Soul Food For The Hair

hair-soul-food

My hairdresser arrives my home at 10 a.m., two hours later than I would have preferred.

“My brother, ma,” she begins by way of explanation.

“Happy New Year,” I say, waving her apology aside, my mind on my missing WiFi dongle. 

She arranges her wares on the sofa—combs, hair extensions, conditioner—priority and proximity guiding her placement. I plop my iPad, phones, and a folder on the other sofa, where a full-length mirror sits. Then I sit on a rattan dining chair, facing the sofa so my reflection is visible to me.

“This is how I want my hair to look.” I lift up my iPad for her to see the photo of a model, and then lower it, using my fingers to slide the screen and zoom in on her hair.

“But, she used a different kind of hair extension—”

“Are you sure?” It looks as if they just layered the extensions to get the look—”

“No, the extensions are different.” She points at the photo and then pulls out my hair extensions from the pack to show me.

I sigh, spilling my disappointment around the room. I am not convinced, but she is a hairdresser not a magician. Although I know the photo has been airbrushed to perfection, still, I want the look.

Her hands are gentle as she parts sections of my hair and weaves them into cornrows. She knows all the secrets my full head of hair holds and an easy camaraderie exists between us.

“How have you been?”

She talks about her dream of studying film in Australia, and then tells me about her recent work on the set of a film, how an actress accused her of cutting her hair around the temples.

“Ma,” she says, “can you imagine? Me that my fingers are so light, I’m even afraid of holding hair tight!”

I nod. “So what did you tell her?”

“I was so angry! Hmmm. I didn’t say anything!”

I laugh and she laughs too. It is not odd that she swallows injustice and later regurgitates it to a listening ear. The customer has might and is always right. My validation is the closest thing to fairness that she will get.

“Don’t mind her. Your hand is feather light. I hope she didn’t get you in trouble.”

“No, the director knows I never touch her hairline while styling.”

After she completes the cornrows and starts crocheting extensions on them, I get lost in reading.

“It’s too much,” I remark when I look up to examine her work.

“It’s not too many. You will like it. Just wait and let me finish.”

A good hairdresser deciphers the subconscious desires of her clients. My hairdresser represents the part of me that bucks against conformity with random strands of blond extensions that she calls highlights. I squirm at my reflection because I want conservative hair and I do not want conservative hair. Zig Ziglar says that if people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you. 

When she is done, I turn my head from side to side and smile at the result.

“How much do I owe you?”

We should have set the price before she began and I can insist on the amount I last paid. She looks at the ground before reluctantly meeting my eyes in the mirror.

“Ma, the price has increased because of the recession.”

We both laugh at our intangible exchange. I am proud of her because she has crossed a hurdle. She found the muscle to put her business before the indistinct blend of sisterhood and friendship that we share. I pay the new price without haggling.

She is young and her dreams are tall. I hope she does not one day respond to the vagaries of life with cold cynicism. Her combination of innocence and honesty is increasingly rare.

 

© 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.

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Much Ado About Something

lagos-airport-night

The man seating across the aisle from me is what Nigerians call Kora, which loosely means that he hails from somewhere in the Middle East—Lebanon, Syria, Israel.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” he calls to the flight attendant. “Can I use the toilet over there?”

He gestures to the business class section, which will be cordoned off with curtains after the airplane takes off and reaches cruising altitude.

The flight attendant says, “There is a toilet over there,” and points down the aisle.

The man and I are seating on adjacent sides of row 11, immediately behind the curtains that define our class; those seats with a little more leg room and no trays.

“But that means I have to go to the back.”

He speaks with a Nigerian Pidgin accent. I place him as Lebanese. Many Lebanese families have been in Nigeria for generations.

The flight attendant is quiet, his expression stoic like a doctor.

“What’s the difference? Is it not the same toilet?” the Lebanese man turns his hands so his palms facing upward, are asking the questions too.

“It’s for the business class passengers sir.”

My view is limited, but the business class section looks empty and passengers have stopped entering the airplane.

“Yes, but what’s the difference? Is it not the same toilet?”

“Sir, you can use the toilet at the back.”

“That means I have to walk all the way to the back. This one is closer.”

The Lebanese man places emphasis on the word all, in a way that reminds me of how petulant teenagers roll their eyes. I peg him at between 47 and 52 years old. His stomach strains against the buttons of his white shirt and his hair is mostly grey with silver highlights.

He looks at me, maybe because I have been following the conversation, but I look away. Although I am fully Nigerian, I have no desire to moderate the debate.

The flight attendant adjusts a bag in the overhead luggage compartment. It seems like a passive way to deal with a belligerent child.

“The toilets in the back are cleaner than those in business class, sef,” the man tacks this sentence to the conversation, like an insult.

It should provoke a reaction, but it does not. The overhead luggage compartments demand so much of the flight attendant’s attention.

He continues, “I have been waiting since 9 in the morning for my flight. You people are just useless.”

My 13:30 flight was also grounded. All Lagos-bound passengers finally boarded this 18:30 flight. I commiserate with him.

Communication is like dance and grouse takes many forms. If a man asks a woman, what’s wrong, and she answers, “Nothing,” he knows that something is wrong. The toilet, business class or economy, is not the problem here.

“I’m very sorry about that sir.” The flight attendant’s voice has a professional inflection, sympathetic but detached.

“Sorry, sorry. Take your sorry. I don’t need it!”

Minutes later the flight attendant demonstrates the safety instructions coming from the airplane’s public address system. Twenty minutes into the flight, the man ambles down the aisle, all the way to the back, to the toilet. The flight attendant serves refreshments. The man gists with his travelling companions in Lebanese.

I am still rolling their conversation over in my mind, intrigued by it because of something I once read: two monologues do not make a dialogue.

What if the man had started out by stating his displeasure over the delayed flight and the inconvenience it caused, explaining his tiredness because of waiting all day in the airport, before requesting to breach protocol, would the outcome have been different? 

But in Nigeria, to be polite is to be weak and to be aggressive is to be right.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo credit: Photo credit: artforeye via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

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More Than the Sum of All That

compass

My aunt is wearing a striped tube dress with spaghetti straps. When she sits, love handles circle her tummy like three rubber tires. “Timi, where have you been?” she asks, but does not expect an answer. I am there and it is enough. She sucks me in a tight embrace, her warmth spreading over me, her smile wide. 

The years apart are too many to fit into an evening. We make small talk highlighting the events that count. Did I hear what happened to her son? Only God could have saved him. And what about me and my hopes for tomorrow? I do not burden her with sad news; there is no need to slow down the tempo of the music we are making. Soon we are silent, each of us locked in our world, making sense of words.

When my sister says, “Aunty you look as young as ever,” she returns to the present.

“No o. I am old.”

My sister counters, “You’re looking young. No one would believe if you tell them your age.”

“Please don’t deceive me, don’t give me false hope,” she says like a woman who has been lied to and preyed upon. She pats her Halle Berry wig and looks at me with a small smile.

She is seeking corroboration from me. I cannot just give it, mouthing empty words. I do not know how old she is. I have no compass with which to navigate true north, therefore I cannot tell if she is indeed looking young. Having not seen her for years, in which I harboured memories of her younger fashionable self, she is in fact looking old to me.

My sister and my aunt continue the cycle of compliments and weak rebuttals. I fight within myself. Where is true north?

“Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Of a certain size and color. A certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name. The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place,” Cormac McCarthy wrote. 

My aunt’s husband is long gone; one son is far away, the other closer by, and her only daughter died too early. She has forged a whole life for herself apart from them. Her carefully made up face—thin black-pencilled brows, two large dots of muted raspberry rouge, and red lips that complement her hazel skin—is like a photo from another era. She has weathered storms and raised many children that are not hers, including me. I sense her hunger to be seen and admired as I too have on occasion hungered to be seen and admired.

I stop fighting because I have conquered myself.

“Aunty,” I say, “You look young and beautiful.”

It is not false hope; it is true. I remember learning that a (magnetic) compass almost never shows true north. True north is different from magnetic north, which changes depending on local magnetic variation. About a million years ago, the position of magnetic north even wandered closer to the geographic South Pole.

I had planned to ask my sister how old my aunt is. But when we leave, I let the question die in my throat. What does it matter? I am in charge of my compass. Moreover, she is more than the sum of all that.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/compass-magnetic-orientation-801763/

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Hope, Our Common Denominator

hope

Our realities are splintered in Nigeria—along class, religious, ethnic, and other lines.

On the way to my hometown from Lagos for the Christmas break, I slept through most of the trip, but a few kilometers into the town, I opened my eyes and saw fog over the trees by the road. The chilly winds had not yet blown over Lagos in the days preceding Christmas, and Lagosians wondered if the harmattan had become another casualty of 2016. The faces at home, however, were already ashen, dry from the harshness of the harmattan. The economic recession that plagued the country seemed to have moved in the same direction as the dusty winds, enveloping small towns on its journey to the big city.

I only know of how hard things have become because I dwell in between the exuberant hope of Lagos’ upwardly mobile circles and the despair in the rest of the country. Twice, over the festive season, in Lagos, I heard people say that things aren’t as bad in the country as they seem and wanted to transport the speakers from the bubble of this vibrant city to my sleepy hometown. A part of me wanted to criticize them for being myopic, for thinking their experience was typical of the rest of Nigerians.

But the mind knows only what the eyes see. Yes, it’s necessary to imagine the lives of people different from us so we can be good, empathic humans, but there’s also harm in thinking people who can’t yet see others as others are, are evil. This almost always widens those splintering gaps between us to the point where they become gullies. But we are closer to one another than we think.

Despair can cripple the imagination and blind us, limiting our vision to the fears of the present. That unflappable belief that what lies ahead is better than what is behind is difficult to preach in the face of a crumbling economy and rising political tensions around the world, but hope is the thing we cannot let go of.

Many at the start of the year usually display this hope, this higher level of optimism. Ends and beginnings are like points on a Mobius strip. There’s really no difference in the way the days run, but somehow, by placing a marker in time, we are able to generate optimism, to look up for instructions or guide ourselves into better living.

“Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice;” the writer Junot Diaz said in the New Yorker, “it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as ‘imaginative excellence.’  Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible.”

Even I, usually skeptical of the feel-good-nature of the start of the New Year, have set aside goals, lists of things I’d like to get done by the end of the year. This time last year, I had no plans beyond seeing the next day. Now I’ve added more material dreams to the basic necessities, but the desire remains the same: to live better. And I know I’m not the only one doing this. Both the millionaire in the mansion in Ikoyi and the starving civil servant in Osun state look forward to a better 2017.

We can expend energies arguing about the different degrees of better, but we all share the need to look in the future and see ourselves in better conditions than that which we’re in today. To lose that ability is to lose all verve to live. The least we can do, in the face of difficulty, is hope.

© 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/candle-light-dark-hope-flame-group-813005/

 

©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.

Out on These Limbs

limbs

1.
I came to like football as a careful choice unlike many of my friends for whom the sport was a natural favorite. Growing up, the sport that came to me naturally was basketball. Of course, there was wrestling from TV that I tried out with my younger sibling, which earned me a chipped tooth and sprained wrist, but B-Ball was the sport I played in my sleep. I bought illustrated books on basketball and stayed up late during NBA Nights on TV. I watched movies like Blubber, Love and Basketball, and Like Mike endlessly. I became friends with Akin, the tall but otherwise uninteresting guy and later, Babs, the lanky Hausa boy who opened his mouth to reveal brown teeth and bad English, because of B-Ball.

 

2.
Akin brought the first basketball to school and made those interested practice in the school hall during mid-day breaks. In three weeks, our number dwindled to five. B-Ball proved difficult, particularly avoiding traveling, the game rule violation everyone but Akin and Babs committed repeatedly. Still, I stayed after school to practice throws, which I was good at, especially throwing from the left side of the hoop.

 

3.
“Maybe we should play with Loyola College sometime,” Akin said one day after break-time. He talked in an offhanded manner, leaving a listener to decide what was serious, and what wasn’t. I stopped coming to practice after that day. Babs cornered me to find out why.
“I don’t like how I have been sweating and having to wash my uniform all the time,” I told him, stealing glances at his legs.
He had spindly legs like mine, only fairer and straighter. I didn’t want to tell him the thought of stepping into another school in shorts—my legs exposed and defenseless—was enough to give me a migraine. It was not going to happen.

 

4.
I found I could play football with a pair of jogging pants if I wanted to. Then, I found I couldn’t play real matches with jogging pants, except as a goalkeeper. So, I became a goalkeeper.

 

5.
When I was called up to stand in front of my secondary school assembly and announced as the male senior prefect, I imagined that the sea of eyes staring at my bony legs, sticking out underneath my blue shorts, zoomed in on every hair follicle. The next week, I had two pairs of shorts made. The new pairs were a couple of inches longer than my former knee-length pairs. Everyone called me three-quarters head boy. Standing in front of a mirror, my legs, sticking out from mid-calf to ankle, did not look so thin.

 

6.
At NYSC camp, I always looked forward to evenings and weekends when I could wear my long, oversized, khaki pants. On weekdays, I pulled down my small shorts until they grazed the edge of decency. I sat in the middle row during boring lectures from NGOs and prospective employers and stayed away from crowded places like the mammy market, where a drunk corps member could spew remarks about my broomsticks legs.

 

7.
Earlier this year, a female friend saw my lower legs because I was reclining and stretching my feet.
“You should wear shorts, Akintunde, you have really fine legs,” she remarked.
That day, I ordered a wine pair of combat shorts in size 30. I drove to work wearing a gray T-shirt over the combat shorts and a pair of brown ankle boots the day after the shorts arrived. I strutted into every office and later in the afternoon, strolled down the busy road in front of the office, saying hello to a couple of people. I stared back at the faces whose eyes lingered on my form, their approval or disapproval notwithstanding, and smiled consciously. I couldn’t drive after work so I took a total of four cabs en route home, transiting at busy terminals. The fascinating glances I received from homebound commuters made me wonder if I hadn’t been saved by my car in the morning, if my comfortable denim pants wouldn’t have been the better choice. That evening, my youngest brother came home from school and threw me a mock salute when he saw my outfit. When he was leaving three days later, I gave the combat shorts to him, packed in the plastic bag in which it had come.

 

© Akintunde Aiki 2016

Akintunde Aiki is an engineering apostate who currently finds joy in beautiful writings. He thinks Friday is the best day and November the best month. He loves all shades of the color blue. If he can get off the internet more, he’ll probably write a book. He blogs at Koroba.

 

Photo credit: Unsplash/ https://pixabay.com/en/feet-boots-filling-cabinet-legs-1246673/

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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.

Music, Love, and the Occasional Heartbreak

music-headphones

1.
This is how I know I have fallen in love; I listen to Toxic over and over without grimacing, I croon …with the taste of your lips, I’m on a ride…, with feeling and his picture on my mind, then I flip my imaginary blonde locks the way Britney Spears does in the video. Sometimes, Rihanna reflects the true state of my jumbled emotions—those surges of oxytocin we call falling in love. I find myself hunting for, the only girl in the world, and singing along with the gusto of a drunken man. I know then that it is futile to deny that my feet are wet while the waves carry me from shore to pulsing sea.

 

2.
I was born to two Lionel Richie fans, although one was more passionate than the other was. My earliest memories are of my younger brother and me boogying on the sofa and table to Dancing On The Ceiling and of longing to be grown-up and independent as I listened to Easy. Now I wish I’d stayed a child for longer. Adulthood is not the easy ride it seemed to be in the days when I longed to do everything by myself, to be free to make decisions that affect my life, and to marry Lionel Richie or Daniel Wilson if I could not land Lionel. Daniel Wilson’s Raggamuffin made me think of swashbuckling adventures. I do not know why I thought that as a five-year old, I am just glad I did not develop a thing for bad boys.

 

3.
The first time I fell in love, I was eleven years old. It was at a Cowbell Maths Competition Gala and he was singing Careless Whisper. I could have followed him to Jupiter if he’d asked, however my father and his stern look would have frozen my legs and stopped me from following the summons of my achy-breaky heart. I have never forgotten him. Today when I listen to jazz, I wonder who he was and where the tides of life have tossed him. When I listen to either version of Careless Whisper (George Michael’s or Dave Koz’s), I can’t help wondering if his voice was as good as I remember.

 

4.
I broke up with my first boyfriend in a mostly deserted lecture hall at 4 a.m. after listening to James Blunt’s, Goodbye My Lover. I knew as I listened to the song for the first time that what we had was no longer viable. I do not for a minute regret ending that relationship and when I hear the song, I smile and think of him. I fell in love with my next boyfriend two years after we’d started dating. Bob Marley’s Is this love, blared from the speakers of the bus taking us to the park where I’d board a Lagos-bound bus. He sang along, his husky voice breaking and his eyes closed. He wasn’t singing to me but my foolish heart somersaulted as he sang and when my love meter clanged in warning, it was too late.

 

5.
Cher and Gloria Gaynor held me close and wiped my tears when he shattered my heart with spectacular precision. Believe and I will survive saved my sanity and even my life. When people say a song is just a mixture of words and rhythm, I want to punch them so bad. Music is spirit and pain and life and joy and all the things in between.

 

6.
Neither Josh Groban nor Aloe Blacc thought of me when they wrote Brave and Wake Me Up respectively. However, I wouldn’t have started a blog if I hadn’t listened to those songs as though they were water in the barren desert that was my soul. The lyrics inspired me to take this writing thing seriously and to trust the voices in my head and heart to lead me right across computer or phone screens and through life.

 

7.
I am the woman who goes to work with Phyno on both sides of my ears. His song, Oringo, transports me to a party for one, the rhythms from the east of the Niger River—my ancestral tom-toms—call the wild spirit I have restrained for too long. This is how I know I am free; I am on stage and the crowd is humming a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Be Wild. No, I am dancing to work and inviting interested stares although I have no blond locks to flick. My headphones trap the sound that come from Phyno’s heart. Maybe today, you will finally tap my shoulder and say, “Hello, it’s me.”

© Adaeze Ezenwa 2016

Adaeze Ezenwa lives in Lagos where she dodges traffic and fantasizes about becoming a billionaire before turning 35 and eating dodo daily without gaining weight. She rents a patch from WordPress at Emporium of Words, and her door is always open for conversation.

 

Photo credit: Spinheike/ https://pixabay.com/en/london-oxford-street-headphones-116018/

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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.

Seven Colours from My Life

colours

1.
Amber is the colour of HB pencils. One morning, in the year I was five, I returned from our neighbour’s house where we grind beans for akara and moi moi and sketched the grinding machine I saw there. My dad’s sister raved about the drawing and adjudged it an excellent reproduction. She rewarded me with two HB pencils and one eraser. These were not the last accolades I received for my art.

 

2.
Baby blue is the colour of my mom’s cooler. On a Visiting Day in junior secondary school, I took some of the jollof rice my mom brought for me to the hostel. My five friends flocked around and in-between jollification and smacking of lips, intoxicating praise for the jollof streamed into my ears. Three of these friends lived in Lagos. Zaria was too far-off from Lagos so their parents never honoured Visiting Day. The next term, my mom journeyed from Kaduna by bus with her big cooler of jollof rice for me and my crew. The image of my mom walking with the cooler on her head, and a Bagco Super sack of provisions clutched in her hand, stays with me.

 

3.
Brown is the small scar on my mom’s palm. Books, television, and the sound of music made me a wandering kid who always yearned to recreate something wonderful. Many evenings bloomed and withered as I combed garbage dumps for milk cans and precise colours of slippers, from which I fashioned wheels, Ludo seeds, and hockey balls. I ended my quests, each time, looking scruffy, and spankings by my mom’s palms remained the consistent punctuation to homecomings. In my mid-twenties, my mom revealed the real reason behind her anger. It wasn’t her supreme aversion to uncleanliness. Each time I strolled home looking like a pig, I reminded her of her days as a little village girl.

 

4.
Copper is the skin tone of my girlfriend. We were whatsapping one day and then:
*Ping* Why do you like me?
You pinch me. Sometimes. And it hurts until I laugh.
 I typed the last of nine answers to her question.
She replied with thirty reasons why she likes me. I have emailed them to myself for safekeeping.

 

5.
Yellow is the colour of egusi. The day we overcame our reservations and ate at Mama Favour’s spot, we sat in the open air, on an unstable bench, battling impolite flies and smoke from smoldering firewood. Her pounded yam and egusi was delicious. Incredibly cheap too. So cheap that we did the math three times to make sure we weren’t short-changing her. Two years on and Mama Favour has two roofed bukkas now. My best friend and I, and the other friends we have shared the gospel with, are still her customers.

 

6.
Porcelain white was the colour of Aunty Ramatu’s teeth. To the delight of my parents and we kids, her visits to our house were seldom without a jerrycan of kunu and sticks of sugarcane stuffed in a Bagco Super sack. In September, I visited Aunty Ramatu at the hospital. Her only surviving child laughed at a joke I cracked, revealing white teeth. I marveled, turned to her mother and discovered, as she too laughed, weakly, that her teeth were also white. Aunty Ramatu was discharged from the hospital two days later. In October, after contending with a terminal illness for more than fifteen years, she ascended from our realm. Your kindness and laughter will always be remembered, dear aunt. Rest in perfect peace.

 

7.
Red is TED. “Did you read Chimamanda’s 9K words essay?” read Mimi’s IM on WhatsApp. I hadn’t. She whatsapped the link. I read and found it articulate, inspiring, and instructional even if I didn’t agree with a number of Chimamanda’s admonitions. The waves of my doubts crashing against the shore of my convictions steered me towards Google. There, I discovered Chimamanda’s TED talk We Should All be Feminists. These days, I wonder if the women in my life will not live richer, fuller lives if we all became feminists. Maybe I am slowly becoming a feminist. Maybe not. Only when I marry, beget and rear a daughter will I really be certain.

© Samuel Okopi 2016

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: nbostanova/ https://pixabay.com/en/pencils-coulored-red-blue-yellow-1654051/

© Timi Yeseibo, 2016

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.