More Than the Sum of All That

compass

My aunt is wearing a striped tube dress with spaghetti straps. When she sits, love handles circle her tummy like three rubber tires. “Timi, where have you been?” she asks, but does not expect an answer. I am there and it is enough. She sucks me in a tight embrace, her warmth spreading over me, her smile wide. 

The years apart are too many to fit into an evening. We make small talk highlighting the events that count. Did I hear what happened to her son? Only God could have saved him. And what about me and my hopes for tomorrow? I do not burden her with sad news; there is no need to slow down the tempo of the music we are making. Soon we are silent, each of us locked in our world, making sense of words.

When my sister says, “Aunty you look as young as ever,” she returns to the present.

“No o. I am old.”

My sister counters, “You’re looking young. No one would believe if you tell them your age.”

“Please don’t deceive me, don’t give me false hope,” she says like a woman who has been lied to and preyed upon. She pats her Halle Berry wig and looks at me with a small smile.

She is seeking corroboration from me. I cannot just give it, mouthing empty words. I do not know how old she is. I have no compass with which to navigate true north, therefore I cannot tell if she is indeed looking young. Having not seen her for years, in which I harboured memories of her younger fashionable self, she is in fact looking old to me.

My sister and my aunt continue the cycle of compliments and weak rebuttals. I fight within myself. Where is true north?

“Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Of a certain size and color. A certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name. The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place,” Cormac McCarthy wrote. 

My aunt’s husband is long gone; one son is far away, the other closer by, and her only daughter died too early. She has forged a whole life for herself apart from them. Her carefully made up face—thin black-pencilled brows, two large dots of muted raspberry rouge, and red lips that complement her hazel skin—is like a photo from another era. She has weathered storms and raised many children that are not hers, including me. I sense her hunger to be seen and admired as I too have on occasion hungered to be seen and admired.

I stop fighting because I have conquered myself.

“Aunty,” I say, “You look young and beautiful.”

It is not false hope; it is true. I remember learning that a (magnetic) compass almost never shows true north. True north is different from magnetic north, which changes depending on local magnetic variation. About a million years ago, the position of magnetic north even wandered closer to the geographic South Pole.

I had planned to ask my sister how old my aunt is. But when we leave, I let the question die in my throat. What does it matter? I am in charge of my compass. Moreover, she is more than the sum of all that.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/compass-magnetic-orientation-801763/

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.

Advertisements

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.

Hands That Bind

hands-that-bind

1.
The girls in my dorm sang Shakira’s Whenever Wherever, as someone drummed on a wooden surface. I stood in the middle of the room twisting my waist, when from the window, we heard, “Will you keep kwayet!” We paused but did not keep quiet. We whispered, “Will you keep kwayet,” to each other, mimicking the voice of the matron on night patrol, and stifling laughs. After she walked away, we resumed business. It was still my turn to dance. In that moment, I overcame my self-consciousness and danced with all eyes on me. I rarely dance in public because I still feel self-conscious. But when I do, I remember that night in secondary school and I feel light and free.

 

2.
In this photograph, we rest our heads against each other’s, you in a blue swimsuit; me in black, at Tarkwa Bay Beach, where the waves roll and froth like white foam. We roomed in the same dorm in junior secondary school; bunk beds joined so we lay side by side, the ceiling nearer us from our top bunks. While others slept, we traded stories, gossip, and laughter. You are in my earliest memories of holding hands. Sometimes, while others went to the dining hall for dinner, we took long walks, hands laced together at fingers and talked the way teenagers do: in earnest and in jest. You are the reason holding hands has become a lifelong habit. I peer at the picture once more. Even in the water, my right hand is on your elbow.

 

3.
One night in our first year in the university, we dressed up and headed to a room full of teenage bodies pumping hormones and loud music coaxing hands into the air. I was dancing with a guy when another guy stood behind me. In seconds, I was sandwiched between two sweaty, gyrating bodies. My eyes searched for her across the room. There. Also sandwiched between two guys. Our eyes met. We slipped away from the crowd. Side by side, we sat outside, silence wedged between us. Cool breeze brushed against our skin as trees swooshed around us, and above us, the big moon watched.

 

4.
I used to tell my friends, “If you’re going to sleep on my bed, your legs have to be clean,” and they could not understand why dirty feet irritated me so much. One night, in my room off campus, three of us sprawled out on my small bed and talked about the future, how our hard work would translate to wealth and travel. We promised to make time to hang out no matter how busy our lives became. Someone was supposed to sleep on the other bed across the room, but when I woke up, it remained neatly laid. Perhaps our tangled limbs heralded the future we had planned hours before, the connections we would always share. For once, I didn’t mind seeing dirty feet on my bed. Maybe I even smiled.

 

5.
Back then, physics and chemistry tried to make school frustrating for her. I didn’t know what it felt like to pour effort into something and not get the desired result. When she cried, I held her, wishing I could share my good grades with her. After secondary school, we proceeded to different universities. When we met again, she asked me about school.
“I haven’t been doing very well,” I replied.
She looked at me for an infinitely revolving second, “What happened?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know.”
She held my hand, “Kemi, you have to do well.”
I didn’t know what to say, but I knew she understood this kind of struggle and heard my unvoiced frustration.

 

6.
For weeks after we broke up, I didn’t tell my friends. All I wanted was to heal from this thing I mistook for love. Then I told them.

What? Is he out of his mind?
How could he have done that?
Kemi, you have to let go, that guy never even deserved you in the first place
.

Two years later, she still says, “He’s such an asshole.” I want to reply, “Babe, relax. I’m long over it,” but I smile instead.

 

7.
On one of our evening walks in senior secondary school, I asked you about your biggest fear. “Old age,” you said, “wrinkles, shaky knees, and dementia, that’s scary.” I imagined myself, grey and waddling to my favourite chair in the living room, but I was not afraid. My biggest fear is getting old and looking back at empty years of tedious inaction, never having achieved what I was created to do, and wondering if memories of Shakira’s Whenever Wherever, are phantasms sent to tease me.

© Kemi Falodun 2016

Kemi Falodun loves words and fine sentences. She writes short stories, essays, and occasionally, book reviews. She blogs at KemiFalodun.

 

Photo Credit: AdinaVoicu/ https://pixabay.com/en/hands-friendship-unit-together-1445244/

 

©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.

Music, Love, and the Occasional Heartbreak

music-headphones

1.
This is how I know I have fallen in love; I listen to Toxic over and over without grimacing, I croon …with the taste of your lips, I’m on a ride…, with feeling and his picture on my mind, then I flip my imaginary blonde locks the way Britney Spears does in the video. Sometimes, Rihanna reflects the true state of my jumbled emotions—those surges of oxytocin we call falling in love. I find myself hunting for, the only girl in the world, and singing along with the gusto of a drunken man. I know then that it is futile to deny that my feet are wet while the waves carry me from shore to pulsing sea.

 

2.
I was born to two Lionel Richie fans, although one was more passionate than the other was. My earliest memories are of my younger brother and me boogying on the sofa and table to Dancing On The Ceiling and of longing to be grown-up and independent as I listened to Easy. Now I wish I’d stayed a child for longer. Adulthood is not the easy ride it seemed to be in the days when I longed to do everything by myself, to be free to make decisions that affect my life, and to marry Lionel Richie or Daniel Wilson if I could not land Lionel. Daniel Wilson’s Raggamuffin made me think of swashbuckling adventures. I do not know why I thought that as a five-year old, I am just glad I did not develop a thing for bad boys.

 

3.
The first time I fell in love, I was eleven years old. It was at a Cowbell Maths Competition Gala and he was singing Careless Whisper. I could have followed him to Jupiter if he’d asked, however my father and his stern look would have frozen my legs and stopped me from following the summons of my achy-breaky heart. I have never forgotten him. Today when I listen to jazz, I wonder who he was and where the tides of life have tossed him. When I listen to either version of Careless Whisper (George Michael’s or Dave Koz’s), I can’t help wondering if his voice was as good as I remember.

 

4.
I broke up with my first boyfriend in a mostly deserted lecture hall at 4 a.m. after listening to James Blunt’s, Goodbye My Lover. I knew as I listened to the song for the first time that what we had was no longer viable. I do not for a minute regret ending that relationship and when I hear the song, I smile and think of him. I fell in love with my next boyfriend two years after we’d started dating. Bob Marley’s Is this love, blared from the speakers of the bus taking us to the park where I’d board a Lagos-bound bus. He sang along, his husky voice breaking and his eyes closed. He wasn’t singing to me but my foolish heart somersaulted as he sang and when my love meter clanged in warning, it was too late.

 

5.
Cher and Gloria Gaynor held me close and wiped my tears when he shattered my heart with spectacular precision. Believe and I will survive saved my sanity and even my life. When people say a song is just a mixture of words and rhythm, I want to punch them so bad. Music is spirit and pain and life and joy and all the things in between.

 

6.
Neither Josh Groban nor Aloe Blacc thought of me when they wrote Brave and Wake Me Up respectively. However, I wouldn’t have started a blog if I hadn’t listened to those songs as though they were water in the barren desert that was my soul. The lyrics inspired me to take this writing thing seriously and to trust the voices in my head and heart to lead me right across computer or phone screens and through life.

 

7.
I am the woman who goes to work with Phyno on both sides of my ears. His song, Oringo, transports me to a party for one, the rhythms from the east of the Niger River—my ancestral tom-toms—call the wild spirit I have restrained for too long. This is how I know I am free; I am on stage and the crowd is humming a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Be Wild. No, I am dancing to work and inviting interested stares although I have no blond locks to flick. My headphones trap the sound that come from Phyno’s heart. Maybe today, you will finally tap my shoulder and say, “Hello, it’s me.”

© Adaeze Ezenwa 2016

Adaeze Ezenwa lives in Lagos where she dodges traffic and fantasizes about becoming a billionaire before turning 35 and eating dodo daily without gaining weight. She rents a patch from WordPress at Emporium of Words, and her door is always open for conversation.

 

Photo credit: Spinheike/ https://pixabay.com/en/london-oxford-street-headphones-116018/

©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.

 

Panic Cord

panic-cord

1.
We stood in line for ballroom dancing and from my calculations; I would be waltzing with my crush. Just as the procession started, a girl jumped the line and squeezed herself in front of me. I ended up dancing with the largest boy in class who stepped on my foot on every third beat. I hated him then; but later asked myself if my feet didn’t get such a beating because I was staring longingly across the room at what my seven-year-old self thought was magic.

 

2.
I was one of those kids who got picked up really late from school almost always. So was the boy who asked my friend to be his girlfriend because I said no to him. When my ride showed up, I started to walk to the car when he ran out of the class and yelled, “Pemi, I love you!” It was dramatic, it was special. I paused but didn’t look back; I entered the car. My friend had said yes.

 

3.
Another boy walked up to my seat during a free period. He leaned forward and pressed both my hands to the table then said: “I like you.” He stared into my eyes without blinking. I closed my eyes and shook my head and my heart went faster. How did he know to hold me down? After a struggle, I ran out to the corridor, away from his words and into a possible punishment for being out without a pass.

 

4.
It was my first year in university and we were walking back from Studio. Our shadows converged under the streetlights and as his words strayed from funny to pensive, he deepened his voice and confessed to feelings. The distance between us and my hostel suddenly felt like a trap made of length. My insides played a game of Twister. He wanted to know what I thought, what I felt. A hot choking terror closed my throat and I searched for a panic cord to pull. I clutched my bag to my chest and didn’t stop running till I was in my hostel where men were denied entry.

 

5.
We sat in his car in front of my house. He had been waiting for me at the estate gate to give me a lift home, again. I was trying to understand how it wasn’t stalking. “Marry me, Pemi.” Just like that. I sat still, confused, wondering about the distance between strangers and life partners and how many steps should cover it. I muttered something, yanked the door open, and blocked his phone number. I started passing the long way home.

 

6.
I pulled away from the kiss and smiled at the smile on his face. His hands were light on my waist, feathery. I watched the emotions on his face morph from surprise to contentment. He leaned in again. “No, you have to go,” I said. I walked him to the front door, allowing a few feet between us so my hands wouldn’t betray me and reach out for him.
Cold air rushed in when he opened the door. “Have I done something wrong?”
I shook my head, no. He tried to approach me again, but slowly—as if I could fly away at any sudden movement.
“You have to go,” I repeated. Because if he stayed, he would stay and I didn’t know what happened after that.

 

7.
His head lay heavy on my stomach that quiet Saturday morning. My hands played with his hair. “Stop freaking out. You’re being irrational,” someone had told me. “Love is not a trap; a relationship is not a cage.” But what does it mean when someone builds a castle in the sky and urges you to enter it? How do you relay the asphyxiating fear of entering in with concrete shoes? My hands froze in his hair and his head became heavier and heavier and heavier on my belly, pressing me into the bed.

© ‘Pemi Aguda 2016

‘Pemi Aguda writes short stories and flash fiction that have been published here and there. Her short story Caterer, Caterer won the Writivism Short Story Prize 2015. She co-curates the website, Nik-Nak.co

 

©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.

 

Any Seven Stories From My Life [1]

dog-1123026_1920

Puppy Love

1.
“It was sweet of you to contact me while you were gone. Sending me jokes everyday on Whatsapp . . .” Because he smiled and did not say anything, I asked, “Did you not want me to forget you?” He shied away from his opportunity to laugh, to make our transition to serious matters easy. So, I said, “Now you’re back, you must stop sending me jokes.”
Anxiety replaced his smile. “Why?” he asked.

 

2.
Newly hired for the three-month project, he was a junior team member, also in age and in experience. It was irritating at first, his eagerness to please, distributing steaming coffee mugs then gathering them, please and thank you, leaking like diarrhoea from his mouth. Then it was cute. Then it was normal. He earned the name, Puppy, from my colleagues; they mouthed it and whispered it. They laughed when he wagged his tail and left the room.

 

3.
Nancy floats from office to office. I do not remember where she belongs. Nancy reads gossip blogs. She gets things done that nobody else can, which is why we listen to her without interrupting, each pair of eyes straddling two monitors rising from the wooden table in front of them. She said that when you work long hours and in the same space, even ugly men start to look attractive.

 

4.
One fourteen-hour day, as the sun dipped its chin in the horizon, I noticed Puppy was clean-shaven. I did not know I had spoken aloud until he said thank you. He read my face and parroted my thoughts, his eyes twinkling, “Clean shave looks good on you.” The next day, he challenged my ideas at the team meeting and presented his. After I acknowledged that his idea was better than mine, team members began breathing again and the central air conditioner came on, humming a tune as cold air escaped its vents. I could not decide if About Last Night, was the name of a movie, a book, or a hashtag on Twitter.

 

5.
When Puppy had mentioned drinks, I thought the question-suggestion was the usual Thursday one, which a member of the team brings up and to which nearly all say yes, and then carpool to the venue. Reports and emails had taken their toll and my car sat forlornly in the basement car park when I emerged from the elevator, the click of my heels ringing in my ears. My headlights sliced through the darkness to the restaurant.
“Where are the others?” I asked as he greeted me at the bar and led me to the far end of the room. Candles flickered in small green vases on wrought iron stands, bathing our table, burrowed in the wall, in soft light.
“What others?” he held out my chair.
I sat, unfolded my napkin, and placed it on my laps. Then I stood and said, “Good night,” walking past the waiter who was bringing our drinks.

 

6.
“Are you naïve?” I scolded him at the copy machine near the fire escape, after peering left and right, and seeing no one coming. I knew he would follow when I stood from my desk. “Sending me personal messages on the company’s server!”
“Oh,” he said.
Two members of the team protested when I signed Puppy up for the trip, “He’s too green.” I shook my head, “He’s picked up a lot since he got here.”
The Whatsapp jokes started when he landed in Kuala Lumpur.

 

7.
So now after another long pause—I did not answer his question—he said, “Well I just wanted to make sure we’re good. Nancy and I are together.” He tucked in the last sentence softly I almost missed it.
I wore my best game face, “That’s nice. I hope you’re both happy.”
“We are. No hard feelings, we’re still friends right?”
“What are you apologizing for?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I want to stay on after the project.”
“If you stay . . . you will always be Puppy.”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

Watch out for the new series: Any Seven Stories From My Life.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/dog-maltese-white-young-dog-puppy-1123026/

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.