Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Back then and now


I don’t know what I did to the new yahoo mail, but somehow my mails got sorted and shown from the oldest to the most recent. 
I clicked on sent messages to look for a mail that I had sent a friend last week or so, and I happened upon mails that I sent as far back as 2001!

I began to read through them and somehow I found myself smiling at the way my thought processes ran back then. At the way I would have sounded to certain friends (who were the recipients of these mails) who are as much as a decade older than I am. They would have been my present age back then, and as I read the emails, I could not help wonder if they had smiled at my exigencies and my sometimes youthful outbursts in those days.

Some of those electronic missives made me smile; for friendships that were indeed true, for the faith and hope for a better tomorrow which I had back then.

However I was also moved to ponder on how much growth I have embraced in the last eleven years. Another year is drawing to a close now and I must say that it has been a rather eventful year; for me, for my family and even my country as a whole.

As I embrace the Christmas season, and look forward to a new year- hopefully with as many surprises and interesting events, I pray that I continue to blossom in maturity and that as I mature like fine wine, I do not lose the zeal  of my youth- at least not just yet, nor the perceptions which I have now acquired over time.
Compliments of the season!

Monday, 10 September 2012

E- Pals

U there?
R U Still here?
Timi is about to drop the blackberry on the kitchen work surface when she feels it vibrate. Once again the irish potatoes have to wait another few minutes before she can give it some attention. This non-attention she hitherto reserved for a rash was now the exclusive reserve of her cooking and any other chores that had the misfortune of falling to her.
Miss me?
Not really
Say the truth, you’ve been looking at your bb since, waiting for a beep from me
You wish you had that effect on me right?  - she recalls the lurch in her stomach when his message beeped, even now, the involuntary smile tugging at the corners of her lips as she punches the gadget with ambidextrous fingers in shocking speed.
I know that you are overfed on my ‘winch’, that’s why you can’t wait twenty seconds for my reply, you love me, just say it!
The full toothed smiling emoticon that ends that message has her smiling in complete abandon. She replies with another emoticon; it says love struck with the heart shape in both eyes.
Her face lights up, like a flower in the full glare of the sun. She realizes warmly that Archer was right; she was somewhat addicted to the banter that they shared daily- and sometimes nightly.
Maybe it was the near sublime feeling that accompanied the comfort of knowing he was just a click away. Or was it the pleasure of their joint moans stretched over cyber space, climaxing in convoluted contraptions of chips, radio waves and virtual reality so distant, yet so completely real.
All this was cushioned on the appealing justification that all that sex really was not sex since they had never been together in the flesh. In spite of the pictures, the horny voice notes, that raunchy video…
His steam not only raged hot in orgiastic frenzy, he also gave her the drive to design more. He helped her share the innovative dress and shirt styles on two social media sites on which she was registered, but never had the zeal to constantly bother with. Then came the biggest catch; he opened her eyes to the closest thing to a website. Putting her designs on blogosphere was one more thing to be grateful to him for.
A chance meeting had brought them together on one of those sites fourteen months ago; she had spoken with him because she saw that they had five mutual friends on the site, one of them her cousin. He seemed to understand the strain she was under, coping with a long distance relationship with ND, her long time boyfriend. ND got transferred to Abuja less than a year ago while she remained in Port Harcourt without a regular job, making her designs to keep busy.
When he seemed impressed that artistry ran in the family, she nearly did a double take, how do you mean? She asked.
Oh, I saw your cousin’s lovely cakes. She tagged you in some pictures.
Of course, she thought. He had her email password and her social media passwords to enable him update her posts and pictures.
But you are her friend on facebook too, not so?
Yes, I am. I don’t know her that well though.
Angelica, the flighty twenty nine year old mother of one came to their family home during preparations for a relative’s wedding in Port Harcourt a week later.
Out from the shower one morning, she waddled her plump frame into Timi’s room and gingerly dropped the question in her lap.
Do you know Chigozie Ogosi?
You mean Archer Ogosi?
Timi’s fingers assumed an instant quake, toppling her bold five
Yes, that’s him. Are you guys dating or something?
Dating? No. We’re friends though
Oh, 0kay. Because I told him I wouldn’t want to do my cousin’s man, not even her ex.
Timi is about to rejoice at the meaning she chooses to infer from this statement, but that joy is short-lived as Angelina continues, moisturizer in hand, leg poised on a nearby stool.
But the guy has a way with words though, did you notice that?
Yes, he does. Timi answers slowly, anxious not to let her voice betray the panic attack she was about to experience
For an IT engineer, the guy can be obnoxious sometimes! One cannot even dare have a different opinion from his. Anyway, that’s a little sacrifice to make for all the exposure and commendation he is giving my cakes on the internet.
Your cakes? Internet?
I know, it sounds crazy yeah? That’s what I thought till he helped me set up a blog for the cakes, Awesome stuff!
Really?
Yes. It’s called ‘Yummy Art’. The name was his idea too.
Wow! That’s wonderful. This lame response is the best she can exhume as she makes an excuse to look away from her cousin.
Even as she leaves the house for the gym, she cannot erase from her mind the picture of Angelina’s eyes rolled back as she described her online sex sessions with Archer; her Archer! Or so she had thought till this August visit got her dreams tumbling into reality’s vortex. Angelina tells her she just wants to get the best out of this friendship; she knows there is nothing in an e- boyfriend. That’s why she has refused to send him pictures of her body. She and Angie had always been free with each other, usually there were no holds barred when they discussed Angie’s sexcapades, but that bit of information sank Timi’s heart; she had been the gullible one here and after having her, he decided to move in on her younger cousin.
She wonders now whether it was sensible or just plain impetuous to let Angelina know that Archer had made passes at her a year ago, and to joke with the idea of him wooing her with the promise of a dildo and some g-strings on his next visit. That had made Angelina’s eyes pop. She eventually ended the gist with: We haven’t spoken much recently though, not after one last quarrel, about something so silly I can’t even remember.
At thirty three, she was not about to risk her possible marriage to ND over a silly internet fling. Her mind was made, she would not raise the matter with either Angie or Archer, they could ravish each other on the phone all they wanted each night, while Timi pretended to be in the full embrace of sleep that eluded her relentless search.
Her shock knew no bounds however when Archer’s voice came across her phone – accusatory and full of venom - as she left her tailor’s shop the next day.
How can you make me look bad before your cousin? How could you tell her about the g-string? You want to look like the saint and I the bad guy right?
Hold up! Since when is this my fault? I thought you didn’t know her well? These days you only know her enough to incite her lusty moans, and design her cake blog! Mr. blog-ur-way-to-our-bed!
It didn’t happen like that, honestly. I, erm, I, I, didn’t mean to. But that’s no reason to paint me black in her eyes, just because you are jealous of her relationship with me.
How dare you say that? What does that even mean? Timi struggles to restrain her voice, and walks to a secluded corner of the street to ensure no one is within earshot
I thought you are engaged to be married and would not want your man to know about our internet fling?
But of course…
Then you better realise you made a big mistake making me look bad. Back off Angie and me, else you will make headlines with your nude pics and video!  With that he promptly hung up while she stared at the mobile phone in her hands in shock.
The gasp that escaped her lips was only a fraction of the torment that ensued in the days that followed as Archer sent her messages repeating this threat. Timi’s face tensed each time she heard Angelina’s phone beep.  She unconsciously watched, dreading the shock that would accompany her sighting of the said video and pictures.
Unable to cope with the tension and the unbearable ulcer it was reawakening in her bowels, she eventually forwarded the threats and her responses to Angie.
 Are you kidding me?
No Angie, It’s serious.
You mean you guys were? Are…? Hmm. No wonder he kept asking me what else you said after I teased him about the g-string! But Timi you should have told me!
I had no idea you two were … close.  Besides when you started telling me about how you two were, I didn’t want to burst your fun, I just wanted to let it pass. Now I’m scared that he may send the pics and video to ND on facebook!
But why threaten you like that though? That’s very immature of him.
I don’t know about immature, but last time I checked, he and ND are now friends on FB. Timi’s voice is quaking on the verge of tears; once again.
Angie gives her a knowing look. One that says, hey I’m a pro at this game. You really should not play if you do not know the rules and how to break them. She walks over nonetheless and hugs her, all the while saying: don’t worry babe, we’ll get him
Her na├»ve older cousin amused her to no end, how could she behave like life was about to end just because a pervert threatened to turn her into an internet porn star? She obviously had a lot more work to do in Port Harcourt after their relative’s wedding, but not just yet. Presently she would conclude her scheme on the next ‘maga’ that would send her some pounds in exchange for a fake boob display. After that she would show Archer that he was not the only one who understood blackmail. Speaking of which, she dug through her picture archives, and found the right picture, with just enough to incriminate the sicko. She smiled the phallic image in perfect pose, turgid with the beginnings of come spurting at the one eyed crown, his hand in perfect position to show the signature tattoo she knew so well from facebook before they started playing ‘house’.
Silly fool; he forgets that I also know his girlfriend on FB, she said out loud.
She never stopped wondering why many boys with unimpressive toys were cursed with a great smallness within as well. The kind of smallness that made them blackmail their way to whatever they wanted. The more she thought of Archer the more she realized how grateful she was that she would never physically get in touch with him; that kind of ego would possibly need all sort of creepy games to satisfy his cravings.
Before going too far, she needed to change all her internet passwords. Two can certainly play this game.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Slow tide



 
Slow tide,
I lie bare before you

wrapped in misty fumes
hemp smoke, 
rising off the marina
swirling a lazy dance
wrapping round me 
like second skin
 
I lie bare before you
 
certain you will rinse the stench,
enfold me in strong warmth
moisten me with slow tongue washes,
catch me,
quick adrenalin pushes
 
slow tide,
I lie bare before you

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Our land- riding to extinction


Returning from a seemingly wasted journey was not what irked me that day, No. I had accepted it as something which I could not change, therefore which needed no more probe, lest I finger its rancid entrails and exhume self pity. My anger that morning stemmed from the fact that as I sat in the Lagos bound bus, backpack on my legs, contemplating sleep- yet knowing I did not want to journey that road again, having just awoken barely six hours earlier- information reached me that another church had  been bombed in Northern Nigeria. Again another church, another suicide mission executed on the engine of another Honda driven by yet another Islamist militant, yet more Christians dead!
Noon gradually came upon us as we drove past Shagamu, and memories of the day before overwhelmed me. Again I was reminded of death and ruin, by the sweltering heat that rose as the bus drove past the residue of burnt tankers and cars, I thanked the Lord for His endless Mercy; my first deep- seated gratitude that day.
In truth, my day really started when, at 2.45 pm I dared open facebook as I sat at my computer to write. To think tat I had rained invectives on the President to resign after the morning church blast! The picture of the Abuja-Lagos bound, Dana Plane, not quite whole, smoke emitting from one corner was a tell tale sign of what doom lay ahead. I hoped however that there would be survivors; if wishes were horses…
Within minutes of navigating between fb and twitter, more updates and pictures emerged. A body burning on the ground next to the wreckage, smoke billowing from buildings, gore after gore. No one had survived! More specific details of the wreckage site emerged; the crash happened in Balogun area of Iju, Ishaga. I experienced another fear; Jazz lived in that neighbourhood!
As I dialed her number unsuccessfully for the ninth time, I remembered how a few days ago she had told me on the phone that she was really tired and was in need of a domestic help, especially with the boys and Ella to contend with.
Sympathizing with her Ioffered to help her find one, and I said ‘And you go soon born, na now wey you need maid pass’
In her usual manner she had retorted ‘Wetin you mean, na you give me di belle? How you take sabi say I go soon born?’
Surely that was not going to be our last banter?
153 dead flashed before my eyes that afternoon and I could not help wondering what we did to deserve this kind of lack-luster governance in Nigeria. This country’s leaders seem hell-bent on steering Nigeria to extinction. If all our manpower perish steadily in bomb blasts, avoidable road accidents and plane crashes over a time, who will remain to build this nation from the ruins that will obviously be what is left of  Nigeria?
They sit there in their plush offices, siphoning our monies into foreign accounts, ordering the newest, classiest vehicles for their official use, while lives waste on the thread mill of  bureaucracy in a comatose civil service and our collective futures burn away in the cauldron of corruption. This uncaring government that dares open its mouth in myriad condolences more often than it implements useful well thought out policies.
Why else would a faulty aircraft find its way to our airspace? I can’t help wondering if the Indian executives of Dana Air would try that in their homeland. When will we ever have an emergency management plan that actually works; is well equipped and timely beyond the emptiness of the name NEMA? How many times do we hear of planes crashing in the West? If they ever crash due to malfunction and not bombs, do they never have ANY survivors? Only in Nigeria. If our people had better education in these things, will rescue operations not be more effective? Why would a plane crash land in a crowded residential area like Iju Ishaga and the residents stand aside and video record the screaming victims, banging on the plane’s windows for help? Scary! This is all I will think of, next time I take a local flight in Nigeria.
If like my daughter’s dorm mates, Munachi Ojugbana and Ruth Kennedy, you lost family, friend or acquaintance in that crash, do take heart. Only The Almighty’s Grace and time ultimately heals that sort of grief.
Jazz and her family may have escaped the ill fated plane by a hair’s breath; it finally crashed a stone throw from her house. But what will be said to the remainder of the Anyene family who stood by, impotent, as Nigeria and her many incompetences denied a mother, three children, a grandmother and father another day on earth? What will be said of Oluwakemi Somolu, whose wedding dress remains hanging in a wardrobe, never to be worn;  September wedding plans gone up in fumes. Thanks to a plane that we now hear has had several technical faults in the past three weeks!
We must raise our voices and take action where we can to stop this menace from consuming us. Our government must realise that they owe us service; that is what true leadership really is! Making Nigeria work again is not nuclear physics, if other African countries can do it, so can we.
First of all, every one with a duty- any duty at all- must be held accountable for that duty with which he is entrusted. Our people must not die in vain anymore! For this to happen we should demand more than just a revoking of the airline’s license and a shallow probe. Yes. We should demand justice and a change in the uncaring attitude of the Nigerian Government! That is the only way.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

EARTHENWARE

The first person approached with a stack of earthen ware plates, and then another approached with a plastic bag seemingly overflowing with bulging bottles. Yet another stack of earthen ware plates passed and this time I noticed that the plates had soot on them. Surely these were not among the opportunistic traders taking advantage of the gridlock to sell the odd bottled water, snack and bottled drinks as we endured a four hour standstill on the expressway.
The yellow-lace clad young men in the backseat of the taxi suddenly exclaimed as another person approached carrying a small plastic bag filled with blue and red wine bottles.
‘Wine lo wa ni nu trailer yen!’ said the first
‘Aah! Ooto ni’ rejoined the second
‘Je ka pada lo sibe!’ said the one with the “jan-ba-la-la” phone ring tone
This was when the disgruntled driver threatened that if they left the taxi one more time, he would not wait to pick them up especially as vehicles had finally started moving. ‘What are you going to do with wine now anyway?’
A totally useless question I thought to myself. How difficult can it possibly be to think up uses for sparkling wine after a five hour drive originally meant to take an hour and a half? I sat through their grumbling, the venomous words forming in the pit of my stomach calcifying on my unslaked tongued. This soul sistah was too tired to speak; thirsty, yet too pressed for a leak to dare buy water (or steal some wine) and douse the near parched yearning.
Eventually driving past the cause of our delay, I could not help but wonder(and be grateful) at the intensity of the accident if two tankers still raged furiously in a fire that started the night before - almost twenty hours before we got there. Yet people were looting the other upturned trailers of their unfortunate goods- wine, earthenware plates and more. To say I felt sorry for my fellow country men does not begin to milk this cow. Young men dared their safety; their lives, just to get as many bottles of wine as they could shove into armpits, hands and arms.
I wanted to take pictures but felt too saddened and disgusted to even bring out my phone. I was late for my performance, in fact the reading was about to end if, as my hostess informed me, they actually started at 4pm.
My taxi finally broke down just before Ibadan, a miracle actually. We had driven in near darkness after we left Sagamu at 6.30pm. Unable to turn on the headlamps lest the battery choke on us, we rode quietly, my heart jumped cowadly in my mouth each time we slid dangerously past a lorry, trailer or other monstrous vehicle.
The taxi may have erupted its final pox right after Guru Maharaji, but my celestial guardians were on full alert as my phone buzzed and the taxi slowed to a battery dead halt.  It was a fellow wordsmith who wanted to find out how the readings went; he was still on the way to Ibadan. I nearly screamed. ‘I am still on my way too! My taxi just broke down after that Maharaji place!’  Interestingly, they had also just driven past the Maharaji spot three minutes ago. ‘We passed there like five minutes ago! It’s a red taxi’ I yelped
That perfect moment when faith meets an outstretched hand and fear falls to the background, was me saying ‘red taxi’ and him saying ‘oh, I think I can see u guys! Driver, please clear. Please’.
As I said bye-bye to the guys and ran down the expressway to where my friend’s taxi was parked, I tasted heaven in unmeasured steps.
My performance dreams may have shattered like earthenware on concrete walls but my spirit remained undoused as I squeezed into the Toyota Camry front seat with a babe in the full stink of day old sweat. Life is Sweet!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Sunday Escape

‘Don’t tell him you’ve seen me. Please.’ 

These were the words she whispered urgently to us, ten minutes before we heard the sharp rap on our apartment door on Sunday evening and she disappeared into my children’s closet, her bags pushed quickly under the bed.

Moments later, after an awkward ‘Who is there?’ Felicia opened the door to an obviously upset Janta, and the overwhelming shroud of alcohol that accompanied him through the door.
‘Oga Jay, long time. Come in.’
I approach the door and place my hand on Felicia’s shoulder. ‘The Jay-Jay!’ I attempt the nickname in a voice that sounds not quite as jovial as intended. I look him straight in the eye nonetheless and ask ‘Is everything okay? You don’t look your normal self’
By now he has walked past us into the sitting room, his eyes darting left and right, taking in the furniture, the dining area and settling on the curtain. For a moment it seems he will walk towards them and rattle the curtains in the hope of unearthing his wife beneath the folds of cotton and chiffon.
‘Has she been here?’ He rasps out in a voice which is a fraction more menacing than his bloodshot eyes and flared nose. As if on cue, Felicia and I chorus ‘Who?’ then we exchange supposedly baffled looks and Felicia tries him again ‘Has who been here?
‘My wife; I just got home and discovered all her things gone.’
A small shout escapes Felicia’s lips as she covers the sides of her face with both palms.
‘That’s serious o. did you both have a quarrel or something?’
‘No quarrel. She served me breakfast before I left the house this morning, without any warning, and now this.’
‘So strange, that’s unlike her,’ Felicia seems to have found her tongue
‘Have you checked for her anywhere else?’
Janta shakes his large head and asks ‘Like where?’
‘I don’t know,’ I’m trying to keep the irritation out of my voice ‘Church, her relatives, other close friends?’
At this he fixes his eyes accusingly on us ‘She has no other friends I can think of.’
‘That’s really sad,’ I return his accusation; stare for stare, my hands now folded across my chest.
‘We’ll be sure to let you know if she comes around or calls.’ Felicia says to him, her palm on my arm willing the sinews there to relax
‘Yes, we can do that for you Janta. In the meantime if you need any other help, please let us know.’ I knew I would do no such thing
‘Thank you then’ he keeps looking into the children’s room as he makes his way to the front door.

Ini had tried to leave before; after the gizzard episode. That was what Felicia coined the incident that had Janta chastising Ini for daring to share in the slices of gizzard he had offered Edem her brother; It was a delicacy supposedly reserved for only men. To remind her of her place as a woman he had struck her across the face as she sat next to Edem, whose attempt to block the blows only ensured she got some more to her shoulder and neck. A verbal exchange ensued, after which the younger man had subsequently walked out from their home where he was originally meant to spend the night. I had looked on as Felicia inspected her bruises two days after, unable to fathom how a man could watch another man beat up his younger sister then walk away from the scene without making the man see flashbulbs through his fists or at least resetting his jaw.
It had happened in July, school was out so she took the children for an extended vacation, determined not to succumb to pressure from friends and family urging her to return home. September found her back in their Ikeja apartment though; awaiting the arrival of their third child. Ini seemed designed to suffer and never let the smile desert her pretty face, her small frame retaining its youthful figure even as the years rolled by.
Looking at her now; smooth skin the colour of honey, hair full and falling inches past her shoulders, it is difficult to reconcile her good looks and attractive smile to the      abuse she has intimated us of. One thing gives her away though; her eyes. The dark brown irises are a sad cocktail of insecurity, fear and anger. Coming out of the closet minutes after Janta leaves, her eyes become suddenly animated, jumping at every movement and sound, her gaze darting towards the front door; half expecting Janta to materialize there again. Felicia sits with her on the bottom bed of our girls’ double bunk, right hand on the small of her back, left hand on her lap where Ini’s hands wring and flex every few seconds
‘I left,’ she offers as if programmed. ‘I just got my things and left.’
‘The Children?’
‘They are alright,’
‘In school?’
She nods. ‘He must not see me. I need to take the children…’ she jumps up suddenly sensing his presence even before we hear the door creak open
‘Whose children are you planning to take? And to where?’
‘Ja – jan – ta!’ her voice trails off, marooned in the stutter
‘Look, this is not the time to get irrational. Calm down’, not the most sensible thing to say to a man like Janta, but that was the quickest line that spilled from my lips.
Lunging for her is probably the most stupid move he has made all day... (to be continued)