Roses and Angels III

roses and angels

…continued from here

Mama died on the second week of her mourning, and the villagers shouted hosanna. The gods had again shown their inestimable strength and had done justice to Papa.

Three weeks passed, and you joined Uncle Ofodili and his family to their house – a house which few weeks ago you shared with your parents alone. Your cousins took over your little fancy room, and you slept in the kitchen.  You hated the hardness of the floor, and the cold which could not be absorbed by the faded wrapper that had become your bed. But you were grateful for the privacy it afforded you. So, you spent the nights praying, dwelling on the life you had with your parents, and studying your old books with the hope that Uncle Ofodili will one day ask you to resume school again.

But even that was short-lived. Your privacy was cut short by Uncle Ofodili who sneaked in every night and persuaded you in his baritone voice to ‘open your legs’. You were not sure what he wanted with your open legs, but your instincts and that leer in his eyes told you that what he desired of you was bad, very bad.

A week passed, and Uncle Ofodili did not stop coming. He was even more forceful with every passing day. The last time, he struck you, and when Aunty offhandedly enquired the cause of your black-eye, you lied to her that you fell. You feared that the worse will happen if Aunty found out herself, so one morning, after Uncle left for work, and after you had bathed Chika and Ikem and made breakfast, and done the dishes and scrubbed the house and dropped the children off at school, you braced up, and confided in Aunty. 

At first, she was shocked. She struck you with the china ware in her hands, and further pummeled you with every item within her reach. You pleaded with her, you told her you were sorry, and you will not err again, but her beating and curses drowned your pleas. That night, she called you a cursed child, and sent you out of the house, wearing nothing but your open wounds and a broken spirit.

It was Madam Janet, your new neighbour who took you in for the night. You recounted your ordeals to her and she let you spend the night in her apartment. She cleaned your wounds and offered you her guest room. Though you could still feel the pains running through your body, though you were still shivering in fright, you saw a glimmer of hope in Madam Janet. Maybe she would take you in, you thought.

But the next day, she asked you to leave. She feared for her young marriage. You pleaded gently, tears flowing like a spring, she said no. So you left, dazed, weary and craving for death.

Years passed and something happened within you, strengthening you, and  drowning your past. Until today, you have not given a serious thought to your parent, home, poetry or music. But today, history has not only resurrected in your mind. Today, history has taken a bold step towards you, and Uncle Ofodili, who was only a figment of that history, had journeyed out of the past, and found his way to your bedside.

You are shaking. The lights are still off when Johnny walks in. He is seething with fury and with his eyes as red as palm oil. He has obviously drowned himself in Cocaine again. Chief must have told him, but you do not care.

“You,” he spits, “you’re such a pig”

You give him reasons, but he doesn’t hear. “He’s a dick,” Johnny retorts, “just as the rest. Uncle or not, since you had fucked him, you shudda got me my fucking balance”.

He is holding your neck with such force you think it might as well snap. You scream, desperately flailing your hands on his stoic face. Vexed, he lets go of you, but before that, strikes his heavy fists on your face. He has hit you many times before, but this time, your screams are louder and your thoughts are still hung on the past, refusing like your shadow, to let go of you.

That evening, you resolve to leave Johnny, and your wrecked existence.

You park your few decent cloths and tips you hid away in your old shoes, and you leave town. The taxi driver is running at dangerous speed like an angry cheetah. But you do not even notice, so you do not complain. Your thoughts wander again.

The very next morning, Madam Janet true to her decision, sent you packing. You were stranded, lonely, shivering and hopeless. You walked the streets until dusk came and you panicked, while hunger gnawed at the ligaments of your belly. Slowly, night drew its dark curtains over the firmaments, and full blown anxiety sank into your heart. You were a solitary figure, a poignant image under a rotting electric pole, watching the people walking back and forth to their waiting destinations. No one spoke to you. Their faces were straight, and their feet, eager with motion.

 Then it pulled over, a small gulf with tinted glasses.

to be continued next week

by Uche Anichebe

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Roses and Angels II

roses and angels

For some seconds, you shut your eyes and then open them, but he is still there, that man you learnt to dread with all our life. A man you learnt to despise, the man who robbed you of those long ago childish care.

‘O god, oh my god, o god,’ you gasp.

All the while you’re wishing it was one of those dreams whose details you forget almost as soon as you awoke. Your mouth is dry, your lips are limp, you try to scream, but all you can feel is stiffness around your throat. A long limp sound escapes you and just then Chief moves a little, but does not rouse. The tears take form and travel down your face. The memories start to come, those memories you have sealed in the closet of history. You are shaking. You are sobbing. You are weakened by your past. You find your clothing, hastily put them on. Chief is still sprawled out like a small child on the expansive bed when you dash out of the room.

It all started when you were only twelve. That was ten years ago. Like a newly sprouted leaf in the raining season, the details are again fresh in your mind.

You were the apple of your parent’s eye, an only child. Your father called you Angel and nurtured your dream of becoming a world acclaimed singer. He always told you that you had a voice that could move mountains and encouraged you to join the church’s choir. Every Christmas, he watched you rehearse for Christmas carol, and eventually perform at the children Christmas carol. Every Christmas until that cursed Christmas.

The harmattan gale was fiercest that year, and the house seemed mirthless without Papa’s voice. He had left on a business trip but promised to return to watch you sing. He never returned. You never sang. Papa died in a plane crash, and the next week after his demise, Mama received a call from the village. She said it had to do with tradition. She assured you it was going to be alright and you both went to your country-home to perform Papa’s burial rite.

Things took a different shape when you got to the village. Your relatives seemed to have grown hostile over-night. They had occupied your country-home, and would not let you or Mama into the house. You were taken to your paternal granny’s house, which was on the next street. She did not smile up at you as she usually did, and when you asked her why, she gave you a stern look, and called you the daughter of a witch who had succeeded in killing her only son with voodoo. She swore that Mama must undergo some ‘omenala’, customary practices to proof her claim of innocence.

Your mother’s hair was shaved to the scalp so that you could hardly recognize her. A bevy of old women gathered around spiting and mocking and accusing her, while she cried in agony. The next day, you saw the same women leading her out of the garage that had become her room, and you thought it was all over. But it was not.

They made her kneel, repeat some words that you did not hear, and forced her to drink the content of a small wooden calabash. She was hesitant, but the women slapped her face and forced the content of the ugly calabash down her throat.  Granny later told you that it contained the bath water of your father’s corpse. You threw up and refused to eat all day long. You missed your home at the city and the near perfect life you had with your parents. You wished Mama’s travail would come to an abrupt end, so you can return home with Mama, and with considered effort, put your lives back together.  But the women had different thoughts. Mama, they said, must remain in the garage, stripped of all her raiment for a month. She must come out only once a day, when she heard the first cock crow at dawn, and whether she liked it or not, she must wail to the hearing of the entire neighbourhood.

Mama’s mother came to see Mama and in your innocent confusion, you asked her why life has taken a new turn. She told you that it is a path that all widows must thread. You pressed on, and enquired why Uncle Ofodili, Papa’s cousin and his family have taken over your country home. She cast you a sad look which lingered for some seconds, and said, ‘you should have been a boy you know’. 

Her voice seemed distant and accusatorial as she continued, ‘girls are such vain treasures. They come and go, but the man stays, and must be succeeded by another man. Ofodili is the new man!’                           

 Mama died on the second week of her mourning, and the villagers shouted hosanna.

…to be continued next week

By Uche Anichebe

Twenty Fifteen

A brother was telling me just this week about how in Nigeria, we are more about beats, and nada about the lyrics of our music. I agreed with him on a lot of his points, after all how many words of Terry G and even Davido lyrics can I comfortably write down. Yet, I’ll gbedu anytime to ‘Run Mad’ and Davido is fifth on my phone’s ‘Most played’ artistes.

Yet again it pays once in a while to hear something different. And refreshing.

‘Twenty Fifteen’ by Khafeel is one such piece.

You know how recently, the mornings are very unfriendly to go out in, but we have to for daily bread. So you just boarded the bus, the window to your left is blank – no glass, you can’t shut out the biting cold; the lady to your right is F.A.T and as if the Israelites didn’t suffer enough, she balances this humongous basket of cocoyams on her laps; the conductor is eating your ear out about the one thousand naira note you gave him, ‘kosi change oh‘; you stick your ear plugs in your ear and your one prayer is for a track like ‘Twenty Fifteen’.

Made by rather conserved but extremely talented and budding producer, Kinsu, ‘Twenty Fifteen’ by Khafeel is a poetic piece to set the new year on a path of excellence, pomp and ceremony.

Listen here…

http://goo.gl/Vc6J4z

You may find the transcript below. Best enjoy it.

AND SHARE!!!


Twenty Fifteen

May our barns be filled with yam
And the tubers be long and fat.
May our cellars never dry out
Serving newness with the passing of each new day.
May our fields be green
So they can graze, our sheep and cattle.
May we have meat in abundance
Enough to feed even the needy.
May we drink and never thirst
With merry hearts all the days of the year.

Twenty Fifteen.
We call you by your name
From years we’ve seen, we ask you change the game
From whence we’ve been, grant us a new fame
The fat and the lean, let the showers fall on same
All the babes we wean, let them grow and not be lame
Be void of sin, and the wild, we pray you tame
And when finally your light shall dim,
let men not forget that you came.

We bid you to spring forth new waters
From patched lands scorched terrains
Fresh and salty, as the need may arise.

Send the rain and end the pain
As we free our hearts and set our minds
To Conceive the unimaginable
Gather our acts to do the impossible
Tirelessly pronouncing the unpopular
And living life that is void of mediocrity.

Cloth us in apparels of shimmering stone
Emeralds and diamonds, refined to the finest tone
Make us dazzling babies as we savour the late night moan
Grant us the best of wheels, German prides bought not on loan
And tastefully built abodes situated in the world’s choicest zone.

Twenty Fifteen.
Answer by your name
Prosper don’t play safe
Let men their joys resound as we proclaim thee the year of the ornaments.
With trumpets sounding on C
The drums rolling with such ecstasy
The people dancing stamping joyous feet for all to see
A perfect complement to the soft wind blowing over land and sea
Even as tinsels sway and cling to the rhythm of the harmony that we oversee
Giving us a goodly heritage and a perfect legacy.

Twenty Fifteen.
No I’m not eighteen
But yeah I feel like a teen
For love don’t cost a thing.

We pray thee to spread abroad the love that we men need at a time like this
We ask that your arms embrace us, that your lips kiss us, and your warmth enclose us
Giving comfort to all that despair and hope to the ones who cry in silence.

We pray, that your mornings be filled with joy
Exceedingly great, even past the time of noon
And the eve and the morrow shall ever speak of tranquil peace
Economic order and societal bliss.

Twenty Fifteen.
Arise never to fall,
For on your wings we soar unto limitless heights and sights
Strapped and saddled fast and firm
We ride to the place of our victory
Diving into the world’s deepest depths
We uncover treasures locked beneath the floor of the ocean.

Pregnant you are
Midwives we shall be
Walking you safely through timely delivery of the blessings that you have stored up for our use.

Twenty Fifteen.
With arms stretched all out
And smiles that melt the heart of the broken.
We bid you a grand welcome.

Chisom

Roses and Angels

roses and angels

The room is chilly and quiet, so quiet that the tick-tock of the golden vintage clock resonates. Unlike the other times, you are not entranced by the tasteful furnishings this place. It is tagged first-class, this room in which you have lodged four or five times now. Johnny always tells you how lucky you are. He says suites of this sort are meant ‘for the rich, or the accessories of the rich’. The very first time he said it, you decoded what he meant, and into what category you belong – the accessories of the rich. But you did not mind.

The clock keeps ticking. On the muted television screen is a thin woman in tight khaki shorts. She is making frantic gestures. The piece of terra-cotta art work which you learnt is over a hundred years old and have spent time admiring on your previous times here has been replaced with a blue abstract painting.  But you do not notice its absence. Your thoughts are rooted in the fields where anxiety reigns, but you do not know why. There is something amiss about today, and you know it. You cannot explain it, yet it feels strange. Stranger than the sudden stiffness you now feel on your neck.

You try to shake off the present feeling. You decide to take a warm shower; it has always had a magic effect on you. Standing from the bed, you take slow numbered steps towards the wide mirror. You hold up your naked ebony complexioned breasts, wondering if Chief your new client will, like the others, find them attractive. You have heard he has high taste for women, and you are certain that that is why Johnny chose you for him today. Unlike other times, Johnny did not even spend much time bargaining. He had just mentioned the prize – your prize, and chief had accepted without objection. Your heart bounced again when Johnny dropped the phone, with that boyish smile plastered on his bleached face.

The water is running gently over your velvety skin when you hear the entrance door open and shut with a small thud. You hasten up. Chief’s heavy voice comes from outside,

‘Baby, don’t tell me you’re not ready yet.’ Silence follows for brief seconds before he speaks again, ‘Baby, I hate to be kept waiting, so you just tell me if your ass ain’t ready, and I’ll give Johnny boy a quick call,’

Chief’s voice is laced with impatience, arrogant impatience. But wait. You have heard that voice from somewhere. There is something about its heavy baritone that makes it so familiar. You have no time to dwell on such thoughts, to compare the similarities, and reach a conclusion. So you hasten up, calling back with mild apologies.

You rinse the last trace of lather off your body and step out of the sky-blue Jacuzzi. Chief has switched off the light and the only source of illumination is the bathroom room light which is sneaking into the room. You see Chief’s silhouette on the bed. You are sure he is annoyed, but of course, you know what to do to bring him back in the mood. It is your vocation, your calling.

You immediately drop your towel, unveiling your naked form like it’s a precious offering to a god. You can see Chief’s full cheeks move and you assume it is smile. It is a boost to your morale, so you gently mount yourself on the bed and get down to business. You are about to think of how impressed Johnny will be with you, when you notice on the old man’s face, a tinge of familiarity. You wish the lights were switched on. Anxiety slowly spreads its tentacles on you and tightens its wicked grip when chief mounts on you. His breathing is labourious. His movements are deliberate. His thrusts are quick and forceful, belying the shriveled features of his elderly frame.  

Morning comes with a new awareness. The sun’s rays are creeping into the room when you awake. Chief is still asleep and all other sounds, kowtow to his heavy sporadic snores.

You open your eyes, the environment looks surreal at first, then everything takes shape, and the first thing that your eyes behold is…

‘O god!’

…to be continued next week

by Uche Anichebe

The Lectern: A Message to Unmarried Men

As promised, Emmanuel Akaeze writes from ‘The Lectern’ this month on bachelor matters.

Are you single, dating, undecided, or both?

Are you male? Female?

Yes? Then read!

The Lectern01

…that we might be read

A MESSAGE TO UNMARRIED MEN

meme04

Since most women are incapable of physical abuse, some have resorted to other forms, like economic, verbal and emotional abuse, etc. Young man, if you’re in a relationship or about to ask a woman out who is always talking about money, I advise you to think twice. Unless your surname ends with Trump, Gates, Dangote or Helu, or your father’s mother’s cousin’s son-in-law’s driver’s half-sister owns the Central Bank, you’re in for a rough ride.

If her interests are always in what you bought for her, how much money you gave her this month….she will bring you grief. This woman is a leech and will milk you to the last drop, then wring you, just in case there are some stray kobos left in your pockets, then she will air-dry and dump you. Abeg, borrow my favorite letters for this kind of situation – R. U. N!

Some women will so verbally abuse you that you’ll wish your mother’s womb could open up and take you back into its safe cocoon of innocence. She’s rude, sometimes vulgar, calls you all sorts of names, denigrates you, always compares you with your friends and she calls it – wait for it – “keeping it real.” I agree with her oh…the real thing is she’ll keep on and never stop. And unless you can tame the shrew, pack your load and move on!

If she always harps on a particular issue forever, repeating those words till they burrow inside your brain like itch-mites and you can recite them by heart, it’s called nagging. And from a nagger, methinks you should flee! Else, one day, you’ll either wake up in police custody with a murder charge on your head or realize that you’re a recurrent member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Please oga, in the name of all that’s sane and logical, don’t be with a woman who is still hung up on her ex. If a woman is always going on and on about how her ex, John was mean to her, cheated on her, and didn’t treat her right, bros, unless you’re her shrink and helping her work out her emotional problems, I suggest you pack your luggage and board the next available flight. She is definitely a citizen of Yesterday, living in Baggage House, on Regret Street. You will wake up one day to find a Dear John letter pinned to your pillow.

If a woman keeps telling you that all men are dogs, and how she hates all men except you, her “darling boo”, just know that network is bad and your matter is hanging. One day, soon and very soon, you will slip up on a tiny issue. Then her verdict will be delivered and you will join the long list of men in her life who are hated canines.

If a lady compares your relationship to that of Nneka, Sandra or Sade, just know that you’re nothing but a housemate in the ‘All-time Best Couple’ reality show…the only thing is you don’t know it yet. For this kind of woman, nothing you ever do with and/or for her is good enough, because one of her friend’s boo will definitely be better. In my opinion, you’re better off Keeping Up with the Kardashians than with this woman (and we all really despise that show, don’t we?)

My brother, have you met the NEVER DIVA? Like her name suggests, there are things she’ll never do because she believes they are a man’s, servant’s or professional’s job. She NEVER calls you. She NEVER buys you any gifts. She is NEVER emotionally available. She NEVER takes you out, NEVER offers to pay for half the meal. She NEVER apologizes. She is NEVER wrong. She NEVER compliments you. She will NEVER give up anything for you or the family. She will NEVER compromise. Bros, I can NEVER say this enough – NEVER hook up with this kind of woman.

I know one sister whose favourite song is ‘Just as I am, without one plea…’, only problem is she’s not singing the original gospel version. Like Mount Zion which cannot be moved, her favourite mantra is “you met me like this and so shall I always be!” She’ll never love you enough to compromise or change to make you happy, don’t kid yourself. It doesn’t matter if you own a boutique, her skimpy clothes will stay. Don’t bother enrolling her in evening school, her broken grammar will do just fine. That you’re an accountant that can help with financial advice on saving and investing makes no difference, her money is hers to throw away as she wishes.

I only have one question for you, guy, whence goest thou? I am sure I have by no means exhausted the list; the above are only the commonest I could think of, feel free to add more. Don’t be like Macbeth whose wife pushed and pushed till he broke.

By: Emmanuel L. Akaeze

Emma

Emmanuel is an avid reader, a creative writer, historian and public speaker, a Process Engineer by profession, Business Analyst by occupation. Still single, he lives and works in Abuja. His life philosophy implores you to “Change the way you think, change your life”

If you have written something which you would like us to read from ‘The Lectern’, send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you are yet unsure about a subject matter but want to be read still, send me an email too and we can work up something appropriate for you.

Chisom

PQ

Hi hi hi 🙂 Yes I missed you more, thank you.

Flavour’s ‘Golibe’ and Solid Star’s ‘Oluchi’ were on repeat on both my phone and laptop through the entire holidays. If you know wassup that should hint you on the state of my heart affairs. And you – yes, you – are a major reason for that joy. For reading, liking, sharing, and commenting on my posts as epileptic as they were, I couldn’t possible thank you enough. An entire epistle could be written but it still wouldn’t adequately capture how thankful I am. So I’ll keep doing this – writing – and hope you outdo yourself in reading, liking, commenting on and sharing my posts going forward.  

This year, our WAW experience shoots off with this short piece which both is and is not a personal experience. There’s a lesson buried somewhere in it and I hope you find it. ‘The Lectern’ continues tomorrow for the fifth month running, and standing at the lectern will be Emma Akaeze, an especially gifted young man who I am honoured to say, is a good friend and brother. You want to read what Emma has to write, I assure you. 

In this week too, we’ll be starting off on a short series with Uche Anichebe, you know the sweet lawyer babe from here. What do you know, turns out she writes fiction too, very good fiction. I have struggled to find the words to qualify that story, but all I can come up with is this: it is a story that could only have been so told by a female, a deep feeling female.

You dey feel my ginger this new year abi? 🙂 See ehn, even if this my IGG (initial gragra) will eventually fizzle out mid-year, make we start first. At all at all na im be winch.

And on that note, I present the first WAW post for 2015 – PQ.

Enjoy, like, share and don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments section. Fantastic new year ahead!


PQ

mad woman03

It’s weird how you always wake just before your alarm starts to beep. Every morning. This one is no different. As you disentangle your frame from the sheets, you wonder – like you do every morning – why you ever bought the damn thing. You’re done bathing in ten minutes, dressed in another ten and out the door in five; breakfast became history since NYSC days.

She is right there when you turn the corner. Today, her skirt is a ‘glowing’ white; its wooly shroud hangs on by a bare string woven through its waistline, and it billows around her, grabbing at her stockinged ankles again and again, like williwilli. Her blouse is a different shade of white – more cream than white really – and it hangs on her scrawny frame like every other piece of clothing you have seen her wear, loose and wrinkled.

PQ is what everyone calls her – Prophet Queen – and she is bellowing into the ‘microphone’ held in one hand.

“Sinners! Sinners all of you! Bad people. Maaad people.” She spits. “You better go home now. Go back home and pray for yourself. Pray for your mother too, she brought you into this evil place!”

You remember that you didn’t say your morning prayers. Well you heard PQ, go home and pray. You chuckle to yourself, but very carefully so that there is no sign of amusement on your face. Right after she lambasted a neighbor who had dared, by reeling out yards and yards of his private stories for everyone to hear, the whole estate had learnt never to laugh when PQ was ‘ministering’.

Meanwhile PQ continues: “Lamentations Chapter two to six, I am the Lord, your God…think not what I can do for you; think what you can do for me”

Then she made that whining sound that always preceded a pirouette, and that in turn always preceded a series of jerks which apparently was the Almighty leaving her body. But only for a while, she would quickly remind everybody.

“It is me Queen,” she announces her return to her body, “Queen of the ghost! And you have heard my words of extortion.”

Somebody really needed to tell her, you think, that it’s exhorta- not extor-, and coast not ghost, and that most importantly, it was bad for business to be queen of the coast in these environs. But who would tell? Certainly not you.

“Look at you people,” she is still yelling into the dead piece of wood that is her mouthpiece. “Where do you think you are going? Is it not the same work you went to yesterday? And day before yesterday? And day before day before yesterday?”

She lets out a raucous laughter. “Stop fooling yourself! Let me tell you, you are rushing to hell. Hell fayyaaaaaa! So better come here and confess your sins.”

She moves a few steps backwards, and perches her bum on the stump of what used to be a street lamp. Then she waits.

People are passing by, a lot of them still in a hurry, pretending she isn’t there. But PQ doesn’t mind; from her throne of mercy she has raised her staff in the air. Her lips are moving at rapid-fire speed, the words inaudible. Her staff repeatedly slashes the air, bestowing signs of the cross upon every passerby.

You stop and drop a crinkly hundred naira note into the bag that is open in front of her station. You have always wanted to do that but you never have change to spare in the mornings. You are glad you have spare change today because besides pebbles and some other oddities, yours is the bag’s only content. PQ acknowledges you with a sign of the cross and moves on to the next rushing passerby.

You are hurt. You alone after all stopped to give her money; surely she could have done more than one cross? An extra sign of the cross maybe, or a nod, or even a special word of benediction can’t be too much to ask?

You want to bend and retrieve your money, but you advice yourself appropriately on second thoughts. The vex never reach to enter craze. Onye ara, you curse under your breath as you shuffle away. Mad woman.

You are nearly past the estate gate when the words of her inaudible incantations flow, carried by the winds, into your ears. She says them over and over again;

There are two black birds

Sitting on the wall

One named Tunde, one named Paul

Fly away Tunde, fly away Paul

Come back Tunde, come back Paul

Oh come back birds and sit on the wall…

A smile splits your face in two as you step up to the road and hail a keke.

Your name is Tunde.

Chisom