Her Eyes

Heat swarmed him. His body felt like a grill. He pulled the curtains up and took three long breaths. He didn’t roll his cuffs. He didn’t kneel and sing five worships – mandatory before any service in his fellowship. He didn’t recall a bunch of scenarios where Jesus healed. He just breathed in and out and spoke.

eye

“HI,” he would say to her.

“Hello,” she would say.

“There’s something I have to tell you.”

The lecturer would tap on his microphone, calling the students to attention. “I believe you understand why we’re having a mixed level class.”

A yell of “yes.”

“Say it now,” she would say.

“Can we be friends?”

She would look him in the eye, transporting him with the softness in her eyes. He would remember he once told her, “I have seen the depth of the oceans in your eyes.” He would remember her smile, her teeth shining through her lips, like a flower displaying pollen grains.

He would remember so many things…

 

CLASS ended early the day they met. He left the workshop with his bag, dirty from being flipped by the supervisor, as he took to the sidewalks. He wasn’t taking the commute today. Some days you just had to pause from everything and think.

It was the message of the banner hanging from a tree. Think, Learn, Do. How that slotted in as the theme of a power-packed revival he could not figure. Another print hung a bit above, the white inches of the material shielding the fellowship hosting the TLD program. This one was a street selfie something. There were too many things to do.

He walked slowly, taking his time, checking his watch for each passing bus. He was checking the fourth time when her voice cut into his brooding.

“Six pages to all these nonsensical philosophies, and just a paragraph for Theism. Imagine that.”

“It’s getting to you,” another said. Had be a friend.

“It should, Debbie It’s frustrating. And to think the textbook is mandatory is just…”

“Just what?”

He had spoken before he knew. Four soles screeched on the concrete walkway as two necks made a half-circle rotation. Saving himself, he said, “Sorry. The school’s just like that.” Befuddled looks kissed their faces. “Hmm, I assume you guys are freshmen.” Debbie just contorted her nose in the ‘who asked you’ manner.

“We are,” she said. Her voice reminded him of someone. He’d assume so at first, but now, it came back strongly, like the scent of brandy.

“Your voice reminds me of someone,” he said.

“Hmm,” she said. Her expression suggested more words, but Debbie’s fingers settled in her palm at that moment.

“I guess…” He walked some paces, then said, “Please, buy the manual.”

 

SHE bought it. She did not register it.

“That’s the point of the purchase,” he told her. They stood outside the wooden structure of his fellowship, staring at the inside as dim as a cave. He’d spotted her while transcribing unto the projector.

“How long –”

“Six months,” she said. “I’ve always watched you.”

“What!”

“It’s hard not to notice your group,” she said. The blush on her cheeks faded. “I hope you aren’t thinking, ‘what type of girl is this?’”

“No, what, no.”

“Good.”

He stood behind the fence as she stepped beyond, waved and walked away.

They saw again on Monday, and for Bible Study two days following. She was early for the Study, as usual. “I skipped tutorials,” she said when he later asked her. He noticed her face was fixed on the teacher – not the way a lady watches the pastor as she plots his seduction, but the way a daughter watches her mother and takes note while she prepares dinner. She would occasionally jot, or say deep, or nod along. Once, he projected a wrong verse. She whispered. He corrected himself.

When service ended, he sneaked outside before unit meeting and thanked her.

“Slip me some skin,” she said.

He swallowed for lack of words to express his wide-eyed surprise.

“It’s something I picked in a book.” Then she offered her hand for a shake. He mumbled “Oh” as they shook. At first, he associated it with the church. Had to be because of the church. But then, when he shook hands with his unit head, and with the vice president, he did not feel the same tingle. And no, bolts weren’t loosening in his head. This girl, whoever she was, possessed something he needed, something being involved in too much activities was depriving him.

And get it he did. Every Friday. They gathered in the park – the park with machines abandoned long before World War Two, the park with holes that caved in to the pressure of praying knees, the park with shrubs whittling with each passing day. She chose an open space and wore skirt for each meeting.

“It’s dangerous enough that it’s just you and me, male and female,” she replied to his probing. “God gave us a new heart, but he didn’t take away our brain.” He began to learn other things about her – how she prayed for everyone she’d ever come across, – she’d say, “Lord, give hope to the woman who sells zobo at ETF” – how she took time with Scripture. “Rush through the word, and it’d rush through you.” She shared and he shared. She believed being full and being empty weren’t opposite, that the latter could stir a longing for the former. As hours ticked into weeks, she invited Debbie.

“She was curious,” she told him. “Had to bring her.” The next week, he brought his friend. “Meet Bode,” he told her and winked.

At times, the quartet held hands – one male hand linked to one female hand to zap out any stray feeling – and tongued. He looked forward to each meeting like a baby anticipating suckling. Once, Bode asked if it was okay to tolerate problems.

“Spiritual terms,” he said.

“Since we have all authority in Jesus name, why do we still accept some challenges as God’s molding.”

He deferred the question to her with his eyebrow.

“Answer it,” she said.

“You’re the worker,” Debbie quipped.

He did. He talked about growth – the necessity – and how it was impossible to grow if something wasn’t stretching the skin. He quoted from 2 Corinthians, the fourth chapter. Though she did not smile and pump fists, he knew in his heart that he did well.

“We shouldn’t call down fire at every challenge,” he concluded. They all clapped. If only he’d known.

 

“SHE…” Debbie’s voice – thin as flakes of snow – broke again. He could hear his heart beat against the phone.

“Talk to me,” he said.

“She had an attack.”

His brain went off for an instant. Then he was jumping into jeans and a polo. Halfway to his house, he remembered he hadn’t asked where they were. He hit call history and dialed the last number.

“Don’t take her to the health center,” he said as Debbie picked.

“What?”

“I’m on her way,” he said. “We’d pray for her and she would be well.”

“What!” A higher pitch now.

He considered the absurdity of the statement and ended the call with one tap. He hit the road to be met by an empty park. Where were the buses when you needed them? Jogging now, he called Bode.

They met at her hostel. Not signing in, they hurried up the stairs, flew down Block A, B, and C, reached C128 and knocked. The door answered to their second rap.

“Are you sure –”

He dashed in, Bode close behind. “Shut the door,” he said. She lay on the bed, arms spread beside her, legs closely together, like a woman sleeping into the heavens. He didn’t have to lean to know she wasn’t breathing. Partial loss of consciousness. The third resident in the room was already by her side, muttering.

Thank God!

A heavy hand banged against the door.

“Don’t open,” Bode said before he could turn.

Heat swarmed him. His body felt like a grill. He pulled the curtains up and took three long breaths. He didn’t roll his cuffs. He didn’t kneel and sing five worships – mandatory before any service in his fellowship. He didn’t recall a bunch of scenarios where Jesus healed. He just breathed in and out and spoke.

“In the name of Jesus, rise. Your asthma is gone forever in the name of Jesus.”

His lips closed far slower than they’d parted. The silence in the room could scare a cadaver. It was as if Bode and the other girls had stopped breathing. Even the security man paused on his oddly-paced cadence and seemed to listen. Three seconds dragged into eternity.

“Are you –”

“Sing,” he said. He looked Bode in the eye. “Sing.”

They sang “Give Thanks.” He closed his eyes and followed the songs, his lips not moving. He knew it would happen, yet his heartbeat came faster, like the drumrolls before a martial arts fight. And now, let the weak say I am strong. Let the poor say I am rich. Because…

“Of what the Lord has done.”

“Whoop,” Debbie screamed.

He opened his eyes. She was upright in her bunk, her eyes straight on his, a smile etched into her face.

THERE were consequences. The committee responsible for hostel and its security wanted to know what could have provoked such audacity. Luckily, one of the men on the panel was a praying Pastor. Another woman, moral and friendly, asked, “How did a 300 level guy meet a 200 level lady?”

There were punishments at the fellowship too. For going into a female’s hostel, whatever the reason was. He had to skip projecting for one week and join the prayer department. Once, he would have complained, but now, his heart just hummed.

At their next meeting, they sang and gave thanks and Bode shared how he was actually believing Scriptures. When they held hands to pray, he felt another tingle, the type he felt at the fellowship that day.

 

“HI,” he would say to her.

“Hello,” she would say.

“There’s something I have to tell you.”

The lecturer would tap on his microphone, calling the kids from both level to attention. “I believe you understand why we’re having a mixed level class.”

A yell of “yes.”

“Say it now,” she would say.

“Can we be friends?”

She would look him in the eye. “I would surely pray about it.” Just as his head would focus on the board, she would quip, “But it’d be interesting.”

And he wouldn’t remember a thing from the lecture again.

How You Know You Are Busy – 2

There’s a way every human knows something. Intuition. It’s like when Bode sneaks out to call his sister and says, “Dad’s mistress is around again,” and she says, “Why do you think so?” and he says, “Because I can hear sounds from upstairs,” and she says, “And you’re certain it ain’t mum?” and he says, “Well, it isn’t mum. I just know.”

idd2

I.

It is eleven in the morning. You know this not because you are looking at the time on your laptop screen, but because you know. There’s a way every human knows something. Intuition. It’s like when Bode sneaks out to call his sister and says, “Dad’s mistress is around again,” and she says, “Why do you think so?” and he says, “Because I can hear sounds from upstairs,” and she says, “And you’re certain it ain’t mum?” and he says, “Well, it isn’t mum. I just know.”

You pause and think about the ‘sounds from upstairs’. A smile forms on your cheek, but it lasts only a seconds – all it takes for you to remember the class by twelve and the fact that you’re sending the document to your father by six. The staidness comes upon you again.

You complete the paragraph and save, then exit. You haven’t forgotten the last time you assumed you saved. That day, you should have submitted two designs. You completed them. You absently pressed no when the software asked if you wanted to save. You had to spend a thousand naira on call cards.

And you lost the next job too, because your client spread the bad news.

You close the lid and place the laptop in your bag. Your gaze drifts to the hooker in your wardrobe. The hooker is simply a nail – a piece of nail you hammered into the graffiti-ed wall for hanging your ID card. The hooker is empty presently because your card is missing. But you know you would find it. You just know.

And it isn’t intuition. It is faith.

II.

You are early to class, because the girl you’ve been running from closes her note and moves towards you as you enter. She does that only when you are early.

The lecturer is teaching on Mollusca and Annelida, how the latter evolved rapidly and became the first coelomates. Or is it acoelomates? Your head begins to buzz. You drop your torso on the table and press a finger against your temple. A chair folds and another slams open. You blink your eyes wide.

The girl is next to you.

“Have you found it?”

“No,” you whisper.

“Don’t let it get to you,” she says. She isn’t wearing makeup today. Her lips are baby pink and soft. You entertain a fleeting image of your lips on her lips. Immediately, something whips your heart. You shut your eyes and pray.

When you look again, your rep has his neck turned backwards. “Emmanuel, your assignment.”

You hear a bang. You know it’s your head again. The ringing persists, bang, bang, bang. It’s your phone, not your head. The lecturer has drawn a hiatus on his teaching. His eyes are trained in your direction now. He starts climbing, one step after the other, his gaze inscrutable, his steps not tentative, like a gladiator going for the final kill.

“Let me have it,” the lecturer says.

You draw one hand over your lap. Your body feels like it’s on Mercury.

“It was me,” someone says. You know the voice. It’s the girl. She looks past you towards the lecturer, “My phone rang sir. I’m sorry sir.”

A harrumph comes from nowhere. The lecturer looks at the girl, shakes his head in the manner of, “I don’t believe you,” and returns to his post.

You look at the girl. You say nothing, but your mind thinks, Why would you do a thing as such? What if he’d seized your phone?

She says nothing, but her face reads, You know what I want.

III.

Your phone rings. It’s your Unit Head. Not the one in fellowship, but the one at home. You let the six bangs fade, then lock the phone.

“You should change your ringtone.”

You look at the girl. She’s been with you three hours counting. Spread before you is the complete material for PHY 102. You’ve been pursuing the handout with the zeal of a slave seeking freedom, and here it is before you, like wine brought to the king. But this wine has a condition. The girl.

“Should we continue tomorrow?”

She shakes her head. “Saved you in class, remember?”

And so what! But, you recall the chat she showed you – the lecturer had told her to keep an eye on you. He didn’t like you, and he would be glad to throw you out of his class, and possibly, out of his GP system.

Your hands shoot up. “Alright,” you say. “One more hour.” You breathe.

“One hour,” she says, “then we’ll see.”

Your phone rings again.

IV.

It’s eleven pm. The wristwatch says so. Your Bible is opened to Exodus, the twenty-first chapter. You consider your study rate. You’ve been on the book for twenty-eight days, averaging three-quarter of a chapter per day. That’s like taking one cup of flakes every day. Your spirit must be crying.

You bow your head and pray, then move to open the Amplified version on your phone when the beast in it comes alive. It’s your class rep calling this time. He doesn’t call you except to pass information or demand help.

You slide the green receive button.

“Emmanuel –”

“The assignment,” you say. “I’d submit tomorrow.”

“It’s not the assignment, guy. We have a test by 8.”

And your heart goes, bang.

“Hello?”

“I’d call back,” you say. You end the call and collapse on the bed. The foam feels like hardwood. You can feel tears tease your eyes. You sniff. You sniff again.

The phone rings again.

“I said I would call –”

You choke on the last word as your head comes to its senses. Your class rep isn’t the caller. Your father is.

 

P.S 1: I have really been busy. I’m not liking it again. I think I should just forget everything and sit with the laptop all day, crafting out characters. Maybe I should, err, elope? What! I’m not a bride. Anyway, I’d be putting up short stories here soon.

P.S 2: The image before the post is a work some freshmen in Industrial Design did. Took the picture in the dark, plus my camera was blurry, hence the quality. But then, it had me stop and stare. Model of a fountain was what they call it. I still can’t loop my head around the thought.

P.S 3: Thank you very much for reading. I mean, with my inconsistencies, you still read. So, thank you. Thank you for being a part of this community.

The Writer’s Block

Writer's Block_Mind

I.

“What exactly do you want?”

“To write.” The words carry an intensity about them, enough to have her wrap her fingers around me and smile.

“You can write,” she says. “I’ve read your works and… they are beautiful.” She stares into my eyes. “And you know it.”

“Yes, yes, I do.” I drift my gaze away. “That’s the past. A writer’s worst enemy is his last story.”

“Did you steal that?”

“Did I?”

“That line – your worst enemy is your last success.” She breaks our hold. “You stole it. Plagiarism. You just stole that line.”

I’m smiling now. “It’s not so bad a thing.”

“Oh, it is.” She sidesteps to allow a student go into the hostel. “A writer’s not supposed to steal a line.”

“Hence the word, modify.”

She slaps my hand. “That’s not fair. You being a writer doesn’t mean you can just bamboozle me with words.” Her lips are twisted in a funny grin. “Bamboozle.”

“A big word,’ I say.

She nods. Our eyes are trained on each other. She spreads her arms. I sneak in. She pats me, working her hands towards my back, like a masseuse taking the pain of a day’s labor away. I feel my heartbeat steady, my blood thin. The stone that’s been tied to my chest slips off.

“Thank you,” I say.

I hear her nod. The sun begins to settle.

“You will write,” she says. “You will write many beautiful stories for me. And for…”

Then she lets go and walks in.

II.

The class isn’t holding. I idle at the second of many steps ascending up the lecture theatre and sweep my eyes along the rows of foldable seats. The students disappear few minutes later, leaving a handful of zealots perched on seat, textbooks before their faces. I unzip my bag and walk towards the socket.

It takes seconds to set up, and I’m entering my fear landscape again. The blank screen. It’s been blank for nineteen days now. Every morning, I wake and only manage to say, “Thank You Lord” before I repeat the I-will-write-today mantra. Every night, just before I say, “Thank You for today, Lord,” my mind sniggers, “You did not write today.”

I position my fingers on the keypad and stare at the white board at the theatre’s frontage as if my muse is tied to it. Nothing comes. My head is blanker than the page before me. I tap a word. Two words. Many words. A paragraph shapes. A scene. Then, before I can process, I wipe everything off.

I stare at the blank page again and nurse how easy it is to destroy. And the pain of creation.

My gaze flips to the top left corner of the screen. Half past 10. One and a half hours before she comes – not adding the minutes she’d expend trekking from LT1 to Bancroft LT. I consider the students lost in different worlds – Physics, Organic Chem., Logic and Philosophy. Their faces are grim, sober, in the way an employee gets when her buddy is handed the thank-you-for-your-services letter. I identify with them, with the staidness.

If someone came into scene now, he might comment, “The boy behind a laptop must be very serious with his work, considering he didn’t spend up to a minute ambling his eyes before refocusing his attention.” But if he leapt to the laptop, he would say, “Oh, he’s just lazing about.”

It is so easy to switch opinions.

III.

“What did you write?”

“Nothing.”

She doesn’t stare with wide eyes. She simply nods and maintains her pace. “You just sat for two hours and wrote nothing.”

“Not really.”

“Okay.”

We trek in silence. Silence has been a fragrance in our relationship. The night I asked if my friend, Dave, was her boyfriend, she was silent for a minute before she said no. When I suggested we take permission from Dave before we proceeded, and Dave in turn shook his head, it was his quiet laugh that let me know he was joking. The previous semester result had me doing 120mph, but it was her silence and her warm fingers that kick-started the miraculous.

The silence this time feels different. It’s like what’s exists when two friends visit with each other a day after one was raped while the other was flogged, like what happens when your ex’s partner dies and you pay the obligatory condolence visit.

It’s dangerous. It smells like fire.

IV.

“That’s it?”

“Yes,” the other girl says. We met her outside the lodge. She was wearing a skirt, her hair packed in a bun.

“Is that why you dressed to the nines?” I ask.

The girl smirks and runs in, leaving us alone.

“So…”

I turn and face her.

“What are you gonna do about it?’

“Nothing,” she says.

“Nothing? Your mum’s sick.”

“I heard the first time.”

My lips part in reflex. I stutter steps backward and eye her. I want to yell at her for being so passive, for not considering her friend who was waiting for her return.

“I should go,” she says.

I say nothing. She draws near and hugs me. Her body is stiff, as if enclosed in a transparent glass box.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

“Say it,” she says.

“It just feels like I wasn’t made for this. Like all I learnt about writing and storytelling has been vacuumed. Like I don’t know how to show again, and all I can do is tell. I read a book last year about writerly expressions. How you’re supposed to spin some sentences only writers are capable of. I hate my mother, but I would kill my father before laying a hand on her. That’s writerly. These days, writerly expressions evade me like I’m contraband. And… and…”

She sniffs the air on my neck, till my breathing matches her. The air begins to get cold.

 

V.

I call her before bed.

“I’m going home tomorrow,” she says. “I should be back in time for 207.”

“How’s mum?”

“She would be well.”

“Okay.” The walls of the room are festooned with words. I find a suitable sentence and read to her.

“Sometimes, silence is golden,” she replies. “Failure too. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” I say.

 

P.S: It’s been a long time since I blogged. In the period of hiatus, I’ve been learning design. Do you see the fading ‘block’ in that image, replaced with mind? That’s the motivation. Positive words. Thanks for reading.

How You Know You Are Busy 

The beep-beep comes again. Softer this time, because it’s WhatsApp. Your mum. She wants to know if you’ve completed the research she asked of you. Your fingers fly off the keypad and unto the phone as you punch a harried response.

I.

You wake with cramps in your biceps. You feel like you just pulled a freight train across a field stretching 1,000 miles. You lift your neck to turn at the window and hear a crack, like the nerve connecting your torso to your head just snapped. You run your hand slowly over the back of your head and bring it away wet. And clean.

No blood.

A sigh escapes you. You notice the wetness extends down the front of your arm, slipping over to your open palm. You shrug and roll off the bed and stop at the last second, just before you fall four feet. You remember then that you aren’t in the king-size bed at home, but a hand-me-down, please-manage foam, and you’d have landed with your head had you not halted.

You remember a lot of things too.

You remember that your tutorial manual is squeezed against the wall, the way a man’s face might be wrinkled if slapped by a door. You remember that the tick-tick-tick reaching you is coming from a clock your roommate found at the physics lab. He’d placed it over the slab above your closet to alert you when morning breaks. You squint through the glass panes and catch the sun scudding across a clear sky.

You jump.

You land with your palm facedown and breathe. Breath. You remember that you need to breathe often, that a pile of clothes is squeezed under the wooden doors of your closet, that the smell wafting into your nostrils is from the clothes, that you just sent a pot flying when you jumped, and the pot contained oil-stained water, that you still haven’t attended your assignment, that…

Breathe. You are remembering too much. You shut your eyes and breathe. Breath.

II.

You stare at the screen in shock. Two messages glow. The first is an alert. A credit alert. You know the fee just zoomed into your account, somehow. The whole shebang you charged the man. He surely crossed the border of your agreement. His words dilute with your thoughts: 60 percent upfront, the balance later. And here, he’s sent everything.

You scroll to the other text. You see the man’s name: Mr. Adebayo, and forget to breathe. Or maybe the room is drained of air. Maybe the woman hovering at the marker board has evaporated the gaseous content of the room with her incoherent explanation.

She’s saying something like, “Boltzmann’s constant is…” You lose the rest of the sentence. Her name is Laide. But you call her Dr. Laide, with the doctor boomed over the Laide. You are used to it, the weight tied to titles on this side of the globe. Your heart goes icy when she walks towards you. Her eyes are on you, as if she’s the mind-reader in X-men. She smiles, a grin that says, “I’d get you.” She walks straight past you like you are just a molecule.

You don’t blame her. There are over 500 in the lecture theatre. She probably would be incapable to place your face. You love it that way – the unknown student.

A beep explodes from your phone. Your reaction is reflex. Your left hand bolts and slams down on the speaker. You freeze in that posture. No one turns your way. Heaving, you review the text. It’s from Mr. Adebayo. He’s awaiting your response. But you can’t think up one. You don’t know how to reply this notification.

I need the design in three hours.

III.

The second finger of your left wrist is dead. Feels dead. You drag it across the mouse embedded in your laptop as you modify a circle. Get an external mouse, your friends had advised. You’d refused, the way a fly refuses to heed instruction before it ends up in the liver of a monkey.

The beep-beep comes again. Softer this time, because it’s WhatsApp. Your mum. She wants to know if you’ve completed the research she asked of you. Your fingers fly off the keypad and unto the phone as you punch a harried response. You are barely done when another one chirps. Class rep.

“Emmanuel, where are you? I’d be submitting the assignment by four.”

Your brain bursts.

Your eyes flit to the analog clock embedded in the top right corner of the laptop. 03:28. Thirty-two minutes before you mail the design. Exactly the same time you have to complete your assignment and get it across to the rep.

You race to your closet, grab the manual, rummage for a pen. You settle down by your workspace and scribble through. The answers come to you the way a newly-wed would go to her husband. You are done in seven minutes, saving three. You call a colleague and meet him at your doorway. He disappears with the assignment.

The time is 03:44. You work like a mad, irritated tiger. Another beep. You do not check. You flip your mouse to the pentagon tool and draw a star. You paint it with colors. You are still amazed at the wonder of graphic design and Corel Draw. You complete the flier design just as the last second dips into four pm.

Your phone beeps. It’s angry. Like a boxer losing control. You slide to receive. Mr. Adebayo rushes through his words, as if he’s in a mental institution and cannot be caught. You nod and close Corel Draw. A dialog box pops up and you press, ‘no’, absently.

Mr. Adebayo says, “Is it ready?”

“Yes. I’m forwarding it to your mail –”

A chirps ends your sentence. You scroll to the file containing a few designs and click the most recent one. A blue circle swirling informs you it is loading. You breathe. It feels so good to breathe again.

The page loads. Your eyes bulge. The design is incomplete. Your brain jogs down the last few minutes. And then, like the finger of God taking a peek at you in a stormy night, you remember…

You did not save the design.

****

P.S 1: This kinda reads like my typical day, save I still get a gob of things done. 

P.S 2: There’s no image. More on that in future posts. 

God’s Favorite 

Imagine his surprise when he walked in and met his wife in bed.


For a moment, he did not speak. No, his silence rang longer than mere seconds. He’d rounded the steep corner spitting into the king-sized bedroom feeling positively giddy. A brown leather case matched the rhythm of his steps, sleek and smooth. It was what got him the attention of the regional coordinator. The sleek pace.

“How can a man walk so attractively?” the lady with grey twigs for hair had asked.

He’d smiled and fumbled with his pockets. The lady slouched in her seat, twined her fingers and began to twiddle them. They held each other stares, stupid grins keeping them company. That type of grin a fifth-grader concocts when he’s about to inform his inebriated mum that he got two C’s and a gob of red lines.

But he’d only manage to maintain that posture for thirty-eight seconds before he asked the ninety-million naira question, “Why did you call me here, Lauren?”

The lady’s smile immediately faded. She looked at him and at the door allowing a few inches of air into the room and at the round clock with emerald handles and at the letter on the table, the table cut from sleek birch.

See, sleek. Again.

The man’s heart picked up pace. He stared at the lady. Here was the lady who could, in a spark of fury, thumb her signature and have him out of the company, a decision that’d irrevocably produce a loss so gargantuan heartbreaking would be an understatement. Heartbreaking for him because of the hours he’d poured into the growth of the fortress like a chef pours coffee beans into water.

Heartbreaking for the company too.

He was considering the company’s loss if such a situation aroused when hands grabbed his jaw. Naturally, nothing was wrong here. I mean, it could be a bouncer come drag him out. Really, his first thought was, Here we go, seventeen years of hard labor washed down by a cup of icy tea.

But.

The fingers pressing into his mandible wasn’t a bouncer’s, except the supposed object of terror was feminine and at the verge of climax. The man willed his eyes up. They met the lady’s. His brain shrilled into his skull. Heat exploded down his ribs and, unfortunately, settled into the space between his legs.

“The door,” he whispered.

Never had Lauren moved so fast. One would think she was planning an escape. And then, she was moving fast again. Only he was the victim this time. She yanked off his Armani suit, the silver buttons scattering like hurriedly-ejected bullets. She’d only gone past two when his hands stopped her. The palms were cold and rough and felt like a cocoon. Lauren’s palms reminded him of his wife.

He did not think again. He just plowed on, like a cursed laborer. When Lauren said, “I have considered the proposal, and, it’s a yes,” he lost his hold on reasoning.

Ninety-million naira was enough to do such a thing as this. Even his wife would praise him. It reminded him of a day early in their courtship when they stumbled upon a picture on Instagram. The question had been, “If you were offered fifty-million naira, would you agree to cheat on your spouse?” His wife had punched in, “I’d kill him if he doesn’t sleep with the woman.” Good old days when they were so neck-deep in debts he thought they’d raise their children on Salvation Army merits.

God was faithful. Two houses towering like palaces. A 2017 Camry model and another Lexus idling in the garage. If all went according to writings, he’d change the Camry.

The man began this thought at ten minutes before news at nine am. Shy of two hours after, he carried Lauren’s limp body, dumped it gracefully on a fur bed pushed into the south quadrant of the office, covered her legs to neck with a silk sheet bleeding purple. At her chest, he stopped and marveled. He swallowed.

God was good.

He was out of the office a couple of ticks later, his composure only a tad different from when he’d entered. Of course, he left with the proposal. Never forget that. No one accosted him or challenged his affront.

He left a word with his secretary and dashed the Camry out of the company. He would go home, fall on one knees and beg his wife’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness wasn’t an issue. “He forgives all men,” his pastor would say. And in moments when he just handed a check covering all expenses for the church’s renovation, the pastor would add, “Especially you, God’s favorite parishioner. God delights in forgiving you.”

He knew, of course, that the validation was established on the basis of his donations. So, why waste that? He could as well put a slug into the president’s brain and fall on his knees and plead for forgiveness and put another slug into his own brain. His welcome to paradise would be on golden horses.

He reached home before his organs could settle, swung his briefcase out and marched into his edifice. The gate parted in one swipe. Lights glowed from the kitchen in the first floor – there were just two. More like upstairs, but, who cared?

His wife was home. All was good. God was favoring his favorite. God was good.

He’d ignored the urge to squash down a glass of Burgundy. Wife first. He was still swimming in calculations when the latch eased under pressure from his fingers and his breath grew rancid.

Moans slammed into his hearing. His gaze instinctively swept to the stool beside the bed – never mind it’d been kicked out of position in the heat of passion. The pack of protective rubber was still there, though the man could swear it was two short from complete.

This was his home. His room. His wife, sandwiched between a man and a woman. All was not good.

He didn’t know how long he stood there, but it was enough time for his briefcase to slip off his palms – suddenly clammy – and for a fourth breathe to pollute the room. Enough time for him to pull out a long pole placed horizontally against the baked walls.

Enough time for the male partner on the bed to raise his head and catch the raised arms. And in the moments before the man swung, he knew his pastor was eternally wrong.

P.S: My writing consistency has trailed a bit in the past two weeks. So has the reading. The picture is what I discovered the week that closed. Enjoy. 

Imagine That. Now,.. Imagine This. 

​”As a writer, you read all books – good and bad. You learn what works from the good ones. You know the pits to avoid from the bad ‘uns.” – Stephen King (paraphrase)
First, in my opinion, there are no bad books. Badly written ones, maybe. There are books poorly crafted, books with a plot that has been fleshed in exactly the same manner a thousand times, books with grammar so poor you’d think they jumped from first draft to printing press. But there are no bad books. You, of course, are welcome to disagree. 
But that quote did factor into my decision not to read Imagine This by Sade Adeniran as I thumbed through the first pages. 
“It’s a diary?”
My host looked up and shook his head. “Written like one,” he said, and I knew it never would make my reading list. No amount of persuasion, not even having the novel in proximity for two weeks could change that. 


So, one night, when I walked in and spotted the book in a closet, the you-should-read-all-books guy in me said, “You are reading that book.” Sixteen hours on (plus sleeping and eating and tackling a few chores), I closed the last page and sighed; an interesting read. Here goes the review. 
I learned this week that reviews are intellectual and emotional. The intellectual considers the structure – grammar, flow, pace, setting, redundancies, cartoonist characters… The emotional delves into the emotions. Hence, I’d be dividing this in two parts. 
ONE

The best worst thing that could befall a writer is… not writers’ block. It is having to develop a novel through the lenses of one character, that is, one point of view. The author not only did it well, she made it enjoyable. There were instances where I longed to peek at the mind of another character – Lola’s father mostly – but the denial is why people read fiction. They want something. They don’t get it, and neither does the hero –  Lola. 
Lola starts the book at nine, ends at nineteen. She’s the typical I-was-born-in-England-but-returned-home-due-to-some-unpleasant-situations girl, save she doesn’t live with her father on arrival. She’s sent to fourth-finger-related relatives (uncles and aunts from my mother’s brother’s family). She starts the journey with a father and brother and an absconded mother and ends with no father, no brother, and a mother she speaks to in the last chapter. Amazing story. Plot, pace, style, voice, all awesome. I got reminded of some words – asinine, affable, sagacious, antepenultimate – because the hero had to learn new words. Maybe a few cliched events, but heck, there’s nothing new under the fireball that lights the day. 
I have a few issues, however. There are a bit too many deaths, the type allowed in thrillers and horrors but not Nigerian literature – except there’s a war, which wasn’t recorded. Two, as a result of one of the deaths, twelve or fourteen year old Lola fasts forty days and nights, drinking water for the first 23 or so days. Who does that? It isn’t impossible, yeah, but these are spiritual things, not what you do because you want your bro resurrected. And she did pull through. And she did get her wish. 
I’m not saying it’s unrealistic – emotions do get the better of us, but then, hmm… 
TWO
Now, my name is Michael. To be clearer, I’m a Christian. So, when I began to read serious fiction, I steered clear of anything not Christian fiction – Nigerian lit, genre fiction, cross-genre fiction, classics. Only John Grisham squeezed himself to my reading list, and I jumped over every sentence that started with ‘He smoke a pack of Marlboro’ and ‘The beach was warm and swarmed with bikini-clad women’.
Naturally, Nigerian/African lit was the last thing I opened up to. This is why: they have a way of leaving me cracked up. Fiction is supposed to answer questions, yes, but also give hope, joy, gratitude, excitement, encouragement, relief, maybe a little sadness. But if everytime you do something, you feel like you’re at the edge of a cliff and all you see are tracks of tears and you can’t just resist shedding them, you should be careful. 
It didn’t catch me as a surprise when I experienced the same emotions when I finished Imagine This. The character felt like me, too much like me, and she wasn’t exactly happy throughout the story. 
This got me the most – she let her boyfriend explore her for the first time the night before she broke up with him. Twas bad. Looking back, I see it was a literary pun, not to the girl’s life alone, but to the whole script. She gave up what she treasured most and got what she desired the most, albeit in totally different ways. 
Got me shaking my head pitifully. 
But that’s it. I’m done. I’m reading more genre fiction in the coming weeks. Now I can go back to The War is Over by Andrew Wommack and be my good self. Till we exchange again, keep reading. And yeah, there’s an excerpt:
11th August 1979

Dear Jupiter, 

Ronke and I got into a fight and I broke a bottle of ice water on her head. There was blood and water everywhere and Father and her mother have taken her to the hospital. I’ve locked myself in the room… (Page 96.)

They Never Came… 

Your phone rang again. Again, you let the tone fade. You knew what Mother would say. Rent was almost up. She cooked the last pack of spaghetti. The soap you brought the last time was cheap. Sometimes, you wondered if she kept a list of complaints. 

Having successfully mastered the temptation to put up a rushed writing in the bid to blog, I have finally found the perfect post. 

Or maybe not. That’s a debate for another occasion. 

The last few days, I’ve – read stories, written a handful, read Scriptures, watched one movie (not more), added another year and, slept. 

Today, I’m blogging fiction. It’s a first for this year. Hint me on your thoughts when you are done. Thank you for stopping by. 

**************************

II. 

He called on Monday. 

“Mr Cooke?”

“Wale,” he said, his voice thick, as if it was plucked from a bass guitar. “Good morning.”

“Morning. Is it ready yet?”

“Patience, Wale.” Your name came out as way-lay, like his tongue was pegged back. “Did you register the names?”

“Yes,” you said. Your heartbeat sounded behind your ear. 

“Perfect. All that’s left is the transfer.”

“Okay.”

“You have the details?”

“Sure.” Your head began to spin.

“I’d be expecting the cash.”

“Okay.” You set the phone down. You closed your eyes. Calm down. Calm it, Wale. One more step. Just one. You were so close now. 

The clock ticked 8. You snapped awake. Your eyes danced to the souvenir timepiece. You’d change the clock first. Then the velvet couch, the set of pots bent at the edges. So many things. 

You took another breath. 
III. 

The cashier stared at you like you spoke a French dialect. The thick frames of her glasses enlarged her black eyeballs, transforming her into a village witch. Those witches. You were escaping their clutches today. Not one more day. 

“I want to transfer via… No, I need to transfer via Moneygram.”

“And I said the network is teetering over the edge.”

“You don’t understand,” you said, barely keeping your curled fists under control. “I need to do this within the hour.”

She shrugged. Nothing. No seductive smile. No sorry from those full lips. You didn’t think. Your hand shot off, flew over the slab, cracked her lower lip. 

Only it wasn’t a lip, but a strong hand. The cashier squealed. Your senses came back. You stared into the face of a bouncer. 
IV. 

“Take two lefts, walk straight ahead, until you arrive at a pawn shop. The bank is a couple buildings away.”

You thanked the bouncer and hurried off, grateful your eyes were still in their sockets, grateful you only had to part with your hand-me-downs Rolex. Your head was throbbing. A wave of heat slapped your left wrist. It felt naked, that spot on the wrist where a watch once abode , like a celeb feels when paparazzi gets a picture of her in the tub. Naturally, she wouldn’t feel anything. But when she stumbles upon the front-page of Entertainment Today and is greeted by her nude torso, she realizes she, like every other species, goes naked. 

You found the bank, a tall building masked by red glasses. You heaved once and go in. 
I. 

One day earlier. 
You sat behind the laptop, your chins propped up on both wrists. The screen shuffled pages, displaying ads and stupid pop-ups. Stupid because you’d click on one and it’d automatically expand into six tabs, all repeating the same monotonous information. You stared for ten minutes, twice checking the time at the bottom right corner of the screen

Your phone rang again. Again, you let the tone fade. You knew what Mother would say. Rent was almost up. She cooked the last pack of spaghetti. The soap you brought the last time was cheap. Sometimes, you wondered if she kept a list of complaints. 

You ran your finger slowly across the screen, across the invitation link flashing twice in three seconds. 500k, ten days, eighty percent profit. It was risky, but heck, everything worthwhile was. 

The phone rang again. You opened the link. 
V. 

You called Mother. 

“Hello?”

“Mum, are you home?”

“Why do you ask?”

You stifled a laugh. “Had breakfast yet?”

“Warmed the rice from yesterday’s party.”

Bitter air seeped into your mouth. No more of that. “I’m coming over,” you said. 

A grunt filled your ear, then a tone that sounded like a warning signal. But you did not heed the warning. Instead, you bought wheat bread, two sardines, half a dozen tins of milk. She met you at the gate, as you alighted from the bike. The milk worked magic, her sour greeting instantly replaced by…

“My son, you didn’t tell me God had done it.”

“Cooke, not God. Cooke did it.”

You sat her on a wooden chair and explained. You were a bit afraid, yes, but all would pull through. 

Definitely, she said. She’d even fast if necessary. Everyone took risks, she said. 

You needed cold water. You dipped your hand into the fridge and brought out a glass. The water burnt your tongue. You spat into the sink and flushed, watching it go in a swirl. You arranged a mental list of things to change, starting with the fridge. 
VI. 

The sun stung your cheeks. You blinked and held its gaze, oblivious to the track of tears crawling down your face. A Camry honked and drifted by. Two joggers in waist-tight pants slowed and exchanged mumbles. They stayed for thirty seconds, then resumed. The female did not look away until she rounded the corner.

The sun grew hotter. The joggers completed three runs. The kiosk inches away opened and welcomed customers. Some of them greeted you with suspicious smiles, their noses folded over cheekbones. 

But you did not budge. You wouldn’t budge.

It’s been ten days, you’d told Mother. Ten days since your fat investment should yield. 

Your phone rang. You snatched it.

“Cooke?”

“Wale,” he said. 
VII. 

“Good evening and thank you for joining us on News at nine…”

The reporter’s words slipped from hearing range. You stared at the phone. At the laptop. One million and sixty thousand, your balance read. But that was on paper. Really, you had nothing. Nothing. 

The noodles you ate for dinner was from a neighbor. She wouldn’t give you anymore, she’d said. The phone rang. It wasn’t Cooke or Mother. It was the agent from the loan bank. You did not pick. It was a matter of decisions, you knew, and they’d be at your door. 

You dropped the phone and picked the Bible. Ecclesiastes. You picked the words one after the other, as if doing so would somehow dump a million in your account. 

“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for after many days, you shall find it again.”

You’d wait. You’d wait for the many days. Hopefully, you wouldn’t be six feet under by then. 

You slapped the Bible close and slumped on the couch, the same one you should have changed. You closed your eyes and waited for sleep, for death. 

But they, like the money, did not come. They never would.