AN EARLY MORNING ROMANCE

…for Chibueze Devicky

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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

 

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A MOTHER’S HEART

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Narrator: KC’s phone rings just as he steps out of the shower. He is going to ignore it because he is late for work…no, make that VERY late for work; but his eye spies the caller ID and it is Mummy. He shoots a furtive glance at the wall clock and the positions of the hands on the timepiece elicit a sigh from him. He takes the call.

You will find out more about Mummy at the end of this story, but for now, let me share with you two things about her calls. One, you better pick them; everyone knew that if Mummy called and you didn’t pick, she would only keep calling back. And if your phone turned unreachable, she started calling everybody she knew who knew you and she would badger them until they badgered you into calling her back. The second thing to remember about Mummy KC’s calls is that they were never short: so the first thing you bought immediately you left home long-term was a Bluetooth headset.

Back to KC now; he adjusts his headset and while struggling into his boxers, takes the call.

Mummy: Helloww

KC: Maama! How far?

Mummy: (snickers) Nna m, I’m fine. Itetagokwa ura?

Narrator: Hehe…I know right? See, Mummy is one of those women who don’t like to be reminded just how fast the world changed in the time it took her to birth, raise and watch two children grow into adulthood. She once said that whenever KC calls her ‘Maama’, she feels like Mama Gee – Gee for General!

KC: Yes, mum, I’m up. Err…I’m preparing for work now so…

Mummy: Have you heard?

Narrator: I mean, who is he kidding? The toad doesn’t run in the daytime for nothing abi? Tsk tsk tsk

KC: (sigh) Heard what, mum?

Mummy: Ebola nu nu. They said you should put salt in hot water and baff with it before six o’clock. It is the only way to escape that disease now oh.

Narrator: KC freezes with one and half of his trouser sleeves on. He wonders if he just heard right.

Mummy: Kaycee? Hellllooowwww?

KC: Mummy, anom ebea. I heard you. Biko where did you hear that one from?

Mummy: Oh so you haven’t heard? Kai, devil is a liar! Oya, go and take your bath now now, with plenty of salt. It’s almost six o’clock oh…evil people. Who knows where they were hiding this news since and people have been dying like fowl, na-anwusi ka okuko! Tufiakwa!

Narrator: By now, KC isn’t listening anymore. He has his trousers all the way on and belted on tight. He has just done up the collar button of his shirt; now he pins on his cuff-links and reaches for his tie.

Mummy: Kenechukwu! Ahn ahn…what is wrong with this network people bikonu

KC: Onwero, mummy, nothing. The network is fine, I heard everything you said.

Mummy: Oh, thank God. Have you plugged in the mmiri oku? Get plenty of salt to add to it and…

KC: Asago m aru, mummy. I’ve already had my bath and I am late for work.

Mummy: Oh! You see their plan? Okwa ifuru ya? See why they did not spread this news kemgbe. Hm…don’t worry, nnaa, you will drink it. Just put cup into one salt of hot water and – chai, what am I even talking sef. (flustered) KC, nwere nnu tinye

KC: Mummy, I heard you the first time. I cannot do that. This is ridiculous nah, don’t you know salt is a serious dehydrating agent and can kill somebody when drunk carelessly? Haba!

Narrator: The man is getting angry now, more flustered than angry really. And Mummy can hear it in his voice – she birthed him after all. The wise woman knows she must change her tactics and quickly, she does.

Mummy: Oh ok, nna m. You are correct. I remember now, it is true. Ngwanu, just pour it on your body. You can boil small water – ntonto mmiri – with salt, run back into the baffroom and pour it on your body sharp sharp.

KC: And be smelling salt-salt when I get to work? Because I am now Ukwu nnu, okwa ya?

Mummy: (laughs)

KC: (hesitates for a split second…and laughs too)

Narrator: I laugh too jare. Heehehehe…okay, let me help you understand. ‘Ukwu nnu’ literally translates to ‘waist of salt’; it is a term used among Igbo folk, to address a lady who has a great future behind her. You know the ones bah? The ladies who are generally well endowed in matters of the waist and behind.

Anyway it happened that as Ada – Mummy’s other child – grew into maturity, she fit the ‘Ukwu nnu’ specifications more and more. Her brother first called her the name in a bid to spite her but she took it very well – too well, in fact – and soon, she was christened Ukwu nnu, in-house only of course.

That’s the joke. Oya back to Mummy, she is saying something…

Mummy: This boy, aru adiro gi. I’m serious joor. It is even Ukwu nnu that sent me the text message; I called her and she told me that she was baffing the children with hot water and salt already.

KC:  mock02

Narrator: Ada, a.k.a Ukwu nnu, is a doctor; not a doctor of Nursing or of Psychology or a native doctor oh – a MEDICAL doctor. She is practicing too, not as much as she would have loved to though because she and her husband have three children all below the age of 7, but practicing nevertheless.

So you know what KC is thinking: “Ada too?”

Mummy: Kaaayyyceee! Talk to me nau.

KC: Mummy, this is silly. How can Ada bath those children in salt water? Do you know how salt feels against the skin when left for long without washing it off? And how it smells?

Mummy: No no…mba nu, not like that. Immediately you baff with it, the salt will penetrate inside your body and kill all the Ebola. The small that remains on your body you can wash out with water and even rub pomade sef; onwekwanu onye ga-ama na iji nnu saa aru? Nobody will know.

KC: Mummy, just stop it please. These things you are saying don’t make any sense to me and even if they did, I am late for work. I can’t go back into the bathroom to have another bath!

Mummy: Ok, nna m, don’t shout oh? But you’re wearing long sleeve and trouser to work, okwa ya?

KC: No, ma. I’m wearing net singlet and iron pant – today is Cultural Day at the office.

Narrator: Oooooh boy…dude is not smiling!

Mummy: (lets out a half-hearted snicker) silly boy. Please can you just take a little hot water, mix it with salt and wash only your hands and head?

KC: Mummy…

Mummy: Please kwanu, nna m. For my sake, biko. I know you don’t believe it but do it ka obi ruo nu nne gi ana. Ehn, please let your mother’s head be at rest nau.

Narrator: If you have a mother, you know what comes next. She will tune her voice to that frequency mothers alone know which will make the inside of the left side of your chest feel liquid. Then she will start to talk in a voice that is choked – but really only SOUNDS choked – on tears. And she will soon remind you how she carried you in her womb for nine months and how your birth was especially the hardest among all her children because your head was so big.

KC: Kai…what kind of wahala is this now?

Mummy: Kenechukwu biko, do this for your mother. I will never beg you to do anything like this again, maka Chukwu – I swear.

Narrator: Story!

KC: (sighs) Fine I have heard. Oya cut the phone and I will do it when…

Mummy: No, don’t worry, I have credit…I want to hear when you’re doing it.

KC:lonely02

Narrator: Poor guy!

So he is fully dressed right now but for his jacket, and the time is just five minutes shy of 6am. If he will avoid the worst of the CMS-Marina traffic, he will need to leave his house latest 6:15. He also knows that these five minutes before 6am will be the most miserable of his day if he doesn’t heed Mummy; so he click-clacks into the kitchen, plugs in the kettle and perches on the kitchen counter waiting for the little water to boil. Through all of this, he tries not to dwell on the fact that his mother is on the other end listening to him bustle around – it feels weird because he thinks that this situation is the kind one only found oneself in with a lover.

The kettle whistles.

Mummy: Enhen, it has boiled.

KC: I know joor, shebi it is me that plugged it?

Mummy: Ok sorry. Ngwa put salt and wash your hands and your head.

Narrator: KC pours a little hot water in a bowl, dilutes it with even less cold water, pours in some salt and begins to wash his hand in it. Then he shuts his eyes tight, bends his head over the sink and starts to wash his head, taking care not to wet the headset stuck in his left ear. He has this odd feeling that he ought to be saying some incantations, to complete the ritual. And he feels thoroughly stupid.

KC: (voice muffled by lips pressed nearly shut against the torrent of warm salty water) You said what?

Narrator: What? She said something? Oh wait…she is praying! Lawd, we nearly missed that. While KC is doing the rituals, Mummy is doing the incantations.

Mummy: (speaking in tongues) Roboskatatatatat Yerimamamamamam Shokotoreskitidididi. Every monitoring spirit of virus and viruses, all the evil Ebola demons trying to steal Kenechukwu’s soul. My son is a son of the king – nwa Eze – and no weapon fashioned against him shall prosper. I send you out now, you stupid Ebola. Holy Ghost…fayaaa! Holy ghost…fayaaaa!!

Narrator: At this point, KC doesn’t know whether to feel loved, grateful or embarrassed. He has ad enough; he calmly removes the headset from his ear and pours the last of the saline mixture over his head, unsuccessfully trying to keep it off his collar. Might as well finish what he started.

He walks back into the bathroom, wipes the wetness off his head and hands with a towel and afterwards, dabs on some cream. He unrolls a strip of gum – he hasn’t had any breakfast – and pops it in his mouth before shrugging on his jacket. Then he grabs his keys and briefcase, and rushes out.

He has just driven past the estate gates when Mummy calls back.

KC: (sigh) Mummy?

Mummy: Nna m, don’t mind this network people. I have prayed for you, you are covered with the blood of Jizoos oh?

KC: (dryly) Amen

Mummy: (exhales) Enhen, they also said you should be eating aki-ilu. You know aki-ilu nau – bitter kola?

KC: (distracted) Unhuh

Mummy: It is bitter oh, but it has antibiotics and anti-fungus. You know I read Biology in Sandwich, I know. It is very powerful oh.

Narrator: KC can’t help the smile that creeps across his face, just before he shakes his head. This woman has indeed mastered the art of being impossible and adorable, both at once.

KC: I know, mum. It is very strong. In fact, I am chewing some now

Narrator: He blows up a tiny gum bubble, pops it and continues to chump with a smile. It is banana-flavored, his favorite.

Mummy: Oh, wonderful. Thank God. Kenechukwu, okwa ima that if you do fast and marry, I won’t be disturbing you like this again. Your wife will be taking good care of you and I will only be calling her as a consultant when…

KC: (bursts out in loud laughter)

Narrator: EL-OOOH-EEL!!!

Mummy: (chuckles)

KC: Mama the mama! Nne m, I have to go now biko. We will talk later, bye bye.

Mummy: Ok, nna m. Bye bye.

Narrator: KC is now sitting in traffic jamming its way up Eko bridge towards the Island. He sighs. She finally did it, he is thinking, got me to go to work late. His phone beeps and he flips open the message; it is a picture file from Kunle:

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Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

 

it rained again today

I came across this poem and fell in love, not just because it’s a well-crafted piece of art but because boy, I PLAYED in the rain as a kid.

Its writer is a wonderful young man by name of Alyazid Alexander Osinachi Okoli who writes under the pseudonym, ‘The BlackInk’. (Ghen ghen):) When asked about himself, this dude only says “I am a graduate of the great University of Nigeria, read pharmacy…that’s it!”

Hmmm…this poet pipu can like to talk short short shaa. 😉

I’ll drop a little warning before I stop blabbing and post it already; Don’t read this poem as a grammar-savvy intellect or a grown person for that matter, read it like a child, through the eyes of the little boy or girl you used to be.

So! Here goes…

 

IT RAINED AGAIN TODAY

childintherain

its raining again….
my little com-com is set
i can hear its drum play
atop our zinc,…chidera lets go

slippers would bar my flow
bare-footed i set for the door
jumping like a milking goat
i scream out loud in joy

its raining again….
My little legs,dangling
held close by my dirty pant
arms spread wide, i soar in the rain

nne went to the market
as usual my plates are unwashed
but maybe she would understand
it afterall rained again, today

its raining again
legs dancing in the mud
sliding up and down the dirt
with absolute reckless abandon

what other fun beats playing
not just it,but also in the rain
screaming,”rain rain go away”
but wishing it poured down

more more and more

it rained again today
mama’s Cain awaits my bum-bum
but right now who cares
tell her it rained again today

– the blackINK.

Mention me on twirra @ojukwu_martin