Bit by bit , you have torn me apart
So I’m taking them back
Bit by bit
As they are mine not yours
Emi ni mo ni ara mi , I am mine
I am mine
I am wholly mine
Bit by bit , you have torn me apart
So I’m taking them back
Bit by bit
As they are mine not yours
Emi ni mo ni ara mi , I am mine
I am mine
I am wholly mine
Nne i cheta ro zi, you don’t remember again?
But with someone new
Gold and blonde highlights
Sitting in a chair in a barber’s shop along a busy road
Today’s the day I become a new person. I become my own person she thinks to herself
Staring at the mirror, watching him massage the mix into her hair
Nervous and excited at the same time
“Make we wash am” , her black is all gone leaving a gold colour behind
From tip to root
Sisi mi is a new person
She would walk in between market stalls and feel the eyes following her
She would feel them and hear the words
She would demand attention, ‘such hair colour on such black skin’
She flags down a keke napep
She sits in front and holds for support
I would end up staring at the back of her head half of the time
Intrigued by such hair colour on such black skin
I don’t know her name so I call her Sisi mi
Sisi mi be daring , be unapologetically you
Sisi Eko, This is Lagos
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Today we’re going on a road trip. From Lagos to Nnewi. I’ll keep to myself all through. If I’m not reading , I’ll listen to music on my mp3 player. Or I’ll sleep. My mother says I keep to myself these days. I just turn and look out the window. It’s true, I have been unusually quiet. But what is there to explain. That I don’t what’s going on with me. People irritate me. I don’t think I like the boy I thought I liked. I don’t have the strength for intellectual conversations, or any type of conversation. All I want is to do nothing. Feel nothing. And write. There’s a 3 days Creative Writing course in my mail box, all three classes with yellow stars next to them. I opened them though, just didn’t read them .I can’t write if I don’t feel anything. I feel like I’m floating. Wayyy up. And I’m enjoying it. Coming down would be facing reality. Answering the same questions “Are you okay?” “Where have you been”
It’s like my feelings know I’m not myself and they’re patiently waiting. Waiting for me to come back. Then they can come rushing all at once. That would make me confused, overwhelmed … I know. I would break down no doubt but I don’t want that. So I still want to float. Enjoy the peace while it lasts. Do I describe it as peace or running away from what I don’t what to feel? Whatever it is…
“We’re at Asaba, we would soon reach”
Nnewi. Home. Something there that makes me feel some kind acceptance, safety. The air is cool. It’s quiet there. I have my special place, nobody ever finds me there. When I get to Nnewi, I can let myself be vulnerable. Let my feelings peeping through the door overwhelm me. I could break down a little… I would break down a little. Then sort them out one after the other. And I could write. Write about how I started walking early in the morning, my new diet, my personal opinion on something. Or a story. I could write anything. I could finally take that 3 days Creative Writing course. I could finally answer all those messages and tell them that I’m fine.
I wake up to the car horning. We have gotten here.
“Aha bia go, they have come”
As if on cue, everyone comes rushing outside. The ones I know and the ones I can’t remember. The ones that weren’t home, people were sent to go and call them “Hian nekwa gi, look at you..you have grown”. I just smile. Then I see my grandmother, slowly emerging from the house
“Nne m o, kedu” I hug her and hold her tightly.
“Mama o dinma. I’m fine”
Photo Credit : Google Images. toddadams.net
The other day I was talking to some of my friends about the dreams they once had. Some till had it, others Plan B. Then a friend asked me “You still have your dream of going to Paris?” And I said I didn’t know, what will I do in Paris. And we laughed. I can dream big. I could dream for half of the world honey
When I was 9 I was going to write books, like that was what I wanted to do with my life. I remember my cousin telling me “You can’t just be a writer. I’m going to be a doctor and I can write books. Any body can write books”, then I decided I had to look for something real to go with writing. At 12 I would be scouted one fine day and be famous, grace cat walks in Paris, New York. I was going to be like the newer version of Kimora. I really did consider plastic surgery, like a nose job and probably a lighter skin tone. That was until I saw how nose jobs were done on Dr 90210 then the plan changed. By 13 I was going to be one of the best things that ever had to Hip Pop, I was going to be on a song with Nicki Minaj and almost get a Grammy off that shit * Drake voice*. When I look at the ‘verses’ I wrote at 13, I can’t help but laugh. I watched music channels all day, never missed an episode of 106 & Park. I bought albums of my favourite rappers ( okay only Nicki, Drake and Eminem, the rest I downloaded one or two songs). I remember almost crying that my mum should get me a Nicki tape and she looked at me and was laughing. I had Pink Friday playing every time we were in the car, still I grew up. 14 came along and my modelling ‘career’ still hadn’t taken off so I decided if I can’t model the cloths, I could design them. The designer dream lasted for a very long time. I was going to have a villa in Italy, inherit a small island, own a private jet. At some point, I toyed with the idea of being an OAP with BEAT FM, I would own a magazine, I would have a nail polish line maybe make up, be a stylist, be a motivational speaker, work for United Nations, designing jewelry did cross my mind at some point. Even a tour of Europe. At some point I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. It’s so funny now when I think about these things. Like my mind was everywhere. If this doesn’t happen maybe this will.
These dreams kept me going some how, to me life hadn’t lost it’s spark entirely. When things weren’t going very well, I would just retire back to ‘polishing’ my dreams to perfection. They were too good to happen. I knew it, but that didn’t stop me. I dream so big, I scare myself sometimes. But I am happy most of those dreams didn’t happen if not I would have lost lots of things. Lots of things that Paris can’t replace. I probably won’t have the memories I have. I won’t be able to go to the movies with my friends like people do, I won’t be there when my friends need some to talk to because I would be at some fashion show or be having some recording session.I won’t be there at my god-daughter’s baptism. I won’t be there to tell my little cousins to come down from the chair or to give me back my phone. Christmas might be spent in a hotel room consoling myself with a big diamond and not with my family (cousins, aunties, uncles,mother’s cousins, relatives of relatives) where half the day is spent cooking, the other half eating.
Some people don’t understand when you voice out certain dreams. Normally they would laugh, in front of you and behind you. And I’m like okay you had a good laugh now, I’m happy I was of good use now can we drop it. Noooooo, some people like to cover their lack of ambition by laughing at others, but anything that lets them sleep at night. It is hard to hold on to something really close when you desperately want to share it with someone, the hurtful part is when the one person you expect to listen and sigh with you throws their head back and laughs. Its painful but you put up a good front, you also laugh at your own dreams and start to doubt yourself in private. And no matter how well you guys get along, things will never be the same anymore. Its funny when you no longer have those dreams, then you can laugh about them. But when you really believe in them, someone making fun of you isn’t so fun. I have had people laugh at my dreams, had people talk me out of my dreams, had people tell me flat “you would never get there” “it won’t last” “you wish”, but a girl has to live.
So maybe Paris didn’t happen, but I still dream just that this time it’s a little teeny bitty closer to reality. A clothing line isn’t so bad. I could still have a short term career as an OAP, a late night show perhaps. I have come to the conclusion that I’m probably not what Hip Pop wants and I’m at peace with it. Sometimes I’m still not sure what I want any more, or what to dream about. But I still want to be a motivational speaker, some things are just inbuilt. If or not United Nations wants me I’m fine. I’m still going to write, side career or not. And instead of Paris,maybe Italy could happen.
I’ll be young, not famous and definitely not alone in Italy.