The Magic of Readers

There are no awards for readers, at least, none that I know of, but there are awards for writers. Readers buy the book that wins the writer a prize, and yet without readers, there would be no writers.

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know. ― Alberto Manguel

I am indebted in no small measure to you because if you did not read, I would not write. Yes, I would scribble in my journal, but without the focus, discipline, excellence, and tenacity of the past four years. I would neither research nor stretch myself beyond the world I know. You inspire me to look for the gem in the mundane and tell it as creatively as I know how.

What Lee Hall wrote about the play, I find to be true about writing. “Whether you are a writer or an actor or a stage manager, you are trying to express the complications of life through a shared enterprise . . .  And live performance shares that with an audience in a specific compact: the play is unfinished unless it has an audience, and they are as important as everyone else.”

I view with suspicion, every writer—by writer, I refer to anyone who crafts words intentionally on a platform that another can access—who claims, “I don’t care if anyone reads what I wrote.” The search for significance is a universal pandemic and writing is one way we ask, “Is anyone out there? Can you hear me?”

Sometimes, I have wondered about this business of writing and questioned my destination, but you were there to assuage my vulnerabilities and validate my journey through your comments or private messages. I learnt to count on your consistency as much as you did mine, and I am a better writer because of you.

When I conceive an idea, the meaning is clear to me, but the challenge is to get you to see it. You complement me by filtering my words through your experiences and adding depth to them that I did not recognize. Like the time I wrote a silly story, about two lovers and you showed me that it was about immigration and integration. And you were kind to me. If you thought stories like, Six Is Just A Number, echoed my life, you did not judge me but kept your perspective to yourself.

When members of the London Poetry Society asked Browning to interpret a particularly difficult passage of Sordello, he read it twice, frowned, then admitted, “When I wrote that, God and I knew what I meant, but now God alone knows. ― Ralph Keyes

Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Readers are not sheep, and not every pen tempts them.” That my words have drawn a few is humbling and empowering, a weight of responsibility I have been proud to own.

The best part of writing at Livelytwist these past few years, was knowing that you were going to read what I wrote and not being disappointed, Sunday after Sunday. I cannot thank you enough for your uncanny generosity.

Thank you.

 

 

 

P.s. I stop blogging on this platform today.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/cup-book-breakfast-read-plan-2123710/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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When You Can’t Remember Loss

James Bekenawei on Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© James Bekenawei 2017

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

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

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Landscape of Friendship

friends-landscape

 

Sotonye and I were friends first. I forget now, how we met, that memory superseded by memories of our friendship: the innocence of it. We walked around town and hopped on buses to places too far to walk like the old amphitheatre at the university. One afternoon, we sat together on a leather beanbag, shoulders rubbing, while we fiddled with the controls of my parent’s Panasonic sound system. We took turns to put our cassettes into the tape deck and listen to each other’s mix tape.

“Sit apart!” my mother’s voice startled us. Before I could understand the implication of her words, Sotonye had sprung to the chair farthest from the beanbag, and from me, in the living room. That day heralded the beginning of the end of our friendship, I think.

After I met his best friends, Charles and Karibi, I saw Sotonye less and less. He caved under my persistent interrogation and admitted that he had kept a distance because Charles had warned him that girls like me could derail a guy’s destiny.

I should have told him that I was hurt, but I did not. I could have pointed out that in his stead, Charles was now spending more time with me, the destiny-stealer, and Karibi was a close second, borrowing books from the library to feed my love for books, but I did not. Universities were on strike and Sotonye was convinced that his future lay in the United Kingdom. His plans to relocate consumed his focus.

Ten years have passed since the alliance—three boys, then two boys and one girl— we formed crumbled because we grew up and went to discover ourselves on the map.

Presently, Charles and I are having lunch after a chance encounter earlier in the week, and I am reminding him of how we met. He is laughing so hard, he begins to cough.

“That’s not how it happened, didn’t I meet you first?”

“You wish,” I say, rolling my eyes.

“I can’t believe I did my guy like that!” He slaps his thigh, still amused.

“Better believe it; do you know where Sotonye is now?”

“Last I heard he’s still in the UK, directing theatre productions or something weird like that. That’s what Karibi said when I bumped into him, last year.”

“Karibi . . .” I say wistfully.

“You always liked him. That traitor who swooped in when I left for school—”

“No, it wasn’t like that at all. He was like a big brother to me.”

“Yeah, right!”

“Go away joor. He was the sweetest boy I’ve ever known.”

“That’s because he didn’t shave your head. Abeg, leave that thing!”

“We all were great friends . . .”

“Yes,” he agrees, “but you did not understand boys.”

We distill years past by exchanging phones and swiping photos, who’s this and where’s that, make our puzzle pieces fit faster. But photographs cannot capture all. Suddenly, Charles looks down at his drink and admits to being a closet alcoholic.

“It’s not so bad,” he says, looking up at me.

I nod. In the movement of my head and the steady gaze of my eyes, there is no judgement.

“Why don’t you tell someone who can hold you accountable on the road to recovery—”

“What! You haven’t changed! You’re still naïve . . . like back then . . .”

I trace the rim of my glass with my finger, uneasy and unsure of what he means.

“You still think everyone is like you, and everything is black and white,” he answers my unspoken question.

“No not really—”

“You trust easily. Haven’t people hurt you . . . enough?”

I sigh. Maybe I should not have let him look at all my photos.

“I am no longer afraid of getting hurt. But this isn’t about me. Isn’t your secret too heavy to bear alone?”

“I’ll survive. I haven’t told anyone . . . I don’t even know why I told you.”

I know why he told me. In just two hours, we have travelled back to the road leading to my parent’s house, where, unable to stop his voice trembling, he confided in me about his parent’s impending divorce.

The moment passes and we reminisce about happier times, about the place near the overhead bridge where we met in the evenings after Sotonye left. Charles would arrive with a packet of cigarettes and after he dragged on a cigarette a bit, he passed it round. I took tentative puffs while Karibi backed away as if it were a snake, reminding Charles of his asthma and me of the dangers of lung cancer.

“I gave up smoking,” Charles says. “Best thing I ever did.”

I nod again.

“You were the glue . . .” he begins.

“Nah,” I say, “Sotonye—”

“It’s true, everything was centred around you.”

He signals to the waiter for another drink. I shake my head, no.

“Do you think . . . answer me honestly, Charles . . . that boys and girls can just be friends?”

His answer is slow to come.

“I don’t know,” he says at last. “Even back then, Sotonye, Karibi, and I, wanted more.”

 

© 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.

 

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/

 

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.

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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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.

Named For Love

name

1.
Dad idolised his grandfather, Olutade. He was going to name me after him but his mother thought against it. Dad then opted for the longest rendition of the name: Oluwatomilade. He also named me after himself: Adebayo. Grandmother did not object. And thus, I was called Junior till I turned seven and began to—in retrospect—cringe-worthily inform the adults in my life that I was a senior.

 

2.
Oluwatomilade translates to, God is my crown, or God is enough for me as a crown. As far as spiritual connotations go, it is a compelling name. To wear God or his identity on one’s head should be a marvellous thing and I suppose it is. But I am more enthralled that Dad named me Oluwatomilade because he loved his grandfather, that perhaps he saw him in me.

 

3.
The answer to the question, what does your name mean to you, is it means more to my father than it does to me. That my name means more to him is what my name means to me. That I was named in and for the sake of love.

 

4.
I inherited my great-grandfather and father’s names, mum’s temperament, and grandfather’s head. In my younger years, I was also called Ori as a not-so-subtle ode to the size of my head. My uncle, Sammy, used to sing a song, Ori nla, nla nla, Ori. Big head, big big, big head. At home, at school, at church, three names accompanied me—Tomi, Junior, Ori.

 

5.
My friend, Arike, is obsessed with names. We have spent many minutes of many conversations pondering about the beauty of names, their language forms, meanings, how they roll off the tongue, and so on. She has a substantial list of names locked in memory, to be withdrawn when she brings forth children to this mad world. I think about names too. I like long names. Studying in a foreign land, long names like mine tend to punish the tongues of lecturers. I usually interject with, “Tomi!” to put them out of their misery. They always apologise. I am never offended. In fact, I secretly look forward to it.

 

6.
My brothers call me Tomi but sometimes, Lade. The story of Lade is this. In my senior year at boarding school, one of my roommates farted (I swear it wasn’t me), and as usual, accusations diffused around the room with the rancid sulphur. Ever the introvert, I remained silent, causing a friend to say, “It was Lade.” Lade has stuck since. I like Lade. It reminds me of boarding school, of the times I loathed school and how I grew to love it in the end.

 

7.
When she was still here, mum called me Tomi. But when she wanted to hail me, like Yoruba mothers tend to do, she called me by one of my other names: Bolu, from Moboluwaji. It means I wake up with God. To wake up with God means that God is there in my sleep, shielding me from the terror of night. It means that God is always there when I open my eyes—bad breath, crusty eyes, and all. This is magnificent but Bolu carries the weight of mum’s love. And it is heavy. And yet, ever so light.

© Tomi Olugbemi 2016

Tomi Olugbemi is a poet and student of International Politics. He spends his free time fretting about words and recovering from pessimism. He blogs at tomiolugbemi.com.

 

Photo credit: condesign/ https://pixabay.com/en/board-slate-blackboard-chalk-1614646/

©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.