Monday, April 27, 2009

food for thought

when a man happily gives his daughter away in marriage, what he's essentially saying is, "i'm cool with the idea of you having sex with my daughter. and possibly knocking her up. godspeed."

this is quite possibly why he cries during the first dance at his child's wedding, watching his new son-in-law caressing his little princess's now-buxom bod with gusto and impunity.

Monday, April 13, 2009

woman scorned, woman burned v


Evening creeps over London in a gray, darkening fog. Lolia pulls her coat more tightly around her, crosses her arms over her thin chest to trap in warmth, as she walks to the corner. She takes quick steps, then slower ones. She tells herself she must hurry, because the sooner she gets there, the sooner she can return to the baby. She tells herself she must slow down because she mustn't appear too eager. In the first instance, she believes she's telling the truth; in the second, that she does not look like a woman hurrying to see her lover in the coming night.

He is at the corner, as promised. Hair tousled, face ruddy in the chilly wind. In unison, their hearts cavort in their chests as they spot each other. Lolia slows down. John walks briskly to her. They stop just short of an embrace, each close enough to feel the other's warmth. It is unexpectedly quiet. Behind John, droplets from the afternoon rain glisten on the phone box, under the shine of a nearby lamppost. Lolia shifts her weight from one hip to the other, and the pavement crunches somewhat loudly under her soles. She quickly looks down, surprised and distracted by the sound and realizes she has forgotten to wear stockings. It is too cold not to wear stockings.

He speaks first. "You came."

The timbre of his voice startles her out of her vapid reverie. She looks up, into his eyes, where he hoped her gaze might fall. Yes, she says.

They fall quiet again. It's awkward now, and she's starting to get angry because he's not saying anything and the wind has picked up again. Her feet are cold, and now she realizes she's not wearing gloves either. So she breaks the silence, even though she's not sure what to say. She says, Did you think I wouldn't?
"Yes. I mean, I didn't know. I hoped-- I'm glad you're here. Lolia."

He had always insisted on calling her by her native name, even though his English accent took all the sing-song out of it. When they were younger, she would tease him, saying he may as well call her Lola ("and that's Copacabana, John, not the Yoruba") and be done with it. Better still, Leslie, as all the British at the country club had re-christened her. But he persisted and, over the years, never got any better at making her name sound like a song.

She smiles at how blandly he says her name. A wry smile widens to an amused grin. Relieved, he laughs. So she laughs too, a little too hard. Touches her hand to his chest to steady herself as her body shakes. He clasps it, holds it in place with one hand. With the other, he gathers her close and leans down to kiss her brown lips. In the first, tender moments, they revel in the passing of tension that has built up from a year without these kisses. When finally they pull away, it is only to stand cheek to cheek, swaying gently from side to side, now oblivious to the cold and occasional inquisitive passerby.

3:34. Now she starts to forget. But not for long.

Behind her closed eyes, John clears his throat. "I'm going back to Nigeria next week." Her eyelids fly open, she leans back to take in his face.


"We're drilling. I should have gone months ago, but I wanted to see you. And...and the baby."

Reality crashes down on her like a waterfall. She has a baby by the man in her embrace. A sweet illegitimate girl whose name is Francesca Ibinabo. She remains married to a man who once renamed her Leslie and, with that, changed her life. Now, out of guilt and selfishness, he keeps her in his care. To gloat over her disgrace, and to punish them both for their respective iniquities. And he is at home with her child, watching the girl, waiting for her to return. Back in the real world, Lolia/Leslie is uneasy.

"Can I see her?"

I don't think now is a good time, John.

"No. Of course not. But I'd like to, Lolia. Really. One day soon. When he's not home, maybe?"

Yes. Maybe. She suddenly wants to go back to the flat. What was she thinking, coming here like this? An impossible situation, made even more so by the outcast father who suddenly wants to play his part to a daughter who does not know him, however briefly. Of course he cannot see her. Stanley would never live it down. And, if that were the case, what would become of them?

"I wanted to be there when I heard that you were...err...that you were, we were, going to have...a...err. Well. You know. A baby, I suppose. But I wasn't sure if you wanted to speak to me. If he'd let you speak to me. I didn't know what to do."

Yes, of course. I know that. It's fine. We're fine. She can barely keep up with her part of the conversation. Something is beckoning to her, pulling the hairs at the back of her neck. She struggles not to succumb wholly to the distraction.

"I had to see you. I have to know that you forgive me." His voice drips with poignancy, sincere if disillusioned.

Finally, she snaps, angry at his carelessness and lack of foresight. There's nothing to forgive, all right? I left you, remember? I left you. The weight of what she has done - the daughter she has left behind, the foolish dreams she has chased into the cold, winter night - causes her to crumple, as she moans, Why have you come here, John? Why?

He is startled by her reaction. Her dry-eyed anger, how quickly it drains her. As she folds unto herself, he catches her and holds her, still.

"I missed you, Lolia. And I want to meet our daughter. Or did you give that right to him too?"

They are crouched on the pavement now. Lolia trembles, from cold and confusion, a desire to disappear. In the back of her mind, she recalls that she has to be somewhere. But for now, she cannot move.

3:41. Stanley is standing behind the glass of the balcony, squinting up the street, at nothing in particular. His hands are in his trouser pockets. He stands perfectly still. In the nursery, the girl whimpers again. Calmly, he turns away from the street and peers into the blackness of the hall, then turns back. He's been thinking. Playing back time: a year ago, two years ago, twelve years. Trying to recall the feeling of happiness.

Once upon a time, happiness was a young bride with laughter like sun rays. New lovers spending lazy mornings in clean, cotton sheets that smelled like a spring breeze, charting previously undiscovered erotic zones on smooth, soft flesh. Leisurely strolls on the high street, shopping for the latest fashions. Quick trips to the supermarket, buying produce for a salad-for-two.

The whimpers have gotten louder, quickened. She cries now. He's surprised by how cat-like she sounds. He sneers. Beastly, he thinks.

She shows no signs of stopping. Stanley looks at his watch. 3:52. Leslie has been gone nearly half an hour. In the street, he sees no indication that she is on her way back. There is milk; he has no idea what to do with it. Best to quiet the child himself, then. He'll have to pick her up. He turns away from the balcony after a final hesitation and marches to the nursery. Turns on a light. The child is howling, her tiny face is hot and red. The sight of her, her volume alarms him. He goes to pick her up. She starts to go quiet, but resumes after a moment's respite. In his confusion, Stanley drops her back in the crib, picks her up again, puts her back down. Leaves, comes back.

Shut the fuck up!, he screams. Still she overpowers him.

In his anger, all he can think is: happiness never looked like this.

Now it's 4:04. And he's standing over the crib with a pillow in his hand.