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Friday, January 31, 2014

NO OFFENCE (but you're not cute)

Image from here

I was showing some friends around the VI/Ikoyi area in Lagos the other day: a man, his wife and their two-year-old. We stopped at Silverbird Galleria on Ahmadu Bello, to find something to eat. I hadn’t been there in ages, and so we paused at the lobby while I tried to remember where the Barcelos restaurant was.

Out of nowhere, two young ladies materialised in front of us. They were conducting an opinion poll on the recently passed anti-homosexuality bill and wanted to know what we thought. I was casting my eyes around looking for Barcelos, wondering if they’d moved and if we should leave the galleria, so I wasn’t paying them too much attention. The couple explained that they were only visiting Nigeria and weren’t aware of the bill.

One of the girls was gazing at the wife, an adoring look on her face. ‘You’re so beautiful,’ she said. The wife replied with a polite thank you, and I was about to suggest that we go upstairs when the same girl looked at me and added, ‘Sorry, no offence.’

I took a moment to try and figure out the possible implications of her ‘apology’: sorry that she’s so beautiful and you’re so not? Don’t be offended that I have no compliments for you?

Yes, Person That I’ve Never Met And Probably Won’t Ever See Again, I care whether you think I’m pretty. I want you to like me, Stranger. When I woke up this morning, my thoughts were on you. I prayed that when I ran into you today you’d look upon me with eyes made of dreams and tell me that I am beautiful, and thereby validate my existence. And now that you have not, my life means nothing. Excuse me, for I will now rush on home and slit my wrists in the bathtub – or standing in the shower, as I have no bathtub. Over my gravestone they will write, ‘She Who Was Not Deemed Beautiful’.

This is what I might have said to her, if I were a different kind of person. But I’m not. So I said, ‘I’m not offended’, and I herded my people upstairs.

I’m learning to find silver linings in dark, ugly clouds, so here’s one: if I hadn’t had this partly annoying, partly amusing encounter, this blog post would not exist.

Still, it wouldn’t have hurt to have given her something to think about; something like ‘You’re stupid, no offence.’


Friday, January 24, 2014

Q AND A (or what happens when I try to write poetry)

Image from here

Your eyes ask questions your mouth won’t;
I ignore them because I can.
The answers stare back at us
With eyes unrelenting;
They sit uninvited at dinners that should be cosy,
Revel in silences that were once comfortable,
Mimic our coitus that used to mean more.
These answers are here,
Playing hide and seek with our minds.
One day they will outgrow this space,
Break down the walls around us.
They will swell till they burst
And leave a mess we’ll never clean up…
But ‘one day’ is a place far far away.
Today you swallow yet again,
I whistle another tune.

Friday, January 17, 2014

W.W.L.D.D.?

Image from here
I went to visit a friend at the hospital the day after she had her first baby. There she was, lying in bed with the baby sleeping in the crook of her arm. She was clearly exhausted, but when she looked up at me it was with a proud smile. The baby lay still, except for the rising and falling of her chest, her red face all puckered up. I said she was beautiful.

I had said goodbye and was making my way to the door, with a promise to visit again soon, when my friend sat up.

‘Wait!’ she said, ‘don’t you want to take a picture of baby?’

I’ve never found newborns particularly fascinating. I can understand that a mother would be taken with her own child – this person that has shared her body for nine months or so. But as far as I can tell, all they do at that age is sleep, cry and poop. So no, I don’t want to take a picture of baby.

One of my goals for this year is to be more honest, especially in the face of social constructs and rules of etiquette that dictate how we should act. And so I ask myself, what would Larry David  the master of awkward, damn-the-consequences honesty  do? 

If I were him, the conversation would go something like this:

Me: Picture? Naah.

Friend: Why not?

Me: Well, the baby’s not really doing anything.

Friend: What do you mean? Of course she is; she’s sleeping.

Me: Yeah, exactly. And then it’ll wake up and it’ll cry and you’ll feed it and it’ll poop –

Friend: She.

Me: What?

Friend: She’s not an ‘it’. She’s a girl. She.

Me: Oh. Sorry.

*Silence*

Me: So, see ya later.

Friend: You’re really not going to take a picture.

Me: No. It’s not like I’m ever going to look at the picture.

Friend: Why wouldn’t you look at it?

Me: Well, it’s not very – she’s – not very… pretty right now, is she? Face all wrinkled… nah. Let’s give it a few weeks.

Friend: You’re saying my baby is ugly?

Me: No, not ugly. She’s alright. But I wouldn’t jerk off to a picture of her or anything –

Friend: You want to do what with her picture?

Me: No, see I said I wouldn’t

Friend: You pervert! Get out, and don’t ever come near us again!

There’s a reason Larry David doesn’t have too many friends.

I turned to face the new mummy and whipped out my phone. ‘Sure, let’s take a picture.’

Friday, January 3, 2014

HARVEST TIME

Image from here

When they ask what has become of you, what will we say? We sowed, but we have yet to reap.

We want to get for our give. You have grown big on our sweat, and your leaves are a bright green. Your trunk is thick and hard. But where are your fruit?

They all saw us tending you, breaking our backs to shield you from the sun, swallowing our saliva and watching with hunger-dimmed eyes while you ate the food of our sacrifice. The words on our lips were a prayer: ‘she will feed us someday. She will bear fruit and feed us someday.’ Someday has come.

It is harvest time, but now we have found ourselves in the company of those who did not sow. We are all chewing the insides of our cheeks together. The others say nothing, but they do not need to; their eyes do the talking. They ask: where is this harvest that was prophesied to come? We have no answer.

Have you made us into fools? The visions we had, of all the things you would bring for us, make of us, have they now turned around to mock us, dancing with teasing steps far beyond our reach? Have we spent our strong years trying to make a basket hold water?

Revive us. Raise our heads. We have done our part.

It is harvest time.

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