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.

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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.

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…

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 Christmas Change

christmas-pic

We were taught, “Whenever you don’t feel like doing something, then go ahead and do it. For your feelings are the least thing you could ever trust.”

The beautiful thing about the world we inhabit is, there’s no absolute truth in this world. There’s my truth, your truth, and the truth.

The truth doesn’t change. Everything else does.

For this reason, I decided to trust my feeling the past two weeks. Not that I really had limitless options.

For fifteen days, I haven’t posted on my blog, my longest streak since I owned one. It was my intention to communicate with you readers at least twice between then and Christmas. On my Facebook wall, there’s no Christmas message. Not on any of my social media account.

How this started?

The week before last, the house was full. Christmas was waving ten fingers at us, saying, “I’m here, and that means you’ve gotta slow. Gotta slow down, gotta slow down.” I did not heed. Of course, I had things to do. And I wasn’t willing to get into the mood.

Twelve days ago, I still had a whole lot to catch up to. Writing, writing, preparing for changes, New Year resolutions, books to read, stories to share online, things to learn…

Ten days ago, something changed. James Scott Bell wrote in Plot and Structure, “There’s a door through which your protagonist must pass, almost always reluctantly. This door should lead to a change.” But it’s reluctant.

The best changes come after we’ve been pressed on every side. Same was mine. Passing through that doorway slammed a pause on everything. Suddenly, I wasn’t writing again. I wasn’t thinking of platform. I wasn’t interested in reading books. I just wanted to curl in the fetal position and let the tears roll.

And then, the inevitable frustration seeped in. It didn’t come like a truckload. It began as introspection, then concern, then panic, and finally fear. But then, I didn’t cuss.

Thanks be to God for that. It could have gotten much worse. I could have grown angry. I could have allowed the ill feelings grow.

I started to forget the essence of everything, focused on the present. I was bothered others were making progress. I was afraid the days I couldn’t work would greatly shape the future. I was bothered things weren’t running along the path I would. There was a willingness to trade joy for happiness, contentment for a feeling of satisfaction.

I wondered if anyone would still visit my blog, if my Instagram account would now be banned (as if it were possible), if… ifs, ifs, ifs.

But.

Christmas isn’t about ifs. It isn’t about the things we do or do not. Christmas is remembering the Word became flesh, giving us power to be the sons of God, translating we who sat in darkness into light-givers. I consciously told myself, “I’m not worried about the things past or the things coming. I give thanks for the present, for the things done.”

And.

I am better now. Yes, I still haven’t written. Social media is playing background. Christmas is come and gone. The change remains though.

It isn’t about the turkey, or the dancing lights, or the deadlines. It is about reminding ourselves of who we are, as we believe.

A son and a daughter to our Father.

P.S: Thank you for staying here through 2016. For reading and liking and sharing.

2017 is four days away. I’m not a regular New Year resolutions setter. What about you? What do you hope to begin next year?

 

The Kaleidoscopic View

A line I saw months back said, “There are three truths: My truth, your truth, and the truth.”

I’m thumbing up the inventor of that quote, though Mark Twain would greatly disagree that no one is the real inventor of a thing. All new discoveries are old ideas refined, or bits by bits dropped by a gob of people packaged into one staggering presentation, delivered by one human who forgot, there’s nothing new under the sun.

Continue reading “The Kaleidoscopic View”

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”