Cellphomania

mobile phone

I have three mobile phones, so what? Of course, I have all my papers. How could I live and work in The Hague otherwise?

These phones, ah, in Nigeria, they felt neither heavy nor out of place when I laid them on the table in a restaurant, side by side, as if to compare their sizes.

Things have changed since I left Nigeria, they tell me. But I can only tell you what I know. That when my conversation with a friend ended because of network wahala, he called back on another network, blaming the earlier bad connection on heavy rainfall. That when I lived in Nigeria, rain was one reason I had three phones.

So that if rain melted one provider’s “wireless” wires, I could turn to another who might not be that unlucky. So that if lightning set one provider’s telecom mast ablaze, I could turn to others who could get their fire extinguishers ready on time. So that if Sango, thundered against South Africa’s MTN, I could turn to Glo, owned by a son of the soil, who might have been spared.

Network problems are rare here. These three phones? It’s a Naija thing. I am yet to meet any Nigerian at home or abroad who has less than two phones.

My first phone is my “official” phone. Friends call me on this number, as well as my boss, the tax office, the gas company, the police, telemarketers, and King Willem-Alexander. This phone from network operators like Vodafone, KPN, and T-Mobile, suffers one major limitation, which my second phone overcomes.

Because I call family and friends in Nigeria and the African continent from my second phone, the SIM card must come from Lyca, Lebara, Vectone, or Delight, providers that offer discount call rates to Africa. Any smart phone that accommodates Viber, WhatsApp, and the almighty BBM, will do because every Nigerian chats on BBM. Moreover, in Nigeria, exchanging BlackBerry PINs follows introductions and handshakes. Your blue eyes are widening; don’t you know what hyperbole is?

My third phone is the cheapest brand in the market. It’s only purpose is to rescue me. Imagine, if you can, that one day, you are in the Open Market, buying oxtail, shaki, cow leg, and real beef, from of all people, that Dutchman who eats vlees  that you cannot eat, but has a stall where Africans troop.

This inability to acculturate, to do something as simple as buying and eating meat from Albert Heijn after twelve years in The Netherlands is your undoing for you bump into your distant cousin in this little corner of Africa.

He calls you by your Nigerian name, daring you to ignore him. You both register your surprise and long-time-no-sees. You dribble the chit-chat past where you live to you will call him. His protest drowns out the sound of the Moroccan fruit vendor calling, “Bananen, vijf voor maar een euro!” How can he expect you to call him when you are his senior—did you not come to Europe before him? His oyibo neva reach dat level, abegi! He will call you.

You give him your third phone number. The number your mother gives to your secondary school friends because she does not require your permission to do so. The phone that you switch on when you need to make obligatory calls to relatives who think you pick gold off European streets for a living.

My dear, the phones on the table are mine and mine alone. I am not a 419, na so life be. If you still don’t understand, I will explain in the morning. Switch off the light and snuggle close to me, I like to hold you when we sleep.

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Wahala: (Nigerian Pidgin; perhaps of Hausa origin) Trouble or problem.

Sango: Yoruba god of thunder and lightning.

Vlees: (Dutch) Meat. Many African immigrants shun the “flat” meat in supermarkets, preferring the meat sold in Halal shops or the Open Market (oxtail, shaki, cow leg, etc.).

Albert Heijn: Dutch supermarket chain

His oyibo neva reach dat level, abegi: (Nigerian Pidgin) translates roughly to, living abroad has not made him forget his Nigerian roots or culture.

Open Market: Officially De Haagse Markt. It lies between Transvaal and Schilderswijk, districts populated mainly by Moroccan, Turkish, Antillean, Surinamese, and African immigrants. The market reflects the neighbourhood’s diversity.

Na so life be: (Nigerian Pidgin) translates roughly to, that’s just the way it is.

Photo credit: The Reboot / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/70292973@N07/7197724426/

Title: Mobile Phone Hanging from a Tree

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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Six is Just a Number

six is just a number

“Six?”

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”

“Oh my God, six!”

“I . . . I—”

“So six men have entered your pants! What kind of girl are you?”

“What do you mean? I don’t sleep around . . . I was in a relationship with all of them—”

“See the mouth you use to say ‘I don’t sleep around?’ What do you call f**king six guys? Ehn?”

“Hmmm.”

“You are quiet now abi? Answer me?”

“Look, I told you I didn’t want us to divulge this kind of information about our past—”

“So, you wanted to pretend I was the second ehn?”

“This is ridiculous! You knew I wasn’t a virgin when you married me?”

“Six? Haba six?”

“Stop shaking your head and treating me like a slut. What about you?”

“I’m a man o! You hear me I’m a man!”

“What about your younger sister?”

“Don’t you dare bring my sister into this discussion! We’re talking about you!”

“Double standards . . .”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing. Where are you going?”

“I’m coming.”

***

Oya start writing.”

“What?”

“The names of the guys!”

“You can’t be serious! No way!”

“Ha! I’ve never been more serious. I need to understand what I got myself into.”

“You must be joking!”

“I’m not.”

“Where’s your list?”

“Here. I’ve written mine.”

“Hisssss! Wonders will never end. I’m not interested!”

“Okay, It’s on the table. Any time you’re interested, you can look. I’m waiting.”

“I’m going to bed jo. I can’t stand your childishness anymore.”

“Nobody will sleep in this house until you write the list!”

“Is that a threat?”

“I didn’t go to law school, you can call it what you want.”

“And if I don’t? Are you going to beat it out of me?”

“I have never laid hands on a woman, and I will not start today. But you will pack your bags and go to your parent’s house tonight.”

“Hissss!”

***

“What’s all that noise? What do you think you are doing?”

“Helping you pack.”

“What?”

“You may want to consider changing from your nightie. I will soon call a cab.”

“You are crazy! Put my things back!”

“No. I will call your dad and tell him to expect you.”

“What demon has possessed you? What’s wrong with you?”

“Write.”

“Sit down, ehn. Let’s talk about this.”

“I don’t have anything left to say.”

“Sweetheart, have I ever been unfaithful to you? Have I ever given you a reason to doubt me? Haaa . . . Say something . . .”

“I don’t have anything to say.”

“Sweetheart—”

“Don’t touch me!”

“Baby, what’s really wrong? I love you. You’re the only man for me. I love you.”

***

“The cab is downstairs.”

“Seriously, you called a cab? Did you call my dad?”

“Not yet, but I will.”

“Hmmm. Tell the cab to go.”

“No. You go.”

“Six is just a number . . .”

“I disagree.”

“Where’s the paper? Okay, give me the pen.”

***

“Before I give you this paper, let me just say something. Don’t do this to us; things will never be the same between us after this . . .”

“Kola Shonekan? Number three, which Kola Shonekan?”

“He’s a lawyer I went out with when I was in law school—”

“Where does he live?”

“I don’t know; he used to live in Lekki.”

“He has an MBA from Wharton?”

“How did you know?”

“Jesus! You banged my boss!”

“Kola is your boss? He works for Accenture—”

“He’s my boss’s boss boss. He’s the head of legal!”

“It was a long time ago. We were almost engaged—”

“Which Kassim is this?”

“Isn’t his surname there?”

“Rufai’s younger brother—”

“You know Rufai?”

“How could you? That’s cradle snatching! He’s a small boy!”

“I’m tired of this your interrogation. You wanted list, I gave you list! I’m going to bed!”

“Kassim! Kai, I’m finished!”

***

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“To the guest room, so I can have some peace.”

“Kassim . . . Kassim that we used to send to buy Small Stout for us . . .”

“Get out! Leave me in peace! Do you hear me? I said, ‘Leave me in peace!’”

“How could you? Okay, just answer me, how could you?”

“He was nineteen, I was twenty-three; we were in love. Since when has that become a crime?”

“I’m disappointed in you!”

“Are you done now? Can I get some sleep now?”

“Yes. I leave you to your conscience.”

***

“What now? What time is it?”

“Wake up, wake up!”

“It’s not yet morning?”

“It’s 4:30. I thought you said there were six?”

“You’ve started again?”

“There are only five names?”

“The sixth one doesn’t count.”

“It does to me.”

“Well since you already have my sexual map . . . His name was Richard Morgan.”

“A white guy?”

“Yes?”

“So, this is what you went to London to do in the name of school? You were banging white guys enh?”

“I’ve had enough of your insults! For your information, he was my classmate. I was studying at his place. He made a move. I knew if I didn’t give in he’d rape me, so—”

“But what were you doing at his place so late?”

“You don’t get it do you? I was at his place in the morning! Anyway, you don’t need to worry about him being your boss’s boss boss boss! He’s dead!”

“Dead?”

“Yes! Complications of HIV, last year.”

“AIDS? My God! Oh my God! I’m finished!”

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

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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design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2014

WordPress 106 … Writing and Perception

writing & perception

Railroad tracks appear to meet at the horizon, but a closer walk disproves this. One of the challenges of writing a personal blog is that fantasy is congruent to reality. Take this phone call for instance.

“I just read your latest post.”

“Without me harassing you? Great! What did you think?”

“Hmmm . . . hmmm, was it about you?”

“No, but I draw on my experiences to weave a realistic tale, to find metaphors that resonate—”

“Cut the crap. Was it about you?”

“No . . . why?”

“Thank God. Em, now I know, I’ll read it again and let you know what I think. Bye!”

 

If dinner conversation turns to my blog, friends who don’t read my blog pant in anticipation of the backstory to my posts.

“So?”

“I can’t answer that! I’m a very private person—”

“Who writes a very public blog; puhleeze, answer us!” someone protests.

 

William Faulkner said, “A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.” Some friends think I write about them.

“Stop,” she says using one hand to cover Sola’s mouth. Turning to me, “Swear you won’t blog about it.”

I rise and gather my stuff. Who do they think I am, a gossip columnist? Who do they think they are, The Real Housewives of Atlanta?

“Timi, it’s alright, stay—” Sola frees her mouth and speaks.

I make small shakara, “Look if you guys don’t want me here . . .”

 

Language is many things and writing is powerful. Writers use words to conjure images and evoke emotion. Words are magic; they make zombies run marathons and sprinters limp. Words are make-up; they hide blemishes and paint pale cheeks a rosy hue.

Words confuse too. They make the writer bigger than life; like that boy I had a crush on. He always sat in the car, looking wicked in Ray-Ban, while his friend who drove to my parent’s house, stood and made small talk.  The day he came out of the car, his white crocodile-skin shoes, white jeans, and white t-shirt, did not catch my attention. Leaving his hand hanging in the air, I blurted, “I thought you’d be taller,” and decrushed him for good.

Writers select words that match their objectives. They use words to hint at meaning and sell tell a story unbound by rhythm and verse. With their words, they entice you to dance in a fire you did not light.

My about page is the fourth highest viewed page on my blog so far. I get it. If a piece of writing moves me, I read the author’s bio to confirm or refute my perception. So, you want to know? Let me tell. I’m simple, but my drama has commercials in between. I don’t articulate myself as well as I wish, but I write excellently, the sentences I wish I had spoken. If you live on the fast lane, I will never overtake you. If you sashay to the music that I play, you will find me here in the words on display.

After I draft this, a friend reads it.

“You could have called this, Things You Didn’t Know About Me, and left all the flowery stuff out.” He yawns and reaches for the remote control.

His language is different from mine. He fuels my insecurities. But without him, I would ramble past 800 words.

“Where’s the fun in that?” I argue.

He shrugs, “Writing is a lot like Photoshop.”

Sunday. Doubts nibble on my mind like ants on sugar. I stamp them out. I know I’ve won when the picture of me in your head is the same as the picture of me in my head.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

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Design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

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Happy New Love

An indiscretion. A small indiscretion.  A secret voiced. She buried her face in her hands. Then mustered courage to dial again. Things had started to go downhill after that night with Nengi.

“Who are you chatting with? What’s so funny?”

She had shown her the chat. That’s what friends do.

chat

Nengi and Soba giggled like little girls playing house.

“You like him?”

“Oh, he’s just a friend. We’ve been friends like forever–”

“But you like him?”

“Never really thought about it. Yeah . . . I think he likes me too.”

They giggled like little girls playing house. They had moved on to other important things like purple lipstick, Ankara tops, and fast food.

And then Nengi had told Ebiere. And Ebiere had told Ibinabo. And Ibinabo had told Sotonye. And Sotonye had told Miebi. And Miebi had told George. Like a Chinese whisper, by the time the story reached Karibi, she did not recognise the monster they had created.

“So you’re seeing someone else?”

Fear squeezed her heart as Karibi towered over her, three days later. His apartment had two rooms and no place to hide.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong.”

He whipped her with his words. Like a koboko, they left bruises in their wake. When he paused, they reverberated from the walls and lashed her from head to toe again.

Explanations followed. Mollifications came next. She stroked his ego until he purred. Then she brushed it, until it shone brighter than a brass plaque.

“I want you to cut off all contact with him.”

“Wh . . . what?”

“Three people can’t sleep on the same bed. I’ve never been comfortable with your closeness with  . . .”

“Dayo.”

“Whatever.”

Her wedding was three months away. Her friendship with Dayo had spanned twenty of her twenty-six years. The enormity of the files she would erase did not escape her. Her first bully. Her first Voltron, defender of her universe and her honour. Her first bicycle ride. Her first crush. Her first kiss. Her first relationship expert. Her first cigarette. Her first driving lesson. Her first interview. Her first job. Deleted.

Her marriage showed promise in the beginning before the accusations and jealous fits. He responded that way to her questions about his late nights, alcohol, and phone calls he would not answer in her presence. Then along came her baby girl and peace at last, peace brokered by her forbearance.

She was still in her pyjamas when war broke out. Every day, his rage churned like magma waiting to erupt. Two and a half years later, one black eye later, she closed the door quietly on that chapter of her life.

But fate is a wheel that seeks to make amends. Time is a bridge that links the dots of our lives. Nengi brought the news two days ago.

“You’ll never believe who I ran into today . . . Dayo!”

She was braiding Asikiya’s hair.

“Mummy, it’s too tight.”

She applied some hair lotion to the spot, “Better?”

“Soba, Soba, are you listening to me?”

“Yes I am. Please pass the beads.”

“Here, take. He looked sooo good and he’s doing well.”

She talked about school fees, house rent, and office politics, but Nengi wouldn’t let up.

“Do you want his number? No? Okay, his card is on the table.”

“Throw it in the bin.”

“What?”

“Throw it in the bin.”

After two days of wondering if Dayo had asked about her, if he wore a wedding ring, if, if, if, she dug in the bin through banana peel, slimy cereal, hair extensions, and day-old amala, to solve the riddle of her sleepless nights.

Would he forgive her four-year silence? He’d once told her that she was the only one who could listen to his silence—silent road trips to nowhere that she had not endured but enjoyed. However, her silence had been cruel. She had turned off the light and ripped the socket from the wall.

0-8-0-3-4-5-5-5-0-4

“Hello?”

Her heat beat so fast she thought her ears would explode.

“Hello?”

“Soba . . . Soba, is that you?”

She began to weep.

***

Dedicated to you.

Because your heart was broken. Because we ate popcorn and cried as we watched Dear John, and cheered as we watched Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Because even though we said good riddance to bad rubbish, your heart betrayed you with longing. Because at night you groped for a touch that you forgot was no longer there and when you remembered, you circled your pillow instead.

To all those who loved but had to let go of love, Happy New Love.

***

While we’re all in top gear shooting for the moon and beyond this new year, I’m mindful that our relationships can trip us on the way. Healthy relationships whether platonic or romantic, are a solid base for take-off, don’t you agree?

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2014

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.