Friday, August 15, 2014

HOW TO RIDE THE BUS

My short story, ‘How To Ride the Bus’, was published on Bella Naija this week. You can find it here. Please read, comment and share.

Friday, August 1, 2014

TALKING PHOTOS #6: Gold Star



I watched him from afar, lonely speck of black in a sea of white. He liked to do this after every event, sit smoking a cigarette amidst the pieces of themselves the guests left behind on the grounds he kept. Just one cigarette, though. He had quit for real a month and two weeks before I announced that I was marrying the daughter of his greatest enemy.

I walked, the grass beneath my feet muffling my approach. I was late today, and I wondered if my father noticed this where he sat sending wisps of smoke up in the air. There was something essentially the same about the different events that held here: weddings, parties, conventions, concerts. The things that the guests left behind on my father’s grounds – the scarves, the condoms, the books and underpants and wallets – should each tell a different story. But knowing that my father would look upon every one of these things made the stories all merge into one – the story of his life.

He did not say anything that day, after I shared the news of my coming wedding. He just strode out and returned with a pack of his favourite brand of smokes, Gold Star. He’s never spoken a word to me since. By marrying into the family that had stolen his small business and made him into a groundskeeper, I had chosen sides. There was nothing to say.

Except that today there was.

He did not look up when I reached him. His lips were rounded as he made a perfect O with his smoke. As a child I would reach up, put my index finger through the hole and watch the smoke fade around it. Would it make him laugh if I did that now? I sat and looked off into the distance.

We had made a baby for him. After three years of trying, we finally had. When I first held her in my arms I knew she would be the one, the mender of fences, the bridge under which the waters of our strife would flow. She was doing it already; her other grandfather had visited for the first time yesterday. Maybe if I found the right words my father would too.

I could start by saying we had decided to call her Gold Star. I hoped he would like this. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

WIG DILEMMA

I was standing at the bus stop this morning waiting for a danfo bus to Obalende. I was looking off into the distance and practising reading conductors’ lips when I got lucky. This one was calling Obalende. I was standing off to one side at the bus stop, away from most of the crowd, and so I had a small advantage. I hopped off the sidewalk and went to meet the bus before it stopped. The bus looked full, so I knew there was just one seat left.

But then I noticed that this last remaining seat was one of those pull-out ones, right beside the door of the bus. And this seat looked shaky. I've seen people fall off seats just like this one in moving danfos, so you can understand my hesitation.

‘You no dey enter?’ the conductor growled.

I shook my head. ‘This your seat ehn…’

‘The seat dey good, enter.’

I glanced at the people at the bus stop eyeing me, ready to pounce on the seat I was considering rejecting. Then I remembered how long I had to stand most days before finding a bus to Obalende. I took a breath and got into the bus. I perched on the seat, careful not to put my full weight on it. The conductor climbed on, covering the doorway with his body, his feet on the ledge as he held on to the roof of the bus, and the bus eased into the road. My hope at that point was that one of the passengers would shout ‘o wa’ and get off at a bus stop soon. As it turned out, this did not happen for a while. Moments later the traffic eased and we were speeding down the express road, and this was where my troubles really began.

You see, I was wearing a wig. And though I’d been wearing wigs for some time and had grown used to them, every wig wearer knows the anxiety that lurks at the back of your mind when you imagine the various ways that your ‘hair’ can be separated from your head without warning. Like, you could be coming down from a danfo and a lock of hair could get snagged on the door or on some random shard of metal protruding from the roof, and then your head will be exposed. You could be riding on an okada with a helmet on, and then when you alight and take off the helmet to return it your wig comes off along with said helmet and your ‘true self’ is revealed. You could be riding in a danfo with open doors, sitting on that outermost seat, like I was, the wind whipping your face and your ear rings, one hand struggling to hold on to your bags on your thighs and the other holding on to the seat in front of you so you don’t fall off when the bus takes the next curve in the road, and then the wind blows your wig right off your head and into the face of the person behind you. Or worse, the wind blows your wig out the bus and onto the windshield of a poor driver who did nothing at all to deserve any of this.

With every second that the wind buffeted my face and head I felt a growing certainty that it would take my wig. And so I found myself presented with a choice.

With one hand I was holding on to my bags, which were resting on my thighs and held my laptop and wallet and random valuables. It was a no-brainer; I needed all this stuff so I couldn't let go. With my other hand, I was holding on to the seat in front of me, to reduce my chances of falling off the bus every time we reached a roundabout or a bend in the road. But, and here was my dilemma, I had the option of letting go of the seat and using this other hand to hold on to my wig.

My people, after careful consideration I chose to let go of the seat that was probably saving my life and hold my hair in place.

But wait, before you say I’m vain. Believe me, I promise and cross my heart sef, I chose this option only because of the poor person sitting behind me who did not wake up this morning expecting to get a faceful of fake hair, and for the sake of the even poorer driver behind us who might be so shocked by the unexpected wig in his windscreen he might swerve off the road and die.


Monday, July 14, 2014

UNTITLED

These days I feel like there’s been a lot of infighting in my head, with me constantly having to remind myself of the things that are important to me. It gets harder. The things that are important to me are not visible to the human eye. They’re not the typical outward markings of ‘success’. Sometimes it’s me wondering if I haven’t been/am not being ‘realistic’ enough, if I’ve been too stayed on a certain path, not leaving enough room for life to have its way with me, to change me, maybe for good, maybe not.

There was a time, in 2010 or 2011, when the chance to interview at a small oil and gas firm in VI landed at my feet. I went to the interview, but only because everyone said I should; and even though I did not plan to, I pretty much ended up telling my interviewer that I just wanted to write, and that a job that would not let me use this, well I had no use for. At the end of the day, the result was that a place would be created for me in their small space; it would be there if I wanted it. I did not want it. No big loss for them; they didn’t want me either, not really. I was a favour.

Sometimes, when I waste my time dwelling on all the ‘what-ifs’ in my life, that day comes to mind. What if I had acted the normal interviewee, told them where I see myself in five years, like a proper ‘going somewhere’ person who knows how to sound like she knows where she’s going? What if I’d started that job administering things I don’t know or care for? What if I had dipped a foot in the big Oil and Gas pond that people sell their grandmothers to get into? What if I’d taken the road not taken?

I don’t know. But are we supposed to know these things?

People who know better, they take the road they take and they don’t look back. Me, I’m constantly craning my neck to look back in the direction I came from, exploring the past to imagine a different present.

But none of that is real. The past is past, and all that I have is now.


There’s a difficult space between the things that I know and the things that I do. I’ve been living in that space far too long.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Kalimba Publishing Wants Your Submissions

Read their call for submissions below:

ABOUT
Kalimba Publishing Limited is a new Nigerian publishing company dedicated to developing and distributing African written contemporary stories through eBooks, paperbacks, audio books and other channels. 

For now, Kalimba Publishing ltd. has just one imprint, 'Kalimba Books'. Kalimba Books is a traditional publishing imprint which publishes two to five books each year. 

SUBMISSION
Kalimba Books is currently open for submissions. 
1. To submit, send a one-page synopsis and the first three chapters of your work to kalimbabooks@gmail.com.
2. All submissions must be in MS Word and 12 point font, double spaced. The front page should have the author's details on it. 

Submissions that we think have potential will be selected by our editors and the authors contacted.

WHAT WE ACCEPT
Collections of short stories and full-length novels. We currently don't accept drama, poetry, crime fiction, children's fiction, motivational/self-help manuscripts. 

Please give us eight to twelve weeks to reply. If you do not hear back from us by this time, it means your work has not been accepted. 

Our website is currently under construction and will be shared with the public when completed. Please start by liking our Facebook Page, 'Kalimba Publishing Ltd.'

Friday, July 4, 2014

Yellow Mitsubishi: The Second Road Trip

Ikogosi Warm Springs (Ekiti), Arinta Waterfalls (Ekiti), Olumirin Waterfalls (Erin Ijesha, Osun)

Ekiti is a beautiful state, with a stunning landscape and views that had me wide-eyed and stretching my neck taut. We drove through some amazingly picturesque villages and towns – Ikeji-Ile and Ogotun-Ekiti were two that stood out for me – that had me thinking it might not be such a bad idea to move from mad Lagos and live there. There was something very clean and wholesome and unspoiled about these places. Also to my delight, many of the roads we took in these parts, off the major highway, were built to be as unobtrusive as possible. The asphalt seems to cling to the rolling landscape like a desperate lover, with valleys and dips and bends and curves that will steal your breath and make your stomach drop. It was like riding nature’s roller coaster.

We arrived Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort from Lagos at about 2 pm, and I found it way better than I’d expected: neat, well-tended lawns, buildings that looked freshly painted, newly tarred or very well-maintained roads, outdoor tennis and volleyball courts, something that looked like a small outdoor amphitheatre, a wooden boardwalk leading to the warm springs and a swimming pool which, along with the restaurant, is open 24 hours every day. There is also a palm wine shack that is open for a few hours a day.


Inside the resort

The ampitheatre

A section of the boardwalk

What I found really great about the resort is that it’s just right there in the midst of forest land, like some kind of oasis. This means it’s really quiet, with none of the noises most city dwellers have to live with every day. (Although someone had the brilliant idea to shatter this serenity for a few hours that afternoon, on our first day there, by playing loud Naija music on the resort’s outdoor public address system.)

I found the resort staff rather nice, no complaints there. The restaurant looked clean, and the food was good and reasonably priced, with meals costing between N800 and N1,800 on average. Our rooms, which were standard and housed a maximum of two guests, cost N12,500 per night and were quite comfortable. On the down side, the resort’s wifi was quite poor, virtually unusable. 

We checked into our rooms and later met at the restaurant for lunch, where a couple of my friends shared the story of The Immortal Fish, as told to them by a local. Apparently, there’s a species of fish – in some stream in Ekiti somewhere, or so I presume – that cannot die. According to the story, even if it’s caught and killed, throw it back in the water it came from and it will come back to life. Also, said fish cannot be cooked, because however long you cook it, it never gets done. I think, basically, whatever you do to this fish, if you put it back in the water it came from its life will be restored. Feel free to make of that what you will. 

Fifteen to twenty minutes from the Ikogosi Resort is a village called Ipole Iloro Ekiti, and here lies Arinta Waterfalls. It costs about N200 per person to get in, and we got a guide to lead us up the path to the falls, which was slippery in places. 

Going in 

Waterfalls selfie

Back at the Ikogosi Resort, we ventured down the wooden boardwalk leading to the springs, and at the end we came upon the meeting point of the warm and cold waters. The remarkable thing about the springs is that you can stand with one foot in warm water and the other in refrigerator-cold water, and they don’t mix!

After dark, a few of us came out to try the pool. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the water was warm, channelled into the pool from the warm springs. I had what was possibly one of my best swimming experiences that evening, if you leave out the insects that came swimming with us, drawn by the pool lights only to get stuck on the surface of the water. It’s like taking a swim out in the forest, your view of the night sky framed by a canopy of trees.

The next morning we headed back to Lagos, but not before visiting our last stop – Olumirin Waterfalls at Erin Ijesha, Osun State. Here, it costs N500 per person to get in. (There’s an additional N500 charge if you plan to take a camera with you.)

Olumirin

To get to the waterfalls you have to climb several flights of uneven stairs that weren’t built with human convenience in mind.

We discovered three levels of the waterfalls; we had no guide so we had to find our own way around. The first level of the falls was the easiest to reach, as it was right at the end of the stairs. We continued further up, though, and we found the second level. A couple of us decided to keep climbing to get to the summit of the rock, the seventh level. The path – if you can even call it that – is slippery and steep in many places, and we had to hold on to rocks and tree branches and such, first testing their hold before entrusting them with our weight. I found it quite a daunting climb, but we reached the seventh level, and the view was worth it.

Seventh level

After resting for a while we started back down, which in some ways was more difficult than climbing up. On our way we took a detour and found the third and (I think) highest point of the waterfalls. At this point I was so thirsty that the water looked almost good enough to drink.

We continued our descent, and when we reached the bottom of the stairs we besieged the waiting cold drinks, snacks and fruit sellers, who were only too happy to oblige us. Then it was time to leave for Lagos.

The Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort deserves more publicity that it’s getting. It’s a lovely, serene place, ideal for getting away from the noise and hassle of cities. And it’s worth the trip just to swim at night in that pool of water from the warm springs. Arinta and Erin Ijesha Waterfalls are quite small as waterfalls go; still, it was great to have seen them. With Erin Ijesha Waterfall, the more adventurous visitor can choose to climb up the hills and rocks to the seventh level; you’ll feel like you’re on Ultimate Search or something. Oh, and when you go to Ikogosi, be sure to ask about The Immortal Fish.

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Read about our first trip, to Badagry and Olumo Rock, here.

Follow Yellow Mitsubishi on Twitter, and on Instagram, Tumblr and PhotoBucket for amazing pictures from our travels.

All photos courtesy of Yellow Mitsubishi. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

WHILE WE WAIT

We’re young and we’re alive and we have feelings that should not be tamed. There’s no question, there’s a reason we met tonight.

We’ve shared a few drinks and I think I’ve known you like forever or maybe from a former life so yes I do know you cos you’re Funny Smart Smoking Hot and you know me so fill in the blanks don’t take any time cos you know YOLO.

Now is enough. You feel it too? See, I knew you would.

We’ll go now, my place. It’s what people like us do: live in the moment, seize the day, follow our feelings, let things be as they may. We’re young, we’re hot. Let’s make love!

That done, it looks like we might have something here. Shall we now really get to know each other? Yes? Yes. Hurray!

Second date, where I learn you believe in nothing and I in too many things. But we can’t keep our hands off each other under the table, so it’s okay; we are our shared belief. Your family is small but tight and so you want to recreate that, only bigger; mine is too large and I hate the noise and I won’t... We make a silent agreement not to get ahead of ourselves, that a compromise will come.

Next time in bed I realise that you intend to keep doing that thing with my feet that tickles, and not in a good way. But everything else is fine. Except that I hate that you let me pick up the cheque so often. I think your friends are rowdy and pretentious, you say my best friend is a snob. But they all say we’re ‘good together’. And so we are. Good together. It doesn’t matter that you seem like a different person whenever we’re not alone, or that I have to make you into one when my family asks about you. But at this point we’re sharing a flat and a bed and we need a mindless escape… So, sure, let’s make love.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m ready to admit it: I don’t like you very much. You feel the same way about me, I can tell. We don’t talk; we don’t even fight. We navigate around each other, timing our schedules so we never have to meet. Like polite strangers, when contact is inevitable we say please, thank you, excuse me, far too much.  Even in sleep we’re awake to the invisible line that divides our bed. Do Not Encroach.

We know we’re done; we’re just marking time now. One of us will have to make the move, say the words that will free us to go out and do the same things over again, with different people this time, thank God!

But for now, while we wait…

Let’s… have sex?

No…?

Okay.
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