Fiction, Musings

Lights and shadows

My friends on Facebook put up all sorts of posts. I thought to share two of the best marriage posts I read some weeks ago –

sometimes we get crazy at each other instead of being crazy about each other, yet we soldier on as God’s grace sustains us. Need to believe there’s God? take a look at us. (Darlington Iriogbe on his first wedding anniversary)

… I PRAY that God continues to bless us (would have said ‘you’ but we are one now *winks*). (Georgette Ezechukwu on her husband’s birthday)

Life is not perfect – thanks Oluoma Udemezue for the reminder. But I’m pleased to add this opinion that we both share – that there are many, who like my friends, give their best to make their marriage work.

But then there are some who don’t. Sometimes not out of bad will. But because life is richer than we can ever imagine and sometimes things don’t just work out despite everything. Oluoma sent me a well written story that kind of illustrates this. Or maybe not.


 

Enugu was lonely at that time, and a handful of cold-dry wispy breeze charmed the dust off the earth to a revolt adding some verve to the lonely road. It was New Year’s Eve. A time to discard stuffs you don’t intend to carry into a new year: sins, guilt, long-suffering, burden….

A 2016 Range cut through the cold unnoticed; it made straight for a restaurant down the road.

The scarcity of life on the road gave Chioma food for thought; she roamed in her deep thoughts, of what not to carry along too, into a more promising year; she kept on rubbing at her silver and gold crested wedding ring, as though they weighed down on her searching thoughts. It was a wedding that drew reputation to the open. No, she didn’t want to think straight; to think straight is to make her a rational being and to become a rational being is to be human. No, humane. Yes, that was the right word; to become what she wasn’t would only cause her to forgive, but could she afford to forget? She gazed upon the band that had fisted on her finger: ‘ten years was no common joke.’ She remembered the stern look her eccentric mother spat at her before she walked out on her decision. She wanted only one thing out of the present: to feel her own presence beside him.

The ride from Agbani road to Nise suddenly turned pale orange –just like the street lights of Lagos. Lagos was a dreamer. She felt hot and nasty all of a sudden and gazed out through the clear glass, while the space between them itched to be filled by some soothing. She left her ringed finger, and led the idle hand to her right ear lobe. All of a sudden, she turned pink and felt some flakes of guilt, and suddenly returned the roaming hand where it belonged, on her laps; covered by a short shimmering silver gown; it came home in a gift pack, back with Obi in order to spoil her silly. A shy smile lit up by the corners of her red lips, but her eyes caught the stained back seat, through the review mirror and the smiles indulgently faded away the way they came. Little Kodilichukwu would have been eight that day, had she not been in so great hurry to get to work. The truck would have got her, and not him. She died each time her eyes caught that spot and Obi knew it, but he had decided not to change to car seats, just to punish her.

Obi had already hit the headlights on: it was as though he was not present. They threw silence at each other with uncanny circumstances. He had his full weight on the car seat, too comfortable in his red and white isi agu –his people had given him a title after helping out with a bore hole, one out of too many attentions he had gotten that year. His sight was fixed on the road, but less, fixed on her. But those firm hands he gently placed on the steering wheel could be quick tempered at times. They bumped into a pothole; he grunted and finally slowed the car in front of Calabash restaurant. She couldn’t actually punch a fist at what impregnated the silence between them; nurtured it and purged it out to haunt their marriage. They actually existed in a lake of purgatory, paying for what they actually have no idea about. Obi was different, but she couldn’t let go. Lagos; the subtle memories wouldn’t go away –it stuck close like a bad smell, a bad old habit. But Obi; through his rimmed double lenses, couldn’t see the guilt that was written all over her; the moment she stepped through the door, after Lagos. Or did he? The sea salt mixed with champagne and the luxuries of his yacht still hung about her; the feeling repelled and rebelled everything that walked in her way since she came back, but Obi.

They stepped through the door of the restaurant after Obi locked the car door. He smiled down at her, a quaint smile –Obi was much taller– before they jammed hands to service stray eyes.

Luxury was the best word to describe the restaurant. They walked into a band led by Oliver De Coque junior; he delighted the guests with Biri Ka Mbiri, it was as though they were the ones the music was meant for –Obi just received a transfer letter to Paris from the oil company—so, it was their music, the others knew he got the transfer, including the smudge of red lipstick on the collar of his white crispy shirt that bade her welcome immediately she walked through the door from Lagos. So, they couldn’t wait for her to turn her back before they went in for the kill: creeping mice.

Obi knew virtually all who seemed too eager to meet his handy wife while they had cleavage display icons by their sides. While he generously made his way around their tables, she felt out of place as always, drew back and left him on the spotlight, the way it has always been. Later, a very young waiter –she noticed for the first time in ten years- led them to a quiet corner, presented the menu in a thick leather bound file and waited with a generous smile that smeared all over them like hot butter on bread. Chioma gazed through the menu, but all she saw was the guilt of Lagos. Obi held the menu in his hands: those hands that cut through wood to see him through the university, it was still those hands that plotted the proposal that won him a good position at the oil company, those hands held her fingers –when he went about in a pair of woollen shoes– while the other made her wear a diamond stud for ten years and counting. Her hands went back to her ear lobe, but this time, it could not miss the spot, the one very close to her ears, where she had to mould with unending Mac foundation, in order to hide her blood that already congealed. It hasn’t gone down yet, she thought. It would have been nice to stay back in Lagos: on Yinka’s yacht, his mansion and his world, where they could do nothing, but frolic on old school days. She had only gone to visit her sister, but he appeared, out of nowhere and swept her off her feet.

“You are not hungry?”

She was gently snuffed away from her day dream by Obi’s concerned voice. She looked at the hairy hand he casually placed on hers –they were cold and strong. Cold from working too long and too hard at the rigs, his wife had to make do with the overflowing and suffocating benevolence of the oil company. She looked at the raised knotted inquisitive browse of a total stranger: Obi.

“No.”

At that instance, they heard loud crashing of plates held by a waiter that even interrupted the band that played.

“No.”

She said again, but this time around, it was forceful, not like the first time. It was as though air was trapped in her tracks, but she forced herself to push beyond it. Her mother’s stern look came at her for the last time, but she found the will to brush her aside, because she knew that theirs was a family, broken.

 

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ART, Little things, Pixpers

Transformation

I once heard that no one eats with their mouth

Children eat with their eyes;

Young people with their stomach

Adults with their head.

WARNING;  mouthwatering presentation. Risk of hunger afterwards.

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Okay so, where are these pictures from? Most of them were made by me in collaboration with others. It was such a delight last summer to learn to transform the usual fruits and vegetables into such lovelies.

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Fiction, Musings

Miss Turris Revisited

I once wrote a book which, for love of Latin, I called Miss Turris. I tell people when they ask – ‘oh basically, it’s a story about friendship’. But I’ve heard a different take on it which I found quite interesting. One reader’s comments has helped me re – discover my novel. Just an excerpt from Miss Turris to begin with –

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Alex had taught her the act of manoeuvring and now the situation called for it. She stood up quietly, and walked stiff – necked to the window which overlooked the small garden. Her body all straight and stiff, she gazed at the plants, looking and seeing through them. Those plants knew her as much as she knew them – she spent her leisure pruning and weeding them. They knew her tears and her frustrations. They had listened to her questions and to some of her joys.

She stood like that in silence for about two and half minutes and was almost giving up the act when she heard light footsteps behind her. Her grandpa was coming. A smile lit up her face for a fraction of a second and was quickly replaced by a blank expression; she remained still and waited.

Of course, he knew that she was putting up an act. After all, he was once her age. Even more, he was her grandfather. But, he decided to play along and in the end, indulge her as always. He counted himself lucky that he had a sensible girl for a grandchild. First tantrums; now this. ‘Some progress’ he chuckled as he stood beside her.

One look at her face and he almost burst out laughing. Anyone who didn’t know her would have been deceived by her expression, but definitely not him. He decided to start a conversation.

“The plants are beautiful, aren’t they?” he asked

She almost cried. This wasn’t what she had expected to hear, but she managed to keep her cool.

“The flowers even more so” she replied. “See how pretty that pink Anthurium looks.”

“Still thinking about the ‘hair’ issue?”

“No” An easy lie. It was part of the act – to pretend as if it didn’t mean anything to her, anymore.

He smiled and commended her inwardly. “May I ask why?” he asked

“Well”’ she allowed herself a shrug “because I’ve learnt to take whatever you decide, as law. You know, what an elder sees sitting down, a child will not see it, even if she climbs a palm tree”. She said, quoting him. Another lie.

Not wanting to push further, he said “Permission granted”.

“To do what?” she needn’t ask because she knew the answer, but it was part of the act to do so.

“To start growing your hair; I’ll put no objections in your way.”

The greater part of her wanted to hug him tightly and say a big thank you, but that would mean breaking the rules. So instead, she replied,

“You‘re too kind … to me”

He sighed “And you are a good actress, my lamb”

“Oh! Grandpa,” she said, giggling and hugging him tightly. “You always manage to see through me, no matter how hard I try.”

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‘She’ is Pamela, my protagonist.  She’s a granddaughter whose family consist in one person – her granddad. And the loving, tender, relationship between him and her is one of the main themes in Miss Turris.

It’s the kind of relationship I would have liked with my grandma – a sweet one as most grandmas are. And we did have it to the extent that the distance and language barriers allowed. She spoke only Igbo; I spoke bekee. She lived in Eastern Nigerian; I in the south 4 hours away. She called me her nnedim – mother of her husband. Everyone who knew the true nnedim said I was her look alike.

Once I went with my grandma to one of our palm tree plantations. She must have been about 70 years old then. We collected some dry sticks for the fire and a medium sized bunch of palm fruits. She tried balancing the bunch on my head. Uff! City gal. I couldn’t bear the weight and I staggered, almost dropping the bunch. On the way home, I had to walk beside her with the light load of sticks while she proceeded gracefully with the bunch on her head. Strong woman!

Dear grandma, you kept our large family going after the death of grandpa. And now 17 years later, you have gone to join him. We buried you today. I can imagine how it went. I can see you smiling at us, resting in peace. Keep watching over your nnedim. Keep watch over us all.

_____

bekee – one of the igbo words for ‘English’.

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Little things

When you suffer …

Living as I do in the mire of a crossroad of many cultures, my plan was to blog about ‘true polyglots’. That will come later.

‘I just read’ a man’s heart-pouring account of his wife’s death by euthanasia.

I started this post some weeks ago but couldn’t continue. I felt so heart – broken for his loss, for his bitterness and even more for their outlook on life. I’m back at it again.

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When we suffer, we can either wallow in the valley of the shadow of intense, indescribable pain; or we can take one little step out to the light and appreciate the flowers and fruits of our suffering. I’m back to finish this post because I read Jonie Smith‘s story where she describes in broad strokes how she takes this great little step every day. It’s  not an easy step for being tiny and here the Christian faith helps as it is helping Joni.

Through these challenges, God gave me an awareness of what so called ‘mercy killings {Euthanasia} were stealing away from the sick and elderly. The ‘culture of death’ mentality was trying to steal us away from an intimate walk with Jesus Christ. His loving sacrifice that he had waiting for those who suffer. This world wants to steal our peace, our joy and our uniting our sufferings with His. This world wants to steal our chance to love like Jesus. Jesus taught me what it was to ‘offer it up’. All we need to do is to ask Him to pour out His grace on our brothers and sisters and to offer up our pain and illnesses, our disappointments as well as our joys for the sake of others. God loves us so much that He wants us to share in His loving sacrifice of His Cross. The instrument of His Love and grace, His peace and life in us. The mystery of his Most Sacred Heart.

If this sounds like Greek to you, I’m available to explain further. Just let me know, ok! Meanwhile enjoy this from  ‘The Father’s tale’.

It struck me recently that God wrote a large story in the lives of the people we read about in Scriptures, and it was usually for reasons beyond their understanding. He did so for several purposes, but one of them was to teach and illumine others who would not be born until thousands of years after the events. Is it possible that He is ‘writing’ our lives as well, for purposes we cannot begin to understand, and perhaps may never understand in our lifetimes? Our inexplicable sufferings, especially the blows of injustice, may be far more valuable to other souls than we can now guess. Thus the necessity of thanking Him for all our trials, adversity, unjust sufferings, because the fruit of these may be of incalculable worth, though hidden from our eyes.

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Fiction, Musings

And that is when the sadness came

This is the first draft of ‘And that is when the sadness came’. Aside from editing the spellings, I haven’t touched it in any way because I want to give you this gift complete. I did not want to correct the grammatical errors for fear of tuning up the story and leaving it flat, lifeless. Please tell me what you think.

I always think of Chinonso’s death or of the death of many other s who I had known. But none had been as close to me as Ekemini Aviomoh. Not that we had been that close. We were kind of friends and I knew that, I was sure of it that our Lord will ask me for her soul when he calls me. So, when Felix called to ask if I had Ekemini’s mum’s number and then said the story of some men going to her house and shooting her and her papa, I just prayed that she gets well soon. When Elos …

I couldn’t understand why lizzy was fretting and all upset until when Elos confirmed that of a truth, Ekemini was dead. Jesus Christ. Dazed, we said the responsory for her. And I went back to my project work as I had continued living life when Chinonso died. That dasy we had gone to bed without tasting the delicious bitterleaf soup that mum had painstakkiingly prepared some hours before. No one was hungry. I wasn’t. the next day, I can’t remember what we ate as the visitors called, poured in to express their condolences. I remember kingsley telling me and ‘gege’ that we were too playful as if that could explain why Chinonso had died. We were not playing when she died, we were not even with her when she fell into the gulling gushing forth with muddy brown water filled with all the filth of Benin moats. We were not there as she swallowed irrestibly gulp after gulp, aligned to the flow as a dead leaf, of the water. I like to picture that she had died immediately from a head injury when she fell. That is the only way to explain how she was intact and not bloated by the time they found the body beside ogiso river. My dad had to pay 12000 to claim it and Ogidiga had mentioned that that sum was the last respect for the dead 10 year old child. And now I am running out of thoughts …

But wait, I remember thinking that I have to be very good to chibuzo who had fallen in with her. I remember thinking of the bad dreams that he must have had at the time. I remember mum taking him as her child, sending him on errands and giving him gifts. Poor boy. But now he is all grown up and trying to make life on his own. I know also that throughout all that time I did not cry. I forced the thought and the tears from my eyes even as Amen said to me in school ‘ hope this will not affect your school work. I know that I made a personal vow that if life was so short then I would make the best of it the way I could. That term was my best term in ss1. It saw me mature, almost hardened, fighting to do the right thing, knowing that at any moment, I could take chinonso’s place on the mat on the floor of the cemetery where her feet peeped out – all white, lifeless.

As I bring to my memory with full force, the brutality of Ekemini’s death, as I touch some sand, grasping them in my palms and throwing them into the hole where her coffin was already resting ready to be covered by the red earth. As the words get all clogged up in my throat and my minds filled with the images of Chinonso and all that I have ever lost, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the grief held up from years long gone by.

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