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.
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.
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.
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
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
You gradually dismembered your being
Now you’re trying
Embarking on the journey to you all over again
The fear of not finding what you seek… what you consciously let go to please another
May it not choke you to your death