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

Advertisements

The Little Things

Hello. It’s been a while. Thirteen days. I’ve been a bit lazy, I admit. But then, the one constant thing about life is that it changes. While I was preparing for this next post, I visited Brittle Paper and saw that, surprise, surprise, a story I sent in three months ago had been published. Perfect timing. You can read the story here. So, as you read the story I put up here, do well to visit the Brittle Paper story too. Two birds in one swing. Enjoy.

download40

I.

“You are not writing,” she says. I tilt my soles. “Again.”

“I am,” I say.

“Then you aren’t sharing.”

“They’re not shareable.”

Her eyebrows twitch. “Hmm.”

We walk down the lane, legs at a steady rhythm, arms swinging by our sides. We love swinging our arms.

“So…”

“No,” I say.

“Yes,” she says.

“I can’t,” I say.

She hits me in the tummy and jogs off before I can react. I pause, smiling, before racing after her. I notice the awkward stares of passersby. “It’s weird,” I want to say. The way we talk is weird. But I love the weirdness.

I catch up with her just at the end of the lane and pull her by the arm.

“Stop, before I do something that’d hurt you.”

“You won’t,” she says. She stops all the same and turns, such that her torso is steadied by my arms. Sort of romantic, except that I don’t like thinking of our relationship as romantic, but as something more.

“Don’t place a bet on it.”

She winks her left eye. “I know you won’t. You won’t,” she says. She hits me and starts running again.

I smile and shake my head. I run after her.

II.

We sit opposite each other in the café. An off-beat song blares from the TV. The artiste’s voice is like a toad’s; to say he’s an artiste is to abuse the noun. The table beside houses a group of freshmen – it is easy to identify them, the way they talk in mumbles, each unable to keep his grandiose idea to himself. The chairs are arranged in a hexagon round a round table. There are six of those tables, thirty chairs.

“I love the arrangement,” I tell her.

“Makes thirteen,” she says.

“I know,” I tell her. We’ve been here thirteen times, and I compliment the sitting arrangement each visit.

The freshmen are arguing about a question. A question in MTS 101, under a topic called Mathematical Induction.

“Mathematics should not even be induced,” one says.

“I agree,” another responds.

One small boy, so small you’d think he was a bagboy, raises his finger, raining silence upon the group.

I turn to my partner. She’s as shocked as I. I hear the boy say, “Our purpose here isn’t to argue about the validity or illogicality of induction under Math, but to determine if the equation –” reads off the equation – “holds when m is 2k and when m is 2k+1.”

Hardly does the boy wraps his non-Nobel winning speech when his peers descend upon him like a pack of wolfs attacking a stray lamb.

“He’s right.”

“He’s wrong.”

“I’m not doing the assignment until I know the concept behind MI.”

“And the man who thought of Mathematical Induction.”

I exchange a smile with my partner. “Get ready to sleep,” I say in response to the last comment.

My partner shakes her head. “They don’t know the water in which they’re swimming.” Her eyes are soft as she speaks, as if she would go over and talk wisdom into their heads, as if it’s her kids arguing over a stupid point.

“I should write about this,” I say.

“Yes,” she says.

I draw my pen and pad. Open. See my last story. Didn’t do so well with me, huh. I shut my eyes, take a breath, part them. I begin to scribble. My partner engages herself in a book, New Creation Realities. Minutes later, or maybe it’s half an hour, but long enough for the newbies to have quieted, I lift my head and close the pad.

I shake my head.

“Nothing?”

I slip her the pad. I haven’t counted sixty when the sound of pages ruffling against one another reaches me.

“This is beautiful,” she says.

“They are,” I say. “They aren’t.”

“Now, you are confusing me.”

I breathe. “Let’s walk.”

III.

The room is quiet when I enter. I catch a roommate sleeping, his mouth gaping like a ready-to-bite whale. I edge towards him and touch his face. He slaps the nothingness away, correcting his posture in the process. I turn around, unhook the strap of my bag and place it on the bed. I flop on the lower bunk, close my eyes, and whisper.

Then I call her. The phone rings. Rings. Rings. I toss it aside and walk to my closet. I reach for my wallet, unzip, produce a single brass key and insert it into the keyhole. Turning the key, I tap my feet softly against the tiled floor and wait for the crack. I pull the closet door back and wait for the creak.

I notice a thousand other feelings – the faint tap, tap emanating from the back of my block, the puff in the air as I inhale a breath, the growl of a body as my roommate turns in his sleep, the indistinct sound that comes just before some books clatter from my closet. Making a mental note to arrange them properly, I take a new breath. It feels so good, to finally be able to notice these little things.

My phone chirps.

“Hello,” she says.

I hear the sound in the background, like metal grinding against metal.

“Are you in a workshop?”

“Nope,” she says. “Grating pepper.”

Yes. Pepper. The grater. Metal against metal.

“Wow,” I say. I give her a rundown. “You know, over the last two months, I’ve had this feeling that everything I write isn’t good enough. It’s like I’ve set a standard for myself, and anything that doesn’t meet it, not minding the beauty, is not good.” I pause, letting her catch a breath. A door opens.

“Gimme a minute,” she says. Her voice mellows as she addressed the visitant. Seconds later, “Hey.”

“Still here,” I reply.

“You deserve a flogging.”

“But you won’t.”

“No,” she says. The softness of her voice, barely noticeable, pricks my heart. It’s refreshing, scary, intimate. Yes. That’s the word for our relationship. Intimate. “Who cares about standards? What matters is that the story transforms. Are you happy when you write it? Does it resonate? Do you shed tiny drops of tears?” She pauses. “These are the things that matter.”

“The little things,” I say.

“Yeah, like the sound of metal grinding against metal, like the flapping of a bird’s wing, like the color of the sky just before sunrise.”

“Hmm.”

“Now, if you don’t mind, I have a freshman to attend to.”

I know immediately it’s from the group in the café.

“That’s a story you have to share,” I quip.

“Not if you can write it first,” she tells me.

“I take that as a challenge.”

“And don’t forget –”

“The little things,” I say.

“The little things,” she says.

P.S: When I wrote the first draft, my characters dictated some conversations into my head (e.g. “So…”, “No,” I say). At the editing phase, I had forgotten my intentions for including the dialogue, but I decided to leave it anyway. Though I did not entirely understand it. If you don’t also, just… Pardon!

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? 

A Story From A Story

“He’s there.”

I did a half-circle. The boy was present, alright, but lifeless at it. Had I not watched him earlier, I’d assume he was a joker, a mannequin. His size hadn’t reduced, though. I decided to play on.

“You see him now?”

Clap, clap, clap. Now’s the perfect time for clapping, because I’ve got novels. 

In Monday’s post, I mentioned not having any book to read and how empty that could make a writer feel. Well, not anymore. I have thirteen novels now, e-books, courtesy of a mate. And to make the icing more lip-smacking, it’s the Left Behind series. 

To celebrate, I wrote a story. Off-the-cuff. I was thinking about being able to describe negative emotions and the lines I wrote about doubt to a friend. The rest is below. 

But, I ignored the rule of editing, so all errors should be forgiven. 

Enjoy. 

########

The first day I stumbled into the boy, I thought he was gauche. The third finger of his left hand was completely tucked in a nostril. He looked at me and picked out residue, then tapped it away. Next, he tiptoed to the nearest table and, with all the force he could draw from his belly, – which was a bucketload, given his stomach was like a gourd, like stretched wineskin – he guffawed. 
A lady slicing into chicken almost fell off her chair, serrated knife tipped towards the boy. The boy was already moving. He’d found a table with spaghetti as the main course. As his eyes rolled, I observed something strange.

His stomach kept increasing. The faster the roll, the larger the growth. It was surreal, like a Star Wars effect. 
The boy stopped by a bald server and swept off a glass of wine. If the server felt anything, his expression didn’t reveal. The lady with a knife had adjusted. No one seemed to notice. 
I pulled up. The boy was twice his size. He’d grown as tall as a basketball center guard, and a blow from his leg would knock out a pro wrestler, no doubts. Yet, he was searching, searching for more. It wasn’t just food. Gold bracelets, fabrics with intricate designs, keys kept in holders, he swooped them all. He had no bag or purse, no hidden wallet, much like the disciples sent out to witness. But except disciples left humans feeling queasy like the humans ate maggot, this was no disciple. 
I approached another observer at the north of the hall. A dirge of a countrysong warbled through the hall. 
“Hey.”
“Hello you,” the observer replied. He was fondling a bottle of water, sealed. Didn’t look like he’d had anything all day. 
“You’ve been watching since.”
“Is that a crime?”
“Didn’t say so.” I wasn’t calling for a fight. “See, I’ve noticed something. Wanna seek your opinion.”
He was looking past me. “Say what.”
“There’s this boy who’s been taking others stuffs and no one seems to know.”
“I don’t see no one.”
“He’s there.” 

I did a half-circle. The boy was present, alright, but lifeless at it. Had I not watched him earlier, I’d assume he was a joker, a mannequin. His size hadn’t reduced, though. I decided to play on. 
“You see him now?”
“Hey, guy,” observer called. His gaze was fixed on the boy. “I don’t know who’s nuts, you or me. I’m looking where you said and I only see a family of six at a table. No boy packing other people stuffs.”
My lips parted slowly. A drop of spittle hung on the lower lip. “But…”
“Look, I haven’t had nothing all day. The food here wouldn’t satisfy me. If anyone is doing the packing, that should be me.” He shook his head and squeezed the bottle. I looked away. “I’d sure love to meet the boy.”
I turned. 
He was gone. 
Something blazed by, like a bazooka travelling at neck-breaking speed, like a maniac groom pursuing his bride. 
The boy was gone too.

As I wrote, greed kept ringing. Do you suppose the story portrays greed? Dissatisfaction? Comment your opinion.


Who Am I

“Every single story,” the teacher said, “every story that has ever been written or is yet to be penned. From Shakespeare to Steinbeck, Dickens to King, travelling from African literature to American fiction, with settings in British colonies to the sea in China. All genres, all tales of romance and horror, revenge and justice, forgiveness and betrayals.

“They all look to answer three words. Who am I?”

who-am-i

A line in a movie a year back, expanded upon. Essentially, the greatest question we seek answer to isn’t why we behave the way we do. It isn’t conflicts and resolutions. The most important probe in the universe is unrelated to politics, sports, religion, race, and all other lines of divide.

It is simply: Who am I? Who are you?

Continue reading “Who Am I”

Operation Armastus (10)

Silas watched the lone doctor apply a dab of methylated liquid across the surface area of the gunshot wound. The form lay limp on a mat, arms spread – one facing west and the other east.

Silas had once read that a journey northward might lead southward, but a journey eastward would never arrive in the west. What, if any, did that say about the man?

Continue reading “Operation Armastus (10)”