Gucci Sandals

gucco samdals

‘My mum’s favourite,’ he says. ‘She would be mad if I didn’t wear it today.’

He’s standing against a slab, his eyes gazing the laboratory. His legs are drawn together as though responding to a military command. It’s easy to spot him when you enter. These days, it’s easy to spot people. You only need a snippet of their physique – the guy with half-burnt hair, the lady who wears blue mascara, always. You are imagining this lady, with a blue mascara, pink shirt, the type that screams, ‘Queens are born in March.’

Our guy doesn’t wear mascara. Or burn hair. His black shirt is likely sold, buy one get one free. He’s wearing a Gucci sandal; a quick scan reveals five other students donning the sandals, they’ve become viral, those sandals with red and green straps, a tawdry mimic of the original brand.

You were vexed the first night you stumbled upon a conversation involving those sandals. It went somehow like:

Boss o.

Ha, egbon mi. Good evening sir.

Who is the egbon? Your boy is gentle o. See as you dey fresh. Gucci sandals.

You visited a cobbler the next morning and beheld the sandals, and you returned home thinking how rotten the world was getting.

So, sandals are not it. It’s not the guy’s backpack too. Yet, when you entered, you smelled him, the way a hen on heat smells a cock many miles off. He was making some payments, compelling you to linger some rows back until he was done. You waved him over and asked how much the dues were, and he, been the type of person he was, said, ‘We are paying #3,500.’

You smiled and said his shirt was nice.

‘My mum told me to wear it,’ he said.

.

‘I don’t understand. Do you stay off campus?’

He meets your eyes. ‘No. I was given hostel space. Since last week.’

‘That’s nice.’ He nods along. ‘How come your mum told you to wear a particular shirt?’

A frown digs into his face. You think, perhaps, this is the point where you retrieve your backpack and head the other direction, only for him to produce his phone. They are the big ones, with silver cases. He taps quickly and says, ‘Here.’ You know it’s a timetable. Sectioned into rows and columns. You marvel at the combination of attires – blue jeans and a white shirt, shorts and sandals (make sure it’s the Gucci sandal).

‘Your mum sent this?’

‘She’s a fashion designer,’ he says, simply.

You peel the expression off his face and analyze. He’s not defending his mother. He’s not endorsing it. He reminds you of Kambili, robbed of innocence, naïve, beautifully naïve. You think of days when Mother suggested you wore this to an event, and how you revolted, and how you both almost fought.

‘That’s nice,’ you say, again. You are beginning to repeat words. It’s time to go. ‘Well, in case you need anything, you can always holla, okay?’

He shifts. ‘You are in what level?’

‘200. David.’

‘Posi,’ he says.

You are learning few things about him, how he’s the student who doesn’t complain if the lecturer throws a class for 7pm, how he’s not fully established in what he wants and what he does yet, how he’s not a fan of the name, Posi, but because he still lacks roots, because he has not been washed with messages like feminism and freedom, he cannot call his dad and say, ‘Give me another name or I kill myself.’

.

‘I’m afraid,’ you tell Debbie.

‘God has not given us the spirit –’

‘Of fear. Do you ever change?’

‘Not for you,’ she replies. Her smile blooms. You head towards the bus-stop, hugging the morning silence. She brings her lips to your ear, ‘I missed you.’

‘Words, words, words.’

‘I’m serious.’

‘Obviously. I wasn’t talking about us, though.’

She stops walking. ‘What happened?’

A soft wind sweeps past you. On the other end, two guys barrel down the sidewalk, folders wedged between armpit and chest. Their breath reeks of freshmen. You think, how just a year back, you were barreling down a similar sidewalk, your breath the stench of naivety, your pocket jingling with currencies that was yours but not yours.

‘I met this guy today, and he’s what seventeen, eighteen?’

‘Did he steal your money?’

‘That would have been easy. No, he did not steal my money. He was robbed though. Of his privileges.’

‘I’m not following,’ Debbie says.

‘I saw him with Gucci sandals, so I said, ‘your sandals are nice.’ He says he had to wear it today, that they are his mum’s favorite. He explains his dressing timetable, and the consequences of not sticking to the timetable.’

‘His mum instructed him to wear them?’ You nod. ‘And he’s a student? He stays alone?’

‘Hostel.’

‘That’s bad,’ she says, finally.

‘That’s bad,’ you say.

You walk on.

.

At night, you lay on the bed and drink in fractured noises – hoots of boys just sweeping into the hostel, choking smells of burnt soups, whirls of a generator powering the printing shop some blocks away. Your eyes fall on the polythene at the foot of the bed. You call Debbie.

‘Guess.’

‘You bought the sandals.’

‘Yes,’ you say. ‘I don’t know why. Did I tell you I’m struggling with writing again? I wonder if it’s laziness on my path.’

‘You mean part?’

‘Yeah, part. Path works too, though. Laziness on my path, broken into parts.’

‘Laziness on my part, broken into paths. Dave, is this you?’

‘Yeah, it is I. Be not afraid.’

She laughs. ‘I think we both are drunk.’

‘Me, maybe. You? Not so much. Perhaps it’s the sandals.’

‘Perhaps. You wear it tomorrow, yes?’

You sit up. ‘What’s happening tomorrow?’

‘You don’t know?’

‘I don’t,’ you say.

‘I don’t too,’ she says.

‘Really?’

She starts to respond. The door opens and a boy enters, wearing Gucci sandals.

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Memories

memories

“You want to learn how to write.”

“No sir. I want you to teach me writing.”

He stopped sipping and set the drink down. A cloud of gloom lingered in his eyes. The cup began to jitter atop the wooden surface of the table, the drink’s surface vibrating as if whipped by a wind. The silence got so cold I could feel it chill my bones. Outside, a dull sun towered above the buildings, accompanied by wraps of grey contrails. I could hear the distant hum of a mower, softly, like a choir of buzzing bees.

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen,” I said. I’d learned, by reading his works, to maintain brevity. Statements like ‘I am sixteen years old’ were windy, boring.

“Do you intend to go to college?”

“Yes. Engineering.”

“Are you writing any exams soon?”

“I have the next six months free, sir.”

He sighed. “Do you have a mother?” Continue reading “Memories”

The Blind See Grey

There was no sound in the house. The clock in the sitting-room continued its descent towards four. Or, ascent. It should be ascent, moving from a quarter past three to four in the evening. I couldn’t be sure.

rain

EVENING

It rained today and Brother’s mood worsened.

 

Later, I waited in the compound, my finger stretched to catch thin drops of downpour, I concluded his anger was justifiable. Brother stood with his face so close to the window I thought it was wedged between the bars. His cheeks rose like leavened flour and when he looked at me, there was a distance in those eyes.

I tried to smile at him. My pant was wet and sliding down my waist. I scanned the yard for fireflies or dragonflies and spotting none, I trudged in, backwards. Brother did not say, ‘You know you shouldn’t be walking backwards. It’s bad omen.’

There was no sound in the house. The clock in the sitting-room continued its descent towards four. Or, ascent. It should be ascent, moving from a quarter past three to four in the evening. I couldn’t be sure.

These days, I’m not so sure of anything. At times, I tell myself as a writer and a student, I must write. As a creative being, I must stir and mix and bake words, filling the air with desirable scents. I often sit before the writing board and grab the writing tools. Then I go blank.

Like an astronaut suspended in space.

On astronauts, we often say the world is viewed in black and white. No grey lines. I attempt to enter the mind of an astronaut. He’s draped in this spacesuit fashioned from unknown materials (not so unknown, in a way); his respiration is anomalous – dependent on a cylinder tank attached to his attire. Half of the time, he moves like a fish thrown into the air. A fish trying to fly, flapping its fins against air waves, ignorant of the contrast between wind and tide.

astronautThis astronaut has forgotten the taste of rice and murder. Often, he sits in the spacecraft and runs routine check on the computers. There’s a routed device by his computer for delivering updates to his superiors on the other side of the globe. He doesn’t know how to sleep again, just narrows his eyes and try not to think.

Breathing for him is not reflex.

So, this astronaut is browsing on his special tab – this tab can access a box of information about satellites, a feat normal tabs would suffer explosion if attempted – and while browsing, he stumbles on a page on Mother Earth. His eyes pop as he devours the news. He scrolls to the heading again and reads: Twenty-year old clubbed for opening up on his identity. The astronaut reads a gory report of a poet whipped till he breathed his last after said poet acknowledged he was gay.

The astronaut sits up and stares at the pictures. The victim’s head looks like a mangled egg, those eggs thrown into the crate just to avoid waste. One arm is detached. His legs are splayed, the ankles facing equal but opposite directions. Just below his navel, a gash the size of a pothole runs to the waist. The astronaut takes in every image and almost savours them.

Then he begins to read the comments.

Stupid comments and smart ones. Old and young. Male and female. Straight and bent. Writers and readers. It seems the world has flocked to the page to drop a comment. The astronaut squints as he tries to analyse a statement: Yeye person, trying to be who he was not creative to be.

A gentle headache seizes the astronaut. He falls into the seat and grabs one side of his head, the tab on the table. He’s trying to cry and laugh but he cannot do any because he does not know if it will come out right. He thinks on the statement again and realizes the commenter is saying – the poet deserved to die for becoming who God did not create him to be.

Two things strike the astronaut: First, that jungle justice could be delivered without a raising of eyebrows from the government or law. His eyes flit to the flag embedded in a top corner of the spacesuit, the colourful stars and stripes. A flutter warms his tummy. He knows in America, the poet would still be alive. He stops from crying then because the poet was born and bred in Nigeria, not America.

The astronaut realizes too how all comments can be fitted into one of two boxes – black or white. Black, he deserved to die. White, those who killed him deserve to die.

Feeling uncomfortable, the astronaut slips off his seat and paces the spacecraft. As his footfall echoes the spacecraft, he thinks about grey. Grey lines, between white and black. What happened to the grey? What happened to loving without deception? Yes, God did not fashion humans to lust after people of the same sex. Also, God did not create human beings who loved people of the opposite sex and whose delight was in wasting the blood of the former category.

God did not create homophiles or murderers, the astronaut thinks. The words of Jesus reaches into his thought with the volume of a public address system – love like yourself. Whoever you can help is your neighbour.

Layers of anger and fear and panic settles into the astronaut’s heart as he sits again, the tab before him, his mind engaging his heart in a debate of grey lines.

NIGHT.

A cricket is chirping behind the fridge. I assume it is singing a dirge, remembering the images that floated around social media early in the day, images of victims of jungle justice. The clock is still ticking. I sit opposite Brother and hold his gaze. He’s holding a collection of poems and his eyelids are puffed.

I want to tell him not to cry, that there’s nothing he could have done to prevent the death of the poet. Knowing the opinion is false stops my lips from speaking. Moments of condemnation on social media floods my head, just as I recall the apostle’s words – God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself…

Brother sighs. I raise my head. Together, we close our eyes.

Collapse

“I’ve washed the plates,” you told him. You spoke Yoruba, because only then would he understand the unspoken message – it’s your job, brother, to sweep.

That was why it was good to try Yoruba, once in a while.

I-SAID-THESE-WORDS-KUKOGHO

You collapsed on Friday.

When you recovered, you told no one. You went about with business, as if such occurrence was not a rarity. You did not give it much thought as the weekend slipped away, not until Monday when you woke to a text on your phone. Your phone was on Ultra Power because there had been no light the previous night, so you did not read the message immediately.

You went about chores, joking with Mum as she prepared for shop. Your brother was sleeping.

“He slept late,” you told your mum.

She snickered as though she did not believe your brother had spent the night reading but was not pressing because it was you, not him, that said it.

Later, when she left, you attacked the dishes. They sat in a pile in the sink, plates with strands of leftover spaghetti. The leftovers sat like frozen worms, surrounded by drops of red sands. These drops were bits of pepper your brother did not eat last night. You washed and thought of the break, of December.

Of your collapse.

It’d come like a thief in the night, a thief who did not wear shoes so as not to alert the sensitive neighbour. Had you received a call from your pastor with the warning to be careful because of a collapse, you would have discarded the admonition without a second blink. You felt, at that moment, like Goliath, shocked to the bones at the audacity of the tiny shepherd to challenge him with a sling and a stone.

After washing, you did not sweep, rather stepping into the compound. Everywhere was quiet. No kids playing catch. No late morning worker hurrying to the workstation. That brittle quiet that comes with insecurity.

You set yourself in the middle of the compound and angled your neck so you were staring at the sun. A minute later, you looked away, disappointed it hadn’t burned your eyes. A soft breeze tossed the mass of hair rocking your skull the way a player tosses basketball across the court – with much attention.

“Dave.”

Your brother stood at the entrance, his lips stretched in a yawn. He looked like a hunter ravished by hunger, in desperate need of something heavy.

“What time did you sleep?” you asked, in your native tongue.

“4. Mum asked?”

You nodded. “She didn’t believe you stayed up late.”

He had left the entrance. You noticed his height wasn’t dwarfing you, the way he had some three years ago. It struck you, the fact that you were growing too. A young man.

“I’ve washed the plates,” you told him. You spoke Yoruba, because only then would he understand the unspoken message – it’s your job, brother, to sweep.

That was why it was good to try Yoruba, once in a while.

A name popped into your thoughts. Debbie. She’d always encouraged you to speak the language. “Don’t sacrifice your dialect on the altar of civilization,” she would say. She knew French too and even though your fingers had almost glued together once while begging her to teach you, she’d opted to converse in Yoruba.

You made a mental note to pop her a message.

You remembered the text. You ran inside.

*

You sit on the smaller of the two sofas and nurse the word, sofa. You check the dictionary and find that sofa means: an upholstered seat for more than one person. You manage a small smile at your brother.

“Don’t tell me,” he says.

“You’re right. As long as it can host more than one butt, it’s a sofa.”

“I still haven’t forgotten basic words,” he says.

You nod. Your eyes return to the phone. The text message is still open. You run over the words again and tell yourself not to attach anything to it. They are just words. Somewhere inside, the small black man shakes his head in pity. It is the same man that whispered the words late Friday night, the words that made you do the things you’d vouched to never do again.

Hate balloons in your heart.

“Hope you’re good,” brother asks. A collection is opened before him. The cover design sports I Said These Words, and underneath the caption, a man screaming into the universe. A subtitle reads, poetry for the deaf.

Wait, is that a subtitle?

“How’s she?” he is asking.

“Who?”

He nudges at your phone. “You’re reading her message.”

“She’s fine,” you say. You adjust in your seat. “Hmm, there’s something I need your opinion on o.”

Your brother perks. The way you said o, that way peculiar to you, is what bonds you both together. The freeness of your dialogue.

“Something happened Friday night, and no, it’s private. So, I wake up this morning and find that Debbie has sent a text. I ignore it for hours, and when I finally stand up to it, I realize it’s like a recap of what went down on Friday.”

Your brother gives you the wait-up-bro-I’m-lost-here look. “Okay?”

“Thing is, what happened was private.”

“You said so once.”

“Just listen. I mean, personal. No one saw it happen. It was a mental collapse and I alone took part in it.”

The stare on his face rebirths. Now, he’s rising. He’s dropping the book and he’s closing the space within you.

“I’m not telling,” you scream as he approaches.

He presses you to the chair and slaps the phone away. You try to duck but his arms, the length of a point guard, draws you back with the ease at which one swabs away a fly. Your neck is under his arm and he is pulling at the flatness of your cheek. “You better talk.” You’re wiggling under his weight and pushing away and he’s smiling until you pinch the side of his midsection, tingling so much he lets up.

“I’m not…saying…a word,” you say, your breath coming in rasps.

He rests at the edge of his seat as though he’d be glad to launch another attack. “You are wondering how she knows, right?”

“Yeah.” You add a nod, just so he’s convinced.

His eyelids flap close and you think they’re shut, but then, you can see his eyeballs again. “Well, I know how.”

Your shoulders droop. “How?”

“Tell me about the collapse,” he says.

You smile and pick your phone. You look at him, smile, then stand. He settles into the chair and resumes reading. There’s silence again, that dangerous silence of insecurity, as you return to the room and prepare to reply Debbie’s text.

 

P.S: The image included in the post is in no way a form of advert. I included it because I felt like. December’s halfway gone and I’m just putting up my first post. Apologies for the inconsistency. Perhaps I’d write more. Perhaps.

Ripple Effects

I imagine briefly, how I would write that – the boy who sat on the left of the room, sticking the tongs of a serrated knife into a piece of yam was (insert name). I immediately think of Ted. Ted and his book full of Dekker-effects and Dekker-sentences. Sentences like, Dead by Billos. Sentences like, One of his many names. Sentences like, To say he was fat was an understatement. He was obese.

pic_rippleeffect

I.

It is night. I am holding a letter in one hand. A note. A piece of paper stained with words. Debbie’s words. A bulb casts an orange hue on the white sheet. The blades of the fan creak with each rotation, jutting downwards and pulling upwards, and briefly, I consider leaving the room before the inevitable would happen.

But I do not budge.

I unfold the paper and smoothen the creases, lingering my finger on each edge, as if by doing so, the words in the paper would vanish. I settle on a stool and begin to read.

Dave,

It’s been a while. Scratch that. I’m angry at you.

How are you? How is home? How is writing? How was your semester result? Oh. Ayo mentioned you hadn’t seen it yet. Your school’s so… Sometimes, I’m glad we are only in the same institution, not in the same school. Well, I just wanted to say hello. I know your head is bobbing in disbelief, so I’ll just state my grievances.

How could you? We were close, Dave. Friends. Whispers of our relationship laced every dialogue, so much I had to pray myself into caution. We talked about writing and about family, goals, church, love, Father, everything. And you just vanished. Like a satellite hacked off the feeds.

That doesn’t work fine, Dave. It doesn’t (sigh). It’s break now. Holidays are good times to rethink and reorganize. The clothes are on the line. The smell of harmattan lingers in the air, thick as strong brandy. My mum’s cooking rice. She asks of you every morning, just after family prayers.

You know the implications.

Hmm. The hellos have been said. I should go now. Mum calls. Give your brother a wave for me.

Love, Deborah.

I hold the paper at a stretch and suspend breathing. The next few moments, I think, are important. Important in preserving her voice, the smile on her face, the scent of her words, the spoken and the salient.

The door opens and Brother peeks.

“Dinner’s done.”

I nod. “I’d join you.”

He catches the note but plays blind. When the door bangs shut, I ease up and tuck the note in a pocket of my backpack. The bulb fizzles. I fumble out of the room.

II.

“Christmas,” Mother says. “What’s your plan?”

I gaze at her. Gaze her over. “What else.”

She sets her spoon at the tip of the plate. “Seriously, Dave, you need to think about doing something tangible with your life.”

“Mum, please.”

She looks past me to Brother. Brother nods and forks a neatly cut yam. I imagine briefly, how I would write that – the boy who sat on the left of the room, sticking the tongs of a serrated knife into a piece of yam was (insert name). I immediately think of Ted. Ted and his book full of Dekker-effects and Dekker-sentences. Sentences like, Dead by Billos. Sentences like, One of his many names. Sentences like, To say he was fat was an understatement. He was obese.

A smile wiggles unto my lower lip.

“David.”

I sit straight. “Yes, I intend getting a job, if that works out. Also, I am sending samples of my works – not writings – to people, hoping they would be interested in hiring me. Also, I’m trying to see if I can mentor someone in writing. I have some books to study too.” Confusion fills her eyes. “Books of the bible.”

She smiles.

“And of course, there are notes to familiarize myself with. 200 level notes. How’s that?”

She picks her spoon and begins to eat. Brother rocks his chair. No one says anything for a while.

Wait. That was a Dekker-sentence.

III.

The clock strikes midnight. I tap a button on the phone and close my eyes. I do not say – Thank you Jesus for a new day. Instead, I say – Lord, I need help. I talk about the letter and Debbie, about writing, about how my fingers are growing and soon, my Sunday School teachers would be curious as to why I haven’t mentioned any plans for marriage, about the need to, yes, do something with my life?

“Should I stick with writing, Lord?”

A reptile hisses in the distance. I turn over and continue the reread of Blink of an eye. I consider the hero’s dilemma – having precognitive powers yet facing attacks from all angles. Midway, the precognition’s spell dwindles. What’s worse, he’s trapped on the road with a Saudi princess. And no, they aren’t eloping lovers.

They are just about to be.

Something about the story strikes me – the hero explaining the limitations of his precognition as, “Presently, I can see a squad car heading towards us from Fifth. But, the squad car can decide to turn right at the next junction, which produces another future.” His princess looks with blank eyes.

I too, for a trice.

But then, it connects. Ripple effects. Like a rock plopped into a pool, there’s one central action and surrounding actions. If, right now, I pick my phone and text Debbie – I am sorry. Can we meet tomorrow? – and she shows up and a month later, we are dating and on a night of wild drinks, there’s an exchange between us, the pregnancy that might result would not be because we drank too much, it would go back to the text I sent.

So, I should…

I snap awake. The phone reader glows. I tap the reader close and trail my last thought. Yes, Debbie. Central action.

I send her a text – Hi, Debbie. I have read your letter so much my head hurts. I will call tomorrow. Good night. Michael. I hit send and rest my head on the pillow. Puff a breath.

The sound of a ticking clock fills the silence.

******

Hi. Thank you for stopping by to read. There’s something else I have to share with you today.

Christmas was drawing close and the air was thick with carols. The neighbors chattered about chicken, rice, and what else. I, however, was thinking about writing. Another year was wrapping up and I was yet to hit that 10-pointer. In came CFW.

I remember responding to the call for submissions and how, weeks later, the two stories I sent were accepted to be published. The magazine came out in January and marked over a thousand downloads.

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This time, there’s a new magazine. Freedom Magazine, published by Creative Freelance Writers. The stories in these magazines are fresh, not because they’ve clinched some Caine, but that they are narrated with unabashed voices. You wade through the poems, the story titled Lotanna and the story told from the POV of a weapon, and you wonder how, indeed, some writers are willing to put in the work. The bonus is, there’s no charges on downloading. Just visit CFW and find the download link (it should be up here as soon as I can access it).

What’s more? There’s a second publication. An anthology. Long Walk To Freedom. Thirty stories with a central, salient cry – Home is where freedom lies. The price of freedom costs more than rubies, yet the editors have decided to put up the anthology at an affordable price. Hit us at CFW to find out more. Each download matters simply because, essentially, our stories are worth telling.

And worth reading!!!

Feeble Words

Yet, when he looked at Peter again, his heartbeat ceased and something nibbled at him, something dangerous, like a tiny virus waiting to explode.

tomato

“It will be in your third year. On a Wednesday, the third day of the week, three girls from your department will ask you to come pray for a roommate who’s fighting a headache. And by the next morning you will begin to reconsider the word pure.”

Bolade had not expected the response and when Peter did not smile and say it was a joke, he hit his roommate and said, “You are joking, right?”

Peter smiled. “Scared already?”

A small smile formed on Bolade’s lips and his breathing returned to normal. He smiled at Peter’s smile and moments later, a gentle air had settled into the room. They talked about the remaining exams and about the windy break. Peter wanted to see some movies, visit some girls, make some money. In that order.

“You are crazy, right?”

“Not half as you,” Peter said.

Bolade cut his gaze and stared at the walls, at the scriptures emblazoned with black marker. Romans 6. Romans 8. The last verses of the opening chapter of Ephesians. Verses he wrote to ward off evil spirits and temptations lurking at the bend. Yet, when he looked at Peter again, his heartbeat ceased and something nibbled at him, something dangerous, like a tiny virus waiting to explode.

That evening, he left Bolade in the room and went to church, wearing a white shirt. At the entrance, where he logged in his name on the worker’s form, he stared at the usher with dimples and wondered if she too had engaged in a dialogue similar to his, if she too had reconsidered pure. The usher sighted him and smiled, a harmless expression, but in her face were dangerous stones, as if she would rather be alone with him.

A numb headache seized Bolade’s brain. He closed his eyes and breathed, telling himself he was having the strange thoughts because of Peter’s words and that he should not have listened – he should have shut his ears and prayed in tongues.

Later, when the President spoke on the importance of praying in tongues, the microphone firm in one hand, the free arm flailing at the end of each word, like a virtual stamp, Bolade turned his back to the church and squeezed his eyes the tightest and prayed.

He did not wait for Tope after service and, on his way out, the usher smiled at him again.

He did not smile back.

*

He stood on Stateline road, edging towards the junction, studying the night traffic. The moon was in hiding and the air had a mustiness to it, like wine abandoned in a cellar. He watched as humans drifted by, male and female, young and young, old and young, the stupid and the more stupid, and after many minutes, he began to feel like just a number, as if his purpose was just to fill up one more hole.

A boy hawked moinmoin, the transparent container perfectly balanced on his head, like it was his conjoined twin, reminding Bolade of the couple he’d seen earlier, fingers linked as if they were born like that. He closed his eyes and opened them only when a hooter drummed into his hearing.

The driver yelled from inside the cab. “You fool.”

Bolade started to respond then choked on his words. He faced the other side of the road and watched the approaching van, a white van with no plate, and for a brief spell, he considered rooting his legs in the middle of the road, and how Mama would cry that the village people had finally gotten to her, taking her only child, her okansoso.

The word lingered in Bolade’s ears long after the van had faded. Okansoso.

His phone buzzed. Tope. He watched the call fade into voicemail and heard her voice, soft, warm, fragile, suitable for the usher she was, and he imagined if she too had been told to sell out. Like the usher who smiled at him.

A couple walked by. Bolade noticed them because as their shadows covered his, the guy hit the lady on the butt. Bolade’s eyes froze. Stopped moving. He watched as the lady looked over her shoulder, a grin consuming her features, as if she just won a major feat, and the guy whispered, and then they walked on, nonchalantly, like hitting someone’s butt was tradition.

He realized the meaning of the word, impure then. Impure was hitting someone’s butt in the middle of the road and laughing over it while you bought fried yam and potatoes. Impure was plastering a poster with a lady clad in bikini at the main gate. Impure was thinking about an usher’s lips.

His phone buzzed again.

“Hello.”

“I’ve been calling you since eternity.”

“Sorry,” Bolade said. A soft hum filtered into his hearing. “Are you at home?”

“Yes, I am in my lodge.” Pause. “No, you are not welcome.”

“Wait outside,” he said and ended the call.

Minutes on, he stood in front of the gate and listened for the creak of the lock. A flashlight shone under the gate. He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, lights blinded him.

“Sleep-standing?”

Tope hit him. Her hand was soft. Her skin was soft. He told himself it was wrong to think of a worker’s skin as soft, but then she touched his cheek again, in a way that surprised him, in a way that he assumed she felt was perfectly normal, in a way that tingled his nerves and set his hair on an electron-charged path.

Slowly, he removed her fingers.

“I couldn’t see you in church.”

“Yeah,” Tope said.

Bolade wanted to tell her about his roommate’s statement, and how he felt so odd and so weird, and how odd and weird felt so feeble to describe how he actually felt. He held her fingers because he was beginning to feel cold, and she wrapped her skin around him.

“It will be fine,” Tope said. Bolade nodded, his head bobbing like a pendulum fitted to a thin limb.

Tope drew him into a hug. He did not think about the coldness of her skin. “I wanted to bleed my skin,” he said, his voice cracking, like the surface of an icy pond. “He was saying all stuffs about sex and I should have hit his face but I did not.”

He drew away from Tope’s hug, stared at her face highlighted by a dull moon. “Imagine. He thought it was ridiculous I hadn’t kissed anyone at nineteen.”

Tope smiled. Something sparked in Bolade’s head then, when Tope smiled, her lower lip and her upper lip blending together like they would if they were locking on watermelon. And he knew. He just knew.

“You. Too?”

He suddenly wanted to puke. He ran backwards till his head smacked a fence and turned and punched his stomach, the points below his navel, but nothing came out. He heard Tope come towards him and he ran, his rhythm uncertain, with a dangerous swagger, like someone who had drank too much stale wine. He ran past the main gate with the naked poster, past the sheriffs controlling the flow of cars. He ran to his room and flung himself on the bed and began to cry.

*

That night, he dreamed. He sat on a bench with weak limbs, his bible spread open before him, his eyes sullen from a truckload of tears. The door to the church drifted open and Tope entered. She reached him in four strides and sat on the bench, their knees touching.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

And then, they began to cry.

 

P.S: Try to think of purity as a tomato fruit. A chunk, however minute, off the smooth, succulent skin would leave the fruit deformed till kingdom come. Even if you are justified in taking the chunk. It’s simply logic to wait till the time when you can have the whole fruit to yourself.

Jesus would say this to the multitude. Parables. Go figure.

To Tell A Story

I.

“We should talk,” I say.

She rolls her eyes. “You know how much clichés don’t settle with me.” She sits and places one leg over the other in a go-ahead manner. “Let’s talk.”

I lean against the wall and stare at her. “So, first, I was thinking, maybe I should quit writing.”

Her lips flatten and she pulls a smile. Not the reaction I was expecting. “Second?”

“That’s all.”

“That’s all?”

“Well, I thought you would react and there would be something else to say in argument or defense against your statement and the second and third points would originate hence.”

“Okay.” Debbie opens her bag and brings out a note which she sets on the table. Bracing her jaw with two elbows, she flips a page and pores over it. She wears a black dress with pink belt. I notice she doesn’t look too good in black. The silence grows uncomfortable.

“You aren’t saying nothing.”

“Hmm.” She gives a small laugh. She turns another leaf, mouthing words. I drift closer and read from the page. Altruism and Egoism. Philosophy junk. I feel a tiny bite in me, as if by condemning the course I am writing poor grades for myself. For Debbie.

“Are you an egoist?”

Blink. “What!”

She looks up. “You are an egoist.”

“I don’t practice self-love.”

“Self-love doesn’t make you an egoist, dude.” She is finally talking. A low hum settles in the room. The door creaks as a student enters, backpack slacking down his shirt. His hair is a combed bush. He looks like those who would do something because they felt like, not because it’s tagged right or wrong. Some egoist.

“Who is an egoist?”

Debbie closes the book and stares at me, haunting black eyes. No lipstick and no foundation. She looks like a pallbearer’s spouse.

“I don’t want to talk about it again.” She hangs her bag and heads down the stairs at a steady pace. Doesn’t look back once. I watch as her form shrinks till she gets to the door, turns sideways and slips out. I am still watching when something snaps in my head, like the jolt one feels when he’s running from a monster when there’s a loaded handgun in the pocket of his jeans. Some jolt.

The air outside is strangely cool. A ball of sun travels southward. Sun doesn’t travel southward. I reorient my view and look again. It’s headed west, just as Debbie. I remain frozen for seconds, then shout her name.

A thousand eyes look around, among them, Debbie’s.

I approach her with my hands swinging and experience a flashback to the mornings we walked down the hallway with our arms swinging by our sides and a soft breeze tossing, teasing our hair. Days when I wrote a lot and showed her the lot I wrote. Days when my muse was not at the base of a cash box.

I reach her and, lost for words, say, “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t need you to be sorry.” A pair of sights linger on her. “This ain’t the cinema,” she says. The two guys look on. Debbie shakes her head, starts walking, dragging me behind. “Perhaps I should jog your memory.”

We turn a bend.

“You started writing even before you came to school, before you dreamed of meeting me, before –”

“I have always thought for you.”

Smile. “Be focused on the point,” she says. “You wrote then because you felt the burden to, not because you wanted to write well or teach others the craft or earn some wads. You read strictly and you wrote strictly.” Pause. “All of which crumbled when you became a student. So now, you want to quit writing.” She curves her lower lip. “Like it’s an internship.”

I stare blankly.

“I’m not the writer, you know. You settle it with yourself, if the burden you felt has released you. Or maybe it is you who released the burden. You settle it within yourself.”

She resumes her walk.

“What about us?”

Without looking back, she says, “You know my room.”

II.

The laptop screen is split. Not literally. I view two different screens, one possessing a blank document, the other showing a folder. In the folder are thirteen stories, all penned since the year broke, more than half of which have gone to submissions or competitions, only a handful succeeding in turning necks.

I maximize the partitioned section such that the document with a page as white as angelic robes stares at me. I stare back. A thousand thoughts flow between us, but no words. No, the words haven’t come for a while. The left corner of the screen shows the time, half past two in the afternoon. By four, I would begin to prepare for church. An hour later, my gaze would lock with Debbie’s and I would tell her, “I couldn’t write again.”

I take a puff and scroll to PDF reader, settling for a novel. A reread. I realized recently I had exhausted my collection of books. Perhaps I should write one.

I pick my phone and punch in a text. Hi. Thing is, I don’t know exactly what is eating the sense in my head. At times, I think it’s a lack of similes and metaphors. Sometimes I feel my characters are too abstract. Other times, it’s as if the story was called back from the dead and is yet to find fresh air. Okay, that’s a simile. I’ve prayed and, not like I’m open to answers…

The reply comes almost immediately. Go to the nearest house around you with staircases. Climb to the balcony. Stand at the top of the railings, close your eyes, spread your arms. Jump. As you fall, just before your body hits sand, think of all the things you would have loved to say before your death. Go tell those stories.

For a moment, I forget to breathe. The background light on the laptop fades. The clock strikes three pm.
P.S: See that picture above? That’s the idea of a blank screen, the page we face and attempt to conquer in every single story…