igbo

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

Dera’s Sister , Part I

It was very simple.

Every Sunday evening, Dera would come to get me from Ogechi’s house. On our way back she would stop to talk to Sam. I was to wait patiently like the good sister that I was until they were done talking. When she was done she would signal by saying “Ngwa Amaka let’s go” . Just by Issa’s kiosk opposite our house she would buy me sweets. And if anyone was to ask why we took long, I played a little after Dera came to get me.

It was very simple and that was how we had always done it until one fateful day …
This people should do and finish now, I though to myself. I was tired of slapping the mosquitoes that perched on my leg and I was hungry. If I had knew, I would had eaten the rice that Aunty Janet offered me

“Amaka, you no go eat rice”

“Aunty no thank you. I’m not that hungry”

The fact was , I was hungry but I refused the food. Mama was going to make ofe nsala this evening and I needed all the space in my tummy. Even though I wasn’t suppose to eat outside the house, I usually ate at Ogechi’s house. I would eat and pretend like I didn’t but Dera knew. She knew that I ate outside but she never told.

So I here I was , sitting on the pavement watching a group of ants on the wall and slapping mosquitoes that perched on my leg. I usually wondered what they discussed about. What did he tell her that made her smile so wide and be in such a happy mood. After their meetings she hardly got angry at me. She didn’t shout at me if I didn’t mop the bathroom floor after my bath. She didn’t give me mean stares when I spoke while she was speaking . She didn’t send me out when I walked in on her changing .

Even though these moments were short lived, I would willing sit on that pavement for an hour if it meant Dera would be nice to me for a whole day or two.

Dera was seven years my senior and I had come at a time when she didn’t want a toddler following her around. Mama used to make her take me everywhere with her. When she was going to a friend’s house, when she was sent on an errand; I wanted to come along

“Dera nekwa nwanne gi anya , look after your sister” Mama would always tell her

Murmuring she would give me a mean stare and it was left for me to walk fast in order to keep up with her. If we visited any of her friends I was supposed to stay in a corner and mind my business and not disgrace her. I remember one time she took me or was forced to take me along to her friend’s house. They spoke about things I didn’t understand. I know for one thing they don’t like their teachers. That part I understood because I didn’t like my Basic Science teacher too. But I didn’t know why whenever a boy’s name was mentioned one of them would start to smile and sound really funny.  Even though I didn’t enjoy their conversations I still tagged along because I felt it would make Dera like me. And for eight years all I wanted was for Dera to like me.

“Why do I always have to look after her” she would complain sometimes “She can be annoying ”

“Shut up, she’s your small sister or e maro, you don’t know ” Mama would tell her

So if it meant sitting and waiting so Dera would like me, I’ll sit and wait.

“Stop it!.. No!.. Stop it! ”

I looked up to see Dera running towards me.

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