To eat and dream.

I lay in the trunk of my Father’s small ‘danfo’ bus. It was bought many years ago, long before I was born. A priced possession of my father. The only source of income for our family of three. My parents had me early. Though my mother tried for many years to have another child, she eventually gave up.My father was unlike many men in our town. He never cared for another child.He resisted the pressure to take on another wife. I always heard him tell my mother: “This one is worth more than a thousand!”

I had feigned an illness to get out of school that morning. My mother knew I was lying. I had no fever and had consumed my breakfast of ogi and akara with gusto. ‘You are spoiling him’ my mother protested while my father prepared to take me to the motor park with him. My father shrugged his broad shoulders and carried me on his back towards the vehicle. From the corner of my eyes I saw the beginning of a smile tug at my mother’s lips. The sun had risen with a vengeance and my body quickly drenched in sweat. For a brief moment, I almost regretted getting out of school. Just then, I caught a whiff of Mama Wosi’s ata dindin. Mama Wosi was the sole local caterer of the motor park where my father ferried his customers back and forth. I loved her food. Her culinary expertise was known far and wide our little town of Ekunkan. I could tell from my vantage position and without opening eyes eyes she had just added iru to her famous sauce. My stomach started to rumble.

Suddenly the weather changed and dark clouds gathered overhead. I felt the familiar gust of wind heralding rain. The cool breeze calmed my initial clammy skin and I quickly closed my eyes in pretense as I saw father approach. He shrugged off his old lace agbada and covered my body, partially obscuring my vision. I felt him touch my temple and the gentle brush of the palm of his hand on my head. Public display of affection was frowned upon generally in our clime. It spoiled children…. many believed. Love your children but don’t show them much fondness. Hard love. Something that was completely foreign in my relationship with my father.

On sensing my father’s departure I opened my eyes to peep through the holes of the agbada that partially covered my head but the full length of my body. My father sat a few feet away sharing stories with Mama Wosi. She always sat before two big black ajase pots frying dundun, dodo and her famous ata dindin. Her wares, though simple were a delicacy. She tied her ankara wrapper over a brightly colored blouse. Her hair always well hidden by a loosely tied scarf. Her pearly white dentition exposed as she listened to my father…her faithful customer. She was never without her smile, even early in the mornings while she prepared her pots and pans for the day…while she brushed her teeth and tongue with her pako. I always wondered what her hair looked like under her scarf. Was it jet black and full like my mother’s. My mother’s hair was thick and hung like a curtain down her shoulders whenever it wasn’t woven.My father loved to run his hands through her hair when no one was watching. He loved it when she braided it in shuku and always clapped his hands in delight whenever she returned from her onidiri.

I could tell Mama Wosi liked my father…very few people didn’t. When she listened to other customers..she didn’t smile as wide and she always sent food to me. My mother noticed, too, but she was a very emotionally secure woman and apart from teasing Father about Mama Wosi once or twice, she never batted an eye lid to the constant stream of food.

I watched the exchange between them and while the tantalizing smell of her sauce pervaded the air around me, I fell into a fitful sleep.

I watched from a half cracked doorway as Olomitutu -my paternal granduncle, the local seer brought out his divination mat from his ‘power house’. Olomitutu was widely regarded as the voice of the gods, though many in our little town had gone the way of western religion, a large percentage of the older generation were still partial to him. He was a kind man with several wives and many children. Many of his children were older than Father but he still had a couple of children I went to school with. He was a small, dark man whose head was always clean shaven. He always wore a long loose white cassock. His eyebrows were snow white and he spoke in a big, gruff voice that didn’t seem to belong to his body. He carried a cane; it was short and black with a brass knob on top.

Olomitutu muttered under his breath a prayer: Aranmalo bring me good tidings today. My stomach is empty. My wives and children are hungry. Make a way for us today.

A woman appeared in the horizon with a limp child straddled to her back. The baby’s head flopped from side to side, like a rag doll being tossed by the wind. It’s eyes were closed and its mouth was wide open…like it was about to shout. The mother was screaming…. very agitated; the father- a burly man was struggling to catch up with his wife…his face contorted in tears.A small crowd followed closely behind….all headed towards Olomitutu.

Baba e’gbami! The mother continued to scream, stomping her feet…raising dust. The baby was now in his father’s arms..who stuttered and sputtered his words drowned in his wife’s wails. Olomitutu ran into his power house and returned almost immediately with a small gourd  which carried a murky liquid. He held the baby’s head with his left hand and poured some of the liquid down the child’s throat. Barely a second later, the baby gurgled a cry and then sneezed. There was instant jubilation from the massive crowd that had swelled from the pandemonium . The mother wiped her tears and broke into a dance while the father straddled his baby across his shoulders. A ram was slaughtered before my grand uncle. The parents were well-to-do. Olomitutu’s prayers had been answered.

Alabi! My father shook me awake. The agbada had fallen aside. It was getting dark. My eyes caught the yellow bowl Mama Wosi always served my meals in cradled in his right hand. My dundun and ata dindin was ready. My stomach rumbled loud enough for my Father to hear. He threw his head back and laughed. I squinted, stretched and swallowed saliva.”Come and eat boy”.My father smiled. We must all eat and dream, I thought as I took my first bite.

 

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Mr and Mrs Jones

How did I get here?

When we met, I had so much fire in my belly. I was this fresh faced, bespectacled law and economics double majors student. I was the great activist. I would mount the podium at those fiery meets spitting Socrates and Machiavelli. I would raise my right fist high over my head at the end of my speeches and walk with the swag of a conqueror, the ends of my bell bottom pants gliding gracefully around my ankles. The students union president. A black panther.

We met at one of such meetings. You were the vice president of the students union of a neighbouring college. Back in those days, it was not a common feat for a woman to hold her own in a fora seen as male dominated. We were in awe of you. In your signature styled blue jeans, turtle neck sweater and beautiful blue- black Afro….I was struck. I had always been a man who was captivated more by what was between a woman’s ears than what her statistics were. I was never preoccupied by the opposite sex,  not for their lack of trying or by a lack of virility. I just found social activism more of a turn on than a rump between the sheets. In retrospect, I can say honestly, I also lacked the emotional maturity to give a woman the right emotional succor that would be expected in a healthy relationship. Social activism was my woman….until I met you.

If I before I had purpose, after I met you, I became driven.

I went ahead to graduate with a first class was snagged by Ashland and Smithdt. You went ahead to Uganda for a year to teach English. I was so proud. We got married after your return. I had never been so happy.

Then, the twins arrived the fifth year of our marriage. God kept on giving. With the demands of our growing family, you stayed back home to care for the children. I was happy to take on more responsibility to make up the difference of your income. When the children were old enough to be in school full time, you faltered at getting back in the workplace.  I didn’t mind. I wanted you to take your time. I did notice, though, that there was a difference in interests. I still wanted fiery discourse on social justice and economics.I wanted to discuss the details of my job that encouraged economic empowering of otherwise disadvantaged. Your conversations were peppered by the Real Housewives of ‘whatever’ and Tele Mundo.  Now, I knew being the primary care givers of two babies erodes the brain cells of anybody but you…my darling were not just anybody.You were my copilot!

I bought books. I started a book club…yes, a book club to encourage the development of more cerebral material. You grew sullen and resentful of my efforts to create more opportunities to bond with you. You would start pet projects….all none increasing our economic empowerment but eroding it. I was never one given to work for the purpose of acquiescence.  For me, my work gave me purpose. I loved giving law and economic advice to people. I loved watching start ups grow exponentially from my input. I loved being part of a company that gave millions of dollars in grants to people who normally would not have access to such resources. I was doing it long before I joined Ashland, remember.

While the constant networking with people of like minds have helped grow our bank account…I am growing tired. I am no longer twenty five with fire in my belly. I am a forty six years old man with smothering embers. I have no more desire to amass more wealth. My hair is thinning out, my shoulders are slumped and even though my eyesight has been corrected by laser surgery, the light in my eyes have deemed. I have encouraged you over the years to get a job, lessen the pressure on me. You whine, pout and say we can manage on one income. I am tired of being an ATM machine. I am also tired of talking about it.

The children are now in college. Thanks to scholarship and the fund I started when they were born, their future is well ensconced financially. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was advised to lessen my workload….my health is failing.  And so, I have decided to do just that. Since I made partner five years ago, I have not taken a full holiday. I have informed the board I am taking all my accrued paid time off. It totals five months. I have also informed them, I intend to take a back seat. The details in ramifications to our finances are of no importance me. I will be taking off for a month. Alone.

When I return, we will re access our relationship.  If you are willing to stay in this marriage, fine. I will not die while catering to a lifestyle that milks me of my wholesomeness. If you decide to leave, fine. Be warned though, I have sharpened my skills for twenty years knowing the law….you will only get what I am willing to give you. Marriage should be mutually nurturing. It serves me no purpose if I am dead.

 

Kaleidoscope:Father’s Day Special.

I watch a quiet spectator as he carries his precious bundle strapped to his fore every Sunday. He sits usually in the second row of my beloved church. At the beginning, they were two. Both of them with hands intertwined. Later, her abdomen heralded a third would join their family. That they loved each other was evident for all to see.Her demise was heart breaking. We all prayed he would be okay. He still continued to come to church; seeking solace in the community that surrounded them with love. His precious bundle he rocked back and forth, at times he looking quite lost. As she grew older and bigger, his shoulders sagged under her weight. Someone remarked kindly, maybe, he should put her in a stroller. He smiled sadly and his response: Her heart beat assures me I will be fine.

My daily musings take me to the local library where I borrow books. On the table across from where I sat; I see him coloring with two toddlers, ages two and three. He tells me, he took a pay cut to enable him raise his two children by working part time. Sure the financial struggles are a daily challenge but he says these have helped him tap into his resourcefulness. His family rarely eats out and he has become a great cook. My kids’ needs are met and that’s all that matters.

He had three sons, I remember. His relationship with his wife, their mother was at best described as a troubled one. He says they married young. Both still discovering who they were and what they wanted. He says though their relationship did not go the direction he wanted, he purposed to stay because of his sons. When their relationship made their home difficult for their children’s upbringing, he decided to cut his losses and run; primarily because of his sons. He wanted to raise them in a warm and loving environment and he came to the conclusion he couldn’t do it while married to their mother. I salute his bravery.

He navigates between two continents trying to provide for his family. His spouse is the primary care giver of three prepubescent children, one of which is severely handicapped. His nights are riddled with Skype calls trying to keep up with his family: doctors updates, helping with the kids home works, encouraging while still dispensing of punishment when necessary. He wonders if its all worth it at times: the constant plane hopping, the sleepless nights, the constant tugging on his heart strings when he misses another musical recital; when his youngest asks again and again: ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?’ How does he explain the reason why he took this job was to provide for them; that the medical costs continued to increase while his income had stayed stagnant, that the recession bit hard and Mummy’s job was scrapped by the company in their need to stay afloat. How does he explain to a six years old, that, their mortgage would not have been affordable without this change? The choices that were foisted upon him.

Orphaned  in his teens, he has never been a sibling but a father to his brother. Their parents were taken when he was fifteen. His brother was still in diapers. Though he was doing well in school and could easily have gone on to a college of his choice, he knew he had to take care of his brother. He says the happiest day of his life was when his brother graduated from college. ‘He knows the price we paid to get him there’.

He mentors young men in his neighborhood. Those without positive male role models. He checks their homework ; tutors in courses they have challenges in; helps in building their character through a community center he volunteers in. He hates that he gets credit for helping the children. They are the ones giving his life meaning. My life without this program would be empty. I have found myself being a positive voice in a little brother’s head.

His daughter is my children’s pediatrician. A wonderful woman with a great heart. Over the course of my many visits we have forged a special bond. She was raised by a single parent, her mother passed very early. Her father raised herself and four siblings. She can not remember her father being absent for any program during their formative years.She once commented: He gave his all to us being our everything, there was nothing left to give to another. He never remarried.

My beloved is the voice of calm that helps soothe the tempestuous storm while navigating this journey we have embarked on. He is the voice of reason that helps calm my fears when I am overwhelmed. He is the strong arm of love that turns the rudder of our home-craft; with foresight as compass; with spiritual growth as sail.

Happy Father’s Day to all the men getting into the mud of life; willing to fight and wrestle for their seeds. For the great men who have said ‘yes’ to responsibility, who rise daily to face the fears, the joys, the triumphs of parenthood. I salute you.

A Father’s Day Special:Taxidermtopia

During the course of my daily walks I had passed her store window many times. In the cold of winter, through snow and slush I would still pause and peer through the ice encrusted glass to watch her bent over her work table. Her shelves held different kinds of animals in varying poses of life. Some looked asleep, some with paws raised, fangs bared, eyes strangely dilated-all life like. From her posture, hair and mottled skin I could tell she was elderly but her exact age I could not be sure. Her hair was wildly tussled, like she used her fingers instead of a traditional comb. From my vantage point-from her glass window I could see the spider veins that coursed her mottled hands. Nails chipped, fingernails a strange brown, possibly from the constant use of dyes of her trade.

She was always bent over her work bench. If it was winter she would be draped in loose cashmere sweaters, all ill fitting-an artist whose focus was on her trade and not her appearance. Now in warmer climate, she has switched her sweaters for colorful African prints. Today, I passed her store again and in habit, I stop and peer through her window. She looks up and waves me in. I look behind me, thinking me? She smiles and points at me mouthing “You..come in”. I only hesitated for a second. I take a deep breath and enter her shop. I had expected to be engulfed by some thing similar to the smell that pervades a morgue, or at least that deep disinfectant smell that pervades hospital corridors; instead I was awash by the sweet aroma of cinnamon.

She stood barely five feet tall, her eyes strangely out of focus, the left iris a milky hue-glaucoma, she told me, later. She spoke in halting English. An Eastern European country was her origin. Each product had a story. Some were once pets she had, some belonged to people she had known during the span of her over ten decades.

A cat she had as a little girl. A couple of dogs, one of which a lover had once given her, a sign of his undying love. The love was not ‘undying’ but the dog, she kept. A crocodile she brought home from a trip to the South Americas. She told me the horrors she faced at immigration but her cargo was precious. I was young and stupid back then, I wanted to be a modern day Noah. A cheetah, another gift from an old lover. She lay her head on the life-like head and took a deep breath…’..my love for him was great’-I wasn’t sure she meant the man. Two mongrels, an English spaniel and my favorite- a Newfoundland. A bear stood on its hind legs, its right paw raised, its teeth bared…a beautiful life like pose…its irises strangely dilated. A duck, an ostrich….a life time of collection. A beautiful bird caught my attention. It was mounted on a golden stand. Its plumage a gorgeous raiment.

The bird once belonged to her father. Her trade was once his legacy. She spent many hours in his shop watching, learning and growing. He was her only parent. A small man with a great personality. He taught her to live her life on her own terms and not to define herself by societal or cultural expectations. She was the product of a brief relationship he had with her mother. His only child. He raised her to see herself as her only resource, not to expect to find herself in marriage. In fact, her father told her several times during the course of her life if she never married and never bore children but was happy in service to humanity, then he would have raised her right. He believed a woman had to be complete first before finding success in any relationship. They lived a bohemian life traveling across Europe while he catered to his customers variety of needs. In the old country, his art was in high demand among-st his rich clientele.

When she desired to explore the world outside Europe, he gave her his blessing and enough money to live on for a year. She said she spent the last decade of his life with him. I can easily say, I returned to take care of him but the truth is I returned to dwell in his shadow. As her eyes lit up as she spoke of her father, I thought of mine. I think of his words of wisdom, our deep friendship and the landscape our relationship was. A landscape of deep greenery; tall strong oaks of trees giving shade in moments of down pour. Where misunderstandings have blighted the terrain in my youth but the manure of love had watered the rich ground to yield bountiful harvest, again. A landscape where I anticipate each sigh, where I interpret each frown and dwell in his shadow.

On my walk back home, my thoughts are still of my Dad and then my cell begins to ring. Without looking at my caller ID, I know its him. Happy Father’s Day Daddy.

Mother’s Day Special #3

*Andrea

I was born in the later 70s in the back of a towing truck. My parents had snuck off late in the night in my Grandpa’s Chevy. They were both seventeen and believed they were madly in love. Even after I was conceived, they still believed they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. They were banned from seeing each other, which was laughable considering she was already pregnant. And so, that dark rainy night they were going to run away together to San Antonio. San Antonio was their choice because my Dad’s older brother was living there. Anyway, as they made their way in his father’s stolen vehicle…I decided it was time. In panic,Dad skidded of the road and I ended up being born at the back of the tow truck that was towing their vehicle to the garage.

I heard when both sets of grandparents saw me for the first time in the hospital, all ill feelings previously that soured their relations gave way. My mother was no longer the little whore who threw herself at my father and my father was no longer the little bastard that defiled my mother. My parents relationship continued to college, but, by the time they both hit their early twenties, they had outgrown each other. He wanted to go on to medical school….. she wanted to travel to Sub-Saharan Africa to teach English Language. They had me in common but that’s all that remained of their teenage indiscretion.

I was raised by both sets of grandparents. I did not grow up with hangups that came along with having teenage parents. I grew up seeing my parents more like older siblings, I mean, they were barely children themselves when they had me. We all grew together. My grandmothers were a force to be reckoned with. I was completely home-schooled till I was thirteen by my maternal grandmother and spent my weekends with my paternal grandparents. My birthdays were always a bit of a carnival in our town. My grandmothers always showed up in my high school with cookies for my teachers and class mates. I was the only one who felt the flame of embarrassment. They didn’t care.

At my high school prom, my parents and grandparents ferried my date and I in convoy to the dance. I thought I was going to die. They didn’t care. When I started dating, I would sneak around to avoid the barrage of questions. Our relationships were not without its tense moments, but, I knew I was loved spectacularly. When I broke up with my first boyfriend and thought the world was at the end, my two grandmas whipped my tears and took me shopping. Many years later, I found out they both slashed my ex’s tires that night after I had fallen asleep. They were feisty, fun and didn’t hesitate to test my butt when I stepped out of line.

When I decided to take a year off college to go on tour with my band, they encouraged me even though they were uncomfortable with the thought of a group of teenagers living rough for a year. They believed in me and that checked me. I only lasted six months before I ran back home into their waiting arms…and back to school.

I like to believe their love and investments in my life has made me a better person. I am extremely generous with my time when it comes to my family. I will drop anything and everything to be at their side, no matter what.

From time to time though, I wonder what would have happened if my parents had made it to San Antonio.

Mother’s Day Special #2

*Afeni

My mother’s first marriage was contracted when she was in her teens. I don’t know her exact age at the time. Back then, there were no voices for the girl-child. There were no social programs advocating for equality of the sexes. It was Africa in the forties. Where genital mutilation of the girl child was done in the cusp of her teens, or at birth…depending on your cultural leanings. My mother’s husband was a boy in a man’s body. He was raised to expect to be attended to by his wife. She was not to have a voice, a possession…an appendage. She had three children in quick successions; kept home and farmed his plot…a gift from his father as he attained ‘manhood’. I don’t know exactly when she decided she wanted to leave him. Her days were hard. The narrative, however, was not peculiar to her. She was surrounded by women who were doing the same thing.Her mother lived the same life, spurned forth nine children, farmed her fathers plot with her children while still fanning the flames of his ego. So, when she decided she wanted more from her existence, you can imagine the machinery that was unleashed to put her in her place.

She told me, she would have stayed married to her first husband if he allowed their children to have an education. The produce from the farm, she sold herself. She saw the economic empowerment she was giving a man who pissed it down the drain without investing in his seeds. Now, even though she could not read or write, she desired it for her children. She desired her son to do more than his father. She wanted her son’s perspectives not limited by the darkness of a lack of understanding and she desired for her daughters to have a future where they would not have to be sold into slavery on the platter of marriage. She knew better than to discuss her plans with her mother, or relatives for that matter. During the course of her farming his plots and selling the proceeds, she was able to amass a significant amount of money she used to liberate herself. She filed for a divorce in the traditional courts of their time. Did I mention she was the first woman to ever do such a thing in her village at that time? She did not care. I think it’s when a woman gets to a place where she stops concerning herself about what societal expectations are, what will people say, blah blah and blah will she truly be liberated. No one will liberate you. You must liberate yourself.

Her family ostracized her. Her mother was convinced her liberation was not self sustaining, after all, she had no money. Eye, which was what I called my mother was able to get a plot through a male cousin. Back then, she couldn’t even procure property on her own because she was a woman. She was hard working and her products were excellent. She enrolled my three older siblings in school and continued her trade. Now, older and wiser she knew whoever she decided to marry must be a man who would enrich her, not demean her progress. It took a a bit but he did come along. My father was an unusual man. He was confident. He didn’t pay attention to the side talks their relationship brought. He had kissed his own share of frogs masquerading as princesses. I was their first child together. Their relationship was not without it’s trials but they loved each other. They were 100% committed to not only themselves but their children. She spared no expense when it came to our education. When I climbed the podium on my graduation from college, she was besides herself in excitement.

When my oldest sister became a victim of domestic abuse, my mother was the first to encourage her to leave her marriage. She always advocates for strength in women.

It takes a strong man to marry a strong woman. It takes a wise man to recognize wisdom in his woman. She lived an exemplary life.

 

Mother’s Day Special

During this special weekend, I will be sharing a few stories. I have a few friends who have shared their stories with me. My friends and I have a lot in common, most importantly, we all had spectacular relationships with our respective mothers.

                                                                                 * Peter

I was born into a big family. The last of eight children. I have very little recollection of my father. He never came back from Vietnam. My maternal grandmother was our matriarch. For a woman who stood barely four feet five inches tall, she commanded such awe and respect. My mother with the assistance of her mother raised five daughters and three sons. She was a school teacher and her finances were spread thin catering for our household. We didn’t have much material wise but our home was awash with love. I excelled in athletics, especially in wrestling and was able to clinch a full scholarship to college. My mother was ecstatic. My two older brothers had both joined the army-our ‘mothers’ were not happy with their choices. My sisters had gone on to college and were all experiencing great things in their chosen careers. I had dabbled into the wrong company in high school and had made some wrong choices. Back in those days, in the late seventies-drugs had become a common feature in the social circuits. We were the generation sprung in the shadow of Woodstock. There was so much decadence…so much indulgence.

With my choosing to go to college, I had effectually turned my back on all the negative influences my mother worried had the potential to destroy my future. My choice was a small liberal arts college that had a vibrant African American community. I took long walks, wrote long letters to my grandma and mama. I spent my days fully engaged in my academics and athletics. My mother was my compass and I kept my eyes fully fixed on the prize. I left school within record time and was able to secure an appointment as a teacher in an elementary school. My feet were firmly planted in the direction of my beloved compass! I moved back home into my old room-across the corridor from Mama’s bedroom. I was enjoying the warmth of my mother and grandma’s constant love. Mama had retired but was a part time volunteer in the high school she had spent thirty five years of her forty years of public service. Many of her students had gone on to do great things, in fact, the current principal at my return was one of them.

Two years into my return home, my mother fell ill. In hindsight, I felt a nagging heaviness I could not shake. The constant hospital stays, the tests and the shadow that fell upon Mama’s face were a constant reminder a storm was gathering. My siblings and I kept a roaster. We all did our part: constantly encouraging, echoing bible scriptures our mother had taught us as children. My grandma seemed to shrink within herself…almost like she was fading away. I remember I woke up one night and found my Grandma sitting alone in the kitchen, staring into an empty tea cup. I pulled up a chair and sat beside her. My mother had undergone a procedure the day before, the prognosis wasn’t good. “I will not bury your mother”. She spoke in a raspy whisper, I almost didn’t hear. She died a week later, in her sleep. Grandma’s death crushed us but in light of Mama’s health we couldn’t fall apart.

My mother passed exactly a month after the surgery. I don’t think there are exact words to describe my life after my compass was broken. I took a couple of months off work. I remember the wake, the burial and weeks after that. I spent my days in my bedroom, blinds closed and completely turned my back on the world. My brothers went back to their posts, ,my sisters all lived out of state. We all grieved for our loss but in retrospect I think my loss was the most devastating. My brothers had their commissions, my sisters apart from their chosen carriers had spouses and children. I was the only one whose family, whose center had been completely obliterated. Remember the choices I had turned my back on when I said yes to college? Well, I fell head first down that dark hole. I was in so much pain, I snorted everything that took the pain away, even though they were temporary fixes. It seemed I stumbled into a dark room and some how, couldn’t find the door. Teaching during the day, shooting up or snorting cocaine at night.

I can’t remember exactly when it dawned on me, I was going to die. If I continued to make the wrong choices, these choices my Mama prayed against. These choices I promised my Grandma I would never make-I would eventually die. Alone. I couldn’t remember when last I slept properly in three years. I had lost almost forty pounds. And so, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and enrolled in a rehabilitation program. Failing was not an option for me. I went cold turkey. My body was racked in so much pain, my head felt like it was going to explode. My nights were plagued with dreams. I would find myself running down a dark corridor, ahead of me I could make out the familiar posture of my Grandma. And even though, I was running I never caught up with her. I would find myself getting tired and would slowly come to a stop. At times, I would hear my Mama’s voice calling from far away and would wake up drenched in sweat.

When I came out of rehab, I moved to another town and went back to school. My siblings and I sold the house and I was able to have a soft landing from my share of the proceeds. I eventually went back to teaching after a stint in the public relations industry. I found my compass again, it was etched in my heart. Though I went through fire, I came out singed but not destroyed. My Mother and Grandma were my center, my voice of reason, my compass. It’s been over twenty years and from time to time I still catch myself feeling deep sorrow. I don’t think one ever fully recovers from some losses.

Ageing bladder

I had spent the first two hours of my morning deeply engrossed in my task at-hand. So much so, that I chose to ignore my bladder as it swelled up and pushed against the elastic of my undergarment. I decided to take a short bathroom break and absentmindedly slipped my mobile phone into the back pocket of my trousers. On my feet, the contents of my bladder made me move quickly into the female restroom. Now, one of the things that fill me with nostalgia about my younger days was my ability to sit through two hours of class without emptying the contents of my bladder. In fact, I could go partying all night, go home, hit the sack before my metabolism reminded me-to empty its contents. Fast forward twenty years, three children all ranging in size from eight to ten pounds at birth and the attendant pressures those deliveries have on my reproductive system….my bladder, the worst hit.

Now, I am one of the lucky ones. I have not had to undergo reconstructive surgeries as a result of those aforementioned pressures. Childbirth does come with its attendant challenges. (see My muffin top)I have no leakages when I sneeze, a handful of greys, a couple of wrinkles…and of course my inability to sit for longer spells without emptying the contents of that ‘bag’-I think I am ageing quite well…. thank you very much. So. Back to my story. First stall of the restroom-occupied; I made a mad rush to the next while doing that familiar dance , shifting from one foot to the other, while straining and willing the contents of my bladder from seeping…well, you get the drift. As I release a small sigh of relief, I hear a loud clank and watch horrified as my phone sinks to the bottom of the commode.

 

He approached the vision of poise ahead of him. She was dressed in a beautiful flowery dress…all colors of spring. As he approached, her pretty face contorted into a nasty frown. I guess she thought he wanted her number. He inched closer to whisper in her ear.
She raised her voice several decibels above what was acceptable and drew the attention of many onlookers.
‘What do you want?!’
Embarrassed, he screamed back: ‘I just wanted to let you know, your dress is tucked in your panties!’
I watched her free fall with a smirk from my table.

Fela Kuti

I must have checked my wrist watch half a dozen times over the course of the last ten minutes; willing time to fly faster. How I wished I could miraculously teleport myself from Chicago to Maryland, skip the almost two hours flight in-between. I sat at the departure lounge at O’hare and willed my mind to be steady and busied myself on the phone: returning emails, reading interesting anecdotes and generally snooping on other people’s timeline on Facebook. I felt him sit beside me, but apart from taking a sneak peek at his glossy loafers I returned my attention to my phone.

My phone rang, it was my spouse. We spoke for a couple of minutes in Yoruba. When I was done, I heard him clear his throat to get my attention.I looked up. His complexion the palette of raisins- a deep mahogany brown. He was clean shaven, and just a couple of inches taller than yours truly. His teeth a bright white that would have cost a tidy sum from his dentist. His arms were nicely toned. Now, please don’t judge me for taking into details the features of another man; being happily married does not make me blind. ‘Lookery’ is not a sin. Anyway, he heard me speaking the language of my birth and turns out his mother is Yoruba, his dad from the West Indies. Mohamid he said his name was. As luck would have it, he was on the same plane and yes, seat was next to mine. I was anxious about traveling by air, if I could make my trip by train I would have. Unfortunately, I had only two days to spend with my friend and if I had taken the option of the train-it would have been to get to her home and just turn around and leave.

Our flight was for yet another hour. He told me about himself. He was twenty nine. Unmarried. The first of two children. His parents were retired and living a life of leisure in the Bahamas. His younger brother was in the army. He had served two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. That would explain the nicely toned physique. He has never visited Africa but was a lover of Afro beat music, pioneered by Fela Kuti. He asked me so many questions about Fela and his eyes lit up like diamonds when I told him I once saw him while riding shot gun with a friend back in the early nineties. I wasn’t a fan but have grown to find the African beats synonymous with his music bearable having pledged my undying love to a man who loved his music. He was standing on the balcony, wearing a pair of dark colored briefs only. His gaunt torso bare, his hair unruly and pinched between his fore finger and his thumb was the thickest joint I had ever seen. He was surrounded by a mob of people both at the balcony and the ground floor. And the air was rent with constant chants of ‘Abami eda’. And with that little story, my status before him was quickly upgraded.

I resisted the urge to lie to him; to tell him I had visited the Shrine and had seen Fela close up,or that, I had smelt the air all dredged up with the burnt musk of weed. No, that was not my style. I told him the truth. I had never visited the Shrine. Never seen him close up and up until I met my spouse who has an eclectic taste in music which included Fela, I had never paid much attention to the musical maestro. I did,however, by default had found him engaging as I grew older. His lyrics rings true even till now, sadly. The political system of Nigeria is worse now than over thirty years ago when he coined the lyrics of I.T.T(International Thief Thief). And I have found, depending on whether I have had a shot of Irish cream or not after my dinner, the loud and brassy beats of Egypt 80 actually sound melodious and more than tolerable.

As the plane taxied and gained momentum, I felt bile rise to my mouth from my stomach.I tasted the residue of my lunch:eba and ogbono soup at the back of my throat. I gagged, thinking I would vomit. He immediately noticed and gestured for the flight attendant’s attention. When she was slow in responding, he gently guided my head between my knees and rubbed between my shoulders. Even in that uncomfortable few minutes, I was mentally going through my Rolodex. This one would make a good husband for a single friend. Kind, attentive and good looking-which of course, we all look for. The third of the three by no means the most important but lets be honest, packaging sells the worst product; at least for the first try. When my stomach settled and I fell into a drug induced slumber, I felt the sand man visit with the back ground lyrics of Fela’s Lady.

I asked Mohamid if he had any plans to settle down and start a family. He responded the affirmative. He said he hasn’t been lucky in that segment of his life. I mentally did another check. I will definitely be acting the match maker very soon.