In the blurry moments that followed having my story on Brittle Paper and Kalahari Review concurrently, I intended to gloat in my next blog post. Well, just a tad of, “Yeah, finally…” But then, the publications are growing stale. It is time to move. It is time to shut my eyes against the rejection letters and pen something else. Here’s one of the little things I’ve penned. Enjoy.
Life, you write, is running. Life is running and you are pursuing.
You stare at the single sentence and shake your head. A pitiful, grateful shake. Grateful because at least, you are one sentence down. Grateful because the newly purchased sketchbook is no more the color of empty.
It is now the color of ink.
You close the sketchbook, set your pen beside it, gently, as if a more forceful way would shatter your muse. You push the chair back, flex your right arm, left, right, left, until they begin to ache. You press the bones in your finger and they pop.
You dress for lectures.
You put on gray trousers and a shirt baggy at the hems. As you stare before the mirror, you imagine what she would say – you and your large shirts – and what your response would be – well, what can I do?
You head back to the room, puff your backpack, head out. The sky is tinted with moody gray. You sigh at the ridiculous thought flirting with your mind and amble towards the shuttle park. An hour later, you nod off. You dream. In the dream, you are in a class and you are thinking about storytelling when your name pops out before the board. When the lecturer says, “Yes, you with a rock’s face,” you shake your head and do not budge from your seat.
You wake up then. But you are still dreaming. Only in this dream, you cannot refuse the lecturer’s bidding. Only in this dream, you are the target not because you are lost in storytelling but for the wanderings of your eyes. Only in this dream, she is there. She is looking at you. Her mouth is parted and her eyes are fixed, as if someone just snatched her okansoso.
You shut your eyes. You nod off.
She is not talking about it. Actually, its – two ‘it’. You walk with her down the stretch of concrete, your sight blurring with each turn. She wears a cream skirt. She carries a bag. She wears sandals.
You note how low you have fallen, how you can’t string a couple active descriptions, how you can’t say – the hem of her skirt repels a soft breeze, how you can’t say – her footfall, suppressed by the lightness of her sandals, is barely noticeable, how you can’t say – a mass of hair slopes down her shoulders, firmed by a golden clip.
You reach the lab and pull the door in. The registration officer is in Nowhere Land. A note taped to his office presents this in simple, layman terms.
“We’d have to come back,” you say.
“‘Course,” she says.
You breathe. You breathe because trouble needs no more flavor to be edible. You breathe because the last time she said, ‘course’, she forwarded you a panoptic message on Whatsapp. Panoptic. It’s the word Soyinka would use. Shakespeare too. Real writers. Not writers of your niche that’d say…
She taps you. Her fingers blush against your skin. “Can we sit?”
You stare at the benches. “Sure.”
She walks ahead and settles on one the way a bluebird might settle when it’s about to whisper a dirge. You sit beside her. You do not hold hands. There are some times that hands do not need to be held.
“You have a problem,” she says.
“Certainly,” you say. The grin consumes your chin, the stupid grin.
“And we have to rid you of that problem.”
You keep quiet. Your eyes flit to her nostrils, sharp as Thatcher’s, and her lips, a speller’s lips. You feel a soft pat on your inside, a pat that says – at least, you know a little comparison.
“David,” the voice calls. The wind calls.
“What did I say last?”
She drills you her we-are-all-serious look. “I said something. I want you to complete it.”
“It,” you say.
Her eyes snap shut. Eyelids, rather.
“Debbie,” you say.
You dare to touch her. Nothing. You tingle the hair on her arm. She cracks up.
“Don’t do that, Dave. Stop it.” She clamps a hand over her mouth and parts her eyes. “Dave, stop. Stop joorh.”
“So now, it’s all done.”
“At all. It isn’t even near done.”
“At least, you are laughing.”
“We aren’t about my laugh here,” she says. “We are about your writing.”
“I would be fine –”
“So you said last week. I need you to write.” She suddenly cuts contact. “Our rent is due next week. Mum’s working herself up trying to pile the balance, and it irks all I can do from this side of town is chip in encouraging pills.”
“And pray,” you say.
She shakes her head. Does she not believe in the effectual power of prayer anymore?
“Dave,” she calls. She crosses her legs. “You should write, irrespective. Thing is, the problems around you wouldn’t subside because you need to pen the next Purple Hibiscus or Blink of an Eye. People would keep dying. Rejections letter will stream into your mail like there’s a purging in literary agencies. Lecturers would mark your face during classes and call you to the board, your writing sometimes would feel like cardboard copy… Bad things aren’t edging close to the end.”
Then she takes your arm, your right arm, and brings her lips to it. “You know what to do. Now, go do it.”
Life, you write, is running. Life is running and you are sweating its butts in a chase. There’s no need to catch it, so long you can hit positivity off a few co-runners during the chase. You write for half an hour, series of not-so-sensible sentences, then close your sketchbook.
You call Debbie.
“She’s paying tomorrow,” she says. “She isn’t sending me money till the month draws out. I don’t know what I’ll eat.”
“That’s good,” you say. “That’s very good.”
“Wow,” she says. “You wrote.”
“Yes,” you say.
No one says anything for a while.