Author: Oge.O

Storyteller o.ofomata@yahoo.com

If You’re Reading This …

8

I just want to be happy in this life

We should all be happy in this life

It’s easy to die Pam

I always wonder how people walk into the ocean just to die

It’s easy

You stand far from shore, you see the clapping waves that remind you of your mind’s current state

It’s scary,  but after a while it looks peacefully. Just peaceful, like it’s calling you to be at peace.

We should all be happy in this life Pam

We go to ocean to find peace, but not everyone comes back alive

Death comes in different forms and so does peace

May our peace not be in the bosom of death

– beach thoughts that turned into texts and became a poem (August 2017)

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How To Make (S@#T) Lemonade.

This is  a very cliché post.

Lol.

1

A very upside down post too.

So I was going through old pictures to pick a new desktop background and I stumbled on pictures I took  last year at Venice Beach with my cousin. At the same time I had a thought going through my head that I was going to discuss with a friend. Starting afresh or being far from what is familiar can be very scary. Is very scary actually. We know this for a fact, but still it doesn’t prepare you for it.

The changes that have happened in my life I honestly did not see coming. Enjoyable and heart wrenching changes that we have come to appreciate regardless. At this current point in my life, I’m trying out new things. I’m meeting new people. I’m feeling hurt from being detached from certain things and people that I’ve gotten used to. I’m letting myself feel things that I would not allow usually. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, slowly.  I’m accepting me the way me is. It’s not a ‘new year, new me’ thing . It wasn’t planned. No.  Another example of “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade”. Now there are some positivity in this.  But being the person that I am, I still stop mid way and ask myself  “Are you really sure this is how you make lemonade?” , but after the doubt what’s the worst that can happen? My lemonade will taste like s@#t but hey *shrugs* we tried didn’t we.

None of my choices in life will be perfect. I’ll make some mistakes more than once (already tested and proven). My emotions will be everywhere sometimes. Bottled up anger will spill open. And just when things seem to going on fine, a memory will resurfaced, be it enjoyable or heart wrenching  that might still bring up the question ” Are you sure you’re getting this right?” “Do you even have a damn clue?” . But we’ll  adjust just like we have being doing.

Either way enjoy life. Travel. Accept yourselves. Make mistakes. Be confused or feel lost. Keep adding gold stars to your Achievement Board. Be open minded. Fall in love. Fall on concrete ground too.

LA

So here’s to lemons and making lemonade. Whether we put a 9yr old girl out of business or choke on our own poison.

 

Red

My mother would always warn me

“Don’t drink that without blowing”. I took a sip and burnt my tongue

“Don’t play with matches”. I didn’t listen, it burnt my fingers

“Don’t touch the iron”. I chose not to listen, it burnt my skin

“Don’t listen to these boys”. Did I listen? They set a fire in my heart and watched it burn

“Don’t let them touch you”. And as always I didn’t listen and they left burn scars on my thighs

I’m full of scars, I never learn from my mistakes

Fire only burns, nne ge nti, listen

In whatever form, enjoyable or heart wrenching

Fire will always burn

Corper Shun!

So about a month ago I travelled to Kaduna for NYSC Orientation Camp. I joked about Kaduna, I was expecting Nassarawa, somewhere in my mind was a voice that said “You might just end up in Enugu.

Now the four choices that were given to me were Nassarawa, Kaduna, Enugu and Rivers. The two weeks after registration I always joked that all my friends that had Kaduna that we would end up there. But in secret I would tell my other friend “Something tells me I’m going to the North . I just feel it”

So Friday morning I woke up to messages on the group chat. We had been posted! I refused to check mine out of fear. Most of my friends from my ‘squad’ got Lagos while one got Taraba. I had none of that as a choice. So I called my life line Pelumi , “I’m going to Kaduna o”

“Kaduna *laugh* wait let me check mine” she hung up

Few minutes she calls me back ,” You can call me Halimaaaaaa. Nassarawa here I come! My guyyyyyyy, we move!!!!”

Here I was sitting in my 4 years old niece’s Dora themed room, all down and she took my mood from 0 to 100. Immediately my Snap said ‘Adventure Time😎’

But I can honestly tell you I was not ready for the adventure I was going to get.

After a pep talk from my older cousin, my father freaking out that I was going to the North and my mother telling me “You can’t wear what you wear in Lagos o , cover your body, wear jalamias” . I was ready to go to Kaduna, I thought. Here I was seated at the airport on Wednesday after I had missed my flight on Tuesday and a flight for 2 pm left Lagos by 9:30 pm. We got to the Kaduna International Airport by 10:30 something, there I met Jumoke ( name later to be changed to Jummy Baby) and Steph. Luckily for us Steph had a drive waiting so we all tagged along. After driving on the express for another 1hr and some mintues we got to the camp. They looked at us like ‘at this time , from where, why’ but we weren’t the only ones. By the time we got mattresses and rooms I looked at my phone, the time was few minutes after 12.

After 4 mornings of waking up by 4/4:30 , walking half way to Mammy to get hot water, shivering on the parade ground, always wearing a cap that gave me a headache, ‘the sounding of the biggle’ , going to bed on a mattress that wasn’t more than 6 inches thick… And after my first 5 hours SAED Lecture. I. Was. Tired. Frustrated. Wanted to Just Go Home.

I was ready to redeploy. I was going to redeploy. That night I was literally about to cry just like my father said I would. Then my cousin calls me and we have a lengthy conversation. My mum calls while in transit. Another friend calls and says “Don’t die on me, you better bring yourself back to Lagos in one piece” . After almost crying and not which surprised me, I decided to enjoy camp as much as I could.

I made friends with anyone who was willing to be friendly. Decided to be involved in activities. I joined the parade, I ran relay which we lost (obviouslyyyyyyyyyy 🙄) . Then Man O War. Standing in front of the obstacle I shook my head like “Hell naaahh” but eventually I did the whole thing.

Most of all I enjoyed every conversation I had in camp. From talking about Igbo politics to the geography of the North, to photography, to relationships, to getting someone to translate to someone else that she was beautiful, to talking about life with 18years Emeka who’s going to be an engineer . I started to enjoy camp that I didn’t want to redeploy anymore.

At Kaduna I saw a shooting star. There we were at the parade ground, morning cold, not listening to what was being said, gloves hands holding hands without gloves and above us goes a shooting star.

If there’s one thing Kaduna camp blessed me with its amazing sunsets

By three days to the end of camp I honestly prayed my redeployment would not work out but it did. Coming back to Lagos and having things change for me the way I never expected had me longing to go back to Kaduna. But remembering the Man O War instruction ” Do not look down. Slowly , slowly. If you feel the rope shaking , breathe continue to take breaths ”

Funny how not being in Kaduna right now and definitely not being on a rope, that instruction is very applicable.

Kaduna gave me memories I will forever hold dear. Taught me to find beauty in the simplest of things.

Kaduna was a blessing that came disguised.

3:45am

To be restless at night

Burdened with conversations that never happened, that need to happen

The urge to say “I’m sorry”

To ask “At any point did I mean anything”

To hear “I did not mean to hurt you”

Just for peace of mind

To lay down and not be haunted

A void that might never be filled , weight that we would continue to carry

Words are light but heavy, in the heart and in my mouth

Archives

So this is the story I wrote (last minute thanks to Nina’s persuasion) over a year ago for the Farafina Workshop Shop last year. I didn’t get in, I didn’t even think I would but at least I tried. Please read and feel very free to drop your suggestions, thoughts, criticism in the comments.

Thank you!

Prices are increasing.
Everything is now expensive, we’re getting by but still. Yesterday my mother was calculating how much it costs to fuel two cars and a generator in a week. The other day the mallam that sold suya had all types of vegetables but no tomatoes. I jokingly mentioned it to my aunty that it’s that bad now.
“Aha, tomato” he said while arranging sticks of meat on a  rusty yellow tray
“E don cost no be small”
He wore an ugly looking silver ring on his oily finger. For some reason I continued to stare at the mallam’s oily fingers as he continued to arrange his ware. His apprentice poured more oil from an old bottle on the meat and turned them over.
I continued to stare and inhale the smoke
* * *
I spoke to my father today. Nothing out of the ordinary. The usual how are yous, how’s your health. The only thing out of the ordinary is that I haven’t seen my father in three years. Over the years people have asked “Don’t you miss your father”. I always shrug it off, and tell them not really. Now see, my father wasn’t around much while growing up so I guess I’m used to it. So I use his absence to cover up for my moody days or when my roommate catches me crying. People tend to buy that lie. A lot.
But today I asked a question I never asked in three years
“Are you still coming home this summer”
“Yes of course now, sometime in July. Just a month and half”
I feel a lump in my throat and my eyes are watery. “How’s Uncle Amaechi”

I’m staring at the table .I’m staring lot at things lately
* * *
I’m sitting here staring at students walk by. Most of them are walking blindly, looking at single sheets of paper in their hands with writings on it. It’s exams, nobody is walking slowly.
Sitting opposite the bus park, waiting for my friend and I start to think of him.
We’re arguing a lot nowadays. He says I’m uptight and far from sensitive. I don’t argue about the latter. He once told me he had a love-hate thing for this artistic side of mine. He loves it but it makes him think I’ll drift away at some point. All I could say to that was “Shit happens”
He doesn’t like the way I go neither do I but I agree with him. We have no spark anymore so there’s no need wasting time.
I’m sitting down,  staring at students walk by and I’m thinking about him.
* * *
As much as prices are increasing, we’re getting by. We still find time to laugh. I’m sitting at the verandah with my mother and aunty . There’s no light so we’re entertaining ourselves with small talk. Someone’s approaching the gate, it’s the landlord’s son
“I’m sure he has gotten to smoke again” I say breaking the silence
Mummy lifts her hand to slap the mosquito on her arm
“If you see the girl he brought the other day ehn, ike ya ra ka basin. Her bum was as big as a basin”
I try to hold it but I can’t. Mummy’s laughing so hard that she starts to cough.
At that moment I realize that we will be fine, that I will be fine. I’ll leave home soon and I don’t feel like I have the ability to survive without my mother guiding me. I’m afraid one day, he would come back with that smile and say in that low deep voice “I miss you” and our tragic love story will repeat itself. Over and over I’ve chosen the love that has hurt me. The type that drains me to my bones even though on the outside it looks like it did not leave a scratch.  I feel like my identity isn’t mine sometimes and there is so much that I can do but I don’t try. I have words in my head that I can’t get out no matter how hard I try. It is these words that cause me to turn and be restless till 4 in the morning. But still I’ll be fine.
* * *
Every where is quiet. Everyone’s asleep already except from me. I’m not restless today instead I am calm but still there’s no sleep so I’m staring at the ceiling in pitch darkness. My phone beeps. I pick up it up to read the text with no intention of answering it. The message was simple,
“Kedu”
At that moment I have no strength to lie. “We’re not fine but we’ll be fine, nothing’s wrong.” That’s all I say.
Idi kwa sure? Are you sure?”
As simple as this question is, nothing prepares me for it. I break down and start to cry. Every thing feels like a mess, I’m a mess. I’m crying and staring at the ceiling in pitch darkness but the tears makes everything blurry.
Just like everything around me.

The House My Grandfather Built

22 Umunogo, Enugu
The door reminds me of the house my grandfather built
Both my parents are from Anambra State and they both grew up in Enugu. No they meet each other as kids so this is not a childhood love story. In a way it could be a childhood love story, it could be one of my childhood love stories on how I fell in love with Enugu .

In the house my grandfather built is where I spent a handful of my summers growing up. I didn’t know how many flats where in one big building but I knew one or two families were from our hometown . In this house there was no Enid Blyton but Mabel Segun. I would read and after I was done I would pass it down to my cousin. Sometimes he could like to claim that he was the same age as me. I would remind him that he could only say this on this birthday and if he dared I would remind him the next day which was my birthday that he wasn’t anymore. He would look at me and smile “nwanne m”.

It is in this same house that my uncle would make us memorize Psalm 91 and recite it to him a week later, each person going into the room while others would wait outside the door hoping not to forget when it was their turn.
I remember pouring cold water on our heads in between memorizing because it felt too hot. My Aunty looked at us , laughed and shook her head with her facial expression a mixture of amusement and pity.

It is in this house that we would sneak out on Sunday mornings by 7:30 to attend a church service that started by 6. It was simple. Wake up, wash your face, change then escape. We would walk close to the walls of the house so as not to be seen by any relative who happened to look out the window. When returning by 8:30, we would decide on a topic that we ‘had been taught’ in Sunday School. It was better than the 9am Sunday school that finished by 3

In this same house, my Aunty would make us translate all our game songs from English to Igbo. “Na’asu Igbo, speak Igbo . And in order to be sure, she would stand there and supervise us. Imagine jumping and translating ‘Humpty dumpty, stop, every body stop’ to Igbo. I remember telling my mother’s younger sister that the Igbo the children next door spoke was funny. She laughed, “ha na’asu Awka, they’re speaking the Awka dialect

It is here that I would learn that roasted plantain isn’t just a snack, it’s a meal. Plantain with palm oil, ugba, with bits of fish and kpomo was a meal. And a good one. On some days it was abacha with fried fish and uziza. I remember one summer I went from a 48 to a 51. Sometimes my cousins and I would gather enough money to buy Pepsi and biscuits. There was some joy in dipping Coaster biscuits in a cup of Pepsi.

I visited Enugu again few months ago , after many years. The house had a new paint. The people who lived there most certainly didn’t recognize me , I didn’t spend enough time for them to be told “That is Oge, nwa Chinweoke ba nyi, our Chinweoke’s daughter”. My cousin tried to claim he was the same age as me and I gave him a side look and he smiled “nwanne m” . He has just a year left to get his engineering degree. Uncle Obiora still has the shop downstairs. The small red canopy that served as a Catholic Church opposite the house has been replaced by a wall .
My uncle has moved but brings his children back now and then.
My mother’s younger sister has her own children and lives in Maryland. The other day on the phone she asked me “Can you still say Psalm 91 by heart?” . It was my turn to laugh.
I can’t pronounce Igbo words in my mother’s dialect neither do I know how many flats are in this big building.
I stood on the same balcony that we used to listen to catechism from, with my cousin beside me. Just like the generation before me, my children will stand on this balcony. They would translate their game songs from English to Igbo.
The door is still the same and I can’t recite Psalm 91 by heart.

Travel Chronicles

I met a boy once.
His name was Alex.
Okay I didn't necessarily meet that boy named Alex , I sat two seats and an aisle away from a boy named Alex.

So I sat two seats and an aisle away from a boy named Alex on a flight from Los Angeles to Paris. No I don't go on fancy vacations because I can't afford it, Paris was a stop over. I know his name is Alex because I heard him introduce himself to the lady who sat next to him. Alex wore glasses and had a stripped cardigan on which matched his socks. Both stripped but different colours. Alex had light brown hair with streaks of blonde. And also a beautiful smile. He was super nice to the old lady who sat beside him. Not technically beside beside because there was an empty chair between them. From the conversation, Alex talked about how beautiful Tahiti had been when he visited. I just listened and stole glances when I could because the lady besides me wasn't much of a conversationalist. I mean I smiled and said hi but didn't get a response. I met Alex's glance twice or thrice, I can't really remember. I'm sure he won't remember the girl in a grey cardigan with blue twists. And there's a greater possibility that he was just looking over my head or pass me.
We would never find out.
So I took got off that plane with my hand luggage and an unrealistic funny short story on how I fell in love on a 12 hours flight. I would tell this story to my friend while at the airport and almost miss my flight back to Lagos.

Months later I would be reminded of Alex when I sat next to a girl at the airport in Ethiopia waiting on our connecting flight. No I don't go on fancy vacations because I can't afford it, Ethiopia was a stop over too. She had a 3b/c afro which I thought was beautiful and I couldn't stop admiring her piercings. We shared a smile and confusion on whether the next flight boarding was ours or not. While sitting there , I noticed she had a bag of things, looked like souvenirs to me from where she had visited.
I would stand next to this same girl at LAX waiting to pick up our luggage. While I waited for my two boxes which of course one was filled with food stuffs ( a Nigerian that travels without food stuffs is that a Nigerian?) , she picked up her over sized camp bag and left. I stared at the fully grown tree tattooed on her ankle, silently wishing her good luck with whatever growth she had or wanted in life.
I should have asked her for her name.

I am grateful for French air hostesses who mispronounce your surname but escort you to board your almost missed flight.
I am grateful for different stop overs that make me feel like a seasoned traveller even though I have only two stamps from two different countries on my passport.
I am grateful for friends that keep you company with the aid of airport WiFi.
I should start collecting souvenirs , even from stop overs.
I should have taken a picture of that beautiful sunrise I saw from an airport window.
I should tell strangers that they are beautiful.
I should ask for names.
So I am grateful for Alex and the girl with the tree tattoo on her ankle.
It feels good to write again.

– for Alex and the girl with the tree tattoo on her ankle.