CHIDINMA.


 

Chidinma bustled past 2 tables to pass down 4 plates of food on the 3rd. Her customers peered at their plates.

“Chidinma this soup is small o, you know me I like soup” One of them said. She was already hurrying away.

“I’ll bring more, Alhaji”

“Chidinma, I need water!” A customer in the far corner demanded.

”How much is my change?” Another asked, in front of the counter where she dished out food.

“Chidinma, do you have plantain??” A woman asked. “There’s too much pepper in your stew today o!”

“Where’s my food now?!”

She worked deftly, taking note of every complaint and order, as well which customer made which. Her helpers were at the back frying meats and sauces for Monday’s menu. It wasn’t rush hour: she hadn’t expected this many customers, but it wasn’t anything she hadn’t handled before.

“Oga no vex, na because I wan give una better food” she implored as she set down loaded plates in front of impatient customers “I will bring you water”

“Aunty, pepper too much?” She said in Igbo “I will do better, please forgive me” she smiled placating as she took the dishes away.

Her movements were calculated, mechanical; she served water here, packed plates there, and collected her money. She surveyed her canteen and went to rest her feet behind the counter. She checked for the time. 5o’clock. It was almost over. She smiled as they paid her, asking them if the food was good, bidding them a good evening in Igbo, English and sometimes, Yoruba. One of them apologized and explained that his department had had a meeting that had only just ended 20 minutes ago, which was why they had come by late. She ignored his evident admiration and waved his apology away, willing him to leave.

Alhaji trudged over and thumped his money on the counter. He never asked how much; he always over-paid. “Chidinma, its Friday. Let me take you out” He gave his best leer.

Only it was not a leer. It was a grin tainted by tobacco and irremovable grime. Chidinma grinned back. He was obviously teasing.

“Another time, Alhaji” she said.

She went to the back of the canteen to mobilize her helpers. They packed the meat and sauces into bowls, did the dishes and cleaned up the backyard while Chidinma made space in the freezer to store her bowls. She cleaned up inside the canteen, keeping her ear open for a phone call; the one that always took her home. Her helpers came in to say goodnight, and she gave them 1000 naira notes. She always did this on weekends, but they always feigned surprise and thanked her profusely.

As she locked up, her phone rang.

“I’m outside” Tony said.

“I’m coming”

In a few minutes, she was on her way home. He asked how her day was, she said it was fine and asked about his. The radio churned out popular tunes and he hummed along. She rested her eyes. He asked if she was hungry, she said she wasn’t and asked if he was. He said he was, but that the help would warm something for him to eat. He said she looked tired and massaged her thigh. She smiled with her eyes closed. He was such a good actor.

They had been married for 6 years, and they had never had a fight. They argued every now and then, but it was never violent or passionate. They weren’t confrontational. They handled conflict the same way; by discussing and coming to a compromise or ignoring it altogether. It was the maturity ideal they both shared; to take the high road, to not let their reactions be determined by people or situations.

They also did not have children. So when Tony’s mother paid them a month long visit 2 years ago, Chidinma pretended not to notice her hostility. She pretended not to hear her telling Tony that she could find him someone fertile. And though she heard Tony explain that infertility wasn’t always the woman’s fault, she pretended not to be angry that he let his mother interrupt their marriage with her selfishness in the first place. She was grateful back then, that Tony himself did not seem to mind their childlessness.

Chidinma stood in front of the mirror, surveying her stretch marks. When she was 25 her mother had said that she looked like a mother of 2. Women needed to look their age and Chidinma needed to lose weight, her mother had insisted. “By the time you are 30 you will be looking 50 with those chubby arms”. Now she was 32, and as she stared in the mirror, she decided she looked 32 and pretended to wash away the impact of her mother’s words as she showered.

She smelt his perfume before his arm cupped her breasts from behind, and sighed at his determination; if they didn’t do it in the shower, they wouldn’t do it at all. She always slept off before he could eat and take a bath. She wondered why he bothered, why she let him touch her at all.

At first, she would open her eyes anytime Tony so much as turned in bed. Now that she knew what sound meant what, only the creaking door of their bedroom at 2am meant it was going to happen. At 4am the door would creak again and the bed would press down with his weight. On nights where she stayed up late watching TV, he would toss and turn, insisting she reduce the volume or turn it off, because the light was preventing him from sleeping. On those nights he could go nowhere, because he couldn’t be sure she was awake or asleep. And she knew this.

But all that would end. Soon enough, he would have nowhere to go at 2am in the morning.

The next day, she made an early breakfast of toasted bread, eggs and sausages. She made 2 servings; one for Tony, one for the help.  She packed them accordingly, stacking them in the microwave. Then she made a 3rd serving using the pot they used to cook for Rex, their dog. She packed it up and kept it in the oven.

Ali opened the gate before she could blow her horn. He had always seemed earnest to her. As she drove out, she handed him his breakfast and instructed him in Hausa, her heart pounding.

When Chidinma returned 4 hours later, it was the help who ran out to open the gate.

“Where is Ali?” she feigned annoyance.

“Oga carry am go hospital. E say belle dey pain am.”

She didn’t know whether to be happy that Ali was out of her home, or be angry that Tony had shouldered the responsibility of taking him to the hospital. She didn’t feign concern. She carried some bags of foodstuff into the house, and the help followed her with the rest.

She wondered if she would have done the same thing if it was Eme, their house help. At first, she had thought it was her. And prior to that, she had thought that perhaps he was leaving their bedroom at 2am on most nights, to pray. But one did not vividly creep out so often to pray, and after many fights with herself, she had followed him a few minutes after he left the bedroom on one of those nights. She had stopped at Eme’s door. It was too quiet for him to be in there but she had opened the door with her heart in her mouth, only to find the help snoring softly, oblivious to her suspicions.

Her relief did not last however, so she searched the house for him. A wedding gift from his father, they were fortunate to live in the privacy of a fenced bungalow with 3 bedrooms and a boys quarters. She panicked when she did not found him in the house. She should just ask him where he went at night, she had thought. No. She wanted to find out on her own. It felt like a bad thing and she wanted to catch him. Because why, in all of the 4 months he had been creeping out, hadn’t he mentioned where he went, or that he left at all?

A few weeks later Chidinma decided to search the compound. She had left the kitchen’s back door open, but when she went back there, it was locked from outside. Her heart thumped wildly as she quietly opened the front door and stepped out barefooted. Their cars were still in the driveway. She felt hopeless as she walked steadily around back, towards the boys’ quarters.

She stood in front of the little house, imagining that she had married Alhaji, and was living in a pretty apartment in Dubai with 2 fair skinned children. She imagined that she was a 32 year old spinster living by herself, cooking meals for a living. She wondered if that was better than the sound of her husband’s guttural grunts, intertwined with Ali’s, muted by the walls that separated them both from eternal devastation. 

It had been a year since Chidinma had had a full night’s rest. She had spent her waking moments deciding whether to stay or leave. And he gave nothing away. He followed her to the fertility clinic, picked her up on his way from work every day, and made love to her as often as possible. When he drove out, she would peep through the window searching for shared moments of intimacy. Up close, all she could see was Ali’s adoration. She wondered if Tony loved him, but knew that he didn’t. He couldn’t.

She could not tell her mother. She did not want to taint Tony’s image in her eyes. She could not tell anyone; one simply did not share such news. But she had told Alhaji. She was never good enough for anyone, she had raged. She had been too fat for her mother, too lower-class for Tony’s family, and now, not man enough for Tony? He had picked an illiterate man over her, with her ample bosom, her wide hips, her humility, her degree and her fluency in over 6 languages? How?

When she told Alhaji her plans there was no shock in his face, no surprise in his eyes, like she had expected. He had simply asked her to wait.

When Tony came home later that Saturday night, Chidinma pretended to be sleeping. Eventually, she did sleep. There were no creaking door sounds at 2am and 4am. But she didn’t rejoice yet; Tony had not touched his dinner. He did not eat breakfast. He wanted her to accompany him to the hospital to see Ali. He had worked with them for 3 years, Tony insisted. They owed him that much. She wondered if he was genuinely oblivious to how much he seemed to care for the man, or if he simply didn’t care that his affections showed.

Ali died before they got there, and Chidinma was too busy gauging Tony’s reaction to react herself. He seemed sad enough, but not too sad. She wouldn’t concern herself with how he felt. She didn’t cajole him to eat, she listened patiently as he talked about calling Ali’s family members and contributing to the cost of his burial. He did not touch her that night but she did not care.

As she walked to her pristine little canteen at 6 am on Monday morning, she couldn’t stop herself from smiling. Alhaji was waiting at the door, smiling too.

“Did it work?” He asked in a whisper.

She nodded.

“Come inside, let me make you breakfast.”

 

 

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Am I Wrong?


Everybody has these notions
About how to bring happiness
To everyone but themselves
About how to find peace
And make peace
With everyone but themselves
But I don’t see why another person’s happiness should determine my own.
I don’t see why another person’s satisfaction should determine my own.
Unless…

Am I wrong?
Am I wrong to think that I don’t owe you nothing?
To think that whatever you do for me,
You did for you and if that’s your move, then it’s your fault?
Does my individuality make me selfish?
Is it okay to be selfish?
Is it so wrong to be selfish?

Am I wrong?
To not want to be trapped by other people’s desires and expectations of me?
Am I supposed to try and spend this one life making sure others are happy with me, if I’m not happy with my self?
Am I wrong not to waste my life doing that?
Is it okay to be bored sometimes,
To want something else sometimes
To want someone else sometimes
Is it normal?
Is it abnormal, is it normal to be abnormal sometimes?
Can I want a change that is tailored to my nature,
Can I ultimately pursue freedom on my own terms,
If I step away from people who control me in the name of their version of love..
If I do this and unwaveringly follow my own path..

Am I wrong?

The Continent


Last night I laid within your continent
Sought salvation from frustration
with in your loving nation
found the true meaning of homeland
when you let me inland
Swahili tongue knew I hadn’t been there before
kissed for me to stay awhile
I did you one better and stayed forever, in your country
Then you let me tap your virgin drum
releasing echoes of me being free
Free to run through your countryside
touching jasmine, dropping weed
Free to nibble on your Nigeria
Blow on your Botswana
Eat your Opia til there is no more Opia left
Won’t be any leftovers when I’m done
Won’t be anything when I’m done
Just remembrance of that night when I laid within your continent
seeking salvation from frustration within your loving nation
and that’s all we’ll have
That, and a few thousand orphans to read this poem

You Did the Right Thing.


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You did the right thing. I know it hurts right now, but you did the right thing.

He didn’t deserve you anyway. You’re too good, too smart, and too kind for someone like him.

 All he did was hurt you, what did you ever see in him anyway?

I mean you don’t really want to be with someone who makes you act like a different person.

Who makes you talk mean and act nonchalant cause he is too.

That’s not you. I mean.

You don’t really want to be with someone whose minute validation makes you throw caution to the wind and act like you have all the money in the world.

I mean.

You don’t really want someone who doesn’t care how his words and actions affect you.

Someone who only comes around when he’s feeling brand new and goodly. That’s ridiculous.

You were so relaxed days ago. One phone call and now you’re constantly waking up in the middle of the night.

What did you ever see in him anyway?

Why are you crying?

You did the right thing. Don’t cry, you did the right thing.

The Wanton Unfolding of a Sentimental Young Woman


At 16, I was curious.I wanted to be kissed. I wanted to be wanted. The promise of delight between my thighs had me fighting against all my father had taught me. I wanted to be a ‘bad girl’.
At 20, I was still a ‘good girl’. I had never been kissed, I had never had sex, and no boy had declared feelings for me. I felt ugly, alone, strange, unlovable, burying my depression in fantasies of the crushes I had become infatuated with, in the four years I spent in the University, observing boys.
At 20, for the first time, a boy looked my way. He wasn’t perfect but he was something. He was eager to please, he was huge so I wasn’t as conscious of my size. He was very dark, with a massive dick. And he hurt me. He wasn’t ready. I was, but I didn’t know what to do. I nursed a half torn nipple and sore vagina back to health for weeks, wondering what the hell everyone else had ever been on about.
At 21 I fell in love. Half in love. He was short, smart, confident, and made my insides glow. I cared for him deeply and wanted to be enough for him. I worried about the way my breasts hung, my stretch marks, the size of my stomach. I ate healthy, and took drugs to purge a week before I saw him. I shaved clean and hurt myself in the process. I was so embarrassed with myself, I ate weed before going to see him. If I disgusted him, if I sucked, I’d be too high to notice.
At 21, yet again, I fell in love. He was tall, kind, adoring, and beautiful. My heart had been broken, and he was the light in a dark, dark tunnel. I couldn’t wait. He didn’t last 2 minutes and he went on about how beautiful I was and how amazing I felt. After that we fucked endlessly and sex was no longer a phenomenon. I had been kissed, sex didn’t hurt and I knew how to ride. I even twerked on good days.
At 22, I had my first orgasm. I worried and questioned my normality, as I had when I was a 20 year old virgin. I read up on orgasms, and decided masturbation was more self education than sin. It was scary, the feeling of incredible pleasure, and I learned to to enjoy it, to keep rubbing my clit till I had cum completely.
At 23, I have had only one man, and I have let him go. I may be up for a comfortable rendezvous or two with a stunning stud, but I’m not looking. If I could meet my younger self, I’d tell her to take it easy. I’d tell her she was beautiful, and that what her father and step mother thought of her body were their own limitations, not hers. I’d tell her to wait for someone who would value her first time as much as she’d wanted to. I’d tell her not to fall in love before she loved herself, learned herself, and determined what was important to her in life. I’d hug her, and beg her to just calm the fuck down.
Does this feel incomplete? Some things are way too classified.

A Kiss.


An intermingling of passions, an act of possession, a symbol of affirmation, confirmation, reformation

The first experience, the beginning of a journey of a lifetime, the fusion of generations, the unknown start of the tale of a bastard child, the memories of a fugitive’s salvation in the wild

A kiss

For I love you child, I want you to know this, I kiss you so you can feel it

For I own you and no one else can have you, I kiss you in the open, so they can see it

That I bless you, I really do, but they say I must kiss you, just to show it

You say that it hurts less when I kiss you where it hurts bad, so I kiss you, because you like it

A kiss

The calming of nerves, the uproar of hormones, the release of tension, the sharp intake of breath

Butterflies touched, they touched in your tummy, they touched in nature, they touched at the heads, to me, they kissed

You kissed, and they kissed in your tummy too

A kiss

The warm undercurrent of feeling, the pumping frenzy of your heartbeat fueled by the anticipation of your imagination brought to life. What new reality might one kiss bring?

The display of hate, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, but you are no Judas

How beautifully clear the thin line between love and hate; you say that you detest me yet you kiss me, if you can stand to touch me, then you must want me.

A kiss

The puckering of the baby’s mouth is not to kiss you, or me. You think babies know how to kiss?

Beautiful awakening at dawn, your lover’s mouth to yours, does it bring uncertainty, inexplicable contentment, or peace?

The bond of a lifetime with another human being with whom you will raise little yous’, is sealed in front of a crowd, with a kiss.

The breaking of hearts; the cards, the flesh; the real deal, the bet. I can see it all now from a kiss

Psychopath.


Haunted mind, enslaved in delusion

Shortcomings become the pit, forte is no bridge

Fellow traveller with desolation, lovely host, demise

For my faint-heartedness I cannot spend the night, demise

Groping for naught, grasping at naught, impertinent, suggestive mirage

Destitute in spirit, unfriendly, cold, detached, internal frenzy

Disregarded sentiments, but despair, and rage, as the unspoiled naught slips

Wearied from the struggle to keep reason from leaving

Who you see, is all you see

But naught remains, with numbness, darkness

Subconscious groping, exhaustion, frustration, pending rage’s inevitable return

Screaming, fighting for naught, fighting naught

Feverish banshee questing for naught, psychopath.

Pebbles


Pebbles on the shore, the colour purple.
Purple is dried blood. Blood of the consequences of my mistakes. Our mistakes. The mistakes I made you make, and likewise.
Pebbles on the shore, no sea shells. I want a sea shell I can tell all my problems to.
That open end of sea shell, does it have a name? Have you noticed it looks like an ear?
Pebbles on the shore, no sea shells. I want a sea shell I can tell all my problems to.
Pebbles on the shore..tripped me. So purple. Dark dark purple.
How much blood did we spill?
Oh it’s not so bad; I fell, I was looking too closely at it.
Pebbles..I’m tired of the colour purple. If I keep walking I’ll find a simpler blank looking pebble. I hope.
Pebbles these days have one colour or the other. When I look too closely, they confuse me too.
But pebbles are so lovely. I want a pebble.
Pebbles on the shore, a blue pebble.
In the midst of all this purple, blue. If I pick it, I might stain it and make it purple too.
It’s so hard to walk away, it’s such a lovely blue. Is it impressionable too?
I hope I’m the impressionable one. I’m taking the blue pebble with me, and I’ll try not to spill blood on it.
And if I do, I hope for the magic of love, it doesn’t change.

A Lesson Learned


Sometimes, we just have to come down to people’s level when they’re hurting. They may lash out you, say really hurtful things. Is this not a weakness of human nature; the tendency to lash out, when we’re unhappy? If you truly believe they’re hurting, stay calm and make the peace. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you a better person than they could ever hope to be.