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.

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Small Spaces

SMALL

 

You pointed at the students outside the library and complained their chatter rose and filled the apartment like steam. I said the apartment had charm but did not say what we knew; you would not be around to hear the noise during the day. I swept my arm at the blue wall-to-wall carpet that flowed like an endless sea and goaded you to take in the view of the lake.

“It’s doable,” I whispered.

“But you don’t have a job . . .”

Those six words imprisoned my mouth.

Therefore, we rented the other apartment. The front door opened into the living area, which opened into the kitchen, which opened into the sleeping area. The bathroom was an afterthought of clever masonry, tacked to the right wall of the sleeping area and cordoned off with a curtain that reminded you of Joseph’s coat of many colours.

We squashed our belongings into the interstices the landlord called rooms, but we could not squeeze our personalities past each other. When I turned, I bumped into you. When you turned, you bumped into me. And so a hurricane brewed.

The problem with your invitation to that argument was not our disparate points of view, but my overwhelming desire to win at something, anything, and the knowledge that I could. You bade me sit, so that neither of us had comparative height advantage.

We had agreed that we would always start with bad news and end on a high note by delivering good news last. But you reversed the order. I hardly heard your praise because it was as short as a one-minute foreplay. Your accusations were long and resembled the leading questions attorneys ask in American soaps, stunning the defendant and then finishing with, no further questions, Your Honour.

I adjusted my frame on the narrow bed, one of two pushed together. Small spaces should have sparked chemistry not tension between us. Was it too late? I rehearsed my new strategy: be quiet, don’t try to win, acquiesce, and retreat. No matter what happens, do not win this argument.

“On the charge of not rinsing my teacup and plate after coffee and donut, I plead guilty Your Honour.” I smiled, “I am very sorry.”

I saw the dilemma in your eyes. You had not expected to win in this manner, closing arguments defused. So, I pled with you, “Let it go.”

Instead, you looked at the window, which we opened with fear because the broken glass mocked the sellotape that held it in place. You stood and stabbed me in the thighs and buttocks but excess flesh dulled your blade. Then you selected a garasuki knife, those six words, which imprisoned my mouth, and plunged it into my heart, twisting for good measure.

I reacted from the gut. My words were like arrows with poisoned tips. They were so many your shield gradually slipped. Then weak and bleeding, we both staggered to the ground.

“Words matter. You should know,” you coughed and spat.

I knew. My six hundred unpublished pages lay on the table.

“Bloody hell! No one should attend an argument after only three hours of sleep, two coffees, and paracetamol,” I gasped.

You laughed and I laughed.

But that summer, for the first time, you only paid your share of the rent.  Then you moved to the first-floor apartment opposite the library. The one you said we could not afford.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo credit: Unsplash/ https://pixabay.com/en/alley-pavement-houses-narrow-urban-336539/

 

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.

An Unwanted Miracle

 

unwanted miracle

After she heard the prognosis, Mirembe obsessed over death, kindling a comfortable friendship. Each day, life bled out of her and the sterile white room adorned with monitors, pumps, and tubes became her new home. The secret she had kept for twenty-five years bounced in her chest and flirted with her tongue like fireflies in flight.

Mirembe wanted to share her secret before her speech slurred and she no longer recognized the people who came and went, like the nurse who lifted her and turned her from side to side. Tattoos of hideous things peeked from underneath his short sleeve, but she was too tired to care. Another nurse scurried around the room, busy with everything but eye contact as if she was afraid of catching death.

One afternoon Mirembe looked at the nurse and opened her mouth. She searched her head for his name while her heart worked twice as hard to quiet her panic. He quizzed his brow when she clutched his arm with weak strength.

“Dementia,” she blurted.

He nodded, but she knew he did not understand. It was time. “Any day now,” the doctor had said.

That evening, Ntare took her hand, smoothing his thumb over her veins. His touch was gentle for one so big. Husband and only child hushed her when she coughed and tried to begin.

Mugisha said, “Easy mum. Easy.”

When Mirembe looked at her son, her resolve fled. Would she not break his heart? Was the secret not the reason success had eluded him, causing him to flit from thing to thing like one who had no centre? His parent’s money meant he could continue to search for himself ad infinitum. Yes, it was her duty to bring closure.

And Ntare, her partner, lover, companion, and friend, what would it do to him? Ntare who had never doubted his place in the world, carved on the globe with his sure hands. No, she had forgiven him for past indiscretions. She was not seeking revenge.

Mirembe had read that when people are dying, dying being a present continuous activity, they have a compulsion to tell all. She concluded that in death, absolution is final; secrets lie stripped of power. Secrets are useless in the place where the dead go. They only retain value on earth.

“Ntare, you know that I love you?”

He answered with his eyes, his thumb still caressing her veins.

“Mugisha—”

“Easy mum, easy.”

Although Mirembe had acted this script out before, she could not find her voice. She flitted from topic to topic like fireflies in flight—morality, justice, forgiveness, impulses, wrong decisions, redemption. Dying conferred privileges. They let her hold the mic without betraying their impatience. When she could not arrive at her centre in spite of her rigmarole, she let the words escape in a whisper.

“Ntare, Mugisha is not your son. Mugisha, Ntare is not your father.”

What followed transpired quickly. Mirembe watched them, Ntare, Mugisha, and herself with detachment. Mugisha’s insistent, “Then who? Who mum?” brought her back. But her answer seemed to come from a distant place.

“Didn’t really know him . . . Germany. One evening . . .  long a . . .”

Frustration, anger, disbelief, and hate, bristled and circled the room like aeroplanes stacked in a holding pattern. However, dying put her in cruise control shielding her from all of them. Her eyelids began to close and she refused to fight.

Mirembe awoke with life creeping in her bones and looked around. “Am I in Heaven?”

The white wall, monitors, pumps, and tubes replied.

“It’s a miracle!” the doctor later proclaimed.

One by one, sometimes in twos, and other times in threes, doctors came to examine her. Once a large sea of white came. One peered over her charts, while the others took notes.

She tried to make the days go slowly by calling attention to pain in different parts of her body.

“Psychosomatic,” the doctor waved away her concerns as he surveyed another batch of test results.

The days kept racing. The nurse now wanted to hold her gaze, but Mirembe had forgotten her name and the nurse with tattooed arms had stopped coming. Maybe the novelty of her miracle wore off or they needed the room, one morning too soon, they shooed her warmly into the angry arms of Ntare and Mugisha.

Mirembe sat in the living room in the home they had built, kneading her fingers in her palm. Could one secret mixed into the foundation fracture concrete? Oh, death was so far away.

“Mum, I can’t believe you lied to me. You’re just a bloody hypocrite!”

“Where are you going?” Mirembe asked.

“I don’t know!” Mugisha brushed past Ntare to the front door and then out into the hot afternoon, leaving the door wide open.

“Ntare . . . Ntare, please go after him. Don’t let him go.”

Ntare did not move. “You should have left things the way they were.” His eyes were cold.

Then Ntare turned and was gone. He did not hear Mirembe say, “Wait.” He did not hear her say, “I love you.”

She picked up her phone.

“Dr Phil? Yes—yes, it’s me. Please tell me, I mean explain it to me again, why did I not die?”

 

©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.

 

 

Heat

Heat

He stared at it for a long time. But when he looked up at the huge round clock, incongruous analogue, mocking the digital revolution below, only seven minutes had elapsed.

Now that the man had finished reading the label on it and his son had stopped pushing his face, chin first towards it, his daughter refused to go. The girl stood in front of it, revelling in the way it made her t-shirt crease and lean into her chest, her short sleeves shaking and sharing her delight.

“Mieke! Kom op!”

She ignored her father and spoke into it. The sound of her voice breaking and quivering cajoled her brother to let go of his father’s hand and join shoulders with his sister. Their voices trembled together, gibberish to others but holding meaning for them both.

And he remembered what it felt like to have someone whose voice rose and fell in cadence with his.  He should not have let her go.

“Dani!” their father called, securing the box in a tighter embrace before turning and walking away.

He measured the angle formed by tracing the son’s head up to the father’s and down to the daughter’s. An obtuse angle, the geometry of his life. He must have looked at their backs for too long, because when he turned around to move closer to it, two girls were already there. Their legs, as yet, insufficiently kissed by the sun, stretched long from the edge of their bum shorts to their ankles. They wore black flip-flops decorated with neon flowers, which would glow in the dark.

The first girl raised her arms and let her mid-riff enjoy it and although it teased her crop top, it could not lift the blouse higher. The second girl used one hand to plunge her neckline so that it could find more places to affect. They giggled. Then they were gone, as quickly as his youth, hobbling as they shared the weight of the box.

The whirring noise coming from it reminded him why he had come.

Pardon. Meneer?”

The boy who addressed him wore a red shirt with a name pin on the front pocket. The boy was leading a man with an open collar and rolled-up sleeves to it. He wanted to say he was not done yet, but moved aside instead.

He watched the boy, nineteen perhaps, summer job maybe, gesturing with his hands as he explained what it could do. The man nodded and rubbed his neck. He imagined that this man wearing a striped shirt sat in an office from nine until five, getting up for coffee every hour, and sending emails every other hour. The man’s torso had made peace with that kind of life.

The man must have asked how much and then asked for a discount because the boy told him 50 Euros. The boy said it was the last one but since it had been on display, the man could have it for 45. The man shook his head as if he could bargain on a day like today. The boy suddenly seemed older as he explained capitalism to the man.

“Tomorrow, we will get more stock and sell them for 70 Euros and people will still buy. We could have sold this one, but we needed a demo.”

He saw an opportunity he had not known existed and fingered the money in his pocket. But the man nodded and pushed his glasses up his nose. Then the boy bent down and got to work.

He watched the boy break it in parts and steady the blades before pushing its head into a rectangular carton. He folded the cord in 4 cm strips, securing it with a string. Then the boy hoisted the box and walked to the counter where the man was taking out his credit card.

He swallowed his anger like saliva that gathers in one’s mouth from inactivity. He recalled his last night with her. She had asked him what his plans were, if he was going to drift forever. Her parting words, the patient dog never eats the fattest bone; can’t you be crazy for once, galvanized him to action now.

He dashed to the counter and snatched the box. He made for the door, pushing languid bodies with the box. The alarm sounded but the heat had humbled the security guard in a navy blazer who possessed neither baton nor gun.

Only when he reached his apartment door did he stop looking back. Inside, the open windows yawned and wished for something to do. Sweat gathered around his neck then slithered to his chest. He opened the box and put the parts together, steadying the blades as he had seen the boy with the red shirt do.

Finished, he admired his work and waited for it. After two minutes, he rechecked the parts and fumbled with the cord. He searched the box, moving his hand from side to side. He let out a deep sigh and banged the wall. Then he dropped on his bed and cursed the heat while his sweat seeped into the hot sheet.

The infrared sensor on its sleek black panel glowed and turned to an eye that grew and grew. Then the boy with the red shirt emerged from the eye. The boy shrugged and gestured with the remote in his hand, “It is the heat; it makes people crazy.”

He blinked and looked away, fear creating tremors in his heart. When he dared to look again, the glow and the boy were gone. He groaned. Was there no more room for analogue in a digital world?

Tomorrow he would return to the shop wearing a baseball cap. Tonight he would wrestle the heat. He picked her wedding invitation from the bed and began to move his hand from side to side, rewarding himself with hot air. He imagined the card was made from steel and black plastic, like the fan on display in the shop.

 

©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.

The Conversation

 

The Conversation

“Stop! Wait, wait. Na wa. Which conversation are we having? This one or the one we had a few days ago?”

“This one!”

“Are you sure?”

“What do you mean are you sure? Am I a child? I hate it when you patronize me!”

“Sorry o . . . that was not my intention—”

“As I was saying, so what did you mean when you said what you said about Jimi’s—”

Ahn ahn, which conversation are we having now?”

“We’re having this one, the one we had a few days ago, and every single one we’ve ever had!”

Wahala dey—”

“What did you say?”

“I’m listening . . .”

“So what did you mean?”

“I . . . I meant what I said . . .”

“Meaning?”

“Ha, what I said na?”

“Please humour me, elaborate . . .”

Mehn, okay, I can’t remember what I said.”

“You said that what a woman brings to the table increases her value. That the assets Jimi’s wife brought to the table had diminished comparatively in the last several years. That for women, love and attractiveness were neither here nor there as they placed a higher premium on the combo—love and security but for men an inverse relationship holds—”

“Wow! I said all that?”

“Yes. I mean no . . . the magazine article put it that way, but yeah, in essence, it’s the same sentiment you shared, I guess . . .”

“Which magazine? I can’t remember saying—”

“How can you forget? That night we returned—”

“Okay, okay, if you say so.”

“So what did you mean?”

“Hmmm. Jimi loves his wife and he’s chosen to see other assets beyond what she first had to offer.”

“But she’s . . . she just . . . she doesn’t really take care. . .”

“She’s fat.”

“That’s not politically correct! She’s just on the big side!”

“Okay.”

“You were saying?”

“No, no. . . I’m done. Political correctness stifles conversation, don’t you think?”

“Just say what’s on your mind. It’s not as if you’re giving a TED Talk!”

“So, obviously, a man of his influence and means would be spoilt for options. Though people who’ve done business with him vouch for his integrity as well.”

“You didn’t say this part that day.”

“I’m not a parrot. These are just my thoughts—”

“But you said one of the things that put men off is unattractiveness. That after hooking the guy, some women just stop trying . . .”

“I did?”

“Yes! Remember? When we were dating?”

“That was like what? Years ago?”

“Three and two months to be precise.”

“Elephant mem— hey, where are you going? Why did you put on the light? Turn it off please!”

“I want you to see—”

“See what? Geez—”

“I knew it!”

“What?”

“You think my butt is too flabby!”

“But I didn’t say so!”

“You said geez!”

“Because of the light!”

“But when Patrick said that if he were married to Jimi’s wife, he would’ve taken off, you laughed.”

“Seriously? That’s just a guy thing. He didn’t mean it and we were joking.”

“A very mean joke about a woman who’s had kids. Do you know what having kids does to a woman’s body?”

“Em . . . em, which conversation are we having now?”

“What do you mean? We are just talking! Why do you keep saying, ‘which conversation are we having’?”

“Because—”

“Some women just manage to look great no matter what . . . like Angela. Four kids and she’s still tight. What do you think of Angela?”

“I haven’t thought of her. I have eyes for only you.”

“And Jimi’s wife obviously, since you noticed she’s fat! Are. . . are you listening?”

“Uhuh.”

“You’re sleeping?”

“No.”

“I think I’m pregnant.”

“That’s fantastic! We are pregnant! Come here!”

“Not sure . . . I’m late. I’ll buy a kit tomorrow . . .”

“We’ll do it together.”

“Okay, I’d like that.

“Good. Come to bed—”

“See? See? When I walk it just kinda wiggles all over the place!”

“Mmmm hmmm.”

“What?”

“Are you wearing anything under? Turn . . . walk again let me see . . .nice . . .very nice.”

“Gosh! Are you even looking?

“Oh yes! And even if your butt is as wide as Texas and lumpy like dough, I would still love you.”

“Lumpy like dough—”

“I didn’t mean it like that. Oya, please turn off the light and come back to bed.”

 

©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.

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.

 

 

Portraits of Motherhood [4]

Motherhood4

A Question From My Daughter

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

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

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

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

“Oh,” she replied.

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

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

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

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

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

 

An Extra Mouth to Feed

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

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

“Mom you’re not looking!”

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

“I’m sorry. Let’s play again.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

The Empty Crib

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

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

 

 

 

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