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.

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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.

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.

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 [2]

masculinity

An Oblique Commentary on Masculinity

1.
The first fight I won wasn’t even a fight. A boy my age but many times my size made fun of my oversized head. I was hurt, so I swung my fist, connected with his jaw, and two teeth flew out. That December night was dry and we were at a Christian camp for kids, sitting under a tree on a carpet of brittle leaves. If his teeth hadn’t flown out after that punch, it would have been my whole set of milk teeth diving into the leaves.

 

2.
The first time I watched Mowgli in Jungle Book, I felt so bad for him I ran to my room to stem the tears that threatened to fall. How I went from that boy to one who would search for tears in moments of pain baffled me for years, because although I gained an understanding of the value of crying I just couldn’t do it. I’d convinced myself for years that it was a weak thing to do. It was a thing of pride in secondary school to withstand beating from the teachers without a hint of tears.

 

3.
In the first of the years I spent at home between finishing secondary school and going to the university, I obsessed over becoming physically fit. I did push ups, headstands, and even found a heavy iron bar in the old garage behind the house that I used to work my biceps. That was the same period when my siblings and I would, after a day playing soccer, lie on the floor of our room, and listen to Don Moen or Jim Reeves sing out of mother’s old cassette player. Of course the fitness fad didn’t last. I soon returned to my routine of playing soccer in the afternoons, watching movies in the evenings, and reading books and listening to music at night.

 

4.
I can’t ride a bike, swim, or lick my elbow.
I used to play table tennis, soccer, and lift buckets of water every morning up the hill in Nkwelle.
I now walk through Mushin on my way home, climb the stairs, and dream about driving everywhere but Lagos.

 

5.
While serving in Anambra, I had migraine episodes that would often last for a week or more. One evening, in the middle of one of such attacks, some students—boys—were shouting in front of the lodge. A corps member asked them to leave, but they refused. Their noise intensified, each sound amplified to pain in the sound chamber: my throbbing head. I went outside and shouted at them, but they just scattered and regrouped like marching ants in contact with a small pool of water. I saw a cutlass beside the door and flung it at one of them. They did not return.

 

6.
Going to the Gym is described in a New Yorker piece about Max Grief’s Against Everything, as buying into a “soul-destroying managerialism that has disguised itself as a means of enhancing “life.”” This, not laziness or apathy towards my body, will now become my reason for refusing to enter a gym. But my back hurts too much.

 

7.
After a month of trying to get a medical report that should have taken three days, the man in charge of reports at the university clinic finally brought out the two-paragraph letter I needed. When I pointed out a mistake in the letter, he shrugged and asked that I return the following week to pick it up.

“Are you sure I’ll get this then?” I asked.
“You know what,” he replied, “I can’t say. You just have to keep coming back.”
I wanted to knock him out. I needed the report to prevent losing a year of school. “What do you mean by that? Isn’t this your fault?”
He was elderly. His face looked like I really did strike him by questioning him.
“Don’t shout at me young man.”

Then I started to shout. The nurses tried to calm me down, and one of the doctors joined them too. They asked me to explain what was happening. I sat down and started to shake, for I knew to explain would be to start crying. I’d lost a lot in the preceding months, and the man was part of a series of human and non-human circumstances I couldn’t control. I eventually narrated the story, and got a corrected letter in fifteen minutes. And although tears did not come out of my eyes, I’m sure I cried that afternoon.

© IfeOluwa Nihinlola 2016

IfeOluwa Nihinlola writes essays and short stories and has been featured in online magazines such as Afreada, Omenana, Klorofyl, and Litro. He works as an editor and is an inaugural fellow of aKoma’s Amplify fellowship. He is a fan of Zadie Smith, is looking for a replacement for Pringles as muse, and blogs at ifenihinlola

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/shoe-sit-costume-tailored-suit-512133/

 

©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.

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.