Love is a Beautiful Thing

love-beautiful

As I grew up, it sometimes seemed that my parents would throw invisible daggers at each other and the knives would miss, hit the wall, rebound, and lacerate my heart. I thought they might do better apart rather than together, but my mother was adamant that she stick things through, as if she were glue.

Close to thirty years have elapsed since those turbulent times. In war more than elsewhere things do not turn out as we expect. Nearby they do not appear as they did from a distance (Carl von Clausewitz, On War). Perhaps because my parents now speak of their departure like something imminent in the distance, they invite my sisters and me closer, and I see what I did not see then.

My parents tell us about their lives, the things we do not know that they think we should.

We ask my father how he met my mother. His story is like him, adorned with few words. He says that when he met my mother, she was suitably impressed with his house; he had a very nice house in Sapele. When he left Sapele for Lagos, my mother followed him there.

My mother protests and interrupts. She admits that although he had a fine house, she never ventured inside, did not even heed the catcalls of the boys in the area, who said, “Lady, notu you we dey call?”

We shush her gently and assure her that her turn will come. When it does, she counters his story. She says that on her way to school, my father and his friends would peep at her from their house. “I used to be very pretty,” she is matter-of-fact, “everybody struggled to talk to me, but I would just ignore them.”

When my father came to look for her, he was always well turned out in a suit and tie. Because she was afraid of her mother finding out, she met him at the corner and it was, “Hello, hello, by the window side.” A shy smile creeps at the corners of her mouth at this recollection. “But,” she says, “I did not give in for a moment.”

At this, my sisters and I laugh. We make jokes about standing at the corner. My mother laughs. My father laughs. It is a while before we collect ourselves to continue, lost as we are in our memories of teenage love and desire.

“I left for Lagos because I had a strong urge to succeed in life; Sapele was too small for my dreams. I did not leave because of your dad, but to find greener pastures,” my mother says.

“Okay,” my sister smiles knowingly and says, “he was your greener pastures.”

My father chuckles, “She pursued me to Lagos.”

My mother rolls her eyes in exasperation, “I said I went to find greener pastures!”

They bicker over the details of their romance, each wanting to come up tops, but it is playful, weighted by tenderness processed and matured over time. I do not point out that both their stories have holes they have not filled. Maybe they want to bring my sisters and me close enough and no further.

Young people often imagine, as I did, that the fires of romance in older people die out, their candles burnt and spent somewhere in their twenties. In my forties, I know this to be untrue. Watching my parents, I know that it will still be untrue in my sixties, seventies, and way beyond.

Love is a beautiful thing. 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/tic-tac-toe-love-heart-play-1777859/

 

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Naija Tinz

naija-tinz

1.
It is her loud voice—the confident obnoxiousness of her request and her reference to the economic recession, under which the store attendants cower—that makes me look up from watching the cashier at checkout work the POS machine. Sure enough, she is the one. I call out.
“Timi, is that you; I didn’t know you were in Lagos?” Her open arms stretch her boubou like patterned bed sheets.
I reply, “Yes, I just got back,” and embrace her.
Guilt snakes around in my stomach. I have been in Nigeria for several months. When does, I just got back, become old?

 

2.
The story is told of a returnee riding his power bike in Victoria Island, years ago, before Lagos state government imposed limits on the routes commercial motorcycles can ply. Approaching a red light, he stops causing the eight okadas trailing him to crash into him and one another in a classic pile on. The motorcycle drivers recover quickly. Helmets gleaming in the sun, one grabs his trousers at the waist; another seizes his shirt at the neck. A slap prefaces the interrogation.
Why you stop?” the leader of the pack charges.
“Because of the traffic light.”
Another slap. “You don see okada stop here before?” Another slap. “You nor know say dis ting,” the okada driver wags his hand in the direction of the traffic light, “na for motor?”
He is confused as returnees often are about unofficial codes of conduct and he knows it is futile to argue he is right.

 

3.
“Are you here for good?” is I suppose the logical question that follows the surprise at bumping into me in Lagos. Some people are not in a hurry, so they ask instead, “When did you get back?” before segueing into the question of the permanence or not of my residency. My answer varies depending on the level of interest in the inquisitor’s eyes or the kind of relationship we share. Always, my eyes travel in distance and space, as I narrate a version of the story titled, I don’t know.

 

4.
Hyperbole is a literary device, which refers to exaggerated claims that are not to be taken literally. It manifests in a curious form in Nigerian street speak, where words are doubled for emphasis also.
De house big?
E big well well, well well!
An oxymoron on the other hand is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. Like this sign on the road:
Buy original Tokunboh laptops
That second-hand laptops aka tokunboh laptops, can be original is beyond oxymoron. It shows how language bends to accommodate the prevalent malaise of refurbished parts sold as (brand) new.

 

 

5.
Nigerians who move back home after living abroad are subject to a subtle game of numbers, which begins with the question, “How long were you away for?” Your answer validates or invalidates your expatriation. Ten years and longer, garner approval like Instagram Likes so that your cluelessness and discomfiture regarding Nigerian culture is overlooked, explained away by your long absence. Those who were away for a shorter time, do well to prefix their answer with just, as in, I was away for just two years and to not speak with a foreign accent like people who go for a two-week holiday in London and return with an American accent. The problem of colonialization is this: long after Lord Lugard and co. left, we are still using their yardstick to measure ourselves by.

 

6.
My dentist is situated on the third floor of an edifice that once showed promise because of the elegance of the architecture, but the building is aging and in need of fresh leadership. I wait in the reception where magazines make the clock tick faster.
“Mrs Timi? The dentist is ready for you.”
In the examining room, the dentist’s assistant makes small talk.
“It’s not Mrs Timi,” I begin, it’s Miss Timi.”
She beams, “You will soon get married, in Jesus name!”
Because her underlying assumption concerning my desires bothers me, I lecture her mildly on the broad aspirations of women beyond Cinderella dreams. “You don’t even know me. Why did you not say, you will soon get a better job?”
“But don’t you want to get married?”
“I do, but—”
Ehen! You will soon get married, in Jesus name!” she ends her prophecy on a high note, smiling as she lowers and reclines the chair for me to sit.
“Amen,” I reply. I know it is futile to explain my point any further.

 

7.
The walls are white as are the rattan chairs arranged in a loose formation for intimacy. My girlfriends and I were sipping our drinks and trying to gist despite the music booming from the speakers. I am convinced that Nigerians are loud because our eardrums are traumatized by music that drowns out our voices. Suddenly a photographer appears.
“No o! I don’t want my photo on Facebook or Instagram,” I protest.
He convinced us that he would email the photos to us and they would not be shared on social media. We posed and posed again. Our photos now grace the Facebook page of the bar. In Nigeria, we say, awoof dey run belle, which loosely means, freebies can kill you.

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Boubou: a kaftan worn by women.
Okada: commercial motorbike used for transportation.
You don see okada stop here before?: Have you ever seen a commercial bike stop here?
You nor know say dis ting na for motor?: Don’t you know that this thing is for cars?
De house big?: Is the house big?
E big well well, well well: It is humungous.
Tokunboh: A second-hand or fairly used item.

 

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To Catch A Fly . . . Again

To catch a fly again

 

Part 1: boy meets girl; two girlfriends dissect the relationship – To Catch A Fly
Part 2: the male perspective; boy and his mate dissect the meeting – Riposte: To Catch A Fly

 

To Catch A Fly . . . Again

“I—”

“Can—”

“Sorry, please, you were saying?”

“I interrupted you, please go ahead.”

“Ladies first—”

“I insist. I know you’re trying to be a gentleman, but I insist . . . please go ahead.”

“Ahem! Excuse me.”

“Bless you dear. Oh sorry, that’s not the right thing to say, is it?”

“Than— ahem!”

“Are you okay?”

“Ahem! Yes, yes. Er, I wanted to ask you if—”

“Sorry. I have to take this call . . . it’s important . . . Hello? Hello?”

“No worries.”

****

“Hi, I’m back. Really sorry—”

“That’s okay . . .”

“You wanted to ask . . .”

“Oh, yes, that . . .  what did you think of the seminar?”

“Well, this is the best one so far. I thoroughly subscribe to the professor’s argument about the lack of succession planning. How many Nigerian businesses have outlived their founders abi owners?”

“True, true. And the proliferation of techpreneurs . . . that one caught my attention. Guys just learn how to code and next thing want to launch out  . . . no experience—”

“Yes o. Don’t you just hate it when people use Mark Zuckerberg as an example? I mean since when does an outlier experience become mainstream?”

“Yeah yeah, if the model cannot be replicated, it isn’t applicable. But the problem with Nigeria, no feasibility studies, no business plan . . . one person starts Pure Water business, next thing all the neighbours are digging their own boreholes! Copy, copy!”

Ha ha ha! I had a good time tonight. Thanks for inviting me.”

“My pleasure. Me too!”

“I’ve been meaning to ask—”

“Ahem . . . Ahem! Ahem! I—”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes. I—”

“Hold that thought, I have to take this please. It’s an important call. Hello? Hello? You can’t see my date of birth? What—”

***

“So sorry, I needed to sort that out—”

“That’s okay . . . but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation—”

“No biggie, my medical forms should have been submitted yesterday—”

“D . . . di . . . did you say you were born in 1981?”

Ah ah, a lady doesn’t reveal her age, but since the cat is out of the bag—”

“Yo . . . you’re thirty-five?”

“Technically, thirty-four years and seven months. My birthday is in a few—”

“Thirty-five?”

“Well, I guess you’re one of those people who always round up num—”

“Thirty-five? How?”

“Ha ha, my mum and dad did it in ’80. I don’t look it right? People always think I’m like twenty-five, twenty-six-ish.”

“You certainly had me fooled . . . with that face and body!”

“I hope that’s a good thing . . . you look sick . . . is everything—”

“I . . . I’m . . . I’m fine. Do you mind if we go sit in the car?”

“No not at all. Lead the way . . . so how old are you?”

“Er . . . old. I mean old enough.”

“Let me guess . . . come to think of it, you went to school with Lola’s brother right?

“Yes . . .”

“Andy is three years older than us. Mehn, you wear thirty-eight well! I’ve always thought we were age mates—”

“I . . . I—”

Ah ah you’re so sweet and thoughtful . . . you don’t have to open the car door for me all the time jare.”

“I aim to please.”

“Is that Sade? Do you mind increasing the volume? I looove Sade! Hmm . . . this is no ordinary love, no ordinary love, baby . . .”

“I . . . I . . . I was saying I went to school with Bobby.”

“Bobby? Which Bobby? How can? Bobby! Wait . . . wait . . .”

“Yes—”

“Bobby? Lola their last born?”

“Yeah, that Bobby—”

“Please lower the music. Lower the music!

“Is this okay?”

Haba! Just turn it off abeg!”

“Sorry. Okay.”

“I can’t breathe! Wind down—”

“But the AC is on—”

“I said, ‘Wind down!’ Wind down now!”

“Okay, okay . . . cooli temper!”

“Hisssss!”

“Is this better? Please say something . . .”

“Hmmmm!”

“Look, this is awkward for me too . . .”

“Hmmmm!”

“Okay, em . . . em . . . the next track is . . . drum roll . . . Age ain’t nothing but a number—”

“Hisssss! Ye ye boy! And my name is R. Kelly! Ha ha ha!”

“Ha ha ha! At least I made you laugh abi?”

“Juvenile delinquent! Please take me home before it’s time for your curfew!”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016


For Afi, Ayo, Busola, and everyone who wanted a sequel to To Catch A Fly & Riposte: To Catch A Fly. Thank you for helping me improve my dialogue writing skills.

 

 

 

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Riposte: To Catch A Fly

quote men

Ife Nihinlola’s article follows from last week’s dialogue between two girlfriends about the ‘elusive’ boyfriend. He creatively presents the viewpoint of the said boyfriend. Read last week’s post here.

 

Riposte: To Catch A Fly

 

“So, talk to me. How did it go?”

“Fine.”

“What is fine? I said how did it go?”

“Fine na. What else do you want me to say?”

“Don’t even start. I didn’t cover for you so you can come back here with fine. Abeg, tell me the full story. What did you guys do?”

“We didn’t do anything, really. I headed to her place after leaving work and called her when I was close to their estate, telling her I was in their area.”

“Hmmm, smooth . . .”

“Not smooth anything. I just didn’t want her to think I’m desperate. You know how, at a certain age, a single guy in church is the symbol of desperation.”

Oga Christian, na you know that one. So were you telling her all these grammar, or did you ask her the main thing?”

“Well, her brother and I were discussing Messi and his tax, and it took a while before he finally left the living room. Then she offered me semo and edikang ikong.”

Chai! See better wife material.”

“But she didn’t cook the soup o. I asked and she started laughing, and I thought I really blew it by asking a stupid question. Then she continued to laugh and I joined her. It was a little weird sha . . .”

“After that?”

“We talked about everything and then nothing. Again, I didn’t want to appear too desperate.”

Oga, after inviting her to, how many seminars now, six, seven? You’re saying you don’t want to be too desperate? Have you even asked her out properly?”

“It’s not like that? The question is not whether I’ve asked her out properly. It’s if I’m ready to ask her out.”

“Are you kidding me? At twenty-nine, you’re not sure if you want to ask her out? Do you think she’s ugly? Are you preserving yourself for Agbani Darego?”

“What kind of question is that?”

“So what are you waiting for?”

“Remember the last time I went out with that girl from the 45th floor and she suddenly started to talk about children and houses and family?”

“Hahahaha!”

“There must be something about candlelight and soft music and wine that makes people think it’s okay to share everything. She doesn’t even greet me at lunch anymore, so that means I must have said something stupid that night.”

“True. Your mouth can be a loose canon.”

“I’m trying to avoid that, so let’s hope I’ll be able to invite her for a date at the seminar.”

“Another seminar?”

“Yes na. That’s my excuse to see her again before the week runs out. I don’t even know if I’m doing this because my mother is always reminding me that she’s seventy-eight and life expectancy is fifty-three and I’m her only son . . . What do you think?”

“Me? What’s my own in this matter? I already have a pregnant wife, and I’m just three months older than you. What do you think I think?”

“You’re not being of help right now.”

“My friend, ask the lady out properly and go and marry.”

“You’re assuming she won’t say no.”

“If you can’t tell that a lady who has survived seven seminars and a silly visit already likes you, maybe your case is just hopeless. I’m going to my cubicle!”

 

©Ife Nihinlola 2016 @ IfeOluwa’s Rambles

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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To Catch a Fly

to catch a fly

 

“So, tell me, what happened?”

“Nothing.”

“What do you mean nothing?”

“My dear, nothing happened o.”

“So you mean to tell me that he stopped over at six, left at midnight, and nothing happened?”

“Well my brother was in the living room. All of us talked about general stuff, then he and my brother started talking about football—”

“Oh no—”

“They talked and talked. I left them and came back. They were still talking. So I cut eye for my brother—”

“Okay—”

“Then he left us alone.”

“Finally! And then?”

“I asked him if he was hungry abi if he wanted to eat, I don’t know again. He said yes. So I went and warmed some edikang ikong and made semo for him.”

“Did he like it?”

“Yeah, I mean he asked who made it, and we both started laughing.”

“I hope you told him it was you—”

“Why should I lie? You know it was my sister who made it—”

“Jesus! For crying out loud, the guy was checking if you know how to cook! If you’d be good wife material!”

“But I know how to cook—”

“How will he know when you invite him to your house and give him your sister’s food to eat?”

“I didn’t invite him! He said he was in the area and asked if he could stop—”

“Same difference! Then what happened?”

“I don’t appreciate your tone. Quite frankly, I am getting tired of all these your matchmaking schemes. I’m not desperate—”

“Who said anything about desperation? See yourself? This is a nice church boy—”

“Maybe that’s the problem . . .”

“Come again?”

“Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“After he ate . . . did you eat too?”

“Well I wasn’t hungry . . . but I ate a little so he wouldn’t think I jazzed the food.”

“Good move.”

“Then we sha talked.”

“About?”

“You know, police shootings in America, coup in Turkey, gunman in Nice, Dino Melaye and Tinubu, church, you know . . .”

“So you were just talking until midnight?”

“Well it wasn’t midnight, after eleven.”

“Same difference. The gist must have been sweet . . .”

“Well he’s an interesting conversationalist.”

“At least he will know you have brains.”

“You make me laugh.”

“I’m serious. I overhead him saying that most girls nowadays can’t even hold a decent conversation.”

“Well, I’m not most girls—”

“I know na. So when are you seeing him again?”

“I don’t know . . . He invited me for another seminar—”

“Great! When? What are you wearing?”

“I’m not going—”

“Ah ah! Why not?”

“He keeps inviting me for these seminars. I’ve gone for seven joor, I’m tired. This one is during the week. I won’t close early enough—”

“What’s wrong with you sef? Can’t you even make small sacrifices for love?”

“Love my foot! The guy can’t even take me out for dinner! Common shawarma, he can’t even buy!”

“Shawarma? So shawarma is your problem? If you want to eat shawarma, can you not buy shawarma for yourself?”

“You don’t get it—”

“Wait, wait, wait, is there no food in the seminar?”

“You’re not getting—”

“Here we are trying to catch a fly and you’re talking about shawarma! Common shawa—”

“For your information, I am not trying to catch anything!”

“Ok sorry. I know he’s operating like slow coach. You just have to encourage him a little. He’s spoilt—”

“I think I’m just going to ask him straight up what his game plan is.”

“No o! I heard him saying he doesn’t like girls who are too direct—”

“Direct my foot! So I will just be following him to seminar?”

“Ah ah, is it because of shawa—”

“No! The problem is that if you even catch him now, you’ll be chasing him for the rest of your life. Do I look like a fly swatter?”

“Look let’s just catch the fly first—”

“Hmmm! I’m so done!”

“Ok calm down. You hear? Just calm down . . . and get ready, I’m coming over.”

“Why?”

“To buy you the shawarma . . . and strategize.”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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Saying Yes to Nigeria [4]

Naija in my Blood

Perhaps nothing reveals the spirit of a city like the attitude of its drivers. Do not even speak of the courtesies you possess until you have driven in rush hour on the streets of Lagos, where every hour is rush hour.

“Foolish man, can’t you see I’m indicating?” she cast a sideways glance at the offender. 200 metres later, with one hand on the steering and the other on her temple, she yelled at another offender, “Are you mad?” A minute later, she placed her hands on her horn repeatedly in bursts, peep, peep, peeeeep, “Stay on your lane!” And at the roundabout, looking less confident, she let out, “If you scratch my car, you will pay o!”

I watched her chest heave and dip, heave and dip, as we rode from Victoria Island to Lekki, while she continued her monologue with drivers who couldn’t hear her because we were cocooned in air-conditioned comfort in her car.

“They can’t even hear you,” I said.

“They can,” she insisted, but changed tactics, making me the subject of dialogue. “Timi, see what that driver is doing? That’s the problem with—”

“You’re going to give yourself a heart attack at this rate; can’t you just drive without the commentary?”

“You don’t understand, wait until you start driving.” She was darting in and out of lanes, “You can’t stay on one lane in this Lagos, you’ll never get anywhere . . .”

Famine brings out our worst instincts and the famine in Lagos is severe—lack of good roads, petrol, patience, politeness, empathy, sanity, alternative transportation like trams, trains, or water transport, diligent traffic wardens, and a responsive government.

Driving in Lagos has not changed. But I have. Or do I still have Naija in my Blood 

Read about my former experience, which is still relevant today here.

© Timi Yeseibo 2016

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Saying Yes to Nigeria [3]

Our National Pastime

In his essay on exile in The Guardian, Ngugi wa Thiong’o writes:

Exile is more than separation: it is longing for home, exaggerating its virtues with every encounter with inconvenience.

I do not think I exaggerated the virtues of ‘home’ but I know people who did; people who began or ended sentences using two words, back home, nostalgia trailing their voice—ah the warmth of the sun back home, the friendliness of people back home, the sense of belonging back home, back home I used to …, and on and on.

I put up with whatever inconvenience being a minority in a foreign country brings, not forgetting that the country from which I came also has issues, in some respects, bigger issues. If the grass is greener on the side where you water it, then I did not want to waste my water. I watered my grass in The Netherlands and watered it some more.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s opening paragraph is instructive. He writes, “I never chose exile; it was forced on me.” But the heart plays tricks on even those who became ‘exiles’ by choice. When I arrived home, I discovered that I had managed to exaggerate some virtues and had forgotten about Our National Pastime

Read about it here.

©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.