Oh Dolly

OH DOLLY

 

 

My affinity for conspiracy theories ballooned and adopted a sophisticated veneer when I first moved here. In 2012, I sold my lucrative practice and waited for the Mayan apocalypse and the downfall of Facebook and the internet to no avail. Reading the Conspiracy Times halted my dejection. Through the mag, I joined a classified mission.

After three years of training, it was time to recruit others. I asked Tyrone to help me set up a Facebook account. He arrived one October day, wearing a navy hoodie with UNLV emblazoned on it.

“Was it easy making your way here?” I asked as I led him to the study.

“Why do you live in this wasteland, surrounded by solar panels? He sighed, “This is beyond frugal, man.”

“UFO sightings, global warming. It is going downhill faster than we expect—”

“Bullshit!”

The teak bookshelf in the corner housed the latest statistics, which proved my point. But I needed my Facebook account more than I need to be right.

“A coat of paint never hurt anyone.” He grumbled and pulled his seat closer to the table. “Choose a password; think alphanumeric.”

“Done.”

“Time to connect to people you know. Friend me.”

“What?”

He showed me how to send a friend request.

“Okay. Let’s hook you up with old friends—”

“But I haven’t kept in touch—”

“That’s what Facebook’s for.”

I searched for friends and sent requests. I was excited when my requests were accepted and I messaged some buddies from long ago.

We took a break on the porch, eating sandwiches and swigging from cans of root beer. I asked him about the layoffs in his company since the merger.

He shrugged. “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” He sprang from the bannister and the porch creaked. “What’s that,” he pointed.

“Satellite dish; they track Martian invasions—”

He shook his head. “Let’s go inside and connect you with some babes!”

I cleared our paper plates. He had created an uneven circular map on the bread slices leaving the bread crusts bereft. Earthlings were so wasteful.

Back in the study, he asked, “Names please?” and cracked his knuckles.

I looked away. “Just show me other things I can do.”

He whistled. “You don’t? . . . For your sake, I hope there are babes in your Mars.”

How could I explain transmutation? The world wasn’t ready for us yet. I hoped to build a small community on Facebook. I pointed to the screen.

“Oh that, look . . . find people you know. . . You can have up to 3000 or 5000 friends, I’m not sure—”

“I don’t want many friends.”

“This is Facebook. You don’t know what you want. Just add all the good-looking people . . .”

I examined each photo and then checked out the Timeline.

“You are too slow. A snail would have reached Utah and back!”

He took over from me and began to add friends at random. His definition of good-looking was at variance with mine. I winced.

“Wait a sec . . .” I placed my hands over his to stop the mouse.

“What?”

“That’s Dolapo!”

“Who’s she?”

“She . . . she . . .”

His impatience ruled. “Okay, I’ve added her.” And he continued adding. My mind journeyed back. What if?

He patted my back as he left, “You’re all set now. Facebook can be quite addictive. Maybe it’s what a hermit needs. ”

I thanked him and as soon as he drove off, I raced to Dolapo. Nothing on her Timeline indicated that she was married. She was still very pretty. But what was with her name, Yvonne Smith?

I kept checking to see if she’d accepted my friend request, reminding myself that I had joined Facebook to seek out fellow believers. The truth was, I had walked into Dolapo’s magnetic field and become her prisoner. She rewarded my two-week devotion by confirming my friend request. I wrote a message and deleted it.

I went to bed, but threw the covers after four hours of false sleep attempts.  She was online. My heart strained against its cage as I typed.

Hi

Hi there!

Dolapo? Is that Dolapo?

I am the artist formerly known as Dolapo. I’m called Yvonne now.

Are you related to Prince… who discovered the extraterrestrial bases on the moon?

???

Are you?

My performance gives me visibility and I accept many people as friends. No one has called me D for years. How are we connected?

Can’t you see my name?

I can, but it doesn’t ring any bells . . .

You’ve forgotten me so soon?

Pls I meet many people in my line of work…

Can’t you see my profile picture?

 

I waited. She had seen my message, but failed to reply. So, I went to bed and dreamt about asteroids colliding with the earth. A group of us from the classified mission worked with friendly aliens to rescue people. I scooped Dolapo in my arms and carried her to safety. She kissed me and called me her hero. 

The next day, I kept checking to see if she was online. The minute she was, I messaged her.

 Hi

Hi there? Dolapo?

It’s me David. Have I mistaken you for someone else? Is this not Dolapo? Dolapo Smith? Tani’s sister?


Her silence stung. I carried hope like deflated balloons. I still had not sought out other believers on Facebook. Two full days passed before her response came.

Hi David, please remind me again how we’re connected

My emotions unsettled me. Love was corrosive, reversing the effects of transmutation. But how could I let this opportunity pass? My hands trembled as I typed.

UI … set of ‘89


When she responded minutes later, I was still sitting in my study panting like a dog.

Ah, that was over 20 years ago. Please provide some context.

What more context do you want? Haven’t you seen my profile picture?

Is that how you looked 20 years ago?

Give me your number, let me call and tease you …

 

She didn’t respond. My joke had fallen flat. I was wondering how to remedy the situation, when I saw notification for a new message. I clicked greedily. She had sent a photo.
internet meme
Who did she think she was? A mere Earthling! 

Dolapo, I used to visit you in your hostel on campus. And during the holidays, I would buy suya and bring to your house in Ibadan.

David, thanks but I don’t remember.

What do you mean, you don’t remember? A man who came to your room every day and to your house many times? So all this while, I wasn’t even existing for you?

David, have a nice life, I’m out.

Look Dolapo or Yvonne or artist, a man can’t be after a girl for twenty-six years. Enough is enough. You too have a nice life!

 

I deactivated my Facebook account and picked up the latest copy of Conspiracy Times. The cover stole my attention: Uncovered D-Day 2016. I scanned the article, a familiar excitement racing through my veins. I pulled the receptor from the bookshelf and set it on the table. Then I tinkered with the transmitter. It took a while, but I found the frequency.

I ran outside and stood in the force field created by the satellite dishes. The dot of light in the black sky grew bigger. The grass swayed and plants shook. My legs quivered as the flying saucer hovered above. The blood moon prediction was a hoax, but 2016 was sure. Despite NASA’s denials, the pole shift had started.

I smiled, closed my eyes, and waited for the pull. That will show Mark Zuckerberg and Google and Dolapo. Yes!

The phosphorescent beam penetrated my being. I held my breath for as long as I could. My reflection in the giant eye of the alien who steered the saucer, shocked me. The outline of my human heart appeared first and then throbbed like a living thing. The verdict came through the speakers of the spacecraft. 

Abort Mission. All Systems Abort Mission.
Love Spell. Transmutation Unaccomplished.

The saucer rose and receded, twinkling in the night sky. I fell on the ground and cried, “Oh Dolly!”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

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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Twice Played

twice played

 

I thought he was a nutter. But it was either him or the girl spooning rice from a white paper bag with wagamama embossed in black. The smell of fried rice caused the contents of my stomach to heave. I turned away from her and walked towards him.

He was leaning back, one shoulder edging the window. Two fingers formed a V beside his head, while his other hand went to work in rapid movements. He set his face this way and that.

“May I?” I looked at the rucksack on the seat.

His eyes met mine and blood rushed to his face. He mumbled something and gathered his rucksack.

I sat down and resisted the urge to judge. People take selfies all the time. Outside the window, the fields and rivers rushed by. I stretched my legs and closed my eyes.

“Cou . . . could you do me a favour?” he rubbed my arm.

I swallowed my irritation and produced a sitting-next-to-another-homo sapiens-in-the-train smile.

“Please can you take a selfie . . . with me?”

“What?”

“A selfie together . . . I . . . I just want to make me girlfriend jealous . . .”

Behind his glasses, his eyelashes were long and straight, reminding me of the fake lashes Sharon wore. Dark curly hair and full lips, a geek like the one I had once loved.

“Will you, please?”

“Eh . . . How old is your girlfriend?”

“I’m twenty-four and she’s your age, twenty-one.” He held out his phone and leaned towards me.

I leaned away. He looked twenty and I had guessed his girlfriend was eighteen. I am twenty-seven. Numbers mean nothing. I remembered twenty-one and pleasure stroked something inside me. That geek from long ago. I leaned in.

“But, why do you want to make her jealous?”

He put his head on my shoulder. Before I could blink, click.

“Ssssh!” A silver-haired woman sitting across us put one finger to her lips and gestured to the silence icon on the window. Her frown finished her sentence.

We muffled our laughter like teenagers reveling in our youthful secret. His right hand snaked along my shoulders, drawing me closer. I started to protest, but the woman looked up from her book and glowered at me. So I stuck out my tongue at her and mouthed, “Twenty-one forever.” His left hand worked faster—click, click, click.

As we disembarked, he said, “Thank you so much.”

“For the optics, right? Good luck!”

He smiled. I waved.

Two days later when I saw his friend request, I hesitated. Then confirmed. He messaged me immediately.

hi

hi…

it’s me

i know

how do u know?

ur photo? duh?  🙂

oh  🙂

how did you find me?

ur name on ur train card

oh hmmm. K. was she jealous?

ummm

?

change ur rship status

y?

so she’ll believe

believe what?

brb …

I tapped my foot, perused my news feed, liking this and that, willing the message icon to turn red. After forty minutes, I sighed and liked one more cat photo before going to bed. The next morning, I had 107 notifications; likes and comments on a photo I was tagged in. My heart raced as I clicked on the post. The caption: my girlfriend likes it hot. I screamed. Just then, one new message.

hi  🙂

WTF is wrong with you? Take down d photo now!!!!

y? u don’t like coffee?

that’s beside the point!

everyone likes starbucks.

I.Am.Not.Your.Girlfriend.

brb …

I called in sick and seethed through a day of brb-conversations; dead ends that made me curse. I fielded unhelpful comments in response to the disclaimer I put up on my Timeline. The Support Team recommended untagging myself, since the photos did not violate their community rules. Meanwhile, they would investigate. Every spare minute, I lived on his page. Five hundred and twenty-seven comments. Who the hell was this geek!

Sharon believed in shaping destinies. “Good things don’t come to people who wait. Sh*t does,” she said.

She asked around and found this guy from Serbia. People whispered that his large hands, which now tended roses, had done things during the war. We met him in the alley where the back doors of restaurant kitchens opened and rubbish bins stood in rows of twos, three figures bathed in darkness. When I handed him the cash, he didn’t count it.

“Just teach him a lesson . . . no more.” I looked up, but not at his eyes.

He didn’t reply.

That night, I slept sitting up in bed with my laptop on my thighs. By the next morning, the post had disappeared. I returned to work.

Two days later, my boss called me to her office. Two men in black suits sat at the small conference table. They introduced themselves before escorting me to the police station.

The man from Serbia was already there. He crossed his arms and wore a scowl. My tormentor stood a few feet away, a gash on his forehead and one eye swollen shut. I glanced away. The detectives offered me a seat.

“Wait here,” the taller one said.

I wondered if I would wake up to my life and tell Sharon about my dream, but someone tapped my shoulder. I shrieked and jumped. She was five feet two with slanted eyes under a black fringe bob. Twenty-two maybe, but numbers mean nothing.

“I, Anita,” she stretched her hand.

I paused and then took it. Could it get any worse?

She pointed with her chin to the man from Serbia. “You not his type. Why you do it?”

Who was she? Leather jacket, skinnys, knee-high boots—

“I writing a book. My life f**ked up now. Photo on internet and Instagram. Tell your story. We make book; sell to publisher. America publisher? Quick money. Or Kindle.” She shrugged. “Which you like?”

Wait; hang on, internet, Instagram? “Your photo is where?”

“Yours hot. More likes. Men like blonds.”

Images of my head photoshopped on a body with huge breasts and captioned, Date Girls from Russia, floated in my mind. No way!

She stretched her phone towards me and I grabbed it. Compared to this, the photo of me drinking coffee on geek’s lap was timid. I was lying in a bathtub. Red rose petals tried to make me decent, barely. I shook my head. The account belonged to one Don Serbia. Hang on, the profile picture. His f**king profile picture! I looked at the man from Serbia, rage seizing my heart.

“This one pretty. You see more?” She retrieved her phone and began scanning.

I backed her and called Sharon. Sharon listened and then said, “Don’t panic. I know of a guy from Armenia—”

“Very funny! Is he on Pinterest?”

I closed my eyes so my tears didn’t fall. My promotion was due in two weeks—the first person under thirty to make senior manager.

Slanted eyes tugged my sleeve. “Why you do it? Evly publisher want know . . . what’s your story?”

The detective returned and motioned to me. I stood and swept my hair to the side. She looked at my wool-blend coat and fingered the Armani label as though she had found gold.

“I wait for you. You smart; speak English like native. We make good team—coffee and cream. America publisher, yes?”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

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.

Skype Dad

shoes & tie

He promised us that everything would be okay. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be okay.
That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father.
– Jonathan Safran Foer –

I was raised in a time when being a man included protecting and providing for one’s family as the primary breadwinner. This drive, not my alarm clock, is the reason I am out of the house before 8 a.m. Due to the changing economic landscape, I can no longer marry one job for life. My friends and I have changed jobs at least thrice, foraging for choice assignments on different continents.

I work 6000km away from where my family resides. Every other fortnight, at the end of a six-hour flight and one-hour cab ride, I turn my key in the lock of our home. Depending on the time of the day, the sound of “Daddy! Daddy’s home!” fills the hallway extinguishing any trace of weariness. Some months I spend more time with them because of national holidays or meetings, which are scheduled near the city where they live.

One evening, exasperated that my eight-year old wasn’t concentrating on his homework, I let out, “I’ll soon knock some sense into your head!” I didn’t mean it of course. He must have thought I did, because he replied, “No, you can’t,” and laughed while throwing his pencil in the air.

He was right. I could not have. We were on Skype.

Skype gives me the illusion that I am there for breakfast on weekends and dinner and bedtime on some weeknights. I am sometimes forgotten on the kitchen table, left staring at the white ceiling, when TV or something else captures my children’s imagination. Their vocabulary includes poor connection and weak signal and we have learnt to decipher the ‘omens’ of the Wi-Fi signal bars on our devices like fortune-tellers predicting the future.

This present-absence weighs on my heart. Am I a good dad? Am I missing my children’s growing years? Will they grow up resenting me? Have I exhausted the options for securing a job closer home? Beyond financial security for my family, what about my self-actualization and professional growth?

There are stretches of time when my colleagues, men and women who live with their families in the city where I work, hunch over spreadsheets and reports, late into the night. As I leave them behind and head to my small apartment, I contemplate the difference between 11km and 6000km. Is it the weekends?

Absence can make the heart fonder or ponder. If I am fully present when I am with my children, the memories we create as I drop them off at school or play with them in the park, might put paid to questions my absence creates. Nevertheless, their mum’s constant sacrificial presence, for which I am tirelessly thankful, reinforces the answers they seek.

One night after I read my daughter a bedtime story and kiss her goodnight, my lips leave a tiny film of moisture on my iPad screen. The sensation is cool, but my heart remains warm for a long time afterwards.

 

Skype Dad travels round the globe on business assignments, but is home at every opportunity. He shared his story with me in reaction to the post, A Man Just Like You and Me.

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash/ https://pixabay.com/en/leather-shoes-boots-tie-laces-691609/

 

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.

Forging Connections through the Internet

connection

A friend shares a story about a CSI-style drug bust sans gunfire in her apartment building. When the police question her about her neighbours who are involved in the crime, they are surprised that she knows so little about them. I am not. Once, I saw a man fitting a key into the lock of a front door two houses from mine. He waved as I walked past and I nodded in response. I hadn’t seen him before. Maybe he is a neighbour. Maybe he is a thief. This is city life.

It is against this backdrop that I wonder if the internet and social media and the technology behind them are responsible for the distance and disconnect among people living in the same physical space. Before cell phones, Facebook, and Twitter, we insulated ourselves from each other with newspapers and earplugs on the bus or train. Maybe technology is neutral; it just amplifies who we already are.

In his 2011 TEDx Talk, Simon Sinek argues that nothing replaces human contact. He says, “. . . technology is absolutely fantastic for the exchange of information and the exchange of ideas. Technology is absolutely wonderful for speeding transactions. It’s wonderful for resourcing and finding people, but it is terrible for creating human connections. You cannot form trust through the internet.”

Since that talk, human interaction via the internet has been steadily rising as evidenced by increase in social media use. When I emailed people whom I had only ‘met’ on the internet and asked them to each write a 300-word piece on some aspect of motherhood for my blog, I was asking them to trust me with their stories. How could they be sure I would treat their stories with integrity? How could I be sure that they would deliver the stories they said they would?

For me, transactional trust began by examining their digital footprint—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or blog profiles, and the writing on their blogs. I suspect the converse is true for them too and that having mutual digital friends played a part. Working together to polish stories necessitated questions about word choice and sentence structure, which fostered meaningful connection. It was humbling to hear their backstories.

In the end, you read the finished story, and all our worlds became smaller because story mirrors life and life mirrors story. Every story on your phone or tablet or laptop was an invitation to trust and an opportunity to forge connection.

Writing can create empathy and establish credibility. If trust is a function of the part of the brain that has no capacity for language, causing people to look at empirical evidence and still say, “Something doesn’t feel right,” then some kind of digital intuition is vital to navigate the future because we are using technology to form human connection after all.

I agree that nothing replaces human contact; nothing should. However, until I meet you in person, I hope technology continues to connect us through words.

I cannot thank you enough for knitting your heart with ours as we shared what motherhood has meant to us this past six weeks.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

p.s. Thank you Ozoz, Afi, Eileen, Elaine, Taye, Yvonne, Joxy, Brina, Unathi, and Tamkara!

 

Photo Credit: Kaboompics/ http://pixabay.com/en/technology-laptop-keyboard-computer-791029/

 

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 Measure of a Man

sorry

An apology that never came changed her view of life.

Bode and Chinyere met on WordPress. While working on his master’s thesis, Bode wrote retrospectively about the 2008 Financial Crisis when financial institutions fell like a deck of cards, one after another. The simple way he explained complex economic theories and the poetry he used to assign blame, in stanzas, inspired Chinyere to follow his blog. At the end of each blog post, he posed questions that drew comments from her. In responding to her comments, he stoked a friendship as though he was tending to embers in the fireplace.

When he wrote that post she didn’t agree with, she thought it best to send a private email. What started in public, mushroomed in private. Forty-four emails later, she knew his favourite food, sushi, the movie he never tired of watching, Schindler’s List, and that both his parents were professors. As they tangoed near the perimeters of their deepening friendship, she moved from being his favourite reader to his dear friend. The first time he referred to her as darling, she danced in tandem, placing a one-eyebrow-raised smiley next to the word sweetheart in her reply.

She imagined what darling would sound like if he said it; she envisioned a baritone, like her boss’s, whom she secretly admired. She felt safe in Nigeria, eleven hours away, from her Toronto sweetheart, Bode, whose handsome face smiled at her whenever she read his blog.

One Saturday, their email exchange, interspersed with LOLs and smileys, over the wonders of touch screen and autocorrect spelling, spanned the evening and spilled into the night. Joking about a political scandal that involved an elder statesman and nude photos of his beautiful mistress, he wrote, “I bet you’ve got a body to die for like hers.”

The half-smile, still on her face from their previous exchange, died and her lips closed into a straight line. Scrolling through the email thread, she searched desperately for it—that email or reply from her that gave him the nerve. She searched again. And again. Finally, she slept with a frown on her face, questions etched on her brow.

She did not reply the next day. Or the day after. She immersed herself in work like a zombie, neither feeling nor caring. How could he have written that? What had she done to encourage him? On the fourth day, he emailed. He had pined for her reply; he had grabbed his phone every time it beeped and driven his professor mad with error-strewn work. He guessed the joke had rubbed her the wrong way, but was it now a crime to joke with a dear friend? He was sorry even though he didn’t know what he was sorry for.

She read his email several times. He had written it in the same simple way he explained complex economic theories, using poetry to assign blame, in stanzas. But, it lacked the sincerity upon which people build great friendships. Two days it was before she fashioned a reply. Discarding the word sweetheart, she wrote:

Dear Bode,

Your joke was in bad taste. I have since evaluated the sixty-three emails we exchanged, and can find no reason why you would share a joke like that with me. Btw, I read your recent post and I agree that the bailout of banks by national governments should be a temporary measure only; it should not be the cure-all. I will share more on your blog later today.

His reply was swift. She had wondered if it would come. She had considered that the curtain had fallen on a friendship that spanned four months and she had already started mourning. Clutching her phone, hope fluttered in her heart and unsteadied her hands.

Dear Chinyere,

I am sorry. What I wrote was inappropriate and lacking better judgement. I offended you and I am sorry. If you can forgive me, I would like to continue being a friend.

That was not the reply she received; it is the one she wished she had. After two weeks, she knew his reply would never come. As weeks turned into months, she left fewer and fewer comments on his blog. She liked to think that his not responding to her comments did not influence her decision to stop altogether.

Today when Chinyere measures a man, she does not take into account the school where he acquired his MBA or the features that make him attractive. German or Japanese, his car keys hold no lure. It is his apology; the quality of his apology is the measure of a man.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: primenerd / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hiroic/8521967145/

Title: Stranger Nº 5/100 – Robbel

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.