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

 

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UNFORGIVEN VII

…continued from Unforgiven VI

unforgiven

She didn’t resist as his lips claimed hers. They were soft and warm. The kiss stripped her of her resolve, her confidence and the years melted away; once again she was twenty-two and putty in his hands. Oh Lord.

This is it. What she’d missed…

Stop it Eth! This is not you!

He’s married!

That particular thought seemed to bring her back to her senses and she pulled away violently and raised her hand to hit him. This time he caught her in time. He gripped her hands firmly.

“Don’t pretend this was all me, Thelia, he breathed down her neck. “You wanted it as much as I did.”

“You tricked me!” she yelled.

“Tell me you didn’t enjoy that. That you haven’t missed it, missed us.”

She couldn’t look at him; her face was awash with shame.

Arrogant bastard. Lord, no. I’ve disappointed you.

“Ethel…” he held on to her hand.

She didn’t reply instead she withdrew her hand and began fumbling in her purse for her house keys, willing away the tears that were threatening to pour.

“Ethel please, just one last time,” he pleaded, “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Listen to me, Charles. I might have said you…you were like a drug in my system but…even drug addicts get cured. And I am cured, so get the hell out of my life.” With that she found her keys and stumbled into her apartment with her last shred of dignity, banging the door firmly behind her.

No! No! No!

How had this happened? She sank to her knees, sobbing.

I’m so sorry Lord. I disappointed you.

“Ethel please let me in. Let’s talk,” he obviously wasn’t taking no for an answer.

Her body heaved in sobs. This couldn’t be happening. She’d promised herself that nothing would happen.

And then she’d let him kiss her!

You weren’t so immobile yourself, madam.

This dinner was a bad idea. She should’ve known that from the start. She wasn’t ready to face Charles again.

You haven’t changed one bit, Thelia. Beneath all the churchiness, you’re still the adventurous bad girl.

The voices were back; the accusing ones and the soothing ones.

“I’m leaving Thelia, but I’ll be back,” he’d obviously given up.

Why? Why won’t he let her be? He’d left her once. Why had he returned to make her life miserable?

************

For the first time in a long time, Ethel was distracted during service that evening. First, she hadn’t spoken to Amaka all day in school, not because she hadn’t wanted to but because she was too ashamed to. Her actions of the previous day still hung over her head, accusing her. And it seemed Amaka was pissed at her too because she said nothing to her beyond exchanging pleasantries.

Teaching the students had done little in lifting her dark mood. Until she got a call from her mother that afternoon. Since she’d turned sixteen, her conversations with her mother had reduced to monosyllables.

“Hello ma,”

“Eno, how are you?” whenever Mum used her name at all, it was her native name.

“Fine.” Nothing else, just fine. Anything else would be weird. Ethel pretended she wasn’t interested in her mum’s life because she was afraid what she’d find out.

“Eh…I’m in Abuja. I came in yesterday and I…I wanted to…er…tell you,” she stammered.

“Okay. Thanks for telling me,” Ethel hesitated. “And welcome to Abuja.”

“Thank you.”

There was awkward silence from both ends of the line. It was always like this, they had nothing to say to each other.

“Ma, I have to…”

“Come and see me please…I…”

Oh please don’t say you miss me.

“I’m…alone,” she completed.

What does that mean, Mum? You’re with no male guest?

“I’m busy Mum. Maybe one of these days when I’m free. Bye for now,” Ethel knew she sounded cold but what was she to do? Her relationship with her mother had been damaged a long time ago; her loathing for the woman she called mum had grown as she grew older. Could it be fixed now?

She hung up feeling as she always did after speaking to her mum. Choked. It seemed like her chest would burst with the bitterness she felt.

She blamed her for everything that had gone wrong in her life. Especially Charles. Maybe if her mum had taught her that love was something to embrace rather than run from, she wouldn’t have gotten involved with Charles.

Thus was her mood when she got to church later that evening. It seemed as though fate had ganged up on her to make her life miserable again.

She came to church intending to bury her pain and guilt and just as she was beginning to feel better, halfway during Pastor Tim’s sermon, she felt it. The charge. The feeling that someone was watching her closely. Too closely.

She turned and searched the seated crowd with her eyes. At first she didn’t see him. Until she did a second sweep with her eyes.

He was there, seated at the back between two men, grinning at her and looking incredibly ravishing. Her pulse quickened as she turned away.

It was Charles.

How on earth was she expected to concentrate on Pastor Tim’s sermon now knowing that Charles was somewhere behind her? And she was sure everyone would know from one look at her, that she’d kissed him the previous day! And what about Pastor Tim? What if the Holy Spirit tells him what she did? Yes, He was capable of that. After all, He’d told Peter what Ananias and Sapphira had done.

Oh Lord no.

And yet the memory of the kiss seemed to be burned in her head. It completely blocked out the on-going sermon and instead ignited her carnal thoughts.

Father forgive me, for I know not what…

“…shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” Pastor Tim’s voice reverberated.

A drug in my system. A drug in my system I can’t get rid of…

“…brethren, your body is the temple of God.”

Crazy, you’re going crazy Ethel. Stop thinking about that man, dammit!

But she couldn’t. Her head was abuzz with sensuous memories. Memories of the past she chose never to speak about.

“Sister Ethel,” the voice, an urgent whisper brought her back to the present.

She looked up, into the face of her assistant Welfare director- Mrs Ohaneze.

“Service is almost over, should I serve Pastor’s drinks?” she asked.

Service? Almost over? She blinked.

“Yes, yes, yes please do. Thank you,” her smile was polite but apprehensive. Service was almost over, she had to make a run for it as soon as the benediction was shared. The last thing she needed now was another confrontation with Charles.

Of course, she wasn’t to be that lucky because as soon as service ended and she began making her way to the exit, someone tugged at her arm.

“Siss…sterr Ethel, not so fast,” the mockery in his voice was evident.

Ethel froze. There was no escaping now. She turned, imagining that she’d already gone several shades of red with embarrassment.

“Leave me alone,” she said in an urgent whisper, “don’t tell me you came to church for a booty call.”

“Only your booty interests me Thelia,” he grinned, “what do you say we get out of here and finish what we started yesterday?”

Ethel’s hand flew to her mouth in surprise. She sneaked a quick look around, hoping that no one had heard their conversation. Lord, this was a nightmare! Charles was becoming a pain in the butt.

“You should go and see Pastor, your soul needs salvation. Honestly I wonder how you two are brothers,” she glared at him.

He tilted his head back and laughed, he was obviously enjoying her discomfort.

“Step-brothers, actually. Perhaps we should take this conversation elsewhere, Thelia.”

“Yes. Absolutely. Let’s take it back to the hotel where you and your wife are staying!!” she hissed at him.

He froze for a split second giving room for Ethel’s savior to show up. Amaka.

“Hey Eth, what’s up?” Amaka slid in smoothly beside Ethel, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Er…I…”

“Who’s this? A new brother in church? Hello brother, my name is Amaka,” she held out her hand with a smile.

Charles looked at Amaka, exasperated and had no choice but to stretch out his hands to accept hers.

“This is Charles. Charles Umoh,” Ethel said, her eyes lowered, wondering if Amaka would make the connection.

“Interesting,” apparently she had.

Ethel bit her lower lip in nervously. Her life as she knew it had just come crumbling and it was up to her to face the consequences.

“You know what? We need to talk Eth so I’ll just wait here while you say goodbye to Brother Charles here, okay?” there was an emphasis on the ‘brother’.

Ethel was visibly trembling as she nodded. Amaka wanted to talk to her! She wasn’t sure if she could face her. Especially not now.

She glanced at her friend and the stern look on her face told her she meant business this time. Quickly she turned to Charles and beckoned him to follow her.

Her nervousness caused her to be clumsy and her purse fell to the ground and spilled open, scattering its contents.

“Crap,” she murmured as she bent to pick it. Could this day get any worse?

“I’ll do it. You go on,” Amaka offered.

She needed Charles far away as fast as possible so she smiled gratefully at Amaka and walked Charles to the door.

“How did you know about my…wife?”

“The same way she knew about me. You’re a shameless liar. Don’t come looking for me again,” with that she left him staring agape after her.

When she returned to Amaka she immediately knew something was wrong. Perhaps she was still angry.

“Thank you Amy but I have to go home. I’ve got an early day tomorrow,” she spoke fast, hoping Amaka would ask no questions.

“We have to talk,” Amaka replied in a grave voice.

“Not tonight please,”

“Yes, tonight,” she waved an envelope in front of her, “about this.”

It was the envelope Charles’ wife had given her the previous day. She’d forgotten it in her purse!

She snatched it from Amaka’s hand and tucked it away. “You had no right to pry.”

There was no apology as Amaka asked, “have you ever had an abortion?”

“What??”

“I think we are going to have that talk after all. Now.”

 

To be continued next week…

By Mimi Adebayo

 

 

UNFORGIVEN V

…continued from Unforgiven IV

unforgiven

Charles wasn’t going to stop hounding her. He was the kind of man that got what he wanted and right now he wanted her. The thought of that managed to thrill her and scare her at the same time.

Although it was difficult, she decided to ignore his text and return to class. Odd, that even while she spoke to her students, her mind wandered to Charles.

She’d broken her ultimate rule with the wrong man.

And yet, as much as she regretted what had happened with Charles, she found she still cherished what they’d had. It had been love, even if the worst kind. Even if it had been one-sided.

Which is why she knew she wasn’t ready to tell Amaka about Charles. Not just yet.

As soon as school was over, Ethel didn’t bother waiting around for Amaka because she knew there was no way Amaka would let her go without finishing her story. Yes, she was persistent like that.

And when her cell rang later that day as she made lunch, she knew without a doubt that it was Amaka.

She was wrong. The caller ID showed a strange number.

“Hello?”

“Have dinner with me tonight please.”

She didn’t have to think twice to know who was speaking. Charles.

“How did you get my number?” she asked.

“Oh come on Thelia, you know me. That’s not what’s important here. Please have dinner with me.”

His voice disarmed her whenever he begged, even if for a little bit. He spoke with that low drawl that quickened her pulse whenever she listened to him. It was one of the things that had endeared her to him.

“Why?” she asked. Every second spent on the phone with him weakened her defences in a way that scared her. She didn’t want to fall back into that phase of her life where all she’d thought about was him.

“Because I miss you.”

And I miss you too. In a stupid way. She snorted, “No, Charles. I told you nothing is going to happen between us.”

“Then why are you afraid of having dinner with me? C’mon, it’s just dinner.”

Dining with the devil eh? A voice taunted her.

“We didn’t have a chance to say our formal goodbyes, remember? Let’s just treat this as…a way of getting…closure,” he continued.

You can’t actually be considering this, Ethel.

“If we didn’t have a chance to say goodbye Charles, that was the choice you made,” she said, slowly.

Maybe this would be good. Think of it as closure, Ethel. Get this man out of your heart and head once and for all.

“Give me a chance to make up for it. Let me treat you like the queen you are. Let me make it up to you.”

It wasn’t the sweetness of his words that made her say yes to a date later that night; it was the fact that she’d dreamed of this moment almost every day for the past three years.

She’d often wondered what she’d do if she saw him again; if he came to ask for her forgiveness. And now that time had come. What exactly did she want? A harmless dinner with her former lover?

Bad idea, Ethel. The voice reprimanded. Do not be unequally yoked, Ethel.

No one is doing any yoking here. It’s just dinner.

With the man who sent you to hell and back.

Oh Lord, what now? She deliberated; maybe she should call Amaka and ask advice.

After playing hooky today? I don’t think so.

She glanced at her clock. Two minutes past four. Charles said he’d pick her up by seven pm so she had barely three hours to make up her mind and get ready.

Now what would she wear? Charles liked short and skimpy and before he’d ended their relationship, her wardrobe – which he had picked out – was made up of short skirts or gowns.

Short and skimpy was definitely out of it now. She’d long since stopped dressing to please Charles; now, she’d dress to please her Creator.

Maybe you should have thought about that before you agreed to this date in the first place.

Three hours later, she was still unsure what to wear when the doorbell rang.

Dammit. She’d forgotten the man was a stickler to time.

Thankfully, she’d left the door unlocked.

“Come in! It’s open!” she struggled into a shimmering blue gown. “I’ll be right there, Charles.”

She half expected him to walk into her bedroom. Charles was well known for such grand intrusive gestures. It shamed her to think that the thought of him walking in on her sent tiny unexpected shivers down her spine.

This has to stop. He is a married man! And he’s wrong for you! And he’s Charles!

Ten minutes later, she checked herself in the mirror and smiled.

This was good. Nothing extravagant. Just the right amount of make-up. Nothing to make him think she was going overboard for him. Her knee-length ball gown gave away no curves, the right thing for the occasion. Nothing to give Charles ideas.

Yes. I’m ready.

She slid into her black stilettos and stepped out into the living room, a little nervous.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting, Charles,” she said, emerging fully into the parlor.

“You didn’t at all.”

Ethel froze. That wasn’t Charles. It was some woman.

“Hello Ethel,” the woman rose to her feet.

“Who are you?”

“Won’t you say hello to me at least?”

Ethel froze in her tracks; the woman looked disturbingly familiar but Ethel couldn’t place where she’d seen her before. She looked to be in her fifties, everything about her was well-coiffed and in-place.

“Who are you?” she asked again.

“Mrs Felicia Umoh.”

“Who?” Something about her name made Ethel pause.

“Wow. I’m nothing more than a statistic to you, right? Now that hurts. Well, let me enlighten you…my husband would be a little late for your date tonight. I made sure of it,” her eyes turned to steel.

And then it clicked. She was Charles’ wife.

Oh my God.

 

 

to be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo

 

 

THIS THING CALLED “THE FACE”

THE FACE

A long time ago in the land of UpSideDown, there lived a man named Festus who was gifted with hands of gold. His gift was such that whatever he laid hands on, regardless of how low or misshapen, immediately morphed into the best of its kind. As is expected for such a man, Festus was wealthy by all standards. He had herds and herds of cattle, seemingly limitless hectares of land, a blossoming business empire and a large happy family. He literarily and quite literally had it all.

But one day Festus woke up unhappy. He needed a new project, something else to take up and refine into the best shape ever imagined. And while he stood before the mirror contemplating this, his eyes lit upon his face. He stared. At the long crooked nose, the spotted cheeks and lined forehead, and the webbed corners bracketing the squinty eyes. Then he knew he had found it. He would take the face up and transform it so that it turned out to be the best face ever imagined.

Excited beyond measure, Festus walked around the mirror to retrieve the face but it wasn’t there! Festus moved the mirror this way, and that way. It was a large mirror, 9-foot high, 6 wide, made of oak and shiny arcs lined with rubies, and it stood on two large ceramic claws. Festus poked and prodded at it from behind, he squirmed this way and that way, nothing.

He peeked again at the shiny mirror surface and sure enough, the face was there. Then he looked again behind it, and the same thing happened…it went poof!

Alarmed, he called in his servants and explained his dilemma to them.

“If I may speak, sire…” a brave steward ventured.

“Quiet!” Festus yelled; his face was by now livid, forehead dotted with sweat and lips drawn in a thin unyielding line of strung-out anger. “Just find it” was all he said.

He ordered them to work in shifts, round the clock; and he had his bed moved so it sat just before the grand mirror. Every morning, the first sight he saw was the face. He would crawl up through the miles of bedding to it, a plea in his eyes, tears too. Please let me touch you. He would reach out to touch it – this obsession of his, but he would yet again make contact only with the hand, the cold, unfeeling, obtrusive hand that belonged to the face. Then he would grit his teeth, rise and walk around to the back of the mirror. And always, the face and hand would vanish.

Festus would fume and kick and scratch at his stewards and order them to bring him the face. They tried to take the mirror out but he turned grey all over and yelled like a train gone berserk. His servants obediently took to the mirror, peeling off the layers of shine, then paper, then strip by strip of oak. It took days but then it was done, but the face was still not found.

“Keep looking” Festus said.

“But how, sire? The…”

“KEEP LOOKING!!!”

Festus would hear the counsel of no one, not the tender pleas of his children, nor the amorous wiles of his wife of two-score years. And soon fed up with his sour demeanor, they parked up and left to the village. His stewards too, one by one, packed up and left the mansion until it was just sully ol’ Festus in it. Festus and the face that couldn’t be found.

He sent word out to the other eight lands and to the seven seas and oceans; he put up his entire wealth for the man who could find the face he saw in the mirror. And they came, and tried, and failed.

Festus watched the face wane every morning; the brows lost their wing-like drape, the nose grew even more crooked, and the spots took over whatever rest of it dirty graying hairs had spared. And as he watched the rot, his soul wilted. And as his soul wilted, the face waned even more. And waned. And wilted. And waned.

Until one fateful night, Festus lay down. And waned.

 

Interpretation:

The tag of ‘interpretation’ is for want of a more apt word to use because sincerely, there will be very little ‘interpretation’ happening here. Matter of fact, if I’ll be doing anything, it’d be more like EX-terpretation. So here goes:

Festus is everyday man, woman – you and I.

The Face is what some of us call ‘inner peace’ or ‘peace of mind’, some call it ‘satisfaction’, some broaden it to be ‘soul satisfaction’, some call it ‘true happiness’ while others call it ‘true living’. Because it is called by so many names and because I plain like to be noticed, I’ll continue calling it The Face for the purposes of this post.

However you choose to address it, The Face is that state we all – or some of us who have decided that death is unavoidable eventually – want to die in; that state in which we are free of all worries and in fact, happy with the lives we will be leaving behind. It’s that state we’ve heard that people were in who died with smiles on their lips. And many times, it’s a state we seek – some of us through the entirety of our mature lives and others, much later – and rarely find.

Fusing the analogy with this inexterpretation then, we often seek The Face and often, in the wrong places. Ironically, sadly, The Face is right with us, on us, in us, so we shouldn’t even have to ‘look’ in the first place. But oh, we do. We look.

We look for it in careers, in wealth, in crime, in power, in abusive relationships, in amorous ones, in love, in family. People tell us where to look, how to look and we listen or don’t. And either way, they soon tire because really, they can do nothing to help. As Abe so succinctly put it, “you wan hep pesin fain im own face?

So sometimes we find it, most times we don’t but check this out, eventually we die. And after we’re dead, people spend time wondering about The Face on our behalf; they wonder if we found it – did he die happy? Did she live a fulfilled life? Is that a 🙂 ? Or a 😦 ?

And they never know. Then they die. And the wondering cycle whips on along.

So I thought of a question that would best direct people to find The Face while they lived. So that it wouldn’t matter to you at death what other people will wonder or think about you. So that it wouldn’t matter to you whether you died 🙂 or 😦 or :/; when the time came, you would just quietly let go without fighting to hold on to the razor-sharp rims of mortality.

Many of us don’t like to hear this next part so reader discretion is advised for the next 23 words, 3 commas, two semi-colons and 2 full-stops.

Some of us will die violently, others peacefully; some slowly, others quickly; some painfully, others by an orgasm. But we will all die.

So death is sure – check; we can’t control it, nor can we control the manner in which it will visit us. What we can control though is the state we are in at the time it comes. Maybe we can die without feeling regret or intense dissatisfaction, the kind that breaks the heart of even a dying man.

If you’ve died before, then don’t bother reading this to the end, you already know what I mean. If you never plan to die…well, cumbayaya cumbaya. But if you – like me – are yet to but will surely die, kindly follow to the end.

I came upon this blog post from December of mega-sized ‘blackboard’ walls where people wrote with pencils their individual finishes of the open-ended clause, “Before I die, I want to…” And I thought, cool. So I conducted a mini-survey among my usual pool of youths 20 to 30 years of age. My pitch to them was this:

“Complete this – you may be as effusive as you desire, or concise. However you want to answer it:

BEFORE I DIE, I WANT TO…”

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And the answers came rolling in. I will share a few of the answers I received back as well as my own answer in the next TTC post but now, take a moment to answer it for yourself. Because this question will help you find The Face, or peace of mind or soul satisfaction or happiness…whichever.

What is it that you deem your life’s purpose? That dream, that goal, that ambition which achieving right now will see you very happy, even if death came in the next minute. What is it that you want to have checked as DONE before death comes knocking?

What is the deal with This Thing Called ‘The Face’?

Think on it and do well to share with us.

 

P.S. While you’re at it, don’t look in ANY mirrors

 

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

 

THIS THING CALLED…WEDDING.

I attended the early morning mass today; it’s Ascension Thursday. I was early (for an early morning mass, can you imagine?!) so I sat just outside the door and smoked a joint while I waited. LOL…ok, goofs stop here.

I sat and watched people shuffle past me to sit in different pews. There was quite a handful of people but one couple caught my attention; the man was in a suit and the lady wore a simple black dress so it wasn’t their dressing. What drew and kept my attention was the thing they had going for them. They giggled, laughed, never stopped touching – they were clearly in love. I was seated a few seats behind them so I just looked on with this silly half-smile on my face, crying and wailing “Lawwd, see ME!!!!”

When altar activity indicated that the priest would soon be out, the lady picked up a black polythene bag I hadn’t noticed before then, and stepped outside. Moments later as she passed by me enroute her seat, I did a double take. She had changed into a white wedding gown with a train and veil to boot, jewelry winked from her arm, neck and in her hair. A little murmur swept through the sparsely-occupied church and she smiled this small demure J and took her seat. I was dumbstruck and enraged – Cinderella came to church and nobody saw it fit to pre-inform me?!

We all learnt eventually that it was their wedding day, Cinderella and her prince. They wanted a really really small wedding with – the Monsignor made sure to add – “no noise”. I slept through most of the homily – blame it on the sexy-chilly morning – but I was wide awake through the wedding parts where they exchanged vows, rings and kisses.

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What is the deal on This Thing Called Wedding?

Why do people spend so much money and time planning a wedding only to suffer through the day worrying over who received a souvenir and who did not, or who ate the goat meat reserved for the Umunna? When did weddings stop being about a man and a woman, excited as toddlers at the park, committing their lives to a union of love in the presence of God and man? And become a (townspeople) + (friends)*(ex-friends + people-you-never-met-before) reunion? When did it become about having THE wedding of the year and because you never could have afforded it, spending your honeymoon cooped up with your partner eating Pringles and playing ludo?

Some days ago, I met up with friends from my university days for a mini-reunion. Because the rest of us hadn’t been at her wedding about a month back, Jane regaled us with tales of her new life with her ‘my baby’ – she kept calling him that…all dis freshly-married people can know how to make somebori jealous shaa. Anyhow, we got talking about weddings and she mentioned that all she had wanted was a traditional marriage and a wedding blessing. She had eventually agreed to a church wedding one day after her traditional marriage and it had been a small one; a small, happy and classy church wedding (see here if you can’t remember the details).

I asked Ifeanyi what kind of wedding he envisioned when he imagined his; he wants his traditional marriage and white wedding to hold within the same week witnessed by only close friends and family. He thinks it foolhardy to have “the whole wide world at my wedding on top my own pocket!”

Ekene is a friend whose personality is the exact opposite of Ifeanyi’s. Surprisingly, he wanted the same type of wedding as Ifeanyi – “small and classy with very close friends, cousins, uncles and aunts who have actually spoken to me before,” Ekene said. He went further to place a limit on the number of guests he would have at his wedding – “100 and not half a baby more.”

I asked another friend, a female. Your guess is as bewilderedly true as mine – Kaka also wants “a small and classy wedding with just family and a few close friends”.

My poll on ‘This Thing Called…Wedding’ was targeted at young men and women, 20-30 years old who were unmarried, about to be married or less than a year old in marriage. The ‘small and classy wedding with close friends and family’ party won by a landslide over the ‘big wedding with paparazzi and screaming crowds’ party.

Who then wants the big weddings? Who wants the noise, the crowd and the paparazzi? We have them every weekend, in those town halls, school auditoriums and even out in the open to accommodate as many people as are interested. If nobody starts out wanting them, how then do people end up with these weddings?

My research fingered society as the major culprit. My sources will remain anonymous for those of you looking for who to carry wedding-akpo for, but according to them, society in this context means those people you know or have met who will get offended because they didn’t receive invitations to your wedding, THEN show up anyway. They are those people who you sent invitations just so you don’t hurt their feelings, only for them to show up with an entourage. They are also those ones who because they want to do something nice for you – either for genuine or selfish reasons – reproduce your wedding invitation cards and disperse them unto the biblical fertile soil.

We all want our weddings to be about us – that special day where you smile, laugh and dance the best and most you ever have, and then get to treasure the memory forever with the one you love. By virtue of its nature, big weddings rarely ever deliver that yet many a couple find themselves having one.

So if you want a small wedding and you already feel the choice slipping through your fingers with calls and mails from old colleagues and acquaintances who just assume they are invited and “can’t wait to see you at the wedding”, here’s a tip from my wedding-savvy source: HAVE IT SOMEWHERE FAR FAR FAR AWAY. Have your traditional marriage at home – one, it’s tradition; two, ‘they’ always elect to attend the white wedding. If you can afford it, stage it abroad. If you can’t afford it or if like me, it doesn’t sit right with you to wed outside Nigeria, hit google.ng. Search out little places far away from the region where you have spent most of your life. That way, only family and friends who care enough to go through the trouble of travel will be at your wedding. Also, you save some money to have yourselves some good ol’ delicious honeymoon.

Maybe I’m being overly sentimental or hurried in my judgment, but I daresay everybody likes a small, happy wedding. Yours doesn’t have to be without family like the couple whose story I shared at the start of this piece, and you definitely can choose to wear your gown to church rather than bring it in a bag. But if it’s small and classy and filled with joy and laughter, everybody likes it. You best.

That said; I will add that there is nothing wrong with having a big, loud and classy wedding, so far as it is the wedding you and your partner want. That is really all that matters – your choice. Your happiness.

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So what do you think of ‘This Thing Called Wedding’? Have you had any relevant experiences or do you know any secrets or tips for having the dream wedding – big or small? Don’t be shellfish, SHARE IT!

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twirra