I LET HIM DO IT

Family is overrated. Those who say that blood is thicker than water could not be more wrong than those who said the earth was flat. Blood is thick, but only in relation to what it is meant for. Blood is blood. Water is water. Piss off if you think there’s a relation to using the relationship between these two elements to describe familial bonds.

We’re all alone in this world. We came alone. We only make alliances that benefit us for a stint or stretch of time. Family is one of those alliances. Long running, yes; but overrated as heck.

I realised this when my sister threw me out. My sister. Far from our home back in Abia, we were supposed to be all we had to ourselves in this unforgiving city of Lagos. And what did I do to deserve it? Nothing that would warrant an eviction. But I get it, big sis needed her space and I was cramping it. Besides, how could I, the last child in the family go toe to toe with my elder sister during arguments when I knew she practically held all the aces?

I had nowhere else to go. My sister decided that the best way to punish my feistiness and big mouth was to throw me out and really show who’s boss. My brother beats me at will when he can’t offer a superior argument. I’m a woman and I shouldn’t talk back to men; it is his responsibility to teach me with his fists before my future husband gets the honour –just so he wouldn’t conclude that my family did not train me well.

I couldn’t go to him. There’s no comfort in his presence because he would only mock me and I wouldn’t take it on the chin. The end result would be a black eye the next morning and sore joints so I passed on another lesson about how the good gift of pain could make me a good woman.

It was 10PM. I lived in Ajah with my sister. Getting out was not exactly easy at that time of night and my closest friends lived on the mainland. So I called Osita to see if I could spend the night at his place before figuring out my next move when day broke.

He felt like a safe option. We were close. We should have been closer but I didn’t want what he wanted at the time. A month later, he found a girl he liked and we moved on like nothing happened. He was the only friend I had at the moment.

Osita was happy to help. He knew my struggles and my pain. Once, he was so angry when he saw my bruises that he wanted to go after my brother but I stopped him. It would only have gotten me into more trouble for involving an outsider in our family drama and I’d suffered enough already.

But you never know with men. His mattress was on the floor of his room and he said he would sleep on the rug so I would be more comfortable. But he wasn’t on the floor when I woke up a few hours later to find his hand cupping my right breast, fingers kneading my nipple the way someone would tune a transistor radio.

I jumped like the bed was on fire. Caught in the act, Osita’s face was a brief mask of shame under the dim green night light in the room. He said he couldn’t contain his feelings for me; I was irresistible and had a hold on him that even his girlfriend didn’t have. He would break up with her if I gave him a chance with me. All he wanted to do was be with me and feel my warmth against the harmattan chill.

He tried to kiss me but I held back. Rather than let it go, he grabbed me. I would feel differently about him if we made love, he said. He’d always wanted to make me feel like a woman, he said. All I needed to do was to let him.

You never know with men. That was my mistake; mistaking his kindness towards me and willingness to remain in my life despite the rejection as signs of maturity. I’ve been in this situation before and I didn’t win – the blows made me submit.

This was different. I let him do it. Like a peaceful rainforest assaulted by bulldozers, I let him part my legs and invite himself into me. It was different. There were no blows.

The next morning, Osita barely said a word to me beyond a murmured apology and the devil using him. He wouldn’t have touched me if I wasn’t his weakness and being the man that he was, he succumbed. He told me to drop his key under his doormat when I was ready to leave; his girlfriend was coming to spend the weekend.

There were no blows then because I couldn’t fight. I only had a big mouth which got me into trouble with my brother and sister so I kept it shut for the time being. I let him do it. What I wouldn’t do is to let him get away with it like the others did.

Photo credit: Mohammed Alnaser via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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GONE

Photo Credit: www.zmescience.com

An uncle of mine died last week.

But I didn’t feel a thing.

I think I should be bummed, hurt, sad and grieving but I’m not. I’m not saying I’m fine; perhaps the feeling that best describes my emotional state at the moment is that of numbness. I just don’t feel a thing.

On the scale of familial feelings of loyalty and empathy, this could make me out as an asshole. I don’t know. People shed tears. I rarely do. When my tears come, most people are already done shedding. At this point, I realise that nothing’s wrong with me – I just happen to grieve differently from most people.

This isn’t really about me as much as a bit of it is. Hold on, we’re getting somewhere.

You see, my uncle and I weren’t really close. We weren’t close, period. I show up at my grandmother’s place and greet him when I see him. He’s not really social and I think that’s one thing we share because he mostly looks like he wants to be left alone. Quiet, easy-going fella, but he’s had a troubled life. He wasn’t disabled or anything but I won’t explain further.

Uncle K had a stroke late on Sunday night and was dead in a few hours. He never got married or had children. He had no love life that I or anyone knew of. No close friends either, he’d greet, smile and move on. Unlike his elder brother, Uncle M, who’s bookish, reserved but still sociable to an extent – he’s the one who named me Spencer – while using me for boxing practice when I’m within reach, just for the fin of it. Or Uncle D, the youngest of them all with whom I enjoy a few drinks while watching football matches – he’s also the best barber I’ve ever known.

And this is why I didn’t feel a thing: I have no memories.

My memories feed my joy or pain. If a random stranger dies right in front of me, I’ll be hurt at the fact that another life is gone but I won’t feel no pain on a personal level. My pain is based on my experiences – stories, conversations, arguments, laughs, a task done together, shared food or drinks, gatherings, etc. I have to remember to feel pain and when there are no memories to feed off from, I’m just numb.

He was buried the same day he died. Uncle K lived with grandma – his mother till he died so I guess it was expedient to get everything out of the way so ‘mummy’ wouldn’t dwell so much on the hurt. I wasn’t there but everyone else was: second cousins, relatives close and far, my mother and her siblings amongst others – my sisters too. In life, what really brings people you care about together are life, death and love.

And this is why I felt that hurt later on – he’s my mother’s younger brother. We’re close and even though I don’t really know how it is, it  still not cool losing anyone, not to even mention a sibling. Growing up together, teenage arguments, birthdays, weddings, precious moments and all that; the pain is brutal. So seeing someone I’m close to thrown into sadness because of a sibling’s death got to me. She was upset that I didn’t show up. I had my reasons and as logical as they might be, it’s best you shut up and play yo-yo with the spittle in your mouth.

On Sunday I went to see granms with my brother and the things she said really cut through me. Sitting right across her, I’ve only felt that way just once (more on this in another post). She’s over 80 and I was gutted that the poor lady felt like she’s the one that should be gone and not her son.

“I’m not questioning God, but I wonder why – with the wonderful life I’ve lived – I’m still alive and my son is gone. I know he’s gone to rest now – he needed it – I’m just wondering why I didn’t get to go first.”

As quiet as he was, Uncle K was a piece of work for granms – she worried about the most so I know she loved him very much. As such I can’t begin to imagine how hurt she is.

No matter how old your kids get to be, they’re still your babies and no parent wishes to go through this. And like I said, this is why I’m hurt – more for them than for myself. It’s nothing extraordinary, it just is.

The thing about empathy is that it doesn’t have to be personal. The pain doesn’t have to be yours before you feel it. We’re all connected one way or another and whatever affects one of us ripples wide enough to affect a lot of us. I wasn’t close to my uncle but my mother was and my grandmother was, as well as other family members that I’m close to, so even though I didn’t feel that pain on a me-him personal basis, I felt it through them.

That’s what makes us family.

AND SHE STARTED TO RUN (EPISODE 2)

They were four alright. But they were not students. Not the beauties I was anticipating. The first thing I noticed was their travel-worn clothes. Dusty from the road. They didn’t look anything like I expected. There was a woman in her late forties, two little girls, her daughters obviously, between ten and eight. Another girl with acne and a floral patterned shirt nodded at me as our eyes met. I looked round for the sick girl, Joy met my gaze apologetically and pointed. I followed her finger.

The first thought that came to my mind when I saw her was ‘dry fish.’ She was pitifully thin, the kind of thin that told you that whatever was wrong with her was out to kill her.

Cancer?
AIDS?

A flurry of thoughts assailed me. I looked at her and nodded a greeting with my eyes. She managed a limp wave.

God, how did I get myself into this?

I looked at Joy, she was apologizing over and over “I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.”

I told her to Shuddup.

I turned to Whatsapp, wondering how Genie, my friend who had earlier agreed to take in the entrants would respond to this new twist. I tried to keep a smile on my face all through. It wasn’t easy but I think I did just fine. I’m the last person in the world who would wanna make people feel unwelcome no matter the circumstances. Joy took me aside and explained she had no idea this was how things would turn out. They made her believe she would be going with four other students then dumped a sick person on her and said ‘ so long, pal’. Some people no get conscience sha.

Genie’s response on Whatsapp when I told her was ‘WHATTTT?’. I couldn’t help laughing. This one no wan kill herself. Who fit blame am? Anyway, I appealed, cajoled and pleaded till Genie relented and said it’s okay. It’s just three days anyway.

So we all got in d cab and headed for the hostel Genie stays in Ekosodin. The driver was moaning about having to wait while we helped the sick woman into the car (did I mention she has healthy and very pretty curly hair? Skin and suppressed good looks Like a bi-racial.) I told the driver to shut up, shebi I dey pay am a very pricey one thousand Naira which he won’t make in four hours idling in the baking heat of the Ekosodin gate. He took one look at my size and I saw his throat move as he swallowed back his retort. Good.

Genie took one look at them, at their bags, clothes and stuff. And I saw light go out of her eyes. I understood. Prior to that day, I have never met Genie. We only talk on Whatsapp. I guess good people still exist, and we need to learn to look beyond the slabs of fat as in the case with big Genie, and try to see them as beings with hearts.
Well, Genie’s space wasn’t enough. We decided they should change at her place and head for the program with their stuff. It’s likely the organisers had plans in place for accommodating people from upstate and stuff.

I sighed with relief, believing the worst was over and things were well off my hands now.

I had no idea the hard part was just around the corner. I had no idea that I would be bound to them inextricably.

Because when the car arrived at the Loveword campgrounds, the venue of the crusade, when the driver veered into the parking lot and we got out, I took one look at the distance from the car park to the meeting point, took another look at the sick woman limping very slowly, painfully and stopping after every four or five steps to rest. And I realised I was in trouble.

I realised I had to carry her and walk about eight hundred paces past the crowd.

Into the sanctuary.

I think I said ‘Joy don kill me today.’

Something like that.

-Hymar David

AND SHE STARTED TO RUN (EPISODE 1)

Hello there! Trust you’re having a splendid weekend already. Here’s an interesting guest post by a bloody creative friend of mine, Hymar David. Hymar’s a student of English at the University of Benin and his story is actually a life experience first shared on Facebook two weeks ago, which I’m sure will touch a few hearts in the end. Very little editing here since I want it to convey the raw honesty of the experience. Okay, enough talking; read on.

It was a Friday. I was in my room in the notorious-for-loud-mouths hostel, Hall 3, UNIBEN, trying to download ‘And The Mountains Echoed’ By Khaled Hussien. My Whatsapp was pouring in messages like a burst water pipe; too many chats kill your battery.

There was a message from Joy. She said she was on her way to Benin from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State. She was coming with four of her friends for the Higher Life Conference with Pastor Chris holding in Benin.

Joy’s my friend in Lagos. We attend the same church. She has a hair that Zainab, my poet friend calls ‘the most beautiful natural hair’, and a face like an ex-cherub.

I took a shower and hit the streets, panicking when I couldn’t reach Femi, my…err… bestie of some sorts for the key to his apartment in Ekosodin. I had told him earlier that morning to bring the key over since I wasn’t sure if he would be online and available when I needed him to be. Well, he said he would be. He wasn’t.

So I switched plans and contacted some girls I knew, who after some cajoling, agreed to take in the new entrants for the three day duration of the programme. I heaved a sigh of relief. By the time I was done, Joy was calling/’whatsapping’my number like mad. Some girls no go gree patient but if na dem ehn, dem go be like, ”I said I would be done in ten minutes, stop calling me every half hour.” Hian.

I set off to pick them at the park, sniffing my armpits to make sure my cologne was still working and rehearsing some witty line to say to the girls. Wow, see me see overloading o. Who dash me ladies man? The sun was so hot, I made up my mind not to miss heaven. So hell go worse pass this one wey I dey see so?

My phone vibrated. I always tell people my phone never rings, it vibrates. I remember reading a funny book by some doc who can’t hear shit, ”When The Phone Rings My Bed Quakes.” It was Joy, she had news. One of the ‘girls’ was sick, she said. Could I please not be mad at her for not telling her earlier?

I was mad, alright. Angered by what I felt was a deliberate ploy to keep me in the dark, till the last minute when I wouldn’t be likely to change my mind. I hate people who are not straightforward. I hate being played, being led on some dance around a forest. I felt a torrent of words, harsh words, bubbling from inside me. But all I typed was ‘Grrrrrr’

Grrrrrr. Impotent rage.

I asked Joy if the sick girl could walk, she said Yes. I said I hope she wasn’t into puking every ten minutes, I wouldn’t want to dump patient wey dey vomit sote for innocent pesin head. Well, Joy assured me she wasn’t into that, so I guessed it was probably some heart condition or something. Kini big deal.

Mumu me.

I walked to the park, Whatsapped Joy my location, I saw her first anyway, looking around with a ‘where-that-boy-sef’ expression on her face. I smiled to myself. She looked good. As usual.

Her face lit up with a smile when she saw me.

”Hey, Hymar.” she said, coming towards me, her arms outstretched. Hugs are wonderful things, I don’t know why we are so hung up on kisses. Hugs just kind of do it for me. That you-are-loved feel when you hug someone? Priceless.

”Good to see you again,” I told her.

She smiled. Joy’s got good teeth. She’s not the sweet/chocolate kind of girl.

” Where are they?” I wasted no time asking.

She pointed.

I turned and when I saw them, my mouth hung open. I fought the impulse to scream in frustration.

”Fuck” I think I said in my mind.

To be continued…

EXIT WOUNDS

broken-heart-940

They always flood his consciousness at times like this; rare moments when the loneliness really gets to him. He enjoys loneliness – he cherishes it. He’s far too comfortable in his own company. Maybe it’s a problem but he’s eternally grateful to have such a problem. His loneliness is a door he shuts against the world. However, in moments like this, the loneliness becomes an open door – unused. He didn’t fight it this time around; he just let the memories flow. They never come in the same order but they’re all too familiar for him to miss a thing.

Of them all, Nike appeared to be the one that hurt him most. “Don’t call me again,” she said. He did. She never picked. It wasn’t that he expected what they had to last – he knew it was a disaster waiting to happen. It sure did. What hurt the most was not knowing why or what he did to make it all go south. For someone who thrived on figuring everything out, this didn’t make any sense. Was she tired of him? Did he screw up somehow? But she still visited three days ago and they left on good terms, after she succeeded in waking him up by smothering him with kisses. No it was something else. But what? Maybe he’ll never know. He hated not knowing.

Mary’s case was comical. He wasn’t in the mood to laugh now but he did, almost spilling the vodka he’d mixed with soda – to keep the evening chill away. He was in his second year then. She was in her first year in another school. Girls had come and he’d acted like a complete idiot just so they’d leave him the hell alone. He didn’t want anyone coming between him and her. Sure, they fought but they always sorted their issues out. So when he felt at a point in time that something wasn’t right, he called her. She said she didn’t feel a relationship existed anymore – she was done. He asked if she was sure. Yes. It was February 13. The next day, his cousins’ girlfriends arrived and the Valentines Day shenanigans almost made him puke. Bags packed with books and a few movies he hadn’t seen, he went off to Biodun’s house. Exams were a week away and he’d die first before failing his papers because of a girl.

Four years later, he met her again. He’d graduated. She’s single. His Facebook status said “it’s complicated”. She blamed him for not calling back after the break up. She was bluffing when she said they were done. He said he thought her mind was made up. She said his pride stopped him from calling back. To him, it’s simple logic; you don’t say you’re done when you’re not. This was what was amusing; she broke up over nothing.

Dale was a curious case though. Free spirited, he thought she was just perfect. He wanted something real, serious. She felt they should remain friends. He wasn’t content but he’d take the consolation prize – for now. He was good at breaking out of the ‘zone’. Her boyfriend saw him as a threat. He was right. She eventually broke up with the dude because of him. She didn’t know that he knew but he did. Schadenfreude. They remained friends. They had their first kiss in the kitchen and it lingered till the burning rice told them to give it a rest. Still friends. She said they were too close to date but she’d get jealous when other girls were around him. Months later, they kissed again; one that didn’t stop till they were a tangled, perspiring, naked heap minutes later. Friends or lovers? They still had no idea.

So it was only natural that the fire fizzled out. He didn’t want it to, she didn’t either but it just turned out that he took her more seriously than she took him. At least that’s what he thought till she told him years later that she thought all he wanted was to roam free. He’d never roamed free; he actually hated it. As much as he valued his freedom and privacy, all he needed was an anchor to keep him grounded. He thought he’d found it but he was wrong – again. He’ll have to keep searching.

Then he met Dorcas. The first girl he met that could go toe to toe with him, in almost all things. She was just as stubborn as he was, and just as gentle. She could be smiling now and tell him to sod off in a moment. She challenged him and he loved it. Their first year was a battle, of wits and of will – never mind the fact that they wound up in bed within a month of knowing each other. After that, he thought she was his. She made him see different. For the next three months she didn’t speak to him – not a word. Whenever they crossed paths, she didn’t as much as give him an acknowledging nod. He thought he was the king of the silent treatment until that moment. He was going crazy. She was enjoying the thrill of watching him do so.

The next two years were the best he’d ever had in a relationship. She found Jesus within that period and decided from then on to save herself for marriage. She didn’t know but her decision will even help him become better because that’s the one thing that kept him on the wrong side of God. He didn’t care as long as she was with him. He’d even use her pillow whenever she was away just so he’d smell her perfume – It helped him miss her less.

There was however an elephant in the room. She wanted him to commit and make things ‘official’. No it wasn’t marriage. Not yet. She just wanted him to ask her out properly. He never did. A lot of water had passed under the bridge and he thought she knew him well enough to know he was committed to her. “Why ask her out when we’d gone through all we did? Why would she think I was just for sex – we’ve only ever had a tumble in the sack just three times in three years? A man does one of two things after sex, he stays or he goes after the next score. I stayed for three years even though I was rarely getting any. What more does she want?” He thought. In his logic, he underestimated a woman’s attachment to words and their affirming nature. He was never really given to too many words and that proved to be his undoing. He paid the price of his stubbornness by losing her.

He thought he was done but he met Lola. Young, naïve, optimistic and a hopeless romantic, she fit his description of ‘mummy’s girl’ perfectly. He naturally ran away from her type; choosing not to let his cynical nature shatter her rose-tinted glasses. He ran, she chased. He realized too late that she was way into him and he wondered what he did to get her so whipped. In no time, she got to his friends and they started doing the wooing for her. “You don’t know her kind,” he said. “They lose interest just as quick as they fall for you.”

This time around, he was right. Cynicism pays off sometimes. They had a fantastic start, and it was a breeze. Then the lull came and he was now doing the chasing. He chased, she ran. It would be better to even say she didn’t run, but that he was chasing shadows instead. It sucked. He couldn’t get through to her and he felt like a crashing pilot screaming mayday and getting static as feedback. And just when he was giving up, she’d show up. He gave her another chance but she sucker punched him again.

Strike two. He knew very little baseball but he’ll be damned if he let her have three strikes. He’ll keep searching for his home run instead…

PS: Looked through the relationship tales of my friends – real stories – and decided to make a just one story out of it. It’s never pretty when a relationship ends; and it doesn’t matter if it’s a clear cut case of cheating or those that don’t just work out, or even those with so many grey areas where no one’s right and no one’s wrong. But we keep trying to get it right no matter how many times we get shot down. Some even take a sabbatical from love (I’ve done that, it helps). Some just shut the door permanently – till they meet someone who cares enough to pry it open (Done that too with little luck).

Most importantly, this is about those dudes who aren’t really jerks. The guys who make mistakes now and then when all they’re looking for is the peace of home but haven’t yet found the key. You’ll find it. You might need to be a little less stubborn and think about her too. It’s not all about you bro. Keep calm.

And girls, not all guys are douche-bags. I heard someone say that most girls wouldn’t think twice before saying all men are dogs, forgetting that dogs are one of the most loyal animals out there. Take him for walks, feed him now and then, pat his head. He’ll sit.

PS 2: I threw my story in there too. Good luck finding it (I fear those who know me well enough will 🙂 ).

Hell on Two Wheels: the Okada Conundrum

Heck no, this ain’t a convertible. If you want a roof, grab an umbrella!

What have I gotten myself into this time…

My thoughts trailed off as the motorcycle I was riding on missed a car by sheer luck; not,more than two inches. It was like that heart stopping moment when you pull off the ‘near miss’ stunt in Need For Speed, only that this wasn’t exhilarating. I was freaking scared, and angry and every other thing in-between. I was indeed having the worst Friday ever, and the realization that my bones weren’t broken yet or I wasn’t sprawled on the floor, surrounded by wailing women and arguing men eluded me. I had simply done what I routinely do; choosing a bike ride home instead of getting stuck in that darn traffic.

A few hours earlier, I had gone to make a transaction at the Skye Bank branch in Ogba. Thanks to the new traffic law in Lagos and the ban on commercial motorcycles. Getting a tricycle ride from where I was to Omole Phase 1 shouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, I wanted to get some groceries at Oasis bakery on WEMPCO road and a bike was the perfect means of transport. My route was covered by the ban and there began the bad news.

I sure as hell wasn’t going to walk there in the sweltering heat and I wasn’t gonna pass up the stuff I wanted to get at Oasis so I took a gamble and hailed a tricycle (imagine how corny that sounds). In the end we settled on N350 because I had to pay for the remaining seats and we were going off the normal route. This was way more than I would have paid for a bike. What the hell were they thinking? In my mind, I could picture government officials saying, “Shut up, we are in a better position to know what’s good for you and do it. Didn’t you all vote for us to think for you? Right there and then, I ‘sheped‘ for the government for having the temerity to inflict this stress on the masses.

Gone were the days when you could sleep a few more minutes (precious minutes) because you knew a bike would get you past the rush hour traffic in the morning. Gone were the days when you didn’t have to leave two hours earlier to keep an appointment because a bike would get you there in 30 minutes. I thought Lagos was a crazy city with all the bikes speeding around and hustling both motorists and pedestrians off the road. Now it seemed its an even crazier place without them on most of the routes in the city. I was even beginning to miss those ‘aboki’ motorcyclists.

As a result of the stress I had already gone through that Friday, I decided to avoid traffic on my way home. I hate being stuck in traffic on a hill. Worse still, the hawkers don’t sell anything edible – except if you consider rat poison to be palatable. So I hopped on a bike – fortunately, they were not banned on my route home because I live in the Lagos-Ogun axis.

Turns out that was my biggest mistake of the day.

Before we miraculously escaped being hit by that car – which was a fault of the stupid rider, I was almost thrown off when he sped over a speed bump like he was executing a stunt with a mountain bike. “Oga easy now,” I said and he apologised. And with that apology came the strong smell of alcohol, made possible by the wind.

I almost freaked out, drunk driving had taken it’s toll on some people I know and I wasn’t about to join them because of one drunk cyclist. Heck no. But I calmed down and hoped that I would make it home in one piece. “Oga, when I said you should take me home, I meant the earthly one. You’re riding like you intend to drop me at the gates of heaven o.” I gently reprimanded him, “Bros, home na home o,” he joked.

On your marks…! Heaven or house address, home is home right?

Not too long after, he recklessly rounded a bend and we almost had another accident. Now it’s like I’m paying this dude to get me killed. Enough of this nonsense; I was so annoyed that I landed the rider a knock that would have made my headmaster proud.

Hell was let loose; we screamed, we argued, we traded insults and the bike became a drama series on wheels. People stopped to look at two men, rider and ‘ridee’ shouting at the top of their voices. I threatened not to pay, he threatened to beat me up and I threatened to strangle him from behind. He stopped and we argued some more, people came to watch and settle the issue after we screamed ourselves hoarse.Thankfully, I got home safely. I couldn’t believe I went through all that madness within 15 minutes. When they asked how my day was, I simply said, “Buy me a car first and I’ll tell you how it went”