Month: October 2014

19 Bush Street : Part 1 of 2

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His face was redder than I’d ever seen it, eyes bloodshot and spilling hot tears, scalding tracks along his cheeks. I’d see him cry many a time, usually in silence, but this, the state he was in, was new territory. I heard the cracks as his heart splintered, the sharp edges piercing his lungs, drawing blood and cutting off his air supply. I caught him in my arms as his knees gave way. It was then I felt the throbbing welts peppered across his back. Anger burned within me.

How could he do this to him?!

Yet I was powerless to act. I lowered myself to the ground, taking him down with me, gently rocking him as he cried out in agony, silence, no longer an option.

“It’s okay Baba, it’s okay,” I whispered over and over again as I continued to rock him in my arms.

“Why does he hate me so much, Tega?! What have I done to him?! I want to die Tega, I want to die! God please let me die, I am tired of living!”

I wanted to tell him everything would be alright but knew I’d be lying. If the things I had witnessed in the two weeks I had been living with them were anything to go by, it was only a matter of time before Baba’s wish would be granted.

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I’d met Big Uncle once before I came to live with him; when he came to Warri for Papa’s funeral. He was the golden boy of the family, the only one for generations to break free from the clutches of poverty. His hands fed many mouths, mouths that multiplied as poverty continued to breed poverty. He was a demi god, the saviour of the family. When he mentioned in passing that he was in need of domestic help, Mama latched on to his words like a baby suckling its mother’s breast. She offered me up speedily, eager to please her saviour. With Papa gone, life was about to get even tougher for her. Being in our benefactor’s good books was of the utmost importance.

I was excited, eager to see Lagos, the land of opportunity and the birth place of Big Uncle’s fortunes. The schools they said, were better and to Mama’s horror, Big Uncle had agreed to fund my education when I cheekily asked. The only reason she didn’t beat me black and blue was because He seemed pleased with the idea. I would go to school during the day and cook and do chores at night. I had dreams of going to University and the thought that I could potentially be the second ever graduate in the family, a student of Unilag, made me giddy with excitement. My chest thrust itself outwards and I walked around the family compound like a peacock about to take flight.

The day I told Papa I wanted to go to University, he laughed so hard, Mama had to pat his back furiously to stop him from choking. To prove a point, I sat JAMB and passed with flying colours. Not that anyone cared. I wasn’t going anywhere when Mama needed a hand frying akara in the market. Yet, here I was, packing my meager belongings, getting ready to leave the smell of stale oil and soaking beans behind.

When I arrived at 19 Bush Street and realised I would have a bedroom all to myself, I danced in circles till I became unsteady. I would no longer have to share a room with all three of my siblings. After years of dodging my younger sister’s fists as her subconscious dealt blow after blow in the midnight hour, I would have a bed all to myself. A proper bed complete with a mattress and bed sheet! Collapsing on the bed, I stared at the ceiling in awe. A fan stared back at me. A fan, a ceiling fan in my bedroom?! Heaven was finally smiling down on me.

The first time I saw Big Uncle beat Baba, I knew for sure that heaven had tricked me. I had traded in a lesser form of hell for the ultimate damnation. I had seen many parents beat their children, received many beatings from Papa myself, but this beating, was like nothing I had seen before. He unbuckled his belt, backed him up against the wall and flogged him till he collapsed to the ground. But for the sound of the leather slapping against Baba’s skin, the room was silent.

The speed with which Big Uncle’s hand contracted and relaxed as he swung blow after blow, left me speechless. Tears pricked the backs of my eyelids but I didn’t think I had the right to indulge in tears. If Baba could lie in silence while Big Uncle beat him for dead, who was I to cry?!

I stood motionless till satisfied with his handiwork, Big Uncle left the room. A part of me feared the blood stained body lying still against the wall, was a corpse. Staring intently, I willed it to come alive. What would people say if they heard that a man had used his hands to kill his own son?!
And then I saw his chest heave. Tears of relief streamed down my face.

Everything would be alright.

Thou Shall Not Covet

longthroat.com

longthroat.com

Epistle begins.

My relationship with social media is a precarious one. Some days I love it and other times, I curse the person whose idea it was. More than once, I have considered shutting down all my social media accounts and obliterating myself from the internet. Well, I typically consider it for all of a nanosecond and then promptly cast down the evil thought. The only thing that stops me is my thirst for information and current affairs (also known as amebo); how else will the latest gist reach me?!

One of my principal gripes with social media is that is a well oiled envy breeding machine. Sometimes, it’s obvious. We see something someone has and instantly start plotting our ‘get it too’ strategy. Other times, it’s more subtle. All seems well until we wake up one day to find we are no longer satisfied with our lives. Other people are ‘doing big things’ while we stay drowning in the well of relative insignificance.

It is an accepted fact that people tend to portray the best of their lives on social media platforms. You post a selfie when you KNOW you’re looking hot but those pictures where you’re looking jacked up rarely surface. When you are in a relationship, we know about it because your poetic status and photo updates make the rest of us want to curl up in a ball and weep for love, but it is your silence that tells us when the relationship has ended. When you get a new job, we see the update on LinkedIn but we only know you were out of work when you post a new job update and we realise there’s a six month gap between when the last one ended and the new one began. We see the portraits of your feet on Instagram when you’re wearing Louboutin and Zanotti but the portraits of your Atmosphere and Store Twenty-One purchases never get their day in the spotlight.

I’m no wet blanket. I’m happy when good things happen to people and get ridiculously excited when I see people living out their dreams and succeeding too! I also have no issues with people owning luxury items. If you can afford them, knock yourself out! I mean, I’d quite like to play landlady to a Chanel Boy bag myself (hi Yoruba Boy!). This is just me pointing out to the people who haven’t figured it out yet or those who have perhaps, forgotten, that what you see of people’s lives via social media is;

  1. what they want you to see
  2. a miniscule glimpse of their bigger picture
  3. false advertising
  4. all of the above

Let’s consider the possibility that life IS going really well for them (they are happy, rich, successful, in love, famous and everything else you dream of and haven’t quite managed to become) because let’s face it, fortune shines blindingly over some of us mortals. Alongside that, let’s also consider the reality that success is more often than not, the result of the shedding of sweat and blood. Whose blood (their ancestors perhaps), is irrelevant. When we see the evidence of other’s success advertised via social media, it’s worth reminding ourselves that;

  1. It came at a price
  2. Your success has a price too
  3. No payment, no collection
  4. all of the above

 

I know we’re considering many possibilities here but let’s also consider the possibility that most of your dreams do not come true in your lifetime. This is a likely possibility…and no, I’m not cursing you! What happens then? Does your life become a den of depression, regret, envy and lust?

The ability to find contentment regardless of the hand fate deals us is necessary, mandatory, if you will. If we live life happy when things are going well and miserable otherwise, we will soon turn into self-induced manic depressives.

The moral of this epistle is simply this; be content with what you have and where you are. By all means, aspire for better but on your way there, make the most of the here and now. You cannot stop people from advertising the best of their lives on social media (and I advocate celebrating others’ successes) but you can control your long throat so please, do yourself a favour and rein it in before it stretches to the point of no return.

Epistle over.

Thanks and God bless.

xXx

Waila

 

SOME OF US ARE REALLY JUST HOT!

Many years ago I took a trip to Abuja to visit my mother. It was my first visit back home in circa 8 years, my first trip back since I left. Very little had changed but the things that had, had changed dramatically. For example, before I left, mobile phones were the preserve of elite business men and looked something like this.

 

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I arrived to find that just about everyone had mobile phones and you could buy one for as little as N5000. It really was revolutionary that my mother could call her ‘hair person’ in Wuse market to pre-order the hair extensions I wanted to cart back at the end of my trip. Let’s not try and understand why my mother, who has no hair, has a hair person.

At the time, she lived in a block of flats and unknown to me, everyone in the building was eagerly awaiting my arrival; rodents and household pets included. Such was her excitement. She could finally prove to people that she REALLY did have children. I spent more time than I cared to visiting neighbours and parading myself like a show horse so one morning, when she informed me that she had organised a play date for me with the daughter of a neighbour I was yet to meet, I was not impressed. It was one thing to pop in for a quick hello but a play date?! On what planet do parents schedule play dates for their twenty something year old ‘children’?! The family were expecting me though and it would have been rude not to turn up so off I went to meet my new play mate.

As we walked into their living the room, I spotted a girl who I figured was my play date. I smiled at her and said a hello that was accompanied by that nervous wave that we humans tend to do when we walk into a room full of strange people. Or maybe it’s just me.

“I know you. You went to QC didn’t you?”

Ah, she was one of the millions of QC girls roaming the face of this earth. I didn’t recognise her but she remembered so much about me for someone who wasn’t in my year that I was a little embarrassed. I’m pretty good with names and faces and I’m not one to pretend I don’t know people for the sake of seeming cool. Not that there’s anything cool about it. Unfortunately, try though I did, I just couldn’t remember the girl. She seemed pretty irritated by that and it annoyed me a teeny bit.

Is it by force for someone to know you?!

Aware that we’d gotten off to a shaky start, I turned on the charm and started asking her a load of questions. We got chatting and she asked the question I’d been asked by pretty much every soul I’d met since I’d stepped off the plane.

“How are you finding Abuja?”

Abuja was Abuja. I’d visited the city a couple of times before I was exported over the seas and while it was busier and more densely populated than I remembered it, it was essentially the same place. The only thing I hadn’t been prepared for was the scorching heat. If you’ve ever been to Abuja, you will know that the sun that shines there is not the same sun that shines in the rest of the world. If you venture there at the wrong time of the year, it is melt-your-skin-and-dissolve-your-bones hot. To compound matters, I’d broken out in heat rashes within 24hours of my arrival. All in all, the weather was dealing with me severely and given that I didn’t know what else to say to the girl, I thought I’d share that.
“It’s been good. The heat is crazy though, I don’t remember Abuja being this hot!”

“I beg jo, stop forming! Why are you behaving like you didn’t grow up in Nigeria?!” she replied, disdain dripping off every word.

“Huh?!” *confused face*

To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. Since when did being hot become something to feel superior about?!

“Sorry, I’m not allowed to be hot because I grew up in Nigeria?!”

That was the end of that. I stood up, said my goodbyes and went home. I was FURIOUS!
Umpteen years later, thinking about it still annoys me. I don’t remember the girl’s name and I wouldn’t recognise her if I saw her again but the stranger still has the ability to rile me. There is a perception of Nigerians who live outside Nigeria that like every generalisation isn’t true of everyone. The perception is that we are stuck up, fancy pants that live for opportunities to announce to the world that we have spent a portion of our lives living abroad and therefore deserve to be treated like crown jewels. I have no doubt this stereotype is true of some people, but to tar everyone with the same brush is not just unfair; it is ignorant and downright ridiculous.

My first winter in England, I was convinced the cold would surely kill me. I would stand at my front door for minutes trying to grip my keys with numb hands. I thought people were MAD for wearing skirts in winter, never mind that they were wearing tights. I honestly though I wouldn’t survive my first winter yet, thirteen odd years later, I don’t own any thermal underwear, live in skirts and 20 denier tights and wear peep toe shoes in the thick of winter.

What my dear playmate classed as ‘forming’ was far from it; I was simply being human. It really doesn’t matter where you grew up, it is human nature to adapt and acclimatise to new environments. That aside, even those that were born, bred and never left Abuja are surely entitled to be hot too!

I have written far more words than I intended to so I will end this with a few words for my play date.

 

Dear play date, not every “diasporan” you meet is “forming”. Some of us are really just hot!

xXx
Waila

Guess Who’s Back!

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Hello there people!

After a rather lengthy hiatus, I am back in the business of blogging!

I cannot tell a lie, I have missed you my cyber buddies! You know those friends you have that you don’t speak to for years but when you do, it’s like you spoke to them yesterday? Let’s be like those friends.

I have missed writing. Among other things, I write (business documents) for a living but in the world of writing, nothing, absolutely nothing, beats pouring out your imagination, thoughts and emotions on paper.  There is only so much love, humour, pain and anger one can infuse into a document defining how Bank of XYZ intends to configure their back office systems.

Have you noticed the new improved layout? I hope you like it because I certainly do! I spent HOURS sorting through and categorising my previous posts. It’s been a long time since I stayed up late to do anything, but stay up late I did. My brain does not function at night but I willed all my brain cells to stay awake for mummy. In my next life, I must return as a tech head. I would like to say a big thank-you to YouTube without whom, the task would have been infinitely more gargantuan. If you have any suggestions on how I can further improve the user experience, please don’t hesitate to offer your opinions and suggestions.

The year 2014 has been good to me. There have been so many highs, I struggle to remember the lows. I have plenty of stories, thoughts and random bits of information to share with you so please don’t give up on me just yet.

You know I like a challenge so if there are any topics or issues you would like me to tackle (through fiction or otherwise) do let me know and I will do my best to deliver.

Thanks for reading and encouraging me along the way and a special thanks to those of you who have stopped me in the streets of London to tell me off for not blogging!

Your concern and kind words are very much appreciated!

Hugs all round!

xXx

Waila