The Promise of Spring

acting

The wind brushes my hair into a side part and I curl my fingers around my thumb. My hands dig deep in my pockets, pulling the fabric down, as far as they will go. My neck is warm, my feet are warm, the rest of me shivers. Every winter is the same; I ask myself, why am I still here.

A seven-minute walk separates the station from Chizanes. The harried strides of rush hour has given way to languid walks. I linger by the oldest statue in the city, the first mayor on a horse. Inscribed on the marble plaque is my answer: the promise of spring. The wind, kinder now, carries distant laughter past me. It is the sound of a man and woman in love. Even the stars twinkle in appreciation.

Inside Chizanes, after my eyes adjust to the dimmed lighting, he is easy to spot. He waves and rises to greet me, leaning forward. I hesitate then stretch my right hand to dissipate his confusion. He takes it.

“Thank you for meeting me. How are you?”

“Fine,” my falsetto is on, “how are you?”

“Good. Good to see you! You look good!”

“You too.”

We order drinks. I ask about his family. He asks about mine. We waste time on the menu, searching for our rhythm—this, no that; are you sure? I heard it’s good. What of the chef’s specialty? No, you decide.

He signals for the waiter.

He asks about my job. I tell him I left. He doesn’t pursue an explanation. We talk about the weather. I cannot believe that the passion we shared has fizzled to this: the temperature is expected to go below zero on Wednesday.

He clears his throat and begins. “The reason I left—”

“Fish?” The waiter looks at me, then at him. He places three more dishes on the table, naming them with flair. “Is everything okay?” He asks with a half nod.

We both nod.

“Enjoy your meal.”

We dish food on our plates. Raise bowls and pass them, careful not to touch. We eat like famished travellers.

“As I was saying I left because . . .”

He covers his eyes with his hands. I stop chewing.

“What can I say? I’m just a coward . . .”

“What?”

“I said, ‘I’m a coward.’ I . . . I—”

“Three years of my life and you tell me you’re a coward?”

“Sssh, sssh, lower your voice,” he whispers, reaching for my hand.

I snatch my hand and look around. More interested stares. Chizanes packs about thirty people in a circular arrangement. The walls are windows, which stretch and nearly kiss the high ceiling, an illusion of space. Our table is sandwiched in the centre.

“He left me three years ago,” my chair scrapes the ground protesting the sudden movement, “and now he says he’s a coward?” Standing, my voice booms and blankets all conversation. “Can you believe that?”

Quiet like the embarrassed silence after the president farts noisily.

I catch the man in a navy shirt before he averts his gaze like the others. “Sir, can you believe that? He’s a coward?” His girl whispers something to him and he examines his plate as if there’s gold in the soup.

“Ma’am, we’re gonna have to ask you to calm down and sit down.”

The man addressing me sounds important, like the manager.

“No, I won’t sit down with this coward!” I stand on my chair goaded by impulse.

“Ma’am . . .”

“Three years.” I try harder, “Three years people!”

“Ma’am we’re gonna have to ask you to leave.”

I get down slowly. Now they are watching. Cowards, all of them. Maybe someone is recording for YouTube.

“May I escort you? Sir . . .?”

“It’s okay, I’ll handle things from here,” my coward’s smile convinces the manager. He leaves us to organize our shame and repackage our dignity.

“Are you just going to let them walk me out?”

“Sssh, sssh. Let’s just go before they call security.”

Outside, he holds my bag while I don my gloves.

“Now that the world knows how you feel,” he gestures at the people watching from inside, “Have a nice life!”

He hands my bag over and walks away.

I run after him. “Don’t leave me!”

Out of view from Chizanes, he stops. “That used to be my line.” He lifts my chin and lets my tears wet his gloves. “Award-winning actress,” he whispers. “You were supposed to storm out. Wh . .  . what if—”

“Coward. You need to get a job, we can’t keep doing this.”

“In the spring when the quarries reopen, things will be better. This is great practice until we can afford acting classes. Wasn’t the food good though?”

Three years of doubts dissolve in laughter. The wind is harsher now, unforgiving, breaking tiny branches off stoic trees, sending twigs sailing across the sidewalk and freezing my tears. I nestle my head on his chest. Nothing is sure. Last year only a few quarries reopened. When his arms circle my waist, I close my eyes and count, December, January, February; three months until spring.

“Do you want dessert?”

“Do you have any money?”

“No, but I know another place where we can act . . .”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Author’s Note

The Promise of Spring is about anything you fancy. Me? I wanted to depict some challenges immigrants face in a country unlike the one they left.

The frequent references to the wind portrays how immigrants experience climate change and how the weather now becomes an important aspect of life in their adopted country. The story opens with a question immigrants may ask when disillusionment (winter represents foreign culture and systems as much as it does weather) sets in. Hope (spring) sees them through from year to year.

The author delves into the ingenious ways immigrants survive (some illegal), and plays with the idea that although immigrants are in plain sight they live on the fringes of society (in the restaurant, although she stands on the chair, she is ignored by other diners).

Acting is the ‘job’ of choice in the story because immigrants live at least two lives—a ‘glamourous’ one for friends and family in their native country, and a ‘grim’ one for their hosts.

The story ends with the suggestion that there is another place where they can act. This is a reference to the immigrants’ mindset about moving from region to region or country to country when perhaps immigration policies tighten or economic realities no longer favour them. Returning to their native country is not an option.

Why add love and romance? Because love is oxygen. And because I have done some foolish things for love. Haven’t you?

timi

 

 

 

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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66 thoughts on “The Promise of Spring

  1. A friend and I were talking today about how some immigrants are hesitant to return home because they find their peers way ahead of them. The question people have for them would be “what happened to you? We thought you were making good money overseas.” Those words would surely feel like the scraping of a chair in protest, like you mentioned.

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  2. ~~”I cannot believe that the passion we shared has fizzled to this: the temperature is expected to go below zero on Wednesday.”~~

    This is my favorite line. Amazing. So happy I found your blog, Timi. I really didn’t know exactly where this story was going to land, but I was not disappointed. Had a gravitational pull all its own…I’m hooked.

    BE

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Timi, this is a wonderful story full of hope and promise. Your explanation at the end was very helpful. I loved your first paragraph which was very sensual. I could feel the cold down in my bones. “The harried strides of rush hour has given way to languid walks,” is a very nicely constructed sentence, poetical in it alliteration. How do I fancy thee? let me count the ways. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair, the winter here has been mild, but when the wind howls, I feel chills. Perhaps the cold seeped from my bones to the page XD
      I’m glad the author’s note helped. I had my doubts about including it.

      Benn, you are generous with your praise. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I liked this use of imagination and how you put playfulness into it. I would say there is definitely another ‘free’ place to carry out your acting, since you cannot have dessert…. I saw the romance blooming in that comment, Timi!

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      1. It is interesting how you used the idea and symbolism of immigration, Timi. When I have a focus (sometimes I am tired at the end of the work day and lose my focus) I can see this in the words you chose. Thanks for letting me get away with my simpler interpretation, Timi! Smiles!

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  5. Wow Timi! This is a very lovely piece.! I love the feeling I had when I got the understanding of the story at the end when they said they could act somewhere else… It felt like I had solved a riddle! Thanks for sharing. Reading this made my evening!

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  6. Strong and potent! The Author’s notes helped with some ambiguity I had at first. But upon a reread, I think it could easily stand alone. Hmmmm, very interesting. I really enjoyed your A&A (allegories and allusions 😉 Happy 2015, Timi!

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    1. Hi Stephanie, Happy 2015 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback. I thought the story could stand alone too.
      After some debate, I decided to go ahead with the author’s note. For one thing, I hoped to give readers (those interested anyway), a peek into how my mind works 😉

      Give five people a story to read and each one may interpret it slightly differently . . .
      @A&A, yay!

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  7. The Great Timi has done it again! As I read, I couldn’t wait to arrive at the end, and right now the suspense is real! There’s definitely going to be another one after this right? I can’t wait, I just pray they don’t get caught!
    PS: I love me some love story with a lil bit of craziness here and there! Again, you inspire me (I hope you don’t get tired of hearing this*)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chiamaka, lol, I don’t take myself that seriously o! o_O

      Like you, I enjoy stories that keep me turning pages! I’m glad this one held your interest. I’m not sure I’d do sequels justice, and so I’ve shied away from writing them. But hey, I figure in part 2, they get caught. Maybe you can write it . . . 🙂

      It’s humbling to hear I inspire you. Thank you.

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  8. I enjoyed the story too much. The use of language was on A delightfully poetic level. The twist was quite unusual and had that bitter-sweet taste that aptly captures the general taste of life.

    I found the author’s note to be a surprising footnote that satisfied me as well.

    Wonderful one, Timi.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “I cannot believe that the passion we shared has fizzled to this: the temperature is expected to go below zero on Wednesday.” That is my favorite line in the piece.

    I’m not familiar with the immigrant experience, not beyond what I see in books and watch in movies, many of which I know cannot be extrapolated to form a complete view. I’m more interested in their relationship.

    What if the whole story is just an act–even when they’re out of the sight of the people in Chizanes? What if what they’re doing now is just a practice for when they can afford to break up–the way they’ll afford acting classes.

    But perhaps I’m getting too worried about them, after all, she admits that nothing is too sure. Why should that exclude their love?

    I’m a big fan of hope though. If hope were a woman, I’d be her eternal crush. I like the fact that they can laugh while holding on to the promise of spring, of open quarries, of better days, and of another chance at acting for dessert without getting caught.

    As for the foolish things I’ve (not) done for love, that is talk for another day.

    ***

    Special shout out to that plot-twist, I’d be visiting it again for private lessons. Off to calculate the months between Bus 281 and this–needed for proper Timi-fiction speculation.

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    1. @immigrant experience, indeed there is the danger of a single story. The experience I describe is not even mine, well apart from the weather 🙂

      “What if the whole story is just an act–even when they’re out of the sight of the people in Chizanes? . . . ”
      What if? Sometimes desperation binds people together and affluence separates them. Nothing is sure abi? 😉

      I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the fire of passion with the freezing temperatures of winter. I have been musing over how the fire goes out in relationships . . .
      And this is my favourite line of yours: If hope were a woman, I’d be her eternal crush. If I didn’t have hope, there’d be no point getting out of bed.

      @love XD

      @fiction, lol, I was thinking of Bus 281 when I wrote this. If I could make more time . . .

      Thanks Ife!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting story. Thanks for the Author’s Note which sets the stage.

    You say, “although immigrants are in plain sight they live on the fringes of society (in the restaurant, although she stands on the chair, she is ignored by other diners).”

    I would have ignored her too ~> not because she’s an immigrant, but because I’m not inclined to watch people who insist on putting their life on display to the discomfiture of those around them.

    I don’t watch Reality TV either. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, I would have ignored her too, and if she had my skin colour, I would have cringed, for her and myself! But that’s just me ^^’

      Symbolism. Hmmm … there’s plenty going on in that restaurant, even the fact that she was asked to leave. It’s all about perception. She was being a nuisance, but some may interpret it as bias . . .

      I watched some Reality TV in the past and thought, this is so fake, who lives like this? 😀

      Thanks Nancy.

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  11. Brilliant piece lol 😀
    Had no idea this was about immigration to you, but like you already said the story is anything we want it to be.

    Btw don’t we all lead double lives? One for the world, and another for our inner circle. Perhaps life is two-faced after all.

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    1. Thanks Uju. I enjoy reading the comments because sometimes readers see things I don’t and don’t see the things I do in a piece of writing. I always learn something new. In a way, every interpretation is valid.

      We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. – Anais Nin

      @double lives, aye aye; sometimes life is four-faced even 😉

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    1. I think you’re on to something. My tears are reserved for those closest to me; my smiles are for everyone 🙂

      All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
      – William Shakespeare

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  12. I enjoyed the authors note more. It echoes my thoughts.

    My friends who have traveled out of Nigeria for work, study, or sheer escapism always have a lot to say about weather more than anything else. It’s like weather is the new accent they have to pick up evident of their assimilation process.

    It baffles me, sometimes I see it beyond being an act, I try to see things from where they stand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seun, then I’m glad I wrote it; I had my doubts.

      @weather, I feel you. Permit me to share a few things from where I stand.
      Emigrating from a tropical country to a temperate one, I experienced weather-shock (and culture-shock), four distinct seasons as opposed to two non-distinct ones (when I was younger, the dry season characterized by Harmattan in December, was distinct. In recent years, it seemed as though rain fell year long).

      In temperate countries weather plays a major role, from ice breaker at the bus stop to determinant of clothing choice. Here in NL, the weather is quite unpredictable, I check my weather app before I go to bed and when I wake up!

      So naturally in crafting this story, weather played many symbolic roles 🙂

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  13. Well done Timi, both the story as is and for your interpretation. It’s obvious you speak from experience in terms of life as an immigrant. I wonder if there are immigrants who automatically feel they belong, or if that is left up to the next generation. I also wonder what your feelings were when you returned to Nigeria. Relief? Can you ever go home again and feel like you once did? –Curt

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    1. I write from some experience and all my ‘hustle’ are legit XD

      @belonging, I think there is a ‘process’ of assimilation or belonging. It’s faster for some than others. I wrote a post about living in the ‘third world’ a (mental) place where I say, “It is in the marrying of cultures that I arrive at my destination. They say home is where the heart is. My heart is in Nigeria; my heart is in The Netherlands. You’d better believe it, my heart is big enough.” 🙂

      When I returned to Nigeria, I did not feel relief, I felt hot! The sun was sooooo hot! XD
      I wrote a post about returning to Nigeria. Here’s an excerpt:

      “Returning home, I was caught in a world that I could not fully define. Sometimes I embraced life in Nigeria and other times I rebuffed her advances. Here I was in the country I loved, with the people I missed, I was not a foreigner, but I was no longer as Nigerian as I used to be. This was my country, I understood the culture, I knew how the system worked, or did I?”

      But here’s the thing I’ve learned: to return and feel at home in your native country, you’ve really got to commit …..

      Now Curt, over to you. How did you feel when you left Liberia and returned to the States?

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      1. Thanks for your insights, Timi.

        I can believe you have a big heart. 🙂

        “You really have to commit…” I think that is true of ‘belonging’ to anything, including a relationship. It seems to me the challenge is growing with a relationship instead of out of it.

        We talked a lot about culture shock in the Peace Corps. I felt it more acutely in returning to the US than I did in going to Liberia. But then I felt it more going from my small, rural town to UC Berkeley than I did either. 🙂

        –Curt

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        1. It would seem UC Berkeley prepared you for a ‘broader’ world. I recall your posts on the student activism there and how even now you’re wandering through time and space. Perhaps culture shock can prepare us to be even more open and tolerant, if we let it.

          Commitment is a frequently looked-up word in my dictionary 😉

          Thanks Curt.

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    1. Thanks Tonbareg. All my stories have layers of meaning beyond the entertainment value and that which is immediately evident; I like to use poetic/literary devices especially symbolism in my stories. I understand that we read through filters so I’m open to the range of interpretations, each one valid, that I read in the comment section.

      My proofreader enjoyed the story and did not make the connection with the lives of immigrants. After I explained the symbolism(s), she thought it was a good idea to add the author’s note. I was skeptical. I thought it would mar the ‘purity’ of the reader’s experience. Perhaps I was wrong … 🙂

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