To Close A Series [2]

love-is

A friend called me after reading one of the episodes of the Fly series to say that the dialogue reminded him of the way we were, making me want to sing only this line from Adele’s Hello, hello from the other side! Instead tongue-in-cheek, I quoted William Faulkner in no particular order.

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.

Are you writing about yourself, is the question I was often asked while the series continued. I have mostly reconciled myself to the downside of writing a personal blog, which is that readers assume consciously or subconsciously that the stories on your blog are about you. No longer so uptight about being vulnerable, I took this question and its variants cloaked in concern, to mean that the dialogues were relatable and believable. Their questions were in fact a roundabout compliment.

I have never previously dragged out a story on my blog as I did this series. What began as a one-off fun post, a bull’s eye response to a dear friend’s endless matchmaking, grew to ten articles spread over two-and-half months because you asked for more.

I told Ife Nihinlola, my partner in the Fly series and a talented writer whose essays I enjoy reading, that the best stories are woven around love and relationships; throw in a moral dilemma to achieve transcendence. After the badass protagonist has destroyed the villains and saved the planet, we will him to kiss the beautiful woman he fought for as they walk into the sunset. Nothing touches our core like what we are wired for, love.

As the series continued, we had to be deliberate about the twists we would introduce and the manner in which they would be resolved. Ife and I resorted to using readers’ feedback as a guide because we realized we had sparked something in our readers, we had connected. I was humbled and tickled when I read something to this effect: Timi, please don’t spoil it now that they are happy.

We tossed ideas about what felt natural and what felt as though we were trying too hard and all the while, the plot was challenging my own ideas about love and relationships too. The decision to conclude the series was bittersweet.

“What if in the next episode, I make the happy couple, twenty-nine-year-old Junior and thirty-five-year-old Old Woman, bump into one of Junior’s flirtatious younger female friends at the mall?”

I agreed with Ife when he said that he wasn’t so sure. I had thoroughly enjoyed my stint as a Shonda Rhimes scriptwriter wannabe.

In the end, this is what I aimed to do all along; make you rethink your ideas about love, sex, romance, relationships, and friendships while entertaining you. You tell us if we succeeded.

On Facebook, I noticed that a friend shared one of my posts on her Timeline. Underneath the article was a comment from one of her friends asking her to share my post on their WhatsApp group for further discussion. My brain thought about copyright issues, my heart saw so clearly, why I write.

On this blog, I don’t write for myself although I write for people like me. Big difference. Small difference. If you stopped reading, I would stop writing—what would be the point? I cannot thank you enough for believing in Livelytwist.

 

©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.

 

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To Close A Series [1]

shakespeare-quote

As someone who steers clear of romantic love, I seldom write love stories to avoid sounding like a fraud. Writing this series has therefore been a learning experience, both in the art of collaborations and writing love stories. The process was easy because Timi called the shots, setting the premise and plot points, while I simply reacted to the elements of the story she threw up from the conversations. This also freed me to focus more on the personality of the characters than the plot points, because if left to my whims, all love stories would end as tragedies.

In writing the series, I tried to pose questions to myself and find answers in the conversations of the characters. What hope does a guy who isn’t assertive have in a relationship? How do men talk about the things they are accused of avoiding in conversation? Readers’ responses to the characters’ conversations were illuminating, showing how we gauge romantic relationships we observe close-up. No question was as instructive for me as this: at what point, and because of what traits, do we declare someone unworthy of another’s love?

Love, like a drug high, pushes people to act in ways that appear insane to outside observers, but carry a fierce internal logic to the people in love—the ones shooting up. So, when we proclaim that an observed trait in someone renders them unlovable, it sometimes turns out that that very trait is the reason their lover has chosen them. The more we criticize their lover, the less sense we make, and the more they are disposed to ignoring us.

In spite of the insulation by romance that the above suggests, couples rarely escape the influence of the times they live in, including their cultures and upbringing. We are products of our interaction with other humans, whether we acknowledge their influence or not.

Without discounting personal responsibility, you and I are more culpable in the actions of people we berate than we think. In the series, a twenty-nine-year-old man contemplates dating a thirty-five-year-old woman and confides in his friend, his worries about her fertility. What would have happened if his friend responded by telling the story of his aunt who married at forty and now agonizes over not having a child or having a baby with down syndrome, which made her husband marry a second wife?

In the past year, I’ve fielded more questions from friends and family about my romantic life than the two decades before it. Why are you not in a relationship? Is something wrong? Ife, are you keeping her way from us? I often tell people I don’t have time to think about these questions, but whom am I kidding? I cannibalized some of my experiences from answering questions like these in drafting the dialogues.

We should stop blaming fairy tales and Hollywood for love fantasies being absent of reason, or people doing stupid things in the name of love. That is how all lovers look to people like me who are too scared to be enchanted by it. It is not reasonable for the Beauty to love the Beast, but she does, and we root for them. Jack should have stayed away from Rose, but he didn’t and the Titanic sank.

A character from the movie Hellboy said, “You like people for their qualities, but love them for their defects.” And while I think this is the loophole that serial killers exploit to find lovers, it’s also the premise of our greatest love stories: Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Ifemelu and Obinze, and so on.

Stories, when done right, should make us more empathetic, more open to possibilities in the human experience that are outside our imagination. So, perhaps we should reassess the conditions we set for finding people desirable and worthy of love. Not just when the potential lovers are ours, but when they are of people close to us, too. This isn’t a call to remove all relationship standards, but only that these standards—be they age, class, or temperament—be filtered through lenses coloured with kindness. After all, a wise man once said, the law was made for man, and not man for the law.

I still believe fairy-tale endings are an exception in this fly-catching business, but I’m all for lives suffused with kindness that give way to love.

 

©Ife Nihinlola 2016 @ IfeOluwa’s Rambles

 

©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.

 

To Date A Fly

to date a fly

Follow the story, read: To Not Catch A Fly

 

To Date A Fly

“Is there something wrong?”

“No, eh nothing.”

“You’ve been frowning . . .”

“I’m just looking at the menu that’s all.”

“Oh? I think you’ll like the plantain and coconut fritters served with peppered ginger sauce and sautéed prawns with herbs and seasonal vegetables. You could do a side order of—”

“Well I don’t see why they have to decorate fried plantain and stew and call it by a fancy name. Dodo is just fine.”

“It’s fine dining cuisine. It’s not just about frying plantain, it’s about the textures and flavours—”

“Are those codes for the food? Those numbers on the side of the menu?”

“Ha ha ha! You’re joking right? Duh, that’s the Naira code, the price.”

“Whew! Wow that’s one expensive plantain. Did they import it from the Amazon rain forest?”

“What’s the problem? This is my treat. They should have given you the menu without—”

“I’m taking you out. There’s no way I’ll let you pay—”

“Point of correction. I am the one who asked you out—”

“Okay, it doesn’t really matter who invited who. We’re here now and I’ll be handling the bill—”

“Then stop moaning please . . .”

“Sorry about that.”

“Shall we order? Are you ready to order drinks now?”

“Y . . . yes.”

“The wine selection is excellent. This special occasion calls for a—”

“Th . . .Tho . . . Those begin from N13,500 for a bottle?”

“Actually that’s like. . . what’s today’s exchange rate . . . $13 for a glass, if we just go for two glasses, which is why . . . anyway, what do you fancy?”

“I think I’ll have water. Whew! Em . . . this water, is it from a mountain in Israel?”

“You’re joking right? You’ve started again . . .”

“It’s it’s—”

“What is the matter now?”

“Look let me just be honest. I don’t spent this kind of money on meals. It can feed many starving kids in Ethiopia!”

“Your car . . . You have a car, right?”

“Of course!”

“Why haven’t you sold it and used the money to buy bicycles for the suffering in India?”

“B . . . But—”

“And for your information, don’t buy into that poverty porn narrative. What Africa needs is solid capital inflow to the real sectors—”

“Okay. Okay already! I’m just not used to places like this . . .”

“Well I don’t come here everyday either. Since it’s the first time we’re going somewhere other than a seminar, I just thought . . .”

“I’m not blaming you or anything. But I don’t want to disappoint you because what if I can’t keep up . . .?”

“Can I ask a personal question? Don’t you work in oil and gas? How much do you earn?”

“Em, that’s a bit invasive don’t you think? On a first date?”

“After eight seminars, no I don’t think so. In fact let’s even address the elephant in the room.”

“Sigh! The age thing is tricky—”

“That’s like the second elephant—”

“Oh?”

“What are we doing? I mean where’s this thing headed?”

“Well we are getting to know each other better—”

“Is that it? Is that all?”

“I . . .I . . .I  have an undeniable need to stare at your DP on WhatsApp ever so often and I lie awake wondering if midnight is too late to chat with you. I want to call you first thing in the morning because I wonder how you are but also because I like the way you sound and the memory of what you sounded like the day before is no longer enough. I want to lace my fingers with yours and watch you add color to my world as you laugh at something silly I said . . . When I’m with you, I feel ten feet tall—”

“Oh . . .”

“Say something. Have you fallen for me like I’ve fallen for you?”

“I’m six years older! By the time I started developing breasts you were learning that one plus one equals two!”

“And I grew up to be excellent at maths—”

“Be serious!”

“I’m serious. I’ve thought of nothing else . . . I even watched a programme on Al Jazeera about the viability of eggs in older women—”

“Excuse me? What did u say? Thirty-six is not menopause!”

“I didn’t mean it like that—”

“We don’t even know if your sperm can swim!”

“Ah-ah is this how it’s going to be?”

“How can you say something like that?”

“Do you want me to be lying to you?”

“At least you could have been diplomatic . . .”

“I’m sorry that my honesty is unbecoming. I promise to lie through my teeth to satisfy your vanity, so help me God!”

“Ha ha ha!”

“I worry that I need to make more money to satisfy your taste for this exotic plantain—”

“Ha ha ha! That’s it! I’m paying for dinner!”

“Give me your hand—”

“Why?”

“Woman stop fighting me at every turn! Give . . .  yeah, that’s better. Listen, six can be the number that conquers us or it can be our special number. I don’t have all the answers, but neither do you. I’m willing to work with you to check all the boxes. And when we come to a difficult one we’ll work on it together. Deal?”

“Hmmm. Okay.”

***

“The food wasn’t bad was it?”

“Plantain from the Amazon rain forest, prawns from Gambia, virgin cocktails from Mars . . . no, no, it could not be bad at all. It had to be good!”

“Ha ha ha! Please pass the dessert menu.”

“You … You’re having dessert?”

“Geez! Junior you look like you’re going to faint.”

“I am!”

“Ha ha ha! There are going to be many boxes to check under finances—”

“I can see that already . . .”

“Okay let’s skip dessert. I know this great ice cream place—”

“Ice cream from Jupiter?”

“Ha ha ha! From Earth, so pretty affordable—”

“What are you doing? Pass the bill—”

“No, it’s okay, I’m the one that brought you to Venus—”

“Stop! What are you doing? Stop! Waiter! Don’t do this—”

“Done. Paid with my card. That’s settled then. Ready?”

“You shouldn’t have—”

“Let’s not make a big deal out of this please?”

“Babes, two of us can’t wear the pants in this relationship—”

“Meaning?”

“Let me be the man.”

________________________________________

Dodo: Deep-fried ripe plantain

 

©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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portraits of Motherhood [4]

Motherhood4

A Question From My Daughter

After a day that threatened to break my distress-tolerance scale, I could not refrain from disintegrating in front of my five-year-old daughter. We were sitting in our kitchen and I was looking at her through eyes red and swollen, from crying.

“Mama who is your mommy?” she asked while typing gibberish comprising emoticons, punctuation marks, and jumbled-up letters on my phone. “I want to tell her you are sad.”

I giggled as though she had just pounced on me with one of her random tickles. I was pleased that she was brave enough to ask things I never dared to ask when I was a child.

“Your grandmother . . .  the one we visited recently . . .  where we slept over, is my mother,” I stuttered.

“Oh,” she replied.

I expected more questions but she seemed satisfied with my answer.  I, however, felt discontented. My answer contained only one half of the truth. How could I explain that I have two mothers or that it was possible to have two mothers?

Would she understand if I told her that I had been brought up as my grandmother’s sister’s child because my grandmother’s daughter, my mother, had given birth to me at a young age? And that the woman she called grandmother was really my mother’s maternal aunt?

In 1981, if you were twenty, schooling, and living with your parents or grandparents, as was the case in many black homes in South Africa, you were a child. Children did not raise children. They went to school. How could I tell her the truth—that sometimes mommies gave their babies away through a process called adoption? Would she not think that perhaps I too might give her to another mommy forever?

I decided to keep the answers in my things-to-tell-my-daughter-in-future file. I remembered that I was once a child who needed answers about the people who made up my family.

Unathi Kapa shares her thoughts on identity, culture, belonging, and purpose on unathikay

 

An Extra Mouth to Feed

In the shower, steam shrouds me but does not insulate me. I am thinking about money. I worry about my lack of it.

Once, when I manufactured a few minutes to play with him in the park, he threw the ball to me, an easy pass that I should not have missed.

“Mom you’re not looking!”

He was right, again. I am rarely present; I am in our future worrying.

“I’m sorry. Let’s play again.”

I threw the ball so it spun in an arc that began its descent farther away from where he stood. He was already moving back, calculating the trajectory of the ball. Before delight widened his eyes, weariness had narrowed them. How easily children forgive and forget.

Kalanne said that ever since she got a nanny, she was a better mother. By way of illustration, she said when Sowari spilled his milk, instead of screaming, “What’s wrong with you! Why are you so clumsy?” she now said, “Aw, darling be careful. Don’t worry Tari will clean up.”

I think that if I had money, I would be a better mother. I would not shout as I had done over the loss of his monthly bus pass, berating him with words from a tornado inside me.

I sigh and adjust the shower settings so hot water stings me like needles. When I leave my frugal pleasure-penance behind and open the door, he is there.

Steam rushes to embrace him, but it does not insulate him either.

“Mom, I’m sorry. Don’t send me to my dad. When I grow up I will buy you a car.”

Dangerous thoughts had been circling my mind. How wonderful to be free again. How much easier life without an extra mouth to feed.

I pull him close and wrap him in a fierce hug. My tears mingle with water droplets and disappear into his hair.

If the love of money is the main root of all evil, the lack of it is the secondary root.

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

The Empty Crib

We do not interrupt the drive home from the hospital with small talk. When we pull up in front of our house, the neighbours spring out from theirs. Their merriment uncoils in laughing smiles, waving arms, and dancing legs.

The confusion begins the moment I step out of the car. Their eyes travel from my empty arms to my ‘flat’ stomach and from my flat stomach to my empty arms, until someone blurts, “Where is the baby?”

We had not discussed how we would answer their questions. I go inside, while he stays behind to explain.

Death is a thief. It also stole my sleep. The sedatives they force me to drink, freeze in my digestive tract. I walk from room to room weeping for a daughter I never held. It is a long time before my legs give way and I lie on the carpet in the room with yellow walls and the empty white crib.

In the days following, they tell me I am lucky to be alive. I do not feel lucky; I feel empty. They tell me I am young; I can have other children. But, I wanted this one. Oh God, how I wanted this one.

In the beginning, I held a vigil for her every year, so she would know that even if everyone else forgot, I would not. Then one year I looked at the calendar and realized that while I was driving my son to football practice and watching my daughter pirouette in ballet class, her birthday had passed. I had not known that pain could fade into oblivion.

Now I understand what they told me many years ago: I will go to her, but she will not return to me.

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Can a woman forget her baby?
Can she forget the child who came from her body?
Even if she can forget her children, I cannot forget you.
I drew a picture of you on my hand. You are always before my eyes.
Isaiah 49:15-16

 

 

 

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.