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.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Permit Me To Open the President's Nyash A Little

My sister just called me with this gist and I have been dying of laughter since I heard it!

One of her friends was telling her about a benefit concert that was held some time last year; Stevie Wonder performed, and President George "Dubya" Bush was in attendance. Apparently, the brainy Bush had never heard nor been briefed about the fact that Stevie Wonder is, in a word, blind. That means he cannot see. He can't see anything. Not even those fancy beaded braids of his. Yet Oga Presido reportedly spent the entire concert waving at Stevie Wonder, no doubt wondering why the uppity negro wouldn't acknowledge his efforts at camaraderie!

Ain't that some funny sh*t!

Update: OK, I'll spare y'all the pain. This is an urban legend. In reality, Bush only sort of waved, and supposedly at someone else on stage, not Stevie Wonder. See this link for more info.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Setting the Record Straight: A Blurb

In the wake of October 1 and a smattering of "Happy Independence" greetings, I feel the need to say something about the over-zealous patriotism that some of my fellow Nigerians have expressed all over cyberspace. In particular, I'm referring to a guy on Facebook who entreated his fellow countrypeople to celebrate the day Nigeria, via Zik's efforts, acquired her independence from the British after a fierce struggle. In his enthusiasm, this fellow obviously became a bit deluded, so I have taken it upon myself to set the record straight: Nigeria never "fought" for its independence. In the perfect words of Peter Enahoro, we "grumbled" for our independence, and only because the British were in the process of giving global colonial independence anyway did they cave and say, "Whatever. Take it."

And don't think for one second that we were ever truly free. We may never discuss all the stipulations attached to our so-called independence, but we totally mortgaged our liberty. So please, never let it be said again that Nigeria "fought" for independence. You wanna talk about fighters, look to Zimbabwe and South Africa. Nigerians won't fight for steady electricity, people are talking about independence...tschew.

A friend of mine (also clearly deluded, but I've corrected his mistake) said about my opinion: 'Sounds harsh...never thought about the notion that "Nigerians won't fight for steady electricity." Guess I always explained it as victimization of a very patient people. No joke. You know, the whole virtuous-sounding quote "No condition is permanent." ' To which I say: go and listen to Fela's Sorrow, Tears and Blood. Words never rang truer than the lyrics in that song, but in the second verse he says, "my people sef de fear too much...we fear to fight for freedom/we fear to fight for liberty/we fear to fight for justice/we fear to fight for happiness/we always get reason to fear/we no wan die, we no wan wound, we no wan quench, we no wan go/i get one child, mama de for house, papa de for house, i wan build house, i wan enjoy...". Countripeople, na 1979 the guy write this jam o! And yet the story is still the same.

But we are celebrating "independence", throwing parades in NY and sh*t. Ngwa, de celebrate de go. I shall reserve my enthusiasm for a Nigeria that is actually improving its attitudes and policies towards its own people.

I might have been more enthusiastic about October 1 this year if I hadn't seen and read so many embarrassing news stories and articles about 419ers and other disagreeable Nigerians.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

She's Here!

Finally got pictures of my baby...

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Innomama Osunyameye Dickson at 12 days old! Tell me this isn't the cutest newborn you ever saw:

This is her being held by her daddy, who is completely smitten with her (see below):

It's pretty scary, actually. I never thought I'd see the day that this guy would be somebody's father. Now he's telling me "Turn By Turn, Nig. (Ltd.)" (as in, I'll be doing the same thing myself soon). Where the hell do the years go??? The next is one of my favorite pictures of Nomsy (as she will probably be called). Pretty much summarizes her entire life at 2 weeks (apart from the howling and constant breast-munching):

Now I'm sorry, but if this child isn't going to be the prettiest little girl when she can finally open her eyes for longer than 3 minutes at a time, I don't know who is! So yeah, this is my newest baby and I'm so glad she's here. Probably won't see her again until she's almost a year old--so sad. I should move back to Nigeria.

Isn't she cute?!