Wednesday, October 20, 2010


It was on a muddy path between Iya Kike and Iya Morayo’s Coca-cola kiosks on Araromi Street,that Atimore walked,neck bent,collar upturned against the drizzle of the rain,cold hands warmed in the pockets of his faded green knickers. He tried to hurry past before Iya Kike’s sharp eyes spotted him.He wasn’t so lucky.
“Atimore,moti mu e loni,I have caught you today.Tell your good for nothing father who feels he has to impress his visitors from Lagos with Coke,so fun ko fun mi lo wo mi,let him give me my money”,she said in a thick Akure accent,her large breast bobbing up and down under her royal blue Ankara.Atimore thought it was funny that one of the breasts seemed to be smaller than the other,but he liked that one better—it was more pointed!
“He will pay soon”,he replied in Yoruba,his eyes looking down from the smaller breast to his muddied socks.He worried that the little Omo that Mami rationed for him and his five siblings would not do any good to this socks.And it was the only one he had.”Mo n duro de”,she spat,as she turned into her kiosk.

He shuffled on,hopping over pools of brown water,determined not to soil his socks even more.
He remembered with dismay Mrs Lamilisa’s announcement today.She had said they were all to bring new raffia mats to school the next Monday.He had wondered what Form four students would be doing with raffia mats,but teachers of Omolere Secondary School had taken to the new method of using teaching aids.He knew because he had heard Mrs Lamilisa telling her NCE assistant that it was the new thing in Lagos-this teaching aid thing and that since this was 1978 ,they needed to move with the times.But a raffia mat?

“O ti de”,his father greeted from the rectangular frontage where he was perched on a cane stool that was supported on its fourth leg by a broken plank.Gbaja had begged the carpenter down the road to reserve a broken plank for him,so he could use it to support his old cane stool.He didn’t bother asking the carpenter to repair it,because he didn’t have fifty naira.
Atimore mumbled a greeting,hastily prostating before his father and then ran to the back of the house.He was looking for Mami.

"Oko mi",she hailed,wiping her gnarled hands on her wrapper.Atimore embraced her,his nose catching a whiff of the white powder she always put behind her ears.She once said that if she couldn’t afford proper perfume like women in town--she didn’t need to let anyone know.
“Mami,they said we should bring a new raffia mat to school”,he said in Yoruba,his eyes expectant.Mami looked away,her eyes sad,hands shaking uncontrollably.Atimore had told her first because he knew she had been saving some money since the school term began.The other day,when Gbaja asked her to bring money for them to buy Coke,she had said the three hundred naira was for more important things.He hoped a new raffia mat was a more important thing.But the way her eyes looked away and watered as she looked in the distance,told him that a mat,raffia or not was not Mami’s idea of important.

At break time, the next day,Ajayi and his group were gathered at one corner of the sandy field cackling loudly,their knickers the right color of army green.
”Eh Atimore,do you people have raffia mat in your house”,Ajayi said,bursting into laughter, the others joining in.Atimore hurried on,wishing his fathers crops hadn’t failed.He couldn’t stand this ridicule anymore.How dare they,he thought,his breath coming in short,heavy gasps.I will show them,he swore,the pride that all Temionu men seemed to have coursing through him.It must have been that same pride that made Gbaja offer visitors Coke that he had to buy on credit.He had said it was a thing of honour—People who had come from such a far journey need Coke!

When Atimore got home that day,he prostated before Gbaja ,but didn’t try to get up too hastily.He stayed on the floor for some extra seconds,that Gbaja had to say”Kini?”
After telling Gbaja his problem,his eyes averted downwards as he studied the weak,lifeless shadow Gbaja’s sillouette made on the dirt floor.Gbaja grunted in response and promised to do something about the matter.

When Sunday came,and Gbaja returned from town with a parcel rolled under his armpit,Atimore thought there really was something to this Temionu pride.
He and his five siblings all hurried out to see Atimore’s new raffia mat.
Gbaja unrolled his parcel in a slow,calculated manner ,his leathery brow drawn together in painstaking concentration as if unrolling hurriedly will somehow damage the mat.He revealed a mat—made not of raffia,but of palm fronds.
Gbaja looked up,his eyes shiny ,his shoulders square.”Won ma gba,they will take it”,he said.
Atimore stood there,looking down at his green mat,fighting hard the tears that pooled in his eyes.He almost forgot to prostrate.

That night,when Mami was at the back of the house,Atimore was in her room shaking off wrappers and upturning calabashes.Ajayi had said his own raffia mat cost fifty naira.If only he could lay hold of Mami’s stash.As soon as Atimore heard the slap slap sounds of her slippers on the corridor, he quickly put everything back in its place and slipped out of the room.
He went back to his own room,and lay on the floor,looking up at the dusty ceiling.He imagined Ajayi’s laughing face when he saw Atimore’s green palm mat.

Monday morning dawned with the cocks in Oba-Ile clearing their throats rather loudly.The moon was still visible,when Atimore and his siblings stood outside at the side of the house splashing water on their slender bodies.
Atimore bathed methodically,brows drawn together,absentmindedly scrubbing his limp organ.He thought of the moment when Mrs Lamilisa will ask for everyone’s raffia mat,and he wished he would just disappear at that time.
Gbaja was chewing on a large chewing stick out on the frontage,his brown sokoto hanging precariously on his waist, his left hand on Atimore’s green palm mat which was on the three-legged cane stool.

“E karo,good morning”,Atimore said,as he prostated on his way out to begin the three mile trek to school.
He eyed the green mat with the corner of his eye,deciding it would do less damage to his pride if he went to school with nothing.
Gbaja lifted the mat gently from the stool,his hands holding it as if it were something important and placed it in Atimore’s hand.
“Ma gbe le o,Dont drop it”,was all he said.

When Atimore got to school,he stood behind the school gate,his eyes on the ground,his feet making circular patterns on the sand.It was until the stocky,sixty year old gateman discovered him that he went into his class,head bowed.
Mrs Lamilisa’s shiny jerry curls was the first thing he saw as he entered the class.He then shuffled quietly to his seat,his heart thumping like a new Dundun drum,his green palm mat under his sweaty armpit.
Mrs Lamilisa was writing on the chalk board,her meaty arms swaying from side to side.She soon turned round and asked everyone to bring their raffia mats to the front of the class.Ajayi shot to the front,a smug grin on his face.All of the other students moved to drop theirs.Atimore huddled at the back,his legs suddenly feeling like leaden weights.
“Atimore,don’t waste my time”,she said,tapping her feet.As Atimore walked to the front,he felt the laughing gazes of Ajayi and his group pierce his back.
On seeing his mat,Mrs Lamilisa screamed,”Atimore,raffia is brown –not green!”
Atimore swallowed,his knuckles white.
Someone laughed.It sounded like Ajayi,and soon the whole class joined in.
Atimore felt something wet trickling down his faded green knickers.
Just then,Mr Adesanoye,the huge,stern faced principal strode down the corridor.He came in through the door of Atimore’s class.Mrs Lamilisa curtseyed while the class chorused a greeting,her fingers shaking,her face the mask of pure adulation.
“Beautiful mat you’ve got here”,he said,fingering Atimore’s green palm mat,it would look just right hanging up on my wall.
“E sir,you can take it,Mrs Lamilisa said stammering,it was made by one of my students”,she continued, pointing to Atimore.The principal patted Atimore on the back ,his eyes never leaving the green,palm mat.
Ajayi thought that surely it must mean a whole lot more to have the huge stern faced principal pat you on the back than to have Mrs Lamilisa keep all the brown raffia mats in her house and use only one as teaching aid.The principal ordered that Atimore bring it at once to his office.
Mrs Lamilisa who had been looking for a way to make the principal notice her and her class couldnt send Atimore on his way as fast as she wanted.
When he returned,Mrs Lamilisa asked him how his journey went as if he didn’t just go up the stairs and down the corridor and if the principal’s wall looked better indeed.The whole class just stared at Atimore as if he had just grown another head,and as he was about to take his seat,he caught Ajayi’s gaze fixated on his back—a back that had just been touched by the hand of the huge,stern faced principal.
At the close of school,Atimore skipped all the way home,carefully avoiding Iya Kike’s kiosk.He whistled a tune that Gbaja usually did when Mami was scratching his back.
As soon as he got to Gbaja’s frontage,he fell flat on the floor and stayed down for a whole minute.When he wouldn’t raise his head, Gbaja had to ask--”Kini?”

Copyright(c)2010 Akan Etuk Nweke(FeistyPen)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


On a hot September afternoon in 1984, a beautiful baby girl was born to young, fresh-faced parents. The mother was twenty-two and the father twenty-four. The baby's arms were tiny and her feet curled up in the characteristic froglike manner. Her eyelids fluttered in a manner suggesting that she was a bit suspicious of the new place she had now found herself. Her mother promptly reached out to her and cooed, “my precious gift ... your name is Akaninyene ... because you are greater than wealth”. The babe reached out her hand and scratched her face as if to say,  ''Well, we'll see about that now, won’t we?”

It is now 2010, two decades and six years after, and a young woman--who was once that little girl, is at a desk in an office pondering the events of the past years and is concluding that 2010 has been the most defining of them all. At this time, she had also brought forth a soul into the world, a man – child this time. Ruddy-faced with hairs sprouting it seemed, from every square inch on his tiny body. He wriggled out of the womb with an attitude and a scream that seemed to be saying "What took you guys so long?!"
She called him Kenechukwu ... it meant Thank God ... depicting her mindset at that time.
As soon as Kenechukwu was born,she was jolted into a heightened awareness of her womanhood. Before 2010, she still felt like a little girl skipping through the hall of life expecting to be picked up after, but in 2010 she was a woman with a destiny to carve, out of the woodwork of life, with the Supreme Being as lead sculptor.

Since the ministry of parenthood had been entrusted to her, the last vestiges of girlhood fell off as leaves fall off a tree in autumn. For the first time she felt an ache, a longing, a hunger to be great, greater than her ancestors and definitely greater than the box dictated.
She not only begun to think outside the box but soon realized that there was no box! Well at least none without, only within.

2010 is the year she grew up and realized that that metal may only have glittered because the sun smiled on it. It needn't have been gold.
2010 is the year she grew up and found out that glory is more thoroughly revealed in the midst of pain.

This young woman is I.

For the Love of BB

I saw him from afar. Eyes trained on me like a hawk, nostrils flaring like the ears of an elephant. I saw the uniform-custard shirt and burgundy trousers. His were faded, a far cry from what it may once have been. He strode confidently towards me, his eyes never leaving my face.
“I'll call you back”, I murmured as I let my BB slide down onto the floor of the car. I left my left hand where it was; over my left ear and hastily rearranged the muscles of my face to assume a bored, disinterested look.
The man closed in. “Madam Lawbreaker!”, he called, slamming his hand on the bonnet of the car.
“Pardon me”, I answered, cocking my head.
He then ordered me to park.
“Listen Oga, I am running late to pick my son from daycare. Would you kindly get out of my way?”

By now two identically dressed men had joined him. One of them was short and swarthy. His beret hung atop his head, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the National Theatre Building. If it was possible, it made him look even rounder. The other was tall and thin. His uniform looked like it would still have been his size if he grew three dress sizes larger. His eyes were even more hawk-like. A look of pure hostility emanated from them.
“You can’t answer your phone while driving and expect us to leave you alone”, the tall thin one stated stone-faced.
Horns had begun blaring and the cars behind me were swerving to either side of me. “Madam, park over there”, they barked, pointing to the sandy pavement on the right.
“Why should I park? My hand was over my ear because the noise from the traffic is too much”, I said with a shrill whine.
They smirked in response. Although the regulator of the air -conditioner was set at high, beads of perspiration had gathered on my forehead, sweat had pooled in my armpits drenching my white linen shirt. I slowly pulled over to the side of the road, wound down the window but remained seated in the car.
“The fine for answering your phone while driving is twenty thousand naira”, the tall one said, and in an almost whisper, he continued, “but you can give us ten thousand, so you won’t have to go to the office”.

Mind racing , I sat there wondering if I was going to have to part with the ten thousand naira I had tucked away in the pigeon hole of my car. I kept the money there so I wouldn't be tempted to pinch it. It had a definite purpose. It was for my BIS subscription and airtime allowance for the next month. I looked longingly at the pigeon hole and it looked back at me. Visions of pigeons in custard and burgundy flying away with the money flashed through my mind. The first man started as if he was going to go round the car and get in through the passenger door. This time, the pigeons in my mind pecked at my nose with their beaks as if to say ,“This is how you are going to pay - through your nose!”. I dredged up stories I had heard of people who had been accosted by this kind of men, and as soon as they made the faux pas of letting them through the passenger door, their lives never remained the same. Their pockets were almost certainly less full after the encounter.

I made a resolution to be different. I was going to show these wolves that a woman's telephone funds mean a lot to her. It is almost as sacrosanct as her cosmetics fund. In that split second, I envisioned my BB sobbing everyday of the next month, because it had been reduced to a shell, a caricature, a lower level device, same as many of the other phones of the world. Its glory taken away from it, as it'll now only be good for incoming calls and texts. Outgoing calls weren’t even guaranteed as my recharge card allowance was also in jeopardy! Because, of what use was a BB without internet service? It would be like a Lincoln without the navigating system, a peacock without its wings. I risked a glance at my watch. I was getting late. I was keeping a restless child waiting. The man was close to the door already and as he put his hand on the door handle, the cold hands of fear closed in on my throat. I could hardly breathe. I estimated the distance between me and the car in front. I remembered my high school physics. Had I attended the class? Oh yes, I had! The drone of the aged, pockmarked male teacher floated by. Speed is distance divided by time, he had droned. How many seconds will it take to put a distance of at least a hundred metres between me and these hawks? How far gone and at what speed will I move before they recover and trail in hot pursuit of me? The decision seemed life and death. The distant sobs of my BB echoed.

As I pressed my foot on the accelerator, my tires splayed grains of sand on the lady groundnut seller on the side of the road. I silently uttered a plea for forgiveness.
“Please ma, if I have to come back and buy all your groundnut, I will, I promise”.
It looked to me to be no more than a thousand naira, that was … uhm … the entire assets of the business! The door handle was slowly making a ninety degree clockwise rotation and with each unit of angle, my blood pressure rose in direct proportion. I scanned the oncoming traffic with the corner of my eye and with my hand clutching the steering wheel so tightly - my fingerprints are still there till this day, I accelerated sharply and almost sent the two men on my left out of their skins. The tall thin man in a remarkable display of presence of mind immediately shoved his more bulky colleague out of the way. My 2003 Toyota Corolla sped away amidst shrieks and screams from bystanders and the smell of burning rubber. Darting in and out of traffic like a worm fleeing salt, totally immune to the curses of my fellow road users, I heard the men yelling, “Hey, stop there, stop that woman!”. Stop?, I thought. Even if an angel appeared in front of meat this rate, I may have driven right through him. I looked in my rear view mirror. Eyes squinting, I saw what looked to me like three blobs of custard and burgundy bobbing atop machine horses. I quickly realised it was the men. The hairs at the back of my neck rose. I floored the accelerator. As they gained in on me, the tall thin one jumped off the bike, eyes blazing, face contorted into a mask of icy rage, he put his hand in through my window and reached out to try and take out my keys. As his bony fingers touched the keys, I awoke!

Drenched in a pool of sweat, heart racing as if it was being chased about by the lungs, I sat up from the couch. Alas ,it was but a dream! A dream? Groggily, I reached out and felt for my BB beside me. I picked it up and held it close to my chest. Someone was knocking.
“Who is it?”, I croaked. Gingerly stumbling to the door and peering through the door hole, I saw the faces of men. I opened the door slowly. They were three.
“We are security men from the estate, we have come to collect ten thousand naira for your security levy”, they stammered. The colours of their uniforms were custard and burgundy!


I felt it important to write you this letter on this day when you turn fifty.
It is heartfelt and I hope you will read it with the same gravity with which I have written it.
Do you know, N, that I am not at rest when the power is on? This is because I know that the power can be cut; without my permission and without notice too! It makes me feel that I am at the mercy of other people and I do not like that. At least with my generator, I can choose to put it on and off when I want; that way I do not feel too helpless. Speaking of which, the cacophony from the generators guarantees that I get a tension headache by bed time. The low rumble of the Mikanos, the harsh cackling of the Hondas and the ambitious groan of the Tigers all make for a perfectly discordant orchestra, the noise, of which ensures I lay tossing on my bed all night long.

When I drive on the roads, N, I can be sure to find gaping holes wide enough to swallow a little Beetle! The roads in my metropolis resemble rocky terrains, jagged and rough. Sand dunes line the pavements; with enough sand to build whole houses. It is the reason why any journey I make out on foot guarantees I return looking like a desert tourist. If I escape the sand dunes, the refuse dumps do not spare me. Unconsciously training for deep sea diving, I hold my breath for whole minutes if I am to make it past alive.

My daily commute to work, dearest N, requires a psychological preparation because the journey of thirty minutes stretches to one hundred and eighty threatening to drive me up the wall. My anguish is worse, Oh N, when I use public transport because the 'private tax collectors' need to relieve the bus and taxi drivers of a sizeable share of their earnings. Fierce looking and in baritones that make your tummy rumble, they dare to tell them that it is for the 'chairman'. foI like to envision an ogre sitting in a large palace and chewing the naira notes for dinner! Of course that' tax' is transferred to me; the final consumer resulting in a further depletion of my meagre resources.

Pure water according to science, N, consists of two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen distilled under conditions to guarantee purity .The water I drink consists of those and much more packaged in plastic skins. I call it 'pure water', against my better judgement. If I do not want to drink that, I am forced to buy it in bottles - small, medium and extra large ones.

I went into a hospital, dear N, because I felt sick in my stomach, and the attending doctor asked if I had been drinking pure water. I answered in the affirmative. He then proceeded to inform me that I may be suffering from dysentery caused by impurities in my drinking water. I smirked in response. He hastily scribbled an indecipherable prescription and on arriving at the hospital dispensary, the pharmacist also hastily scribbled something indecipherable that looked like 'qs' in four different places and sent me on my way without a word, and a pill. The tail of the 'q' was so short that I'm not so certain it was 'q'. I do not know if you know what that means, N, because I was not told.

I read in the dailies, dear N, that a twenty- four year old English graduate sent in an application to a multinational, and the British human resource manager without looking at the resume said, 'What does this person want, a job amusing me? I could pay him for that, because this application is utterly laughable!' That graduate was trained on your soil, Oh N, in a system where the teachers need a teaching on teaching and while we are at it, a salary raise too!

N, the little children around me have been forced into a premature maturation. Apart from being kidnapped in their bus loads, some of them are made to hawk anything man has a use for; darting in and out of traffic, sandwiched between SUV's and trailers, saloons and bikes, tankers and trucks.
Speaking of kidnapping, N, in the fraction of number of kidnapped over number of not yet kidnapped, the numerator is rapidly catching up with the denominator. I once convinced myself, N, that the Caucasians deserved it; that they polluted the Niger Delta with oil wastes, rendered the fishermen jobless, gave existing jobs to outsiders, seduced their women and every imaginable evil I could think of. They must be smirking right now; when they switch on their TV sets and see that we have begun kidnapping our own children, our actors, our leaders, our fathers and even our grandfathers, quickly concluding that we are a crazed lot. Even our diaper clad tots are not safe!

Speaking about choices, who chose all the past leaders that you've had? Who decided that the national purse was calling their name; singing the song b'I want to be a billionaire, so freaking bad', in loud raucous tones and helping themselves to my tax? I didn't! So if I didn’t choose them, who did?! Did anybody accept naira from them in exchange for their conscience? "They chose themselves", I say. How? This leads me to infer, Oh N, that our electioneering process is a circus, with the politicians as clowns; while I spectate, oohing and aahing at their perfectly executed moves.

Once elected, N, a certain group assemble in a house. Left fist, right fist, left fist, right fist, upper cut to the jaw and someone is on the floor! It is called the House of Representatives - Upper and Lower. Representing who? Not me! Another set rush in claiming they have come to enforce the law. Or have they? They are dressed in black. Interrupted from their daily venture; relieving motorists of their naira notes (they particularly like the one embossed with Muritala); they quickly pocket their loot, readjust their beret and then bark, 'You there, stop fighting, respect your constituency!'
Who is fooling whom? A sorry case of bread calling pancake fattening! They have in turn given birth to protégées all over the place, smaller units, calling themselves all sorts of names. In this case though, the student is much wiser than the teacher. These groups have learnt very well.

It is easy to deduce dear N, that only the Supreme Being can save me if I am ever accosted by the 'original owners' assum(because of the impunity with which they collect my money, I have to assume they owned it in an earlier life!). Masked men, brandishing weapons that will make the United States Armoury green with envy; the fear of whom is the beginning of wisdom. Call 911? Guess who answers? "The Original Owners!" After all, the Cicero who also happened to be Chief Justice was murdered in his bedroom, surrounded by armed guards, and till this day I do not have a clue as to who committed such a brazen crime. Or do I?

I try to go to court. Now that’s where the real joke is. You see, N, justice is a gift from God. It is one of the oldest subjects in the world, that is after nomenclature, gardening and sex because when Adam, Eve and the serpent appeared in the green court of God, he administered justice to each, commensurate with their misdeed. But within your shores, Oh N, some people are above such 'base things' as administered justice. Maybe, because they have the option of fine. But the irony, N, is that they will pay the fine out of the money they stole from me!

At the airports, N, I see people travelling in their droves for everything, ranging from a college education to a tummy tuck to baby shopping to kidney transplants. There seems to be nothing we do not have to go abroad for. It is apparent to me, that the leaders prefer us to make the cross-Atlantic trip. I believe darling N, that it won’t be bad at all if all the amenities we so crave for, were reproduced here. That way, trips do not have to be made for everything save the occasional vacation. I love those, N, but I can barely afford it!

These days, N, if I want to buy a decent box of cereal, I have to buy the ones made by your colleagues across the Atlantic. Even if I want decent bathroom slippers or nail varnish remover! Cereal? Bathroom slippers? Nail varnish remover? Where are the industries that I 'heard' you once had, N?

Do we still export? Yes! Our brilliant youth! In their numbers they besiege the foreign embassies for asylum into their countries. Whether you are superior to those countries does not make them relent. The other day someone mentioned that your children are in Diaspora in Libya. Libya? Something is seriously wrong, N! In the not so distant past, you attempted to rid yourself of certain asylum seekers. They fled carrying a particular red checkered rubber bag. Today, your children are fleeing using the same bag and ironically to that same country you once denied asylum! Some other 'brilliant ones' busy themselves behind computer screens; necks bent, eyes hidden behind dark shades, laying their traps across the world wide web, and catching wads of currency bills.

Then I hear talks of rebranding.
Rebranding speaks of cleaning up your image and presenting you to outsiders as beautiful and attractive. But I know you, N, I know who you really are, and it is I who really matters. A perspiring Coke bottle does not necessarily translate to chilled Coke!

I wish you could be as God intended, N.

That way, I do not have to travel anywhere to practice my profession, or to have my heart checked, or to buy my cereal or to tuck in my tummy, or even to get a marketable identity.

I love you, dear N.

I love the fact that I can pray openly, in tongues or without; attend parties - (the only connection between the celebrant and I being the fact that I have the 'colours'), with my head encased in starched nylon sheets; feet tapping to the beat of a free, carefree spirit.

I love you, N, because within your boundaries I do not have to evacuate my home periodically; fleeing from an angry wind.

I love you, N, because the old woman down the road can "help" slap my child when he misbehaves, and she doesn't have to be sorry.

I love you, darling N, because I look around and I see laughter in the midst of pain, comedy in the midst of tragedy and hope in the midst of despair.

You have the power, N!

You have the power to make me stay with you all my life, the power to set alight my dreams, the power to make me believe again.

I love you, dear N and happy birthday!


Berry FeistyPen


The shrill ring of the alarm broke through her torpor. It grated on her nerves.She had been dreaming of her hair being blown by the wind as she drove in a red,topless convertible. She struggled to pry her eye lids open. It was very hard.
'I have to get up', she muttered. Eventually, she opened her eyes and sat up on the bed. She looked up at the clock. It was 4.45 a.m. The Mobil job interview was at 8.00a.m. A frisson of anticipation shot through her nerves. She had been jobless for eight months. She got up and picked out a shirt from her wardrobe. Grabbing the iron, she immediately proceeded to the ironing board. On plugging the iron plug in the socket, the power went out.
'Arrggh, Nepa', she said.

She went out to the back of the house and tried to put on the generator. She tried six times to pull the rope, but it just won't start.Muttering,she stomped off to go and call the maiguard to help. With the first pull, the rope came off in the maiguard's hand. She couldn't decide who she was angrier with - the maiguard or the rope! Swearing silently,she marched into the house to find an unrumpled shirt. There wasn't any!
She was going to have to wear the rumpled shirt and cover it with a jacket. It was 5.15a.m.

She bathed and dressed in record time and ran out to the Ajah bus stop. A crowd had gathered. There were no buses. She opened her mouth in horror, but quickly shut it. She had to try and get a cab. A cab eventually pulled up. No one struggled with her because they were all waiting for buses. She heaved a sigh of relief and uttering a silent prayer of thanks,she scrambled in and ten minutes after the cab had been moving, she still sat leaning forward with her muscles taut; willing the driver to go faster.

It was 6.15 am. The cab was speeding so much that it couldn't stop when the red light blinked. A bike was run over with its rider on the floor writhing in pain. Her heart was thumping. The anguished look of the bike rider troubled her --but only briefly because she looked down at her watch and screamed, 'Move!'
The cab driver turned to her to ask if she was a Christian. She winced and said she wasn't. The cab sped on. They arrived at the Lekki roundabout. The traffic was formidable. She uttered a string of four letter expletives that would have made her Sunday school kids gawk in awe. The cab driver said he agreed with her - that she wasn't a Christian! A cloud of remorse settled all over her. Quickly shaking it off,she made a mental note to repent after the interview.

She arrived at the front of Mobil Oil at 7.30 a.m. She was delirious with joy. Clutching her briefcase, she trotted to the gate. There were five people on the line.
'It’s not so bad', she said to herself, 'I still have thirty minutes'. Twenty minutes after, she was still on the line. The man in front of her was arguing.Clenching and unclenching her fists,and tapping her feet,she said, 'Please, I have an interview at eight'. The security men called her forward. They asked for her identification.

She rummaged her bag for it. It was nowhere to be found. She freaked out. Her watch was ticking. A tear escaped. She lifted her left hand to wipe. The ID was in her left hand! She had taken it out in the cab. She wanted to kick herself. Hands shaking, she handed it to them. They let her through. She had three minutes left. She dashed to the reception. She was trembling all over.
'Please, where is hall C12?' she asked the receptionist who was on the phone laughing loudly.
All she heard was the receptionist's cackling. She modulated her voice three notches higher. The receptionist paled, stopped laughing and mouthed the directions.

The journey in the elevator seemed like a lifetime. It was 8 a.m. She hoped her watch was faster than theirs. She willed the door open. The door obliged her. She raced up the corridor, frantically searching for the right door. She soon found it. It was locked! Perplexed, she brought out the invitation letter. She looked down at it. Tears were blurring her vision.
'It says here, C12, and this is C12', she thought aloud. 'I can't miss this interview; I've been sitting at home for too long!' A man strode down the corridor .She proceeded to tell him her sorry tale. He asked her for her letter. Heads bent, they peered at it together. Venue was Hall C12, time 8.00 am, date 10-05-10. That day was 1-05-10.
It took an effort for to raise her head!

Friday, October 15, 2010


A copy of the gold embossed wedding program in his right hand, he held Oto, his fiancée in the left. They were at a booth in the ever bubbling Barcelos. Her blood red French tips drew patterns on his thigh sending delightful shivers down his spine. He couldn’t wait to have those shivers escalate into a full blown fever. The wedding day was the next Saturday and then—the night! Oto’s velvety voice glided through his reverie. She was asking him a question.
'I’m sorry darling', he said his eyes roving all over her face and settling on her full lips.
I said, 'Do you...uhm...ever get anxious about next Saturday and if we are...uhm...right for each other?'
Nfreke paused for a second, a funny look crossing his face, and with his two hands cupping her face, he said, 'Never darling! I know you are the one for me and it feels so right to call you Mrs Oto Nfreke Udosen'. To this, Oto smiled--a quivering smile of relief. She didn’t need him echoing her fears.

Nfreke was the kind of man who watched Desperate Housewives with her. She would protest occasionally that watching soaps like that made him look like a sissy, but he would adamantly say that he would watch anything as long as he could be close to her. He was in love with her that way, pride and chauvinism forgotten. She loved him also, but when ChooChoo called her last week, her heart still thudded in that all too familiar way. She had to know if Nfreke was the "one".She couldn't just go ahead and marry him. She had tried to hear from God, but it seemed God was leaving this one up to her. If only she had more time to be sure, but Nfreke would not hear any of it. He wanted her and he wanted her now!

By Thursday, when Nfreke had a giant bouquet of roses and lilies delivered to her house, she had begun to feel she was ready to be Mrs Udosen. The bouquet was so large that all Oto saw when it was brought in was the splash of red and white; she couldn't see that anyone was carrying it.When she brought it to her nose to savor its fragrance,she saw that a letter was attached to it. Every word of it seemed to burn out whatever doubt she still had left. The paper seemed almost scorched.

But by the morning of the wedding day,the feelings of uncertainty returned with even greater force.She just stared at everyone; unable to lift a muscle to do anything. She hadn’t slept well the night before. People milled around her in their twos. There was the make-up lady and the hair lady. The facials lady and the wedding dress fitter. She needed to hear Nfreke’s soothing voice and when he called her on the phone just when she was getting ready to hide someplace where nobody could find her,she hoped she would hear something that would tip the scales eternally in his favor.

His voice was as soft as ever, but Oto felt no better after the ten minute conversation. ChooChoo called her soon after Nfreke dropped the phone to wish her happiness in her new life and the familiar stirrings of her heart as she listened to his baritone was all that was needed to sink her further into her quagmire.
'You will make me proud today', her father had said when he woke this morning. She had just stared at him, her fingers shaking uncontrollably. And now, the makeup lady was saying,
'Do you want the gold shadow or the mauve one? The gold will bring out the shape of your cat-eyes'.
I have cat-eyes?,she said,furrowing her brow.
'Use whichever one you think suits me best', she answered in a low voice.
She sat there hugging herself, her hair swept up in a high updo with a dozen ringlets cascading down her face. She feared she looked like a Barbie doll whose owner had abandoned it - what with this cloud of ringlets and her sour pout!

'We’re going to be late', her father predicted, gathering up his cap and phone and shooing her mum out of the room. They arrived at the magnificent church building just in time for the start of the mass.
'Here comes the bride, all dressed in white', the purple robed choir sang, as her father walked her down the red carpeted aisle. She recognized many faces, but some just blurred into one big giant face, as they all turned back to watch her.She wondered if they felt her tension.

Nfreke had gone out of his way to impress her. He looked quite handsome, his soft eyes regarding her in a mix of naked caring and longing. How could she possibly hurt such an angel of a man? When she reached him, he held her hand in a firm grasp, his fingers caressing the insides of her palm in bold, new ways. She turned to look at him and his eyes turned almost liquid. He grasped her hand even tighter.

'Dearly beloved ...’ the priest began. Oto’s mind was far away. The words seemed a distant echo. She was rudely brought back to present. The priest was asking Nfreke, 'Do you take this woman, Oto Marie, to be your lawfully wedded wife...' ?
The time had come. It would be my turn soon, she thought.
She feared that Nfreke knew! She looked up at Nfreke, her eyes searching his face for some understanding.

The priest had finished his recital and all eyes were on Nfreke for his answer. Oto’s mouth was dry,her hands wet.'Please forgive me',she pleaded under her breath. She heard a collective gasp. Nfreke had answered, 'No, I don’t', in a small, feeble voice, his eyes looking at hers sadly. All eyes riveted on Oto . When the faint suggestions of a smile tugged at her lips, the priest could only stare with his mouth open!

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