Friday, August 28, 2009

Omo Mummy

picture from here
I can't remember him being born or visiting my mother in the hospital but I remember clearly him being brought back from the hospital, the whirlwind of activities and general concentration on the bundle in my mother's arms. Both were shepherded by a diligent and unyielding team consisting of one of my mother's closest friends who was a nurse, my mother's people and my father. I remember trying to get around what at the age of two and a half appeared to be gigantic frames to see what my mother had brought home. I had been expecting his arrival, fascinated by the increasing expansion of my mother's stomach--a fascination that prompted me to jump on her stomach once, nearly sending both her and my unborn brother to the next afterlife--and constantly being reminded that I was a big girl now because I was going to have a little sibling. I remember making my way to the bed, taking one look at the squirming, crying toothless bundle and deciding that this boy was here to bring me trouble. He was my rival.

He was such an annoying little boy. To me. The easier of us two, for my mother at least, he appeared to me to be the favourite child. As soon as he gained mobility, he followed me around, doing everything I was doing or observing if it exceeded his comfort level and reporting back to our mother, Iya Catwalq, who then would run panicked to stop what I was doing. He was a pretty little boy, quiet friendly and curious. Easy to entertain and for a few years, easy to manipulate. There were so many instances where I put him in some harm's way or manipulated him to do things my way and as I was the bigger child at that time, I got away with it.

As we grew up, he always looked at me like I was the brightest thing he knew and in all honesty, I liked it. But I was not a good big sister. By personality, I was a loner, preferring to play by myself or go off exploring by myself. I also found large groups of people a bit alarming but perfected very quickly the art of misdirection through false bravado. I was the out going child and he the quiet reserved one. In truth, I was just as quiet as he but my silences were always taken to mean that something was wrong, so I spoke up all the time and even too much. And when I could, I would go off on my own. My brother on the other hand, always wanted to come along. To him, I must have appeared adventurous and fearless.

He did not like to read preferring instead for me to read and relay the story to him; stories he neither tried to verify or question. So I think my brother has heard about sixteen variations of each Enid Blyton story and countless mash ups of others. It did not matter to him, he loved his sister and that was enough. And I wanted him gone.

One day, when I was in primary three, my brother came up to me and my friends on the play ground. He was in primary one, about five or six years old. He wanted to play with us. My friends saw no problem and put him in the game. I was livid. What was he doing there? I endured him enough at home as it was, I was not in the mood to endure him in school as well. It was a game of catch where the "monster" ran after everyone else and when you got caught, you assumed the role. My brother attached himself to me, running wherever I ran. I would push him away roughly, once to the floor. One of my friends got upset and pulled him away from me, that he should run with her instead, since I was so mean. When it was my turn to chase everyone, I ignored him even though he would cleverly place himself in my way. This happened for two days and on the third day, he did not come to play with us. One of my friends went looking for him and came back to relay that he was not coming to play. He was sitting in his class by himself. I was glad. I had finally been rid of him. Years later, when our relationship had disintegrated to the point where we would fight to cause each other bodily harm and my mother was convinced one of us would kill the other--once we fought and he swung his fist, I ducked but the rotation caused his shoulder to pop out of its socket-- I was reminded of this incident in a dream. It was so clear that I smelled the hot sand. I woke up crying. Ashamed and horrified. What had I done?

So I tried to make amends. By this time, he was about eighteen years old. Very much a young man and set in the knowledge that he did not have a big sister who had his back. It would have been no one's fault but mine that it was that way. I had got here first. It had been my job to take care of him, to protect him. I had always loved him, that was easy, but I never showed it.

My coming to the United States was probably the best thing that happened to our relationship because we have been able to have one. The past five years have put my family through hell but has brought us together. My brother and I talk a lot, confide in each other and I don't lie to him. What I cannot tell my mother, I tell my brother first and vice versa. He has grown so much and constantly inspires me to keep my head up and hold myself together. I wake up everyday and make one more step, no matter how hard, if for no reason than to make sure I don't let him down. Strong, confident and mature, he has willingly sacrificed a lot so that I don't have to. In many ways, the roles have been reversed.

I can still kick his ass though, if he steps out of line. I will just get another man to do it. Me, I am not fighting any man. Or psyche Iya Catwalq on him, she is good with a guilt trip.

So, Omo Mummy, my baby brother: I love you. I promise to be a better sister. You always have me. I am always here for you. Together, we will weather the storms. And we have to do something about your smelly shoes.

Monday, August 24, 2009


picture from here
I wished the ground would open up so I could melt into its dark abyss. I wished to all heavens that I was anywhere but where I was, wished I had not been to quick to advance my entrance, wished I had not heard what I heard. They could not see me, the men whose words had floated around the corner wall shielding my presence to scald my ears. They were still laughing, their discuss freed up by the copious amounts of alcohol they had introduced into their systems. That was why they had said what they had said and why they had said it that way.

"...amazing how they just throw themselves at your feet." Sekibo had chuckled. I was sure they were playing cards because the last part of his sentence was followed by the soft slapping sounds of paper against wood. There was the smell of smoke in the air and I knew it would be Andrew puffing on his imported hand rolled cigars.

"Wetin man pikin fit do?" [1] Osaro had chuckled, "But you must give me the fact that I don't always indulge."

Hamid spoke next, his mono toned and heavily accented voice unmistakable, "So we are still on for this weekend?"

"Abi o" Sekibo rejoined ,"everyone is coming, no?"

"I would guess so, " Andrew said, "they better because the kishi [2] we had to put down for the place was not small"

"That party is going to be off the chain. All the girls don full ground. Shayo don organise. And we both know that with Fela in charge of the food, we dey kampe." Hamid added

It was at the mention of my name that things had gone off tangent.

"Speaking of Fela," Osaro began, " what is your decision?"

I had just been about to step around the wall when the question was asked and so I paused because I had had no idea that I had ever been a topic of discussion within the group or that there had been a decision to be made on my account. Who was he talking to?

"Omo, leave that joo[3]," Sekibo answered

"What do you mean?" It was Osaro's voice again.

"O boy, if no be say you be my guy, I for vex for u"[4] Sekibo replied and then added, clearly talking to one of the other guys, "hit me"

"Ah-ah, what happened? What are you talking about" Hamid asked

"He tried to set me up with Fela." Sekibo answered. I felt he sounded a bit angry about it.

"And?" Andrew asked and I wanted to know.

"Haven't you seen the girl?" Sekibo retorted

"I don't follow you." Osaro spoke this time.

"Me neither," Andrew added.

The game seemed to have stalled and they were all waiting for him to elaborate. Myself included.

"He set you up with Ngozi, right?" Sekibo began, "so why would he set me up with Fela?"

"I don't think I am too drunk to say that I don't understand what you are saying." Hamid returned

"I was about to say the same thing, "Osaro inserted, "what is wrong with Fela? She is a nice girl"

"I am sure, but my guy, she is not that fine now." Sekibo stated.

"Whoaaaaaa" this came from Andrew.

"Don't give me that." Sekibo objected, his voice rising, "if she is so nice, why aren't any of you with her?"

There was a brief pause that seemed like it lasted a million years. Then the others began to speak at once.
"It's not about that with Fela. She is nice and funny and kind. Reliable..."
"Fun. She can cook..."
"Nice girl, haba..."

Sekibo laughed,
"That's not what I asked you. So none of you would be with her either."

"I did not say that," Osaro replied, "it's just that...well..."

"We don't see Fela like that." Andrew added.

"Oh." This was Sekibo.

"I have known Fela for years." Hamid stated, like it meant anything.

"And who was her last boyfriend?" Sekibo asked.

There was an even longer pause. I knew what they were thinking. They had never seen me with a boyfriend. I had never had one.

"You mean, you have known her for years and have not known her boyfriends?" Sekibo's tone made it seem like I had some terrible secret.

"I don't think I have ever seen her with..."Osaro began, "have you?" he seemed to ask the others. They must have shaken their heads because all I could hear from where I was were grunts.

"So it is the one that nobody wants that you tried to set me up with?" Sekibo spat out, "when there was a fine girl like Ngozi. I mean, when I saw that girl, I was like, Chei!, see something. Only for the Fela girl to show up. Yes, she is nice. Even has a nice body and if I was only looking to sample, then ehen!..."

I did not know why I did not turn around and flee. I knew that men talked about women this way because women did the same but it never occurred to me that I would ever be the topic of discussion or that if I was, that I was apparently so undesirable. Things made so much sense now. I did have many male friends. They were always there for me as I was for them. Yet, it seemed like I was always on the outside looking in as all my friends paired up and had relationships. Here I was, twenty six and one of the guys.

I don't even think it was what Sekibo was saying that hurt me. He was entitled to his opinion. After all, I coud not be everyone's cup of tea either. My heart was breaking for someone else. Osaro. There I was nursing carefully hidden feelings for him. We had kissed once, a while ago. From what was being said, I doubt if he remembered or cared to. I, on the other hand had built an entire future with two kids and a house in VGC on a few moments of contact. Here he was trying to push me off on his friend. Maybe I embarrassed him being around all the time.

I was so lost in thought, I had not realised that someone had got up until Hamid rounded the corner, bearing two empty bottles and clearly on his way to the kitchen to fetch replacements. He ground to a halt, both of us momentarily startled by discovery and the knowledge of what had just been said. Sekibo was still talking,

"Maybe you can set her up with Dede. He'll take anything." he said laughing.

Osaro chuckled, "True, but Fela is not in his league. Maybe she is not your type or mine but that is a quality woman."

"For someone else" Sekibo finished.

"I think she likes you." Andrew muttered.

"Abeg, stop that break dance. But if she wants it bad, I can give her a sample of Sekibo so she does not feel so lonely. I can imagine it must be a constant dry spell for her."

"I can't believe I just realised I have never seen her with a guy. I think I just never paid too much attention to her that way." Osaro said.

"How would you, when you became friends with her to get to her best friend Molara."

"Where is that one now, sef?"

They bantered on. I stood there. Looking at Hamid and he at me.

He looked embarrassed. I was embarrassed.

They noticed he was taking too long to return.

"Wey, Hamid sef?" [4] Andrew asked, "My glass is dry, man"

I raised my hands to my lips. Then clasped my hands together, pleading. Hamid could not say anything. If they knew I knew what they had said, it would be even worse.

He sighed and nodded.

I turned and fled.

[1]: What can a man do?
[2]: Money
[3]: Forget about that, please
[4]: Where is Hamid?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I know this topic has been hashed to know end

I stumbled across this article today and could only hold my head. The part that got me was,

"One woman decided to cut her losses. As far as she knew, antagonising her husband’s mistress was not the solution especially because the other woman was older and richer than her. She wormed her way into the mistress’ favour, “what’s my own? She was ‘spending’ my husband, so why can’t I spend her money? At first, my husband was wary; afraid I was up to mischief but he soon found out I had no time for lost battles. The woman was too old to have babies for my husband and she was loaded, always jetting around the globe. At the end, she helped me expand my business and one of my children is studying abroad on her bill.”
It wasn’t easy taking a step like that but what the hell; you might as well make the best of a bad situation. If your husband is on loan, make the best of it."

I am so tired of Nigerian/All men related bullshit. Is there no hope? At all?
Can anyone vouch for her spouse and his uncompromising fidelity? Please share. I refuse to believe that there is nothing to look forward to when it comes to men.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Drum Circle

picture from here
Dum dum dum dum dum
The sweat dances on her skin
with each movement
glistening in the sun
with a sheen of brown glaze
man made
this sound
man made
this sound
the movement of her waist

dum dum dum dum dum
transfixed they watch
unable to calm their own dance
wanting to rotate
with the beads around her waist
she is not
she is hot
the sound of ages

dum dum dum dum dum
they call out to her and she answers
daughter of the rhythm circle
breasts still high
even after the birth of four
around her thighs
happy and wild
the movement of her waist