… For the Craftsman in Us

Thinking back, that thought came not because the story was fascinating (it kinda was, but the plot had enough holes it’d house a dinosaur) but because I enjoyed wasting so much minutes.

​”This day would come. You’d complete a task and slouch in the seat and consider how soggy the task seems, yet, you would be powerless to ignore the fluttering of your heart, the aches in your finger, and the numbing feeling that you enjoyed what you did. The day you feel this way about any craft, it is then that you’ve found what to do” – Michael Emmanuel. 
I remember with stunning clarity the morning I knew I would be a writer. It came like every other sunrise. Dawn broke at 6:15am. A soft wind swept our compound, and by the next hour, there was a thousand chores to tackle. The sink stunk of unwashed dishes, crumbs of spaghetti dotting its interior. Two mugs lay face-down, butts smeared with liquid soap. A row of ants crept in and out, having a fill.
In the bathroom, half a dozen round-necks were stacked against the walls. The tiles could use a scrubbing. A broom, parted at the middle, stood at the entrance, considering the mess and making mental notes. It would file a complaint with the chief.
Question was, how? How would it reach the chief but through me?
Oblivious to the discontent, I sat by the window and chewed a pen cover, suddenly feeling dumped. Before me was a new note, one page filled. As I stared at the tree behind the fence, I concluded I had judged wrong. Perhaps everyone could write, so long I wasn’t a part of everyone. 

Thing was, I wasn’t green in the field of writing. My first original story was an assignment. I got nine of ten marks with a ‘See me’ addendum. The examiner wanted to be assured the story was my brainchild. Yes, I said, flushing. Two years later, I found a small note and wrote three – or two – pages of an intriguing novel and forgot all about it. Three years from that first submission, and with age beginning to chisel my face, I learnt how to write a story that wouldn’t have you puking. My resolve lasted a week 

In fact, I grew certain it was my last try… 
… Until this awkward morning. Watching the trees and wind, I felt I could do it. So, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote, till my fingers stiffed. A bucket of relief soaked me when I let the pen rest. Finally, the bestseller had come. 
Thinking back, that thought came not because the story was fascinating (it kinda was, but the plot had enough holes it’d house a dinosaur) but because I enjoyed wasting so much minutes. 
The clothes still hadn’t been washed. One row of ants had become a thick black mass attacking the kitchen. The sun had reached its peak. My stomach was groaned and growled. I borrowed comfort in the hope that the story would make gazillions of crisp notes. 
It obviously didn’t. I’m clueless as to the location of the aforementioned note. But one thing has remained – my fingers still ache from writing. 

Writers don’t put up this type of posts till they are well grounded (that is, sold respectable copies of books, snagged a few awards, spoken at a busload of events, etc…). I did this because, 1) it didn’t feel wrong and 2) my next birthday is under my nose and 3) someone needs to see this.
That person may be me. 
Since that Monday two years back, I’ve studied a couple books on writing, read novels till my eyeballs shrunk, typed and typed, dug up story ideas and flipped them out, followed some blogs and opened one, applied for a handful competitions, grown up, gotten this disturbing beard, made new friends, and written…
Summary: Being a craftsman is unlike planting. If a woman drops six seeds of maize in the ground, she expects a matured plant half a year later. Anything else and she’d get on her prayer gears. Writing, like singing, like painting, like photography or designing, doesn’t work that way. Some achieve success quickly. Others learn to queue. 
But, if we do it right, and do it well, and do it with intent, we won’t always remain unknown. This, I firmly believe. 

P.S: I’m nursing the thought of putting fiction here for the next few posts. Thinking of consistency. Pray for me, reader. I’m entering a new age. 

Knowledge,… Huh,… Fear 

Walk to a library or bookshop. Skim a section you wouldn’t stumble upon if you were in blindfolds. Pick a book. Read in a posture unfamiliar to you.

​”He who reads lives a thousand times. The non-reader lives a measly one.” – Paraphrase of a famous quote. 

Today, I called at the library. It was not a first.  The sun had resumed and a passive wind blew about. Outside, students wandered in flocks, throats gurgling with anticipation, with zeal, with a certain fear of the unknown.

Two buildings towered opposite the library – a techie theatre and a computer center. (Notice the alliteration)? The theatre, a gray edifice seated on an uneven patch of grass, drew few heads. The center did. Once a while, a pinch of undergrads would trip out from the north side and would immediately be buried in a sea of students-turned-reporters. The question? “What came out in your exam?”
Can we ever avoid fear? Not all the inquisitive students were unprepared. I can testify of a twin who read till they misplaced each other. Yet, they panicked. Noticing the unpleasant trend, I slipped into the library. 


Nothing had changed since the last time. Not the porter’s desk that curved like a sharp arrow. Not the male cloakroom littered with a gob of black bags as if they contained secret documents. The man behind the desk was bent on a recent newspaper. He acknowledged me and… 
I was in. The air in the general reading room was redolent of a ghostly silence, like God demanded it. I paused for seconds, then ventured in, two steps, before veering left. A leather chair smiled at me and I smiled back. “No, thank you. I would not be tempted to sit and doze away while my mates are writing exams.” The space allotted for books were stuffed with mahogany shelves, the distance between each allowing room for one athletic body to weave his way. I went past the first two as if they did not exist. Then, on the fifth, and with a lot of zigzag motion, I discovered a treasure. 
Are your eyes popping? They should. The treasure was not the typical chestnut gleaming with coins, but a paperback coated with Spring dust. I walked to the carrel and picked a specific chapter. And my brain opened as if in a cooling system. I read about genes. I saw the 46 chromosomes in every human. I studied the soft blue eyes of a patient suffering Downs Syndrome. I exchanged words with Genghis Khan, the famous – maybe infamous – Indian warrior. 

If you haven’t attempted this, do. Walk to a library or bookshop. Skim a section you wouldn’t stumble upon if you were in blindfolds. Pick a book. Read in a posture unfamiliar to you. Read, letting each letter bloom, as if you don’t need the knowledge. What happens is that your head and heart synchronize like you’re witnessing the rapture, and your eyes soak in data at a rate the fastest computer can’t match. Don’t think about the subject being absorbed. Try to yield to those unexpected burps. Laugh and shriek like Brad Pitt stopped by your house. 
It was awesome. It was riveting. Really, we’ve deprived ourselves of so much by turning away from books, or grabbing them for the sake of examinations. While I boast many more e-books than the printed stuffs, nothing matches the pleasure of holding a book. 
I would eventually leave, but those moments are wedged in the unknown places of my subconscious. I returned two hours later and surveyed three chapters of No-Tech Hacking by Johnny Long. The information would come in handy, I know. 
It’s evening as I punch these words. An uncertain, calming breeze lifts nylons on a baked pavement. I concluded the rereading of Divergent (e-book, as hoped) some minutes back. I still have exams this week, and I’m not in the top ten Dazzling Minds yet. 
However, this I’ve learned – we can not avoid fear. But we can overcome it. It’s a running theme in the Divergent series. And besides, we can do this in Christ. It’s always a simple step of coming to Him. 
P.S: I intended writing about knowledge, but, huh, fear poked its face. So, it’s two tastes in one serving. Think about knowledge. Think about conquering your fear. 

My phone didn’t tag along, so the picture credit goes to Ted Dekker’s Facebook page. Thank you for reading. 

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? 

What Happened On Saturday?

Hello.

I have been away for so long, so long blogging feels odd, like a beginner taking the first strokes in a swimming pool. I intended to break the silence with a post entirely different from what you are seeing, but it is. And what can the petite me do to twist the fingers of fate?

Well, today’s Saturday, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Makes it a special Saturday. And I’ve written about this Saturday. What exactly went down on Saturday? That Saturday?

Please, this is entirely fiction. Do not draw historical conclusions. Thank you very much. Soon, I’d get back to blogging, and stating the reasons for the absence. Enjoy.

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“Saturday was smack-down. Right before the smash, no one predicted the outcome. It was unprecedented, yet predestined.”

The boy giggles. “Father, you’re speaking literature.”

Josiah smiles. “Forgive me.” He sips from the bowl on the table. The boy turns ever briefly to consider the trembling water. It is calm after a few seconds, as if it was never disturbed, much like the sea of Galilee responded when Christ gave the command.

Josiah walks to the shelf pushed against the north wall of the room. “Samuel, come.” He’s speaking the boy’s name for the first time, and it tastes sweet. Honey

“You have a kid story on this festival?”

Samuel stretches his fingers to the second row and runs them along five, ten books, stopping on a hardcover. The book is coated in dust as expected, a problem Josiah handles with a rag. He moves to the table and shifts the bowl of water.

He raises his head to find Sam by his side. Hunger bites the kid’s smile.

“See, Good Friday. Enough historical research and opinions. Ashterah, Easter eggs, buns, blah, blah, blah.” Josiah feels the anger in his tone before he looks at the boy. “Sorry.”

Sam shrugs.

He turns two leaves. “And the resurrection, which occurred on Sunday.” Three pages were dedicated to the happenings on that day – the attire Mary had on while she approached the tomb, how she could have observed the angels with naked eyes, debates ranging from what Peter said to how John reacted.

“What do you want me to see, father?”

“This.” Josiah jabs a finger at a page filled to the half with words. Saturday. “Nothing much is said of Saturday, except that it had to pass.”

“But…”

“But showdown occurred on Saturday. The devil thought he was winning, and the next snap, he was under Christ’s feet. Christ had won. He was raised by His Father. It’s like having a two wrestlers tug, with one bound for defeat. In a thunderbolt, the condemned has forever knocked his opponent out.” Josiah exchanges a glance with Samuel. “How does that sound?”

“Surreal.”

“It was real.”

“Yes, Father. It was.” Samuel watches the grandmother clock nailed adjacent the doorpost. A quarter before seven pm. Almost dinnertime. He turns slowly. “Father, why did Jesus not rise on Saturday? Why Sunday?”

“Why not Monday?” Josiah asks. “Did the Lord require forty-eight hours before the resurrection could take place?”

Samuel stares.

“No, don’t answer. As you know, son, the details of his death, burial, and resurrection, were recorded to the details by the prophets.”

“And by the psalmist.”

The passage came to Josiah as if he were just reviewing it. I am poured out like water… My bones are out of joints… They pierced My joints and feet…

“The twenty-second psalm,” Samuel says.

“The twenty-second psalm,” Josiah says. Hence, The Lord is my shepherd. Because he rose… the twenty-third psalm.

“He rose on Sunday.”

“Oh, He did.” There’s a gurgle in Josiah’s throat, like wine signaling to burst. “He did, so we live.”

There’s a knock at the door. “Mother,” Sam whispers.

Josiah, leaning on the wall such that his view is to the window, nods and shuts his eyes. Footsteps fade.

“What happened on Sunday?” Sam asks.

“Rejoicing. Rejoicing in heaven, rejoicing that’s not an everyday occurrence.” There’s a steep silence, then a soft whoosh.

“Rejoicing,” Josiah whispers again, eyes unopened. He sings into the darkness.

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. 

Monday Morning… 

​ 

 I remember Monday morning precisely as Ben Carson recalls the day he separated the Binder twins. I remember it like Ted Dekker cannot forget the day Black was published, like Science cannot forget the day Newton’s laws were postulated, like Music cannot forget the day Hallelujah chorus entered our world, like a prude recalls with clarity the place where she had her first sex. 
  Monday morning did not start at 12am or 6am. Perhaps the time is of no importance, for time is a subject of perception. Nine minutes and eight seconds to a grammarian wouldn’t be defined the way a physicist would define it. 
  It was three forty-seven in the morning, second hand ticking twenty when my eyes, heavy as a detached leg of an elephant, shifted from the clock to the sheet spread before me. My eyes weren’t heavy because I lacked sleep. They weren’t heavy because I had the previous evening. 
  They were heavy because I had worked them. 
  The entrance to the room was steeped slightly upward. I stared at the vast of black sheltering the compound. To the left were decrepit structures with jutted roofs. These structures displayed wares for fourteen hours as students trooped in tiny flocks to see to their needs. These structures fed families of twos and fours, and the woman with child. 
  Ahead, a field coated with dry cement swallowed a respectable segment of the floor. Invisible white lines bordered all sides of the field. A pole swayed in the center of the field, bearing a halogen lamp. The lamp was not functioning. 
  The sky was stuffed with stars impossible to count. I buttoned up to prevent an onrush of wind slamming against the exterior of the room. A tag scribbled in bold fonts spelled READING ROOM. 
  Movement behind had me turning. None of the fourteen students – all male – had changed positions. The boy with the KEEP CALM shirt was still lost in his letters. Two rows ahead, another sat with mouth so wide it’d swallow a basketball. Spittle hung on his lower lip. 
  I walked over to my wrinkled drawing sheet and smoothened the tuft. Though disturbed by the howl, the beauties constructed in thin lines, thirteen of them, held my gaze. As I considered, I spotter angles that had required patches and manipulations. 
  I recall all these for it was Monday morning. Monday morning was the moment you dragged a bag to the floor, not minding the scattered contents. Monday morning was the moment for sorting out assignments from notes, like the Shepherd does sheep from goats. 
  Monday morning was the beginning of five days of intense, choky learning. 
  This Monday morning, I couldn’t help but not be afraid. I had, after all, spent 25% of a day working constructions. The week would be windy, a stretch, but I’d survive. My fingers would not bleed and my eyes would not fall out of my head. I wouldn’t call black grey or label a banana as cereal. 
  So I believed. 
  It is Thursday now. The sky is overcast with mournful colors. I watch a Camry teach a bus lessons on road swiftness. I’m walking along the concrete pavement that extends the length of the tarred road, thinking about the day before. I cannot recall in staggering details the things which have shaped me these last days. I cannot begin to tell of the habits, the irritations, the lad who plays flute at a quarter to midnight…
  I do know with all assurance that my eyes, heavy still, are yet to fall off my head. In this do I delight. 

Dear Young 

News of your admission to college came to me like a lover receives the proposal of her partner. To say it gave me great joy would be to repeat a quotidian phrase, but as you’d learn in the journey you are set to embark, nothing is absolutely wrong or perfectly correct.

Hello. For today’s post, I attempted writing to a younger me. As I’ve overtly suggested in the last two posts, I’m in school. So, I penned to a fictional me the things I’d have loved to know. 

Here it goes. 

********

  

Dear Young, 
  News of your admission to college came to me like a lover receives the proposal of her partner. To say it gave me great joy would be to repeat a quotidian phrase, but as you’d learn in the journey you are set to embark, nothing is absolutely wrong or perfectly correct. There are thick and thin black lines, white lines, gray lines, and brown ones. The play is yours. 
  You requested that I give you candid advices as you prepare for resumption, well aware I once maneuvered this road. Not so off, but I should warn you. Never engage this method with anyone. Now, the response. Your brows are arched, right? Your lips are knotted in a bewildered smile. I urge you, listen. 
  The ancient ones quipped, “Experience is the best teacher.” Without permission, I modify. “Experience is a masterful tutor, appropriate for some specific sessions.” One of such is being a Freshman with the intent of obtaining a degree. As you balance bags on both arms, your pocket jammed with bills, let thy head remain blank. 
  I know, I know, you’ve been choked with warnings and stories and rumors. “Remember the son of whom you are.” “Try as much to avoid relationships in your first year. The foundation must be solid.” “Discover what works best for you and stick to it like parasite to host.” “Cut frivolities.” And the one which always beg a grin. “Don’t join bad gangs.” All commendable instructions, but… 
  Dump them in the bin. Loll in the backseat as you’re driven to the park. You might be fortunate to leave late in the morning. Don’t struggle to catch an interstate bus – and you may if you wish. They say you don’t sleep when making your first trip. Please, do, like a baby overwhelmed with love. Get snacks and drink to satisfaction. Take a silent belch. Alight with grace, then take a deep breath. The first human you notice must enter your diary. 
  During your first week, you’d be hit with a streak of surprises. If you had taken the advices of elders to heart, your reaction would likely be irritation. If you didn’t, your reaction would be awful wonder. When you stumble into the hostel’s kitchen and meet the sink clogged with brown soapy water, strands of noodles and sachets of paste, shut your eyes and turn slowly. Try to stifle the grouse. Attimes, you’d be in a hurry, perhaps a mistimed class or a formalty meeting. Those are the moments you practice rinse-and-spray. You have no business with the bathroom on those days. These are the things experience alone teaches. 
  If you ever considered yourself an academician, prepare to be dwarfed. If you thought you weren’t dotty towards intense studying, know you’d meet more passive students. Lectures? Stab as much as doesn’t pile towards a negative effect. You might wake one hot afternoon and discover your ears were deaf to an assignment, cross the ocean if necessary, but get it done. 
  Last I remembered, you were pretty inclined towards fashion. Hmm. Snag your seatbelts, cause you’d be schooled on dressing. You will be out under the walkway at noon, bent over your dirty laundry. You’ll raise your head and notice two guys. The first will be clad in track pants, a gray vest defining his torso. He’d run a thick comb through his hair, sweeping every last tuft. He’d make a sideway spin, brushing his beards. As he observes every ritual, you will run your imagination loose. You’d note he cares more about the message he communicates than his outfit. Then, you’ll realize the other fellow is cloth-concerned, his black trousers a bit large and his baseball cap totally not it. 
  You’d have had a bout with envy prior to this new phase, but the form which awaits is the other side of envy. Here, you do not long for the branded belt of a roommate or an icy drink a classmate consumes after a stuffy class. Rather, you’d lust after mental things – the accuracy of a mate’s construction, the tongues of the midnight prayer warrior, the skill of the boy next door. Ever had an affair with worry? School would cleanse your blood of it. 
  I suppose I’m exceeding the expected length. There are a lot of things yet to be scraped. In one sentence, discard all Advice, including this. If there’s one thing I’d strongly recommend, it’s life. Get the life into your system before you set foot in the institution. With that, you might fall, but you’d not collapse. You’d be weary, but you’d faint not. And God-willing, you would read the second part of this letter when you complete the course. 
Till then, 

Your friend, 

Michael. 

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Comments? Opinions?