Bombs and Breakfast

Chin and jaws moving in circle as his lips remained sealed, fathers chewing always made me uncomfortable. With the phone screen raised on his left hand, he paused to read out the morning’s bout of fear

“Everyone who loves their life should stay home from today till Friday, our enemies are planning an attack, be cautious and very prayerful. Do not ignore this message as it is from a reliable source, a repented terrorist”

Father finished reading and turned to us, watching for impact, the family did not disappoint him, and mothers hand went straight in the air, silently begging Providence to intervene while my elder brother bowed his head low.

I tried to stop my eyes from rolling “5th message this week, its only Tuesday”

It had become part of the family breakfast, this desperate gamble for life.

5 hours later, while the ground shook, I remembered the morning conversation

“One more day” I prayed

Order

All screams sound the same at 2am. They’re here to take again; the Institution wouldn’t stand for indiscipline. We were privileged to have Divinity and morality already lay down life laws, all we had to do was follow. Women were lucky, a straight road and definite rules to paradise, a man had no master on earth, this made his path harder, his life overly complicated. The Institution protects us until marriage.

The screaming only gets louder, I close my eyes hoping to block out the ringing in my ears. I’m sure no one is asleep, nevertheless, no one will make a move, and we stay mute except for the loud screaming. That could be Nene or Bridget, I can’t tell. Probably Nene, all that shuffling of feet and painful groaning could only come from a foolish woman

I warned her

Women aren’t supposed to have voices like angry storms, even now she refuses to leave in peace.

                                      *************************************************

“These men will rip your bones out if you let them” she told me over dirty dishes “they are afraid of us”

“Shhhhhhhhh” I hissed looking around

“This institution is created by fear, you ever ask yourself why we can’t have the same opportunities? Why we need masters?”

She made short disapproving sounds from her throat

I stared at her dark hands, burned and scarred all over, you would think she would have learned to stop playing with fire, but instead she had gotten flames into her system, hot tongue dripping coal and ember.

She noticed me staring “I do get burned a lot” she responded and then started reciting the creed in a high-pitched mock voice “we gather strength through submission, Every ship needs a captain”

I tried to explain to her that submission doesn’t mean inequality, that it only ensured an order, hierarchy, but even in my head it didn’t make any sense so I remained silent.

                                              ***************************************************

The struggling stopped to the sound of a body hitting the floor, I imagined the fire burning under Nene’s closed lids

“Filthy Cowards” I screamed out loud

Immigration

“Are you coming home today?”

“I doubt it, there’s this thing, seminar, work. I can’t. I need more time”

“Wole turned 5 last week, he’s got your thick bushy hair, sometimes I show him your baby pictures, the ones in the old album by your bedside”

Heavy breathing “don’t”

“It’s been 3 years, he doesn’t remember you. Don’t you want to see him?”

“This isn’t easy for me”

“Then come home” A sniff. “I still make you dinner”

“I can’t”

-Because sometimes immigration is a black hole

Found

‘You whole life could learn to balance delicately on 4 inch heels’

She was wrapped in a peach hijab that only made her uncovered features scream, eyes dark as deceit. Her face a little more plump, maybe darker, she had obviously matured, and probably gained a few pounds but her skin looked softer than ever.

My mind began to gamble on the unnecessary, unsure whether to stare as she approached or to look away.

‘I don’t want to scare her away by being too eager’ I stared at my fingers on the raffia table mat, studying the intertwined little boxes.

For a second I became 21 again, walking across the campus contemplating if she would like my new haircut.

‘I don’t want to seem nonchalant either’ I flashed a nervous smile while raising my eyebrow

I couldn’t think anymore when she smiled back, warmth flowed from her intimately, her eyes embracing every inch of me, 18 lost years, my failing marriage, receding hairline, my overpriced red neck tie. In that very moment I could almost explain why I spent over a decade searching for her, ignoring common sense.

 ‘Everyone has those past lovers that are harder to forget. They are the deep ugly scars’

If she was a scar, she was definitely a revered type giving superpowers. I had to reconnect with my mirage, to feel again, to watch the ugly and unwanted pieces of my existence turned beautiful in her eyes.

I held her in my arms, eyes shut, she smelt like blue grass and Jasmin, her voice came out wispy

“I’ve imagined this moment in a thousand different ways”

Maybe we had another chance.

Missed Connection

You were last seen beside the birch tree.

No

Commanding elements, causing the tree to sway towards you, yellow leaves dancing carelessly, throwing music to the wind

No

Ruling the third floor corridor, constructing symphonies out of laughter

Last seen floating on metaphors, on clouds of admiration stitched into a flying carpet

You wore too much, padded with the heavy words stuck in your chest. Those words you carried around because there was nowhere to put them.

I was the quiet smile at the end of the corridor, the one with too many fictional stories and you as my protagonist

The one who drew a different hue to remember each eye contact

No

The one twirling her hair while conjuring conversations too afraid to start

The conversation would be about the words around your neck, the secrets tattooed in invisible ink, I’ll begin by saying I’m a pensive you can pour yourself into.

A volunteer therapist who takes 3am baths with lavender just for you

I was the faux power walk at the opposite end of the corridor -watching you walk past me for the last time- with shaky hands and an unsteady heartbeat, same as the last 3 years, throwing out all the conversations I no longer needed as the door closed.

My grandmother had a farm that could have grown a birch tree. I could have learnt to speak in a higher pitch or tried cultivating my own garden.

There’s just me now and the endless list I carry around, I’m at number sixty-something. Meet me at the café near the city park. I’ll be at the end of the corridor with a script this time, a whole book I wrote for you that we’ll never have to follow.

Don’t forget to bring your smile and the gap in your teeth.

I still haven’t.