Why I Write

Why I Write

I write because I have something to say. I write with intention. I write to inform and to amuse. I write to inspire conviction that provokes movement, because words are not empty. I write because I can.

I do not write for fun. I watch romantic comedies for fun. I read a novel with a wicked plot for fun. I walk on the beach for fun. I cycle through the woody paths of the Veluwe for fun. I don’t write for fun, however writing can be so much fun.

I write because I like challenges, the challenge of taking something ordinary and giving it wings to fly like a kite in the wind. Watching it sail, I ooh and ah as its colours change. Then I ooh and ah again as I see through your eyes, the medley of colours in the comments you leave behind.

I write because I want you to read what I write. When people say that they write for themselves and not for others, and then publish the writing that they wrote for themselves on a blog for the world to see, the irony does not escape me. I write because it matters to me that you read what I write. If it did not matter to me, I would write in my diary.

I write because I enjoy reducing the tedious emails that nearly nobody reads and a few skim, to bullet points that everybody reads. I write because I love to k.i.s.s. (keep it so simple), and make up, that is, stretch a story to breaking point to test the limits of its elasticity. Snap! And start again.

I write to discover myself. As my thoughts change to words, I see who I have been, who I am becoming, and who I might be. I write because my interaction with the world makes sense when I draw it in word pictures. Blue means peace and green means fruit. If I could not write, I would paint. And if I could not paint, I would sing. I would croon ballads about the fact that I cannot write.

I write because I have time. I write because I make time. I write because I lose time when I write. Minutes tick and become hours and hours race into days. I write because it is easy for me to write. I write because I hear words and phrases in my mind. I write because I dream, lofty dreams about never-never land, perfect rag dolls, and vintage family portraits

I write because the gift chose me. I write because I discovered the gift when I wasn’t looking. I write because writing adds value to my life, turning my whispers into loud cries, enabling me to stand tall on crouched knees. I write because the gift continues to unfold with surprises in store.

Mostly, I write because I can. Why do you write?

Samuel Johnson on writing

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Gosh, are you still here? Reading? For real? Okay, this one’s for you—three offbeat posts about writing:

One, Two, Three.

Finished? Now, go get a life!

 

Image title: oilbased marker 02 vector

Original image URL: http://all-free-download.com/free-vector/vector-misc/oilbased_marker_02_vector_161610.

Image designs: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

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No Longer a Piece of Meat

Suya by KitchenButterfly

Theirs is a spacious car park unprotected from the glare of the sun and the noisy wind that ushers autumn in. Hers is the silver-grey Toyota Aygo, that ubiquitous city-car that cushions Europeans from the perils of economic recession, road tax, fuel costs, and ah yes, carbon emissions. His is the black Mercedes, that German beast that roars.

Having never seen him before, she wants to say hi, and make small talk, for the benefit of their mutual skin colour, if only for a few moments, so they can put up high walls against the cold and enjoy the warmth of solidarity.

Instead, she walks past him, and quickens her steps, the koi-koi of her heels, lost in the now harsh whispers of the wind, her mind replaying images she had thought long forgotten.

She is ten again and in the country club with her mother, in front of her soon-to-be swimming instructor, who took in her thin frame, and let his eyes linger, then wander, and then linger on the small mounds on her chest, which strained against her one-piece suit.

Her mother followed his gaze. What was supposed to be a conversation about swimming timetable, changed to a conversation about swimming lessons ending. The uneasy feeling that followed her relief and disappointment, which she could not define, she submerged in that room in children’s heads that they do not like to visit. Years later when she understood the term, dirty old man, she remembered the way he had moved his bushy eyebrows up and down in quick succession, as first her mother turned and then she turned to leave.

That thing that was in her swimming instructor’s eyes, she now sees in his. His eyes, they reduce her to a piece of meat. They touch her the same way that women and men haggling over meat in Lagos markets grab the meat from the wooden tables, slap the meat on the wooden tables, and push the meat on the wooden tables, wooden tables with fissures that are smooth with age and vegetable green at the edges.

Reflex causes her to tug at her skirt, to pinch the fabric in front of her thighs and try to drag it down, as though she can turn her mini skirt to maxi, as though her legs are not encased in black tights and boots.

His eyes drill holes in her back. She nearly misses her step. His laughter is low, but to her ears it is as loud as those of the traders who called her Shabba, and tried to grab her hands as she shopped at Tejuosho market long ago, wearing a long skirt with a thigh-high slit.

All the way to the traffic light where they encounter one another again, she thinks of his greedy eyes, his hungry smile, the shape of his gorimapa head, and the shiny darkness of his skin. She divides Africa into four: east Africa, south Africa, north Africa, and west Africa; he resembles her, but she cannot decide where he belongs.

She pulls up slowly beside his Mercedes and stiffens her neck. She wills herself not to look at him. But she does. You see, the force of his gaze, and everything intangible that had transpired between them is like a horse’s bit. His handsome features do not captivate her. His smile does not captivate her.

It is his left hand. The way he raises his shoulder and bends his elbow so his fingers rest on the steering wheel in the 12 ‘o clock position—that unmistakeable way Naija boys with new money driving new cars with shiny alloy wheels, hold the steering wheel—that is what captivates her.

So now, she knows where he belongs.

She begins to laugh and laugh and laugh some more as his brows furrow in consternation. She continues laughing as the traffic light turns green, and he speeds off. She laughs as the cars behind her pull out into the other lane and the drivers stare at her and shake their heads, before they zoom past. She laughs until the traffic light turns red. Then she stops. She is no longer a piece of meat.

 

Postscript

Chaos defines her Mondays, but the chaos lights her fire and adds purpose to her steps. The only thing that halts her fall is her desk, which is behind her. She feels its edge cutting into her thighs as she stumbles backwards for safety and support. Her gaze meets his and holds while they shake hands. When Ben gestures to another employee and whisks him away, Ben’s words hit home. With vast experience in mergers and acquisitions, he comes highly recommended from J.P. Morgan. He is her new manager.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

If you loved the photo of the suya as much as my post or more than my post (how dare you?), if you miss suya and live where you can’t buy it, if you’re adventurous, if… if …, whatever, okay, read Kitchen Butterfly’s post about suya.

Photo credit: © Kitchen Butterfly

Original photo URL: http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/2010/07/15/how-to-make-nigerian-suya/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy Friday

Happy Friday

There is a man who stands at the entrance of the lift on the ground floor of your office building. He greets you with a broad smile as you approach the lift and lets you know that he has called the lift. “Oga, it is coming down,” he announces, as though looking at the numbers on the display changing in reverse order is a job for him alone.

He wears a pale blue shirt tucked into navy blue trousers with the seriousness of an employee on his first day at work. When he moves his cap slightly to scratch his head, you see that he is bald and his fingernails are long. You wince before you hear the sound and you are surprised that the sound is not as harsh as you expected. He taps his black baton, which hangs by his side, and you nearly forget that both of you have been waiting for a full sixty seconds.

In the lift, his shirt is not pale blue but faded blue, and the cracks which extend for a few millimetres from the buckle holes on his imitation leather belt, remind you of harmattan, of chapped lips in need of Vaseline.

“Oga, seven or ten?”

You are usually among the first to arrive at the office. Sometimes you get off on the seventh floor. Sometimes you get off on the tenth floor.

“Choose.”

“Ehn?”

“You choose the floor.”

His fingers hesitate at the control panel. “Ten sir. Ten, because the higher you go, de more money you go get.”

He smiles and some of the years roll off his face. You think of your late father and swallow a lump.

“Ten it is then.”

You no longer hold your breath when you ride with Joe. The smell of day-old perspiration has grown on you, just as the way his black shoes shine and reflect light, no longer fascinates you.

Joe clears his throat.

“Oga, today is Friday.”

“I know.”

You know because you woke up at 4 a.m. to complete the presentation for your meeting at ten. However, you can tell it is not the response Joe was expecting because he clears his throat again.

“Oga, happy Friday, sir.”

You think it is too early, but the weight of expectation that causes his words to land on your shoulders, the demands of communal responsibility that is thrust on you for earning a certain level of income, and the unspoken rules of this ritual, constrain you to respond.

“I’ll see you later.”

Joe clears his throat yet again. “Oga I will close early today.”

He has taken a gamble and he watches to see where the dice will roll. Only he does not let it stop. “It’s okay oga, I will wait.”

Your irritation vanishes.

“God bless you sir,” he calls as you walk out the lift.

When you close, he is there. On the ground floor. Saying, “Happy Friday,” to a colleague. He monitors you from the corner of his eyes, eyes that fill with indecision as you walk past. He must be aware of the foolishness of abandoning the fish in front of him, to dash and catch you. So he calls out, “Oga, abeg, I will soon finish!”

You almost laugh, in amusement, but check yourself. It is shameful that this culture dignifies begging and elevates it to an art form, complete with colloquialisms—How weekend sir? Anything for the boys sir? Oga we dey here o? Happy weekend, and so on.

An old man. A beggar. A corporate beggar. A beggar cushioned against the sun and the rain. A beggar in uniform. A professional beggar.

He catches up with you outside as you head for the car park.

Breathing hard, he declares, “Happy Friday sir!”

You hand over a couple of notes.

“God bless you sir! Your family will never suffer. Your wife will born plenty children, strong boys. Your children will become great ….”

You do not pay attention as you keep walking. What is his life like? What qualifications does he have? You turn to ask. But, Joe has resumed duty on the stairs leading to the entrance doors, his head bowed slightly and his hands outstretched.

You let your shoulders sag. “Happy Friday Joe,” you mumble, knowing that his praise-singing would have drowned out everything you intended to say.

In the car, before you turn on the ignition, you pull out a couple of notes from your wallet and leave them on the passenger seat. They are for Adamu and the others who man the security gate.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

 

Photo credit: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Running in the Airport

well designed signage

I came to your house out of a sense of duty. Although I told you I was late, you brought me a plate of beans, fried plantain, and chicken stew. While you shouted Sade’s name, and looked for change so she could buy cold coke from mama Kunle, I quickly made a phone call to Sista Kemi:

“Sista, e ma binu, I can’t eat it. You know I’m travelling—”

“Femi, just try. You are like a son to her.”

“Anything else. I will drop 50k for her instead of 25—”

“After everything I’ve done for you ….”

With those six words, Sista Kemi sealed my fate. I did not refuse a second helping of your beans because you cooked it with a little sugar and plenty onions. My big sister had slaved to send me to school in the U.S., so, I ate after I protested and you laughed.

I finally boarded my flight at 9:30 p.m. and dozed off shortly after take-off. I woke up to the smell of coffee and croissants, which I munched hungrily before we began our descent.

At Schiphol, jet-lagged passengers sprawled out on the black metal seats in a small lounge. Drawn like a magnet, I sat beside a striking lady with a small afro who was shaking her phone, tapping her phone, assembling her phone, and disassembling her phone.

“Hello, let me help?”

“Oh, do you know what to do? It fell and it won’t start—”

And just like that, we moved on to talk about our lives, our work, and our passion. My flight to Maryland was four hours away. Her flight to New Jersey was three hours away.

Her eyes glowed as she talked about the non-profit where she worked. Just then, the contents of my stomach lurched. I stylishly shifted and sat on only one bum. This attempt at bowel control thrust me forward, and I hoped she did not think I was trying to get a better view of what lay beneath her V neckline. I bit my lip and silently commanded my tummy to settle. I don’t know whether she paused or I imagined it. But I carried on talking.

“My company encourages employees to get involved in community service by giving donations to worthy causes and staff bonuses for participation. I see a win-win here.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” I replied, crossing my legs and shifting my weight to my other bum to stem the tide. I leaned backward. Her V neckline was high, not that I would have seen anything if it was plunging, for thoughts of white porcelain toilet bowls beclouded my vision.

I masked my pain by contorting my face in concentration. Her voice sounded farther and farther away, as if she was at one end of a tunnel and I was at the other end, stooping and shitting. Now and again, I scanned the lounge for the toilet icons, pretending to observe the passengers who were dragging luggage and crowding the seats. Then I returned my gaze to her face and flashed what I hoped was a charming smile. I don’t know whether she paused or I imagined it. But she carried on talking.

“So, let’s make it happen. How can we take this to the next level?”

“I need the toilet.”

“What?”

“Nothing. What did you say?” I blinked several times, and then moved so that both cheeks of my bum were in full contact with the seat. Now that the word toilet had escaped from my mouth, the pressure on my rectum doubled. I pushed my chest forward, the way I used to as a lanky teenager, and prayed that the noise in the lounge had muffled my words.

She frowned and watched me.

My anus took the heat.

“Okay go.”

“What?”

“Go to the toilet,” she said calmly, pointing the way.

He that is down, need fear no fall. I chucked mortification away, buried it in the recesses of my mind, and tried not to run. As soon as I turned the corner, I picked up speed.

Five men queued outside the toilet. I eyed the vacant women’s toilet. Dare I? I asked a cleaner if there was another toilet nearby.

“Downstairs, turn left, after about fifty metres.”

I started to go when I saw a young girl pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair purposefully. I followed the trajectory of her eyes and changed my course. Nearing the doors of freedom, I saw the cleaner and began to limp.

I hit the toilet seat just in time. And finished after pushing twice. But I sat there. Because I heard the commotion at the door. The real disabled people were waiting and wondering aloud. Shame, hot and sharp, overtook my relief. Oh, the smell was one thing, but I was too embarrassed to “limp” out of the toilet.

As I moved my feet to alleviate the pins and needles, I heard directions being given. Then the voices receded.  Satisfied, I opened the door slowly and looked in either direction. Although no one was there, I felt compelled to limp.

“Are you all right?” Miss Afro looked alarmed as I approached.

“Yes,” I corrected my limp, pushed my chest out, and walked tall.

“No, I mean your tummy?”

“Fine.”

Humiliation covered me the way caramel sauce covers ice cream, slowly, gradually, until I could not meet her eyes. But I sat like a real man, legs ajar and arms resting lightly on my thighs.

“Please write your number?” She dropped her card on the magazine which lay between us.

I patted my shirt pocket and shook my head. She frowned as she brought a silver fountain pen from her bag. When I finished writing, I handed her the card. She didn’t take it. Instead she used her white hanky to snatch her pen.

“Femi right?” she said as she stood, “why don’t you call me?  It’s been a pleasure meeting you. I have to board.” She ignored my hand.

I smelled myself after she left. What was I sniffing for? Body odour? Beans? Shit?

I looked at her card. Busayo. What if I married her? What if you came to visit? What if you cooked beans, fried plantain, and chicken stew? What if I ate it? What if I went to the toilet twice at night? Would she tell me to face the wall while she slept with her back towards me at the edge of her side of the bed, like a lone matchstick in a giant matchbox, stiff like a bag of cement?

Nonsense! I tore the card to small pieces. Who cares about corporate social responsibility and employee participation in meaningful community development projects? I tore the small pieces to even smaller pieces, hurled it in the trash, as I limped to the disabled toilet for the fourth time that morning.

And now, you are calling me at 3 a.m. local time, asking why I am not yet married. Aunty e jo!

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Photo credit: rhodes / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhodes/2181258/

 

Title: well designed signage

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

City of Lagos

Nigeria is like a man with many wives who when not competing among themselves for his affection (read: oil wealth), sit together and complain about his lack of attention (read: dearth of infrastructure). I am married to Nigeria and this is my rant.

From time to time, I enjoy entertaining. Friends were coming over for a bite. Nothing fancy I was told, but I pulled out all the stops including the china and cutlery, which sit in their cartons gathering dust and only grace the table when I want to impress. Anyway, six hours later, I had a three-course meal fit for a king and no guests. What’s wrong with this picture?

Earlier, dark clouds warned of impending rain but since I was neither the bride nor the groom that had rented an open field for their wedding reception in the thick of rainy season, my only concern was for the temperature of the oil as I fried plantain. When, thunder and lightning announced the arrival of a torrential downpour, I shut my windows and began to wait.

It turned out that my guests were stuck in traffic caused by blocked drainage channels. With nowhere to go, the rain kissed the ground and its waters rose, higher and higher, turning the roads to knee-deep rivers. Their SUVs were no match for the floods. Maybe Toyota will seize first-mover advantages by developing a new type of hybrid for the Nigerian market—Toyota Transformer: part landcruiser, part speedboat. Then Nissan, Honda, Kia, and the rest will follow! Far-fetched? Hardly. Inverters flooded the market when investors rightly assessed the gap in the power sector. 

ojogbon.wordpress.com.rain-rain-go-away

Disappointed that my guests didn’t show, I decided to watch a movie on TV. That power supply disappears moments after the sky darkens, was not new to me. That I had to generate my power supply, did not take me by surprise. My inverter was humming quietly and my generator was on stand-by. However, thirty minutes into the movie, the TV went into a convulsion—white lines, static, beep-beep-beep, before sudden death.  What’s wrong with this picture?

The rain, which had slowed to a slight drizzle, changed its mind and metamorphosed into a full-fledged downpour once again. I increased the volume of the TV to drown out the tap-tap-tap of falling rain and snuggled into my wrappa as the room became cooler. But nobody told me; you forgot to warn me about this before I packed my bags and returned to Nigeria, that like oil and water, rain and cable TV do not mix! When it rains, cable TV loses connection to the signal!

tv

Rainy season equals more traffic jams and power outages, with attendant loss in manpower hours and business opportunities. Rainy season means more visits to the mechanic. Rainy season equals (avoidable) flooding which results in suffering for displaced persons. Rainy season means… need I continue?

So you see, I have come to dread rainy season because it is fraught with frustrations that make me rethink my move back to Nigeria.

It is easy to forget that rainy season has its advantages. Rain-fed agriculture increases the farmers’ prosperity, and rain provides water for domestic purposes in areas where running water is scarce. Also, during the rainy season, cooler temperatures bring some relief from the stifling heat.

Well, after another rain-induced frustration, my son asked about the duration of the rainy season. I said that rainy season begins in April and ends in October. He quickly did the math and sighed in disbelief and disappointment.

“Six whole months!” he cried.

I tried hard to sound convincing as I recounted the blessings of the rainy season. I explained that countries with diminishing water resources like Egypt, would welcome a lengthy rainy season, and scientists were experimenting with harnessing energy from raindrops. I told him tales about dancing in the rain, singing rain, rain, go away, but, he would not be won over.

He moped around like a solitary figure shrouded with disillusionment. 

“Six whole months,” he muttered almost inaudibly.

Hey, what’s wrong with this picture? Go figure!

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Related links: Read Diekola Onaolapo’s Rain, rain…go away here

Photo credit:

The City of Lagos
Author: OOT, The official website of the Office of Transformation

Original image url: http://oot.lg.gov.ng/beta/?p=315

Flooded Street
Author: Diekola Onaolapo

Original image url: http://ojogbon.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/rain-rain-go-away/

Vectors from Microsoft

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.