Interpreting Silence, Mine and Maybe Yours

Malala

. . . and I began to see that the pen and the words that come from it can be much more powerful than machine guns, tanks or helicopters. We were learning how to struggle. And we were learning how powerful we are when we speak.1

I was at a meeting. The preacher declared, “If you haven’t found what is worth dying for, then you haven’t started living!” In my mind, I said, “But I am living and I enjoy my life although, I don’t know what I would die for.” The preacher reeled off convictions on which he would stake his life. I thought, that’s good for you, my children are still small, my marriage too young.

In my university, when students would gather to protest against government policies, I always left the campus and went to stay at my aunt’s, as I did not fancy being tear-gassed, arrested, or beaten or raped if the protest degenerated to a free-for-all.

Their protests annoyed my middle-class sensibilities. Shielded by my parents, I had never felt the sting of socio-economic or political policies. The more daring the protest, the more likely, that my university would be shut down, so that, instead of graduating at twenty, I would graduate at twenty plus x, x being anything from one to five years. This concerned me because I had mapped my life’s trajectory without the possibility of detours.

And so, Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography interested me, as all biographical material does, but more so because she is a teenager. She’s described as the educational campaigner from Swat Valley, Pakistan, who came to public attention by writing for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban. News about her work had floated in and out of my attention in years past, but as I settled to read her book, I shook my head, what was she thinking?

The man was wearing a peaked cap and looked like a college student. He swung himself onto the tailboard at the back and leaned in right over us.

Who is Malala? He demanded?”

No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face not covered.

That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. I later learned it was a Colt 45. Some of the girls screamed.2

Malala’s story, in my view, traces the journey of her convictions, how they were shaped, how they crystallized, and how she learnt to live and expect to die for them. Her father is central to her story. She interprets her world through his eyes. But I get the sense as I read that even if Malala were translated into another set of circumstances, mine as a youngster, for example, she would still shake the world. Named after the Pashtun heroine, Malalai of Maiwand, when she was born, she popped out kicking and screaming.

Malala gives us a history lesson on her beloved Pakistan and Talibanization. It is a story I recognize: Nigeria before and after British colonization; Nigeria in the age of Boko Haram. Politics never sleeps. Poverty and illiteracy make indoctrination and intimidation potent. But Kalashnikovs and RPGs make the rich and educated flee too.

Her photo on the book cover hides fear and courage, a tension that she draws her readers to share with her family in Taliban-controlled Swat Valley and beyond.

Are you scared now?” I asked my father.

At night our fear is strong, Jani,” he told me, “but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.”3

She writes that her father hated the fact that most people would not speak up. She knew he was right. He kept a poem by Martin Niemoller in his pocket.

First they came for the communists,                                                                              

and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.                                           

Then they came for the socialists,                                                                                    

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.                                                 

Then they came for the trade unionists,                                                                        

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.                                        

Then they came for the Jews,                                                                                               

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.                                                        

Then they came for the Catholics,                                                                                    

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.                                                 

Then they came for me,                                                                                                     

and there was no one left to speak for me.

I live in a land where my concerns range from 30% income tax deductions to choosing between Gouda and Maasdammer cheese. Comfort is a familiar place and I do not apologize for it. Privilege comes with responsibility and many are not silent. But I must break my silence and scream with more than sympathy, with my words, my money, my time, and my votes, because Malala proves that one voice can be heard. At a cost, at a cost . . .

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

1. Yousafzai, Malala with Lamb, Christina, I Am Malala (London: Orion Books, 2014), 131.

2. Ibid., 6.

3. Ibid., 115.

 

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 Hunter Games

Huntress

Once upon a time in faraway Heindenlily, Princess Amera decided that she would go to the Wise One to help her find love.

She pulled the reins so her horse could gallop faster as she left the palace gates behind. Sandwiched between her bodyguards, she felt as if palace life had shielded her. And from what? Foolish princes like Prince Olmeri of Findolgun who’d stuttered when he came for her hand until he all but swallowed his tongue, and the king’s physician had to revive him. Still blue in the face, he’d tried to stutter an apology, but she shushed him by putting her index finger to his lips. What utter nonsense! She would find love on her terms.

When her guards dismounted to cut low-lying branches, paving a way in the forest, she saw how long their shadows were. She had not noticed the sun receding behind the hills of Allaymin. She shivered and drew her cape tighter. In front, the oak trunks leaned in as if to touch them and then, as if to squash them. Meeting her bodyguards’ stares, she masked her fear with her smile. She marvelled that women had lain passive as though waiting for pollen from bumblebees, for years and years. The wind was variable too. Nectar had lost its edge, and the driver’s seat was vacant.

“Fair princess!”

Her bodyguards bumped into one another and struggled to quieten their horses. Princess Amera gasped as the trail widened to reveal a moss-covered hut. The Wise One beckoned to her from the entrance. The rumours were true. His white beard swept the ground like the dust brushes her chamber maidens used to attack cobwebs.

Inside the hut, babies’ skulls lined the walls. He pulled one, dropped something inside it, and offered it to her. Her hands trembled as she collected the skull. The thing inside smelt like cow dung and tasted like honey, so she did not chew.

“So you are tired of waiting for him?”

He did not wait for her answer.

“Choice is a rudder without hindsight. A thing to be desired and yet a thing to be feared,” his voice boomed, and the walls became mirrors.

She smiled when she saw perfection.

“That one,” she pointed.

“The moon will cross Orynimmel Kingdom tonight and tomorrow. You will have one chance.”

He leaned forward, and his beard nicked a bit of the flame from the huge candle on the centre of the table. A quick glow and then fading embers, as the light died in his shaggy bush. He pulled a bow and arrow from under the table and handed it to her.

“Shoot with all your might, and he will be yours.”

“B . . . but . . . what if he doesn’t want me?”

“Isn’t that why you are going after him? To show him what he wants? Sssh, sleep now, in the morning it will all make sense.”

The next morning, she washed her face with the washcloth Wise One gave her. She looked in the stream. He was right. She was even more beautiful. When she turned to hand over the washcloth, the hut had disappeared. Her bodyguards stood at attention as they waited for her.

“Yee haw!” she cried and mounted her horse.

As they journeyed, the oak trunks leaned backwards, making space, so they could ride in an A-formation. Daylight pushed through the mist shrouding the hills of Allaymin. She saw him first as they rounded a bend. The sun’s rays filtering through the long necks of oak trees, circled him like a spotlight. Her horse neighed testing her indecision. Why was he alone?

“Fair princess,” he bowed.

“Prince Zonaltera of Luxamdola.”

She dismounted, clutching her bow and arrow in her right hand.

“Going hunting?”

He smiled at her and then turned to his horses, grooming their manes.

She sat on the grass. Dewy anemones and bluebells teased her ankles. She waited and waited until the sun rose to the middle of the sky.

You will have one chance . . .

“Do you like me?”

“Yes,” turning to face her, he said, “what’s not to like?”

“Then,” she cocked her head, “why have you not asked for my hand?”

“I don’t know. I . . . I have been distracted.”

“I see . . . grooming your horses . . .”

She stood, raised her bow and arrow, and aimed at his heart. He ducked and then ran deeper into the forest. Her hair danced in the wind as she pursued. Darting and ducking, brown trunks and green leaves embraced them in a fuzzy camouflage. The ground sucked their footfalls as squirrels and weasels skipped away.

“Stop!”

She spun around and around ears on alert. A creeping vine curled around his left sleeve, pinning him to the spot. He placed his free hand on his knee as he sucked in air, turning red. Overhead, jackdaws abandoned their nest holes and flew away, unamused by the lovers’ game.

“Please,” he said, twisting this way and that, “if you chase me, you will catch me.”

A thrill she had not known before made her skin tingle and her pupils dilate; she tasted power.

“I’m tired of hunting. The prey you want gets away too many times.”

He pulled his hand free, ripping his sleeve and sending tiny leaves in the air.

“Perhaps you lack skill.”

“Sometimes the prey runs too fast and then too slow, confusing your aim. Hunting can be exhausting!”

He sunk to the ground, massaging his arm.

“Wimp!” she scoffed. “I know what I want.”

She raised her bow.

“Wait, wait! How will you know I really want you, if you trap me?”

“Do you want me?”

“Yes . . . but give me a chance to—”

She raised her bow and released the arrow into his heart. Then she left him there for the magic to do its work. One month later, they were married. Her happiness was a rainbow that all came to behold and point at. Ten months after, he began to shrink. Smaller and smaller, smaller than a stump in the ground.

“What is happening?”

Her tears could no longer hide behind her eyes, which were twin mirrors through which he saw not only himself but also how she saw him. He longed to lick her tears, but she no longer ached for him, letting his name escape from her lips, softly, softly, softly. He began to cry too.

“Evolution?”

“I tried to warn you.”

“If we were born a thousand years from today, it would no longer matter who hunted and who got caught. If we could time travel . . .  I mean, what kind of woman loses a slipper at midnight and doesn’t go back to find it before one idiot consigns it to the lost-and-found dump?”

She carried her frog and placed him on the golden pouch on her nightstand. She missed the strength of his arms.

In the distance, the stars twinkled over the hills of Allaymin. The moon would cross Orynimmel Kingdom tomorrow night and next. She still had the bow and arrow.

You will have one chance.

Time had snatched her rainbow, but nirvana was still within reach.

“Good night my love.”

“Croak, croak, croak,” he replied.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Image credits: http://www.disney.co.uk/brave/downloads/?d=downloads-merida

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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I am not What I Wear and Other Lies we Tell Ourselves

cracked face

“I want to be taken seriously dammit!”

Her skin is fair, her face, neck, and breasts, the same skin tone. If her blouse were cut any wider, her nipples would escape. Once, she told me with pride that she didn’t need a bra. I want to use my hands to verify, but I check this irrational impulse and listen to her instead.

“I mean who stumbles over cleavage, right? That’s just like . . .  soooo eighties!” She flicks her bangs and sucks her lemon ice tea, her every movement a pirouette in seduction.

“Right,” I reply, aware that almost every eye in the restaurant is on us, on her, as they have been ever since she walked in. Tall and lithe, like cat woman, could she be unaware of her magnetism? Or does her power lie in contrived innocence?

I let her lead, the conversation that is, but I don’t follow. If I say what I feel, she would think I’m like so eighties, anti-feminist, old–er, and sexually repressed by my sociocultural and religious background.

I let her lead, and then I come home and write this blog post.

***

 Whether you believe in evolution or creationism, gone are the days when humans roamed free and breeze cooled what hung bare for all to see. Fig leaves or animal skin no longer covers our “delicate” parts. Along the way, we discovered clothes, which define standards of decency in public. If you walk naked on the streets, people might consider you mad, and little children might giggle.

Imagine . . .

Nine o’ clock, Monday morning, you walk into the building and approach the counter. A man sporting dreadlocks, a cut-off denim vest, and three gold chains with huge dollar-sign pendants, rises to greet you.

“Good morning, how may I help you today?”

You shake his outstretched hand and look around the room: off-white walls, ficus plants at the corner, black straight-back reception chairs, display screens, ATMs, and the revolving door behind you.

“Sorry, I thought . . . where . . . is this the bank?”

You visit your doctor for a routine exam. An assistant ushers you in. The doctor has her back to you. When she turns, her wavy black hair bounces. Her smile is pleasant as she motions for you to take a seat. Your eyes fasten on her cleavage; the V of her blouse would make the Kaghan valley in Pakistan weep in envy.

“Is something wrong?” she asks politely.

“No,” you say as you swallow and drag your eyes to her face.

“How are you doing today?”

“Fine. But, I . . . I’m here to see the doctor.”

At the office, you hit your keyboard with the gentle force of your ideas. When your colleague stops over and says hi, you reply without taking your eyes off the monitor. He walks a few paces closer, so you look at him.

“Was there something I could help—”

You cannot complete your question because you are nearly eye level with his white boxers. Your eyes travel up past the narrow line of hair around his navel, which fans out like a bush on his chest. You spare a glimpse for his biceps before you take in the black bow tie on his neck. When you meet his eyes, his voice sounds distant. You have not been listening.

“I hope will you be done with your report on time. I need to put everything together for the presentation.” He turns and walks away.

Your yes response carries no conviction because you are staring at his boxers, the bit of fabric trapped in the crack of his buttocks.

Why are clothes important? Why do you wear what you wear?

Girls, we’ve come a loooong way! We’ve leaped from the bedroom to the boardroom, made sandwiches in the kitchen and laws in parliaments. We’ve flown beyond prep school all the way to Outer Space and signed cheques for weighty sums in our name too. But what more did my great, great, great, great, great-grandmother fight for? To see me strut almost naked on the red carpet, while my beau stands by my side fully clothed in a tux? Where is equality? Why isn’t he as naked as I am?

While the V’s on our dresses reach our navel and our hemlines tease our bums, men objectify us, fully clothed, they gawk at us, only human, they ogle “with style”. We are progressing regressing to an upscale version of cave woman.  It won’t be long before we’ll be swaying down the streets our breasts running free. We’ll hi-five each other in our Victoria Secret fig-leaves tong, “Power to you girl; we’ve come a long way baby!”

And the men? They’ll be walking down the streets too, savouring women’s liberation, hailing women’s empowerment, fully clothed of course.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: Pixabay.com

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Photo tags: Cracked Cracks Face People Woman Female Portrait

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.