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.

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.

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. 

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. 

In Dependence and Other Things 

Vanessa existed in the way Oliver Twist did, the way Shakespeare defined love for us.

​  All fact is fiction, and all fiction is fact. It is a mystery the individual can, and should, never unravel, much less, understand. 
  I accept the above statement, and rather unwittingly, live by it. I think I’d have preferred to say, I find myself living by it – like a student finds herself bored in a French class she’s forced to attend. In retrospect, she realizes she’s not just bored of the class, a seed of boredom for the lecturer has brewed into a cauldron, therefore controlling her subconscious self. In like manner, we find ourselves in a habit, while, really, we’ve allowed the roots of that habit plant foot. 
  But, we aren’t talking about these things today. It’s fact and fiction, and the fuzzy line between. Hear this: I fell in love with Vanessa while I squatted on my decrepit bed. She was comely, and with a plaid shirt, appeared to be a character cut from Miss World. She held my stare such that I felt a breeze of comfort, even if I was being defiant. I strolled up and saluted. She smiled, the smile that says, “He’s actually interested in me. Me. Oh my gosh, like really!” We talked for a few minutes, and as I turned to depart, I requested her number. 
  Her response was a knockout. 
  “You’ve got none?”


  She grinned, clear blue eyes misted. “Dude, I don’t exist. I’m just a means to an end, not the end itself. Sort of…”
  Something in me snapped, like a ram pushed to the edge of the cliff. I lifted my head as the door swung inside, spewing an athletic young man. He approached me and took the book. It was then, when he sniffed the purple cover, that it came in clear words. 
  Vanessa existed in the way Oliver Twist did, the way Shakespeare defined love for us. Thrice, I had become enamored of a character. A mere character. 
  Maybe they are not mere characters. Maybe the people we read in magazines and fiction are as real as the lanky girl who hawks dried fish past our gate. Maybe Oliver Twist was once a young boy and not Dickens’s brainchild. Maybe Ishmael was in all forms aboard the ship hunting Moby Dick as there were captains steering the wheel of Titanic. I’m not much into folklore, but what if the stories we heard by the moonlight were events in some people’s lives. 
  And, how about facts being fiction? Would it be awesome if Trump being president was an upcoming writer’s imagination. What would your response be if you learnt your spouse was your spouse because a crazy writer wrote it at such? Or that the child who laughs at every tickle happened to be your son because it raised the stakes of a bestselling novel. 
  A glum stare fills my face as I imagine the story in Showdown playing itself out – kids who have been schooled on good and evil being able to write events into reality, then watching these realities spiral out of control (purchase the novel to enjoy the juice). 
  See, it’s back at takeoff. We can not separate fact from fiction. We can not hate one because of the other. And we cannot understand it either. It’s like Ted Dekker said, “The questions shouldn’t matter. It’s about loving as Jesus loves us, and knowing He does.” Amen? 
  Vanessa is the heroine in In Dependence, a novel by Sarah Ladipo. She’s British, unlike the one before her, an American detective. You, as I did, may peruse how I came to like a detective. It’s the magic of books, good books, great books. They slip into our world – the one built on facts – and swoosh their wands. Out it goes, through the window, and we are immersed in fiction. Until we get jerked out of the ‘fictive bubble’ (Dekker’s words). Do we for these purpose dump books in a bonfire? By all means, no. 
  No, we read. We accept. We let these things shape us, not too much or too little. Enough to make us understand who we really are. Whose we really are. 
  For that is the greatest quest, the most noble of all. 
Here’s an excerpt:

“Care for a drink?” someone asked. 

“Would love one.” She took the glass and drank the wine quickly. 

“I’m Charlie,” he smiled, “and you?”

“Tired.”
P.S: Miriam was her name, the first lady I loved. She was cultured in Saudi Arabia and fled to America, falling in love with a Clairvoyant geek, while on the run with the same man. Of course, she’s Muslim, and I thought it so real I nursed the idea of marrying a Muslim for a week. Is that fiction? Or is it fact? 

Block F 

​Ugh. 

Exclamation expressing disgust, horror or recoil, says Wordweb. Disgust is not what I feel. Neither is it recoil or horror. Perhaps ‘ugh’ covers it best. It’s like having prayed and prayed till the point of being drained of words and all you utter is a full sigh. Like fetching bucket after bucket into a plastic barrel and then heaving at the last pour. Like punching keys away through the night then hitting the nearest couch for four hours – waking and giving a long druggy yawn. 


That’s how the past few weeks have left me. Without syllables. Imagine that predicament for a writer (and we all are writers, we don’t just face the work). I’d go through each routine while humming, “I’m going to sit my butt and write. Really am,” like the grasshopper making mental notes to gather food against winter only to find itself starved then. 
Over the weekend, something happened. So many things. And one of the results is this – blogging. No, I didn’t forget the need to blog, or how to write. Neither was I deprived time. I just couldn’t put together a blog. Well, not anymore. This one is called Block F. 
The block has no entrance or exit, bordered by intertwined steel wires with holes tiny enough to swallow a newborn’s fist. It has to its left Block C and Block D as rearguard. A trail of white paint runs on all four corners of the block.
A boy comes out of Block D, wearing dark shorts. His face, hidden in the darkness, is pressed into wrinkles. His shirtless tummy is as flat as the decrepit land before him. He takes a step and coughs. He spits loudly into the gutter, taking in the splash. Another fellow grouches, “you people are the ones keeping this hostel dirty.”
The boy closes up to the guy, one hand balled, the other balancing a bundle. The grouch quickly looks away and retreat, bread and beancakes in both hands. He must have had too much, the boy concludes, while he is in dire need. The boy watches him disappear and hisses, then clears his throat and spits again. It’s a missed shot. The boy steps over the pavement supporting the walkway and is hit with an overdose of howling wind. He doesn’t shield his chest. 
He takes another lazy step. A mass of white light blinds him. Sheathing his eyes, he gathers his bundle closer. The lampbearer is now at him. He mutters a weak, lifeless, “sorry” and is in Block B in an instant. The boy considers trailing him, dragging him by the neck and beating him to excitement. He lets the thought fade. Wind picks intensity, accompanied by rumblings in the sky, like a kettledrum cadence. 
The boy smells rain. 
He hastens steps, crossing patches of grass before arriving at the concrete floor. He unties his bundle and retrieves a thick cotton which he spreads slowly. He picks the only other item in the bundle and lays atop the cotton. The boy steps back, assessing, like a mason supervising a project. He smiles. He steps on one end, facing his entry point, and goes on his knees, as if participating in a liturgy. He utters no words of reverence. 
He doesn’t know when he sleeps off. His last thought is the rain been like drops from an Alaskan river. 

On Being a Student 

Originally made for two, then converted to six, the room harbors ten bodies. They lay on mattresses as the sojourner makes his entry. His legs feel drained of blood, and a push from behind would have him tumbling. The sojourner is not so tall and less favored in body fatness

Hello Blog-world. Trust your weekdays were awesome. Mine had me pressed against the corner at a spreadeagle posture with my torso twined like a flexible mannequin. 

Anyway, weekend starts in an hour (as I assume) and what better way to part the grand curtain than a piece. 

I wrote this yesterday, pent up with fatigue. I attempted peeking into my thoughts – ever done that? – and penned the sights, sounds, and emotions. Stuff is, we don’t really see ourselves till we seek. Hence, God alone knows the heart… 

Thwack, thwack. Digression. The piece shoots off in the next paragraph. I also added a picture of me – I’m not big on them. From the best I can summon, I pray a rewarding weekend for you. Stay meek. 

***********

Office.

About sixteen boys are pushed in a random queue before the door. A blue plate is pinned on the door, with the occupier’s name chiseled in block fonts. A man appears and orders three in. The remaining boys scamper past wooden stools to a larger entrance. The man takes four steps. A week’s worth of stubble festoons his cheek. He’s telling the remnants the difference between university and secondary school. They are as silent as the dead. 
Class
The book lies at centerspread. With the tip of a blunt pen, the writer churns away. Her eyes do not shift from the figure manning the stage. The figure is draped in an oversize shirt. To say he’s thin would be calling a tornado a slight storm. The hem of his pants jump to reveal sun-beaten ankles. He drops the marker and steps off the dais. The girl with the book stops writing. She doesn’t raise her head. Just as the figure approaches the girl, a thunderbolt strikes. The room is ghostly quiet in one minute and awashed with surprise the next minute. Two students are at the stairs, panting. The door is still swinging from the outburst. No one says anything.

Walkway 

Bunches of bananas are arranged in semicircles on a rusted tray. The girl kneeling at the tray is only slightly bigger than a bunch. The senior walks past the fruits, takes a pause, and drops his head backward. He turns slowly and considers the forest-green fruits. The girl springs like an exploded canister. She grabs two bunches and draws the senior. A mate passes and urges the senior to purchase. His brows arch and his stomach grumbles. A hand goes into the pocket. The pocket swallows two-thirds of the arm before spewing out six ruined notes. The girl before to grin. 

Road

A pavement, solid concrete, extends the length of the tarred passage, cut off only occasionally, in the event there’s a roundabout. One of such is marked in black and white paints, like a zoomed zebra crossing. It runs behind foggy bushes, arriving at West Gate. The gate is controversial, choosing to stay closed some and part wide some. On the other side of the road, tall trees sway east to west at the smallest breeze. The trees stand in proximity to each other, forming a frontline attack and a rear guard. In between, all that is expected is present. 

Room 

Originally made for two, then converted to six, the room harbors ten bodies. They lay on mattresses as the sojourner makes his entry. His legs feel drained of blood, and a push from behind would have him tumbling. The sojourner is not so tall and less favored in body fatness. At times, he walks straight, like a parading soldier. Tonight is not one of those nights. Two of the occupants have mouths parted to exhale, the release filling the room like the grunt of a sow. The sojourner drops his items and slugs off. 

Participant  

It’s half past five in the morning. Before me are the rigid tasks for the day, not different from those undergone the previous day. I yawn, lift my lower leg, and sleep off.