Friday, 28 September 2012

The Dream Part 3

We entered and I took off my uniform without his asking, if I didn’t struggle, it won’t hurt too much that is what he says every day.
I took off my torn pant mama bought before she went to heaven; Aunty Rose said God called her to plait the angels’ hair.
He didn’t stay too long and it didn’t hurt much, he grunted again and asked me to call Eno when I go out.
They were both seated on the bags now, “he said I should call you” I muttered to Eno and sat down near Omini, dusting the sand from my arms and legs “when are we going home?” he asked, “shut up!” I yelled at him, my stomach was hurting so I doubled over, I could see Eno’s feet as she walked slowly towards the shed kicking up the damp sand as she went.
She was already crying, she did it every afternoon, cry and sometimes, I hear her screaming when she is in there and him shouting at her to shut up, I want to go there and see if she is okay, but I don’t, he said karate is turn by turn, if we look at each other, he will double the lesson, so I stay no matter what I hear.
I dozed off, I felt his hand on my shoulder waking me up, he was smiling again,
“Now you children should go straight home” he said wiping sweat from his face.
We all nodded, Eno was still sniffing. “I will come with jollof rice tomorrow” I squinted up at him, he said that too every day.
Omini waved, he was the only one that waved every day, Eno and I never look back, then we ran and ran till we got to the end of the road and I had to hold their hands to cross the express way, “Eno, will you tell?”
Eno shook her head, “what about you Omini?” he shook his head with a huge smile showing the gap in front of his teeth.
I sighed in relief and we crossed the road, our house was close to the road.
When we got home, papa was fanning himself and drinking local drink called ogogoro, he eyed us, “did I not warn you not to go play at the beach again?” he asked before we greeted him.
I nodded, “take your brother and sister in and wash their uniforms and my dirty clothes inside the bucket, then sweep the house, there’s no food for you all for disobeying me!” he was always angry.
There was always no food, but we already ate.
After mama died and went to heaven when Omini came home as a baby, papa stopped smiling and throwing us up like he used to do, but mama’s brother was doing it now and feeding us too, he said mama told him to take care of us and teach us karate, so it was okay, but sometimes, I don’t want to learn karate anymore, why did mama tell him to teach us? I wanted to tell him today that I was tired of learning, but when he came, all I could think about was the food, but I will tell him tomorrow.
We all did our homework together and then it was time for the evening bath, first I bathed Eno, she cried when I washed between her legs, then I bathed Omini and they went to sleep.
I had my bath and lay down too beside them on the floor.
When I woke up in the morning, papa was still sleeping on the chair, holding his bottle of ogogoro, so I dressed Omini up and helped Eno to zip her pinafore and we went to school without food again.
After school, we will go to the shed and meet him and eat.
 Maybe today, he will bring jollof rice for us…

“Madam!” his voice cut into my reverie, I straightened up and smiled automatically again, the sweat had glued the shirt to my back, it felt ticklish, “I’m sorry I didn’t get your last remark” I said. He nodded and pointed to my face, “you need a touch up, we have time for just one more question” he paused again.
I saw the make-up artist approach, gasped and tsk tsked at me, then she proceeded to reapply the makeup I had wiped off, first wiping my face with wet tissues that felt so refreshing, “what do you hope to gain now that you have won this prestigious award?”
“A better life for the children of Africa, a change of the cognitive process from basic needs like food, clothing and shelter to better goals” I said instead.
Famous enough to make a lot of money!
She reapplied the gloss and powdered my nose, I felt like sneezing so I rubbed my nose, she glowered at me; I apologized with a sheepish smile.
“One Minute!” I heard the producer call out, the frenzy increased and my stomach jumped knotting and unknotting, I was this close!
And then all I could see was the camera, the red dot that blinked as the director counted down to the time; finally, Ima’s dream was coming to pass!
“…Four, three, two…”

The End
This goes out to all who were sexually molested as children, fight back by keeping your dreams alive!

The Dream Part 2

We were at the place again. (It started…)
I could hear the waves, slapping against the sagging sandbags that lined the dirty beach front which the broken shed was sitting on.
It belonged to the old carpenter; he used to make coffins and crosses for the Catholic Church beside the road to our school.
He was gone now, mad from loneliness and smoking too much igbo (weed), or so everyone in our school said, he used to make the sweetest roasted yam and fish! I looked at the road again, it was still empty.
Omini came a little late, limping, one of his legs was smaller and thin, he got that way from being too sick and not taking his medicine when he was a baby, that was what aunty Rose told us when we got sick and refused to take our bitter medicine, she will say, “Your leg will soon grow small like Omini’s own, then all your friends will laugh at you!” after that we always take the medicine.
We told him we were going to share the boli and groundnuts without him.
He panted as he climbed the fruit tree to meet us. Eno and I exchanged conspiratory glances and nodded.
“Have you shared it?” he asked a little breathless, staring from one to the other, his gaze stayed on Eno, my younger sister, everyone talked about how beautiful she is and that she should be a superstar on television, I wanted her to be a superstar, then I can visit her and meet all her wonderful friends, then we can just sit around and have fun all day, rich and eating good food every day.
She tried hard not to laugh but couldn’t, I rolled my eyes, she wasn’t good at keeping secrets, “wey the boli (roasted plantain)?” Omini asked, raising his voice, I stared at him without talking, he was always so annoying and then I turned towards the road again.
It was dusty and deserted; the heat from the afternoon sun made everything look like it was melting, my stomach growled, “If you don’t give me my boli I will tell!” Omini warned, I turned sharply and the branch I was resting my hand broke, I almost fell off but I balanced myself, “Are you mad? We promised we won’t tell anybody or else he will not come again!” Omini hung his head, “but I am hungry now!” he complained, the wind moved the palm trees and kicked up more sand, I closed my eyes and rubbed the grains from my face, when I opened them Eno pushed me and pointed to the road, he came from the sand wind like an action hero in the cowboy films we watch at aunty Rose’s house on Sunday afternoon. I smiled and quickly climbed down; just before I reached the ground my pinafore caught a tree branch, scraping my upper leg.
I didn’t care, he came again.
I ran towards him trying to outrun Eno, as usual, she got to him before me.
He scooped her up and swung her up, I got there and screamed for my turn, he set Eno down and grabbed Omini instead, I danced around screaming at the top of my voice, “me toooo!!” as he swung Omini and put him down, then he reached for me and lifted me with a small grunt, I smiled broadly as he swung me twice before putting me down.
Then without another word we headed for the tree shade. We gathered around him as he sat on our school bags, “ahh this feels so much better!” he exclaimed as he stretched, we watched without a word; now he was here I didn’t know how to tell him everything I planned last night.
He looked at me and smiled; I looked down on my hands as my heart beat increased, “How was school today?” he asked me, I nodded without a word, “I played football today in school!” Omini said jumping on his laps, I frowned, I told him to stop behaving like a baby but he will never stop, “I got ten over ten in my home economics test!” I screamed from where I was standing, “papa said all I need is be a good cook and I will make a good wife and bring big dowry for him!” I looked to Eno for confirmation she was there when papa said so but she hung back standing behind me.
He took my hands, they were sweaty, he didn’t seem to mind, “don’t let talks like that limit you Ima, you are a smart thirteen years old girl, you can be the president tomorrow” we all laughed, I was going to be president tomorrow, “I will buy ice cream and jollof rice and big fried chicken for everybody!” I declared, it made him laugh too.
He nodded his head, “good, dream about becoming the president, concentrate on math, English, biology, subjects like that” he said counting them off his fingers, “what is biology?” I asked stepping closer to him. Omini continued jumping on his knee and chanting biology over and over again.
“It’s a subject, just like math and English, I’m sure you will like it” he explained.
Then he opened the nylon bag he was carrying and we all stood still, waiting.
He brought out something wrapped on old newspaper and I started to smile, boli!
He unwrapped it and handed me the longest one, then he gave the remaining to Omini and Eno who had stepped closer and was standing next to me, “thank you sir!” we chorused still waiting.
He reached in again and brought out another wrapped nylon, this time we could see it was groundnuts, he shared it among us and again we chorused our thanks and sat on the damp ground and ate quickly.
“So how is your father?” he asked, “fine” we chorused again and continued eating.
He nodded his head looking to the sea.
I looked up to him and broke some of my boli and offered him, he smiled shaking his head, but took it and ate, he looked both happy and sad at the same time, “and Aunty Rose? Is she around?” he asked as he reached and took some groundnut from my hand.
 I shook my head, “she went to sabbatical”
“Papa said she went to sabbatical for her school” I don’t know where that was, but I hope she returned quickly, he nodded his head, I guess he knew the place; we all continued to eat without talking.
When we were done we all rose to our feet, himself included, “who wants to go to the shed and learn karate?” he asked looking from me to Eno, she stopped chewing, “ME ME ME!!”
Omini screamed, he was never picked anyway.
He smiled, and took my hand instead, I resisted a little, then I followed him, he smiled down at me,
“I will make you enjoy it this time” he whispered as we got to the shed with no door.
To be continued....

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Dream Part 1

I wrote this piece for a competition a while back, I didn't win anything! Please read and tell me what you think, this is the first part....

The room was stifling hot.
The lights, standing on thin, spindly metal stems were scorching bright and focused on our faces.
The other equipments were heavy and sitting in awkward metal tripods. Long curling wires of various sizes ran from them to circuits on the wall giving them the look of strange mechanical robots waiting for a command to come to life.
Aside from the lights on our faces, the room was in shadows, I could make out silhouettes of people walking around, adjusting one machine and stopping briefly to converse with one another. There was a relaxed air around them that came from years of practice.
I was perspiring and soaking the long-sleeved navy blue adire (tie and dye) shirt and thick Aso-oke (locally woven fabric) ankle length skirt I had carefully chosen to show my patriotism but still look stylish, how did anyone get used to this heat? I pondered as I looked around. Aside from the make-up artist that had applied my make up earlier, no one was paying me any attention.
The man sitting across from me was fidgeting with papers, rifling through them, touching the gadget that was attached to his left earlobe, he nodded several times and mumbled something into the small microphone that was attached to the front of his brown shirt, I almost wiped my face with my sweaty palms but I had to refrain from doing so.
The make-up artist had warned me not to do that because my make up was not waterproof, I looked around again, people just kept walking about, moving equipments from one place to the other. Why didn’t they switch the lights off till they were ready? I thought as I felt sweat snake from my left temple towards my cheek and the dampness under my arms made my armpits itch, I pressed my arms closer to my sides to stop the itching.
“Em madam” the man’s voice was gruff, he sounded very impolite.
He was usually all smiles on television, silky voice, handsome, smooth ebony skin, nice trim moustache and sparkling white teeth, he got married last June to a well known actress and daughter of one of the political party chairman, it was undoubtedly a society affair.
I turned towards him already wearing a smile. It was automatic.
“Let’s just do a dry run of the questions okay?” he nodded at his question and frowned at the paper he was holding, “so!” it was a command.
I shifted on the hard back chair, sitting up straighter.
“The first question will be about your background, how you started writing and stuff like that, okay!” it was a statement, but I nodded accordingly.
He paused and his frown deepen, “your novel, “The Mental starvation of The African Child”” he paused again and rubbed his fleshy mouth, my eyes followed the pedantic movement, I knew what the next question was before he asked it, “Where did you get the title from? You know the play of words” this time he stared at me as if he really wanted an answer, I cleared my throat and wiped my face, remembering belatedly that I was not supposed to, “yes” I paused, cleared my throat again, I sounded like a drowning kitten.
I forced myself to relax, this was my field after all, “I studied Psychology as my first degree, so I just wanted something that will combine my origin and my discipline” it sounded good surprisingly, he nodded and looked down again, “The book itself—a journal about poverty and the exploitation of the African child—was there a parallel to be drawn from your own upbringing?” I felt a quivering in my stomach.
I tried to smile but the muscles in my cheeks jumped so I stopped, rubbed my hands together as if I was cold. I was.
The question had taken me somewhere I was not prepared to go, I licked my lips, and again belatedly remembered the gloss the make-up artist had painstakingly applied to my lips, “The book, which is dedicated to my late elder sister, Ima Ossai, who died when we were  young was written as a tribute to all starving African children” I paused to inhale, it felt like breathing in fire, “it was her story that prompted the writing of the book” I paused, should I reveal much more about myself? I pondered as he waited, sitting forward, he seemed genuinely interested, or tell how my resolve to disallow Uncle Luke have his way had caused the incident that led to her death? “The first ten chapters vividly describe how starvation robs the African child from dreaming of loftier goals” my voice sounded funny again, I tried another smile, a quivering of facial muscles, I swallowed instead, my throat was dry. I remembered the day I found her secret notebook, where she wrote about her wish for me to be a superstar, who knew Ima had time or talent for writing? The graphic description of one of the many afternoons of our childhood was stamped in my mind like a prayer; I had unconsciously memorized it, word for word…

Monday, 24 September 2012

Don't Say "Cheese!"

Do you remember how awkward it was to take a picture in the past? you practically have to hold still for what seemed like hours while the photographer gets behind the big black box and says, "say Cheese!" then we were all required to say cheese and hold the muscle quivering smiles saying cheese produced till he snapped the picture and you have to remember not to blink when the flash explodes, crazy days...
Brings to mind one incident that happened when I was eleven or twelve, not sure though. I remember though that it was close to Christmas, we were in the east, the weather was crispy cold and dusty as it usually is during hamattan periods.
It was my favorite time of the year then, because while we were busy being measured by my mother for new clothes she was going to sew by herself, the little village we resided was busy planning their annual end of the year festival. it was a colorful event and weeks before the ceremony, there was the appearance of  masquerades. It was an exciting time for everyone.
The trick was not to ever get caught by the masquerades dressed in black raffia. They had long canes spiked with dried pepper or shards of razor blades! that fateful day my mother sent my younger brother and I to the market and just like junior secret agents that we were, we took turns watching each other's back. He would run forward and scan the horizon in search for the lurking masquerades and then it will be my turn to do the same. The plan worked going to the market and purchasing the garri that would serve as lunch that afternoon.
Heady with the success of our strategy we forgot to employ the same method on our way back. We were close to the junction that led to our settlement, all we needed to do was cross the road to the other side and follow the long, hilly road that led to safety and food.
We got caught in an argument, I cant remember what it was but all of a sudden we saw a flurry of movement and the next instant we were standing face to face with the dreaded Iga masquerade, dressed in black raffia and holding the longest cane I ever saw!For just a nano second I wanted to stand still and take the punishment for not being watchful, but my body reacted differently, I screamed, "RUN!" to my brother as i bolted for the safety of a nearby chemist.
 I made it in before i turned to look back and that was when i noticed that my younger brother was still frozen on the spot. The masquerade raised the cane and as it descended he finally turned to move but it was too late, the cane tore into his upper thigh drawing blood and ripping the skin. i remember the chemist administering first aids to his bleeding thigh and we were escorted home by two male adult to prevent further re-occurrence, much to my humiliation, because i felt i was adult enough to protect myself and my brother. Years later i remembered the incident and I couldn't help comparing it to how people sometimes react to Life's drama. Just like my younger brother told me later that he thought if he stayed perfectly still, the masquerade will not hit him, a lot of people feel that when life throws an unexpected situation at them, if they stand still, the problems will blow over, it doesnt work that way. you have to do something! Lesson number one, its either you tackle the problem head on with practical, logical steps, or you pray your way out of the situation. Holding still and doing nothing is like burying you head in the sand like the ostrich, never works!My advice, the next time youre faced with a situation like that, dont say CHEESE and hope to wear the situation out, it only works with antiquated photgraphy,ACT! do something about it, but just dont say cheese!Lesson number two, Two heads in agreement are always better than one, work or walk with people you can agree with or that can agree with you, Teamwork works!Just pick a winning team.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Vaya Con Dios...

When I was a teenager, there was a musical group called "Vaya Con Dios" I loved her sultry, mournful songs. One of them was titled 'heading for a fall' and I loved it! those were my goth days...ah vida! anyway I found out(from reading a Ludlum book) that it meant "go with God"
For a while I pondered why a group titled, "Go with God" will sing about falls and heartbreaks, etc, didn't make any sense to me, but the truth is, God never promised us a smooth journey, He promised an expected end.
So when you get a dream, a vision, an inspiration from God, don't despair when it seems as if there are many obstacles on your path to achieving it, think about this, when Gabriel (the angel in the bible, mind you!) appeared to Mary, he didn't say, "oh hail Mary, the one who will conceive by the holy spirit and your son will be tortured and you will watch him hang like a common criminal.." no he said instead, "Hail thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women...Behold you shall conceive in thy womb and you will bring forth a child..."  there was no mention of mangers and birthing in a shed, no, or even death on the cross, not at all!
Because God is the Beginning and the End, those are the parts that matter to God! How do I know?
He said, "the glory of the latter days shall be greater than the former" No mention of the middle. Because He thinks you should be confident enough to know that if you start and He finishes, whatever you face to get to the end should not faze you.
I don't know who I'm taking to church today, but wherever you are, in whatever situation you find yourself today, know for a surety that the end will be better! dust yourself up and keep trying.
The difference between a sinner and a saint is not just the spelling or the halo that people attribute to saints, its the fact that a saint will fall down, but he/she will get back up again, while a sinner falls and stays down. The bible says that "a righteous man will fall seven times and will rise seven times"
Don't stay down, pick yourself up, dust your clothes and keep going.
Know that if you don't give up, or give in for that matter, God will keep going with you, as long as you don't quit, He wont either!
So I think that musical group was right in singing about "heading for a fall" because in life you will fall, the journey will not be smooth and uneventful, but the end is bright and colorful and beyond your expectations. Don't give up, instead I say to you now, "Vaya con Dios!"

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Making Lemonade

I know I've been off the radar for a while, when life hands you lemons, you're so used to it that you can make lemonade with one hand tied on your back, but it throws in another curve, your knife breaks and you have to cut and squeeze the lemons with your teeth(sic!)don't get me started...
Anyway, I am doing great, hanging by the skin of my teeth and like most people I know, looking up to God for a better tomorrow while working as hard as you can and hoping it is good enough...
But I'm digressing...
I cant help but remember that today, several years ago, every one watched with horror as America was dealt a terrible blow. It wasn't only Americans that mourned, even though it happened in their very backyard, the whole world mourned with them.
When such tragedy occurs, the feeling to just coil up and die seems to be really appealing, because you just don't know where to start from, how to pick yourself up and continue. the question, 'why' ricochets around your head as you wonder if God allowed something like this to happen, or if He just couldn't stop it from happening...
It makes the occasional stress you experience seem so trivial...But like everything in life, time doesn't stop, it keeps ticking, the grasses will keep growing, the sun will set and the moon will dance amidst stars to the sound of nocturnal animals. This is earth's way of telling us to move on, yes it was terrible, but move on, Live, if not for yourself for those whose lives were cut short, live for them. Smile because once you're dead you cannot smile, help someone while you still can and if you have to choose between good and evil, choose good, what will it profit you to be evil? After you've done all you can, stand true to yourself! Don't do anything you will look back and regret.
Whatever it is you're struggling with today, even though it seems so tragic and terrible to bear, it couldn't stop time, so find a way to live through it, one minute at a time if you must. Remember, God's thoughts for us are not of evil, they are thoughts of good, peace to bring us to an expected end, you will overcome it,you'll see.
  *To all who lost someone in  9-11, may you find comfort, knowing that they rest in the bossom of the Lord

Thursday, 6 September 2012

"Mr. Right Now!"

So when you were growing up, still a little girl, you had your idea of how you wanted your future husband to be, he was your 'Dream Man'.
 He was tall like the actor who played Thor, passionate and kind like Robin of Sherwood, stealing from the rich to feed the poor, (really? hmm)romantic enough to enjoy walking on the beach with you watching the sunset and telling you how beautiful you are and finally, you are the envy of all your friends because they all wanted him but he want you, just you!(oh yes!)
Then you grow older and life knocks some of that dizzy stardust off your eyes and and you know better, but you have standards and even though your dream man was unrealistic, you still want him to be a certain way! so he becomes "Mr. Perfect!"
Mr. Perfect is finely muscled, speaks two or three languages, has a fantastic job that includes traveling to exotic locations to broker multi-million deals (so you tag along and shop till you practically drop!). So life is perfect!
Then you grow older and life comes along and knocks the rose-tinted glasses of your eyes and you realize you seriously need to face up to reality!
So you've dumped Mr. Perfect, now you're looking for Mr. Right!Let me tell you about Mr. Right, he's tailor-made just for you, when other women say stuffs like "men are dogs" you don't know what they're talking about.
Mr. Right may not have so much, but he makes a decent income, own a good car, is able to take you out to dinner twice a week, your two adorable children attend very private school, and you live in your own home(no land lord wahala!) And so you wait, and wait, and wait...
Suddenly, you realize that you've been had again! Mr. Right is hastily replaced by Mr. Right Now!
Mr. Right now knows he's playing second fiddle to your Mr. Right, he knows you're just 'settling' because of dashed pipe dreams.
So you're ready to accept a flaw or two, you REALLY want to close this phase and move on! Funny thing is, Mr. Right now knows that too, so tells you what you want to hear, but shows more than a flaw or two, you smile, after all hes real, hes here, better than your imaginary Mr. Right, right?
But he wont settle,(No.1 deal breaker!) he is processing his divorce, his baby mama is pregnant for his second child and he has to be there(solely because of the baby, of course!) he's waiting for that promotion in his work place, the increase will help him make a down payment on that flat he wants.
And on and on the excuses go.
The truth is, Mr. Right now isn't right or ready right now or anytime soon for anyone, my advice to you, dear girl with dashed pipe dreams, is to dream again.
This time back it up with some good old fashioned prayers, then Let go and let God.
He may not be like Thor, or steal because he wants to help the poor(tufiakwa!), or jettison around the globe and spend money as if its going out of fashion, or agree with everything you say or cry when he watches "Titanic" (you know the sensitive type...) but when God answers your prayers, what you get, is a Good man!
So the next time Mr. Right now shows up to spin his yarns, just stick up your finger, roll your eyes and say, "Not Right Now!"