THEIR CLOSED EYES; MY CLOSED MOUTH…

I want to tell him to quit complaining and take her for therapy; that these things he “inherited” are a result of what she has been through, what she has seen, how she has suffered and not healed… But, my words go back into my stomach every time, and I join him to “spiritualize” the thing always.
I want to talk, but I feel like Adichie’s Kambili every time, air filling my throat and my tongue clamping to the roof of my mouth.
So, he… they will keep on not realizing that the hurt, unhealed person she was yesterday is the unnatural being they are forced to associate with today. I know, but my mouth keeps shutting…

#Infanticism

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A DAY LIKE THAT

When Peter didn’t show up for our date, l knew something was wrong. He was never late; l was the one who always had to make excuses for why l was late. Always!

He had called me on the 13th of February at 8:00pm when l was just about to take a shower and said we had to meet the next day. I noted the excitement in his voice, and l just knew. I knew, the way I usually know things, that he wanted to propose. It would be Valentine’s day, and also my birthday…what other date could be more perfect? Besides, it was high time; it had been about 5 years now.

So, that night, l hardly slept. My eyes would want to close and drift off to sleep, but then, l would remember the excitement l had heard in his voice, and my teeth would just start shinning on their own, pushing my lips wider and wider into a smile. I spent the midnight thinking of what l would wear. I knew it was ill omen to be awake when witches had started to fly, but l couldn’t help it. I even forgot that l had to go to work the next day, and very early at that.

I do not know if an angel finally lulled me to sleep, or the rats that usually ran around my room blew breeze on my feet to induce sleep, but when l finally started awake on the 14th of February, l knew l was terribly, terribly late. So l started racing around my apartment, trying to do an hour’s preparation in 15 minutes, like my brain was on fire.
And you can imagine what the day turned out to be: a totally-bad-everything-day. My clothes were bad; my natural hair refused to succumb to the will of my comb (the comb even got broken at some point); and as for my shoes, the heel of one came off as l was jumping out of a taxi in my rush. I took one look at myself in the glass door of my office building and wanted to cry. I looked like l had just stepped off the computer program of an animation for kids.

Then l finally died when l learnt that the meeting l was hurrying to meet up — even if it was the “grace of our Lord Jesus” part— had ended 15 minutes ago. And what’s more, my boss had already asked his secretary to prepare a query for me that could mean a deduction from my salary. I was overwhelmed. I went into the company’s bathroom, screwed the fact that it was my birthday, and cried like a new born baby. I felt like God was punishing me finally for all the meat l had stolen from my mother’s pot as a kid. Trust me, it was quite a lot.

I was about to start my second batch of pity-seeking tears when l remembered the other aspect of the date. It was Valentine’s Day, and Peter’s proposal’s day!!!
I forgot my misery then and laughed long and hard, remembering the fact that it was actually because of excitement over Peter’s proposal that l had had this totally horrific day. I wiped my tears, washed off my make up and did whatever l could to savage my hair, then l walked back to my cubicle, beaming at people minding their computers. I wanted them to see that this was the best day of my life, but it bothered me less that they cared not a bit for my boring life.

I sat in my office chair, unsettled, constantly looking at my watch like a girl in school, waiting for the bell to be rung so l could go have a peep at my crush before he hurried home. I was jumpy, paranoid…whatever; l just wanted to be out of the office and be on another seat, crying while Peter knelt before me, ring poised in his hand, waiting for my agreement, my “yes”.
An hour to closing time, l couldn’t take it anymore. I left the office even though l knew it could get me another query, and maybe a sack letter this time. I cared less.
I hurried my dishevelled self to the restaurant where l was to meet him, and waited. My heart kept lurching and turning in excitement and anticipation of what l would do when l finally became an “engaged-to-be-married” lady.

I kept beaming and beaming, telling myself “congratulations”. I beamed like that, waiting…1hour, 2hours, 3hours, 4hours, 5hours…till finally, l felt like Miss Havisham and knew he wasn’t coming. I had been trying him on phone, to no avail.

I was the last person in the restaurant when l picked up my sad self and left the place. The manager was looking at me oddly, so l tipped his boys, so it wouldn’t be like l had wasted his space and chair; I hadn’t even thought to buy anything while waiting.

As l went home in a taxi, l knew something was wrong, Peter was never late to or absent for an appointment.
Someone was waiting for me at my door step in the cold night, when l alighted the taxi. I involuntarily put my hand in my bag to get my pepper spray, ready to defend myself. But the person wasn’t an assailant, l could see. He was in fact, Peter’s brother. I watched him as he came up to me, and then suddenly, l knew. I knew even before he told me, that Peter, my Peter had died this afternoon, trying to cross the road in a haste, from his office.

I died too that night, slumping to the floor of the dirty street, and tearing at my hair like it was an unwanted bird nest.
That February 14 ended with me not knowing my name, not knowing anything at all, while nurses pumped me with tranquilizers incessantly; my eyes staring wildly…

HIM…(Concern for a Friend)

He is very sensitive and extremely fragile. I knew that even before l came to know that men— men like him— feel what girls feel when their loves leave them. I knew who he was before l ever thought of knowing who he actually is. I knew through his writings.

But yesterday, l talked to him, seeking, wanting to know, craving to understand and decipher what was fiction and what was his real life, in the things he wrote. You see, we are all writers and we know within ourselves that our fictions are not all imaginations. We create beings through the beings we’ve been and can relate to being, through the beings we present to readers.

He opened my eyes yesterday to the conflicts that arise in our society between parents and children because the latter no longer want to partake in that thing which they say is the opium of the society–Religion.

And for the girl…the girl that broke his heart one year like that and made him want to die…he says he has gotten over her. I am happy for him, because self reliance is a great necessity in this world. It’s stupid to live life, sharing from someone’s oxygen–pathetically stupid.

His life is moving forward and that’s good enough for me…for him…for planet earth at large— one less codependent, pathetic and helpless person to hover over and pamper. He is not yet completely sound emotionally, but we are working, and l won’t give up on him…he can’t give up on himself.

So…l am a writer like he is, and we might never be able to draw a firm line in both our works, on what is real and what is fake… But we will continue to know that for every fiction we or any other writer puts forward, there is that audible voice just behind the letters, shouting: “Read deeper…!!!”

He asked why l questioned him so much yesterday; if l wanted to use him for a story?
But though we get inspiration from anything and anyone, a writer’s major interest is not just the story, but the being behind the story, because that’s who the readers see anyway. That’s whose being they enter into…

So l admit l got his story yesterday. But above that, l got his being… I am getting his being and l won’t stop till l get it completely, for there are still untold stories lurking behind the funny, sad, and dumbfounding tales we think he conjures up.
So for a writer, a true writer, he is not just another story to piece together with words for the Nobel prizes; he is a full person with that voice behind the letters telling you to listen to the sensibilities of his heart.
Something is behind him…
Something is behind every story…

 

 

 

FOOD TO THE STREETS (Inspired by MC Monica’s Outreaches to the Poor and Orphaned)

I always want to roll down the glass, to look out of the car at children like me, walking to school, talking happily with one another and laughing, but my mother says ‘no’… Every time. She simply cannot allow me to breathe in the dust on the road, mixed with the exhaled breath of the sick, hungry and dirt poor people…we are just too different from them. I am used to that talk now.

When I was much younger and didn’t understand, l used to stare at these people she talked about and try to make out any difference between them and me. But l noted— with a bit of surprise— that they had two eyes, one mouth and farted and “pooed” like l did…like we did. Then l started thinking mum had better eyes than l did.

I ceased asking mum if we could roll down the window as l grew older; l just endured the AC I never liked…l have never liked…l will never like. She is so caught up in her world most times anyway, that she doesn’t notice my peculiar interests in those things she terms as just waaay below her class.

But l came to understand about two years ago that her class just wasn’t my class. I just thought too much about things she doesn’t even see, like: our gate man’s daughter who always looks hungry, and our housekeeper’s son that steals food from our kitchen and stuffs it in like he will die tomorrow, and always, always, those fine, curly haired children that cling to people’s hands, begging for food without saying a word. I sometimes wonder if they are dumb, and what it feels like to beg and what their parents feel when their own children beg.

I notice hunger all around me and it confuses me because l can never fully understand it no matter how l try to. One afternoon, l tried starving myself, but l didn’t feel a thing, maybe because l knew a bowl of ice cream was waiting for me in the fridge after l finished my pretence at poverty.

I couldn’t get why people should be poor enough to starve, when we threw away food and things rich enough to buy a plane and had two dogs that were fed well-prepared meals by uniformed maids. I just couldn’t understand, and there was no one to ask…mum made sure of that.

But as mum is taking me to school today and l am seeing a beggar showing his dirty bowl to a passerby, something is forming in my mind. And it is very simple: since we throw away so much good food, l can tell the cook to always package a bowl for me daily to give to those fine, fair, curly haired children that hang around our house. I can give the housekeeper’s son my daily ration of ice cream so he can help me deliver it, since mum never lets me mix with anyone. I would sleep better knowing a child like me ate something at least close to my food for a day.

The plan is so brilliant that l join mum in singing her boring song. She looks at me in surprise through the mirror, and l just keep on smiling. I wish she will join me to feed children some day, but at least it’s okay for now…l will be doing something.
She parks into a fuel station to top up her gas. As she parks at a pump, l see one of those fair children. She can’t be more than 10 like me, but she looks hungry. Very hungry. I smile at her and wave. She smiles back and waves. Moved, l dare mum and open my door and give her the #50 note l have. She looks at it and mutters, “thank you.”
So they do talk, l note, as mum begins to shout about closing the door so l won’t breathe in poverty air…

 

THE PLACE CALLED “AMERICA”

In America,

That current world power,

The world is upside down.

 

The country commands respect and reverence;

Citizens of other nations want to be in there,

Yet the place is a highly complicated jungle.

 

There are things on serious notes,

Like the shootings and the racism,

But let’s let the lighter notes, be my present tones…

 

I have an issue with America’s traffic lights;

They control your life.

South Africans call traffic lights: “robot”.

 

Now, a robot is something controlled

Yet, in America, they control you,

And also every vehicle…or animal on the road; soon, it would be airplanes.

 

Just picture you waiting to cross a road,

A road that is just 3 steps in width with no oncoming cars,

Just because the traffic light says, “wait!”

And, can you imagine only you waiting for some light,

And counting 30…29…10…9 with the thing.

 

Another annoying thing here is that many people seem to be poke noses.

Everyone is so interested in everyone’s business.

You meet somebody on the bus one minute,

The next, he or she starts asking you what you had for dinner,

And how many times you’ve been to the toilet that week.

Excuse me, who are you? My monitor lizard?

 

Let me pull the brakes here, before my mouth becomes a runner.

So, though America can boast of good roads, and electricity, and maybe, life,

You still feel upside down there when you are a newcomer.

Believe me, I tell no lies.

 

 

 

 

 

YOUR LIFE IS EVERYBODY ELSE’S.

I know you. You are like many people in the world. You have issues, some you have dealt with, some you hide and others that affect your life negatively now. Your problem is not unique. And you do not even understand where these issues spring out from; don’t fret—most people with such issues hardly know too. But I know. I know you are tired of those issues you haven’t dealt with, try to hide, and then suffer from because you can never hide anything at all for too long.

When I talk about you having issues, we both know I am not talking about physical problems like cancer or running stomach or the fact that you are addicted to rice or whatever other mess people think their life is in… No. The issues I am talking about are deeper, though you may not believe it to be so. Attitudinal problems, ma and sir, are gigantic and worse than having no food to eat for the next 1 week. These issues affect your emotions and psychology, and if I were you, I would start paying more attention to these than I pay to selecting beans.

So, I will begin again by telling you your story. Like I said, it is not unique—your “story” is all our stories but listen to it anyway…

Your life started like all human lives start—small, tiny, with capacity to grow, and with hope for future greatness. You grew up; young, wild and free. Childhood was fun though there were hitches here and there trying to kill your joy. There were people who didn’t believe in you, people who said mean things to you, and people who hurt you so bad that you could have died if not for the innocence and euphoria of being a child. You lived in places. Those places entered your subconscious and affected you in ways. You lived with people that started making you think twice about that future greatness you’ve always believed was within arm’s reach. So things grew in your heart for such things you hated to see in your life. You grew angry, bitter and vulnerable. Some took advantage of you and your depression, and happiness became a farfetched word. But you continued to live day by day. You were still a child anyway, and its sparks were still attractive.

But then, you grew, and with adolescence came the feelings of low self-worth, misplaced identity, and more depression because there is always that debasing mentality that: no one understands; that humans are wicked. But somehow, life sent people to teach you to suck it up, shut up about how you feel, for the world does not really care anyway. So you take the unsought advice and suck it all up—all you want to say, all you wish could change, all you want to do—you suck it all up and continue your life.

But the point of the story is that your life hasn’t really continued. You are just going round the same spot even while making little successes; you can never move to tomorrow with the baggage of yesterday in the regret-laden wagon of today.

Thus, today, you are here with some funny attitudes: moments of depression, fits of anger, times of seeming worthlessness, times when you just want to enter the ground. Funny, you do not know where they come from, but I know, and I have just traced it back for you. For, everything you see in adulthood , can be linked some way or the other to something in childhood; something you may never know…

And so that’s the story, and those are your emotional and psychological issues. It’s okay if you have these issues; we all have problems, but we just deal with them and move on.

So, now you know the story, the story of everyone, because we all have similar stories. What makes the difference in future between the great and the mediocre is that we work our issues out differently.

 

THE BROKEN BAG

The first man I killed, I killed out of anger. The blood was hot like a bag of beans, and was furiously rushing in my veins while I stabbed and stabbed and continued to stab, even when the man had died. It was only when the man’s blood accidentally spluttered on my face that my eyes opened to realize what I had done. The bag had broken…I had killed a man!

Now it was done, there was nowhere to run to, no person to blame, and no crevice to hide in. Murder makes you alone in the world. You feel dread and excitement at the same time. “Dread” because you had done an abominable thing and “excitement” because no one knew yet that you had just seized a life, a life God had given; so, on polar stands, you felt equal to God.

The anger that made me kill the man is not something extraordinary. It is a bag we all had; it is something we all felt once in a while. It is the kind that reddened the eye, faltered the speech, and ultimately deadened the brain, so that like me, you could find yourself snuffing the life out of a being of 10 toes like you…

I, for one, didn’t have the patience to squeeze a man’s throat and wait till his Chi said: “Oh boy, you don’t try…just die”—Oh, no! My brain couldn’t register such a slow and strenuous method, as I burst in on the sight of a skinny-assed-skeleton riding my wife. I don’t know how my body did it, but my eyes immediately caught a knife my wife had left beside an orange on the dressing table, and in one leap, I was on the man, pinning him down and thrusting my weapon deep into his neck over and over and over and…

He was still joined to my wife, connected to her by a body part; and she was still under him, screaming. I did not care. I wanted his blood to be on her, to blind her eyes…to kill her with guilt.

So, I killed a man from the bag of my anger, but my wife “took” his blood. His blood was on her. That’s what I said when they came for me.

 

WHAT “UNCLE” MAKES ME DO…

She has one of those legs; one of those that go on endlessly without seeming to want to stop. And l am a guy, l must look. I look until l almost enter the gutter. I steady myself and continue looking until she enters one shop like that.


I am 25, virile, vigilant and vigorously “blood-pumped” in all arteries and veins, so the look l looked is giving me sleepless night now as l toss and turn on the bed. It is I2:00am now: I might be able to close my eyes a wink soon, but l know that soon it will be 4:00am and “uncle” will wake up and start “demanding” like the witches in my village that fly at night seeking blood.


Uncle’s demands, not mine—take note—got  Nneka, Nkechi and Nkem pregnant last year. Now, the three children are with my mother in the village and the three mothers fight for turns in helping my mother because they somehow believe that would increase their chances of me choosing them. Oh, the way some girls think sha… 


Me, l am just a village boy, trying his luck out in the township. I am broke most days. And the man l apprentice for and live with, doesn’t even realize that a fine boy like me needs money to “catch them young”; I do catch them well most times sha. The children I have are testaments to that fact.
Sometimes when my uncle is craving fresh blood like vampire and l am groaning and rubbing by 4:00am, l think of my children in the village, of the kind of life they are having and will definitely have in future: a disadvantaged life just like mine, because they wouldn’t get the right foundation just like l had never gotten. They will grow up to know suffering as the thing that happens to an unwanted child like them; they will know the tasteless but definite taste of bitterness from not having a good start in life and above all, they will grow to realize their parents had been irresponsible…


They will know all these, just like l came to know all those, but nothing will change. Boys will always be boys, and uncle will continue to control my eyes during the day to look, and him, during the night, to want. And so the next day, l go out and want and take anyhow, not once stopping as l climb ecstasy peaks, to remember that the girl is definitely ignorant of pills and l should protect both of us, or think of the child she might conceive to add to the miserable ones back home probably being fed with nothing but garri.
Heck, I know I am irresponsible… I want to not be at times, but I also know it is me, holding me back from not being the “me” l want to be.


So… it is 4:00am, and uncle has put on his witchcraft wings ready to fly. I position and start to rub and think of the girl with the metres of long legs and imagine them wrapped around my waist. I think of how to find her tomorrow… find her and take her anyhow, of course. I groan and completely push back the thoughts of the wasting children, and my irresponsibility…