Friday, December 22, 2006

Marry or Die

Everyone's doing it. Jumping the broom, tying the knot, lugging the ol' ball-and-chain - call it what you will, it just keeps happening: marriage. The incessant influx of wedding websites to Adaure's blog is a very obvious indication that people, especially my people, just cannot seem to wait any longer to join themselves in holy matrimony, 'til death or divorce do them part. And they're taking the single ones along for the ride. From flashy engagement ceremonies in Nigeria to elaborate church weddings in New York, our young men and women are eager to show their love to anyone who will respond to their invitations, and promises of a buffet and open bar. An open bar gets me every time - I can never resist a dance with Monsieur Chardonnay and his friends, Jose, Jack and Sam (Adams, that is). But I cannot help but think that this rush to the altar is just a chain of reactions to the actions of a few deluded couples who think marriage will complete them. A herd reaction, if you will.

I'm not a cynic, and I don't think that everyone who gets married will get divorced (though the stats speak for themselves). I just think that our reasons are wrong, especially among Nigerians. The top three reasons our people get married are, in a word, ridiculous:

1) It is our responsibility as children of God
2) We got pregnant
3) It was just time

The third reason is the one most commonly used by the men. You see, when it is "time", the very next girl who agrees to enter into a relationship with them is inevitably, unavoidably, The One. Excellent strategy, gentlemen. Availability trumps romance, and the messiness of true courtship can be avoided since the girl is almost instantly thrown into planning the wedding. I don't suppose they can be blamed, though. It's the young women who allow themselves to be flattered by a marriage proposition right off the bat. And yes, it is a proposition, not a proposal. Because, you see, for these men, marriage is like a business transaction that must be completed in a timely fashion before the stock value falls. Whose stock? Theirs. If the young lady actually requests some time to get to know him a little better before she agrees to his offer of instant-marriage, it's a deal breaker. Because she might actually discover one or two things about him that he needs to work on before he drags someone into a lifelong contract, in which case he would actually have to become a better man. And that's too much work. Now or never, darling, he laughingly threatens, a sinister glistening in the back of his eye. And the young lady, prodded on by nosy aunts, sisters and her mother, a barrage of websites detailing weddings to die for, and the fact that "nobody has ever been so serious about marrying me before", stupidly resolves that this is God's will for her and agrees to marry this man she barely knows. Five years and four children later, when she realizes that he's been hitting on all her friends, including the maid of honor at her wedding, who was extremely flattered that he would make her his mistress - and potential second wife - so soon, she wonders why life is so unfair.

I speak from experience. But I'm suspicious even of people who eat too quickly, so I backed out, declared that I needed more time. Three months later, he sent me an invitation to his Mediterranean wedding and now, he just pops up occasionally to invite me to be his paramour and ask me why I ruined all our plans. Our plans? Hm.

Personally, I don't think I'm hardwired for that phase of life. I see people exchanging handcuffs - I mean, rings - and I get nauseous. What's so wrong with dating, people? The white man even came up with a brilliant solution for people like me: common law marriage. If you can stick it out long enough, you might as well be married, so he declares that you are. And you don't even have to worry about spending all that money on a frivolous wedding. Brilliant! Of course, Nigerians wouldn't allow that. Marry or die, that's the motto where I come from. But I wonder why anyone wants to marry a Nigerian man anyway. Noncommital, irresponsible, selfish, arrogant, inconsistent, and dishonest - all in a half-assed package that isn't even gift-wrapped. They show their asses right up front - unless they want to get married, of course. Then you have the pleasure of discovering your grave mistake either moments or decades after you've made it, but certainly only after it's too late to do anything about it. Try, and risk the weight of society bearing down on you: your parents complaining that you want to bring shame on the family; your so-called friends waiting to laugh behind your back, even as they commiserate with you on your failed life plan; your children who will certainly be abandoned and forced to go to a badly-funded public school, perhaps helping you sell akara to pay their school fees, or even worse, they will be taken from you and raised by an evil stepmother who gives them whippings for breakfast; your pastor condemning you to hell for even thinking about breaking your vow before God and man. Forget that he broke the vow first; as a woman, you must be the strong one, the cross bearer. Forgive him, and while you're at it, bring him back to Jesus - now that's he's your husband, it's your responsibility to see that he makes it to heaven.

To be fair, Nigerian girls aren't much better either, these days. The country is facing a moral crisis and the future mothers of the nation are getting sucked into this ethical black hole. If they're not marrying for money, they're numb to the immorality of men and, indeed, encourage the underhanded behaviors that take place in the dark of night (or the light of day, depending on schedules and the degree of callousness). Why else would it be all right for a man to employ, for the lack of a better word, confusing methods to approach a young lady? Because in Nigeria these days, men no longer deem it necessary to look you in the eye or even talk to you directly when they want to get you in bed. Like blind cave-dwelling bats, all they need to do now is register your feminine form with their (uncanny) radar before they swoop in for the sex. They toss a flippant greeting in your general direction, then walk right past you and send their personal assistant back to get you. Not your number - you. This happened to me too. Apparently, he thought I was playing hard to get because I kept rejecting his third-party advances. Eventually, when the PA approached me for the fourth time, a nearby security guard took it upon himself to get rid of him and warn me that "these men are touts". But clearly, more than a few Nigerian girls respond positively to these inane gestures - insulting gestures, actually - or the men would not continue to behave thusly. So what does this say about our people? A mass Christian movement, hours spent in communication with God, a culture that supposedly does not support such loose behavior, and still this is what we are?

Methinks I'd rather die than marry that, if I must marry at all.
What say you?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Online De-Registration

I've been on this Naija binge for days. I'm talking: Naija music, Naija movies, Naija dance, Naija politics, Naija thoughts. I think I'm making up for the fact that the whole world (my whole world) is going to Nigeria this Xmas and I feel like the only person who will not be engaging in all the crazy fun that is Christmas in Naija. But, just in case I was forgetting that my country is not necessarily all fun and games, the universe decided to get my cousin to send me the following email and remind me to thank my stars that I'm staying on this side of the Atlantic this year.

My favorite girl goes to ABU in Zaria, the bedrock of education in northern Nigeria...or perhaps it once was and no longer is. Either way, the university seems to be trying to find a way to revamp its image, like the sixty-year-old man who buys a toy sports car, dyes his hair a darker shade, and tries to get a sexy young thang "on bed" (a hilarious stolen excerpt borrowed from one of those Naija movies I've been digesting lately). And this is what they have done.

ABU has decided to join the rest of the nation, join the rest of the world and it chose to begin with online registration. and there ain't nuthin mo' to say!!! cuz, i'm sure you can imagine. though even your imagination is nothing as crazy as what I am going through. first, I am not a computer/internet/anything-remotely-technical guru, so my terminology may (may?...WILL!) leave a lot to be desired, but in 2 mins i'll try to give you the lowdown

1. the site(?) is still being designed, so you can't edit your info if its been wrongly entered into theUni's (
2. you apply for accomodation and get it in hostels that dont exist
3. you are allocated a room which mysteriously becomes another room once you log in again
4. a room of two may be allocated to 4 differentpeople
5. there's no way of telling what courses are core and which ones are electives

and the coup de grace (in my opinion) to the whole ABU catching up with the 20th century in the 21st is this...

6. you ask for help from staff - both academic and non-academic - and no one has a clue.

The poor things. And I don't mean just the students - this has to be torture for everyone concerned, including the incompetent techies who obviously lied about their qualifications in order to land this 'contract'. 2007 is going to be the beginning of a great semester for the good people at ABU!

I still feel like I'm missing out on Nigeria sha. This is the first Christmas I've spent in Yankee since 2000! This BLOWS!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

E Gba Mi O!

I don't know why I keep doing this to myself. I have been in school for an unmentionable number of years, and I still cannot bring myself to stop procrastinating on my work. I have to complete a thirty-page paper by tomorrow morning. When did I start? Yesterday morning! Actually, I started last week Saturday, but in three days I only wrote 2 pages, so that doesn't count. I inevitably start doing very ridiculous things in an attempt to buy myself time. For example, I decided not to shower yesterday; I told myself that I could not afford to lose the 20 minutes it would take me to shower, apply lotion and get back in my bathrobe. Then I proceeded to spend an hour watching Roseanne. After I nearly suffocated from my own stench after I woke up this morning, I decided not to repeat that mistake. (I'm kidding; I never smell that bad. But this needs some drama, so I figured, why not?)

Anyway, so here I sit, wailing about the fact that, after donkey's years of experience and tons of papers under my belt, I am still scrambling frantically to finish within 2 days something that I had three months to work on. I need deliverance (as Mrs. Attabo of Victory House hostel used to tell me whenever I broke curfew or told a small fib, because she was convinced that I was possessed by Satan).

Pray for me, somebody. After this, I have to cram about eight or ten Yoruba proverbs for Friday afternoon, and then re-write this paper in order to re-submit it to another professor for another class by next Thursday because I didn't have time to research two separate topics. Am I a crook, or am I a crook? Peace.

Monday, December 04, 2006

5 Random/Weird Things about Kulutempa

I'm doing this for you, Overwhelmed. Let's not make the tagging a habit, eh? Abi, should I be careful about mentioning your name sef, before you wash me in acid like that pregnant Jamo woman ;-)? That sh*t was funny. Anyway, on to the task at hand.

1. When I was about seven or eight, I started to count in groups of three, which led me to develop a habit that currently irritates the piss out of me, but which I cannot stop. I look at tiles (ceiling tiles, linoleum tiles, mosaic tiles...whatever) and group them into a 3x3 square. Then I turn the square diagonally, and this - in my mind - forms a tiger's face. Top square/diamond: top of the head. Next two squares: eyes. Next 3 squares: nose and jowls of the beast (or something). Next 2 squares: cheeks of the tiger, where the whiskers would go. Last square: bottom of the mouth. I need help with this one, clearly.

2. I do not like to see disabled people when I'm eating. This person could actually look quite normal, but once I realize they are disabled in any way - obesity, autism, dyslexia (ok, I'm kidding about that last one) - it messes up my appetite.

3. Now that I've had my navel pierced for 4 years, I no longer like the way it looks without the jewelry. I think it makes me look round-bellied without it. Which leads me to point 3.5, which is that I really don't ever want to be pregnant. Ever. In 2002, a friend and I decided we would develop the WOW, the Womb on Wheels, so as to circumvent all the crap that comes with pregnancy. It's in development.

4. When I was a kid, I used to torment my little sister by telling her that the six children our mother bore were divided into two teams: The Fairs and The Darks. Being that I'm "fair" and she's dark, we were on separate teams. These teams didn't do or mean a damn thing, but it really freaked her out that we would have to be separate and I sadly relished working her up. I'm sorry, Adz; I love you as much as if you were on my team :-). That being said, each "fair" person's arch nemesis in life is someone on the dark team, and vice versa...prophecy, anyone?

4.5. I love dimples. During my pre-pubescent years, I started trying to create a dimple in my own cheek, and have managed to force a pretty permanent crease in the region that pops up sometimes if I smile just right. Now, every now and again, someone will say to me "Oh, I didn't notice you had a dimple!" and I will cock my head slightly, nod, smile and say, "Yeah, it's just a little one. It runs in the family."

5. I only really love one child in the whole world, and I compare every single baby I come across to him. I never admit that anyone else could be cuter, smarter, more fun, or more well-behaved than he, even his own sibling. This might be a problem as my own niece grows up, but whatever. I love my boy.

Gay UK Flight Attendant Commercial

This commercial is so great! As the folks on Google said, you gotta love the Brits for taking risks.

UPDATE: Gotten a couple of complaints about the video, and it turns out that you need to have Google Video downloaded on your hard drive in order to watch it. So I decided to cut out the middle man and send you here to watch it. But come back and tell me what you think!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Liars, All of Them!

I cannot stop laughing about this.
My cousin just tagged me about this website:, which has this face recognition software that pairs you with a celebrity whom you resemble. So far, every black woman she (my cousin) knows looks like Gabrielle Union, but that's neither here nor there. I am calling for a boycott of this website of LIES!! Ok, so it calls for large pictures that are forward-facing and straightfaced, so as to more easily facilitate the comparison process. I put in my first picture (me with my messy 'fro, freshly showered, no smile but a quirky mischievous twinkle in my eye) and it said that I look like a whole bunch of Asian chicks, Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Natalie Imbruglia and, of course, Gabrielle Union.

The next picture I put in was taken in 2002, soon after I first shaved off my hair in South Africa. Again, no smile, but the twinkle is also gone. The software started off saying that I look like Tyra Banks (again). I thought that was promising. But the next celebrity I resembled was COOLIO! I was too shocked to be angry, so I decided to laugh instead. I'm still laughing. Ok, fine, so I look like Coolio. It shouldn't get any worse, right? WRONG! Next picture, someone else fairly good-looking, can't even remember who. Then, DONATELLA VERSACE (that hideous plastic clown)! Then DIANA ROSS (post-op and in her sixties)! As in, gosh, wouldn't it have been better for someone to just tell me that this was an awful picture?! And here I thought I was pulling mad dudes with the sexiness of my lowcut...apparently, they were just attracted to the freak that lies under my skin!
But then it said that I look like Gabrielle Union again, so fair enough. Y'all check it out; it's hilarious!

Why is Black Bad?

On Thanksgiving Eve, my friend Ndidi called me up to invite me to Black Friday. I have never succumbed to consumer-ism, which is a great feat to have accomplished seeing as I live in the Great Land of (Senseless, Rampant, Uncontrollable) Consumer-ism, but she deceived me. I know this now. I mentioned that my brokeness this year transcended all previous levels of brokeness in my life and that I would not be spending a dime, therefore I would not be going. Then she flippantly mentioned that they were selling Motorola Razrs for $19.99, which was her way of telling me that I would go down as the biggest fool in history if I passed up on using my credit card to take advantage of this gargantuan sale. In my heart of hearts, I knew it was too good to be true. But it only takes a split second for the "me too, I want" spirit to take a hold of you, and Ndidi was so excited about the whole thing. Before I knew it, she had sent me a good ten lists of items on sale in ten different stores, and I was perusing them, wondering what would be worth going further into debt for. I told myself that I was only going to Black Friday because my dear friend wanted me to go. After all, she had called me "dear" when she asked me to go with her. It would be a special time for us to bond. Hindsight is 20/20. I cannot believe I agreed to follow her to what can only be described as absolute craze.

After an eventful Thanksgiving, I finally got to bed around midnight. Actually, I got to couch at midnight, knowing that if I fell asleep in a bed, I would not be able to wake up at 4 to get ready for Ndidi's arrival. This my friend, punctual even in the wee hours of the morning, drove up to the crib at 4:20 on the dot. I was already downstairs waiting for her, and off we zoomed to Circuit City, where our cheap Razrs awaited us. What I saw as we pulled into the parking lot will be forever imbedded in my mind. First of all, it's 4:30 in the morning - a morning following a holiday that is designed to take people out by overeating - but the lot looked as busy as it would have looked on a Saturday afternoon. Second of all, it's cold. I mean, it's North Carolina, fair enough, but it's still November. It's cold. And there is a line of people that's four people deep, and long. Long, long, long, long, long. It took Ndidi and I almost 4 minutes to walk to the end of this ridiculous line, the whole time marveling at how many people are standing there waiting for the doors to open and wondering if we can really expect to get inside, talk less of buy anything.

We amused ourselves thoroughly at the back of the line, though it was only the back for about 10 seconds; people were still pulling in to line up even as we stepped into our place. First, we speculated about sprinting to the front of the line as soon as the doors were opened, and bursting through the doors before anyone knew what was going on. I anticipated a fight, though, and pointed out that it was unfortunate that I was wearing a hoodie and she was wearing a scarf, because we would almost certainly be dragged back by those two items and pummeled/trampled by the incoming crowd. Scratch that idea. Then I marveled about how great this country was and how people were obediently, quietly standing in line unlike the savages we deal with in Nigeria. Then Ndidi asked a great question: what would Nigerians do if this was Nigeria? I gave the following options:

1) They would have broken the doors down by now (it was 4:47, which is close enough to 5am so the sale could start early).

2) Nobody would even have arrived, because the sales people themselves would have looked their oga square in the eye and asked him whether he was feeling all right to ask them to come to work before daybreak. Ergo, the 5am sale would have started at 7. Or maybe even 9am, if some people wanted to attend early mass.

3) There would most certainly not be a line. Rather, a crowd would have gathered where everyone was wearing the sharpest, most dangerous shoes they could find so as to kick the hell out of anyone who dared to enter the shop before them.

4) On the off-chance that the Nigerians could form an orderly line and the sale did start promptly at 5am, some rich Money-Miss-Road from Aba named Johnny Too-Much would have hired a number of area boys with whips to clear the line at precisely 4:59, at which time he would calmly step out of his Pathfinder to stroll leisurely into the store to purchase his goods. This would inevitably put everyone else in a bad humor and they would subsequently take out their frustrations on each other once they did enter the store.

This killed about 10 minutes for me and Ndidi, at which point we realized that the good folks at Circuit City were about to open the doors. The line rumbled with anticipation. We began to stamp out feet expectantly, eager to walk through those doors, hoping that we would be let into the store at all. It was then that we noticed a fairly large number of people migrating to the front of the line from the parking lot, people who had stayed in the warmth of their cars (taken much-needed naps as well, no doubt) until the last possible minute and were about to pull a Johnny Too-Much, sans thugs. These were the people that awakened the Nigerian in us, because Ndidi and I decided then and there that we were not going to be taken for fools. We cut the line. At first, we were hesitant. We just sort of stood there with the other hesistant would-be cutters, waiting for someone else to make the first move and cut. That way, if there was going to be any resistance from the others who had probably been in line since 3am, we could just find our way back to last place and count our blessings (and losses, cuz there were a good forty or fifty people in line behind us when we chose to cut). When Someone Else did saunter into Circuit City without trouble, Ndidi linked arms with me and we calmly entered the store. Line cut, no problem. Now the shopping could begin.

I won't bore you with the details. It was basically a corral and we were a herd of animals, product-hungry animals. We were shopping shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, who were pushing and shoving and yelling. I was hot as hell because I was still wearing all my warm layers, but I couldn't de-layer because we just didn't have the time; there were windows of opportunity to get our stuff that would be missed. We eliminated the possibility of buying the Razrs as soon as we walked in the store, by the way, because of course the price was accompanied by a 2-year contract with Verizon, which we weren't going to sign. When Verizon offers Rollover, we'll talk. So we looked for Ndidi's stuff: digital camera and Season One of Grey's Anatomy ($8.99). Looking for a suitable camera was hell (more lines in the store, too many rednecks with their ghastly cigarette breath in my face), G's Anat was $19.99 - we decided to check out Target.

We drove the quarter-mile to Target's lot, which was already full to bursting. The time was 5:52. When I saw another one of those terrible lines, I realized that Target wasn't opening 'til 6am. Ndidi had already begun to plot our strategy for cutting the line. Like convicted felons with 2 strikes staring a life sentence in the face, we were already frantically chanting the phrase, "We're not going to the end of the line, we're not going to the end of the line!" What most people don't know about Ndidi is that she is fiercely competitive and she hates to lose. Beneath that sweet, genteel exterior lies a monster akin to The Incredible Hulk. I remember one night, years ago, we were playing Taboo, boys against girls. It was me, Ndidi and Crystal against Walter, Roland and Patrik. We huddled, presumably to develop the best plan of action, but Ndidi began by first calling us "motherfuckers" (this was before she got saved, people - allow her) and telling us that if we made her lose, we were going to die. Suffice it to say, we won. Anyway, it was this same monstrous being that showed its face at Target. Her face set hard, her eyes sharpened like daggers, a shadow crossed over her and rested, and she plotted. I mentioned the fact that there were shopping carts dotting the entryway, with ropes strung between them, defining the line as well as keeping out the line jumpers, but she seemed oblivious to the sound of my voice. "Ndidi," I said, "Target has their shit together, man. And the people in line look aggressive." And they did. Some people were already shadowboxing, and everyone looked ready to charge. I heard the person at the front of the line say they had been there since 4am. It was not looking good for us. But Ndidi was a woman possessed and she did not care. As for me, hunger wan nearly carry me. All I knew was that I didn't have the strength to fight anybody in that line - and the Target shoppers were ready to throw 'bows, from what I saw.

Ndi dragged me to the front of line, where four security officials stood, ready to counter any chaos that might ensue. The head security announced to the crowd forming at the head of the line that we would not be let in until the line had passed through the doors. Clearly, he had not met Ndidi. She was breathing deeply now. "Come on!" she ordered me, and dragged me further down the line. Like I said, those Target shoppers weren't taking any mess that morning. People were holding up the ropes as they walked by, to ensure that nobody would hop over and cut the line in front of them. I looked into the red eyes of one of them as he walked past, glaring at us, and knew in my heart that we would not meet success in this line. Ndidi whispered her latest strategy to me: "When the security guard looks away, we're going to hop over the rope and go, ok?" I laughed, partly because I thought she was joking and partly because I thought she was crazy. "Ok, Ndi." So we watched the guard carefully.

Actually, I was watching the guard and the rope, cuz it would have been awfully embarrassing to try and hop over a rope that was too high because someone was holding it up. I also didn't think the guard would look away, given the number of us just waiting at that part of the line. But he did! With excitement, I looked round at Ndidi to say, "Let's go!" But Ndidi was not there. Literally before I blinked, this girl had hopped over that rope with all the grace and agility of Michael Flatley and his dancers and the only thing my eyes witnessed for sure was her pink peacoat disappearing into the store with the wave of shoppers. Her speed not only shocked me, but impressed my co-loiterers, who literally applauded her nimble dexterity. It was clear to me that I had to quickly attempt the same before the guard caught on to what was happening. I awaited my chance. Again, the man looked away, and I quickly jumped over the rope into the line.

Alas, it was ill-fated timing. As my feet landed on the concrete sidewalk, I felt the hard claw of a middle-aged white woman - small in stature, but with a crazed look in her eyes, which peered out under the edge of a badly-tied scarf - on my arm. She grabbed me from behind her shopping cart - a feat which I still find amazing - turned me around and tried to push me out of the line, yelling, "You need to get to the back of the line," over and over. Why me, Holy Father, I thought as I tried to appear nonchalant lest the guard recognize me and yank me out of the line himself. I remember feebly saying something like, "My friend is already in there," then getting on my phone to call Ndidi (for what specific reason, I'm still not sure), while trying to walk faster to get out of reach of this crazy woman so the guard would think she was talking to someone else. As I was trying to call her, Ndidi called me, yelling, "My friend, where are you?! Will you get inside this store, I already have a cart, let's go!"

This happened in a space of 5 seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. The tiny amount of energy I had left in me was burned up by the burst of adrenaline brought on by that hag outside, and I was so relieved to see Ndidi that I ran a little so as to get closer to her sooner. Of course, it was madness inside that store as well, and between running around trying to get our gear (we finally found Grey's Anatomy for $8.98 - yay, Target!) and getting rammed repeatedly by someone's cart (I was concentrating so hard on taking care of myself that I didn't even realize that the bitch was ramming me until it was too late), I could not wait to leave the store and get back in bed. Ndi got everything she wanted and more, and I learned a valuable lesson: when an event is named Black and it's not Black like Black Tie, turn on your heels and flee in the opposite direction!

As we walked out into the crisp dawn, the sun painting the horizon deep pink and yellow, my dear friend said to me, "That was great! We should make this a yearly tradition!" I knew then that she was lost, and nothing I could do or say would save her from herself. It was then that I realized that I was not the only person she had asked to accompany her on this rigamarole, but I was the only person that had foolishly agreed. I was too weary to say anything except, "You and who should make what a yearly tradition?" And that was the last either of us said about Black Friday. It will never happen again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Say Maybe to Drugs

Here's something interesting I've learned lately: everyone is doing drugs. Apparently, I've been living a sheltered life, walking around jolly and oblivious to the fact that there is a pervasive underworld full of people who are constantly high on one drug or another, and it is spreading. Crystal meth, marijuana, mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine, Valium, crack, alcohol - everyone is doing something and just because I choose to remain cooped up in my apartment 6 days out of 7, I am fully ignorant of just how many people are going to ruin their lives this year because of addiction and/or mistakes. Now, given that I do spend the majority of my time hanging out with my more laidback self, it shocks me that I am meeting more and more people who do drugs. The sheer odds of my meeting that many people means that there must be millions out there, and apparently they're always looking for fresh meat, more people to drag into their dark despair - cuz it ain't fun getting high all by yourself. Ergo, I feel the need to share an experience or two of mine, just for the general education of the virgin public. Just so you know what to expect.

I remember the first time I really got high. I mean, there was the Christmas party at my little sister's foster brother's house in London, but that was just an introduction. They were passing round a spliff at this party before dinner. Everyone smokes spliffs in London; it's just the done thing. I'm just a Nigerian girl (fairly extraordinary, yes, but simple nonetheless), who is a firm believer in moderation and not going down the slippery slope; I turned down the j's first couple of rounds. But when I saw my darling sister puffing on that thin white roll of weed and tobacco, I asked myself whether I was really living life by being so prudish. I decided I wasn’t. On the next round, I took three puffs, and promptly fell asleep. When I woke up 20 minutes later, everyone was laughing at me, but I felt somewhat validated. I had smoked weed - or so I thought - and nothing had happened to me. I resolved then and there to make weed smoking a firm and fixed part of my intoxication menu, which up until this point only included various kinds of alcohol and the occasional cigarette.

I came back to the U.S. and began shopping for a dealer. I hate that I have to use such language, like it was a covert operation in the middle of the night, but this is America. Anyway, so I began to look out for people who looked like they might smoke tweeds, that I might drink from their fountain of wisdom in the acquisition of such dark goods. It was harder than I thought. But as it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by the discovery that many of the people I hung out with daily were frequent worshippers at the altar of Mary Jane and I didn’t have to look far, or for long. One day, GT told me that he had gotten a shipment of “the good stuff” and asked me if I was ready for the ride of my life. Strangely and stupidly confident after my one brush with drugs, I laughed at his insinuation that I wasn’t ready, got in my car and went to his apartment to “show him how it was done”.

When he opened the Ziploc bag of reefer, I was struck by the sharp, tangy smell of the leaves. It smelled strong. GT noticed my brief hesitation, perhaps even glimpsed the shadow of anxiety that had passed over my face, and laughed at me. I resumed my false bravado attitude, but now I was slightly worried. This “good stuff” didn’t look like any kind of weed I had ever seen before. It was green and had a sparkly quality, almost like it had been sprinkled with stardust. There weren’t just leaves either – there were buds and twigs, and everything seemed extremely fresh. Prior to this, I had only seen shriveled up, dead-looking weed. Certainly nothing that looked like it might grow roots in my lungs and spring to life through my mouth. Inwardly, I started to shake.

GT rolled the j, and politely offered me the first puff. I inhaled – and immediately went into a coughing fit. My throat felt like it was on fire, like the veins and arteries had disintegrated, sending the blood spewing directly from my heart into my esophagus. I thought the pain was never going to end. By the time I recovered, GT had taken the joint out of my hand – to protect it, no doubt – and was sitting on his bed, smoking and laughingly asking about my health. To further rub in my embarrassment, he offered me the joint again. I glared at him, then went to the bathroom down the hall. As I sat on the toilet, I thought to myself how annoying it was that I had to go through all that without even the satisfaction of a high. I still wasn’t sure what constituted a high, but whatever I was feeling, which was nothing, wasn’t it. I dabbed at myself with some tissue, pulled up my pants, and went over to the sink.

As I looked down at my soapy hands, I noticed that the suds looked shinier than usual. I also noticed that I thought I was looking at myself washing my hands from a distance. I blinked. Everything went back to normal. Weird, I thought, and rinsed the soap from my hands. I could still taste the blood in my mouth, so when I noticed the mouthwash by the sink, I thought I’d have a gargle, try to chase the memory of my fall from grace with the minty freshness of Listerine. I reached for the bottle, opened the cap. The green liquid splashed into the small black cap. I threw it back in my mouth, and sloshed it around violently. Rinsed the cap. Screwed it back on the bottle. It was then that I began to realize that I was very aware of every detail of all my actions. I could account for what each finger was doing as I opened and closed the Listerine bottle. Everything was going in slow motion; raising my eyes to the mirror took three seconds instead of the usual fraction of one. Looking in the mirror, the kulutempa I thought I would see was no longer there. Instead, kulutempa was slowly moving out of this girl, prepared to float behind her and watch her from a few feet away. I could literally feel myself drifting out of my mind and body, into a state of oblivion, an unknown place I had never been before. I could only assume that this is what dying felt like. Suddenly, I was overtaken with fear. I had to get back to the room and ask GT what was going on before I ceased to be part of myself. I flung open the bathroom door and started down the dark, unlit hallway. But not before I turned off the bathroom light, essentially plunging myself into instant, impenetrable darkness.

I’m going to have to admit something about myself that few people know: I’m scared of the dark. I haven’t slept alone without a night light for over two years, and before that I had only managed to sleep alone in the dark for about a year. Something about the dark of night terrifies me. This is not a good character trait to have when you are high, prone to paranoia even when you’re sober – which can only get worse when you have smoked igbo – and are lost in a pitch-black hallway. Unfortunately, I was in this state of panic and frantically searching for GT’s bedroom doorknob, vainly fighting screams, when I chose to leave my body. I blacked out. When I came to, I was huddled and shaking on one end of GT’s futon, he was sitting on his bed peering across at me worriedly and asking me if I was ok – for real, this time. His muscular form came to me slowly, through a black haze that never fully cleared the whole time I was high.

That was the longest night of my life. I remember being very worried that I had broken an infinite number of sins by embarking on this weedy journey, and grew increasingly concerned that I would die a horrible death very soon. Within minutes, to be exact. Flashbacks of all the times in church when people were called to the altar to re-dedicate their lives to God and I declined, putting it off for another Sunday, came to my mind and I felt so distraught. I started rocking back and forth, asking God to forgive me for my stupidity, to have mercy and give me another chance to make my life right before He sent me to the fiery pits of hell. GT, long gone at this point, started telling me to just calm down so the paranoia could pass and so I could get to enjoying my high. I think I was ruining his. However, in that short phrase, he had introduced me to the idea that this feeling would not last forever and that I would not live and die like this. There would be an end to my suffering, and I would live a full life afterwards. All I wanted to know was when it would be. So I asked him.

“What time is it?”

“It’s 1:30.”

“Ok.” I waited for a very long time before I spoke again, and then I tried to make small talk. Unfortunately, all I could say was:

“What time is it?”



Another long pause.

“What time is it?”

“1:31. Now it’s 1:32.”


We did this for hours. When GT gets high, apparently he has the patience of Jesus. There he was, laid out on his bed, watching the TV, chilling. Meanwhile, kulutempa is there on the futon, fidgeting and twitching, unable to think of anything except her impending death and the time. I tried to watch TV, but he said the light and waves would probably make my high worse. I had no choice but to believe him; I couldn’t even process what the hell he was talking about. So while I feared everything, I also became obsessed with keeping my eyes from even glancing in the general direction of the TV as I waited for my trip to end. I eventually fell asleep on the futon and woke up at 6 to the sound of birds chirping outside and the misty blue of dawn slipping through the slats of the blinds. I touched my body - to make sure it was all there - went to that eerie bathroom again to check the redness of my eyes, then got the hell out of there. I don’t even think I said bye to GT. I had come to know that igbo pass igbo. All I knew was I would never smoke weed again.

A few months later, I was high on the train in London, on my way home after visiting my sister’s then boyfriend, who was kind enough to offer me trees, the way an Italian offers his visitor red wine. When I became paranoid about a number of men raping me on my walk home, I decided that it was finally, finally time to stop smoking that stuff. I had never gotten used to the unbearable dry mouth, anyway. There is one effect that I will miss terribly, but I’ll leave that unspoken. Man, that was hard to give up. But I digress. I don’t really have a point, but I will say this: weed will get you high, and it might soften life’s edges, but more often than not, it will overly sharpen your senses and make you paranoid as hell. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes not. Either way, my decision to say “maybe” to drugs has meant that at least now my “no” has the weight of experience behind it. Which will totally save me from the desperate clawing of miserable druggies looking to drag me down into their despair. Think about it.

Next topic: Black Friday in America and Ndidi the Undercover Artful Dodger. Watch this space.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Naija Film Blueprint

A friend of mine wrote and sent this to me over a year ago, and I still think it's one of the funniest things I've ever read. I'm sort of down-in-the-dumps these days and have been looking for a pick-me-up. Turns out, this was it. So for any other avid Nigerian movie fans who might be mourning the advent of winter, I present - on behalf of "Marrow" - the blueprint for making the well-rounded Nigerian movie:

My wife and I are keen watchers of Nigerian films and are always tickled by the inescapable similarities that seem to spring up in virtually every other movie. So here is your very own blueprint to making a Naija film. Follow these golden rules and you too can tap in to an estimated £120 million industry.

1.It is unthinkable that your protagonist goes through this film without some kind of family intervention. Even if he is currently without a family, he has either lost them at an early age or will magically acquire a new one during the course of the film. If I'm watching a movie with Russell Crowe in it, I am not concerned about his relationship with his mother nor do I particularly care if he is regularly sending money to his brother in the village. Too much information!

2.When a character is deported/returns from America, he will immediately adopt an incomprehensible dialect This dialect is unique to Nigerian films and contains a disproportionate number of Rs , every other sentence ends in 'men' and affords a liberal use of expletives. This clearly means you have been to America. The character will also be decked up in a variety of tank tops or equally skimpy outfits. There is obviously not enough cloth in Yankee to make complete outfits.

3.Every polygamous family is doomed. Stepmothers in particular are to be avoided of you want to survive in a Naija film. The minute you hear stepm.... fade, just fade. She will kill your ass.

4. Jazz, Jazz and more jazz. If in doubt, the obligatory 'Baba Alawo' scene will answer many plot holes and keep our movie ticking along. Jazz is also an invaluable tool in explaining any irrational behaviour. Oh that madman? Na jazz. Oh he started beating his wife? Na jazz. Impregnated his sister's cousin's youngest daughter? Jazz, Jazz Jazz. For mental disorders in Hollywood, read Jazz in Nollywood.

5.No matter how rich or succesful a character is, their office must not exceed 12 X 9 ft in dimension. The decor is something straigth out of Carpenter's monthly with square edges everywhere. During the course of the movie, that same office will also double up as the bank manager's office, baba alawo's shrine any indeed any other interior location you can think of.

6. Stella Damascus Aboderin must cry in any movie she is cast in. If you do not include this in her contract, then you are wasting the woman's talents and you might as well cast someone else.
7. Similarly Ramsey Noah must have facial hair in all his films. No Ramsey I don't care if it makes you look fine, the part requires you to be a Tibetan Monk godammit!

8. Every flashback must be in either black and white or sepia, preferably with a dream like effect. Without this we are obviously too dumb to differentiate past events with current ones.

9. No one ever loses or gains any weight in Naija films. 20 years later abi?...abeg just pour small powder for my head. My diet is exactly the same and I have not succumbed to middle age spread. I now have six kids but not the waistline to show for it.

10. Do NOT under any circumstance try and incorporate special effects of any kind. They will fail miserably. If you want to make a movie about a man who flies or shoots thunderbolts from the tips of his fingers, think again or move to Hollywood. Don't forget to close the door behind you.

11. And finally whatever you do, NEVER NEVER cast Nigerian children in your film. Child actors are notoriously bad but Nigerian child actors deliver lines in a manner that makes you just want to slap them and curse their parents. (Dore, remember "Mommy, (n)why. does. Duddy. 'ate. os?" LOL!!)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dane Buying Ugandans for Art

I know that all I seem to be talking about these days is Africans, but the world seems to be running mad and I can't help it! Plus, these days, I'm increasingly inundated with news about that continent - I think this is God's way of telling me that I must not stay in this country when I'm finished with school. But that's a topic for another blog. This blog is talking about a strange breed of neocolonialism that's boldly underlined with an unfettered desire for one Danish man's massive ego to be stroked. And the sad thing is that hunger and poverty have clearly numbed the senses and pride of these Ugandans, who don't seem to see anything wrong with what they are doing (or so the Dane would have us believe).

I take God beg you, read that press release (in the hyperlink) and then go on to check out the pictures on his website: What is this world coming to, holy Father??

Remember Saro-Wiwa today, everybody

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Where Did We Go?

Nigeria is no longer the most corrupt nation in the world; Haiti is, according to Transparency International. Actually, Nigeria isn't even in the top 10. On one hand, this is interesting news for obvious reasons - it means there are countries that are even more corrupt than ours. On the other hand, if there are countries more corrupt than ours - a whole 10, we know for certain - then what on earth does that say about this world of ours? Scary thought. And what does it say about the people who are doing the measuring? Did these countries just suddenly become more corrupt in the past couple of years? Or did people just decide to take more notice after they became bored with the usual scapegoats?

I'm interested to see what will become of the Haitians in world media following this release. And as an aside: the French and the Italians have been linked to global mass corruption, being cited as the two countries that pay the most bribes in developing nations. Funny how they aren't considered one of the top 10.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Silpas Too Fine!

Ok, I had to steal this from my friend Katja S.'s page. I've been visualizing this picture for hours, and it still has me in stitches. Apparently, corruption in Nigeria has prompted some very personal - and borderline ridiculous - responses. This picture was allegedly taken outside a mosque:

I say "allegedly" because a friend of mine refuses to believe that anyone would stoop so low as to padlock their slippers and feels that this is a doctored picture. I, on the other hand, am completely unsurprised by this action (though immensely delighted) and totally see the sense in using a giant padlock to secure your property outside a house of worship. After all, robbers are no longer afraid of God, so what's to stop them from tiefing your load outside His house, even when the penalty of that particular God for stealing is the loss of your tiefing hand? Notice the dirt-outlined toeprints and the indented, cracked heels. This person uses his slippers religiously (no pun intended); why should he not want to protect them?

You know you're all wishing you thought of this first.

Monday, November 06, 2006

This is Lagos?

This is one of the most annoying things I've ever seen or heard (and given the rate of my annoyance, that's saying a lot). This woman is mad and ignorant, even more so because of her lack of understanding despite the fact that she seems to be so well-traveled. I'm not naive enough to say that everything she said was a lie; after all, she managed to capture A truth (one, singular truth) from A perspective (one, singular perspective). To turn around and blanket an entire nation, even an entire city, with this one truth and one perspective is irresponsible and appalling. And annoying. Maybe the people were obstructing your photography because they don't appreciate a random white woman coming and taking pictures all willy-nilly without permission.

That being said, Nigeria and her people need to wake the hell up. That these people can still find living situations like this to focus on in our very wealthy nation is a disgrace. That these people still have the opportunity to speak ignorantly and derogatorily and that we don't have a sufficient rebuttal is a disgrace. Thus rubbish heaps are older than some of us, and they're still sitting there. Does nobody care??

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Short Gist: Oga Landlord Strikes Again

See trouble o! My landlord has promoted himself from part-time stalker to petty thief. Last week, he brought plumber to install heat in my bathroom. I left them in the apartment and went to class. I came back, didn't notice anything out of order. Next morning, getting ready to take my shower, I couldn't find my shower cap. I thought maybe they moved it somewhere. Turned my bathroom and bedroom upside down looking for it - nada. Figured the plumber ripped it and threw it away or something, but the least he could have done was tell me, right? No matter. I bought a new shower cap. Life went on.

Yesterday, Oga Landlord brought electrician to fix some problems my neighbors and I have been having. We were in the living room most of the time, but they had to go through my bedroom once to get to the basement (it's an interesting layout). Didn't take more than a minute, I didn't leave the living room because I didn't think I had to. They did their work, they left. At midnight, I was getting ready for bed - and I couldn't find my headtie. Again, ransacking the bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom to find it, including garbage cans in case I was just mad enough during the day to throw away my favorite 10-year-old headtie. Again, nada. All I could think about was the email he had sent me just moments before telling me how attractive African women are to him and why he just loves them so much - they're so smart, and beautiful, with great family values and most of them are virgins until they get married (I don't know where he got that gist from sha, but whatever).

This isn't like the time I ate oatmeal and forgot that I put the bowl in the sink, so I thought someone broke in - to eat my retarded was that?? Anyway, this isn't like that. The man is taking my shit. He's probably sniffing on my headtie right now, wanking to the sweet smell of my perfumed oil that is now permanently embedded in the thing. WHY WOULD HE TAKE MY SCARF??? I stole that scarf from my Gubsie years ago; it means a lot to me. I'm so irritated, and now very paranoid. I slept with a chair against my front door last night. Even though the chair has wheels and won't do shit if there is ever an intrusion. Suffice it to say, it didn't make me feel safer. I hope I'm wrong and the scarf just turns up somewhere I didn't think to behind the ceiling tiles. So annoyed.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Liar, Liar, 'Trossis' On Fire!

Have you ever been caught doing something you shouldn't have, then decided to tell a really elaborate lie to get out of it, only to realize that the truth would have been a whole lot easier to deal with than the lie? But now you've gone through all that trouble to concoct a story that borders on the ridiculous (or is in fact neck-deep in ridiculous) and you realize that going back on your story would snatch away your credibility before you could say "I'm sorry" so you stick with the crazy lie and feel bad forever?

I don't lie very often, and for that reason, my lies tend to be pretty absurd. I have told many a whopper in my day. I remember in 5th grade, during recess, some boy was teasing my chubby ass for no particular reason except that I was the new kid (so was he o, but I was shy and thus an easy target) and I was so outraged at my powerlessness that I lashed out at him as hard as I could with the only weapon I possessed: my tongue. Even then, I knew that emotional pain was harder to heal than the physical. I'm so ashamed of what I'm about to type. I looked him square in the face and said, "I may be ___, but you raped your sister!"

I already said I'm ashamed; don't judge me! I was only nine! I had no idea what rape was, but I knew that men did it to women and that it was bad. I knew that it was in fact an abominable act, and it was the only thing in my mind that equaled what he was doing to me at that moment. It never occured to me that he might know what rape was. Or that he'd be so pissed about it that he'd report me to Ms. Ellis, our inherently cruel teacher (or so my child's brain insisted). Ms. Ellis was a robust, 60-something black American Methodist from the Midwest who had recently broken her right hand, which was taking forever to heal. She had been in a bad mood for months (or years, depending on who you ask), and from the moment we met, I got the feeling that she didn't really care for me. That was a new experience; I'd always been teacher's pet. Now SJ, provider of all the sweets and pastries her mother could produce to satisfy Ms. Ellis' sweet tooth, was teacher's pet. But that's not the point.

As our hero - who has grown up to be some sort of OCD freak - ran to Ms. Ellis' classroom to report me, I considered many things. I considered chasing him to beg him not to, but I was too chubby to exert myself that way, plus he was already halfway through the door. I thought about going back home to Mrs. Carter's, where I was squatting, but she and Ms. Ellis, being the only black Americans in the school, had formed an alliance and called it friendship. Sooner or later, I'd be caught and then I'd have to face the two old ladies at once. So that wasn't an option. I had just decided that I should begin frothing at the mouth and feigning convulsions when he emerged from the classroom and informed me triumphantly that Ms. Ellis wanted to see me immediately. That was the day I had my first hot flash. As usually happens when I'm in trouble, my brain scrambled and I couldn't even think about where I was going, not to talk of what I would say when I got there. Before I knew it, my stupid legs had transported me through the door, where I stood quaking.

"Girl, come closer!" Ms. Ellis' grating voice snapped at me from her desk at the other end of the room. I prayed that I would trip on my shoelaces and bust my head on the cold concrete floor, but I realized that I was wearing Keds and they didn't have laces. God, why have you forsaken me??, I cried inwardly. At that age, I could cry on command, but even that particular talent failed me that day. There would be no mercy for me—unless I could come up with the perfect lie.

The following is the conversation that ensued between me and Ms. Ellis, recalled to the best of my ability. Be warned: it is a gross display of bumbling stupidity, as caused by blubbering fear, lack of preparation time, and an innate disability to lie properly, especially when it counts.

ME: What did you say to old boy just now?

k: Me?

ME: Yes, you, child! Do you see anyone else in this room?

k: No, Ms. Ellis.


ME: You want me to ask you again?

k: No, Ms. Ellis.

[silence. kulutempa hopes that Ms. Ellis has forgotten the question.]

ME: [kulutempa], what did you say to little boy outside?

k: Nothing, Ms. Ellis.

ME: Look here, I do not have the patience for a lying child. Now, I will ask you one last time: what did you say to the overgrown baby outside?

k: (trembling terribly and desperately searching for an answer other than the honest one, reaches for the absurd) I said that he will reap his sister.

Note how clever my dumb ass thought I was being. If I said the boy would reap his sister, and he heard rape, then he would be the bad one. It wouldn’t by my fault that he had such a rotten mind. And the little s.o.b. was what one might call a bad boy. As much as he teased me, he was fascinated by my breasts (yes, I had breasts at that tender age) and because we lived down the street from each other, he often took the opportunity to let me know he saw 'em. Again, not the point, but God, we were some rotten kids!

Anyway, back to my abysmal lies. Ms. Ellis was actually taken aback for a fleeting moment. It soon because obvious, though, that she was just interested in seeing where I was going and how far I would be willing to go in this lie.

ME: (shrilly) Reap?!

k: Yes, Ms. Ellis.

ME: And just what does that mean, young lady?

k: (stammering) It’s just another way of saying that he beat his sister.

ME: What? How?

k: (slowly growing more desperate, yet strangely confident in her ability to keep this going): Yes, because it’s just like reaping a harvest, you know, you have the stalk of wheat or whatever and then you use it to whip someone. No, no! It’s like the motion of reaping a harvest, the same motion that you use to beat someone. Reaping. We say it at home.

I’m already laughing hysterically at this memory. What was I thinking?? Clearly, Ms. Ellis was asking herself the same thing. I imagine that she was thinking to herself, I’m too old for this. My arm is broken, I hate these damn kids, and this one thinks she can tell me this ridiculous lie and have me believe it! I’m a grandmother, I can’t even see my own grandkids, and here I have to deal with these bad-ass children who don’t even know how to lie. In a Christian school! These heathens are going to hell, starting with this fool in front of me. But to me, she sighed heavily and massaged her forehead with the fingers on her good hand. When she looked up at me again, she peered over the top of her glasses (which was no easy feat, given the size of those bad boys) and said, “I don’t know what happened out there on that playground, but if I ever hear that any of that filth came out of your mouth again, I will call your father and you will be going home in shame. Do you understand me?”

I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I knew that she didn’t believe me, but she wasn’t even going to punish me for lying? I was overjoyed. “Yes, Ms. Ellis. Thank you, Ms. Ellis. I’m sorry, Ms. Ellis,” I said, walking backwards as quickly as I could, before she changed her mind and used her good hand to smack me across the face (I was still in transition from being at home, where my brothers did not miss a chance to give me a well-aimed slap across the face; I didn’t yet realize that Americans never beat children at school). And so I escaped what should have been the worst embarrassment of my life. I went out on the playground and gloated to the defeated sap, but only for a second, lest he find something else to go and report me about.

I’ll never know the far-reaching effects of that lie. It was certainly one of a magnitude that could have changed the course of nature. Perhaps it is the reason for the hole in the ozone. Maybe El Nino can be blamed on my big-mouthed, small-brained sin against the universe.

Of course, I swore never to be caught doing such nonsense again. And of course I’ve failed. Time and time again, actually. But I won’t bore you with those details. Does anyone have any whoppers they want to share, for fun? Not that I’m trying to build my repertoire or anything ;-).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pyeri Boy

I hardly ever endorse anything (mostly because I can't influence anything, not even the hair on my head), but I absolutely must introduce y'all to my other favorite short man, Jude Abaga, aka Pyeri Boy, aka m.i who has brought a fresh new sound to Nigerian hip hop, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not the only one, though; Jude's sound is hot. And because I like Jude's music so much, I would like for everyone who can to check it out at his space. I guarantee you'll find something to love.

Jude, you should put "Pyeri Boy" up there!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Chapter III: When A Man Dies

While I was writing the conclusion of Ahmed's death, I suddenly realized that the ending I have is for a much more complex story than I have had the time to write. The personalities, histories and relationships of the characters in my imagination are so vivid to me, but I haven't been able to convey them - yet. Plus, I hate the way the story ends. I've always had a problem ending a story, because it's always so hard for me to comprehend "the end" of anything, especially life. Still, I hope you don't feel like you've wasted your time with this, and your criticism is always welcome. I can only get better, after all. Presenting the last installment:

Don't read this crap. It sucks.

Ahmed slathered thick saliva over his dry, cracked lips, preparing to speak to his child when Shahina’s face suddenly appeared beside their daughter’s, rough and dark in comparison. In her eyes he saw the same iciness that had lain there for almost forty years, though fear had temporarily blunted its edges. He breathed, Shahina. Still, only silence emanated from his lips. He needed her to know that their marriage need not have been the prison she had always imagined it to be. He loved her, and it was this selfish love that had made him force her to stay because he could not live without her. He wished she could have allowed herself to grow happy with him, to be gentle with him, so that he would know the tears staining her cheeks shared his pain and warmth. Instead, he had hardened her soul and caused his oldest son a most unfortunate childhood.

But in this moment, he could not allow himself the slightest regret. He was beginning to feel light, weightless, as though his essence was no longer subject to the pull of the Earth but had gained authority over itself. He could feel himself disappearing; first toes, then legs, then hips. Abdul! Where was Abdul? He was panicking now; his unsaid messages burning holes in his chest as they fought to escape. He scanned the many faces that now surrounded his bed, looking for the familiar black eyes set above a hooked nose and the strong jaw that belonged to his son. The boy was now a man, but he still hurt like a boy; that hurt must not find its way back to Shahina. Ahmed knew that Abdul would do as he was told, would obey the last wishes of his father, even if his father asked him to do the impossible: love his mother. Finally, Abdul’s face pushed through the crowd. He grabbed his father’s left hand. “Baba?” he said, half-pleading with him to stay. Ahmed looked, and he tried again to speak.

He took many shallow breaths, and began to shake vigorously with the exertion. The family grew alarmed. What was happening, the straggling visitors on the edge of the crowd wanted to know. Shahina’s wits quickly took hold of her, and she began to chase them out of Ahmed’s bedroom. “Get out! What do you want here? Leave us, you bastards! Vultures!” No one took offense at her curses; after all, she was grieving. It was clear that the sadness was manipulating her mind, overpowering her sanity. They shuffled out reluctantly, stealing glances over their shoulders for one last look at Ahmed’s predicament.

Behind her, Ahmed could no longer feel his arms or his chest. Though his body shook violently he knew nothing of it, aware only of the calm that one associates with weightlessness. He had become an omnipresence—uncontainable, untouchable. The particles that comprised what he had once believed was Ahmed were becoming one with the Earth, with the curtains, the flowers on the windowsill, Mariam’s hair, the very bed on which his shriveled body lay. All the remained on the pillow was his head and as he disintegrated into the void that contained everything, he knew, he must say his last words or be gone forever, in silence.

He tried to ease the desperation he still felt, and prayed for a peaceful calm. With eyes that saw brightly, he looked up at the faces of his children and his wife and finally began to rest. He saw fear and sorrow in their tears, but he smiled. These were the people with whom he had shared his life, whom he had given life. They had shared everything with one another, from food to common colds. They had learned together, had grown in wisdom and knowledge to the jealousy of their friends and neighbors. They were handsome and they were healthy, and there was only one thing he wanted them to know. He smiled up at them, and as Ahmed turned to dust, he told them with his last breath: “Embrace kindness.” And then he was gone.

The entire house had grown eerily silent. The visitors, banished to the living quarters, listened for any sounds that would indicate what was happening in the bedroom. But the family never spoke. For long minutes, no-one said a word. Tears froze on cheeks and dried up under eyelids. In absolute stillness, they sank into their thoughts and stared at their father’s lifeless corpse, barely breathing themselves. Ahmed’s parting word enveloped them in a shroud of self-consciousness as they battled, each one, to unravel the complexity of that simple word, embrace, and determine the meaning it carried for their respective selves. Why would Baba ask them to do that, they thought. How could those be his final words? What on earth could he mean? The puzzlement was more than they could bear, and one by one, they turned away from the bed in disappointment and disgust, muttering under their breaths about how it was just like Baba to be so self-involved, even unto his last moment.

Soon, the only ones left were Mariam, Abdul and Shahina. They had been there with Ahmed from the beginning, and their pain at being placed in an impenetrable darkness was perhaps greater than any of the other relatives that Ahmed had left behind. Mariam still kneeled by her father’s head, but she felt drained, empty. All her efforts over the past few weeks to heal her father and comfort him seemed to have been for naught. When the end came, she was still not prepared. To her, all that mattered was that her father had gone and left her, despite her prayers, and his words were meaningless to her. He had left her nothing to carry her through the difficult months to come, and she was almost certain that she hated him for that. Meanwhile, the salient edge had returned to Shahina’s icy stare. She was bitter and angry, a slighted widow and no longer sorrowful. The lout had never even apologized for what he had done to her, or for the parts of her life that he had claimed. He had taken her youth, even her children loved him more than they did her, and now he had begrudged her even an ounce of remorse or pity, even at death’s door. As far as she was concerned, he had tried to break her for the last time, and she condemned him to a hell that was hotter and darker than the living hell he had subjected her to while she was alive.

And then there was Abdul. He never stopped looking at the little smile that had stayed frozen on Ahmed’s face long after the Earth had recaptured his soul. The long, deep dimples that had once garnished his cheeks when he grinned were long gone, swallowed by the wrinkles that gutted his entire face, but Ahmed remembered and loved it. It was a smile he had known from his boyhood, at a time when Ahmed’s arms were the only place he could find happiness, and when Ahmed’s eyes were the only ones that looked at him with compassion. Because of his father, the inevitable hatred that could only come from the anger he felt towards his mother was kept at bay; because of his father, he had come to know love and to feel adoration. Now his father was gone, leaving him in charge of a family that he was not sure he could keep together. He felt overburdened with sorrow, loneliness and a responsibility that he did not want.

But even in his most painful and frightful moment, at death’s door, Ahmed had remembered to smile at his son. He had sent a message to Abdul, a reminder of the love they had shared, and encouragement that he was capable of standing on his own in self-assured strength, to feel compassion and show kindness. When Abdul looked up from the small, shriveled corpse that had once been his father, he gazed across the bed and saw the dark figures of his mother and sister at the opposite edge. They stood apart, each in her private misery, weeping and alone. Ahmed’s words echoed in the room: embrace kindness. Embrace kindness. Abdul walked hesitantly around the foot of the bed toward Shahina, but stopped just a few feet away from her. His heart pounded so strongly, he could feel its reverberations in his throat. This woman, his mother, was despicable. The hard lines of her face, the way she had always ignored him except to torment him, the anger in her eyes whenever she looked at him – he abhorred everything about her. He saw her tears and knew they could only be for herself, not for anyone else, because Shahina was incapable of caring for anyone else. Yet now, she was his responsibility and he could not shirk her. Embrace kindness. But how? How could he forgive her, take care of her, when she had never for a moment cared for him the way a mother should?

The three stood, so frozen in their anguish and confusion that they never noticed little Mohammed slink into the room. With all the chaos, nobody remembered the child who had once deemed that Ahmed’s death would not come so soon, though his pronouncement had proved to be untrue. As the adults because absorbed in mourning and funeral plans, discussing politics and the latest gossip, Mohammed grew increasingly agitated and afraid, and so sought his mother, Mariam. Though he did not yet know that the cause of the negative feelings floating through the house was his grandfather’s death, his immature mind knew only that his mother could and would alleviate his feelings of invisibility, and her arms would shield him from that which he did not understand. He entered the room, focused only on reaching the safety of his mother’s side, but when he found her, he noticed with alarm that she was crying. He was confused and a bit afraid, but gently called to her. “Mama?” Mariam looked up at her child, her eyelashes wet and clumped together. Without stopping to think, the boy immediately wrapped his skinny little arms around her neck, saying, “Don’t cry, it’s all right, Mama,” repeatedly.

Abdul looked on at this simple, childish act of consolation, marveling at Mariam’s response. Moments ago, she had forgotten that anyone else in the world existed. Now she was squeezing her child as hard as she dared and, though she still wept, a miniscule smile had crept through the torrent of tears, mirroring her content at being comforted by one of her own. Encouraged, inspired, Abdul swallowed hard, and took the two steps that brought him to his mother’s side. Slowly, gently, he placed his hand on her shoulder. Shahina looked up, startled to be touched, and even more shocked to see that it was her son’s hand that rested on her. He reached down for her hand, and raised her up from the floor where she kneeled. Embrace kindness. The words reverberated through him, and he barely heard her sharp intake of breath as he drew her close to his body. Shahina crumpled, broken by this act of tenderness, and for once she tired of being resentful. In the wake of Abdul’s kindness to her, she softened. Years of neglect, hurt and regret that had never been addressed crashed over them like a giant, blue wave of emotion. Embrace. Together, they cried loud and long, rocking back and forth in their fully encircling clasp, each teardrop forming an apology that was years overdue.

They never spoke of forgiveness. Their future was uncharted, too unclear to know if they could ever attain true forgiveness. But they embraced, locked into this moment when they could finally be the cause of the other’s happiness, each the source of the other’s comfort. And Ahmed’s spirit continued to smile, his invisible presence moving over and through them, enveloping them with his eternal love.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I've Been Tagged!

Way to give me assignment, Adaure!

1. Customer Service Rep at The Pulse (copy center on GW campus in DC)
2. Lenoir Hall cashier/maker and shaker of Jamba Juice + occasional tief at Subway (I called it reparations)
3. Research assistant at FPG Child Development Institute
4. Website reviewer for CTI, a.k.a. pay me to chill at my house and watch TV all day as I pretend to work hard for you

1. Nigeria's Minister of Women Affairs
2. Coyote Ugly bartender
3. CEO of Microsoft
4. Zookeeper

1. The Color Purple
2. Coming to America
3. Lord of the Rings (but only part 2, where Gandalf the Grey becomes the Gandalf the White but is SHOCKED that people are still calling him Gandalf)
4. The first 10 minutes of "Who's Next", starring Jim Iyke ("You can't just come in here and styat...and styat...ARDRIN us aroun'...stan' up, sit down, do wanna end dis shyeeet?!" LOL!!!)

1. Lagos, Nigeria
2. Port Harcourt, Nigeria
3. Jos, Nigeria
4. Chapel Hill, NC

1. Everybody Hates Chris
2. Oprah
3. Girlfriends
4. Dateline (this is clearly my "I don't want you guys to think that all I watch is trash" entry)

1. London, England
2. Cape Town, South Africa
3. Zanzibar, Tanzania
4. Toronto, Canada (odikwa world traveler o!)

1. Gmail/Google
2. Blogger
3. Facebook
4. Yale University

1. SUSHI!!! (Addy, you miss road on this one, but it's such an expensive appetite to maintain)
2. Eba or akpu (you miss on this one too) and egusi or ogbono soup with pomo, tongue, chicken and dry fish...Jesus, I have killed myself!! See me swallowing serious amounts of saliva!
3. Lasagna as prepared by the amazing chefs at Agip Nigeria (or myself)
4. Yam Pottage (as prepared by myself or my sister, AJ)

1. Amala!
2. Anything with tuna in it (unless it's raw tuna, in which case, it's just fine)
3. Sweet potato pie
4. Unagi (eel)

1. Spicy tuna rolls in abundance
2. Akpu and my sister-in-law's CRAZY GOOD afang
3. Isi-ewu with "Star shandy" (Star beer mixed with Sprite or Fanta--I miss my family kitchen :-()
4. Masa with chicken suya from Hill Station (any Jos people in the house?!)

1. The sweetest bed in the Western Hemisphere (I swear there's sleeping medicine between my sheets)
2. No bloke (I hear that, Adaure! Though I really wish you'd stop saying 'bloke'!)
3. All the best hair and skin products from Carol's Daughter and Origins, respectively
4. A laundry basket that is full to overflowing

1. An internet connection
2. My man
3. 3,000ct bedsheets
4. A very large and expensive painting...a triptic, maybe? (inside joke)

1. Black gauchos
2. Gray tank top and matching hoodie
3. Green jigida (waist beads)
4. My favorite crucifix necklace (I wear it almost every day)

1. Stone Village, Zanzibar
2. Cape Town
3. North Carolina
4. Anywhere but here, damn it!

1. Ihugh, Benue State (it's a real place, but it seems unreal from all the stories I've heard about it!)
2. My beach house in the Bahamas
3. Cuddling up with my mama in her bed in Lagos
4. In Aso Rock slapping Obasanjo and making Atiku call himself my bitch

1. Shirley Austin
2. Doosuur Tilley-Gyado
3. Newell Holt (a.k.a. Graham Holt's father - lol!)
4. Barack Obama

1. Why won't I just do my work instead of procrastinating?
2. I wonder what's on TV
3. What am I going to do to my hair?
4. Relationships are too hard

1. Music
2. Friends
3. Laughter
4. Puppies (even after they become dogs)

1. I
2. Have
3. No
4. Idea

ok, seriously:
1. Katja
2. Dore
3. Dantala
4. Titi W-D

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This Conversation Is Over

Joe's hand shook as he let the phone drop from his ear. It landed on the floor with a loud clatter and broke open. The battery fell out and slid across the tiled kitchen floor, stopped just shy of the cupboard under the sink. Joe was furious. His lips were parched, as though from the heat he felt bubbling under his collar, so he walked over to the sink, grabbed the least dirty-looking glass and filled it with cold water from the tap. Within seconds, he had gulped down the contents. He filled the glass and drank again, more slowly this time. When he finished, he exhaled a trembly breath and glared at his refrigerator door. He carefully placed the glass in the sink, then lumbered over to the fridge, eyes staring intently at one point in the upper right-hand corner. There, stuck against the cold stainless steel, was a magnetized photo. It was a picture of them, him and Sephira, that they had had taken at a mundane tourist spot during their summer vacation in London. It had been a moment too stupendous and unexpected to ignore. While strolling along the promenade at Waterloo, a man with a camera took a picture of them before they even realized it, then charged them for five pounds for it. "I'll throw you in the magnet for free," he said, displaying his yellow teeth in a big grin. Sephira had thrown her head back and laughed, thoroughly enjoying the incredulity of it all. Joe remembered how sexy he thought her neck had looked at that moment, reflecting the light of the setting sun. He paid the five dollars, and stuffed the picture into his jacket pocket as they walked away, giggling, heads close together, arms around one another.

Now he took the picture off the fridge door and stared at it. She had been so beautiful that day. She was all he ever looked at when the photo caught his eye as he went to the fridge for a cold beer, or lunch meat for his work sandwiches. But now, he looked more closely. In the picture, they were holding hands. Joe was looking straight ahead, probably admiring the view, or gazing at the people that loitered on the promenade: the tourists, the artists, the peddlers and pickpockets. Sephira was looking at the Thames. Again, he was struck by her beauty. She seemed regal, with her hair pulled up into a woolly bun over her long neck, her butterscotch skin glowing amber in the sun. Her cardigan, slung over her shoulders, threatened to slip off and reveal her taut shoulders. He frowned slightly as he noticed something he had never seen before - Sephira biting her bottom lip. He started a little in his shock, taken aback by the suddenness of the revelation. Biting her lip. He tried to peer into her eyes, turned the picture a little, trying to get a better angle. He couldn't be sure, but now he felt that he saw longing in her gaze. A desire for something more. Something better.

Red flashed before his eyes, and he hurriedly crumpled the photo in his right hand. He reflexively stuck it in his pants pocket. So even then she had been unhappy. Or perhaps not unhappy, but dissatisfied. As if that was any better. Suddenly, his throat felt tight and dry, and his vision became blurry. He swallowed, coughed. He quickly ran his hand over his face and looked around, as though embarrassed that anyone could have seen him in this his moment of weakness.

There was a half-empty bottle of wine on the kitchen counter. When he took the cork out, it made a dull pop. He took a swig, then leaned against the counter, deep in thought, though not thinking anything in particular. Visions of Sephira passed through his mind, memories of their laughter and spontaneity, the way she arched her back when he ran his hands over the curves of her body. He winced as though the thought caused him physical pain, doubled over and ran his fingers through his curly brown hair. He would not, could not - must not - cry. Now he sat on the cold floor, knees tucked into his chest, bottle of wine in his right hand, his left hand fingering the hem of his jeans. Another swig from the bottle, a longer one this time. So she was unhappy. She blamed him for her unhappiness, but how, he thought, could he have known? Yesterday, last week, last month - everything had seemed fine. They had always seemed fine. Of course, they had the occassional argument, as every couple does, but they always talked things through. Sephira had always been rational, had always seen things his way. She valued communication as much as he did, as the vehicle for achieving normalcy in their relationship. So when had she become eaten up with dissatisfaction? When had he ceased to be enough?

He couldn't think. The wine was beginning to blunt the edges of his mind. He shook his head to clear it, and up sprung the words from the last conversation. Words loosely connected, each yielding powers of destruction that can only be likened to a landmine or a grenade. "I can't do this...I'm not myself...we deserve to be happy. I don't love you anymore, Joe." It felt like there was an elephant sitting on his chest. He had already begun gasping for air when he realized that his face was wet with tears. He grabbed his hair in two fists, panting, trying to calm himself. He had knocked over the bottle and the red wine spreading fast over the floor, making tiny rivulets in the cracks between the tiles. Joe didn't notice. He was quiet now, thinking of the silence that followed Sephira's declaration. "I don't love you anymore, Joe." Like a punch in his gut, like a sharp blade slowly, painfully, slicing across his throat. He hadn't said anything, because if he opened his mouth, it would have been to beg her not to leave him, and he wasn't prepared to give up that much. They remained in silence for a full minute. It felt like eternity had come knocking at their door. Joe subconsciously thought, if we don't speak, maybe the silence will undo what she just said. He listened to Sephira breathing on the other end of the line. It was low, but steady. She was sure of what she was doing. When she spoke again, all she said was, "Bye." Then there was a click, and the line went dead.

He pressed his eyes together tightly and lay down, his shirt and hair mopping up spilled wine. Bye. They had spent three full years together, a solid couple, and her parting words were, "Bye. I don't love you anymore." Click. Conversation over. And now his longing for the woman he loved, irrigated by his tears, produced the words he could not say. He wept as they poured out of him, as he cried out for Sephira, pleading with her to stay with him, to love him. But Sephira had long hung up the phone, and he lay alone in his kitchen, distraught, broken. Unloved.

*This clearly has nothing to do with my previous installments. However, I am in a funky mood and writing melodramatic trash tends to be cathartic for me. Still working on an end to Ahmed's story. Hope this wasn't too much of a distraction. Or a bore.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Chapter II: When A Man Dies

Thank you, people, for your great comments on Part I. After I blogged it, though, I began to find it disgusting, embarrassing and hard to read, but nevertheless, I shall press on. Installment 2 - bring on the criticism.

Ahmed could sense that he did not have long left to live. Even as his shallow breaths gurgled in his lungs, he could feel the surrounding air take on a different quality. It was as though everything around him had gained life, the life that he was losing. The inanimate sparkled with vivacity; the living had acquired an inexplicable luminescence that glowed beneath their skin. He seemed to be peering into another dimension, seeing crystals floating in the air around the room, reflecting icy-blue lights on every surface, breaking through the dimness and revealing all that he thought he had forgotten. To him, God had sent him the heavens, and put the stars within his reach. The dark shadows that had hovered over him for weeks had finally left him, and suddenly he felt the need to share this experience with the people he loved most.

But when he tried to speak, his mouth only emanated a low groan. With his mind, he beckoned to his daughter, whose ever-watchful vigilance managed to detect the inconspicuous waving of his fingers, resting lightly on the off-white bedspread. She quickly came to him and kneeled by his head, held his hand. “Yes, Baba?” she asked, her eyes wide with expectation and fear.

Ahmed slowly, painfully, turned his head to look at her, and saw his own big brown eyes gazing back at him. If only he could speak! He would tell Mariam how precious she was, how good a daughter, a mother, a wife. Because of her, he had come to know the love a man could feel for his daughter and he wanted to thank her, to share with her how she melted his heart at every moment. His eyelids fluttered weakly, and she raised his fingers to her face, touching her alabaster cheek with his yellow nails. Ahmed slathered thick saliva over his dry, cracked lips, preparing to speak to his child when Shahina’s face suddenly appeared beside their daughter’s, rough and dark in comparison. In her eyes he saw the same iciness that had lain there for almost forty years, though fear had temporarily blunted its edges. He breathed, Shahina. Still, only silence emanated from his lips. He needed her to know that their marriage need not have been the prison she had always imagined it to be. He loved her, and it was this selfish love that had made him force her to stay because he could not live without her. He wished she could have allowed herself to grow happy with him, to be gentle with him, so that he would know the tears staining her cheeks shared his pain and warmth. Instead, he had hardened her soul and caused his oldest son a most unfortunate childhood.

But in this moment, he could not allow himself the slightest regret. He was beginning to feel light, weightless, as though his essence was no longer subject to the pull of the Earth but had gained authority over itself. He could feel himself disappearing; first toes, then legs, then hips. Abdul! Where was Abdul? He was panicking now; his unsaid messages burning holes in his chest as they fought to escape. He scanned the many faces that now surrounded his bed, looking for the familiar black eyes set above a hooked nose and the strong jaw that belonged to his son. The boy was now a man, but he still hurt like a boy; that hurt must not find its way back to Shahina. Ahmed knew that Abdul would do as he was told, would obey the last wishes of his father, even if his father asked him to do the impossible: love his mother. Finally, Abdul’s face pushed through the crowd. He grabbed his father’s left hand. “Baba?” he said, half-pleading with him to stay. Ahmed looked, and he tried again to speak.

We Interrupt This Storyline to Bring You...


¨ Who owns Ajaokuta Steel Mills, Delta Steel Complex, Jos Steel Rolling Mills, Oshogbo Machine Tools, and Itakpe Iron Ore Company? Who is deceiving whom?

¨ Who is the largest shareholder in UBA? Who bought out the shares of Akeem Bello-Osagie and threatened him with arrest and imprisonment?

¨ Who was the largest shareholder in First Interstate Bank Ltd, before the merger into Unity Bank?

¨ Who owns the majority shares of Virgin Nigeria? Who gave the airline special facilities at the international wings of our airports at the cost of N400 million? Why does Virgin Nigeria not pay parking and landing fees and purchase aviation fuel at a discount, while at the same time competing in the same market with other local airlines?

¨ Why should one man set up Transcorp, devalue our national assets, obstruct free and fair competition and sell everything to himself and family? If not, why did Transcorp purchase almost the entire NITEL for $750 million when Globacom bidded $1.2 billion for the same property? Not too long earlier, VMobile sold a fraction of its shares for $1.2 billion. How could all of NITEL with a vast net worth of digital exchanges, armoured cables, three international gateways, among others, sell of only $750 million?

¨ This one man operates six farms in six states of the federation. What is the source of the funds for these massive investments?

¨ What is the deal between the one man with the owner of Mittal of India? Why the hurry in granting Block 246 (oil block) to the Indian conglomerate? Is Nigeria for sale?

Signed by Taiwo Abdulrasak, For Nigeria Anti-Corruption Collective, 26, Ahmadu Bello Way , Kaduna

In this age of anti-corruption and EFCC raids, it's time Nigerians started asking critical questions and seeking answers that will lead to action. I got this forward this morning, and it got me thinking. We complain constantly about how corrupt the nation is, but nobody ever seems to be held accountable for their shady behavior. Now, there is a wave of anti-corruption prosecution, but still, the greater part of society allows the superficial nature of the anti-crime "movement" sweep away more of (what should be) their crucial concerns. How can we make all the big men of Nigeria assume responsibility for their corruption and, more importantly, their hypocrisy?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chapter I: When A Man Dies

This is something I've been fooling around with. I'm introducing it in installments, mainly because it's too long for a single blog but also because I haven't found a suitable way to end it. I like it because it's raw and unfinished; I call it my Swiss Cheese version because of the numerous holes that are just waiting to be filled with plots and character development, etc, etc. Why am I sharing it in this phase? I have no idea. I figure that's what the Hyena's Belly is for: criticism, sharing, learning together. Just digest it (if you can). Introducing Installment One:

It was a long-drawn goodbye, filled with tears and painful yearning.

For weeks, he had lain in bed, eyes half-closed and fighting to inhale each precious breath of air. Though he could barely see, he was very aware of the presence of his family around him. His senses picked up every movement, every sound and every emotion, especially the fear and uncertainty. He responded to very little these days, but his greatest source of joy was still Mariam. Dear Mariam—she was his constant bedside companion and nurse. Her touch was always gentle, as though she feared that any sudden movement would send his soul right out of him, far away from her. One day her six-year-old son, Mohammed, pronounced that Baba would rise from his bed to play football with him very soon, because he had seen it in a dream. His words encouraged Mariam and revived her faith in her father’s ability to recover from his mysterious illness. The air around her was charged with an optimism that threatened to falter, yet she remained hopeful. Ahmed wished he could put her mind to rest with the truth which only he knew, but he was weak and could not find the strength to speak.

Sometimes, he could see his beloved Shahina sitting on a low stool in a corner, just beyond the shadows that clouded his vision. At those times he would smile wryly, or so he imagined he did, as he considered the fact that she had always seemed to be in her own world, separate from his, and now, even now, she remained beyond his reach. She rocked back and forth, crying silently as she fingered her prayer beads. She did not spend as much time in the room as she should have, as his wife. There were guests to see to, meals to prepare, and her children, though grown, made many demands on her as they returned home one by one to pay their last respects to their dying father. As she grieved in her dark nook, the visitors nodded in approval of her bereft stance and one could hear snippets of their whispered conversations: "...a good devoted and caring...she would follow him into the grave, she loves him so...." Few, if any, realized that Shahina’s grief was only for herself and her fate, as she contemplated what would become of her after her husband passed away. She had never loved him, had only grown to tolerate him over the years. And now that he was dying, she knew that she would be handed over like a used, dirty rag to their oldest son, Abdul, just as her father had handed her over to Ahmed decades ago.

She and Abdul had never been close, had never shared the indelible bond that a mother and her child should possess. Throughout his childhood, Abdul had reserved his love and affection for his father alone, a fact that she resented throughout his life. She never hid her jealousy. Through it, she was able to enact what she considered to be acts of vengeance upon him: a pinch here, a slap there, depriving him of presents and privileges that she would freely give to his other siblings. It could come as no surprise to her, therefore, that the boy slowly grew to hate his mother as much as she seemed to hate him. But now he was the man of the house and tradition would place her under his roof, in his care. So as she waited, she worried and bemoaned her powerlessness yet remained the splendid picture of a sad widow.

(to be continued....)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To My Favorite Short Man

So here we are: another October 10. It's been 11 years since I could see or hear you dismiss my ever-enthusiastic "Happy Birthday" with a wave of your hand and a mutter about how people are always so unnecessarily excited about so frivolous a thing. 11 years since I could see the twinkle in your eye that told me you secretly enjoyed the attention, even my birthday hug and kiss.

I'm upset because my memories of you, of us, are getting more and more blurry every year. I'm going to have to write things down before they disappear completely. I don't really remember what your voice sounds like anymore. I only vaguely recall how warm and woody your room used to smell because of all the pipe tobacco, and how the smoke obscured the light of the bedside lamp. I remember typing lessons at your office, and my pathetic short stories that you were always so happy to read, and the day you let me "edit" someone's first attempt at a novel so I could tell you my opinion afterward. Clearly, you didn't think much of his work, and it wasn't very appropriate reading for an 11-year-old, but boy, did I feel important!

I remember how you never drank more than half a bottle of beer at any given time, and how you always ate with a fork and knife, even when you were eating pounded yam with Mama's catfish soup and piagara. Weirdo. And there was the time I was (allegedly) rude to someone and wouldn't apologize, so you tried to make me kneel down and apologize to you after she left. Looking back, that was hilarious. I was about 10, we were almost the same height, and we must have had almost the exact same look of stubborn anger on our faces as you willed me to kneel and I willed you to piss off. I finally apologized three hours later, with hot tears of frustration streaming down my face. You patted my back, we forgave each other; it was over. Good times, good times. The last time I saw you, you were in a cell at Bori Camp. It was too hot, the walls of the building were various shades of brown, and they only allowed one person in to see you at a time. I couldn't really talk to you because I was scared and a bit upset, but just when I was starting to warm up, we had to leave. We've since talked about what I wanted to tell you that day, so I won't bring it up again. But don't forget what I said. I meant it then, and still do now.

So those are the memories I have to hold on to. Those, and I try to remember your birthday and your death-day, so we can have a little chat about times gone past. You'd have been 65 today (eek!), but in my mind, you're still in your 40s, playing football and table tennis at the club with young men half your age and giving them a run for their money.

To think that all I have left are memories.

You weren't perfect, but I love you. I love that you were always gentle, and that you always seemed to know everything. I love that you engaged my mind at every moment, never caring that I was young, never caring that I didn't yet understand everything we talked about. I love that you made up games for us to play that would only have been fun to a kid like me because they were always about words. I love that you gave me the gift of words, though the transfer was cut short by those immoral, illiterate yokels who took you away from us. May they never have a moment's peace.

So, Jeje, this is just to say that I miss you, with your short self. Happy Birthday. I hope you're happier now, wherever you are.