Roadside visions

Mama Biola settled in a red plastic chair, on the pavement, right beside the intersection leading out of Florence street. The street had grown and taken up a distinct character over the years. Driving in, you would find brown brick three-story buildings, the spaces between them uniform and precise, that existed before the owners started to tweak and tweak until some balconies were made of glass. A particular balcony stood out, as it was on top of a makeshift hairdressing salon where a dark woman sat, braiding and wiping sweat on her wrappa, her laps spread apart. Below the glass balcony was another makeshift barbing saloon, old white towels spread on the balcony, showing that as time passed some wages expanded faster than others. The children played in front of houses in mid-august when the schools were closed, their dirty feet and tangled hair coated in dust adding the feel of a community. The street reminded one of where you drove into and settled, where your lives twisted then intertwined with the neighbors until you become unsure of whose business belonged to whom.

Mama Biola had been sitting there, wide awake, when the intersection started taking up souls in broad daylight, when the men who smoked in front of the nearby shops spent the evenings hitting buttocks as women hurried by, when the drunk man drove right through the walls of the boarding school, when housewives settled with trays and sold fruits in front of the shops, when the task force came with cudgels and overturned fruit trays. Every morning she appeared promptly, bubba neatly tied around her large waist, there was a time when her waist was something men had fought to wrap their arms around but five children, including Biola, had made sure she expanded and never returned from the first child. Mama Biola, like the street, could never return, so she had settled on this intersection with a mission.

The mission came to her when her last son, Tolu, was off to the university. She found herself chasing this man right through her university campus, into the classroom where she took LIT 411, trying to tell him something. Every step was a step backward, doors leading further down the past, opening more doors, the second door took her to the large hostel where she spent her first year, 12 matrasses, with small spaces in between, littered across the room. Opening the third door she returned to the government school in Ekiti where she signed, “I was here” on the walls, watching the man slip through yet another door. She finally caught up with him in a small abandoned building on the field where the girls scout met, she opened this door to find the man, a knife in one hand, second arm around another stranger, his back to her. She was not able to keep moving, not because she was tired and out of breath but because she recognized the second stranger in the room without seeing him completely. She tried to make a sound, tried to move but could only feel her breath constricting, her chest tightening as she fell to the ground and woke up in her own sweat.

She stayed mute for weeks after, abandoning her shop, only going to the church fifteen minutes away, getting up at 6am and taking a keke off Florence street. She spent her days on the stairs of the elevated stage, lying on the red rug before the wooden cross, she ate nothing, not even when Biola came with large bowls of amala and ewedu from Iya Sade, and allowed her hunger pangs to go up with prayers. She stopped only when Tolu was home from the holiday and cooked his food in the special oil given by her pastor, she took him to the pastor too, watched and nodded as he knelt as the pastor brought down freedom upon him.

“Freedom from what?” Tolu always asked.

She could not bring herself to tell Tolu anything explicitly, she followed him out when he met his friends, she complained that his jeans were too tight, she invited young women from the church over. Somedays she stared and stared at him as if trying to wax a confession from his lips, he caught her pleading eyes and looked away. If Tolu was perturbed by his mother’s attitude, he did not show it. He retained the lightness he had carried from birth, taking morning strolls and greeting the neighbors, betting over matches at the garden in the evenings. He ignored how heavy and insistent she had become until the day he was visited by Sam.

Mama Biola was walking home from her shop when she met them under the large fruit tree across the road, Tolu had his hand on Sam’s back and his loud laughter was ringing in her ears. She ran toward them, dropping her bag on the floor, screaming, she spat on Sam and it landed on his black leather shoe. Tolu tried to hold his mother, pull her away, take her home, his eyes never meeting Sam’s.

That was the moment things started to change, when his mother spent the night crying loudly, when Tolu stopped coming home for breaks. Mama, at first, did not relent on her mission to exorcise this despicable thing, she visited his school often times and was told by his roommates that he was away, there was the time when she waited the whole night at his bedroom door and he did not come. She tried what she could, deprived him of money, deprived him of her, begged him in small notes to come home to a woman she would find.

Tolu, in his final year, graduated and did not invite his mother. By this time, she had become stubborn, she refused her urge to take a bus and head to Lagos, it was 7 months since she spat on Sam. She waited and waited but the distance only widened. She had support now, Biola, Demola and Simi had equally stopped speaking to their brother, she also had the proof that God abhorred that. What other rationale was needed? She sent Tolu a letter saying that he should consider himself motherless.

Tolu sent letters 2 years after his graduation, Mama Biola refused to open any of the, she put it under the fire and it crumbled under the soup she was making.

She had more dreams since then, for more strangers she would later run into at the intersection, dark cars with secrets she had learned to ignore, she always tried to put them out of her mind with more prayers. What finally drove her out of her home was the news she received from Biola, right before the Easter Sunday, when Biola came in crying, head scarf in hands and whispering to mama, “He’s gone”

She had seen it in more dreams but this did not in make it any lighter, any softer. It wasn’t so much that he was gone, but also the way he left, falling from a bridge in Lagos, drowning, falling without being pushed, jumping into the water, leaving more notes for his family, ones where he did not forgive his mother, ones where his words will forever remain bitter, there was no softening. No assurance that he had given up what he was.

Days after the burial, Mama Biola found the red chair and settled on the intersection at Florence street, she spoke about the visions she had seen to the strangers who would listen as they passed, bubba tied neatly around her waist.

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Let me tell a story now… (After Bessie Head)

We are at a wedding watching white drops of light sparkling on the floor, the fountain seems to be pouring light and water, and the white tablecloths are lined with gold.  There is something elaborate about the large hall, about the silky gold linen that sways from the wall to the chandelier, as if to remind you that gold is not happiness but a pretty close substitute. There are over a hundred people in the large hall, most of whom are holding champagne flutes. Men are dressed in white agbadas, women in tight dresses and expensive geles. We sit close to the stage, on a table seating 10, a card reading friends of the groom is placed beside the centerpiece. The white plates have gold on the edges, I wonder how expensive all these would have been. I recognize most of the people on my table.

The bride has her veil dragging behind her as she dances, her skin I would write about as olive, so pure I imagine it gives off a glow in the dark, the skin of a woman who has held enough in her hands to truly know what plenty feels like. We all move to stand by the stage while the newlyweds danced to John Legend’s All of Me, phones raised, capturing the couple in slow-dance. I wish I could describe how beautiful it seemed in that very moment, there was no light in the room except for the stairs leading to the stage and the ceiling lit with stars, I look over my shoulder to find my boyfriend watching them, smiling, I wonder if this is what he wants for us too, a wedding, some sort of happy ending. Calling him a boyfriend is inaccurate, more like he is this man who picks me up every other day, I feed him on other days and we have sex as often as we like. He often mentions how he would always want to be alone, I say the same, I wonder if we both mean it. When he says he cares about me I don’t doubt him.

I should also mention that I’m 25 and never find a good enough reason to leave my house since I quit my last job 2 years ago and decided to do something I love. My boy-friend is the one who knows the groom and insists on taking me to many of these occasions where I have to put on dresses and talk to other people. I’m not sure why we’re so different and still together but he accepts my melancholia and this has been enough for me. I put my hand on his shoulder and he brings his head closer, his arm around my waist, I have to shout so he hears me even though he’s so close. I tell him, I’m going to the bathroom. He squeezes my waist gently and nods his head, there’s music by Brymo playing now, I can’t help smiling because I know he loves this.

The thing about attending so many of these events is that I have to frequently come up for air, find a bathroom and exhale. I head back to our table and sit, staring at my new heels, wondering if taking them off before they squeeze the life from my toes is a socially acceptable thing to do. Bayo is staring at me from across the table, he works with my boy-friend, I smile at him and his date Ada reaches for my hand and whispers

“it’s so nice to see you again”, we went to the same university.

“it’s been what? Four years now”

“Five” I correct her, trying hard to smile.

“Yes” she smiles back, “You used to be so odd”

I wonder in which world odd is a compliment. She still doesn’t let go of my hand and tells me about how my body looks great. She says that she wants my secret, she has a piece I should try on. For most of the night she has been talking about the new boutique she opened, it’s over a year since she returned to Nigeria after business school or fashion school. I wasn’t paying attention.

More people are returning to the table now, Adura is talking about her role at the investment bank. Her red lipstick is so perfectly lined that I do not realize that I’m staring at her lips until Tolu asks what I do for work.

There is another reason why I hate these occasions, people talk and talk and want to know the socially acceptable ways of making money we engage in. The other people on the table fall silent, I wonder if they’ve discussed this before. You see, it’s hard to answer these questions when you’re not sure exactly what you’re doing. The thing about a career is that you can’t avoid becoming what you do for so long, and so, this has become some sort of superficial shortcut for knowing more about a person. You say engineer, and we find some sort of precision, Lawyer, and we assume you know a lot about something, you own a store and we notice the red under your shoes, suddenly we are made aware of your expensive looking material, of your free spirit. What you do is used to validate you, and the other thing about careers is that I can’t keep one. I want to call myself a writer, but the truth is that I’ve truly never written anything. I haven’t submitted to any journals or online publications and my only validation is from my own mouth. I once wrote an entire manuscript which I submitted, and I still cringe with shame when I remember. The manuscript now sits in my junk folder on an old laptop where it truly belongs. I get by day to day expenses with a customer care job at an unknown online store. The thing about saying I’m a writer is getting the awkward questions that follow’

“oh, who do you write for? Published any novels”

“I mean what do you do for money?” the laughter that follows.

“I used to write, I mean I still have some old journal with my scribbling, I mean in a way, we’re all writers”

I just laugh off the snarky comments and pray they move on to something new. The truth is that this isn’t undeserved, the truth is that in between procrastinating and waiting for a story to arrive, I haven’t written in months.

I spend time imagining the type of story I would like to write, but the details fail me, I do not understand the characters, cannot find the setting, I do not know enough about politics or anything. I read and I read and read the wrong things. I would like to write a story about a man who lived in a small town and found a girl down the street, whose life also converged around this area, and when he kissed her for the first time, he felt this thing, this urge to make a promise that he would always love her. The neighbors in the small town all knew him and they shouted greetings as he drove by in the morning. I want to imagine that as age and time passed a yearning grew in his heart and like for most of the children who had grown there, this town was not enough anymore. He goes on a Monday morning to an agent instead of his office, I want this man to sit at the table of a darker, short man with eyes so large he wonders for a moment if it disturbs the owner. The big-eyed man passes him some brochures and tells him that he can leave, find the unknown, chase opportunities, change his life. The man turns it over in his mind, even as he drinks beer with men from the office after the workday. The idea has been planted in his heart, that he can leave this town where he was born. What the man does not understand is that the town left him first when everything started to change. He tried to make a future and it felt like building sandcastles in the wind. When he kissed his wife, he promised her that he would always love her, when he opened his eyes in the world it made no promises, he made no promises too, only the tears. The tears were a mere formality, meant he was here. The town started to change too, children went missing, his wife had a miscarriage from careless health care, men were thrown out of their jobs without warning and there was the subtle “leave while you can hanging in the air.”

The man started on a hot afternoon to look for buyers, he started with the furniture in the spare bedroom, spread to everything, the TV in the living room going last. There came a time when most of the furniture was gone, so, it was just the man, his wife, and the food on the floor and 9’o clock news on the TV, and they would cuddle under the blanket on the living room floor where they now slept. On another afternoon in August when the house was gone too, they stood with bags in the front of an airport when an older neighbor after dropping them off in his white hilux, sighs to say “there goes another man that could have changed our trajectory.”

The man proceeds with his ticket through the gate of the airport because he knows the truth, that his father died waiting for this miracle and that he too is just one man.

So there it is, if I could write a story, it would be one about a successful escape, but for now, I wait for my boy-friend to rejoin the table and pray the evening passes and that one day, this disorder of writing would bring me something worth having.

Brat Memories

There’s something about wounds that do not leave scars, something about pain that refuses to be made evident, about glass that chips and cracks but does not fall apart. The seemingly almost perfect story that belongs to so many it’s no longer just one story, the story that spans across cultures, individuals, noticeable in phrases like “I’m fine” (muttered on the way from visiting a sick mother). The single story of being okay, a story that truly does not belong to anyone but lives on all our lips. Cracked, refusing us the tremors of an absolute breakdown.

There isn’t much about you that you like to share, you could have had a good story, we all know there’s no such thing as a perfect story. You had comfort, not the kind you ran mad from and poured out of the space between your fingers, but you had enough, you had enough to feel it rip through you when it went all away.

It happened the way most things in life do, the new and shiny turning into the ordinary, flames waning, rain quieting, there are no accurate metaphors for describing how chaos slips in, in every case it’s different. The thing about everyday human stories is that they do not quite reach the extraordinary yet they can never be perfectly duplicated, your story is something like that. Born of a man and woman that were reaching for something else, nights when your father pressed into your mother and all he could think about was a woman he had met years ago and could still recall. He tried to find her between the legs of others and when he finally gave up, settled for closing his eyes right before an orgasm. Your mother who settled for duty like her mother and your great grandmother, the receiver of her duty always shifting, from siblings to mother, settling on daughter for many years. She was reaching for safety, “I do this for you” steadily on her lips.

The cracks started as far back as you can remember, at least you think so now, but you know how it is with the past, we obsess over it and give every meaningless turn significance. Now your memory is populated with suspicious looking evidence. The time you stood at the top of the stairs and heard screaming downstairs, the times that duty and closing of eyes didn’t seem sufficient to hold the pieces together, the times you were away with your grandmother for weekends and could hear her praying in hushed tones, you established a pattern, that the women in your family were always quietly reaching for something, living on so much hope and compromise that they swelled from the insides. The only child, so you spent nights awake imagining what would spill out if their skins were pierced. The age of curiosity where you tried to find what was on all our insides, where you ripped teddy bears and pierced plastic dolls. Evidence you were always searching for something, perhaps the answer to why we always felt so empty.

As a teenager you learned the value of hate and malice and used it generously, screaming matches against your mother where you admitted to hating her and she corrected you that you hated yourself. Teenage years where you shaved your eyebrows in front of the mirrors you had always avoided, where you loved the boys who barely took notice. When you started to hate your father who had resumed his search like a day never passed, simply woke up one morning with the determination to find the woman that had eluded him, he must have seen her in a dream, maybe one where he had questions and she was the answer, and he woke up with only the questions, you can only speculate. He searched hard, in the rooms of strange women, in bars filled with liquor, through the darkness, till he could only make it home in the morning. He never took notice of all your hate, he didn’t consider it a reckonable enough force, there was obedience left and that was what was important.

Another thing about wounds that refuse to make themselves known is that you can never tell exactly where you’re hurting or how much. There was food, water and an education, even enough left over for the things that were not necessary for survival. To the goal of duty, much had been accomplished.

Through the university there was much to learn, there was a flight away from home, an hour of anxiety brewing in your belly to the unfamiliar rowdiness of Lagos, to crammed roads littered with yellow and black, hawkers with wares that stretched the imagination under an angry sun. Lagos felt like bearing witness to all the stories in traffic, it would all become familiar, the long rides, the cussing, the blistering heat.

You learned a lot from the university, like how to fill and empty your insides in an attempt to find the thing that had eluded you, that had eluded those before you. You learned to fill your insides with so much smoke it came pouring out through every hole, how to fill yourself with another body till sounds escaped your lips, with liquor till you were dancing on tables. There was also the emptying that was improved with each act, demanded a degree of precision, how much water to get in before a meal, the perfect time when it could get back out. The years were spent doing almost everything except what you were really meant to do, you got on well enough, met your dodgy first-year roommate, Ibukun who remained a constant for years after, fell in love with Segun in your first year, David, Wale and Dapo in your final year.

There’s a story you’re trying to tell through all this remembering, it’s something about how you ended in this present place, in a room in Wuse that feels like a million miles from home though it’s only a few kilometers. Far away because you can’t return even if you wanted to, far away because you’re still trying to find yourself and making a million mistakes, the story probably leans a lot on your father and his evidence you still have no access to. There’s always a backstory. Yours is about how hate grew and nothing ever completely healed, through meaningless “I love yous” uttered and prayers that never left your lips with sincerity. There always remained bile between father and daughter, punctuated by a clueless mother who had maintained peace for most of her life it was an instinct. You remember the small acts of rebellion that started with simple tasks.
A party your father insisted you attend, you disappearing in the morning and texting back

“you no longer tell me what to do” because it was the truth

Your father livid. Because it was the truth.

A malice because of this, more silence from the time you called him a lousy man whore and he slapped you hard across both cheeks and took out his belt and you slept over at Ibukun’s for 2 weeks. You always came back, to longer periods of malice for many other reasons, your father with the uneasy temperament of one who was never refused, you with all the foolishness and stubbornness of a young adult. You survived on your mother for long periods of time, your father attempting to snuff you out with hunger. Teach you to come back. Father and daughter soon learned to cultivate a relationship similar to a war zone with a promise of mines, each needing something, an offspring, some money, for society, for security.

The story you’re trying to tell does not end well, at least not yet, you’re still trying to figure out if you should have inherited more compromise, been more quiet, less aggressive, more forgiving. What you’ve learned being here is that a lot of people have survived more horrible bizarre stories, desperation got them here and among these women, Ekem who had desire cut out from between her legs at an early age, Lisa who never revealed her real name but made her way alone from Calabar at 15, battering sex for transport, Reena who sent back money to her mother and 3 sons, women escaping situations that stretched your imagination, among these women who earned less than you, because education is still levied in a sex transaction, among these women, you will always remain the privileged ungrateful brat who threw it all away.

Smoke

I was an idiot a year ago. When I try to evaluate how time has gone by, I’m not sure I consider the things that matter. I turned 27 and there’s a subtle you’re running out of time as permanent background noise. Over every phone call, at every visit. It’s become embarrassing. The well-meaning relatives who spill out prayers, I remember Mama Dele, prayers oozing from her belly, her hands around mine, she smelled of ginger, her powder caked around her wrinkles, age fighting beauty and winning.

I wish they were more concerned about the fact that I’m a freelancer and still living off my parents, or that I make a lot of fucked up decisions, quitting jobs all the time.

A year ago I was an idiot. You think 26 would tell me that I’m no alchemist. I tried to create love, tried so hard. You’d think at 26, I would search for the responsible man, a room in one place, a house to sleep in. No, I had found a 24-year-old gym instructor.

His body promised what mine never could. It was just the sex at first, then I started wanting more, longer phone calls. A night over, a weekend over. I assumed he did too.

For love, I’ve made a lot of fucked up decisions and there’s the fact that I fancy myself a liberal cultivated on Lagos soil. There was Dare at 21 who decided after a year that he could still see all the men I had been with when he looked at me. Fucking Dare. I stayed up that night searching my body for fingerprint, scars, anything these men left. When you stare for so long all you see is why no one wants you, the parts that stick out, for years I tried to tame my body into beautiful, a finger down my throat, living off lemon and water. I never felt enough.

Back to my recent mistake, I tried to create love from nothing but yeses. Yes to his stupid suggestion to turn my balcony into a studio, to stay up for nights and nights on nothing but liquor. He didn’t say a word, but he could locate all the desperate tucked under my lips, and when he kissed me it came pouring through. I said yes to the liquor, the strange women he fucked while I was away, the times without a condom. The last yes was with the other woman, her breath down my neck, her lips on my stomach, he watched us for most of the time, till he was with her and there was no me. I felt like smoke in my own damn bedroom and I realized that he had been looking through me the whole damn time, the whole two years. I was with a man who had barely seen me.

Turning 27 was the right time to clean out my closet again, he came with questions and all I had left were Nos. So he kissed me and that was all that poured out. He didn’t leave any apologies, didn’t try to find what parts of our picture ripped, he was gone.

Lessons in Necessity

You were heavy in your mother’s womb on her 21st birthday. That day she sat beside her husband, smiling at the photographer, playing along to the unwritten script for Nigerian women of her time. 

She had recently gained admission to the university and found a boy, not any boy. A boy fresh out of UniLag with a medical degree and the ability to pay a bride price. Your grandfather, who had recently started questioning his memory did not express his surprise that someone wanted his problem child. He wrote a note on his bedroom mirror. 

“Do not ask if he’s sure.”

Months later, the boy visited with his father as your grandpa counted the tubers of yam and pinched the fat on the goat.

You were born of necessity because what else is expected from a 27 year old doctor but to settle down? This was the way life manifested in your society, there was no time for useless soul searching or chasing unattainable answers, just the comfortable and familiar. You now remember your younger years like a hazy dream, you remember only the things that don’t make sense, sometimes it was your mother wrapping moi moi in leaves, other days it was your father’s laughter. You tell your mother that you remember a locked room with toys from when you were 5 and she tells you that you can’t possibly remember all that.
Your early years were oblivious as it should be till you started to notice things, the things you did not understand anyway, your mother away sick for months. Being alone for months with your father who brought several aunties whenever she was away. At school you noticed that children did not come in ones and most of your friends had siblings. Then there was the time in primary 2 you told your mum you wanted a sister and she got upset. You could not understand all these things until you could. You got into a boarding school pretty early and found sisterhood in your mates at the junior school, girls who slept in the same room showered together and shared cutlery. You hated it and only wanted to go home to your mother. 
Senior secondary came and so did letters from the boy’s school on the opposite end of the street, girls pitted against their friends in competition over boys and you were a part of it. You never got far with that anyway.
Graduation came and you learned your mother wanted a divorce, you learned about the locked room prepared in anticipation of a sibling, the miscarriages, your learned your father’s mistresses by their names, you also met your younger brother, taller, darker, eyes like your father. He arrived on a Sunday in a luxury bus and just never left. The divorce never happened.
You were out of the university when you realized you were feeding off your mother’s betrayal and never learned to properly cultivate relationships. Friendship to you was something transient and you abandoned necessity, taking a liking to fiction, withdrawing into yourself, most things you did to convince yourself you were nothing like your parents. Your father who was convinced he was a god and your mother unwilling to leave. Still they were etched in your very being, strangers would see you and recognize the face of your father and mannerisms of your mother.
You soon learned that necessity was a big part of your life in a society where nothing worked unless it was imperative. This did not comfort you. You were also a late bloomer, chest swelling and hips widening into your 20’s, realizing that this also came with the attention of strange men, mostly older. You enjoyed the sway you held over them till you began to recognize the entitlement in them, the dominating personalities you swore you’d never be suppressed by.
By 21, you found alcohol as an elixir, harsh and tasteless down your throat. It taught you to dance, made you feel like a god, and helped you forget. You also realized how easy it was to love a boy and forget to leave, looking into his eyes and losing your senses, tasting mints and cigarettes. You realized how endorphins could be released and how for a moment a life of necessity wouldn’t be the most horrible thing in the world.

Stench

Bola discovered early that death was a shameful thing, and not just because the day after Biodun died, mother came home and threw out her belongings, it was mostly the prayers, the endless rejections of being cut off from respiration. Biodun was just another instrument God had created. Mother fainted in the same hospital, her knees buckling as they wheeled Biodun’s cold body past. The next morning Mother ripped off her IV line and headed home, red eyes swollen shut but she’d be damned if she did not accept the will of the almighty.

Comforters came in flocks, many pastors too but that was a long time ago.

Bola witnessed many more deaths, learned to smell it on the living, it was her curse, and she could tell when one was called by the inevitable.

It started with the neighbor, Mama Pelumi who wore expensive lace and fortified her marriage with tithes, the pastors saw the young witch who wanted to break her home but did not foresee the heart attack; maybe it wasn’t what they were looking for. But Bola heard it when she spoke, the resignation she tried to cover in prayers, the misplaced restlessness, the stench.

There was also the boy in class who always carried extra bottles of water, he had a loud voice and played ball as much as he could often missing classes. Bola imagined he knew he was going too, maybe he also recognized the stench in his sweat.

Bola tried to dismiss them as coincidences at first, then she told her mum who bathed her in oil and brought down fire from heaven.

“Don’t say such things! Only God knows our end”

Then she tried to live with the stench but ended up living despite it. How could one learn to live as death’s gossip buddy? It wasn’t specific, she couldn’t tell exactly when or how they would die. A useless talent, she couldn’t warn anyone. She once told a boy from the other school, Dozie, who ran the 100metres on inter-house sports to “Stay Safe” and he threw back his head and laughed.

Years passed by, sometimes the stench went away, returning briefly, from the woman with the engagement ring at the cinema, from the bus conductor ilupeju, who she slipped five hundred naira before walking away.

Happy

January 23

Dad took me to buy pick out some cartoon CDs for Chioma. She’s been talking about seeing Frozen. Maybe I’ll take her.

I’m happy we’re getting her cartoons because I didn’t stay with her at the hospital tonight. She looked sad I was leaving so I told her I loved her six times. One for each year.

There is new cinema open in Wuse, I heard Amina talking about it in class. I already told you about Amina, she’s the one who stole my former best friend, Saida. Saida and I barely talk now, she’s always behind the class with Amina, whispering away in Hausa.

I’ll talk to you later, I have to be up early tomorrow XOXO.

January 25

I’m home alone with aunty Oge.

I’m not sure where to start. Chioma closed her eyes and…

There has to be another way to explain what happened. Death is just one word for something so final.

I miss Chioma.

I saw it happen. It happened yesterday, Chioma was sleepy when I got the hospital. She wasn’t really asleep but she wasn’t awake either, it may have been the drugs.

She looked at me but I’m not so sure she saw me, she wanted to say something then closed her eyes.

I can still hear mummy screaming when I close my eyes.

February 19

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing to you lately.

There’s this game we play in class where you have to tell the happiest and saddest days of your life.

I’ve come to realize that you can’t explain sadness.

I wasn’t in school for a week and when I got back every one was quiet. Even Amina gave me a hug during break and then she kept speaking in English through that week, even with Saida, trying to include me in their conversations.

It’s nice that they try but I don’t have much to say to them. I can’t tell explain to them what I don’t understand. 

Dad came with a large bus and packed away all of Chioma’s things, her shoes, her bright pink dresses and even her blanket. I threw the cartoon CDs into the pile. It felt like one of those murder scenes on TV, cleaning up evidence, the floor shiny and free of blood, like she was never there.

I sometimes forget.

I wake up in the morning and I swear she’s walking into my room excited like she always is, and in that brief moment, that millisecond, I’m happy.

That is really on of my happiest moments.

Would that count?

Is that even real?

Eden

God repented of the evil man committed. The former world was a regret, an earth filled with hopelessness and despair.

It was Bishop Aaron who predicted God’s mercy, the day the bombs would stop falling. The day is still remembered every year, the afternoon ash fell like rain from the skies. The thick dark smoke covering us with an endless night.

The church of Eden in Area five was the only building standing in the new world. The choir’s song welcoming a new beginning,

“The Mercy of God is endless

A million fell by my right hand

Two million more by my left

God is mercy”

Humanity had dwindled, a desert of people had become a handful. The radios had stopped working, the brunette reporter engulfed by the western explosion on live TV.

We were the last ones, alone in the church auditorium. Strangers bound by survival, no familiar faces or recollections of their lives before today. God handpicked his survivors. This was the last world, there would be no mistakes.

Bishop Aaron read out the only commandment.

“A life for a life”.

The only sin was ingratitude. God had promised a fair world from now on, whoever kills his brother loses his own life.

Once again, we were back in Eden.

Finding Happiness

Is there a particular moment we begin spiraling down the bottom? I used to wonder if life snapped in clean halves bending at the exact moment we departed from who we knew into someone strange and inexcusable.

I had always been incredibly selfish, it’s hard to tell when I went too far

First Mama’s heartbreak, I just wanted to be happy.

The voice in my head whispers “Maybe this is peace at last”

A phone call by 3am.

He never sounds this tired, slurring his words, breathing deeply into the receiver

“Where have you been? Please come home”

“I’m still searching for home”

“It’s been two weeks, you’re hurting me”

“I was lonely, desperate for someone else”

“I love you”

“I never did”

A pause

“You’ve been my life these past 2 years. You made me want to live again”

“Don’t do this”

“You said I make you happy”

“You’re a good man, I’m sorry I settled”

“Come home”

“I feel grounded with you”

He’s sniffing loudly now

“Please, I don’t know how to be without you”

I hung up the phone. This time I wasn’t going to settle, there is magic in this world and I was going to find it. I want a different town, a different dream and I was going to find true happiness.

Nothing is going to stop me, not the call from the hospital an hour before my flight

“Tell him I’m sorry”

Deposit

Her skirt inches above her knees revealed smooth thick thighs, eyes traveling from her wide hips, her thighs, down her legs, back up to the mounds of her breasts, her cleavage visible under her jacket.

What did she want?

There was something about her. This one. Something about the way she walked into my office, balanced on heels, her shy smile, taking a seat across the table.

“Good morning sir”

“Hello my dear, what’s your name?” I replied with a smile

“Bola”

“A beautiful name for a beautiful woman”

I am only a man

She looked 23, maybe younger, she was still sitting speaking, such full lips.

I was staring, she was talking about making deposits now. Marketing some bank.

“We are very committed to meeting our customer’s needs” She says

I wondered if she really meant this.

She stopped abruptly sometimes. Probably unsure she was making an impression

“Is this your first time?” I asked standing up

I took the seat next her “You see Bola, the thing is we already have our businesses in other banks but you’re a beautiful woman with fresh ideas”

I was close enough so the tips of our feet were touching now

“I’m very busy this morning, I’ll be glad to work something out for you later”

Inching closer, I placed my hand on her thigh, she was shaken.

“I have 300 million for a fixed deposit, give me a call” I handed her a card.

Her face was expressionless as she took it and walked out.

A week later, she’s moaning in my hotel room, those hips spread on the sheets.

There’s hardly a greater turn on than a woman who knows how to get ahead.