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Friday, November 22, 2013

NO RETURNS

Image from here



‘I knew you should have pulled out,’ she says, tossing the test strip to the ground.

‘I tried,’ he says. He wants to reach for her face and smooth the lines that have appeared across her forehead, take her hands in his and stop her chewing on her nails. ‘I thought you were on the pill.’

‘I was. God, I am!’

She stands and starts pacing.

‘Well,’ he says, ‘you know they say these things aren’t one hundred per cent.’

‘You could try not to sound so… undisturbed.’

‘Why?’

‘Why? Why?!’ She stops in front of him, her eyes wide and incredulous. And angry, because she knows that he knows why. Or at least her reasons why.

‘Yes, why can’t we have a baby?’

‘And take care of it how?!’

‘We’re not exactly poverty stricken.’

‘Not exactly, no, but with this baby,’ she laughs, ‘with this baby we’ll soon be spacing out our meals – one-oh-one if we’re lucky.’

‘Don’t be a prophet of doom.’

‘Oh I’m not; one-oh-one is very optimistic.’

‘Really.’

‘Do you know how much baby food costs? And if the baby has your appetite, we’re finished!’

He stops himself from laughing. She is angry. She continues before he can speak.

‘And we haven’t even talked of clothes and toys, hospital bills…’

‘Onome.’

‘Jesus God! What of when it’s time to start school? Are we going to send our child to some converted flat that some person who knows nothing about anything decided to call a school?’ She shudders. ‘Aunty Morayo International Private School… something like that.’

‘Onome, we’ll be okay. We’ve been saving.’

‘Ehn, but how much now. How much?’

He looks at his wife, her small body tense, and imagines her nine months into the future. She will not be delicate and fussy in her pregnancy – he knows her – and part of him wishes she would. He wouldn’t mind the chance to have her really depend on him for once, let him take care of her. He finds the thought of her waddling about the house, slow and heavy with their child, hands on her hips, strangely erotic.

‘Wale! You’ve not heard a thing I’ve been saying abi?’

‘I’m sorry.’

She sighs and looks deflated. He stretches his arms out.

‘Come.’

She looks at him, like a suspicious child.

‘Come where?’

‘Come here.’

She eyes him for a moment before obeying and going to him. She stands, not touching him, but close enough so he can take her hands and lower her gently onto the couch, in the space between his thighs. She leans back into him, and he wraps his arms around her, nuzzles her ear.

‘We will be fine.’

She half turns, an attempt to see his face.

‘How do you know?’

‘It takes more than money to raise children well, you know.’

‘I know, but money is important too. And we don’t have enough of it.’

‘We don’t have a surplus, but we’re okay.’

‘But –’

‘And we’re getting better. The store is starting to pick up; you have your job. Things are getting better. Say it with me: things are...’

‘Things are getting better.’

‘Not quite the spirit there, but I’ll take it.’

‘I’m sorry. But I don’t know if we’re ready yet. I just want them to have the best.’

‘They already do, with you.’

She says nothing, but he knows he’s getting through.

‘And me,’ he says. ‘At least, I hope and me.’

‘You’re the best,’ she says, as simply as she says the day of the week.

‘Great. With two of the best people in the world, how can our kids not be awesome?’

She smiles. ‘I don’t think they have a choice.’

‘Exactly!’ He plants a kiss on her neck. ‘Besides, we can’t ask God to take it back. No returns or refunds.’

‘Nope.’

‘So, my darling,’ he sings, turning her around to face him. ‘What do you say?’


‘I say… let’s do this.’

Friday, November 8, 2013

THE GOOD NEIGHBOUR

Image from here

Nonye was tidying up the kitchen when she heard a knock at her screen door. She froze for a moment, then tiptoed to the kitchen doorway. Her heart sank as, peeping through, she confirmed what she already knew. It was her neighbor Taribo, smile in place. She leaned against the wall and tried to breathe quietly. Maybe if she stayed absolutely still he would be convinced she no longer existed. But she knew he would not leave. He was not stupid enough to believe that Nonye would go out leaving only her screen door locked, especially with the recent burglaries around off-campus housing like theirs. Plus, and more damning, Nonye knew that with his hound’s nose Taribo would have smelled her cooking as always, appearing like a ghoul whenever there was something on her stove.

‘Nor-nor,’ Taribo called, his over-familiar tone even more grating than the shortening of her name. ‘It’s like something good is happening in that your kitchen, ehn.’

He would not leave.

Forcing a smile, Nonye went to open the door. Taribo’s dark face gleamed with sweat and delight as she undid the door latch. He moved to take a step in, but Nonye remained standing in the doorway. Taribo stretched his neck to look past her, toward the kitchen.

‘Nor-nor, are you cooking?’

I don’t know; are you an idiot?

‘Ehn,’ Nonye muttered.

‘It’s smelling like jollof rice.’

Is that a question?

‘I’m bringing my plate o.’

Nonye considered Taribo’s hopeful face. Should she take the same approach as Justina, the girl from three rooms down, who had declared right in Taribo’s face one day – and loud enough for the whole compound to hear – that her parents hadn’t sent her to Uniport to be his personal cook? Nonye had imagined Taribo slunk away after that, to lick his wounds in private. For a couple of weeks he stopped showing up at Nonye’s door, and in gratitude Nonye had said several prayers for Justina. She had never expected that he would recover, but Taribo’s shame wore off and he resumed his visits, avoiding Justina’s room like the devil lived with her. Justina said Taribo persisted with Nonye because she was ‘too nice’. But Nonye found Justina’s approach, effective as it was, too direct for her tastes.

‘It’s not ready,’ Nonye finally said.

‘Ehen? Okay, no wahala.’

Taribo started to leave and Nonye’s heart soared. Was he taking a hint, after all this time? People did change!

He turned to Nonye again.

‘What time should I come back?’

How about quarter to never!

‘Twenty minutes.’

Nonye watched Taribo until he disappeared. She went into her kitchen. Humming a tune, she found her 350-gram salt container and emptied all of its contents into the simmering pot.

Nonye was sweet when Taribo returned. She served him a steaming heap of jollof rice on her best plate and insisted he ate in her room. She set out a smaller portion for herself and they settled down on the floor, Taribo’s tongue hanging loose and wet with anticipation.

Nonye raised the first forkful.

‘Bon app├ętit,’ she said, her smile so tight she thought her face would rip apart.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SPEED

Image from here

‘Have you done this before?’

‘No.’

‘Right,’ he says. ‘The right pedal is to accelerate, left is brake.’

In front of me I see Onos settled in his go-kart, like he was born in one. I should never have agreed to this.

The attendant offers his hand, to help me into my kart. ‘Can you drive?’ he asks.

‘Em… not really.’

He nods like he’s heard this before, and I wonder if I should be reassured. I eye the kart with suspicion. It’s red. Should I ask for one with a different colour, a placid blue maybe? I sigh and, one foot first, get into the kart, stiff and awkward. The helmet sits heavy on my head, and in my neck I feel a vein start to throb. I smile, to convince my brain that I’ve got this. Onos glances back at me. I can’t see his face, but I know his eyes will be shiny, expectant. ‘Try something new, for once’  those were the words he’d used to talk me into this ‘adventure’. I look away from him; I have to learn the ropes of this complex machine.

An Asian boy – he can’t be more than ten – appears brandishing a ticket, and another attendant helps him into the kart behind me. There are now three of us on the tracks. I am contemplating the meaning of life when I hear the boy’s kart rumble to life behind me. He speeds off, laughter trailing after him. I glare at his back.

‘Let’s do this,’ I say to the attendant through clenched teeth. He starts to bend over my kart and I quickly point at Onos. ‘Do him first.’

Onos starts off and the attendant comes back to turn mine on. The kart starts to vibrate beneath me, and I push down on the accelerator. Off I go. Fast. I make the first right turn. Piece of cake. Then on I go until I have to make a left turn. Easy peasy. As I head on, a genuine smile is starting to form on my face. The sun is beating down on my bare arms, the breeze blowing in my face. Today, I kick ass at go-karting; tomorrow, I walk on water! I take the next left and speed on ahead. I am coming up against red and white plastic barricades, but I’m still smiling. I have enough time to turn my wrist just so and avoid hitting them.

The smile is still there when I don’t make the turn. I crash into the barricades, the impact throwing up a couple of them, and they fall around me. The kart stops. I hurry to my feet, noticing that Onos has stopped and two of the attendants are rushing toward me. I struggle to take off my helmet, and as the first attendant reaches me he helps me pull it off. The smile is stuck on my face, for some odd reason; the attendants are looking at me funny. I hear the sound of an approaching kart and look toward it. It’s the boy, waving as he passes. When they are certain that I am fine, one of the attendants leads me away from the stalled kart while the other sets about putting the barricades back in place.

‘Maybe we’ll give you one of the slower karts,’ the attendant with me says.

They have slower karts? I want to grab the front of his shirt and shake him. ‘Why didn’t you just give me a slow one in the first place!’

‘We like to give those to children.’

We walk back to the start point in silence. As the attendant sets me up in a slower kart – blue this time, but this doesn’t make me feel better – the boy speeds past again.

The attendant starts me up, and off I go again. Slowly. I approach the first right turn and I slow to a crawl. In a fit of spurts and jerks, I make that turn. Then I speed up, but just a little, until I reach the next turn, which I take in similar fashion. I take yet another slow turn and approach the crash site, which now bears no trace of my assault. I go even slower, eyeing the spot as I navigate, snail like. I find that Onos is still waiting for me, and I like him a little less for this. He starts moving again as I reach him, and then he forges ahead. I approach a left turn, and I go so slowly that I stop. I tell myself that the accelerator is stiff; that this is why I keep stopping. The boy passes me again. I sigh.

After three painful laps – during which I stop at every single turn and drive into barricades countless times – with Onos hovering around me like an overly anxious but good intentioned parent, the Asian boy whooping with every pass, attendants and waiting customers watching me with a mixture of awe, pity, and annoyance, the attendant blocks my path at the start point with a barricade. I raise the visor off my helmet and glare at him.

‘What? I haven’t done up to ten laps now!’

‘Maximum time is ten minutes per round.’

‘Oh.’

‘We’ve allowed you more than ten, and that boy has done like twenty laps because of you!’

I smile stiffly, avoiding the attendant’s eyes as I get out of the kart and hand over the helmet. I walk with Onos to the locker room, to get our stuff. He says nothing; just puts an arm around my shoulder and gives a comforting squeeze, and I think maybe I will forgive him after all, for putting me through this.

In the locker room we see the boy. He is bright eyed and exhilarated, talking to his parents with words we can’t understand. His gestures are clear though: he is clenching the steering wheel, swerving here, swerving there, pressing down on the accelerator, whizzing past the world. He is Speed Racer!

‘Look on the bright side,’ Onos says, ‘the kid’s happy.’

I pick his hand off my shoulder and let it fall to his side.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

TNC: STRIPPED



Hi everyone. 

Please read me and some other fabulous writers on TNC, from tomorrow, October 7, through to October 11. The theme of this latest Women's Month series is 'exposure', and so we've written short stories on this, each from a different angle. See our fine poster? Should be fun :-)

Also, if you haven't already, please read and vote for my entry for the Etisalat Prize for Flash Fiction here. Voting is open till October 29.

Thank you!

Friday, September 20, 2013

MARRIED TO A PHD

Image from here

Here are some of the things I have learnt about PhDs.

The Pros (e.g. becoming 'Dr. Uche')
One pro is the thought of the writing, both fiction and research, that I will be made to do on a PhD. The idea of teaching writing at some point in the future is also, for me, an incentive for considering a creative writing PhD. Having the word ‘doctor’ attached to my name definitely isn’t. But we know how most Nigerians love our titles: Doctor This, Engineer That, Architect Some-Or-Other. So it came as no surprise when someone seriously asked me, ‘Don’t you want to become Dr. Uche?’


Image from here

The Seven Cons
1. (At least) three years of your life spent
2. Loads of money spent (less if you have funding)
3. The isolation, and the struggle to have or maintain a social life
4. Limited career options outside of academia
5. The rip-out-your-hair kind of competition within academia
6. Academia
7. The realization that no one cares as much about your research as you do


Image from here

The Eighth Con
Having now concluded the coursework for our master’s degrees, a friend and I were discussing PhDs. It was at this time that I uncovered The Eighth Con. According to her:

A PhD will make it hard(er) to ‘find husband’.

As you might have noticed, The Eighth Con only applies to womenfolk (particularly Nigerian womenfolk). This I had never considered. Apparently, as a woman, your PhD is proof to any self-respecting Nigerian man that you have ‘opened eye’ too much. Your excessive education has made you too exposed for your own good. Hence, if he marries you and brings you into his house, you will promptly attempt to usurp his trousers and authority.

Now, before this conversation my eyes had not been opened to The Eighth Con. Blind and unaware, all I could think of when I had bothered to consider a PhD was:

1. Money/funding
2. Will I enjoy doing a PhD (considering the seven cons)?


Image from here

3. How will a PhD benefit me?
4. What do I care enough about, in writing and other related areas, to spend three years of my life researching?

But I was being silly then. Don’t judge me; we grow and learn every day. I have learnt. 

To prove to my future husband that I am not overly exposed, spoiled by too much book, I will henceforth refrain from pursuing any further learning, PhD or otherwise. And if I find that he has no degrees, I will keep mine to myself. I will burn my certificates and rid myself of any proof of an education beyond his. Furthermore, I shall strive to use words that possess no more than three syllables in all conversations with him, be they written or spoken. I shall also find out what his ambitions are, and ensure that mine never outgrow or outshine his. This way, he will know that I am the finest of all the wife materials available on the market. He will sleep soundly, knowing that his trousers and authority will be forever safe.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

LEIBSTERED

Thanks to InTheMidstOfHer for the Leibster nomination. I’ve done something very similar to this before (here), but it was fun so I'm doing it again. Plus it's interesting to see the differences and similarities between my questions and answers then (over a year ago) and now. 


The Rules

1. Thank the blogger that nominated you

2. List eleven random facts about you

3. Answer the questions by the blogger that nominated you

4. Nominate eleven other bloggers

5. Ask your nominees eleven questions

6. Notify your nominees


Eleven Random Facts about Me

1. I’ve never had a bike; never learnt to ride one.

2. If there’s any kind of party I can stand, it’s a house party. I’m a serious homebody.

3. I haven’t relaxed my hair since last August.

4. The strongest motivation to work is a deadline.

5. I’m not quick to dismiss conspiracy theories.

6. Not a hugger, but I'm a cuddler :-)

 


7. I think my nose is too big for my face.

8. I cannot stand being called ‘angel’, and I truly hate the word ‘damsel’.

9. The thought of a big, loud wedding scares and physically exhausts me.

10. Many people get the impression that I’m a last child, even though there are two after me.

11. I love watching America’s Next Top Model.


Eleven Questions from InTheMidstOfHer

1. Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging mostly because a friend told me to, to get me to write more and share my work.

2. If you could be any fruit or vegetable, what would it be?
Ugly and prickly on the outside, but sooo lush and delicious on the inside, I would be a soursop. It smells so good they should make perfume out of its fragrance, as far as I’m concerned. (I also think this about corn, by the way.) Do not judge this fruit by its looks, folks.




3. Would you ever consider being a vegetarian/vegan?
Probably not.

4. What was/is your favourite subject at school?
Secondary school it was Literature in English; undergrad it was Creative Writing.

5. Are you scared of the dark?
Nope.

6. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Probably some rice-based dish.

7. Favourite movie of all time?
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite, so I’ll pick two: Moulin Rouge and Snatch.

8. If you could change your name to anything, what would your new name be?
I wouldn’t change it.

9. Are you much of an adventurer? I’m talking bungee jumping, mountain climbing and all that jazz.
Nope.

10. What’s the greatest thing about being your nationality?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily the greatest thing about being Nigerian, but I’m very proud of our writers. Every time a Nigerian writer gets an award or some form of recognition for their work, I feel really good even if I don’t particularly like their work. God knows Nigerians can use all the positives we get.

11. What do you do to keep fit?
Not a whole lot. I walk pretty fast, but not necessarily for fitness. I do stretches, sit ups and squats. And then there’s swimming, which I’m learning to do.


The Nominees
I nominate two: Bukky and Ay.


Eleven Questions for the Nominees

1. What is your idea of fun?

2. How do you think the world will end (if you do believe it will)?

3. What did you think of the last book you read?

4. Who was/is your latest crush?

5. Are you a morning lark or a night owl?

6. Mention two personality or character flaws that you are okay with/can tolerate.

7. What was the last gift you gave to someone? (Please do not say your heart.)

8. If you could take a picture of yourself as you are right this moment and send it to the person whose opinion matters the most to you in the whole wide world (and I mean a human person, not God), would you do it?

9. What would you do with your life if money suddenly became of no consequence?

10. What is the strongest temptation you have ever faced?


11. Do you think it is possible for a human to love unconditionally?

Friday, July 12, 2013

TALKING PHOTOS #4: Phoenix



“How come you always carry a lighter? You don’t smoke.”

Diane had considered Kelly's question. It was one she got asked a lot, but she’d always shrugged it off. That day at the park, though, with Kelly, she felt compelled to answer.

“I got my first lighter from my dad. Stole it. I had to carry it in secret cos my parents would have never let me keep it; I was eight. I don’t know why I did it at the time, but thinking about it now, I've always liked how fire can mean different things; do different things. I like how it can sustain and destroy. For me, it’s kind of like a totem.” Diane’s laughter came out as a snort. “Wonder what that says about me.”

Kelly had leaned forward on the grass and kissed her, on the lips, for the first time. Diane stopped wondering.

The months had passed, and with each new day together, Diane knew she was falling deeper. Who needed sunshine when they had the smile of Kelly? But Diane knew that each moment brought them closer to the time when Kelly would leave. Because they always did. And no matter what Diane did – feign a terminal illness, send nasty messages, threaten suicide – they always stayed gone. And after an eternity, Diane would be able to stop the tears and try again. But Kelly was The One, and there would be no trying again. You never move on from The One.

Lying in bed that evening, Kelly asleep beside her, Diane reached for her lighter. First the click, then the satisfying whoosh of the flame as it came alive. Diane lowered the hand with the lighter, rested it on Kelly’s knee. She imagined the flame catching on Kelly’s clothes, on the sheets, on both their clothes, their skin, purifying them, keeping them in this moment together. Then maybe when they were all ash, they would rise up again as one phoenix. That would be beautiful because, then, there would be no leaving.

Diane wondered what the technicalities of this transformation would be. Would they have their memories? Would she, as a phoenix, be able to keep this moment, with Kelly’s face fixed in that half-smile she wore when she slept, alive? Or would it all be lost to the fire? Diane didn’t know, but it was a gamble she was not willing to take.


She let the flame die. She would rather have today.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

OSLO THROUGH MY LENS

I spent the last week in Oslo and I had an amazing time. It's not a very large city, but it's peaceful; there's an almost laid back air to it. I left with the impression of Oslo as a great place to live, even though it's currently the most expensive city in the world. 

It's a stunning city, as my photos will show. Enjoy.



This major shopping street welcomes me.


The Parliament building (plus what appears to be a lovely couple, free of charge).


Docked boats.


My favourite photo of the docks. I think it looks like a beautiful painting.


This weird egg-like thing with a face was just standing beside a museum...


One of the more expensive residential areas, around the docks.


A 'busy' intersection.


Frogner Park is one of the must-see places in Oslo. It has a beautiful landscape, and loads of naked sculptures like this one.


A tower of naked stone people reaches to the sky...


More stone, more bodies, another lovely couple.


The Opera building.
View from the grounds of the Opera building.


This floating glass structure...


On top of the world... or of the Opera building.


View from Opera building. I love the bright colours.

Friday, June 14, 2013

TO THE OTHER MAN

Image from here


Dear Other Man,

You will know it when she starts to tire of you. The light you now see in her eyes will grow dim. The intensity will drain from your conversations. She will seek you out less often. She will not stare into your soul as much. She won’t shake her head and do her little inner chuckle. You, you will be left feeling like a man slowly dying of thirst. And she will be the water tower, exalted far above your reach. I should know.

I have become background noise; the one-time hit now fading into nothingness. I’m that wallpaper you barely even notice. And you, you’re her Mona Lisa hanging in the spotlight. The mystery of your almost-smile has captured her. I can’t see your face but I know you’re there, enjoying every minute; because I’ve been where you are. 

Now, she hangs on to every word you say. You can see this, but that won’t stop her from telling you anyway. She will tell you how much she values your insight, how many times she read your last text message, how her heart races when she hears your voice on the phone. You will see the pleasure in her eyes every time she sees you; she won’t even try to hide it. She will hold your hand each time you cross a street together, letting your body shield hers, and you will know how it feels to be God. In the periods of measured silence between you, you will find yourself aching for her. You will call her. You will revel in her delight.

But as with all things that were once new, you will get old. Your stories will start to sag and fold in all the places that were once firm and tight; and you will be helpless, trying to prop them up, to plug the holes now appearing like those ‘Whack-a-Mole’ moles. She will come to know the end of every adventure story before you tell it. She will know of better ones and she will tell them, her eyes challenging you to top them, to do something to make her look. And with all your strength you will want to. You’d give your next breath to be able to. 

But you will see yourself losing her. That, dear current Shiny New Thing, will suck the air from your lungs. When you begin to fade from her sight, you will know how I feel. You will see it coming, and you will be unable to redeem yourself. And that, my friend, will kill you. I should know.

Sincerely,
Wallpaper

Friday, May 31, 2013

SALFORD QUAYS

Here are pictures from Salford, Manchester, home of Media City, The Lowry, The Imperial War Museum North, Trafford Centre, Old Trafford Stadium and so on. Salford Quays is a great place to be on a warm, sunny day, and it has not seen the last of me yet! 



The Imperial War Museum, one of the places to see in Salford/Manchester



This white tank, it played war... I think...


Outside the museum


Not sure what these things are, but there are faces on them. Some kind of memorial maybe.

BBC buildings


View from high up in the museum

Lovely view of footbridge

See the reflection in the water?

Black and white solves everything.

Sometimes signs will look artsy in photos. Not sure this was one of those times though.

Old Trafford Stadium 

Cos we loves our feets

Back photo courtesy of Miss Pemi

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