Sunday, March 29, 2009

giving him something he can feel

permit me to paint you this picture:

i am sitting on my ikea loveseat. it is "natural" in color, with a blue velour blanket covering stains from red wine spills, CB's dried up spittle and dried-up spaghetti sauce. a new one will cost me $19.99, but i don't think i want this color again. if i decide to get red, i have to shell out nearly 70 bucks. fuck it, even the couch isn't worth that much.

the tv is on channel 60. bravo. law and order: criminal intent is on. love that show. i can never seem to follow the storylines - don't pay enough attention. but i like looking up just when the crook has been discovered, to listen to vincent d'onofrio sermonizing and trying to rile him/her up. can't remember the last time the criminal was female though. what's up with that? women aren't smart enough to plan the perfect not-so-perfect crime?

i'm in my favorite pink fluffy robe. it's warm as hell and makes up for the lack of heating in my basement digs during the winter. spring is sort of creeping into the city now, but i still wear it. it's pale, a sharp contrast to the hot pink fluffy slippers i constantly wear, no matter the weather. my hair is in rollers: the grey ones are smaller than the white ones. an oversized pair of purple aviator sunglasses balances on the tip of my nose, there's a menthol hanging from my lips. it's unlit. can't remember the last time i smoked a fag. but i enjoy the way the mint makes my lip burn and tingle, so it's staying.

i'm getting in character.

today, i got all dressed up and went to the beauty shop to buy these rollers. i wore yellow sandals with weak soles that i had to re-glue last summer because i didn't want to buy new ones. waste of money, i thought. but now it hurts to walk in them. all my shoes hurt. i wear them anyway. i probably deserve it.

i wore a sexy t-shirt that reminds me of sailing, even though i've never sailed. unless that one boat ride to my mother's funeral counts, but that was a motorboat. not quite as sophisticated. and it wasn't a festive occasion - sails would probably have been inappropriate.

the rollers cost me less than $5. the zipcar cost me around $10. all in all, a badly planned excursion. but it got me out of the house, which i was grateful for. on the way back, the man at sweet mango with the gold tooth stopped me again, to ask me why i didn't come to his party last night. i said i was busy, even though i wasn't. i was watching family guy with CB and his 19-year-old cousin visiting from connecticut. he's thinking about moving here because he's bored. can't blame the kid. i just hope he learns to be responsible. right now, he's calling himself a rapper, writer and producer. he made me/let me listen to one of his songs. it was disgusting, explicitly all about fucking some broad - while i tried not to listen to it, i had to scramble for something positive to say so that when i took off the headphones, he wouldn't be disappointed. but i couldn't bring myself to bop my head while i listened. that would have taken my deceit too far.

i promised the man with the gold tooth that i'd come to his next party. maybe he'll give me free patties whenever i pop round with no cash and an unwillingness to spend $10 just so i can use my debit card.

CB is at work. i realize with a sinking feeling that i haven't seen anyone except him for several weeks now. not in general: obviously, i see the folks at work and some of the same commuters on the train. but i have no friends. nonetheless, i don't go out of my way to find anyone: they don't answer their phones anyway. i alternate between sitting and lying down on this uncomfortable loveseat, flicking between lifetime, bravo, oxygen and tlc. there's this new show on (at least, new to me) called candy girls that i get pretty engrossed with. but mostly, i'm bored. my brain is turning to mush, and though i'm trying not to admit it to myself, i'm just biding time until CB is off work so i can have someone to talk to.

finally a text comes in from him. my phone is on the kitchen counter so i can't see it, but i know it's him. and i'm right. i half-run, half-shuffle to the counter, pretending to myself that i'm not excited to know he's coming home. but he tells me he stopped at the sports bar to catch the game and asks me how i am. i type back, fine. roll my eyes, and go back to the couch. waste of my damn time. but then i remember it's not his fault i have no life, so i tell him that i wish i could come, but i've got rollers in my hair so i can't. then i put the rollers in my hair. and i turn the tv to bravo and absentmindedly watch law and order.

he text me a few minutes ago to say he was coming over. i couldn't allow that to happen without conditions. he expects them now. so i say don't come if you're drunk or smelling of booze. he says he's sober but smells like cigarettes because he's with K and K has been smoking in the car. i say that's cool.

then i get into character, so i can give him a good laugh when he walks in the door and so he'll think i'm nuts and worth all the drama.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

he loves me...he loves you not...

Nigerian men: do me a favor and stop telling me that my boyfriend doesn't love me. Seriously, it's annoying. Even if it were true, I wouldn't want to hear it. But as it happens, for once in my life, this isn't the case and I would really love to be able to enjoy it without your negative remarks clouding my sun-filled love affair!

Every conversation starts off the same:

NM: How's your sex life?
K: What?!

Maybe being in America is turning me prudish, even though in my heyday, I was a little bit of a freak. But my Naija people seem to really enjoy talking about sex. I mean, really. I can't count the number of public conversations I've had that turned to sex, and not just in general terms. This guy I was dating once took me to meet his friends and family. During after dinner drinks, he thought it would be appropriate to announce to everyone present that I thought he "didn't know how to do it well". And everyone just laughed like it was perfectly acceptable! Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to work out my sexual dilemmas in the privacy of a bedroom. Preferably with only one other person in it. I was mortified. Suffice it to say, we didn't hook up anymore after that.

But back to the conversation.

K: What?!
NM: It's a simple question. How's your sex life?
K: I don't believe you're asking me this?
NM: It must be quite bad.
K: What?!
NM: If it were good, you would have answered without hesitating.
K: Oh sweet Jesus...
NM: There's no need to bring him into this. Is your sex life any good or not?

It was time for a little deflection, I thought.

K: I mean,'s your sex life?
NM: It's OK. Not great. The girl I'm with isn't making my man stand up as much as before.

I was cringing.

K: Oh.
NM: Yeah, and you know what that means?
K: You have to get another girlfriend?
NM: Exactly. Well, she's not my girlfriend. But yes, she's boring as hell. And my man can't be deciding for me when he's going to stand and not stand.
K: Right. OK.
NM: So now that I've answered you. How is your sex life?

It was clear he was prepared to persist until he got his answer. So I decided to give some semblance of an answer.

K: Um. Same as yours, I guess.
NM: Same as mine, eh?
K: Well, you know how this relationship thing is. Sex starts to dwindle...
NM: Sounds like your man has the same problem as me. Better be careful, make sure he's not stepping out.
K: Stepping out?
NM: I'm a guy, I know these things. Consider it friendly advice.

This is where I started to take offense. First of all, I've got major issues with men to begin with. It hasn't mattered who I'm dating: I'm filled with a venomous distrust that showed no signs of abating until I met the man with whom I currently share my life. Despite all my efforts, he has refused to let me get the best of him, and has mulishly continued to show me that he, frankly, truly, cares. The first time I realized that he meant it, that he really meant it, was...refreshing. I have since learned to love the feeling of knowing that, under no circumstance, was this person going to do anything to dishonor our partnership or bring disrepute to his name.

And here comes this joker, trying to compare my ray of sunshine to his putrid, misshapen carcass of a human shell! But I didn't get mad. One major bonus being with someone like CB is that he makes me so very happy - I nearly don't deserve the "kulutempa" moniker anymore. Nearly. So I didn't jump down NM's bitter throat immediately. Instead I said:

K: What makes you think he's like you? You're different men with different beliefs and different ways of doing things.

And NM lost his shit. I don't really remember the details, but basically he decided that I was being bitchy and overly sensitive and that I could go and suck an egg. I, in turn, decided the conversation was over and hung up on him. So much for cooling my temper.

Why do they do this? Why is there always someone waiting at every turn to tell me that the life I'm living doesn't exist for me, simply because it doesn't exist for them? I'm as jaded as they come; there was a time when I wouldn't have believed that men like CB existed. Then I stopped dating Nigerians and was forced to change my mind. And before you other brand of naysayers step out of the woodworks: I'm not saying that non-Nigerians don't cheat or that all Nigerians cheat, or that only Nigerians cheat, for that matter. But I am saying that there is an accepted behavior amongst Nigerians that doesn't exist in the non-Nigerian circles I run with, and that I haven't had to put up with since I started hanging in those circles.

First it was G; now it's CB. And both have balked at the mere suggestion that they would stray, mostly because they are very sensitive guys with no ability to lie. I can dig that. Plus, CB and I are currently joined so firmly at the hip that I don't see where he'd find time to run around on me, even if he were so inclined. God knows I don't have any!

But more than anything, I would really appreciate it if you people who are still living in what I will call The Dark Ages would please stop hounding me with your bitterness, dismissing my current satisfaction as so much balderdash; just accept the fact that I'm living a life you haven't been lucky enough to experience yourselves! God don't like ugly. And neither do I.

The End.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

woman scored, woman burned iv

February 22, 1968

It is 3:17pm and much has changed. Lolia is Leslie once again, the exotic dark-skinned wife of Lord Stanley, and has birthed a child. A daughter. Her skin is the color of curds, her eyes the green of sea foam and as piercing as a lioness’s. She is beautiful. It has been three months since Leslie and Stanley welcomed their first guests, gossips posing as well-wishers; for weeks, their home has been overwhelmed by the stream of clothing and heirloom toys for the baby girl, insincere concern and post-dated promises of highballs at the club for the new parents.
It is not clear how they are adapting to their new life, this troubled couple. When Leslie’s face suddenly crumples and tears begin to pour down her face, it is blamed on postpartum depression. When Stanley disappears from their bedroom in the middle of the night, one is sure to find him sitting in a wicker chair on the balcony, wrapped in a tartan blanket, chain-smoking cigarette after unfiltered cigarette. He is yet to reveal what is on his mind.
Leslie feels as she always has in this world: lonely. The child is of little comfort, being unable to put her mother before herself. Though she tries not to, Leslie cannot help but yearn for her own mother and sisters who, she knows, would have been there from the first day of her difficult birth and remained glued to her side until they stilled the blood flowing out of her like a crimson stream, until she had learned once again to eat and nourish her body, until the bell-like sound of her unique laugh spilled out of her once more. She knows: they would have brushed her hair gently with almond oil and tucked it away in five strong plaits, rubbed her skin with their powerful yet soft palms to dispel the aches of brand-new motherhood, begged and cajoled her to fulfill what she naturally yearned for anyway and feed her child. Instead, she is by herself, shunned ever-so-discreetly by her husband, forgotten by her lover and the father of this child…and who ought to care? She did, after all, bring this upon herself.
It is 3:17pm and Leslie is afloat in a sea of thoughts like these, when a familiar sound rings through the flat. It is the telephone. They have come to loathe this sound, Leslie and Stanley, and neither hurries to answer. What for, the unpleasantly light conversations, the pretense that either is happy to be stuck at home with this innocent newborn? He is pretending to read the paper at the kitchen table, a half-smoked cigarette hanging limp from his forefingers. She is swirling the dregs of the glass of brandy she has supposedly been drinking to help her sleep. The child, Francesca Ibinabo, is asleep. At the last minute, Leslie decides to break the monotony of the day and springs up from the lounge seat to answer the phone.
She recognizes his voice immediately. “Don’t hang up. Is he there?”
Her breath catches, nearly imperceptibly. Back straight, she turns to a corner, as though to shield her voice as she responds. Yes. And Stanley instantly knows who it is.
“I want to see you. Please. I need to see you.” John’s voice sounds as disheveled as she imagines he must look. She is suddenly, painfully, struck by a piercing desire to finger his hair and suck his lip, as greedily as their child pulls at her bosom. She says nothing.
“I’m on the high street, in the box at the corner. Meet me here in five minutes. Please.”
She remains silent, afraid to speak lest she is betrayed by a quavering voice. Behind her, Stanley stares through the gray pages of the paper. His cigarette has disintegrated to a fragile column of ashes that threatens to fall on the kitchen table in a fine spray. He pretends not to, but he is listening: listening to the sound of her unsteady breathing, her heart racing. He cannot see her, but he knows that she is sweating the way she does when she gets excited, droplets gathering on the tip of her nose. He clenches his jaw in anger and jealousy.
“Please say you’ll come...Lolia…. Are you there?”
Yes. All right. With that, she drops the receiver. Licking her lips nervously, she turns to Stanley. From where she stands, she can only see the side of his face. She is spared the sternness of his eyes, and the hatred spewing from them. I’m just going out for a few minutes. I won't be long.
“And the baby?” His voice is even, cold. If she notices, she does not show it, nor does it make her concerned.
She shouldn’t wake up before I’m back. But if she does, there is a bottle in the fridge. You can…will you…I mean, if it’s not too much trouble—
“I’ll feed her. Go on.” Stanley extinguishes the remains of his cigarette and rises from the table, pulling another out of the pack. He walks toward the balcony.
Leslie is still standing in the parlor, fighting her guilt. It doesn't escape her that he hasn't asked where she is going. There is no reason not to tell him the truth, but she cannot. The truth would conjure memories of that night, the first night she said to him, “I’m going out with John.” So instead she tries to make a shaky peace, saying, It’s cold out. Do you want your bl—
Stanley slams the sliding glass door shut between them, cutting himself off from her concern. She swallows and bites her lip. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, spins on her heel and hurries into their bedroom to change. Her clothes are simple; she decides not to wear any makeup. She looks younger, almost fresh. On her way out, she stops in the nursery to look at Francesca, daughter of John. The child is still asleep. Lolia walks to her daughter, puts her nose to her cheek and smells her. She understands in that moment why the world agrees, unreservedly, that babies are angels come to earth. And with a kiss, she is gone.
Stanley hears the front door shut. It is 3:24pm. The glowing embers of his cigarette cast a dull, orange light on his chin as he drags from it. Below him, he sees Lolia trying not to run up the street. Her breath trails behind her in wispy clouds of vapor. He cannot see up the street – there are too many trees in the way – but he knows who she is going to meet. He can even bet he knows where they will meet. In the chilly darkness, he torments himself with his imagination, wondering: will they embrace? Surely he will kiss her – will she want it? Will she like it? When was the last time she has wanted to kiss me?
He pondered the possibility of her leaving him again. Again! To be with that impoverished toad, that lecherous bastard – what could he possibly have to offer her? After all is said and done, laughter and lust were no match for prestige – the speed with which she crawled back to him said as much. And yet…off she ran. Again.
He dragged on his cigarette a last time before flinging the stub onto the garden path directly below. He is back in the flat before it hits the ground. The silence within is eerie, but not foreign. The only thing that has broken it in the past weeks is the sound of the child crying. When she is quiet, he sometimes forgets she is here. This is the first time Leslie has left him alone with her. Left him alone with another man’s child while she runs off in pursuit of her heart’s desire. It should be me, he thinks.
He is pacing the corridor in front of the nursery, going from their bedroom to the living room and back, his injury growing with each step, feeding his rage. How dare she, he thinks, after all I’ve done for her. Taking her in, her and her bastard child. Pretending to all who know better than this object of shame is mine. Ungrateful bitch! His self-loathing is palpable; for reasons we may never know, he ignores his willing hand in creating this situation.
He stops. The girl is whimpering. Because he has promised, he looks into the nursery to check whether she is awake. He approaches the crib, scowling. Inside, Francesca squirms in her sleep, then is still. He is hypnotized by her face. It is the first time he has seen her this closely, watched her for this long, alone. He notices, with some degree of shock, that she looks almost exactly like Leslie. The contour of her lips, the slight upward slant of her eyes – those were the things he noticed about Leslie when he first met her, when she was Lolia, the young happy girl from Bonny, whose laughter drew him like the notes of a Siren song. What he would give for the simplicity of those days. What he would give to hear her laugh like that for him, and only him, again.
His throat tight, eyes wet, he rushes away from his wife’s baby before he is forced to notice the features of his best friend. Leaving the door open, he sits in his favorite leather armchair and lights a cigarette as the winter evening falls outside.
It is 3:31. And Lolia has shed her upper-class crust to be with John.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

"love your tits. where'd you get 'em?"

now that i'm back at the gym (yes, again), i'm going to need to tame my bikini area on a more consistent basis. takiroroff, if you will. because women strip at the gym. they strip totally naked. and i kinda want to fit in.

but i have a dilemma: these women are obviously comfortable wearing skin and nothing else. i'm not there yet. but their nudity intrigues me. and not just because i'm curious about what's out there, but also cuz i want to know what i'm up against, not just at the gym, but in the real world where we compete for all kinds of attention. so here's the question: when is it ok to look?

last time i was in the locker room, i took a huge leap and got topless. i also took a locker close to the entrance, so i was the first person the women would see on their way in. that was a miscalculation. i kept trying to dive into my 1x3 locker every time i thought i heard incoming footsteps. but i was going for incremental denuding, you know: start at the edge, take your top off, work your way to the middle where you can get butt naked with the other girls. anyway, so this girl comes in while i'm getting dressed and goes to her locker, which is only separated from mine by one. and her clothes come flying off. i mean, i turn away to put on my bra, turn back around and her ass cheeks are spread out in my face. in my hurry to look away, i smacked my elbow on the locker door and heard my deodorant clatter to the floor. awkward!

what was she bending down to get that she couldn't pick up with her toes?? why didn't she pick it up while she was still wearing underwear? was she showing off? these were the questions i asked myself as i fought vainly to wipe away the image of her vag that was now burned into the forefront of my memory. i wondered about other things too. such as: when a woman does that, she wants you to notice her, right? so would it have been appropriate for me to settle down to the show and give her a critique afterwards? "nice trim. who's your stylist?"

there needs to be a socially acceptable outlet for those who must respond to what they're seeing in the locker room. i need to be able to react more gracefully, more naturally, than bruising my elbow while i panic internally. what i really want to do is stroll around and pass silent judgment without having to feel like i'm infringing on privacy. and what privacy? you're showing your ass to strangers! there is not one private compartment in the entire locker room, which means nobody should expect to be spared the scrutiny. even when you're the only black chick there, your different-ness just begging to be noticed. beware the unleashed me!

i also have to try not to take it personally when a girl has nicer tits than i do. there was this one chick with the most be-yoot-iful breasts i've ever seen. i wanted to shove her into the dirty towel receptacle and make her eat one. until she swung around to pick up her towel and they didn't move. score one for me! they may be on a southbound trip to hell, but at least they're real and my man is still excited to touch them. i hear the fake ones just don't bring as much to the table. bed. whatever.

the end!

Monday, March 02, 2009

woman scorned, woman burned iii

9 March 1967

I'm pregnant. And confused. Twelve years of marriage, seven years of resignation and several weeks of reckless, ecstatic renewal...and I'm pregnant. I am bewildered, anxious. Afraid.

I had to tell Stanley. After the first night, when he came back home, disheveled, rough-faced, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep and peace of mind - he looked the part of a man who had spent the night roaming the streets, looking for his wife, refusing to let his legs take him to the one place he knew she was but couldn't believe her to be. When he burst through the door, he saw me in my dressing gown. I smelled like soap and talcum powder, the proof of my adultery lathered away, swimming down the drain in creamy suds. But he saw the guilt in my eyes, he saw that I no longer belonged to just him. I was sitting on the sofa, smoking. He collapsed at my knees and sobbed like a lost child. I couldn't bring myself to touch him, to soothe him, but I let him put his head in my lap. My stray tears dropped onto his gray hairs where they lay, and they grew slick from the moisture.

When we had gathered ourselves, he apologized. I'm not sure what for. For breaking our trust? For momentarily thrusting decorum and manhood aside to weep at my feet? I didn't respond. What could I have said? I didn't say anything until he thanked me for coming home and said he was glad. He was rubbing the back of his neck, wiping my tears off the nape of his neck where they were tickling him, when I said I'm not going to stop seeing him. I don't know where it came from. I hadn't given it much thought until then, but once the words were uttered, I assumed they were true. And they were, despite - or perhaps because of - his rage and the beating he gave me. While John tried to soothe my bruises with ice, I thought with regret about the color of my skin and how well it masked injury. Even the wounds invisible to the eye: why is it so easy to assume that my blackness makes me stronger?

I told Stanley I was pregnant when he came to John's flat, looking for me once again. It was odd to see him there; it's been some time since he deigned to visit. I wonder if its modesty, John's modesty, surprised him. He came to beg - so out of character. He begged for forgiveness, for me to return. I was determined to resist his cajoling. I broke the news defiantly, hoping to hurt him, to throw his insecurity and insolence back in his face. As hard as I could.

I wasn't expecting him to grow still. He glided to the settee and cautiously lowered himself on it. And granted, I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but my hand held a firm grip on a nearby empty brandy bottle. Just in case. When eventually his eyes fell on me, blue and tired, they mirrored my own awe and wonder. There is a child in me. Half me, half our best friend's. His best friend. His brother. The only man alive who has known him from the days of his youth, the one person who was his partner in the discovery of this elusive thing called manhood.

Let me raise it. That's what he said to me. He wants to be a father to my child. John isn't stable enough, he says. He travels too much. One month in London, six months on the rig. Let me raise it. He can provide a home, money, education. Love even, one day. This child, my child, is innocent and no, it's not exactly the one he has always wanted, but nonetheless, it can be our child, he said. Brown-eyed like me, fair-skinned like John...or him. Nobody had to know.

He made his case. John wasn't home. So, coward that I am, I re-packed my small bag and wrote him a brief note to let him know that I had gone home (what home?) and that he wasn't to follow. My head was lowered the whole way back - I felt weak. I feel...powerless. What is the point to a life like mine? I have no say - running back and forth from one man to another, always expecting to be taken care of. Part of me wishes he would come, that John would look for me, but how many times can one woman's heart be pursued? It's been three days and he hasn't even called. I know because I haven't left the house; I haven't wanted to miss his calls. At the same time, I dread having to hear his voice. Will he think I used him, that Stanley and I connived a contrived plot to achieve the fruit of our marriage? I can't bear the thought of pain I have caused him, the blame I will surely hear in his voice. He brought me back to life, however briefly, and I could find no better way to repay him for helping me find redemption. What kind of person am I?

I am reminded constantly that he doesn't know about our child. What would possess me to tell him now, about a child that I've ensured he will never see? Tongues will wag, that much is certain; twelve childless years, suddenly ended, won't go unnoticed and John and I didn't go to any lengths to be discreet in our indecent romance. But I suppose this is my lot. I've made my bed. I now have the future to contend with, an unrecognizable one, filled with nappies and first steps and first words (stretch marks!!). A face, perhaps, that will remind me of John. A face that will remind Stanley, too.

When you have sinned so thoroughly, so willfully, does God still answer your prayers?