Any Seven Stories From My Life [1]


Puppy Love

“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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Drawing the Line


I once had a client, a man with lofty ideas and limited resources, whose business was pertinent to the success of mine.

In those days, a Lagos bus conductor who did not have adequate change for his customers, would ‘join’ two or three passengers together by giving one of them the total value of their change.

At their stop, he would explain to them, in between soliciting new passengers and calling out the names of the bus stops ahead, that he did not have enough change. Then he would give one passenger a single Naira note, which represented all of their change, as the bus driver rode away. We understood that as far as change went, our fate was sealed with that passenger and we had to find a way to split the change.

I have walked away from this arrangement—the huddling, the debate, the shadowing the ‘lead’ passenger as he perambulates in search of change, so we would not be duped twice—without my change because time was more important to me than it was to the others.

I felt as though my client was the passenger with our change but this time, the stakes were too high for me to up and leave.

I shared my worries with a friend.

“Get close to his wife. She will make things easier for you,” Ronke said.

I knew what she meant and I recoiled at her words. My client’s wife was a woman with a smile for everyone. Petite and pretty, she remained mum if she happened to be around as her husband and I discussed business, but I was aware that her intelligent eyes took in everything. It seemed cavalier, predatory even, to befriend this angel for the sole purpose of using her to influence her husband as we did not seem to have anything in common.

I endured my client’s belligerence and failed promises, promises he made after I made presentations and shared proposals. At my wit’s end, one night I sat in Ronke’s car for hours and itemized the problems I faced. She suggested, yet again that I make friends with his wife.

Soon after, a chance meeting with my client’s wife occurred. After pleasantries, she lowered her voice although we were alone and told me about a similar project they were undertaking with another publisher. In her words, the wahala nor get end. Sensing an opening, I took the ball she’d passed to me, but I did not run to the goal post. I dribbled until all obstacles were cleared and then passed her the ball to take a clean shot to goal.

“Ah ah men!” she exclaimed, “They don’t understand. Leave it to me. Here,” she handed me her business card, “if you have any issues, give me a call.”

I collected her card without looking at it.

“I’m serious,” she said, stopping me with her intelligent eyes. “Timi, if you have any problems, call me.”

I never had to call her. My client gave me my change and then some.

I’ve wondered about this incident and what I call my moral high horse. I guess because I have been used as a stepping stone in business, I did not want to bathe someone else with gifts and attention and then slam the door not minding if her fingers were trapped in the hinges or not.

But isn’t that what we all do? When we were younger, my siblings and I chose the favourite child, the one whose requests were hardly turned down, as an emissary to our parents. I sometimes attend social events with colleagues, when I’d much rather stay at home in my pajamas, to influence outcomes in the office. Relationships grease the wheels of business and human interaction is fueled more by trust than logic. We trust referrals from those we know.

My client’s wife and I never became chummy. We didn’t share enough common ground and we could not commit the time needed to explore what little commonalities we might have had. I see her once a long while and respond to her smile, the one she has for everyone, without guilt, but with warmth. And I sleep easy at night.


©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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WordPress 107: How I Write My Blog Posts

creative process

I can scribble on the bus, at a party, or in the kitchen, but when it is time to pull my thoughts together, a chair and table lend seriousness to what I do. Although writing brings me satisfaction and can be fun, I do not write for fun. Familiar sound is unwelcome. I cannot let anything or anyone I know compete with the voices in my head. But the strangers at the café? Their conversation is a tunnel guiding me to the place where thoughts reside.

I don’t understand creativity, the neuroscience of it. To write my blog posts, I need an idea or two, or three. Don’t believe me? Just ask Neil Gaiman.


Happy now? So, here’s how ideas and words cross-pollinate and become blog posts on Livelytwist.



creativity dream

Words are the last thing I want to see for I have just spent four hours editing a manuscript. I drag myself to bed at 2 a.m. Ants crawl in the space above my eyes and Paracetamol has had little effect. I hear the words, “Six is just a number,” and understand the meaning, but I close my eyes and snuggle deeper under the covers. I hear the first line, the second, and then the third. I grab my laptop. The words are coming faster than I can type, a deluge. Like one possessed, I write until 2:30 a.m., 900 words of dialogue, and then I reread. I laugh, yawn, and sleep. Later, I email a friend.

“Naughty, naughty, naughty. This will get you in all kinds of trouble,” he replies.

I wish everything I wrote came to me by inspiration. I also wish I played the lottery yesterday and won a million Dollars. Instead, I get dressed, go to work, and collect my pay cheque at the end of the month.


Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous. – Bill Moyers1


Blood, Sweat, and Tears

creativity mechanically

Saturday, one day before publication. Nothing, nothing at all. Experience tempers panic so its waves do not break on my shore and retreat, making everything wet. I pound away at my keyboard like a blacksmith hammering metal sheets into shape—delete, cut, copy, paste. I surf the internet. I read other blogs. I watch TV. I pray. I flip through my T.B.D.L. notebook. I leaf through my experiences and run through my imagination. I write, one sentence at a time, like a child learning to walk. I visit the thesaurus. I employ literary devices. I pull words from the well in me. I push until I reach 500 words. Eureka!

Sunday, I upload and publish. I hold my breath until I see the first like or comment. Then slowly, I exhale. The best writing advice I’ve ever received? Just start and inspiration will find you.


The trick to creativity, if there is a single useful thing to say about it, is to identify your own peculiar talent and then to settle down to work with it for a good long time. – Denise Shekerjian, Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas Are Born2


The Force of Belief

creativity belief

Something I hear, see, read, or experience captures my attention and moves me deeply. It stews in my mind for days, weeks, months even, and I read what others have to say. I examine my life for inconsistencies as conviction takes root. I determine to do better because what I write will change me. When the thoughts crystallise, a title is not far off.

I write with what I hope is restraint, in a measured tone. I know it will stir readers for it is the force of conviction on paper. It alienates or binds. Only in my response to comments, do I try toe the middle ground, to be gracious. I wrote, I am not What I wear and Other Lies we Tell Ourselves, this way. In a world of muddled grey, black or white can bring pain or gain.


Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. – Steve Jobs, I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words3


All this is theory as all three elements are at play when I write, sometimes, one is more dominant than the other two and vice-versa. Some days it is hard. Some days it comes easy. Always, it is rewarding, like chocolate cake after lean meat and vegetables.

So, how do you write, or draw, or make music, or do what you do?


©Timi Yeseibo 2014


Image credit: cartoon figures from Microsoft

The Creative Process, adapted from Julia Quinn’s photo:



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Your Enemies Shall Never Succeed

Your enemies shall never succeed

“It’s a lie! Your enemies will never succeed!”

“So after the prayer meeting . . .”


“I took the holy water to the office.”

Eh hen?”

“I didn’t take all. I poured some into La Casera bottle—”

“You washed it first—”

“No o! Is that bad?”

“Hmmm, it would have been better to sanctify it, but well, it is well.”

“So, I got to work very early, before people started coming . . .”

Eh hen?”

“I entered my oga’s office and I started sprinkling the holy water. Then his secretary came in—”

“Bloooood of Jesus! She saw you?”

“No. I quickly hid the bottle behind my back.”

“Good . . . good.”

“She asked me if I was looking for the leadership presentation printouts.”

“I said, ‘Yes.’ She told me to check the cabinet and left.”

“Thank God!”

“I continued sprinkling the holy water, on the desk, under the desk, on the chair, on the computer. I even sprinkled some on the pictures of his wife and children. When I finished, I started marching round the desk, then the secretary popped her head through the door—”

“Your enemies shall not succeed!”


Eh hen, what did she want?”

“She asked me if I had found it. I said, ‘Not yet—’”

“And then?”

“She said she would help me.”

“The water?”

“She asked me what it was. I said, ‘Nothing. Just drinking water—’”

“Your enemies will never succeed!”

“She asked me why I’ve been pouring it around the office.”

“Jesus! Jeeesus! . . . What did you say?”

“I said I wasn’t pouring it. She said I was lying that she had been watching me on the CCTV”

“CCTV ke?”


“So what did you do?”

“We started arguing.”

“Your enemies shall never ever succeed! Eh hen?”

“Then I got angry and stormed out—”

“The holy water?”

“I . . . I . . . I left it there . . .”


“Anyway, when I stepped out of the office, I saw people gathered round her computer.”

“Who? The secretary?”

“Yes! Someone was saying, ‘Rewind, rewind . . . ’”

“What were they watching?”

Leave mata. I wanted to pass quietly. But she shouted, ‘Stop him!’ Then everybody looked up and started laughing.”

“Don’t worry; it is not the end of the world—”

“That’s what I thought. Until the security grabbed me—”


“I tried to struggle—”


“The other one tackled me to the floor. Then my oga—”

“Your boss? Where did he come from?”

“I don’t know. He told me not to struggle. That I should respect myself and pack my things and leave.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. As I was packing, the security guards stood by me. They kept saying, ‘Oya hurry up!’”

“All hope is not lost. God works in mysterious ways. It is well.”

“As I was going to the lift, my oga was following me. He shouted, ‘Wait!’ So I turned.”

“Hmmm, what did he want again?”

“He said, ‘You are not the first and you will not be the last. My enemies shall never succeed!’ Then he pushed the holy water into my hands!”

“It’s a lie! Jesus!”

“What? What? . . . What is it?”

“Your enemies . . .  Osanobua! Your enemies, they have succeeded!”


©Timi Yeseibo 2014


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font: Christopher Hand by El Stinger:

font: Acid Label by Billy Argel:

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2014

WordPress 105… Make Money Blogging or Not?


The Introduction

You, online service provider, said your product was free. I downloaded it; waited twenty minutes to install, clicked through for another ten minutes to get past the razzmatazz you call introduction. When I got to the main course, you asked me to upgrade for $49.95. I am not angry… not yet.

I decide to uninstall and search for a truly “free” freebie, but you have refused to go. You have been uninstalling for the past sixty minutes.

However, it is when you, my partner-in-crimefreebies, suggest that I should have read the fine print beneath the shiny free banner that my talons come out, long and wicked like Jezebel’s too. Yes you, I am talking about you, my fellow blogger and friend.

The Main Body

You started blogging because you felt you could write. You started blogging after that status update on your Facebook Timeline attracted 67 likes and 134 comments. Never mind that half the comments were your replies. You did not start blogging because you wanted to make money. You already had a real job. Even after your cousin evaded your question, “Have you read my blog yet?” by telling tales of how people were making money blogging, your heartbeat remained the same. You had looked at him with pity; the jester had never held a job for more than two weeks.

But now you wonder. After a tentative start on WordPress, you danced when your first post gained you five followers and a few likes. You twirled with hands on your hips, and then wriggled down. When you almost reached the floor, you remembered that you have back pain and slowly began your ascent. Your cheeks redden at the memory.

At the recommendation of WordPress, you check out some great posts from your new followers. Like strawberries and ice churning in a blender, one thought revolves in your mind. Can you really make money blogging? Of course, ever since your cousin sowed the seeds, they have been growing quietly like weeds in the periphery of your mind. Five followers have invited you to make money blogging.

Three of the five bloggers are attractive guys in their early to late twenties. They have escaped the corporate slave master’s whip and the income they’ve made off their blogs allows them to live the life they’ve always dreamed. Tanned and bare-chested with surfing shorts and six-packs to kill for, they grin at you, and you wonder how long before you can hand in your resignation. You wonder about the six-pack too—did they get it from blogging?  You shake your head to clear the silly thought. Two of them live in Thailand and the third on some other island. You’ve always known that you are living in the wrong country, and true happiness resides somewhere exotic like Bali.

One of your followers is a mum. She quit her job and leads a stress-free life. Her husband works fewer hours, and together they have more time for their daughter who has a debilitating disease. Their family portrait tugs at something inside you and sentimental music plays in your head. You zero in on the mum’s face to fool your tears. Rubbing your chin, you whip out a mirror and trace the lines on your face.

Your last follower is a bald guy with tattoos. You do not bother to read his profile. You do not want to make money blogging so you can become like him.

You note the similarities of the blogs, and brushing a fly away from your face, you draw conclusions:

Money-seekers are from Mars, altruists are from Venus.

Observing life has deepened your cynicism. When your daughter asked your son for a sweet, he quickly plopped it in his mouth and said it had his germs. When you asked to share his germs, he swallowed and you watched his Adam’s apple bulge. The human instinct is to hoard and not share.

What do Donald Trump and Warren Buffet have in common?

If Donald Trump’s apprentices had to endure the humiliation of elimination, making money blogging cannot be as carefree as white clouds floating in azure skies or lounging on the beach in the prime of your life. When Warren Buffet talks about getting rich, he uses “dirty” words like invest, which connotes delayed gratification.  At this point, you reach for a bowl of ice cream and stop sucking in your stomach. Acquiring a six-pack takes discipline, patience, and determination.

Becoming rich begins with watching a video or signing up for a newsletter.

One blogger declares that he wants to help those who are “serious” enough to sign up for his updates. You have never been more serious in your life. As your cursor hovers over the link, the title of a James Hadley Chase novel floats into your mind: There’s Always a Price Tag. Bye-bye Bali!

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

You’ve heard it before and you laugh at the allure that these four letters, E-A-S-Y, hold. The same ideas that sucked people in years ago, now repackaged, suck people in again like a merry-go-round that never stops.

The Conclusion

Thank you for connecting all the dots and for flying with WordPress. If after this post, you decide to unfollow me, I will understand. I have also kissed Bali goodbye.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Image design: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original

Why I Write

Why I Write

I write because I have something to say. I write with intention. I write to inform and to amuse. I write to inspire conviction that provokes movement, because words are not empty. I write because I can.

I do not write for fun. I watch romantic comedies for fun. I read a novel with a wicked plot for fun. I walk on the beach for fun. I cycle through the woody paths of the Veluwe for fun. I don’t write for fun, however writing can be so much fun.

I write because I like challenges, the challenge of taking something ordinary and giving it wings to fly like a kite in the wind. Watching it sail, I ooh and ah as its colours change. Then I ooh and ah again as I see through your eyes, the medley of colours in the comments you leave behind.

I write because I want you to read what I write. When people say that they write for themselves and not for others, and then publish the writing that they wrote for themselves on a blog for the world to see, the irony does not escape me. I write because it matters to me that you read what I write. If it did not matter to me, I would write in my diary.

I write because I enjoy reducing the tedious emails that nearly nobody reads and a few skim, to bullet points that everybody reads. I write because I love to k.i.s.s. (keep it so simple), and make up, that is, stretch a story to breaking point to test the limits of its elasticity. Snap! And start again.

I write to discover myself. As my thoughts change to words, I see who I have been, who I am becoming, and who I might be. I write because my interaction with the world makes sense when I draw it in word pictures. Blue means peace and green means fruit. If I could not write, I would paint. And if I could not paint, I would sing. I would croon ballads about the fact that I cannot write.

I write because I have time. I write because I make time. I write because I lose time when I write. Minutes tick and become hours and hours race into days. I write because it is easy for me to write. I write because I hear words and phrases in my mind. I write because I dream, lofty dreams about never-never land, perfect rag dolls, and vintage family portraits

I write because the gift chose me. I write because I discovered the gift when I wasn’t looking. I write because writing adds value to my life, turning my whispers into loud cries, enabling me to stand tall on crouched knees. I write because the gift continues to unfold with surprises in store.

Mostly, I write because I can. Why do you write?

Samuel Johnson on writing


© Timi Yeseibo 2013


Gosh, are you still here? Reading? For real? Okay, this one’s for you—three offbeat posts about writing:

One, Two, Three.

Finished? Now, go get a life!


Image title: oilbased marker 02 vector

Original image URL:

Image designs: © Timi Yeseibo 2013


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No Longer a Piece of Meat

Suya by KitchenButterfly

Theirs is a spacious car park unprotected from the glare of the sun and the noisy wind that ushers autumn in. Hers is the silver-grey Toyota Aygo, that ubiquitous city-car that cushions Europeans from the perils of economic recession, road tax, fuel costs, and ah yes, carbon emissions. His is the black Mercedes, that German beast that roars.

Having never seen him before, she wants to say hi, and make small talk, for the benefit of their mutual skin colour, if only for a few moments, so they can put up high walls against the cold and enjoy the warmth of solidarity.

Instead, she walks past him, and quickens her steps, the koi-koi of her heels, lost in the now harsh whispers of the wind, her mind replaying images she had thought long forgotten.

She is ten again and in the country club with her mother, in front of her soon-to-be swimming instructor, who took in her thin frame, and let his eyes linger, then wander, and then linger on the small mounds on her chest, which strained against her one-piece suit.

Her mother followed his gaze. What was supposed to be a conversation about swimming timetable, changed to a conversation about swimming lessons ending. The uneasy feeling that followed her relief and disappointment, which she could not define, she submerged in that room in children’s heads that they do not like to visit. Years later when she understood the term, dirty old man, she remembered the way he had moved his bushy eyebrows up and down in quick succession, as first her mother turned and then she turned to leave.

That thing that was in her swimming instructor’s eyes, she now sees in his. His eyes, they reduce her to a piece of meat. They touch her the same way that women and men haggling over meat in Lagos markets grab the meat from the wooden tables, slap the meat on the wooden tables, and push the meat on the wooden tables, wooden tables with fissures that are smooth with age and vegetable green at the edges.

Reflex causes her to tug at her skirt, to pinch the fabric in front of her thighs and try to drag it down, as though she can turn her mini skirt to maxi, as though her legs are not encased in black tights and boots.

His eyes drill holes in her back. She nearly misses her step. His laughter is low, but to her ears it is as loud as those of the traders who called her Shabba, and tried to grab her hands as she shopped at Tejuosho market long ago, wearing a long skirt with a thigh-high slit.

All the way to the traffic light where they encounter one another again, she thinks of his greedy eyes, his hungry smile, the shape of his gorimapa head, and the shiny darkness of his skin. She divides Africa into four: east Africa, south Africa, north Africa, and west Africa; he resembles her, but she cannot decide where he belongs.

She pulls up slowly beside his Mercedes and stiffens her neck. She wills herself not to look at him. But she does. You see, the force of his gaze, and everything intangible that had transpired between them is like a horse’s bit. His handsome features do not captivate her. His smile does not captivate her.

It is his left hand. The way he raises his shoulder and bends his elbow so his fingers rest on the steering wheel in the 12 ‘o clock position—that unmistakeable way Naija boys with new money driving new cars with shiny alloy wheels, hold the steering wheel—that is what captivates her.

So now, she knows where he belongs.

She begins to laugh and laugh and laugh some more as his brows furrow in consternation. She continues laughing as the traffic light turns green, and he speeds off. She laughs as the cars behind her pull out into the other lane and the drivers stare at her and shake their heads, before they zoom past. She laughs until the traffic light turns red. Then she stops. She is no longer a piece of meat.



Chaos defines her Mondays, but the chaos lights her fire and adds purpose to her steps. The only thing that halts her fall is her desk, which is behind her. She feels its edge cutting into her thighs as she stumbles backwards for safety and support. Her gaze meets his and holds while they shake hands. When Ben gestures to another employee and whisks him away, Ben’s words hit home. With vast experience in mergers and acquisitions, he comes highly recommended from J.P. Morgan. He is her new manager.


© Timi Yeseibo 2013

If you loved the photo of the suya as much as my post or more than my post (how dare you?), if you miss suya and live where you can’t buy it, if you’re adventurous, if… if …, whatever, okay, read Kitchen Butterfly’s post about suya.

Photo credit: © Kitchen Butterfly

Original photo URL:

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I am Not Looking For Love, I am Going to Work

not looking for love
It began yesterday at the government office, which was saturated with immigrants whose anxious stares alternated between the digital display boards and their tickets, a square piece of paper with a number printed on it. At the sound of the beep, everyone looked at their ticket, and then the display boards. Some sighed. Some continued talking. Others continued sleeping. One person rose to meet an official walled in by glass on the other side of the counter.

My wait was shortened by an acquaintance with whom I chatted until our conversation lulled to a comfortable stop.

“Excuse me, it seems you are from Nigeria.” A tall man sitting a few spaces away from my acquaintance smiled at her.

“No, I am not.”

“Ah, but I thought—”

“I am from Democratic Republic of Congo.”

With her thick Igbo accent, she delivered her last words with a finality that inspired no argument from the man. He fanned himself, and then pretended to read his letter from the belastingdienst.

Because I am slow to change the expression on my face, she saw it. The disbelief. The wonder. The perplexity.

“Don’t mind the idiot. If not for dis yeye tax people, where e for come see me? See as e dey talk as if e be my mate. E nor see im type?” she whispered for my benefit and his.

I nodded like her co-conspirator, as though I had been dissing guys for the last ten years. What else could I do?

Determined to be a better person, this incident is hovering at the back of my mind when a young man approaches me today as I wait for my tram.

“Hello, are you from Nigeria?”

Surely there must be a better opening line? I give nothing away as I nod and he introduces himself. I tell him my name.

“Ah, Timi. Timilehin? You are Yoruba?”

“I am Nigerian.”

“I know, from whose part?”

“We have left Nigeria. Let’s pretend ethnicity does not matter. I am a Nigerian; that is enough.”

He looks at me as though the sky has descended on my head and I am unaware. Undeterred, he forges on in pidgin English. I respond in proper English.

He ditches Pidgin in favour of a kind of English that is interspersed with incorrect tenses and Dutch words. This is a cross some of us bear. The effect of speaking Dutch with non-native proficiency is the tendency to forget English words and to adjust our tenses automatically to match the wrong grammar of English-speaking Dutch people.

I am aware of every mistake he makes. Like the freckles on my neighbour’s face, they are many.

“I saw you at this tramhalte iedere dag, I mean, every day. Are you going to work?”



I tell him. And then I help him because he seems lost, “I haven’t seen you before?”

“I know, but I am seeing you. You are very mooi, beautiful.”

I take in his overalls. He does not look like Idris Elba in Tyler Perry’s Daddy Loves His Girls, but this is real life.

“Thank you, where do you work?”

He talks about his work, links that conversation to how long he has been in The Netherlands—fifteen years, and then ties it to his goals and dreams like a neat bow at the end of a string.

My eyes do not wander from his face while he speaks. But my mind does. I wonder if he can read, understand, discuss, and comment on my blog intelligently.

Then there is silence. The wind dies. The leaves sleep. The seagulls take their leave. It is just me and him. And the silence. Without my help, he stews in it for a while—scratching his chin, brushing dirt from his overalls, staring at something behind me—before he says, “I must goes to my work place. Can I have your number?”

“For what?” Honest words spill out before I can reel them in. What else do we have to say to each other?

I wan know you.”

I do not know why I did what I did next. Guilt—over what? My resolution to be a better person? Pity? Maybe, my thoughts had roamed to how he must have been eyeing me, calculating his approach. Religious fervour? Hardly.

“I would like to invite you to my church.” I fumble in my bag for the flyers the preacher says we should carry around for opportune moments, moments like this one I suppose.

He looks at me as though The Rapture has occurred and I am unaware.

“Ah, ah! Won’t you know me first before inviting me to your church? I already goes to church.”

It is as if he knows. That I am not very good at this. That church is a cop-out. That it is too late to tell him I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That I do not have the heart to tell him he will not understand my blog, and therefore not understand me. He pounces on me like a wounded lion, as if to say, “This is for every man you ever dissed!”

“That’s the problem with you Nigerian girls! Church, church, church! Your mates don marry, you still dey here! Oya go and marry your God!”

He jumps on his bicycle in one swift motion and pedals away.

It is rare that I cannot express myself with words. But I am not writing a dissertation. This is life. This does not call for intellectual prowess.

I imagine that in a few moments, his bicycle chain would jam, forcing him to stop. I imagine him kneeling on the earth, humiliated, rattling the chains, while I watch from the elevated platform of my tram stop. Then the words that abandoned me would force their way out of my mouth, “I am not looking for love, I am going to work!”’

Nothing I imagine happens. He continues to ride and does not look back. But a curious thing happens. As I look, it is not him getting smaller in the distance, it is me!


© Timi Yeseibo 2013


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