On the Sixth Sense and Other Things

Smile

I.

“That’s how they behave, those hundred level students.”

The speaker holds off your stare as if he expects a retort but is certain you can’t offer one due to the years between you. Four years, you recall. Four freaking ones between you and the speaker who has more wrinkles on his face than wisdom in his brain, and suddenly, you wish he didn’t make the statement.

Later, you told Debbie. “The best he could have said was freshmen.”

“Freshmen?” A small laugh. “Why? What difference does it make?”

You shrug, certain she can’t see your shoulders lift. “There’s something about the word. Freshmen, kind of hedges you into a box in which some certain attitude are expected of you. No one blames a freshman who discovers, a minute to class, that he neither knows what course he’s having nor the venue. Hundred level student means, ‘you are now a part of us.’ Like you’ve been accepted into the pack and have matured from the box.”

“I assume this is purely objective? Not relative?”

“Simple words, Debbie.”

Another small laugh. “I mean, it’s your own opinion? Not a universal idea?”

“Not like they use hundred level student in the states,” you say.

“Wait, you didn’t say what you did.”

“What?”

“What’s what? You had to have done something wrong.”

“Well…”

“Well?”

“Get to school first,” you say.

“Cheeky.”

“I’m serious. When are you coming?”

“Soon.”

“Could be –”

“Anytime. You are a writer and a science geek. Draw an estimate of when soon would be.”

“That’s not –”

“Talk to you later,” Debbie says. A tone chirps. Call ends.

You set the phone at the edge of the bunk and set your arms parallel to each other, your eyes glazing over the textbook, your breath as even as the pace of a brakeless sedan. You begin to hyperventilate. I’m hyperventilating. I’m gonna have a heart attack. Not that sweat is breaking off your face or you are twitching, but you just know. It’s something the writing maestros call…

The sixth sense.

Goes like, Jack could swear he heard the door hush open as he poured a glass of drink or when the boy woke, he knew tragedy had struck. Yes, his roommates were all asleep, their snores a symphonic melody, and his fingers had not been chopped off, but he knew something terrible had happened. He just knew. Said boy then climbs off his bed, lands with one palm facedown, lifts the palm to see it’s soaked up blood, bulges his eyes as he spots a trail of blood coming from the window, holds back a scream, and checks his nearest roommate to find a pool of blood around his neck.

When said boy would be asked how he knew someone had died, he wouldn’t say, “I just knew.” Instead, he would say, “I woke like it was a normal day, got down, yawned, whispered a few prayers, made a mental note to call my class rep, noticed a pen was on the floor, bent to pick it, and lifted blood.”

It is so easy to lie, to twist statements in reported speech. It is so easy to dodge out the sixth sense.

II.

It’s half an hour since you started thinking of the sixth sense. Half an hour since you denied your MTS textbook a touch. Half an hour since you called Debbie and told her about the curmudgeon final year brother.

Your phone chirps. You know it’s Mother. You just know.

“Hello.”

“Something bad happened.”

“Ma?”

“How are you doing?” she asks.

“I’m alive. You were saying –”

“Are you in a class?”

“No ma,” you say.

“How’s school, fellowship, friends…?”

“They are all good. Ma.”

Only when she keeps the questions rolling do you realize something bad did not happen. It was just a play on your mind.

“I’m feeling a bit somnolent,” says Mother. “Can I call back?”

“Yes,” you say and end the call.

You climb down the bed like the fictional boy would have done. Inside your backpack is a book. A higher education note. It’s filled with over five hundred words, dating back to the days you never assumed you’d be a hundred level student, days when you didn’t know zilch about writing and Debbie. You slap a page open, then another, until you arrive at the word.

Somnolent. A bit of drowsiness. Whoa. A surprised air settles into the room. You trace down, to curmudgeon. A crusty, irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn idea.

Not allowed. You hold the book and silently say, not allowed, because you’ve read a few many blog posts by professional editors who often speak about writing in simple, comprehensible terms. They normally end with, “the adverb – and adjective – is not your friend. Except you intend producing a potboiler.”

So, silently, you remind yourself that you cannot, in any event, slot in the word curmudgeon in a piece of writing because it has three strange qualifiers in it.

Slowly, you return the book and crawl back to the bed, suddenly moody, and totally not intending to wash it off.

A minute later, you count the number of adverbs you used. Five. Very good, writer.

III.

When Debbie picks, you say, “You are on your way.”

A pause. “How do you figure?”

“Sixth sense.” You can be honest with Debbie.

A small laugh. “Hmm.”

“Seems you plucked off a habit during the strike period.”

“Which is?”

“Small laughs.”

“Hmm. I’d mull on it.”

“Mull.”

“Means meditate. Can’t believe you don’t know the word, a writer.”

“I’m a writer, not a litterateur.”

Silence. Static air creeps into the call. “A writer of literary works,” Debbie says.

“You cheated,” you retort. “You checked the word on your phone.”

Another small laugh. Guilty, guilty.

“How about excogitate?”

“No idea,” she says.

“Means meditate. Mull.”

“Touché,” says Debbie. “Sacrilegious.”

“Synonym of blasphemous. Cretin?”

“Idiot. Arcane?”

“Meant to be secretive. Same as –”

“Esoteric,” Debbie says. Her voice drops. “I think we should stop. I’m beginning to get this weird looks from passengers, like I’m Soyinka’s distant niece.”

“Uncanny would be a suitable word.”

“Yeah, definitely. Creepy. Uncanny. Weird. Outré. Gotta go,” she says.

“Yeah. See you in a trice.”

“Get off,” she says. She laughs.

You end the call and start laughing. A roommate pokes his head and watches you, his eyes twisted in a way that suggests uncanny. Yeah, definitely uncanny.

P.S: Thank you very much for reading. What do you think about the picture? Does the emoji justify the absent M in smile? There’s a micro post on my Instagram page where something’s said about it. You can check it out here

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How You Know You Are Busy 

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

I.

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

No blood.

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

You remember a lot of things too.

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

You jump.

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

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

II.

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

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

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

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

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

I need the design in three hours.

III.

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

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

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

Your brain bursts.

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

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

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

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

Mr. Adebayo says, “Is it ready?”

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

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

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

You did not save the design.

****

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

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

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. 

*********

Comments? Opinions? 

Catching Up 

Ralph is his name… He’s realized he’s on an island, as I am.
This is my first post for 2017. It was worth writing and sharing.

​  The first page of ‘Lord of the flies’, a young boy with a round nose wakes and observes his body feels like a sauna. His shirt, torn, sticks to his skin like adhesive, and heat shoots up his leg. A voice calls out. He spins slowly. The lad who called is rubbing his cheek, stumbling towards the boy.

“Hey,” lad shouts. He’s struggling to cover the distance. Fats of flesh flap on both cheeks.

The boy struts forward. “What’s your name?”

“My classmates, in school, they call me Piggy,” the lad whispers, “but it isn’t my real name.”

“Piggy,” the boy claps. “Piggy, Piggy, Fatty.”

“Don’t shout. I don’t want the others to know.”

The boy stops. Arches eyebrows. “There are others?”

“A plane,” Piggy says. “We was on a plane. Excursion. The plane crashed.”

The boy looks around. Up ahead, there’s a vast emptiness, bordered by a calm sea to the left and swirling tall trees on the right. He assumes one has coconut – the one with broad, wretched leaves. 

“A crash, you say?”

“The hostess said before everything passed out. Crash.” Piggy follows the boy. “You didn’t say your name.”

The boy doesn’t answer. 

Ralph is his name, and his numbness is because he’s just realising they are on an island. As Ralph awakened, so did I. Not that my happening upon the island was without forewarning. There are some changes you can’t prepare for, changes ramming into the victim like the fender of a sixteen-wheeler.

For this reason, I was on hiatus for three weeks. Unable to access the internet community and brazing for a switch in environment, I had my arms open for the worst. All the plans for Christmas/New Year washed into the river without consideration.

This post should be for catching up, and here are the things I’ve navigated.

(The picture was taken last September. Then, I’d gained six pounds. Pretty certain I’ve burned twice more now.)
First, I was immersed so much in fiction I forgot fiction could happen. Consequence was I was denied access to social media and a week later, to writing. November had been my busiest writing month and I intended wrapping up during the festive season. But the event came as a thief in the night, literally. I’m not sure I’ve blogged since. 

In quick succession, I landed in new weathers. Given, I was ready, as much as ready went, but it’s been tasking. Some things exist that cannot be learned by reading, – and I say this as a writer – or by any other means. Experience matters. After all, what coach can predict the exact passes that would lead to a goal? Or the goal scorer and assister and exact second?

Before I moved, I backed up my writings and books on two disks – one with my brother, the other with me. I would be moving deviceless, I might as well have a contingency plan. And so this day, finding someone with a laptop, I plugged my disk and….

Empty books. There were zero books. Also, the one and a half novels I wrote was poof.

Now, here I am, two weeks into the year, writing my first post. I have a small device now – so small it takes one hour to type what I’d do in fifteen minutes. There are no books here (not novel, not classics, not how-to books, nothing), no music, no video, no manuscript to edit or finish. 

Luckily, I got a spiritual book from a senior. It’s one of the best things I’ve had this year. I’ve learned gratitude, joy, and satisfaction. I realized the day before penning this, someone in another milieu is having a similar experience. To that person, be encouraged. Believe in the Lord Jesus, sing a lot, laugh with strangers – they abound here – and be grateful. 

That’s it for today. I have a cough still. I haven’t read a novel this year. I can only write short stories, even started a Mysteries on Campus serial. I’m adjusting to typing on a small screen. There are many classes to attend. I can’t ascertain the amount of errors in this post. 

But, in all things, God is faithful. Say with me, “In all things, God is faithful. Amen.”

Live, Love, Learn

There’s a disorder commonly known as OCD. It basically gets its bearer so worried to the point of refusing meals and every other necessary survival kit. It is an anxiety disorder, and anxiety is no good.

I am, as usual, seated on the yellow plastic chair, laptop on, fingers punching furiously (at least, I presume). The sun is afraid of escaping its shell, gifting the neighborhood a cold weather.

Continue reading “Live, Love, Learn”