant event and amplify them to explain how I got here. I didn’t have a choice here, marriage is security. I’ll be 21 in three months, my husband is 31 and many of my friends pity me. They never say it to my face but I see it in their eyes “she will die a dreaming housewife”.
I wish we were taught more important things in school, like how to stitch the insides of your own soul; cross stitch, basting, blind stitch, back stitch (we would call it Heart Economics). There are so many things I wish for these days and just enough time to wish, it’s the end of road for us, just like the skinny man with the gun shouted. He’s probably right, that same night we were distributed easily, dividing garri among siblings, everyone knows men have needs, men at war become hungrier, they develop insatiable bellies.
As a bride life is different, I can’t explain why I keep dreaming but it’s all I have -to dream I will be free and laugh again- for survival. If these dreams have no viability then I inherited it from mama who stares through the cracks in the wall, touches my face and says “one day this one will be a great president”
(For over two weeks over 234 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from school to be sold as brides to the Boko Haram sect. We demand that the government bring Back our Girls)
If there were other options, they crept through the tiny holes in the windowless room. There were no choices, only an easy decision to be made; the probability of life or death. The operation theatre had an acrid smell, the stench of blood of the many others not willing to be forgotten, a large “I was here” sign diffused in the air. She prayed to God there had been many successes, then maybe some inevitable loss, the ones who left the theatre with rotten insides or new organs like forgotten scissors , breathing corpses, forgotten spatulas, half sewn incisions. These stories were not uncommon in this part of the world. Operations were a gory affair that followed endless suggestions
“Why don’t you fly to India for the operation?”
“I can’t afford it”
She swore her body was a fighter while staring at the small hands of the surgeon, neat and delicate -maybe all surgeons had brown delicate fingers-He closed his eyes to say a prayer for the third time. The anaesthetist with large eyes asked if he could insert another cannula in a soothing voice. She wondered how anyone could ever refuse those large eyes as she drifted into unconsciousness.