Licking Dry River Beds and Flying Trapeze

“What are you afraid of?” He asked.

“Nothing,” I replied, shaking my head as if that would make it true.

I did not think I was afraid. I tried to explain the sense I had, which had nagged me for months, that I was on the threshold of something new. I bolstered my explanation by rambling about the diminishing passion I had for my blog; yes, yes, yes, disciplined focus had kept me going, bla, bla, bla, but . . .  Was it the move or the upheavals or the new responsibilities? What had sucked zest from me, as when the bath plug is lifted, soapsuds disappear suddenly, vooom, down the drain?

If you are like me, you ramble about events—a pause here, a recollection there, an unrelated trivia woven in the mix—walking through the maze that is your life, to make sense of your journey and to ensure you are not speeding away from the, as yet, unspecified destination.

My friends are patient listeners, facilitating my journey with subtle signals from the control tower, never attempting to pilot my plane. My conclusions can only be authentically mine, if I arrive at them by myself.

“Hmmm, so are you licking dry river beds then?”

We laughed at his allusion to the story of a prophet called Elijah. I had heard him tell it more than once.

Elijah was a prophet who once called down fire down from heaven. During a famine, ravens brought him food, and he drank water from a brook. Then one day, the brook dried up because it hadn’t rained in ages. The way my friend tells it, Elijah had a few choices. He could remain at the brook, licking up every last molecule of water from the riverbed because he had been divinely sent there. He could even attempt to command water to gush, geyser-style from the riverbed; after all, he wielded power. Or, he could open his heart to embrace something new.

My friend was asking me if I had become stuck in my comfort and safety zone.

“You know that when Elijah left the brook, he went on to provide food for not only himself but also a widow and her son. That’s greater relevance and impact,” he continued.

I nodded. “Yeah, yeah . . .”

“So what are you afraid of?”

“Em . . . Elijah knew exactly where to go next. I’m not so sure. I stop my blog, then what? Twiddle my thumbs?”

“You can never be idle, Timi.”

“True, but you see what I’m saying . . . right?”

“Have you ever watched trapeze artists?”

“Acrobats? At a circus? Sure. They’re graceful, beautiful to watch.”

“They have to leave one bar then swing in the air to catch another. So imagine this . . . a trapeze artist . . . he’s holding this bar,” my friend clenched his fist. “As long as he’s holding it, he can’t swing and catch the new one—”

“I see it!”

Now, it was his turn to nod.

I was like a trapeze artist holding one bar with one hand while reaching for another with the other hand. I looked ungainly. My balance was suspect. I was likely to fall. Trapeze artists have more faith that they will catch the new bar than faith that they will fall.

“Wait wait wait. But don’t they have a mattress or spring board underneath? Aren’t they legally required to have some security? Hmmm, let me google it . . .”

He smiled; perhaps at the way my mind works.

“But you have security Timi. You’ve always had security.”

If you fall, I’ll be there. – Floor  🙂

P.s. 1. This is what I googled instead:

P.s. 2. April marked four years of blogging at Livelytwist, a success story that has you, dear reader, by my side. Now it’s time for new adventures and to stop  blogging. I’ll be writing about this in the weeks to come.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Photo Credit: https://web.facebook.com/bizzarreart/photos/a.262015740857231.1073741828.262003347525137/439234606468676/?type=3&theater

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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When You Can’t Remember Loss

James Bekenawei on Loss

The only thing that hurts more than a bad picture is a lost picture.

Most times, to cement the details of an event in my mind, I take pictures. A picture is a frozen moment from a string of moments. Behind every photo, there is a story; behind every story, there is a past. The emotions that the images evoke give photos meaning.

“James, all our efforts today were wasted. We lost all the pictures,” Tunde said. I had just finished dinner and wanted to settle for a movie marathon when he called. “A virus attack or something. It affected the camera’s memory card also, so we can’t get the raw pictures.”

Hours spent selecting, sorting, and editing wasted. An entire day’s shoot, gone with the wind. The story behind each photo forgotten before it is told.

I delved into photography by accident. I have always loved pictures and have an archive of exotic photos. One day I took a photo with a friend’s phone and he loved it. It dawned on me then that I could create photographs not just collect them; that I could freeze time for the future because memory dims and forgetting happens. A blunt pencil is better than the sharpest memory, a blurred camera lens than the clearest mind.

Women who lose their babies carry the pain forever. My mom has five of us, but she still talks about the one that didn’t make it. That loss hurts her even though it’s been more than thirty years. Losing photos is the closest I have come to how my mom feels. I hold on to the carcasses of damaged hard drives because letting them go means accepting that the memories stored in them are forever lost. Sometimes, I survey the hard drives and wonder, why. Why didn’t I back everything up? Why didn’t I upgrade my cloud storage when I could? But the hard drives do not answer, they stare back and dare me to cherish memories I no longer remember.

One of my greatest fears is losing my memory—of waking up and discovering I can’t remember anything—and that even my writings and photographs, which I employed to freeze moments, can’t help jumpstart my memory, because they are lost. I fear losing an extension of myself via lost memories and photos.

In my desire to freeze moments for Throwback Thursday, I often let things go unnoticed and become unmindful of the emotions the camera cannot capture. Behind every photo, there is a story. But of what use is a story if it does not evoke the emotions that bind us to it? The remedy I’ve found is in the poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling: [to] fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run. To enjoy the moment, rather than merely freezing it.

© James Bekenawei 2017

Bekenawei James Robert loves to tell pictures, snap stories, and to question answers. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter as @bekexjj. He blogs at 4unansweredprayers.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/sony-slt-a58-camera-sony-2033999/

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

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.

The Appointment

Samuel Okopi on Loss

As a child, I longed to be baptised. I cannot remember a time while growing up as a Pentecostal Christian, that the opportunity to be baptised presented itself to me. Baptism felt like a watershed moment from which I would rise a complete Christian.

My secondary school didn’t provide for Pentecostal services so I attended Anglican services instead. One Sunday, our reverend father announced that students who desired to be baptised were to register and attend baptismal classes. These classes would run throughout the term.

I was elated. My golden opportunity had come.

Classes started soon enough. As a junior student in boarding school, time is an archenemy, and the threat of senior students commandeering your time for their selfish purposes always looms. Still, I managed to attend virtually all the classes and committed to memory, the cryptic questions and answers contained in the catechism we were given.

The long awaited day of baptism finally came. We were to assemble at the chapel by 4 p.m. for onward procession to the river bank. I was writing Junior WAEC exams and luckily, the only paper I had that day ended by 2 p.m.

Halfway into the exams, our fine art teacher came into the hall and announced that students must obtain poster colour sets from her, that afternoon, for the fine arts exam holding the next day. Art is my great passion and doing well at it mattered to me. I submitted my answer sheet long before others and dashed to the studio to get my colour set.

I met the studio door locked. The fine art teacher came an hour and thirty minutes later. By that time, the area around the studio was swarming with students. I spent the next two hours hustling to get my set.

The battle finally ended. As I walked back to the hostel with my colour set, all I could think of was having a bath.

4 p.m. Chapel. Baptism. My appointment with spiritual death and resurrection!

The time was already 5.30 p.m. I jumped into my white trouser and white shirt and raced to the chapel.

There was no one in white-and-white when I arrived and I didn’t know the location of the river. An old man I recognised as one of the cleaners, walked by and I asked him what direction the students in white-and-white had taken. He pointed at the way I had come. I didn’t wait to hear him begin his statement.

I kept running even though I wasn’t sure where I was headed. Soon, I spotted an array of white-and-white marching towards my direction. Before long, I had caught up with them.

I saw my close friend—with whom I had memorised the catechism over the last twelve weeks—and anxiously asked him about the baptism. There were tears in his eyes. At that moment, I received a divine revelation that abiding in his eyes were not tears but the holy water of rebirth.

I lost myself to deep reflection over what had just happened as I turned back and walked a lonely footpath leading to my hostel. I had lost an opportunity that had eluded me for seven years. At some point, I met with the ground, wishing I could go under. The dirt, the weeds, and their budding relationship with my white-and-white deepened as I thrashed about, seeking the kind of catharsis that can come from shedding the waters of sorrow.

A wise man, who may remain unknown, once said: “Hell is the knowledge of opportunity lost; the place where the man I am comes face to face with the man I might have been.”

Two years later, I got another chance to meet the man I looked forward to becoming. And this time, the pain of memory ensued I kept my appointment for the meeting by the river.

© Samuel Okopi 2017

Samuel Okopi loves to sing, design, and fantasize about the future. He believes there is no end to learning and so, for him, every tommorrow is pregnant with new opportunities to inch closer to perfection.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/time-watch-clock-number-minute-1842099/

 

© Timi Yeseibo, 2017

 

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Falling From Lofty Heights

Timi Yeseibo on Loss

We are all dust passing through the air, the difference is, some are flying high in the sky, while others are flying low. But eventually, we all settle on the same ground. ― Anthony Liccione

To reinvent yourself in your late-thirties, you work with a job coach. She will turn the years you spent chauffeuring your children to and fro school and swimming, and ballet, and football, the months you spent volunteering to cut out hearts and read poetry to classes of fidgety children, and the days you spent  hosting meetings for a diverse group of women, into credible examples of leadership and teamwork. On paper. A resume that she has to work on you to believe.

You believe. And you can tell every interviewer about yourself, stitching the holes in the years between your first degree and the present in a perfect line.

Still I did not get the first job I applied for. Or the second or the third. Each time I finished strong as a close second, I vowed to eliminate the words consolation prize, if I were God for a day. The ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm is what Winston Churchill described as success. I did not feel like a success, but I tweaked my resume and wrote more cover letters.

With bills mounting, I prayed, “God, anything. I will do anything, even hospice care.”

Then one day while waiting at the bus stop, I saw a woman I used to know in orange overalls with the insignia of the town on her chest and back, using a pick-up tool to clear rubbish—empty cans, funnel-shaped cardboards with remains of mayonnaise and patat, and a lone pink mitten—from the road, trash bag in tow.

It was not the harshness of the sun that kept her head down, spring was just emerging from winter; the sun had not yet roused itself properly. It was shame. She had lost her former status just as I had. She could not and would not raise her head to say hello, even though I no longer had a car. Had she not seen that my coat, fraying at the cuffs and hem, was one from a few seasons back? I looked at my bus pass as though there was information on it that I had not yet read, and I let her name die on my lips.

I was no longer so sure about my prayer. “Okay God,” I prayed, “not just anything.”

I landed a clerical job, which I would have rejected when I graduated with honours fifteen years earlier, a mindless job that did not even require the kind of critical thinking I used when I played Mahjong Titans.

One evening, I took a file full of reports to my boss, a woman in her mid-twenties, whose jawline was just discernible from her neck. Colleagues whispered that she was a casualty of one of those expensive diet plans. She barely glanced at the reports before signing. She had come to trust my work, and she commented on my level of accuracy.

“You’re better than this,” she said, looking at me, searching for my story as if I had written it behind my eyes. “You should find another job.”

“I know,” I whispered, as if it was our secret, “it’s just a matter of time.”

I no longer worry about bills and I use my brain to do the things I love. I saw a man in his fifties begging for alms. His pale blue shirt tucked neatly in navy trousers, set him apart. Although his eyes were weary, he stood as though he had steel in his spine.

I am seldom asked, who are you, but I am always asked, what do you do? It is easy to confuse the two.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/levitation-young-woman-in-the-air-1884366/

 

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Loss is Present Continuous

‘Pemi Aguda on Loss

My story of loss is a story of losing. It is a story of the futility of will, and the limitations of drugs against the stubbornness of genetics, of body.

I start to write this story in my head while staring at myself in the mirror, combing Cantu-covered fingers through wet hair. As yet more strands of hair with white bulbs at their roots, which confirm closed follicles, leave my scalp, I know that I want to write about losing hair, the continuous loss of it.

Balding is a word I’ve come to love. Okay, like. It is not a kind word. Like the cold probing instrument in the hands of my trichologist, it zooms in so my scalp resembles a desert on the monitor, and it leaves no place to hide. Balding lacks the soft landing of hair loss, which is gentle in its s-es. As the tongue leaves the upper palate on the second syllable in bal-ding, friends flinch, and you might find yourself recoiling from the widening patches of gleaming smooth scalp.

In losing hair, you will meet your insecurities on the street. You will come nose-to-nose with the monster of your vanity. Your fears will move into the apartment next door with ashy bald heads, ears pressed to the thinning wall, waiting for your next sigh. You might even find yourself shifting to the second-person point of view mid-paragraph. Anything to distance yourself.

I have met the indignities of fighting hair loss. Rubbing onion juice and foul-smelling concoctions on a situation that my mother’s head, my grandmother’s head, and the trichologist’s report tell me won’t change. And yet the irony is that I reacted to expensive Rogaine with a face full of hair so that for the first time in my life I was worried about too much of that furry substance—multiplying on my legs, darkening my arms, lowering my hairline . . .  it grew everywhere but where I wanted it.

I want to say that I’ve found freedom in this losing. Like the woman who empties her savings and travels the world on hearing she has a month left to live, it would be nice to say I’ve gained some irreverence in styling my hair. That I now dye it in a range of colours that would make my mother clutch her heart. But no. Within this stubborn body is still a wishful soul.

In a way, every story of loss is a story of losing; it never ends. Scalp where hair used to be; pillow where a head used to be. But in the roots of the stubbornness of body is also the resilience of body. You will maybe hurt less every day and my hand will rise less and less to my scalp, searching.

I’m losing, but I’m adapting. What I see is that despite the futility of will and the limitation of drugs, adapting is a way for my stubborn body, not yet thirty, to forgive itself for its own shortcomings.

  1. Cantu – Brand of hair care product; conditioner.
  2. Rogaine – Minoxidil; slows hair loss and promotes hair regrowth.

© ‘Pemi Aguda 2017

‘Pemi Aguda writes short stories and flash fiction that have been published here and there. Her short story Caterer, Caterer won the Writivism Short Story Prize 2015. She co-curates the website, Nik-Nak.co

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

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We Never Lose What We Value

Ife Nihinlola on Loss

It was the morning after a long night that I’d spent working on copy. I was sleep deprived and my mind was slow to react to things around me. So when my phone dropped to the floor, I reached for it sluggishly. The danfo that I rode in had body parts, which moved even after the bus stopped, held together by the ingenuity of welders and panel beaters. We were on Third Mainland Bridge at 6:30am and moving as fast as the dying engine could permit. I looked down, saw asphalt through a gaping hole, and knew I had just lost my phone.

Kathryn Schulz, in an essay titled, When Things Go Missing—a wonderful piece that stuck to my guts days after reading—quoted Abraham Arden Brill, who said, “We never lose what we highly value.” I have thought of the many ways in which this is false. We do lose things we value. They slip away from our hands, like my phone. One month without calling a friend becomes six months of not keeping in touch, and then a relationship is irreplaceably lost. The same goes for the loss of faith. It might be gradual, but the heart knows it is gone.

We groped the floor as the bus sped along the bridge. A woman with a little kid on her lap—bless her soul—kept dialling my cell phone as if calling it would make it reappear miraculously like a genie.  The bus conductor rearranged the jerry cans, wrenches, and other bric-a-brac stored on the floor beside the door. But as all this was going on, I knew my phone was forever lost. In my six months of using that little Samsung device, I’d grown to love its size, its understated beauty, and its hard metal shell that accommodates my clumsiness.

Phones have become a large part of my living, serving as everything: from library to notebook to entertainment system to life planner. Although I’m always in need of a good phone, my finances are set up in ways that replacing what is lost is a decision that has to be made with extra thought. Do I just buy a cheap phone whose loss, when it happens, won’t hurt at all, or do I buy a phone capable of meeting all my needs—which means it would have the capacity to store information that stands the risk of getting lost again?

Loss is an inevitable part of this world where everything, humans inclusive, comes with an expiry date. All kinds of loss can probably be read as a shadow of losing life in the end. “Regardless of what goes missing,” Kathryn writes, “loss puts us in our place; it confronts us with lack of order and loss of control and the fleeting nature of existence.”

Loss, of any kind, often works like a flood that cracks the dam of my mind. One minute I’m sad that I’ve lost my phone and the next I’m wondering about lost friends, lost time, and the brevity of life.

My reflex reaction to loss is to do everything I can to avoid pain. I spent most of my childhood learning how to avoid connecting with people to the point where I missed them in ways that make the heart break. But emotional insulation comes with its own kind of pain. One stands the risk of becoming stunted, incapable of fully expressing the range of feelings needed to make a healthy inner life, incapable of loving. One cannot afford, for fear of loss, to shut the heart to the joy relationships can bring.

Perhaps, the ultimate lesson in the loss of my phone is that after two decades and a half spent on this planet, I’m just learning how to live and love.

© IfeOluwa Nihinlola 2017

IfeOluwa Nihinlola writes essays and short stories and has been featured in online magazines such as Afreada, Omenana, Klorofyl, and Litro. He works as an editor and is an inaugural fellow of aKoma’s Amplify fellowship. He is a fan of Zadie Smith, is looking for a replacement for Pringles as muse, and blogs at ifenihinlola

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/man-mobile-phone-person-smartphone-1868730/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

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.

After Sorry, What Next?

sorry-construction

 

“Busyness is a myth. It’s a weapon that people who no longer love each other use against each other.”

“My schedule has been crazy—”

“Babes, I’m busy too, but I create time—”

“But I’ve been really busy you can ask—”

“Ok. Fine. The question is, ‘Do you still love me?’”

“Hmmm. That’s really not the point . . .”

“That’s not an answer.”

“It’s just that I cannot cross that line . . . Like when I was young and I had this dream . . . like I was going on an adventure. My friends and I would be running through a meadow. The grass was warm underneath my bare feet but the sun was never too hot . . .strange . . . but anyway, some kids would stop to pick wild flowers, others to rest, but I was always excited and focused on getting to . . . anyway, I would come to a stream that I could not cross because I could not swim. The other children would jump in and call out to me to follow suit, saying the stream was not deep. I woke up at the edge of the stream . . . every time!”

“You’ve never told me about that dream. It’s interesting.”

“I cannot just forget that you . . . that—”

“I’m not asking you to suddenly develop amnesia, but our memories should serve us not hinder us. Babes, haven’t you forgiven me?”

“Of course, I have. It’s just that—”

“Look, I don’t even think that we really really forget, but I think we can remember without the sting of pain . . . When my brother died—”

“Ah ah, are you trying to compare your brother’s death with—”

“No, I was just trying to illustrate . . . Never mind . . .”

“Well I don’t know. I’m not there yet.”

“Babes, it’s been nine months. Nine months with the sword of Damocles hanging of over my head—”

“You betrayed me!”

“I did. I am sorry.”

“I know and I just need time. I don’t think it’s fair for you to rush me. You hurt me deeply.”

“I’m so sorry, babes. I’ve done all you asked of me to make us work. I’ve done all I know to do.”

“Yes I know and now I’m asking you for time.”

“Do you still love me? Look at me . . . Do you?”

“You hurt me.”

“Babes, you don’t have to allow the picture of what I did blind you to all the good I did in the past and all the good I’m doing now—”

“That’s the problem you always prescribe how I should act! It’s not your prerogative, it’s mine!”

“I’m sorry. I just miss you so much.”

“Well, I hope you can understand. I just need time. Just give me time.”

“Can I hold you? Come here . . . sit . . . just relax . . . Babes, I’m not doing anything, I just want to hold you . . . that’s better . . . relax. I want to share a poem with you.”

“Sure. Whatever. You know I don’t do poetry.”

“It’s a short one, don’t worry.

And still, after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe Me.’
Look what happens with
A love like that
It lights the Whole Sky
.

Well? . . . well . . . what do you think?”

“Hmmmm. The dream . . . hmmmm. I never made the connection. Maybe that’s the reason I never learnt how to swim.”

 

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/site-website-under-construction-1561769/

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