Month: May 2014

The Explosion

It was during my national youth service, and I was headed for the state’s Media house to complete an assignment when I heard the blast. It was deafening.

Things had happened very fast.

I was journeying slowly with a motorcycle rider.

Another driver had yelled at us for riding sluggishly and blocking the road for ‘serious’ commuters.

A Police Hilux van had hurriedly driven past in the opposite direction.

“Jesus!” was all I could scream and my driver increased his speed.

I looked back immediately to find out that a thick smoke had been built.

My heart beat was increasing per second and I was shaking on the motor-bike, tasting raw fear.

What had just happened?

We arrived the media house to find a man weeping at the gate.
“Thank God! Coper?!” He screamed, almost jumping on me.

I recognised him. He was the driver that would have taken my driver off the road if he had the chance.

“What happened?” I asked

“Kai! I just dey think of you since… I don dey cry say corper don die” he lamented.

As the other men around heard this, they stared at me and my driver as though we were ghosts.
I figured out that they had begun to mourn me before I arrived.

It was then that they announced to me that the police hilux I had seen was just bombed.

And I remembered that no other vehicle drove past the smoke.

We couldn’t explain how.

I just dragged myself inside without uttering any other word.

I picked up my phone and dialled home.
“I was nearly a victim of bomb blast just now!” I announced to my dad, and as I heard my mom’s voice shout ‘Halleluya’ at the background, I rounded off quickly for them to continue with their thanksgiving.

“Dear lord Jesus, thank you!” I began my own section of praise rendition.
“So this is how I could have lost my life to bomb blast and become a Federal corpse? God forbid!”

I decided to return home immediately and was shocked to find out that the road had already been blocked, and that security agents had begun their work.

As I stood at the gate, I remembered that the Police headquarters was also bombed earlier that year.

“But if God doesn’t guard a city, it is useless for the watchmen to work”

So, today, I testify again!

Lara and Seun 8

“You’ve been here for 20 minutes” Mrs Faloye announced, breaking into Seun’s reverie.
Startled, he forced a smile and lifted the glass of water that he had dropped briefly on the counter.

“You’ve not…” She began but Seun gulped down all the water in the glass before she could say any other thing.

Dropping the empty glass back on the kitchen counter, he walked into the living room with Lara’s phone.

“Seun!”

He heard his mother’s call and continued with his walk out of the living room. Whatever she wanted to say to him could as well be discussed privately, he considered. She could start with her long talk and wake Lara, and he didn’t want that.

Entering his room, he stood beside the door, expecting his mom to barge in. She didn’t disappoint him and he decided to play a little trick on her for that. He stayed put and well hidden behind the door and watched her rummage the semi-lit room for him.

“Seun” she called out when she couldn’t find him, and began to walk towards the bathroom. Once at the bathroom door, she knocked and called out again.

Seun shut the door with a bang and got his mom’s attention.

“Oh! I thought you were here” she stammered, shyly pointing at the bathroom.

Seun smiled and sat on his bed.

“You don’t have to worry about me all the time” he muttered.

“A problem shared is half problem solved” she grinned and walked towards his son on the bed.

“Can you please stop telling me what to do?” He gasped.

“You are angry?” She winced.

“I’m not…” He defended and reached out to her.

“Just stop smiling with your eyes and nodding with your head…” He said with a smile and she warmly returned hers.

“And let me make my own decisions” he completed, squeezing her hands.

“But you’re letting a good thing pass you by” Mrs Faloye warned him softly.

“No, I’m not…” He whispered as he stood up, and continued.

“This… good house, did I let it go?”

“My vacation? I didn’t let it go”

“My God? He’s still at work in me”

“You? Dad? Family? Come on mom! I keep good things…”

“And Lara?” His mom interrupted with eyes fixed on his.

Stifling a laugh, Seun sat down again on the bed.
“She’s my friend mom” he responded calmly.

“And you’re okay with that?” She prodded.

“Mom!” He smirked.

“That’s all from me” Mrs Faloye said, lifting her hands up in defence.

“Thank you!” Seun blurted out in laughter.

Lara woke up and felt strange in her new environment. She sat up sharply and relaxed again when she recognised that she was at Seun’s house.

“7 o’clock?” She shuddered as she checked her wristwatch.

“I’m stuck here” she cried to herself as she realised that her plans to run away before sanitation began had been thwarted.

“Let me just press my phone till 9” she comforted herself and was shocked when she didn’t find it inside her purse. She frantically searched around the sofa she was seated on, and without success, she decided to search in Seun’s mom’s room, the only other place she had been to since she came.

“Ouch!” Mrs Faloye screamed as Lara mistakenly hit the door on her.

“E pele ma” lara jumped on her with force in a bid to salvage the situation, but Mrs Faloye suddenly withdrew from her grip with a grimace.

“What happened” Seun asked as he came out of his room, having heard his mom’s scream, but the ladies ignored him.

Lara started to apologise again but Mrs Faloye waved her apologies away and dragged her down the corridor, into her room.

“Bad breath” she whispered to Lara after she closed the door to the room and Lara covered her mouth in shame.

“It’s nothing unusual” she laughed, and rushed to her box for a new toothbrush.
As she gave it to Lara, she took her purse from her hands and pointed her to the bathroom.

“You’ll find tooth paste on the sink” she added and Lara sheepishly followed her direction.

“Other things are also there, in case you need a body wash and… I could get you a towel if you like” she continued.

“Thank you ma’am” Lara muttered without turning back, leaving Mrs Faloye in a confused fix.

Not knowing whether she needed a towel or not, Mrs Faloye shrugged and returned to close her box.

Lingering at the door and hearing nothing, Seun proceeded to knock.

“We’re fine” his mom screamed from the room.

Listening for footsteps towards the door and still hearing nothing, Seun knocked again.

“Lara?” He called out.

“We’ll see you later” his mom yelled again without moving.

Seun lingered a little while more at the door and proceeded to try the door knob.
Glad that it opened, he barged in.

“Oops!” He exclaimed as Lara came out of the bathroom with wet face and water dripping into and soaking her top.

“Seun?!” His mother reprimanded, but he still stood still in awe.

“I’m sorry” he managed mutter to Lara.

“It’s alright, I’ll leave” Lara said and took her purse from the bed, where Mrs Faloye had kept it.

Drying her wet body with some face tissues she had withdrawn from the purse, she forced a smile at Seun and left, shutting the door behind her.

“I’m sorry” Seun muttered to his mom.

“Of course” his mom responded with a glare.

“Did she need change of clothes?” He asked, ignoring his mom’s fury.

“That was wrong of you” she scolded without a flinch.

“I was only concerned” he exhaled and got up to leave.

“Wait! For who?” She intercepted him at the door.

“Lara…” He replied with a smile, and Mrs Faloye shook her head in pity for her son’s confused feelings as she returned to her bed.

Seun shut the door and was startled to find Lara standing at the post.

“Were you eaves dropping?” He asked, slightly accusing her of the crime.

” I’m not you… I’m only waiting to get my phone from inside” she retorted.

“Phone?” He asked mischievously.

“Yes… So can you shift your body off now?” She pointed at the door.

“Unbelievable…” He spat and walked away.

“What do you mean by that?” She asked, following him.

“I’m with your phone, so find another excuse” he threw over his shoulders.

“What? Wait!” She screamed and Seun stopped as he reached the door to his room.

“How?” She queried.

“When you were sleeping…” He began to explain, but Lara interrupted him and he realised that he started off wrongly.

“Can you listen to me first” he paused her banter.

“Just bring my phone to me please” she ordered and walked away to the living room.

Mrs Faloye stepped out of her room and found Seun standing like a fixture at the door of his room.

“I’m fine” he gestured as he intercepted his mom’s eyes, stopping her from uttering a word.

As she returned to her room, Seun went inside and got Lara’s phone, determining not to talk to her again until 9am, when it was time for her to leave.

For U-See

In communicating
You ring up friends only to say ‘hi’ but end up talking for ’10minutes’.
Having a conversation with you involves a topic being stretched across its boundaries and picking inspiration from different places at a time.

With your eyes
You pick things that others will casually allow to pass, and make it your duty to point them out (- the improvised paper shoe pad, the unequal carved eyebrows).

With your mind
You think out of the box, even when the box is the only safe place to be.

In language
You know the right expressions and appropriately use them, pointing out grammatical errors.
Your Igbo is like music to the ears; nothing is central about it (- the very entertaining Owerri dialect).

Your truth
Is always direct. You cannot just twist your feelings to sound nice even when you try (-
“Your mother is prettier than you even at her age” “why is C very ugly?”).
You learnt to call a spade a spade early in life.

You give
Money, food, cash, time whenever you can, which is almost always.
Your selfless services are from your heart and you deliver appropriately.

Your words
Are dependable. You make trusting easy and hardly give excuse for failure.
You stick to what you say and you always remember them, whether good or bad.

You cook
Delicious food; with ingredients and spices in their right proportions (- that lovely Okra soup).

With God
You are real.

From afar
You are very annoying; an irritating perfectionist; a talkative; very mean.

But you could care less, which is very striking.

Closer
You are real and unapologetically yourself.
You are friendly and have ‘the big heart’.

Today
You are celebrated all over the world.
Happy birthday U-See!
Many more years!
God’s blessings!

(May you live and experience the remaining quarters of your century)

In loving memory of Olutogun Olusola Ezekiel

Service to our father land made me learn of you. Your light shone from afar. It was beautiful partaking from the seed you had sown. A seed that will always remind us of you.

I really desired to know the sower of this particular seed; the giver of the gift that we almost let to waste. It looked like a common specie, so we wanted more. We wanted mind blowing and ear deafening.

So you know, it was as we desired after all; after we opened the package of course. I particularly used the most part of it and I’m grateful. And on behalf of the other colleagues, I say thank you.

Thank you because you did your job well. You gave the best you could, you gave the best you had. You didn’t give to those who could pay you back, you gave to those who could hardly reach you; those you barely knew.

You didn’t just give. You took your time to build this gift. You spent time, energy and money to make sure that a set of people were blessed. People from other tribes. People that hardly knew you.

You are not God and I’m not talking about Jesus Christ. It is you, Olutogun Olusola Ezekiel, that I bless this day for the gift of your son, Mayo. Though you are no more, there is a fulfilled purpose in your son.

God is your witness that though you did not live very long on this earth, you spent the time you had wisely. I am a benefactor and I have learnt from you.

I watched Mayo dream of inventing gadgets greater than ‘Apple’s’. I saw him couple electronics gadgets to come up with great devices. I listened to him make plans with you about venturing into Power production. I saw his smiles after you called him every 2 days to reinstate your support.

I learnt to soar like an eagle from your seed.

How? You may ask.

By watching him at first, then being his friend later.

Mayo is intelligent and you should be proud. Sometimes I consider it to be genius. He came into our french class and left us in awe. We were all novices in the language but he became the language shortly after.
While we studied light materials, he finished dictionaries and quickly changed the language used in his devices from English to French ; calculating verbs and tenses like algebra.

Mayo is one of the few men that care less about chauvinism. He would cook and invite us to eat. We were his sisters. He attended weddings with us. It was fun with him. He always proved that women are equally important as men in God’s great plan.

And our friendship grew.

Then he taught me that black and white were very plain and could get boring. He taught me about the beauty of green, blue, red, orange and shades of grey when he told me about you; about your family of 6; of how you raised 4 strong men- future husbands and fathers- different but complementary in opinions, strengths and weaknesses.

And I saw your picture.

And hoped to meet you.

Till I heard the sad news.

This is to you, Olutogun Olusola Ezekiel, for raising a strong breed and allowing him to serve Nigeria in my state of origin though you had the capabilities to do otherwise.

Lara and Seun 7

“3:30…” Seun tiredly exhaled, holding his phone and staring at the hidden number that had just rung him up for nothing.

“Identity thief” he hissed and turned off the phone.

Deciding against anger, he turned on the rechargeable lantern next to him and started his day despite being awoken an hour and thirty minutes earlier than usual.
He warmed himself up with ‘Push Ups’ and ‘Sit Ups’, then headed for the bathroom.

“Fine one NEPA!” he almost screamed in jubilation as he stepped out of the bathroom into an electricity lit-up room.

Cladding himself in an underwear and a robe, he proceeded to plug his lantern and other gadgets to charge. He turned out the lights in the room apart from his desk lamp, then strolled to the reading desk to commence his morning study of his bible and work related articles.

He stared intently at a particular mail with brows furrowed in confusion and tapped his fingers slowly on the table, trying to make sense of what was before him.

“These people are not serious” he finally hissed and headed out of the room.

As he opened the door to the sitting room, sharp brightness of light from the bulbs hit him and he rushed to turn them off.

“Lara!” He muttered in shock, gazing at Lara spread out on the sofa.

“What’s she doing here?” He frowned.

He hit his head as remembered that he was hosting her.

The soft smile playing on her sleeping face held his gaze and he took some time to admire her rested long natural lashes. He had always loved how it moved with each blink whenever she spoke fast, which was almost all the time .
A smile began to evolve on his own face.

He stifled a laugh at the way she folded her arms and crossed her legs.

“So typical of her to be in-charge” he thought.

Realizing that the blue top and carton colour Chinos trouser she wore were exactly the same she had on at the airport, he frowned, chiding himself for not offering her anything at all to change into.

She shifted a bit and her phone slid from her palm to the floor. He quickly picked it up and re-focused on her. Her twists that she loosely packed in a pony tail had loosened with the shift and some kinky strands covered a part of her face, making her look like a one-eyed ninja. He grinned and used her phone to take a picture of her.

He felt her smile broaden and shuddered, thinking she had awoken. But she turned again and he was glad that it was a deep sleep that had jammed her.

“Sleeping beauty” he smiled and proceeded to switch off the lights, reminding himself that Lara would endlessly taunt him when he told her that he had stopped to stare at her.

He smiled and headed for the kitchen.

“Jeez, Mom!” He blurted out as he bumped into his mother.

“God, my nose!” He stammered, nursing his nose.

“You should mind your way” she smiled at him.

” I just injured…” He began to say with a frown.

“Shhhhh…” Mrs Faloye hushed with a finger on her lips and pointed towards Lara’s direction.

Looking into her smiling eyes, Seun realised that his mother had been standing for a long time, watching him admire Lara.

“I’ll get some water” he sighed and rolled his eyes at his grinning mother, regretting that his mom had to be out of bed by 6AM.

Staring into the kitchen sink, with a glass of water in one hand and Lara’s phone on the other, he considered his mother’s unspoken words.

“I’m I some mama’s boy now?” he thought to himself with a frown.

Lara’s phone began to ring and he decided not to awaken her nor to receive the call. When the call was successfully missed, he was surprised to have also missed another while holding the phone.

“Or was it already missed before I took the phone?” He thought.

To satisfy his curiosity, he decided to check her call log.

A number that looked like his glued him onto the phone, and he became confused when he confirmed the number to be his, and exasperated as he discovered that she had dialed him at 3:30AM.

His Love, His Life

Sitting at my 7 o’clock meal of white rice and fish stew, I remembered her for yet another umpteenth time. With her, it would have been a combination of grilled plantain in fish tomato sauce and smoothly blended fruits for dinner served at 6 PM, exactly thirty minutes after I arrive home, after her loving pouts and nudges to clean up and come out to dinner. I miss feigning annoyance at her disturbance.

I enjoyed every bit of her taunts and always ate up all the food until she teased that she harboured a glutton. These days, I barely finish half cup of anything, and even end up filling my stomach with water instead of any food in front of me.

It’s been crazy thinking that my son would never know this beautiful woman, my half caste wife. I always insist she’s that when people called her an albino; her eyes were stable and her skin spotless after all .

Tomorrow is his first birthday, which will make it a year she died and everyday, as he bubbles with life, an ounce of mine is drained.

“Ok… On my way immediately” I answer her matron who had ‘adopted’ my son immediately his mother passed on. I always drop him off with her and she returns him 2hours after I’m back from work, giving me the time to unwind, something that has become impossible to achieve.

I leave my still full plate of food and jump out. This had to be important, she never called me to pick my boy up.

The gunshot was fired some kilo meters away and despite my hurry, I decide to stop over and check on the injured man who suddenly jerked into the gutter with his car.

I almost cannot believe myself. It is not his bleeding scalp that gets to me nor his bloody ruptured stomach. It is his stitched lips, his patched neck and his bloodshot eyes. The blood did not just rush to his eyes. I’m confident of this fact because I remember him. I remember his sly grin and stained teeth, and though they are not on display right now, the gold necklace he’s wearing reminds me.

The gold necklace was a new gift from my brother. A gift I allowed my wife to forcefully take from me after she argued that it was feminine and claimed that it would be her ‘goodluck charm’. I had broken the sad news that I had to be on an official trip while she gave birth and she had calmly accepted and given me a better reason to release the necklace.

I remember kissing her back and mouthing words of prayers after hanging the chain around her neck. She had giggled and turned to give me a kiss. A kiss that her protruding stomach would not let me enjoy. I had rubbed her temple and told her to sleep in the hospital till I returned.

“I will give birth this night and come back tomorrow” she had replied, squeezing my hands and killing all arguments within me.

I remember her call later that day.

“Your son came at 12:01, he rises with the day” she had giggled.

” It’s 1AM! Drop that phone and rest!” I had scolded.

“Relax, I’m strong”

Those were her last words to me. Words that left me speechless and glad. Peaceful words that stirred up serenity within me until the call came. Her matron had called and “De Change supermarket! Now!” was all I screamed to the driver who had come to pick us from the air port as I rushed into the company car without my other colleagues. I had left them at the arrival lounge.

His yellowish brown set of teeth displayed in a sly grin and his hideous patches was what made him stand out. The young men had seen our navy blue tinted-glass hilux jeep and jumped the fence. It looked like we were the police. The supermarket dealers had run to us with all sorts of complaints and I heard them.

They delivered the headlines:

” One yellow girl with her mama and new born baby”

“The mama dey shop for inside here”

” Dem begin dey struggle”

“He shoot am”

and it was complete news when I reached the hospital as the sheets were about to be raised over my wife. Her matron had ordered them to let me look and I had fainted.

Tears pool together within me as I watch this man convulse at short intervals. He holds me tight, trying incessantly to mouth incoherent words.

“We need an ambulance… De Change Supermarket!” I mutter in tears and proceed to offer the little first aid that I can.

As he’s being picked up, I get a message alert from Matron;

” Your son just took his first steps and is toddling all over. I recorded it with a camera… Take your time.”

Lara and Seun 6

Lara’s mind wandered through the dark.

“Is this a big joke? Whatever has Seun said about me? Lord, am I finished or what?” She thought.

She felt the woman’s leg brush against her and her spine chilled as a result.

With ruffled breathing, she tried to lay a hold of herself as she focused on the wall that she was almost kissing in her still position. She stared hard at it, shifting her focus at intervals to the light curtain that blew against her feet with the cool breeze from the window.

Mrs Faloye had opened the window when the electricity cut out and the A.C stopped functioning. The woman had stretched her hand over her and loosely fit the curtains into the window protector. Lara hadn’t budged; she remained still and inhaled her host’s lovely scent instead, half expecting her to wake her and start bombarding her with questions.

Lara quickly committed her tired brain to the work of recalling how she and Seun had met, in readiness for any interrogation. She mentally rehearsed her narration and edited her story, deleting and replacing scenes that suggested more than friendship with him.

The silence lingered and she thanked God for the time to adequately prepare for Mrs Faloye’s sessions. Feeling ready, she sighed a little loudly but immediately stifled her breath. She wasn’t about to come across as proud to this seeming nice woman. But she was prepared and her increased heart beat bore witness to the fact. She began to imagine Mrs Faloye’s line of questions when the woman’s hand brush against her back. She stiffened.

“Who is this woman that also reads the mind oh lord? How stranger could she get?” She murmured.

Lara felt soft air against her arm and covered her mouth, sucking her breath back in, listening carefully so as to answer correctly. Sounds started coming from the woman and she listened deeper. She felt an itch and refused to scratch; she had to focus. She suppressed the urge to yawn and stretch; it could come later.

Then she sneezed!

” I’m sorry ma!” She blurted immediately, sitting up at once to turn to the woman.

As her eyes met with Mrs Faloye’s, she froze.

They were firmly closed.

Lara widened her eyes in shock and disbelief. She listened to the woman’s humming breath that she had thought were sounds of speech. Watching the woman’s chest rise and fall in deep sleep, she chided herself for being paranoid.

It was too late, she had already lost sleep and her nerves were too active to rest. Rising from the bed, she picked her phone and purse and headed back for the living room.

“3am? What a day” Lara thought to herself as she stretched out on the sofa where she had previously been.

She considered opening the sitting room windows and waved it aside, preferring to manage the heat.

A mischievous idea creeped into her mind and giggling, she put it to work: hiding her caller ID, she dialed Seun’s phone, and after the 5th dial, he picked it up.

“Hello!” Seun spoke with a cracking voice but she kept silent.

He hung up and she tried again, and when he wouldn’t pick up, she persevered.

“I don’t know who’s calling. Please send me a text and I’ll call you back tomorrow” he clarified.

She listened to him yawn and stretch out before hanging up.

She cheered herself.
“At least we both lose this sleep” she grinned to herself.