My Guidance Counsellor

Hi hi 🙂

To all of you who have called and texted, wanting to know why things have been very quiet around here lately, thank you very much for loving us and following so faithfully. To those who wondered quietly ;), we cherish you too for caring. The answer to your questions will soon be manifest, ceteris paribus. 

In the meantime, the story below is that kind that is both fiction and non-fiction, you know those greedy ones? Yes. It was inspired by a facebook post by one of my sisters from another mother. Please enjoy …

My counsellor

Years ago when I was in secondary school I went to the Guidance Counselor’s office to talk about my future. Two years earlier in SS 1, I had chosen the Science class over Arts without consulting anyone because at the time, it felt proper. And in the following two years, while things looked rosy on the outside, I agonizingly vacillated between my passion for the Arts and the career path I had chosen.

So when it was time to apply to universities, I thought ‘maybe … just maybe I can make it right’. I decided to do the first thing I had neglected earlier – seek coaching. And that was how I ended up in Miss Ugo’s office.

I remember walking into her ‘office’ and thinking that I just could not end up in one like that. It shamed me sometimes to think so lowly of my teacher but it was such an undignified workspace. It was probably 10ft by 5ft; a simple wooden table sat in the centre effectively dividing the space in two; two chairs on either side of the table and two shelves (of the same polished wood) were the only other furniture. Then there were books; makeshift mountains of books covering most of the table and floor, tomes that caused the wooden tiers of the shelves to curve, and were piled high along the cardboard wood walls, almost to the ceiling. She smiled when she saw me, and beckoned me in. I moved books aside to sit, trying not to think about how it felt like consulting a witchdoctor in a Nollywood clip.

As best as I could – and the words were not easy to find – I explained my dilemma to Miss Ugo. I told her that I was making very good grades in Science class and I even enjoyed some of the Physics and Biology classes, but I could not get past the feeling that I should be in the Arts; I told her how I loved my English and Literature classes to death, how I could swap my break-time for a debate on government and politics; I told her how this feeling grew steadily from SS 1 through SS 2 until the first term in SS 3 when I decided to make the move; I approached Ibechukwu in the Arts class and after listening to him and leafing through his Government and CRK notes (two large thick-covered notes worth of material EACH), I chickened out and stayed in the Science class. I told Miss Ugo that for the choice of a course to study at university, I wanted to find something which could leverage my sound Science background while allowing me explore my love for the Arts.

— Is that all? She asked.

–Yes

–Okay.

Still seated, she swiveled to her right, plucked a hefty book from the shelf and dumped it with an oomf on the mountain of books that was her table. I picked out one word – Architecture – before she slammed yet another large one over it, and another, and another. From all over – behind the door, against the wall, over my shoulder, beneath the table – she pulled out books with multicolored backs, all thick as bibles, and piled them on top of each other.

When she was done, Miss Ugo shifted in her seat and looked at me – I scraped my seat to the right, because I could no longer see her face over the pile.

–See this book here, it is for those people that like Fine Arts, like Mr. Umunna, those that like to draw and paint.

She handed me a volume whose cover read ‘Fine The Arts – choose right for college!’ in flamboyant colors. There was a –

— And this one is for those people that like Mathematics, like Algebra and small small calculations.

This one was thicker than the fine arts book, but surprisingly lighter, I dropped it on top of the first book, in my lap.

— If you like engineering, those people that fly airplanes and build machines, sometimes they even go to space; if you like that kind of thing, look at this one.

She handed it over. I dropped it in my lap.

— This one is for medicine and medical sciences, doctors, pharmacists, lab scientists and those people that do research for diseases and cures in big hospitals. You will see those ones here.

Hand. Drop.

— Do you like to read novels? If you like storybooks and all those figures of speech in literature, or even English, or Law, you will see many of that here.

Hand. Drop.

This went on until the entire pile of books had been transferred from the table to my lap. Then she adjusted her spectacles and smiled a very reassuring smile. Unsure of what to do, I thanked her.

— No problem, my dear. Just make sure you return them soon so that other people can also use them.

I staggered a little under the weight. Balancing the stack of books on my hands in front of me, I used the door. The day was Friday.

First thing Monday morning, I returned the books to Miss Ugo’s office.

— I hope they helped?

— Yes, they did. Thank you very much, ma.

— You’re welcome, my dear.

She smiled, and I used the door.

If she had paid any attention, Miss Ugo might have noticed that the thin film of dust on some of the book covers remained undisturbed, and that the books were returned stacked in the same order she had given them to me. She would have known that I never read them.

Share with us below if you had any Guidance counsellor experiences … have a fabulous day!

-Chisom

The Wounded Soldier

wounded soldier02

Paul felt an arm lift his shoulder, and another beneath his feet. He knew he was slipping in and out of consciousness; as a med student, he knew the theory but had never experienced it. Until now.

He tried to move, to stand up, to ask what was happening to him, but all his efforts were in vain.

Oh God what is happening to me, Paul tried to say. Blood sputtered from his mouth, his lips moved but no sound came out. All around him everything was getting dark and darker still. He tried to raise his left arm, but the pain was unbearable. Must be broken.

He tried to recall. There had been an explosion, a deafening one. That’s exactly when everything became dark. He tried to remember where he was and what must have caused the explosion but his memory was hazy.

People were talking all around him, “buddy … hold on …”, “hey … pull through …”, “hang on … c’mon bro …”

What is happening? Who are you? Where am I? He tried to ask all at the same time. Instead, he spit more blood.

Paul forced his eyes open; the surrounding light dazzled his eyes. He shut it immediately, and tried again after a few moments. With little effort, he began to recognize his surroundings. It was a village. And a war was on.

Oh God, please help, he prayed. Just like his Sunday school teacher had taught him all those years ago. At first his mum forced him to go but as time passed, he had started enjoying it. He still remembered the look on his mom’s face the evening he sauntered in grinning from ear to ear. The puzzled look on her face transformed to a radiating smile when he announced, “I just gave my life to Christ”. That was years ago, and remembering it now made him smile.

A sudden calm settled over him. He had given his life to a loving saviour, so even though he was in pain, Paul knew that he was in good hands. That assurance lulled him into a deep sleep.

The ‘deep’ sleep lasted all of two minutes before a jolt woke him again. Groggy with pain, Paul tilted leftward where a face hovered over him.

He recognized the face – Jack Rover. They were roommates and best friends right from their first year in the med school. In fact, Jack was the reason Paul chose to join the medical department of the defence academy. And together, they had opted for advanced military training so they could provide medical care on the war front.

Paul tried to speak, to ask Jack what happened. But his head protested. Jack smiled and extended a hand to soothe his chest. Paul couldn’t hear his words over all the noise but he saw the promise in his pal’s eyes: you will be fine.

Paul turned to his other side and saw more faces he recognized. He was on a stretcher being carried towards a chopper with whizzing blades. They walked fast, in spurts; severally, they stopped in a crouch behind a shrub or a shed, and crawled out again moments later. They were trying to avoid being detected. At the same time, they frequently glanced down at him with faces full of concern. They wanted to ensure their movement wasn’t causing him much pain.

A sludge of memories hit Paul, and he quickly shut his eyes as it all came back to him. The men – Jim, Cross, Jitsu and Dele; all of them infantry assigned to that regiment for a peace-keeping mission in Iraq.

They had been in Baghdad for three months, maintaining the order. That morning they had received report of an attack on a squadron in the neighbouring town of Karbala, and had set out immediately in a convoy of tanks, gun trucks and a medical Landrover van. But just as they were entering Karbala, an enemy jet fighter leaving Baghdad spotted them and dropped a ballistic missile. It missed them by a few feet, hitting a transmission pole instead. The pole fell on the medical van sending it somersaulting into a sandy ditch by the roadside. Paul was in the passenger seat.

Pain jolted him back to reality. Just then, Paul saw a figure that looked like … no, it was him. Col. Sanders. Driven by habit, Paul tried to lift his arm in a salute but pain crippled him and he yelped. The colonel touched his shoulder very lightly – at ease, soldier – the unmistakable glint of kindness in his eyes. The colonel was carrying him too? Paul looked around again, slowly.

Though his face stayed as stern as it did when he was supervising a parade, Col. Sanders indeed held on tight to one end of the stretcher Paul was on. How on earth could Col. Sanders suspend a mission to care for a wounded soldier?

Paul was puzzled.

Then he remembered. It was the colonel who taught them never to leave a wounded soldier behind. “No matter what, never leave a wounded soldier behind” Col. Sanders had made them yell it over and over again on their last day of training in Denver.

Impressive, Paul thought, that even the almighty Col. Sanders walked his talk. In fact, it was not just impressive, it was humiliating.

Guilt washed over Paul as he remembered his youth pastor referring to Christians as soldiers. While speaking to them from the second book of Timothy, the pastor had highlighted soldierly attributes that should be possessed by young Christians, like discipline, agility, sacrifice, etc. But he hadn’t said anything about wounded soldiers.

Paul remembered that time Sister Judy got pregnant, how he had quickly condemned her in his mind and never cared to visit her even after she delivered. He hadn’t seen her in church for months, but he never even asked about her. He also remembered when his fiancée told him of a church member that lived on her street who was dating two guys. They had laughed at her impending doom in his apartment that evening and written her off.

A warm tear escaped Paul’s shut eyelids. The more he remembered scores of other wounded soldiers he had left behind, the more freely the tears flowed.

Thoroughly ashamed, he cried out to God for mercy. With quivering soundless lips he prayed, “Lord Jesus, as long as I am a soldier in your army, I promise never to leave a wounded soldier behind again”.

And he drifted off to a deeper sleep.


By Toby Nwazor

Toby Nwazor

Toby Nwazor is a freelance writer, public speaker and personal development blogger. He is the co-founder of www.tobyandkc.com where he shares tips for living a more productive life. And he thoroughly believes in networking.

Deliverance

deliverance

Bro Hygi dipped his thumb in the bowl of olive oil and leant over her supine body. He traced small crosses on her forehead, lips, and cleavage; he got to her palms but they were tightly shut. He tried to pry them open but the girl clenched them even tighter.

“Aha!” Bro Hygi yelled, “See her hand. See it!” The entire prayer team paused to stare down at Emem. Somebody moved the rechargeable lantern closer and as the full glare hit her hands, the group broke into excited chatter. Both palms were clenched into ferociously tight balls and the veins stood out defiantly, intertwined around them.

The prayer warriors scattered all over the room that was deliverance arena for the night – they had found the abode of the demon. Some of them knelt in supplication, in preparation for the coming battle, the younger ones did little dances and high-fived each other with their bibles. Through the frenzy, Bro Hygi stood calmly in the centre of the circle. His large head was bent low over his chest and his legs stood slightly apart, as leader he had to stay calm. Soon he signaled and the rest of them quieted down.

Suddenly a willowy stem of a lady jumped into the centre of the circle and began swaying violently in all directions. Sister Miracle had sweated through the sheer material of the cream work shirt she had on, her tiny bra and their surprisingly generous twin occupants visibly jumped with every move. Nobody ever interrupted Bro Hygi but this one had to be an exception because he only smiled and waved her on. The spirit was moving.

“Prai-prai-prai-prrrrraaaaaaiiiiiiiiizzzzz jiiiiiizes!” Sister Miracle sang.

“Alaluyah!” they responded.

“Praaaaaaiiiiiiiiiizzzzzz da lawwdu!”

“Alaluyah”

“Alaluya?”

“Amen”

“Oya clap ya hans, ya hans!” And so began the next hour of songs and dance.

***

Emem was bored stiff. Literally.

Her back and buttocks felt dead against the floor, her entire arm weighed tons from the strain of clutching her palms so ferociously. That Sister Miracle had really taken her sweet time with the praise session, starting one song, working herself – and apparently every other male in the group – into a frenzy, before switching abruptly into another song. They were done with that, Bro Hygi now led the prayer session. Each time Emem sneaked a peak beneath her eyelids, she was impressed anew by their energy. They pranced, danced, flung their arms as energetically as the words left their mouths; it seemed each prayer warrior tried to outdo the next.

It was this over-zealous energy, and its stark contrast with their hypocrisy that had forced Emem into pretending to ‘fall by anointing’. Since Aunty Nkpa joined the prayer unit of the new church, her home had become a point of weekly rendezvous for the group. During each visit, Aunty Nkpa always had the prayer warriors well fed, and entertained, sometimes until the next morning. In return, they occasionally held impromptu deliverance sessions for the family. Emem and her older cousins played the roles of attendants during these visits. But as the prayer warriors left in the early hours of the morning, it was Emem alone who woke to open the front door for them and hand them packs of food and canned drinks as they each went through it. It was also Emem alone who noticed the pencil-thin Bro Justin exiting the visitors bathroom just seconds after a dishevelled Sister Maggy waddled out; it was Emem alone who constantly fought off the groping hands of Bro Jero, Bro Faith and Sister Chika with the dreadlocks and happy eyes; it was Emem alone who saw the tiny cigarette butt floating in the toilet bowl after Bro Tom-tom left; and it was Emem alone whose acute nostrils picked up the scent of alcohol on Bro Hygi’s breath as he wished peace on her one last time before leaving.

She never cared for any of it; in fact, Emem was usually in high spirits enough to at the antics of the prayer warriors. But she was not in the best of the moods tonight. It had been a very tiring day, and worse, Bro Faith was on demon-casting duty for the night. He held her still with one firm hand at the back of her neck while almost boring a hole in her forehead with a finger on the other. The whole time he was yelling into her face: Out! … Out in da name of jiiizes … Evil principalities and powers, possessing spirit, gerrout of her! … holy ghost fayaaaa … Emem did not budge.

When he grabbed her at the shoulder and roughly ran his hand down her arm in a brush-off motion making sure to brush her breasts, Emem was shocked. She knew Bro Faith’s inclinations but that he was brazen enough to grope her in the middle of a prayer session? She was repulsed. He brushed her other arm down too, then he knelt, apparently to repeat the action on her legs. She could not take anymore, so she did the next thing that came naturally to her.

She shut her eyes, screamed and fell on her back, making sure to knee Bro Faith in the mouth on her way down. She trashed around a little, drooled some saliva, and then lay still as the entire army rallied around to her.

That had been over three hours ago; now Emem was bored stiff. She was quickly tiring of the pretense, plus she really felt sorry for her family in the room. Poor Aunty Nkpa, how frightened she must be.

Emem knew that after the round of prayers, someone would bring in the holy water; that was when she planned to let herself be ‘delivered’ of the possessing demon. When the first blast of water hit her, she would scream, roll around on the floor, maybe speak some gibberish and abruptly lay still; then she would allow herself to be slowly revived. And when she would eventually open her eyes and sit up, her poor Aunt would be brought to hold her and walk her through the redemption prayer – her oath as an ex-possessee to never again allow a demon possess her body.

She was tired, but she had to finish what she started. So she waited.

…this is the first part. A final sequel is coming soon. Watch out!

Chisom

The Day He Showed Up

Nikki2

Nikki ran a few paces after the bus, “Ole! Thief!” She looked for something to throw, and found nothing. “Thunder faya you dia. Oloshi!”

The bus conductor had just hopped on the bus and told the driver to drive away, with her ten Naira change. Mud spewed from the tires of the fleeing bus and Nikki reflexively raised a hand. She was just in time to save her face from the mud, but her dress wasn’t so lucky. The blue and black woolwork – one of the only two dresses presentable enough for her to wear on jobhunts – was now artlessly crisscrossed by slimy brown mud.

Nicki sucked her teeth. “Wicked people,” she exploded, “e no go beta for una. God punish you!” Ignoring the placating pleas of bystanders, she continued screaming even after the bus had long gone. In addition to the ruined dress, she mourned greatly the ten Naira change she just lost.

It was her last hope, that ten Naira; she was going to use it for digestive biscuit. Four small circles of sweetened wheat that would be her last meal before death or a miracle, whichever came first. She sighed repeatedly, shaking her head as she walked to her face-me-I-face-you room. It was a tiny space that held her belongings – a Ghana-must-go bag of clothes and oddities, a mat, and a lantern. It struck her as funny that even that tiny space would soon be lost; she hadn’t paid her rent in six months, and Baba Jide would soon surely throw her out. She recently scanned bridges and shop-areas more attentively, because one of them might be her sleeping-place sooner than later.

“Sister Nikki, welcome oh,” Mama Aina greeted. Nikki swallowed as she passed by the elderly woman’s table of wares – where she would have bought her digestive-biscuit last supper. For the past couple of weeks, she ate those four circles daily to help ward off hunger and get through another 24 hours. It was like Mama Aina greeted to remind her to buy the biscuits.

Nikki thought about ignoring her, but then words rushed out of her mouth without her consent. “Mama Aina, good evening. How market?”

“Fine oh, sister Nikki,” she pronounced her name like it should have been on a biscuit wrapper, Nikki biscuits. “No biscuit today?”

Nikki smiled, “Not today jare, I don chop belle full for office.” And she walked off, effectively shutting down further conversation. She knew her lie was obvious, but she didn’t care what Mama Aina thought. She felt bad enough as it was; not because she had lied about eating, but because her ten Naira would have helped Mama Aina feed her six children. The thought was crazy – like TEN Naira, seriously? But Nikki believed it. She really wished she had the money.

She walked on, negotiating the puddles and make-shift bridges with an ease born of familiarity. Her sandals weighed more and more with every step she took, lifting them became harder. All this poto-poto everywhere; no be say person get food for belle to do this kind hard work.

She continued along, doing her best to rid her feet of fast-caking mud and grumbling for all she was worth. To her right, a Christian fellowship was singing and dancing. A wry smile curved Nikki’s lower lip. Where did they even get the strength?! Everywhere she looked, the stink of poverty ruled supreme; here, people suffered for a living.

Nikki was one of those who believed in God, but a lot of times, she wasn’t sure. She hoped He existed, but it did not make sense that He let people suffer. It was better for her to assume He didn’t exist; then and only then did suffering make sense. But somehow, against her better reason, Nikki just believed.

She continued walking, her pace slower, praying for her room to get closer. The sting in her stomach intensified and she tried to suppress the thought of not having anything to eat anywhere. A thought crossed her mind, and the Ludacris of it made her smile. If to say you dey hear person like me nau, she directed at the skies, I for beg you fried rice and chicken with chilled Malt.

Immediately, she burst out laughing, a weak sound that echoed off the inner walls of her empty stomach. As quickly as it started, it died away. If only He was beside her listening, she mused and shook her head.

“Nikki, you don come?”

Nikki hissed. “I dey your front, you still dey ask if I don come. Kunle, abeg  I no get strength”. And she made to brush by him, but her ever-jovial next-door neighbor only laughed and moved to block her path.

“Nikki-lo-lo, Nikki-fire-for-fire,” he teased. “You know say only you ehn, na Anti-bomb squad!”

“Kunle,” Nikki was nearly in tears, feet hurting, head banging, tummy wailing, “what do you want, please?”

“Nikki, wait first jare make I knack you gist. For office today ehn, come see owambe. Babe, I chop scarra come carry take-away commot sef. But as I reach house na im my spirit just dey tell me ‘give Nikki’, ‘give Nikki’, ‘give Nikki’”. His rumbling laughter punctuated his theatrics, as he extended a bag to her. Nikki stood rooted to a spot, she was too dumbfounded to either be vexed or amused. Was this a joke?

She thought to lie at first, to just blurt out something along the lines of “oh thank you, I’m not hungry” or the Mama Aina line – “I don chop belle full for office.” But she couldn’t do it. She was hungry.

Her hands moved of their own accord. The warm feel of the nylon bag jerked her body back into consciousness – it was for real, FOOD. Tears sprang to her eyes and the ‘thank you’ she tried to say came out sounding like the final noise Kunle’s I-pass-my-neighbor generator made every night before all went quiet. The man himself, surprised at her reaction, immediately withdrew into his room. “Good night oh!” he yelled from behind his firmly shut door.

Nikki’s hands trembled as she fit the key into the door. Inside, she sat on the floor and opened the nylon bag. There was a plastic plate with yellow fried rice and a large golden-brown hunk of chicken. Something still weighed the bag down even after she had taken out the plate; Nikky dipped her hand and took it out – a pretty bottle of malt lay calmly sweating in her hands.

Nikky cried. He was beside me, listening.

By Winifred Adebayo

www

www picture

www

You steal a glance over your right shoulder at the door. It stays shut. You turn back to your laptop.

.xnx …

Your right pointer hovers over the next key. Your breathing slows almost to a stop; while your heart drums itself silly, you feel moistness form on your forehead. You fight it, with all the might you can muster. But it happens again: the thumps in your chest go up a notch per passing second; you are sure that in another minute, your heart will be lying on the bed beside you, wet, red and raw.

You know what will happen next if you let it, the visions will follow. So you do the only thing you know will take the pain away. You strike ‘Delete’.

And just like that, you are calm again.

***

The first time it happened was the week after that Saturday afternoon when you, Ebele and Kunle from next door lay huddled in front of your laptop. The three of you lay flat on the bed, elbows propping up your chins, as the unfolding scenes of nudity reflected flashes of colour on your enraptured faces. You called it a ‘porn stroll’, PS for short, and it was your ‘guy’ thing. Each of you was thoroughly engrossed, so you did not hear her come in.

“Chai!”

You jumped. Three arms stretched for the screen but in the jumble of limbs, a knobby elbow shot up the volume. For a split second, noone moved, as moans and shrieks of ‘do it, baby … do it harder!’ filled the small room. Ebele – or was it you – was the first to recover and slam the lid shut.

There were whispers in the estate that PQ knew what everybody was up to, especially the dark hidden things. Nobody ever figured out how come, nobody tried. Later when it occurred to you to wonder how she had gone past the gateman, dogs and into your room way in the back on the first floor – wasn’t the door locked? – you would be even more disturbed.

At the time however, the three of you stood in a short line before the intruder. You felt her eyes switch between the top of your bent head, and the bulge in your crotch you tried so hard to hide.

Tueh!” you flinched at the disgust laden in the gesture. “Children are dying of hunger in Chibok,” she said, “and you are here wasting precious MB!”

***

Frustrated, you slam your laptop screen shut. PQ has cursed you, you just know it.

Or how else would you explain the fact that since that encounter, the moment you so much as contemplated a porn-stroll, you got a panic attack followed by visions of hungry-looking children lined up with rusty bowls before a laptop screen.

And on the laptop screen, it always said,

“MB unloading

75%…”

“If internet data were food, a lot more people would starve … eat your MB today!”

Chisom

One song

This picture was captured from a clip I watched on Facebook a few weeks ago. It was such a profound experience watching this woman work magic with that guitar, and it inspired a story out of me. My very first Flash piece …

ONE SONG

One song

Nceda, Theresa … just one song.”

She hid behind her hands and shook her head slowly from side to side, like a shy virgin on her wedding night. Through her fingers, she peeped into the camera lens. “Kuphela enye?” Just one?

Ewe,” the man affirmed in his terrible Xhosa. The rest of the crew behind him nodded in unison.

Securing the guitar beneath her right armpit, Theresa began to play.

The cameraman rose from his crouch, camera forgotten on the tripod; his astonishment mirrored that of the entire crew. Theresa had seen it before.

The first time she saw such awe, she was only fifteen and her folks had taken her to play at the local inn. She was only seven when she started playing with the old guitar Dada kept hanging in his room – a gift from a former Portuguese boss. ‘Odeku’ hung by the strap on the wall, its stringed nose angled downwards. And Theresa stood on tiptoes and tugged at the strings.

She was gifted, Dada said, and so they took her to play many times at the Ingonyama’s palace and that one time at the inn. Richie was in the crowd that day. A few visits and many promises later, she was with a group of girls en route Jo’Burg where Richie said they would ‘blow’.

Blow, she did – the drugs, liquor, split lips and broken arms blew her mind, body and soul. And a ‘forever’ later, she returned with one suitcase and a viral infection to an empty home.

And so she turned back to ‘Odeku’.

“It isn’t just her obvious talent,” the CNN African Story anchor was saying into the camera, “it’s the ease – near boredom in fact – with which she makes such beautiful music.”


A Flash, by the way, is a really short story, usually anywhere between 20 and 500 words. ‘One song’ was also featured on ShortSharpShot … see it here

If you loved it or not, say something about it below. And depending on your feedback, I just might do this again. 

Thank you 🙂

Chisom

What If

pensive African woman

I was 18 when we broke up; 18 years, 11 months and 29 days old to be precise. He attacked my weight again, I remember it like it was yesterday. The first time he did it, I can’t remember what we were talking about but arthritis came up and he said I should watch my weight or something like that. Basically, “you are getting fat”. That was the beginning of the end because come on, he knew how sensitive I was on the matter.

Well this time, I decided, would be the last. If all his love did was make me feel wretched, then it was pointless loving him. So I called it off. I knew he would come back, and come back he did. Suddenly, my weight was not an issue anymore.

Anyway this story is not about him. This story is about another ‘him’; the kind of ‘him’ that marks himself.  You know…right up there. He is like that scar you alone know of, the one you often find yourself fondly rubbing your hands over. The kind of scar that makes you smile. This story is about him.

I was 18 when I met him; 18 years, 11 months old to be precise. Funny how ‘met’ as a word is now very subjective, what with social media and its array of networks. I remember it like it was yesterday. I commented on something, he replied, I replied his reply, he replied mine…and we got talking. You know how you meet a guy and unconsciously compare him with your father, and oh the joy it brings when he checks every box. If you have your dad as a benchmark – Daddy’s girl club – you’d know exactly how I felt. Because this dude checked every box and moved on to circles.

We did not date, it was not practical considering the distance. But oh my, the chemistry, it sizzled hot and fierce on both sides. I had hit jackpot and boy, did I have plans! I would graduate at 22 and go on to Lagos Law School so we can officially be together. Then NYSC, settle in Lagos and live happily ever after with four kids; three boys and a girl in a big house with…well, we could work out the other details later.

Then I turned 20. They say when you get older you have more answers. If that is true, something must be wrong with my growth. My birthday that year came with a lot of ‘what ifs’ – “what if I only get into Law School in Abuja?”, “what if I am drafted for NYSC in Sokoto?”, “what if his genes are allergic to mine?”, and “wait oh…what if he does not feel the same way?” And in all of these ‘what ifs’, there were no answers.

I have always wanted to be mature, to really live in the 21st century as a 21st century woman. Gender Equality! If you like him, tell him, et cetera. Anyway, I told him how I felt. And in response, he officially asked me out. Not the answer I was expecting but an answer nonetheless. It felt nice at first. I finally could call him “baby”…aloud – oh yes, I used to say it in my head – and I could end the calls with” I love you”. But distance, the witch that she is, refused to let it be.

I couldn’t kiss him or hold his hands; we couldn’t touch each other or “touch” each other. No dates whatsoever – forget all that Skype. There were no eye to eye declarations of love or playful tickling that ends in bed with panting and sweating and no clothes on. Yes, we connected intellectually. Yes, relationships go beyond physical needs but…I don’t know, it just was not enough for me, for us. And so we broke up.

Looking back now, I think we just missed being friends that we did not work to actually be a couple. We became just friends again and yes it was awkward – going back from “hi baby” and “I love you” to “hey buddy” and “guy, pack well”. But we got over it. We were die-hard friends!

I told you the first one came back, right? Not my ‘jackpot’ now, I mean the first ‘him’ with the weight issue. Yes, he came back and became a good boy, always on his best behavior. He was safe and secure – no sizzles, no hot and fierce whirlwind of emotions. It was not the same as with my ‘jackpot’ but it was something good. I was not lonely, needy or desperate. So I settled.

Sometimes, I imagine what my life would have been with my ‘jackpot’. “What if I had waited and kept my mouth shut?”, “what if I had met him at another time, under different circumstances?”, “what if we had held on to each other just a little longer?” Even at 32, I still ‘what if’; like I said earlier, something is wrong with the way I grow.

Now I look across the table at my ‘best behavior’, and I look at the little one we conceived on one of those rainy nights when holiness flees and everything is possible. And I smile. Yes, I lost my ‘jackpot’ and I settled with my ‘best behavior’ but this right here…this little man in the high chair, gurgling cute nothings and trailing cereal all over his cherubic face, this is my pot of gold.

By Ezinma Ukairo.

Ezinma enjoys good music, food, books and movies. She is currently in her third year at the university where she is studying law so that she can promote the beauty of womanhood, and end child marriage and world hunger. Ezinma is afraid of ever having to just ‘settle’ in a relationship, but she keeps a closed mind to all the ‘unwanted stuff’ and continues to believe in love.