Lessons From My Past

I have been to the Capital City, Abuja on only two occasions. My second visit was just two weeks ago, for my Call to Bar ceremony, and I had to put up with an in-law of mine, who is married with two lovely children. I had a tough time keeping Ezinne, the three-year old child away from my room. She would run in and insist on ransacking and inspecting every belonging of mine. During one of such occasions, she stumbled on my wig and gown, and as soon as I informed her what they were for, she declared emphatically that she wanted to be a lawyer. Ebube, her elder sister, laughed and informed me that only some days ago, Ezinne had made a lot of noise about wanting to become a pilot. I had a good laugh at that revelation. But it was not only humor that was sparked up in me, as that incident took my thought down the long path of memory.

I did not always want to be a lawyer. In fact, there existed a time when I was totally clueless and confused as little Ezinne. Being the best Biology student in secondary school, my parents concluded that I would be a surgeon, and frowned when I eventually went to the Arts class. My decision stemmed from my flair for the Art subjects, and more importantly, it was, for me, a chance of becoming an economist like my favourite sister, Ify.
At that time, I believed that if I followed my sister’s steps, I would become like Okonjo Iweala of the World Bank, Charles Soludo of the Central Bank, and Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke of the stock exchange. And so my sister became my greatest model and mentor. Then, it was not so much about what I really wanted to be in future, but who I wanted to imitate and eventually become like. I was blinded by my desire to become like other folks that I never looked deep down.

Time went by and I found myself in the Economics department. I later got wiser, and discovered a brand new path which I should follow if I desired career fulfillment – the path that led to the legal profession.

The legal profession held vast promises for me. It was an opportunity to be a true advocate of justice, especially in a nation like Nigeria, which has repeated instances of social injustice. I was also desirous of defending the rights of the vulnerable persons in the society, and the profession provided the most suitable platform.

Switching was not an easy task as I had to re-sit the JAMB exam and aptitude test, while also dedicating adequate study time to my courses. I sought counsel from few persons before I finally decided, and of all the pieces of advice I got, the one offered by a certain Chioma, a final year student still stands out in my mind. She berated me for not considering my friends in the Economics department. Being the assistant course representative at that time, she reminded me that I owed my friends and fellow students the great duty to remain with them in the career journey we had already begun. According to her, my decision to switch courses was most incongruous with my obligation to the class. I was to stand by my friends, she maintained, and any contrary decision will be tantamount to disloyalty and gross unfaithfulness to friendship.

There was a certain doctor who also stands prominent in my mind. I had a small medical challenge in school – one that I cannot remember now – and I visited the school clinic. When he inquired my discipline, I told him of my intention to switch, and he immediately launched into a litany of warning. He considered my decision thoughtless, and warned me to re-think. According to him, entrance into the legal profession would usher me into a world of endless poverty. He made reference to several relatives of his who were lawyers with a long history of impecuniosity. ‘You may end up as a charge-and-bail lawyer, so you better stay in Economics’, were his last words to me.

I really consider Economics an amazing course, which presents its graduates with wide prospects of employment. My decision to switch from it was driven by a far deeper conviction, a nagging yearning, whose end I could not yet fathom. I was satisfied in the knowledge that I would derive eternal glee in the very act of following the path that I was rightly convinced was meant for me. I neither followed Chioma’s advice nor that of the doctor, and so far, especially on the day I was called to the Nigeria Bar, looking back in time, I have found endless contentment in the path I treaded.

Experience, they say, is the best of teachers. So, from my career mistake, I learned a lot of lessons.  I am now convinced that each person must follow his/her own dreams, and strive to thread that unique way that is most suited for his/her destiny. I have also learned that role models and mentors are there to inspire us to be the best we can be. They are not persons to be followed sheepishly or blindly, for we all are made with our own unique abilities and destinies.

Again, I have learned that in life, there will always be dream killers, and discouragers. Focus and determination is the only solution to overcoming them. And for me, they were personified in Chioma, and the medical doctor. Chioma was wrong. I concede that there is nothing compared to faithful friendship. But any sort of friendship which becomes a barricade between a person and his/her dream, is at best, useless. It is almost seven years now, the wind of life has blown me and those erstwhile course mates of mine to different directions, and naturally, I have lost touch with most of them.

The doctor was also grossly wrong.  Fear is the seed of failure, and there is nothing as bitter as pessimism, and an abject lack of hope. His words were channeled to ignite fear in me, which if conceded to, will only distance me from my ambitions. Any man who prepares for poverty, will certainly find it at his doorpost. I did not set my eyes on poverty, never did, never will.

Having only been called to the Nigerian Bar, and currently in the NYSC orientation camp, I already have three letters of employment from very reputable law firms in Victoria Island/ Ikoyi, Lagos State. Surely, the doctor was very wrong.

Finally, and most importantly, the past incident has enhanced my appreciation of the concept of time. It remains true, the old saying that no time is ever too late. Upon the discovery of a mistaken path already taken, one must be quick enough to make the necessary amends, or forever, live in regret, and wishful thinking.

By Uche Anichebe

Uche Anichebe

Uche Anichebe was called up to the bar on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 alongside over three thousand Nigerian law graduates.

Twitter: @ojukwu_martin

AN EARLY MORNING ROMANCE

…for Chibueze Devicky

love04

It was a bad day at work and you cross your threshold at home feeling the weight of the devil’s cloud over your head. You kick your shoes into a corner, grab a chilled bottle of water and plop down on the sofa. It’s late, too late for the kids or anyone to be awake so you’re startled by the noise to the right. But you lean back just as soon because it’s the wife. She stands there, reproach in her eyes and one recently discarded shoe in her hand – she hates to see them strewn all over the place. You hadn’t littered the shoes with the intention to irk her but seeing her so pissed gladdens the devil in you. You wait for her to yell – you count the seconds – so you can unleash it all on her. But she doesn’t.

Instead, she walks over to you and in an exasperatingly loving voice asks, “Tough day?”

Why couldn’t she just have yelled? you fume. She just had to deprive you of the satisfaction of a midnight shouting match! You sulk, ignoring her. You focus on the blank tv screen – hell, you should’ve turned it on – sipping your water every other second, still ignoring her.

She bends towards you resting one hand on your bent knee for support – sending shocking thrills up your thigh – and feels your forehead. She runs her fingers down the left side of your face and cups your jaw. You feel your muscles relax, your frustrations ebb; you can’t help it so you raise your eyes to her. Her eyes whisper comprehension of your inner turmoil and she moves her feathery touch to your neck…

The devil in you jerks those chains again; you in turn, jerk away from her touch.

“Baby…” she entreats, raising her hand again towards you. But you shove it away. Hot, you down the rest of the water and escape, taking the stairs three at a time muttering something incoherent about needing a bath.

You take long in the bath because you want her to go to bed – you just want to sulk and feel miserable. Alone. Wearing just your bathrobe, you tiptoe past your bedroom door and head for the stairs. Nothing suits misery better than chilled beer and nighttime television.

The aroma hits you first; it stops you mid-leap down the stairs. Your neck snaps around to the dining table and there’s a bowl on it that hadn’t been there earlier. Like a thief, you near the bowl, shooting glances everywhere and nowhere in particular. Closer…you reach out with one hand, the other unconsciously shields your face – what? It could be a food bomb!

You unscrew the lid on the thermos bowl…okpanaede! Glorious, hot and orange like raving fire, with green and red bits of heavenly vegetable and whatever else it was made of, the local delicacy stared up at you, tantalizing, like a naked lover cross at having been kept waiting.

Face to face with the phenomenal aroma, the impact is too strong for your mouth to even comprehend the process of watering, so it dries up. You notice the plate beside it, turned over, cutleries and a bowl of water. Forget those, you reach out with a finger…

The noise stops you. It’s from the kitchen – clinking and rattling of utensils. Didn’t she go to bed already?

You gingerly near the door; the wife is standing with her back to you and while you watch, she scoops the last of the okpanaede into a plastic bowl. She turns then, halts for the tiniest of seconds on sighting you by the doorway, and then walks on straight by you to dump the bowl in the fridge. Then she walks right back, this time nearly through you knocking you off-balance.

You can’t help the shame that washes over you – 35-year old idiot! For the first time this night, you see her. Her hair done up shows off the best of her neck, the graceful line of spine snaking into the top of her collar. You caress – with your eyes – the white blouse that hugs her back from behind, molding along the little folds of post-baby flesh here and there. The grey skirt looks like dinner; it clings onto her hips like skin and slides down along the thighs with the bliss of a child on a rubber-slide.

Her calves are rounded, smooth and long, helped by the wrap-around straps of her black sandals. They are also spotted with something brown, caked. It dawns on you that she is still in her work clothes; if those spots on her calf were what they looked to be, she hadn’t even had the time for a bath. It is well past midnight – early morning already, yet she had cooked you a real meal, and stayed up to watch you eat it.

35-year old idiot!

She brushes by you again, dropping another bowl into the fridge and you try to catch her eyes but she studiously keeps them diverted. Her scent fills your nostrils and unbidden, your loins quiver up. She barrages by you again, into the kitchen – ‘who is there?’ the dragon roars.

Now you are the only thing worse than a 35-year old idiot – an aroused 35-year old idiot.

She is doing the dishes. You sneak up on her from behind and quickly – to avoid a head-bump – encircle her waist with your arms. You draw your arms upwards so that they cage her arms which in turn, cage her breasts. Then you squeeze.  The vision that greets you from where you stand over her shoulder ignites fireworks in your head. You hear yourself sigh. Or was it her?

You nuzzle her neck, breathing in the musky cocktail of sweat, dust, spent lotion…and woman. You feather kisses on her neck, up her cheeks and nearer her mouth, when you feel the wetness.

You are alarmed to find that she is crying. You can see a mute tear roll down her cheek, only stopping to dip into a dimple before continuing downwards to meld into the dirt-streaked collar of her white lawyerly blouse. You feel the pain in all the different rooms of your heart.

“Honey, I’m sorry!” you whisper, “I had such a rotten day”

“Oh you did?” she spat – Oh boy! – “and mine was great? I finished late, spent two rotten hours in traffic and got home to discover that the rotten sitter hadn’t come today. Again! The children hadn’t done any homework, they were dirty – ”

“Shhhh,” you coo. Who are you kidding? She can’t be stopped now.

“ – it was a rotten task getting them organized, cleaned and in bed. Still I wanted to make you something special for your promotion. But no, you had to go and be a rotten jerk. Tonight of all rotten nights! Did you have to treat me like that?!”

Now you regret ever using the word ‘rotten’. Through the entire tirade, she doesn’t even try to look back at you. You are sure that but for the arms you had around her, she might have taken a pan to your head.

Spent, she stands taut and unyielding against you. “Why?” she sobs.

You say nothing, you know better. Slowly, you move your hands up to cup her breasts. And you squeeze. You feel the knots relax one at a time; the nipples tighten and shoot into your palms, pebbly and warm. You squeeze again.

“Why?” she moans.

Slowly still, you turn her around to face you. Holding her hands loosely, you bring them up to your face and kiss them. First in the palms, then you fold them into fists and kiss the knuckles, then the short unevenly coated nails and the wrists. You feel her pulse quicken and you look into her eyes, for the second time that evening. They are teary still and glazed over, hurt and staring into yours. Gently, you pull the hands up till they rest one on either of your shoulders. Then you hold her waist and pull her closer.

Her hairline is sturdy; a few errant curls have escaped the elastic band and you can see that  a few of them are greying at the roots. You kiss them. She shuts her eyes and the lids quiver like butterfly wings. You kiss them too. The last of the tears roll down and inch by inch, you kiss them off. You trail your lips along their wet path stopping only to kiss each dimple before continuing down her neck.

Her breath quickens, and her nostrils flare up ever so slightly. You kiss them. Then you trace the lines of her upper lip, left to right, first with wet kisses. Then with your tongue. She breathes even faster, her lips parting very slightly to help inhale oxygen. And you kiss them.

The kiss is slow, very slow. Almost lazy. You apologize, you thank her and you love her – all in that one kiss. Like a spring bed dressed in wool mattresses, she soaks it up, all of it.

You break it off, trailing your mouth down, past her jaw and down still. Your knees yield till you are down on them before her. Her eyes staring down into yours speak volumes of hurt, of love, and of lust.

One little button by little button, you undo her blouse. Next, the bra comes off. Three children haven’t done any damage; her breasts are as you remember from the very first time – fair, bouncy and staring proudly ahead through dark-chocolate brown nipples. They call to you but no, you kiss them feathery adieus…see you soon.

You spread kisses on her tummy, warm and rounded. You kiss the scar from when she had gone under the knife for your second baby, plant light kisses around her navel, blow into it and suck the skin around it between your teeth. It is a faint sound from outside the roaring in your head but you hear her moan.

I hear you, baby.

You undo the hook and slowly, slip off her skirt. And panties…

It rains down on you, a torrent of water. Your first thought is hot water and panicked, you jump up. And land very roughly on the concrete floor. You jump back up, sputtering with your eyes shut against the unceasing flow; your head connects with something metallic and blunt on the way up.

“Gerrup, my friend!…hanlele!”

Your finally have your eyes open to behold the combat colors of the soldier in front of you. Whip in hand, he walks out of your line of sight. What? How?!

You pick yourself up and take in the rest of your immediate environment, your confusion mounting by the second – bunk beds with boxers, singlets and other articles of clothing hanging off of them; the grimy louvers and dust-breeding nets, torn in more places than weren’t; boys in different stages of undress, running to and fro; the uneven concrete floor now sporting random pools of water, and the dull glint of the premature sun’s rays on them.

The soldier spots you still standing; he comes towards you, raises the beagle and blows it into your face: tutururu…tuntururu…tuntuntuntunturururu.

“You this animaaal, muff it now or ah wee muff you, walahi!”

You stand, staring into his red-rimmed eyes, seeking some explanation. He sweeps his eyes over you, from head to toe then he returns them to your face, an amused expression on his.

“Bloody otondo” He spits and moves on.

You stare down at your drenched boxers-clad self and see the reason for his amusement. But you are not amused; the visible bulge of your semi-erect phallus only reminds you, painfully, of the beautiful wife you just lost, and the dream along with her.

You drag your full bucket of water out from under the bed; your sponge floating around in it looks like a bloated frog, a blue bloated frog. You completely ignore the ruckus around you – let them do their worst – as you grab your soap pouch and towel off the bunk bars. You head for the bath stalls cursing the National Youth Service Corps and all the gods of khaki.

khaki

P.S: Like I wrote earlier, for Chibueze Devicky; for him and all other fresh otondos who will never get to see the life of NYSC camp. I am happy for you, bro…just wish I could be happier 😉

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter