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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.

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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'ni , 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.

One Day

Nne m, I’m restless 

I want to tell your stories, I want to tell our stories

My pen is blunt and my tongue heavy

But these stories will be told

Truths reveled , sworn secrets exposed 

All hell will be let loose

Promise me one thing Nne

That when your truth is reveled, my truth reveled 

That I can still sit by your feet and rest my head on your laps 

Rub my back til I fall asleep and call me nne m

Back to Life, Back to Hope

When you sit down hugging your knees rocking  yourself

With tears running down your cheeks

You silently call on someone, anyone to help you

But your voice is slightly above a whisper

Baby girl, talk your way through it

Say it with me “I’ll be fine”

Say it slowly, repeatedly

And when depression tries to mock your growing faith

Shake your head and say it loudly “I’ll be fine!” repeatedly

In that dark corner, in your room, in your closet, on your bathroom floor

In your mind

Hugging your knees with tears on your face

Rock yourself back to life, back to hope

Nne ama m , but speak life to yourself

Tell depression “I’ll be fine!”
– for September 10

Words We Wrote at Night #4

I want to loathe you

I want to bleed and paint you a picture of the misery you made me feel

Feel this pain ten times

But my weakness has become my strength

I look at you and silently pray for you

That it will be well with you

Nna m , believe me

What I feel for you is far from hate but it certainly isn’t love

– forgiveness
📷 : Diego IG: @diqueku

It’s not just photography, it’s art

Grey

I’m lying down next to a man
He don’t love me no more
He thinks about her when he’s eating my food
He talks about her with his head on my laps
Į maa na,  he whispers her name in his sleep
I fall asleep to the sound of my man calling for another
He looks at me every morning
Those eyes..
I’m searching but I end up lost
Nne, this night I will lie next to a man
He don’t love me no more