Letter to Chimamanda

Letter to Chimamanda

Dear Chimamanda,

RE: WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS

I love your first name. It is very beautiful and unique and I think you are very beautiful too. Maybe I will name my daughter after you someday, if I have a daughter or any child for that matter. Why ‘if’? Well because the world is bad and full of surprises; it is not the same world I was raised in so I am scared of bringing an innocent child into this world. But worse, I am scared I will never get married (please don’t tell my mother), not because I am ugly or un-homely or un-womanly; I guess it is just because I am me.

See, I am a feminist. Probably not as hot-blooded as you are but one nonetheless. I am that person who believes in smoothing out the odds between the so-called genders. In this case, not by fighting for equal rights with placards – I am not so politically inclined, but by acknowledging that something is just not right somewhere and deciding to fix it starting with myself and my relationships.

As a child, I unconsciously imbibed feminist traits from God-knows-where. I found myself saying things like “I don’t want a man to control me” and I fought boys a lot, not physically most times because I am quite a girl, but I never let a boy walk all over me for no reason. My best cartoon TV program was and still is Mulan. I attended a ‘Girls only’ secondary school and that must have just fuelled my passion more.

Presently as a student in the university, I still do not like guys disrespecting me or disregarding my opinion simply because I’m a female. But because guys are ‘chyking’ me now, I am supposed to reflect the image of girlfriend or ‘wife material’ they expect me to be. So I have to cook every day and feed some guys too so that the testimony of my culinary artistry is spread abroad. The penalty for defaulting is an alarming reduction in my yards of wife material. Also I must stop paying a part of the bill when I go on dates, because it emasculates the guys. If I persisted, I have been warned, it will only make them less gentlemanly towards me. Lastly, I must put a stop to both loving and declaring my love for you, Chimamanda. Because if I continue to be so daring, I will never get married.

Chii’m (biko allow me to Igbolize your name), does it matter that I spend my meagre student allowance buying megabytes to download your YouTube videos? Or is it wrong that I have re-read all your books but one more than five times? How does appreciating a married woman make me less of a woman? I think what hurts most is that my friends do not understand. They tell me that women have a ‘cooking gene’ simply because we are nurturers (a fact implied from the fact that we breastfeed). Well, I don’t know how true that is but I doubt I have it – the gene – because cooking is not my hobby.

Letter to Chimamanda 2

Please before all my prospective suitors run away, let me be clearer: I can cook, I can even enjoy doing it in comfortable environments, but cooking is NOT my hobby and I definitely do NOT have a cooking gene.

Even though many people disagree and say that your idealisms of feminism are unrealistic in Nigeria, and that you’re alienated from African culture because you live abroad, I disagree. I believe you are smart and always make a lot of sense. So Nne biko answer, is it true all those things they say about me? On a serious note, Amanda, I relate with your talks especially, your TedX talk, We should all be feminists, and I wish more people, male and female alike will watch, hear or in the very least, read it. It pricked my heart to realize how much we have accepted and unconsciously imbibed certain traits and are teaching it to the next generation.

As an aside, thank God for the invention of mirrors and front camera phones; if I need validation, I simply take a selfie to remind myself of how beautiful I am or better still, I read Songs of Solomon in the Bible and pray. Simply put, I do not understand why I need a man in my life to validate my living or my existence. It hurts me to see many women seeking validation from men or rotating their lives around a man, sometimes a hopeless one. The stereotype that a woman must always be under a man is another amazing one; as an undergraduate hustling for a better future, I often meet the occasional human being with Grade Point Average multiplied by two equalling one or zero, that calls himself a man, telling me that “after all it’s a man’s world, you will still end up in a man’s house and along with all your struggle, certificates and titles, you will belong to him” or “whether or not you are a Barrister or Doctor, as far as your husband is only Mr, all you’ll ever be is a Mrs”. And this height of stupidity in a university community!

I once told a male friend my life plans, they looked something like graduate, law school, youth service, masters, travel, work, PhD etc. and after I chirpily listed all I was excited to stay alive for, all he asked was, “what about marriage, where does it come in?” to which I replied, “well, anywhere. It’s really not a prerequisite to my fulfilment in life.”

Now Amanda, this does not mean that I do not want to get married. It simply means that I do not want to live my life ‘waiting for the right man to find me’. I plan to build myself into the right woman for any man willing and daring enough to support me and my feminine ideals and well, if this does not work out then so be it; I will die knowing I lived a life fulfilling to myself and God.

Finally on the marriage issue, people tell me “keep doing Chimamanda, she’s married and abroad making her money while you are here, unmarried”. Chii’m please should I stop ‘doing’ you just so I can get married? I don’t want to spend the rest of my teenage life and early twenties aspiring for marriage by practicing compromise in relationships where I will be treated as a lesser mortal; by having “ambition but not too much” so that I do not intimidate the man who will be gracious enough to marry a lawyer like me. All of this is just very confusing to me, and bothersome. I need a reply from you ASAP so that I do not become totally unmarriable, especially before I start pursuing my Masters and PhD. I still have a million questions to ask but I will wait till I meet you in person. Please greet Uncle Ivara for me and take care of yourself.

Yours sincerely,

Ada bekee

P.S: I agree with your definition of feminist: “A man or woman who says, Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better”.

P.S: Please don’t tell my mum. P.S: I also love make up and girly dresses and African culture, does this make me less eligible in the race for feminism? Will I be respected in all my femininity and lipstick or do I have to wear ugly pant suits without bras? Just joking, I know your reply here.

P.S: Really, don’t tell my mum.

Cynthia Adaugo Mbajunwa is a Christian Igbo Nigerian African female. She loves, as wholly as possible, and looks to make a difference no matter how little. She is sarcastic and shy, a bold feminist currently studying to become a lawyer

Winie says … Coulda-been-in-laws (COBIL)

COBIL

Coulda-been-in-laws are family members of your significant other whom you get very close to over the course of your relationship but get stuck with even after the relationship ends. It’s painful to form relationships with them, prepare financially, emotionally and mentally to be part of their lives, and then experience a break-up with the person that brought them into your life. It also becomes very complicated trying to analyze, what kind of relationship to maintain with them when you are no longer with their son/daughter, uncle/aunty, brother/sister, niece/nephew, etc. How do you introduce your ex’s sister to your new beau when you run into her in the mall? How do you relate with your ex’s mother that took you in as a daughter or son? How many of these awkward relationships do you want to have in one life time?
Some relationships fail after a long time which might make meeting and knowing each other’s family almost inevitable. Sometimes, you unintentionally, meet the person through their family member which might give you the pre-in-law status very early in the relationship. But there are some very unnecessary acquisitions of COBIL. COBIL might make it difficult for you to move on; constantly expressing wishes that things had turned out differently or bringing back memories that you may be trying to suppress. In my opinion, the more of those we have in our life, the more complicated relationships we acquire too. I have observed three common situations that lead to unnecessary acquisition of COBIL.

Helpers: Very early in relationships some people begin to run errands, buy items for the other person’s family, attend intimate family functions etc. Sadly, some people see it as a way to secure their place in the other person’s life. While it’s unrealistic to have set time when these things should happen, it should be when the two people involved have decided they are part of each other’s future, not when the relationship is new with uncertainties.  As nice as it is to help the family of someone you care about, when it happens too early, you only endear yourself to the family and vice versa without taking enough time to build on the relationship that actually counts. If you two end up together, you have the rest of your lives to buy gifts and help each other’s family. If after you advertise yourself as a ‘helper ’and the relationship doesn’t work out, all you have is a family that loves you and a man/woman who doesn’t. You would have acquired COBIL.

One Chance: There are those bad-belle people who look for people to date because they see a gap in their family that only that kind of relationship can fill. They have no long-term plans for you or the relationship, just the service they want you to offer. A few years back, one of my girlfriends entered a relationship. After a few weeks, the young man asked her to travel alone to another state during her free time to help his elder sister that just had a baby. (Bros!! how far?).  So, he found a girl that he thought was good enough to send for Omugwo. My friend is sharp; she didn’t go. They broke up a few months later; you can imagine. The list goes on: for women who turn young men to their family bank, or the guys that find a girl and promise her heaven and earth just so that she can help his mother when he travels abroad.  Sadly people fall for this plot and enter one chance. When they realize what’s going on, it’s too late, the relationship has gone too far, and someone has dashed them COBIL.

Back Door: These are the people who on purpose go through family members in an attempt to win a person’s heart. This is called using the ‘back door’.  In this case the people either have unsuccessfully tried to approach the person directly or believe using a family member is a surer and faster way. They get close to the person’s family members, buy gifts, inject themselves into their lives, and use them as weapons or use their own family members as baits and tools to lure the person to themselves. There’s a high chance of not winning the person of interest through the back door; this might equally earn you or make you give someone COBIL.

On the part of the family, it’s not also fair to introduce someone to them, and yank that person out of their lives when the relationship fails. I’m sure some of us that grew up with uncles and aunties know that feeling of pain when the person that supplies you biscuit and sweet stops coming. I mourned the end of some relationships of my relatives. Not just because of the goody-goody, but the connection that was made with these people was lost and I missed it.

Bringing family members very close at the beginning of a relationship has its downsides. They make decision-making and building a relationship a little tougher. I’ve witnessed situations where family members like a person more than the other part of the relationship duo. Hearing your mother’s voice in your head about how awesome a man or woman is, when you don’t feel the same, might just mess up some things for you. Of course if the opposite is the case, the hatred or dislike might not allow you make a right decision on what to do.

Finding a life partner is not easy; I’m absolutely convinced that family plays a huge role in the decision.   I support discussing the person of interest with family, talking about qualities, asking questions, etc. and hopefully having someone in your family that you confide in and get guidance.  But a face to face meeting, I believe should come later, because personal interaction is a different ball game. The marriage will be between you, the person and God. Those are the only people who should matter at the initial phase. I like to think of it like building a house. You start with the foundation and you make it as strong as possible. Get to know each other to a certain extent; at least be sure to a point that a future potentially exist. Then you can build the ‘house’ further by bringing in family. A strong relationship foundation can withstand a lot, peradventure you have issues with family acceptance but a weak one won’t stand a chance. When that foundation is strong, family love and acceptance will strengthen it and not complicate it. You also minimize the pain of a break-up when it’s necessary and save your family the trouble.

For those of us that are still yet to tie the knot, I suggest we avoid coulda-been-in-laws (COBIL) so there would be space for the real ones.

These are just my thoughts. Who agrees? Who has had an unnecessary COBIL or an encounter that might have led to one and how did you handle it? Who has a different opinion on when family should be involved, at what point and why? Do not hesitate to share in the Comments below.

While you’re at that,

Winnie says Have a Winning-Day!

WAW

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

Fresh new column … coming soon!

microphone

This is a public service announcement.

It is with great pleasure, and for your even greater reading pleasure, that ‘Words Are Work’ brings you a fresh new column from one of our extremely talented writers. You might remember her better as ‘Nikki’ – that female protagonist whose hunger met its physical and spiritual equal in the story, ‘The Day He Showed Up’; but her name is Winifred Adebayo.

Winie calls herself a ‘word addict’; for her, writing is a passion that unites all of her interests into one perfect little ball of warmth. For a long time, she did nothing about her love for writing, but since she started not so long ago, she has been unable to stop. She loves God very deeply, people too, and this love motivates her in everything she does.

WAW caught up with Winie on one of her rare ‘free’ moments and asked to know more about this new column. Her answer was straight, short and simple: The column is titled ‘Winie says …’, and it will bring you thought-provoking articles on life and relationships. Before we could ask about degrees and other professional certifications which qualified her to opine on such subject matters, Winie quickly added that she is no expert. “‘Winie says …'” she said, “just says it as it is”.

You can read her blog-posts on winiesworld.com; also follow her on twitter and Instagram @wini_ade.

In the meantime, ‘Winie says …’ is loading, so …

Watch this space!

The Lectern: Impossible is nothing

I do not know about you, reader, but this past month has been both a trial and a blessing for me. I gave up many times – numerous nights when it was just hisses and ta-hell-with-it’s. But none of those dark moments was ever for too long at a time. Every time it seemed impossible to pull through, someone/thing came through – family, friends and/or that aged belief in my own strength.

Imagine my delight then when Chizzy knocked on my door this early morning with ‘Impossible is nothing’ … as if she knew! Thanks to this month’s edition of ‘The Lectern’, I have found belief afresh. I hope you do too.

Have a sweet July 🙂

The Lectern01

…that we might be read


IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING

Impossibl is nothing - The Lectern

I recently saw a picture of Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote on the cover of Tell magazine. On the far end of his mahogany desk sat a plaque on which was written, ‘impossible is nothing’.

Many times I have heard that phrase repeatedly used by motivational speakers, and I often roll my eyes in response. Never did I take time out to find its application to me.

One day, I went to buy some shoes at an ‘OK’ store. If you don’t know what ‘OK’ shoes are, you are not Nigerian; it means okirika shoes, a code name for fairly-used imported shoes. Fellow Naija babes will agree that ‘OK’ shoes are more durable than the acclaimed ‘foreign’ ones, most of which are made in Aba anyways.

But I digress. I entered the shop and asked the shop attendant to pick out black ballerina shoes for me. Rather than do as I requested,  the man brought out a writing pad and began to scribble on it. I was too curious to even be vexed, what was he writing?

After he was done, he handed the pad to me and I saw that he had written on it: “what do you want to buy”. The guy was deaf and dumb!

What on earth is a deaf and dumb fellow looking for in the business of buying and selling?, I thought to myself. I know quite well what trading entails – a lot of talking and haggling and more talking. So saying that I was shocked is an understatement. I bet you are too.

I was amazed. At that point I remembered the phrase, ‘impossible is nothing’.

Here was this guy, probably already written off as a mute, as something headed for nothing. He was disabled, but he refused to be disadvantaged. He rejected the limitations placed on him by his physical condition and rather chose to see ability in his disability. Plus he handled the sales so well that I even forgot to haggle – and you know we love to haggle.

This experience made me pause for a minute and think. I thought about how at several points in my life I had abandoned projects and plans because I felt they were impossible feats. Oh nobody has ever done it, I would often lament; the last person that attempted failed woefully.

Many times I catch myself holding on to a past hurt, obviously stuck in a rut, but refusing to let go. And other times, I feel like my best days are long over and I can never live a happy and fulfilling life again … the list is endless.

However after my experience with that shoe salesman, I began to see hope. I see now that I am fired up to succeed like I have never been before. I see now that life can throw anything at me, but I, and I alone determine what to make of it. I see now that ‘impossible is nothing’.

Dear friend, if nobody has ever done it, be the first. Challenge the status quo and reach for new frontiers. Who said you cannot be the one to break that old record and set a new one? Nobody.

If you still think it’s impossible, maybe because you have tried so many times and failed every time, then you need to visit Thomas Edison. He will tell you that 999 feels like 1 million to someone who has lost all hope, and one more trial to a passionate soul. Nobody every moved forward by keeping their eyes fixed on the rear view mirror. The past is past and those who dwell on it pass away with it.

The shop attendant in my story wrote out his words in well-articulated English, his lettering was bold, neat and legible. Evidently, he took time to learn to read and write. Even in his disability, he stands tall and makes much more money than many who are perceived as ‘able-bodied’.

Is there an area of your life which isn’t quite playing out according to your plans? I suggest you stop planning for a minute; take the time to show gratitude to God for the areas that are working. Then you may think about ways to make the problem areas work. And when you are done thinking, stand and start doing – very important. Because it is often in the ‘doing’ that our strength fails us. And if in trying you fail, I urge that you try, try and try again. Do not bother who has written you off, never write yourself off.

Losing your eye is not the worst thing that can happen to you, losing your vision is.

Decide today that nothing shall be impossible for you. Whatever is conceivable is achievable. The greatest battles are fought in the mind, win them. And you shall soar like the eagle, because indeed, nothing is impossible if you believe.

By Chiezugolum Odilinye

Chizzy Odilinye

Chizzy Odilinye is a chemical engineer who is driven to challenge status quo and add value everywhere she goes. Her pleasures are photography, chess and cooking.

Don’t forget to share with your friends and enemies; also take a minute to tell us in the Comments what you’re thinking about this one. If you have written something which you would like our readers to enjoy from ‘The Lectern’, attach and send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you are unsure about a subject matter, still reach out and we can work up something appropriate for you. It does not have to be right or left, right or wrong…only your opinion.

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