Meeting Kasiobi

Hello people,

I hope your day is going fine.

The content of the post warms my heart, I had a good time writing it. It is also my first attempt at non-fiction. So please read and share. Your thoughts, tips and corrections will be appreciated.

Thanks.

 

MEETING KASIOBI 

Few things have evoked my empathy like the evening I spent with a beautiful man named Kasiobi who has lost an ability that I take for granted every day. He was a friend of a friend and we had recently just become friends on Facebook. After I had done everything I had to do that day, I invited him over. He came later than I expected. At some point I concluded that he had decided not to come after all. But at a few minutes to five, I got a text from him saying he was at the junction of my street, which is about a five minute walk away from my house. I hurried out in search of him. As I walked down the street, I received more text messages from him to help lead me to where he was.

‘Let me take a cab. I’m at the gate.’

‘You can just cross the road. I’m walking down. I’m wearing a black dress.’

‘Okay. Walking down. I’m wearing black and white. Black boots.’

Before I could find him, my phone’s battery died. I had no other means to reach him and I was afraid that he had lost his way. I walked back home, hoping I could borrow a neighbor’s battery. When I reached my house, I found him waiting in front. He was not dressed in black and white like his text suggested and he was smiling, a proud grin exposing fine dentition, like the winner of a contest. I shook his hand, smiling back at him, acknowledging defeat. His T-shirt was taut over his toned arms and I felt an urge to feel them. I led the way to my room quietly but inside my head, my mind was buzzing with thoughts.

As soon as we were settled, I found a pen and a notepad with which we began our conversations. The easy things came first. Marijuana. His tattoos. Books we were currently reading. The things we liked about the cities we lived in. I would write down my question on the notepad, pass it to him, and watch silently as he read the question and wrote down his response, before passing it back to me. Minutes into our conversation, he dropped the notepad on the table, and with the pen still in his hand, he began to speak,

‘Benin is calm compared to Lagos’, he said. ‘I can feel vibrations from the noise when I’m in Lagos’.
His voice sounded nothing like him. It sounded artificial, like something that didn’t quite fit. His words came out scattered, poorly pronounced like he had forgotten how to use them. I worried that I was stressing him.

We talked about meeting each other. He wrote down his first impression about me and what he thought now he had met and spent some time with me. I wrote back what I heard about him and how it had formed my thoughts about him. He paused for a while before scribbling down his reply, looking at the notepad.

‘I think I’m overrated. Maybe if I could hear, the hype wouldn’t be so loud.’
His words stung me but I continued asking him questions, determined to ask him all the questions that had been racing through my mind all afternoon. He replied every one of my questions easily. He told me he used to write about not being able to hear, the gifts and the curses that came with his disability. He said he did not remember how he lost his sense of hearing. He remembered waking up, feeling different. Feeling like he had lost something. He must have been six years old at the time so he could not have understood what had happened to him.  His parents tried to help by making him talk more in the years that followed. They feared that he would lose his ability to talk along with his hearing and I understood their fear. But every time he spoke instead of writing, I felt my heart sink inside my chest and I wanted to stop him. I imagined how it must have been growing up in Nigeria where people treat abnormalities with fear. For a second, I allowed myself hope as I asked if something could be done to regain his sense of hearing.
He wrote back, ‘There was a period in my life when all I cared about was finding ways to get better, to get normal, to be able to say I am one of them, to be able to say there’s nothing wrong with me. Doctors. Specialists. Pastors. Prophets. Witches. Wishes. I got tired. Now I just want to skip school, write depressing stories, be unfaithful, be a better brother to my siblings. Just live. Abnormal is the new normal.’

I felt bad for feeling like he had not tried to help his disability. The conversation grew tense and uncomfortable for me. I hoped that he would not notice that my mood had changed as we continued talking but he did. He asked if I was bored and I assured him that I wasn’t. Then I lied – I said I was hungry and he offered to buy lunch.

As we walked down to the restaurant, he kept nodding to a tune. Did he remember something he listened to before he lost his hearing? I imagined not being able to listen to music ever again and the thought overwhelmed my heart with so much sadness that I could feel it at the back of my throat. It was hard for me to not feel sorry for him.
I asked what he would eat just before we stepped into the restaurant and when we got in, I made our order while he found somewhere to sit. I did not want anyone else to talk to him and feel sorry for him. I wanted to shield him from pity. I quickly ordered our meals and joined him at the table. We continued talking about random stuff as we ate. I was conscious of the eyes that stole glances at us as we as we quietly took turns typing sentences into his cell phone. I was afraid they could tell something was not right. I wondered how he got around without being able to hear and I asked him. He laughed before explaining to me how he gets around with public transport.
‘I don’t understand why everyone is so worried about me’, he typed, ‘I am a grown Lagos boy oh’.

I shared in his laughter but inside of me, I felt anger brewing. I have never stopped to think of how the disabled got through each day. Are there signs at bus parks to help direct them to their destinations? Does the government do anything to support them? Are there laws to protect them? Are they actually enforced? Have I really noticed that they are people with needs similar to mine? I blinked back the tears in my eyes and looked at him. He was nodding again to a tune I could not hear.
‘What song are you dancing to?’

He smiled as he handed his phone back to me,

‘Your beauty is music.’
It was dark when we left the restaurant and it was darker in my room. I apologized for the absence of electricity as I lit a candle.
‘We haven’t had electricity here for about a month’, I told him.
‘I am not a spoiled baby, I don’t need it. Besides you’re here with me’

His eyes met mine and I felt warm inside. I picked up the notepad from the table and wrote
‘Do people tell you all the time that you’re hot?’

The sound of his soft laughter filled my ears and after he left, I would remember it and smile.
‘Yes. Girls want to feel my muscles but after a while, I realize that all they want to do is protect me.’

His response filled me with guilt.

‘Well you’re hot’, I scribbled down.

We continued to exchange messages until it was time for him to leave. He wrote things to me that made me feel like I was the special person in the room. His words were like poetry, apt with lyrical rhythm. I asked if he enjoyed the day as much as I did and he handed the notepad back to me with ‘understatement’ written in large letters. I felt overjoyed and with a wide smile on my lips, I mouthed me too.

We said our goodbyes outside, in front of an empty kiosk. He used his hands in sign language to tell me that it was nice meeting me. I made a mental note to learn the language as I pulled him in for a hug. His arms felt stronger than I expected, they made me feel safe. When he pulled away, I felt something tugging urgently at my heart strings. I watched him walk away from me with his head up high, like nothing is wrong with the way things are in the world and I took something from that. He left me feeling things and I knew I could not keep them to myself

 

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Can’t you hear her laughing?

Hey guys, this is a really short piece, your comments and corrections are welcome and appreciated. And please share too, thanks.

 

I pat the hair on my daughter’s head, thick black hair like mine. She looks so much like her father, her small nose and oval face. I run my finger gently across her chubby cheeks and she stirs. In her eyes I see his, glossy still eyeballs peering at me from underneath a thicket of dark lashes. They stare at me with a hardness that makes me uncomfortable.

I avoid her eyes as I lower her into her cradle. The fluffy sheets and tiny pillows surround her like a pink cloud. She looks so peaceful. I run my fingers over her belly and tickle her. When she laughs, it is the sound of a thousand pure bubbles of joy and in that moment, I can imagine that those eyes are not Abu’s, that they are mine, filled with tears of gladness. Her laughter warms my belly and I laugh too.

‘Somi’ I ignore the voice at the door.

‘Somi’ he says again. This time, a heavy hand rests on my shoulder. I turn and see Abu standing behind me. His eyes meet mine.

‘Why are you laughing?’

‘Can’t you see?’ I say, turning back to the cradle, ‘I’m playing with Itseme.’ I tickle her again and she laughs.

‘Itseme is dead.’ He says softly. I can feel his hot breath on my neck.

‘My daughter is not dead.’ I say calmly, ‘Can’t you hear her laughing?’ I take his hand in mine but before I can place it on her forehead, he pulls back. I can feel his entire body shaking.

‘I’m going to feed her’ I say, carrying her out of the cradle.

Abu does not reply me, and as he crumples to the ground before an empty cradle, I wonder why he has lost so much weight.

Runnin’

Hey guys, I’d love to know what you think about the story so please read and leave comments. Try to share too, thanks.

Enjoy.

 

 

You are staring at the wide-screen television fastened to the peach coloured wall in front of you as you learn from your father that your little sister has a boyfriend.

‘The boy looks malnourished with his thin neck. He is so unkempt – he does not comb his hair, his trousers sag.’ Your father is saying on the phone, in his voice you hear disgust. ‘I had to slap some sense into her head. I have taught you these things; boys, men, they are all the same. They will tell you, you are sweet but they just want to sleep with you and dismiss you.’ He pauses and you hear him suck in his breath loudly. ‘Please you need to call her and caution her. I talked with my mouth, it is the only way I know how, I cannot talk with any other part of my body. A wayward life does not pay. At the end of the day, nemesis will catch up with you. ’ He pauses again. You imagine the way his eyes widen when he is making a point. It’s okay daddy. I will talk to her, you assure him.

‘You have to. You girls should not give me headache. Now what do you need N50000 for?’

‘Daddy I sent a list. I have school stuff’

‘What do you mean school stuff? You talk as though you do not remember I am a lecturer too. Which handout is N5000? Look I don’t have more money to waste. You know how much I spent in the hospital because of that hot water incident on my back and now the scar has refused to fade.’ You sigh loudly. ‘Would I have told the doctor that I cannot pay my bills because my daughter cannot cut her coat according to her cloth? My friend, I am a respected deacon in the church. You and Esi had better sit up; no daughter of mine will turn wayward while I am still alive.’ You say nothing.

‘I will review the list and get back to you later today. How are your roommates? What of your friend, Ima?’

‘Fine.’

‘I hope you girls are studying and not doing makeup up and down because I know that’s what all these small-small girls are into these days.’ You roll your eyes.

‘Yes daddy we are studying. We even have a class by two so I’m waiting for her.’

‘Okay. Face your books. I will call later. Make sure you call your sister.’ You turn the television volume up as soon as he ends the call. Asa’s Satan be gone is on. You sing along and think of Esi. The first time you saw this video, you were at home with Esi. She had been sitting quietly, staring into the television, watching the movie you insisted you girls watch that afternoon. When the song came on, she jumped to her feet, singing along, swinging her hips from side to side while lowering her back to the rhythm. You laughed because you thought that she had fallen asleep. Esi has always liked to dance. When you two were younger, you would both dance to your favourite songs in the living room when no one else was home. And when your father returned, you would retire to the kitchen or sit at the dining table, pretending to do assignments. But Esi danced even in front of your father, she wiggled her small legs and he laughed that his relaxed, head thrown back laughter whenever she did, cheering her on.

Esi’s legs grew longer, her voice louder and she, bolder as you two grew older. She spoke as though she feared no one, not even your father. They were best buddies – they argued over board games when they weren’t watching Tennis games on TV while you sat at the dining table, from time to time checking the food you left cooking in the kitchen. You imagine Esi now, her soft yellow cheek red from the slap, crying in the bedroom both of you shared. You think, maybe if you were there you would have done something, said something, stopped him. He had never hit Esi before. He called her his baby, Omomhe, good child. But you, you he flogged; every time you did something wrong and sometimes even when Esi did something wrong.

‘You are the first child, if you spoil, your sister will spoil and that means I have failed you, I have failed myself and I have failed the society’, he would say as he flogged your palms with the cane he kept aside for you. And when you would not stop crying afterwards, he would say ‘Don’t you know that you are the mother of the house? When I flog you, it is because I believe in you, that you will make me proud tomorrow and you will teach your sister how things are done’.

The first time he scolded Esi, she had just gotten back from school with her report card. She dropped from first position to third position and when he started shouting at the disappointment she had brought home, she burst into tears. She did not stop crying even late into the night, her sobs kept you up. You wanted to say something to her other than you are lucky he did not flog you. It was after all normal, but when other words refused to come, you simply reached for her hand.

When you first moved to the school hostel, you were so pleased to get out of the house that you did not mind the seven other girls in the room. You got to sleep on a bed alone, you did not have to cook until you felt like it and no one scolded you for spending too much time on your phone. But the joy started to fade in the months that followed. First it was the bathrooms – aside from the blocked drains, the taps did not run so the girls bathed outside, in the open. The toilets were broken so they did their business in black polythene bags which they threw into the sewer tank at the back of the hostel afterwards.

Then your things started disappearing from your corner. Your bucket disappeared every morning only to return after you had bathed with a borrowed bucket. Then your clothes disappeared from the cloth line and then, that one time, your money. Money you had kept in the bag in which you kept your pants. You saw the mockery in your roommates’ eyes; you knew they laughed at you when you left the room crying. Who keeps money in the room? You heard your bunkmate say as you scurried off to Ima’s room. You are there to read your books, you will be rid of all comfort to attain that goal, your father had said when you asked if you could move out of the hostel later that day.

The television blinks off and the fan stops whirring above you. You stand to part the flowery curtains. You are still yet to change the curtains; you had bought them with the intention of changing them after you two had settled properly in your new home. You and Ima had resolved to buy the important things first – the curtains, mirrors and television. Eventually you bought the other stuff – furniture, a fridge, washing machine. When both of you started the search for an apartment, you had a picture of what you wanted before you saw it – a kitchen with cabinets, a tiled bathroom with flowing taps and a room to yourself.

Outside the gate opens and you know it is Ima, anyone else would call first.

‘The heat is too much outside. I was thinking by now, you would have turned on the gen.’ Ima says as she shuts the door behind her. She drops the bag in her hand on the couch as you sit up.

‘I was waiting for you so we can buy fuel.’

‘I bought, it’s outside. Let me drink water first before I on the gen’ Ima disappears into the kitchen.

‘Abeg do fast, everywhere dey hot.’

‘Shut up eh. Now you nor fit stay how many minutes for heat but you dey school hostel for full one year, no generator.’

‘You sef you know how far. I go buy fuel later’

‘Your papa don send the money?’

‘No oh. Imagine, he called me to tell me about my sister’s boyfriend’

Ima laughs out loud.

‘Your small sister don get boyfriend. How old is she again?’

‘Eighteen oh’

‘Imagine and he is angry. Was it not at twelve you started dating?’ Ima is still laughing as she steps out the door. You laugh like a witch, you say to Ima. It was this ease of self you felt around Ima. You did not feel the need to hide bits of yourself with Ima, like you did at home. The two of you could talk about anything and everything.

‘She sounds like she’s from a good home’, your had father said after speaking to Ima for the first time. You said yes, of course. Your father did not have to know that by evening of the day you two met, you already knew that Ima’s only family is her mother, who owns a church in the compound where they live and that at sixteen, Ima had lost her virginity in the backseat of an old car parked in the same compound. You had lost yours at sixteen as well. Your father had left you and Esi at home to one of his church vigil services, when Esi fell asleep, you snuck out.

There were other similarities you came to discover that you and Ima shared and aside love for the same fashion designers, same favourite food, you discovered that you two think alike. You had confirmed this the day you told Ima what the girl in the room next to yours had asked you about the English lecturer.

‘If he can give you 50k for just seeing him then why not?’ Ima had said. ‘It is not like we have money right now. These men are swimming in money they don’t know what to do with. If it’s just yansh you can give to live like them, guy I go give die.’

Then the rumours started. Someone from your hostel block had told someone who in turn asked Ima, if you had actually slept with the vice chancellor at East South Hotel. It was a ridiculous question. Yes, you sometimes met clients in that hotel, Ima too, but neither of you had hooked up with the vice chancellor. Besides, big men like him did not do hotels; they owned fancy guest houses out of town. It was not the first time such gist was going around. The other time someone said they had seen Ima begging a lecturer for sex when in reality; it was the other way around. But it was that rumour, the one about you and the vice chancellor, which moved you both to search for a private apartment outside the school.

The fan resumes its steady whirring. ‘Oya go and get ready, we have to leave Benin before two.’ Ima says as she steps back into the room.

You let your hair down. Your nose catches a whiff of its novelty as you smoothen the 32 inches of soft black virgin hair. You had bought it on credit some days ago for this trip with a promise to pay today. The thought of the money that could have been lying in your account by now makes you hiss. As you pour some hair oil onto your palm, you make a mental note to pay for it when you get back. The weave is smooth and knot free as your fingers are massaging the hair oil in, your gaze steady on your reflection in the mirror in front of you. Your eyes are still misty from the eyeliner stick. Beautiful, your father sometimes called your eyes when you were still a kid. Your eyes are like your mother’s except hers were more crossed than yours.

One night, shortly after dinner, you saw your father staring at your mother’s portrait in the living room. The picture was taken shortly after she married your father. She was not smiling in it.

‘She never smiled in her pictures but you know what attracted me to her?’ your father said to no one in particular.

‘Her eyes, the way she would focus them on you like she was seeing through you.’ He turned and looked at you. His eyes were moist like he would cry but he was smiling. When you lay in bed that night, you shut your eyes and tried to remember something you loved about your mother. You remembered nothing at all. You knew only the things you were told. You were barely three when your mother died. You cried yourself to sleep that night.

Now you apply ruby red lipstick over your lips and rub them together. You re-apply the lipstick, this time cleaning the corners of your mouth with your forefinger, still looking in the mirror. Isn’t that too much lipstick, Esi would say if she could see you now. You pick your phone up and dial Esi’s number. You call twice. No answer. When you look up, you see Ima in the mirror; she’s standing behind you in a clinging black dress

‘The cab is waiting outside.’ she says.

You are looking out the window as the driver zips across Sapele Warri road. The skies are turning dark blue announcing late evening. You can feel your stomach knot then unknot and you wonder why.

‘I have not seen this Kachi man since that last time we were with him. He has been so busy with work; you know his name is on the list for commissioners.’ Ima says. You make a sound with your mouth. ‘This his guesthouse that we are going to, is the biggest I have been to, let me not lie. The man get money and he still dey do like small pikin. “I’m having a small boy’s evening and I want the pleasure of your presence”, like say nor be fuck you wan fuck.’ You laugh a little.

In a few minutes, the driver eases the car down a paved roadway lined with tall palms on either side. He parks in front of the brown bungalow. The night lights shine brightly into the car as you and Ima touch-up your makeup. Your phone rings, it is Esi. Meet me inside, Ima says and skips out of the car, her heels clicking on the ground as she walks away.

‘Hello, how are you?’ you say as you apply some more lipstick.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t pick your call. I was sleeping and then daddy asked me to clean his room before he went out’

‘Oh’

‘I don’t know what is wrong with the man.’ she hisses.

‘He told me about your boyfriend.’

‘Oh God. He is not my boyfriend, he is just my friend. Why is that man just angry for nothing? He knows the boy’s family in church. We are in the same bible study group and jamb lecture. Because daddy saw me hugging him that day, I will not hear word again.’

‘You know how daddy is’ You see the front door open andIma’s head pops out briefly before disappearing back inside.

‘Yes I know but I don’t even talk to the boy like that…’

‘Esi, I will call you later’ You hang up immediately and slip on your shoes. In the living room, you look around the open space; there is no one in the room except for the life like statue of a naked woman. You imagine how much he must have paid for it. These rich men have too much money to waste, you say to yourself.

‘Ah my beautiful friend is here. I thought you ran away.’ Kachi appears by your right smiling, he looks fatter than you remember. His cheeks are puffy but his belly has remained flat. His polo shirt smells of air conditioning and some expensive perfume as he pulls you into a hug. He is a sweet smelling, richer, generous version of the younger men you sometimes sleep with. The younger men would fuck and fuck and still pay less than agreed but these old men, they pampered you.

‘Ima is in my room, getting ready for me.’ he says and then licks his lower lip. ‘You know, my friend is around, he likes beautiful tiny girls like you.’ You smile at him. His arm is around your waist as you two walk down a dimly lit hallway. There are about five doors on both sides. He stops in front of the last door by the right. The door is not shut and the bright light from the room makes the tiles gleam.

‘He’s in there, waiting for you.’ he winks at you, nudging you forward so that the door is open wide.

‘Is that the sweet girl my friend has been telling me about?’ the man in the room says. His voice makes the knots in your stomach tighten. He is sitting on the edge of the bed shirtless, bent over; struggling with something you cannot see. When he sits up, you see the scar.

Later you will ask yourself why you agreed to go on this trip, why you did not stop when you heard the voice, why you stood there staring when you could have turned around and just run but right now, as your father turns around to look at you, you know running is useless.

Yarn

Anjola’s mum, aunty Arin sets the cake on the table, in front of Anjola and the other kids from school. The birthday cake is a barbie doll in a pink ball gown. I do not like ball gowns, the lace itches my thighs but I am wearing one today because Anjola will be pleased, It is her birthday today. Eleven of us, boys and girls are standing under the sun, waiting for Anjola’s big uncle, Uncle Mika to arrange chairs for a game of dancing around the chairs. I count the chairs with my eyes as he pulls from the tall stack, placing them beside each other in a circle. They are ten, ten white plastic chairs. He wipes dust off the chairs with a piece of cloth, his t-shirt has Anjola’s face in front, with a big yellow number 7 at the back. I am only a few months older than Anjola but she is taller than I am, she is taller than everyone in our class. We are in primary three and even though we are no longer seatmates in class, Anjola and I still do everything together. We have been best friends since her family moved into the next house. I see mum serving the adults, they are sitting under a different canopy, eating chicken wings. Mum fried them in a large pan at our backyard this morning after Aunty Arin had washed them in her kitchen. Aunty Arin did not go to work early in the morning like she does every day except Sundays. We ran around the house this morning since everyone was too busy to stop us. The music starts playing and we are walking around the chairs, Uncle Mika tells us to dance as we walk. I don’t, I simply walk carefully behind a girl in our class, Bimbo, who is dancing and walking happily. I do not want to play this game, I want to go back to sitting beside Anjola. We were talking about baking a layered cake of vanilla and chocolate flavours. My birthday cake, this year was vanilla flavoured, mum bought it on our way to the zoo, that Saturday. Anjola and I ate the cake all by ourselves and giggled when Aunty Arin said we were going to have running stomachs. The music stops and Bimbo sits hurriedly on the chair in front of me and sticks a tongue out at me. I smile because I know I have lost.

_____

The humming from the freezer in Anjola’s living room stops. I wonder if Uncle Mika would play with us now that the power is out. He has been playing his video games since Mum and Aunty Arin left the house. They were going for a party, Mum told me.

“Let’s play hide and seek”, Uncle Mika says as soon as I sit on the bed in his room. He has taken his shirt off and throws it over his shoulder. He has a big scar on his back, Mum says it is because he plays too much. We walk to the living room together. I am thinking of where to hide, when he starts counting.

“1, 2, 3…” Anjola pulls my hand and we start running away from him. He is sitting on the couch, his hands over his eyes as he counts.

“I know a place we can hide” Anjola says as we are running into the corridor. She stops in front of the store room on the corridor and opens the door for us to get in. There is dust all over the place so I cover my nose with my left hand as we walk in and shut the door behind us. Anjola stands in front of me and we are so close, our stomachs are touching. She smiles at me, her smile is wide and perfect. I am breathing fast, Uncle Mika has stopped counting and is yelling our names. Anjola pulls me close to her, our faces are so close together and we are breathing the same hot air. I shut my eyes and freeze when I hear Uncle Mika’s footsteps getting louder. I feel soft lips press against mine, they are soft and chewy like gummy bears. I open my eyes to look at her. Her eyes are still shut when she pulls away and I am looking at her.

“I got you guys”, uncle Mika says loudly as he opens the store room door and Anjola runs out into the corridor. I walk slowly behind them.

“It’s your turn to count, Anjie and Ini”, uncle Mika says.

“1, 2, 3”, I start.

____

The trip from Benin to Lagos is not that long, Mum told me over the phone. It is a few minutes past two and our bus stopped at the park. I climb down from the bus and look around. The air here is thick with exhaust smoke and the smell of sweat. A man rushes to me when I grab my bag from the back of the bus, he pushes a copy of Ben Carson’s gifted hands in my face, “Corper, you no go buy”.  I wave him off. I squeeze through the different stalls with bananas, groundnuts and beads, watches, fake gold necklaces and rows of peppered meat sticks heating up as I make my way out of the tight park and find a cab. I am in Benin for my NYSC, mum convinced to move here instead of deploying. Her sister, Aunty Ire has offered me her house while she will be away taking care of her daughter that had just put to bed. It is just opposite the University of Benin, a small yellow flat, sitting behind weak whitewashed grille gates. It is the way I remember except for the peeling yellow paint on the walls. The house keys were underneath the flower pots that decorated the front of her house, just like aunty Ire had said. The power comes on as I am tidying the room Aunty Ire has told me to stay in. I find old picture albums in the wardrobe, there is a grainy picture of me and my cousins in matching adire outfits. It was the last time I was here, for grandfather’s memorial service, every one else in the picture is smiling except me. I did not want to be there, it was a terribly long drive and my shoes were too tight. Evening comes as a grey blanket covering the sky and the sound of croaking frogs and chirping crickets echo in the empty house. The power is still on when sleep takes me away.

_____

My stomach is already in knots when I see the restaurant on the street leading to my Aunt’s house.   The smell sifts into my nostrils and I decide as I push the door open, that I would probably come here every day. The queue is seven persons long but I’m pleased with the way the food is being served. I drop the bag with the materials Mrs Osawaru, the pregnant biology teacher has given me- her textbooks and her old notes, between my feet and the wall as I wait till my turn. She has asked me to go through them and make my notes. She also introduced me to the classes I would be taking. It is finally my turn and I have rehearsed my order, rice, plantain, two beef with enough stew. I turn around, there is no empty seat at first then I see one in front of a girl. Her head, full with curly Brazilian weave is bowed in front of a black handbag. She is talking on her cell phone. When I sit down, she looks up at me, her hand still holding the cell phone to her ear.

“Inioluwa?” she says, her eyes grow bigger when I nod, I am smiling at her. It is Anjola

“Wow, I can’t believe it.” she stands to hug me. She is taller than I expected, my face rests on her shoulders. I can smell coconut oil on her skin.

“What are you doing here?” I ask her as I pull away. We settle back into our seats, now everyone is looking at us. She pushes her Brazilian weave off as her face as she answers me.  She is serving in Benin – at federal girls’ college, just beside the University of Benin, she tells me. I ask about Aunty Arin and Akure, as we walk away from the restaurant to my aunt’s house, the bugging stares of the hungry men and women behind us. She talks as fast as I remember, gesturing as she does.

“Ini, your face has not changed at all, look at your dimples.” she says as I am telling her about Mrs Osawaru and the dirty canteen food. I tell her about boarding school in Lagos, about Mum’s catering business.

“Oh Aunty Kunbi, see how she is still so beautiful.” She says when she sees a picture of Mum and I on my cell phone. She squeals when she sees how big my natural fro is. Her phone starts ringing from inside her handbag. She lifts her finger and starts to walk away to answer her call. When she returns to the room, there is a frown on her face.

“Ini, I have to get going. My landlady wants to see me.” she says. She does not look at me, as I change. I walk her out of the house till the junction where she can get a taxi to her house.

____

I am standing in front of Anjola’s door. The rooms in the hostel are close together and without windows. I knock again and she appears a moment later.

“Are you getting ready to go somewhere?” I ask her after she has shut the door behind me. She is wearing a bra and shorts, her face is without makeup but she has let her weave down. She lets out a loud sigh, pulling an empty box behind her. There are many clothes lying around her room, on her bed and on the chair, in front of her dresser.

“No, I’m just cleaning” she says, folding a T-Shirt into the empty box. I join her, folding the clothes in, one by one to fill the box. After we are done and she is about to sweep the room, rain starts falling, without the dimness in the sky, without bowing of trees, it just starts.

“This nonstop Benin rain” She says as she bends to sweep. Soon we are giggling as we look at old pictures of Anjola in her laptop. She graduated from the University of Port Harcourt. I tell her about my experience there for the post ume screening, how my travelling bag went missing and at the end of the day I still did not get the admission. She laughs,

“That can happen to anyone Ini, oh look that’s Josh, he was my first boyfriend in Uniport.” He is a scruffy boy in an oversized basketball shirt, holding her so close. She is giggling and pulling away from him in the picture. She clicks on a different folder, where she has kept pictures of past relationships. There is Vincent, the one with hair as full as mine, Lawal, who is so tall, Osi, with the same pose in every picture and a girl she calls Desiree. She is pretty and in most of the pictures, they look really cosy. Anjola taps the next button faster as pictures of them are scrolling past. I laugh at her ‘thoughtfulness’ there is a funny story for each one except Desiree.

“So you tell me about your boyfriends”, she says with a large smile on her face. We are done with her pictures, so she takes the laptop and turns it off. She crosses her legs in front of me, eager to listen. I tell her about Abu, the dignified mallam, Toba, who cannot see woman with his two eyes and Chuks, who is now dating his so called cousin.

“These things happen” she says after I finish. I move back to rest on the cold wall, the air conditioning is directly above me. She lays her head on my bare lap. Her weave itches my thighs but I do not say anything.

“Hmm” I say instead. The power goes off and the wind stirring the aluminium roofing above us is louder than ever.

“Ini, I’m sorry but I don’t have the strength to put on that generator” she says as she lifts her flowery curtains. The windows let in a faint light and I can see her breasts jiggle when she takes her bra off. She lays beside me after she has changed into her nightdress. I lay still as she balances beside me. I am looking at the ceiling, there is a large water mark spreading across the ceiling.

“I think the one thing I miss the most about Akure is the stable weather… and light”

“I know right.” The light situation in Benin, is horrible but I cannot remember the light situation in Akure. I had left Akure when I was nine. It was when Dad got the job in Lagos. The thing I had missed the most was Anjola and I thought about her for many years.

“Everything was alot simpler then.” I add.

“Ini, do you remember our kiss?” I stop in my thoughts. I feel her turning to look at me.

“That was hardly even a kiss, Anjie.” I say and she starts laughing. A nervous chuckle. She is quiet again. I do not know what to say so I turn to her and her lips meets mine. Her lips are as soft as I remember. I can smell the coconut oil on her skin.

N.B – So this story is in the Ake review 2015 and that makes me so happy. Yes i was at the Ake festival 2015 and it was so amazing. I should post my Ake diary really soon. Thank you for reading.

Oh Feromi

Because it’s been so long and I haven’t posted a thing. I have been so busy doing a lot of things, running away from what I know I’m supposed to do. (Running away doesn’t change anything). Anyways, This is something I wrote in 2012 but then i edited and sent it in for the Etisalat Flash Fiction Contest 2015, didn’t get in but there’s next year and the year after that. 😥
Goodluck to the stories that got accepted. :):):)
So here, read and share.
Thanks.


“Doctor what is going to happen to Feromi? Nobody is answering me.” I hurried to my feet when I saw the doctor, a young man walking towards me. The attending nurses ignored my
questions all morning.
“Sorry madam. First we have to fill a card then you tell me what happened that way we know how to go about this.” He said, he took his hand from his left pocket and ushered me into his office. His wedding band caught my eye. I wondered if he took off the ring when he wanted to sleep with other women like Feromi did.
“His face is burned.” I said when he shut the door behind me.
“I know that” he said. He pulled a new card from his drawer.
“Madam, what is your name?”
“Idara,” I said.
“Idara, how did it happen, what were you doing?” he pronounced my name the way Feromi did when we first met. He bumped into me at office cafeteria. His hands rested on my shoulders as he apologized. They were soft and I wanted to them to feel other parts of my body. And they did eventually.
“I was frying plantain.” The doctor looked at me like I was something comical. I had left the plantain slices to turn golden brown, just the way Feromi likes it. Plantain is his favourite food, he calls it a snack. He would never let me fry plantain in peace. He would walk into the
kitchen and pick them up slice by slice while I fried finger after finger.
“How did the oil burn your husband’s face?”
“He is not my husband. It was his wife that poured hot oil on his face.”

Kushimo.

The world was not built on a mirror
nor Rome in a night
For a mirror would show likeness
And Rome would not be.

Pen on paper, Quick strokes
A familiar word, depression…
Your heart slapping your ribs as He diagnoses

Elavil, Chantix, he prescribes,
in deep mumbles, still scribbling
The bandage wrapped around your wrist itches

He studies you behind his square glasses,
For red alerts, you know.
You laugh,
You shouldn’t have,
But it’s amusing,
The doleful pity gleaming in his eyes.

You’re on a suicide watchlist, he says
How could you leave this world now?
How could you give up this sadness
that clings to you like a wet leaf on a rainy day?
This sadness, your only friend.

Wandering tubers

Papa kicked me out of his house on a Monday. It was the day after Chief Ibe donated the tubers of yam to the Parish. I staggered under the weight of the thick brown tubers. Perhaps if the yams weren’t so remarkable then Papa might not have insisted on counting them himself. But that’s not where this story starts; this story, like all terrible ones, begins in a church.  
Papa is the lay reader of our village parish. He says the mass on Sundays, wearing a big ugly white robe and blue scarf around his neck. The Church, the only cement building in our village, roofed with many flat sheets of noisy zinc sheets, is always filled with people.
On weekdays, some of the people help around the church, sweeping the floors, dusting the benches, clearing as well as smoothing the red soiled compound and on Saturdays, the choir holds rehearsals and the members go out on evangelical outreaches within the town and some of the settlements around us.
On one of these outreaches, Papa converted a man with the Ozo title in our small town, a funny short man named Chief Ibe. Papa was overjoyed when He agreed to come to church the following Sunday. 
Chief Ibe walked into the church in a haughty manner, with his new wife, clutching to his traditional stool. After the service, We paid our respects to Chief Ibe. Papa beckoned on me and I went,
‘This is my son, Uchenna.’ 
‘Oh that’s good. Is he going to head the parish too?’, Chief Ibe said in between feats of loud laughter, he solely engaged in, patting my hairless head. 
‘Uchenna, carry this stool for me.’, He spoke loudly as he often did, turning to look at Papa, leaning towards him. The stool weighed more than the two buckets of water I carried for Papa in the mornings. I wondered what sort of wood it was made from. Chief Ibe burst into another peal of laughter
‘Are you eating, this boy? You can’t even lift a stool?’ He went on, ‘Look at my son, Kelechi. He can lift an elephant with one hand’ I turned to look at Kelechi. 
He is about my height, with smooth brown skin. His honey coloured eyes under a thicket of black lashes. I watched the skin around his eyes fold when he smiled revealing a bit of his teeth and more of his gum. He walked with an air of self assurance.

After Kelechi left with the stool, weightless in his strong arms, Papa called me and said, ‘Can’t you see a man like yourself? Does he have two heads?’, He raged on. I said nothing in response, my face to the ground. I was afraid that if I started talking then I might tell Papa, that when I shook Kelechi’s hand that day, I wanted to hold it forever and he would look into my eyes and see madness.

When I asked Kelechi why he was so strong, he laughed and that was the first time he kissed me. It felt rubbery, as if someone rubbed alum all over my mouth. When he removed his lips from mine, I felt cheated. We were alone in the barn, after carrying out the yams Papa wanted to give away to the widows. He put his finger on his mouth and winked at me. This went on for a long time. Me, him, the barn. Our bodies, dancing to the songs we could not sing outside of the barn. 
During the harvest, Chief Ibe donated a number of prodigious yams to the Church. Papa thanked him over and over before instructing Kelechi and I to count the yams. He would give some to the widows and some to the handicapped men. We stayed there for a long time after counting, whispering and kissing. I felt a strange thing in my shorts and my hand instinctively went there. I was hard, my penis threatened my zipper like in the morning. Kelechi must have noticed it too for he put his hands down my shorts and stroked it softly for me. His hands were soft and I soon lost track of everything. That’s when Papa walked in to count the yams and he saw me kneeling there with Kelechi’s own throbbing yam in my mouth.

Telegram

The sun rose early in Beje town and warmed up the remnants of a cold night. Mama chika rose early too, with the sun. She was not into the business of waiting till the whole village was bright infact sometimes that was when she returned home from the market. But it was different today. 

Chika, her only son, was coming home. He had graduated from the university with a first class degree in Petroleum Engineering five years ago. The day He told her over her neighbors phone that the school had given him a million Naira and would also sponser his master degree in America, Mama chikas joy knew no bounds as she squealed, rolling her waist and clapping to the tone, she made up, with her lips.
She stopped going to market to haggle the price of the smallest snails; as she used to. The next market day, she wore a white garment and tied her most beautiful yellow scarf. The market women knew something had happened, something extraordinary. When they asked and she told them about her son’s achievements, watching the shadow in their eyes grow from shock to shame while the glow in her eyes outshone the silver bowls of garri, rice and beans that glistened in the sun. 
They laughed at her when she sent him to school in the city instead of learning a trade. They laughed when she stopped wearing double wrappers. They laughed when she started to weed farms for money or sometimes lunch. They laughed when she started to sell plantain stalks to pig rearers. 
Mama chika went to the market the day before, in search of biggest chicken. She would cook delicious rice and stew for her beloved son. She was pleased at her image in the mirror, ordinary Her, the mother of a brainiac, as one of the letters had addressed him. The last time she wasted precious time looking at the mirror, she noticed her early wrinkles and forehead lines and now, there were none. 
They agreed to meet at the park in Enugu, “Lagos will be too far for you mama, I will meet you by bus at the park in Enugu”, Chika said with a calming reassurance in his voice. The woman was relieved, her son, her obi was coming home. She would gladly take a bus to the far north if she had to, the one that would bury her, had returned. 
She wore the fine clothes she had laid out the night before; the blue George wrapper chika had sent from London last Christmas. It still smelt and felt fresh when she tied it firmly over her blouse that morning. 

She went first to Papa Nkem’s compound, he had promised to take her to Enugu that day. He owned a motorcycle. She got on the bike, seating on it rather than astride. Her legs dangled close to the exhaust and papa Nkem warned her. They set off at once, a gathering of exhaust fumes and smoke lying in their wake. They got to Enugu late and mama chika rushed into the park her mind, half afraid that her son must have been waiting a long time. She was glad his food had been prepared and was waiting on a stool in her room. She looked out for him, peering into every passing bus for her sons face. She had prepared the victory dance she was going to perform when she first saw him, in fact she had brought a white handkerchief specifically for the occasion. Imagine her shock then, when a suited young man from inside the office came to give her what he called a “telly gram”.

She shook her head when he asked her if she could read so he read it aloud “regret to announce passing of Dr Chika **”

Dissent.

“Joy”

His voice filtered into kitchen and hung gloomily over the sink where I continued with mechanical fixation, preparing the complicated meal his wife explained moments before she drove off to work. I imagined I could ignore him, the rasp baritone voice soaked with lust staining me with its sheer immorality as he called again, louder.

“JOY”

“Sir” I answered, rinsing my hands under the cold bubbly tap water. I met him sitting on the large bed. His hands held out, beckoning me to come closer.
“Sir?”

“Come and sit down” he said rubbing his hairy laps.

“Good girl” he sighed as his hand raced from the nape of my neck, around my waist and then in between my legs, pushing them apart, the fabric of the skirt rubbing against my crotch.
“You’re so sweet” he moaned, his tough hands finding my nipples.
I thought of running, of talking, complaining. I told Mfon when he started coming to my room at night while madam was asleep, she annoyed me by telling me to play my cards right. I could have run but instead i was molded by fear into submission. His eyes were coated with unyielding lust as he pulled off my skirt in one move ignoring the watery pools that filled my eyes. His hardness was pressing against my thigh now and he took off his briefs to introduce a thick member with a bulbous head. He stroked it as he spread my legs further apart. His thick black lips parted in a groan as he plunged his length into me, spent almost immediately in quick furious thrusts, I felt his discharge fill me up thickly. He tucked a few naira notes in my palm, “for your drugs” he said with a tired voice.

“Don’t wear your clothes now” he frowned as i gathered them from the marble floor, “i want to see that your overload bounce” As i walked out, he clapped “See what God himself created,  he is great… sweet girl” Indeed!