I watch him quietly.
It slowly dawns on him that this is not what he expected. All the stories about a ‘blinding white light’ or ‘a stifling darkness’ are nothing like what he is experiencing. He does not know what to think – but I can see the thoughts flying into his brain a mile a minute.
He looks around him at the deep darkness and wonders why he cannot see anything but sees himself clearly. He looks at his wrists, tension lines tightening around his eyes in preparation of what he expects to see – but doesn’t.
A blank look comes into his eyes, and he looks again at his wrists – looking like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix trying to make sense of reality. And then I see the acceptance of the inevitability in his eyes. He is ‘dead’ after all.
“You just missed all the possibilities,” I say to him, but I speak it like a thought. I see a frown gather between his line-riddled thirty-two year old brow. “What possibilities?” he mumbles in response.
As though in response, his surroundings change and suddenly he’s standing in the pharmacy from which he’d bought some things. Its doors are closed but the girl is still inside sorting out some accounting. There’s another girl looking on, dressed in mismatched colors. Her hair is the color of ash.
I see the confused look on his face, he’s about to ask an irrelevant question.
“So what are you doing?” Ash-girl asks the attendant who is taking some money from her purse and adding it to the stacks of notes on the table.
“Balancing accounts na…”
“I think that’s clear enough. Why are you adding money from your purse…” Ash-girl breaks off, a speculative look coming into her eyes. “Your boyfriend came today abi?”
He looks startled and I see the thought. Boyfriend?
Then the next one. What does that have to do with me?
The girl shrugs and continues doing what she’s doing.
Ash-girl smirks. “You do know he’s married right?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“So why are you crushing on him? It’s not like he would…”
There’s a flash of passion in the girl’s eyes and she responds; “It’s not always about that. He treats me nice and talks to me politely. He sees me as a person – which is more than I can say for you!”
Ash-girl is shocked, and it’s interesting to note that she’s not as shocked as he is. His mouth is hanging open and…‘I didn’t expect that,’ he thinks. ‘I always thought she…’
His surroundings change again – and this time it’s a place he recognizes. Anger flashes in his eyes, but this time he says nothing.
It is a sitting room – a fairly comfortable sitting room. A graying man wearing traditional buba and sokoto and a girl in her late twenties sit in front of a TV, grinning at the screen and each other. I can’t see his face, but the resemblance between him and the man is striking. The man might as well as have spat him out.
A woman; a woman that looks like an older Joke Silva walks in the sitting room and sits between the man and girl. The man puts his arm around her and she leans her head against his shoulder.
‘Okay, so they are happy. What is my own?’
The answer comes – surprisingly, from the graying man.
“You know, I’m worried about Yomi,” he says.
I feel rather than see the shudder come from him – from Yomi. He is shocked.
“I am too o,” the woman answers in a sing-song voice. “The last time he was home –“ she shakes her head as though to evict the thoughts. “He was so angry…” her voice trails off. “You know you weren’t nice to him,” she tells the man beside her gently.
“What am I supposed to do, watch him squander his life over pipe dreams? He’s an able-bodied young man! His mates work…”
“You’ve started again, you and your self-righteousness. Are you not the one who likes to brag about ‘how nobody ever did anything for you’? Why are you trying to live his life for him? He should make his own mistakes.”
The man looks like he wants to say something while the girl gently stands up and leaves the room. And then the man’s shoulders sag.
“Maybe I wasn’t too understanding…” His voice trails off. The woman kisses him softly. “That’s why I love you dear,” she cuddles even closer to him. “We’ll talk to him tomorrow,” she finishes.
Yomi trembles like a leave tossed in the wind. I see his fists clench and unclench. He tries to speak – but something is stuck in his throat.
“But I’m dead…” he finally croaks. “I’m dead, right?” he says to no one in particular.
He moves again. There’s one more thing he needs to see.
In one literal
Eyes of blue; lips of red,
Thighs of brown, breasts of cream
Close my eyes and keep the dream alive.
For whom this collection sings
he whom our waists and entire thoughts wring
You, who brought so much
through your incredible near divine touch
it is to your elegance
that our inks dance
snaking and stroking in every true cadence
more than these
we offer to please
I first offered my miserly mite
now we offer you this: our entire might!
I mutter ‘here we go again’ under my fresh minty breath. ‘Fresh minty’ because I approach my work with dedication – something similar to the way a surgeon approaches a dissection. It is not a joke – because within the pages are words; words, silent testimonies to someone’s life. A note, a grain of sand, a monument to mark his passing, graffiti; an ‘I was here’ on the wall of time.
And I do not take that lightly.
So I take a bath, scrub myself thoroughly to some Casting Crowns or Newsboys, and then wear my Sunday’s best, douse myself in perfume, spray some breath spray in my mouth (duh), and take the stage (actually, sit in front of my system is more like it).
And then I attempt the near-impossible; wear the author’s shoes.
In this case, the author would be Su’Eddie Agama, a poet and writer who has been around for a while. His freshly-ground collection, Bring Our Casket Home is the book that lies on my metal table for dissection.
Split in five parts, the book subtly takes on life (even though there’s a section titled life) in a broad tapestry that sometimes narrows down in it’s scope and focuses on something in particular. The general speak or ‘feel’ of this book is that Su’ is a very feeling poet; as he uses emotions as the canvas on which he paints his tales. According to the ‘Introduction which is not’ by Hyginus Ekwuazi, ‘occasional poems have been transformed into either or both of two things; 1. a peg on which emotions have been hung out to drip dry, and/or 2. a subliminal map detailing the major landmarks in that most taxing of journeys…’
It’s almost impossible to not dream along with Su as he takes you on a sojourn in word and rhyme. As I try to see what he saw that birthed those lines, at times I put the book down and go ‘hmmm’ (which is a huge deal actually; me doing ‘hmmm’) at times I burst out in laughter. It is truly a master’s piece.
My favorite piece is easily ‘Silence Shouts His Message Clear’ a rousing sonnet that delivers with every line. A lot of the pieces speak quietly – like the simple ‘The Teacher Called The Count’ and the riveting ‘Shallow Hollow’. The only ‘slow’ point came with ‘New Year Tales of Subsidy’ a mild protestant piece that sticks out like a bump on a baby’s forehead. Even then, Su’ pulls it off with a smooth delivery that manages to convince.
But much more bigger than Su’, than ‘Bring Our Casket Home’ is the realization that poetry; in Nigeria is speaking out with a strident; insistent voice. That might also be as result of the NLNG prize for this year being about poetry; but whatever the case, I like that people like me have more options! Only last week did Iquo release her debut, and now Su’?!
I encourage you to add ‘Bring Our Casket Home’ to your reading lists. Get the book. GET. IT.
It is available wherever books are sold.
To enjoy more of Su’s work, find him here.
THE DAY I DIED
Imagine feeling as lonely as a needle in a haystack.
That’s an odd simile, right? Yet, that’s the only way I feel I can describe it; or come close to describing it. It was not a good feeling.
Anyways, so there I was. I had been going through a rough patch; I mean rough. Days of no meals, weeks of not having more than a hundred naira in my pockets. I mean, that would be okay if I was a teenager or some child who was in pe-school or…or something. No.
I was thirty-two years, a couple months and some days that night. This meant that I should be my own man or something close to that.
Which meant I could not run to my parents to ask for some money…or even ask for a loan? That would be a few meters past stupid, right up the alley of downright moronic. Borrow money to…to eat?
And of course, I was fast learning just how alone I was on this planet. Somewhere down this road my model wife had disappeared without an explanation. She had just upped and left. Now, to be fair to her she did just about everything that could be expected of her but…she was just a human being. So she got to that ‘make-or-break’ point everybody has, and I guess she broke.
I had just found out the definition of that one too. Suddenly I had become a pariah; someone who was no good to hang around. And you know how the saying goes; out of sight, out of mind. I simply had no one. None.
I couldn’t share my frustrations; helplessness, pain…I kept it all bottled inside.
There I sat in my one room apartment, staring at the white walls. I was without prospects, without a hope, without expectations – nothing. As far as those words were concerned I was good as dead.
With nothing else to do I began to question every decision I had taken. One of those ones that rankled the most was that I had turned down a two-fifty thousand naira job less than four months back, simply because that was not what I wanted to do with my life. It had been a hard decision even then, but the main reason I had been able to stick it was because I felt I was onto something good. I had a plan; worst case scenario I would be working on a television series that would net me a minimum of half a million per season.
But I also learnt in a hurry; plans that relied on other human beings were not plans at all. I learnt that the worst way possible.
I missed my wife. I missed Lara.
I kept rubbing my palms together as though something was bound to materialize within them. Stopping for a small second I looked at the palms; the hands themselves and wondered why it was so hard to build something with them. As I sat there; my gaze fell on the arteries and I idly began to entertain thoughts of suicide.
It started as a mere thought, but the more I thought about it the more it began to look like the only way out. As far as the rest of the world was concerned I was dead anyway, so why not?
Now that I look back over it, I realise that I was just stuck in self-pity mode. I needed something or someone to get me out of that phase, but sometimes the easiest available thing was the hardest to find. I did try to fight it; tried to give myself reasons not to do it. I just could not find one.
So…I stood up and walked out of the house. My first destination was the local pharmacy where there was this girl who would frown heavily whenever I came there with my wife but would smile brightly if I was by myself. She gave me such a smile now, but it made no more difference to me than water would have made to a duck. Still I smiled back tiredly and told her I needed several pills of phenobarbitone; but that I was hard up for cash and so I would get back to her. She was a bit too happy to oblige.
After that, I went to the aboki next door to me and got a bottle of Schnapps also on credit. It did occur to me that I could have gotten something to eat the same way, but I never was comfortable with buying things like that. I did not like it. But since I had made up my mind on what to do…I just went and did it.
Back home, I switched off my phone; the phone that had not rang for a bit over three weeks, as I dug through my CD stash for my favorite record. I might as well have a ball of it, I thought to myself. My home theatre had been acting up for a while now, but for some reason I was convinced it would work tonight – and it did. So, listening to some choice Bach and Chopin, I set the stage, ready to end my life.
First thing I did was to get the sharpest thing I could find which happened to be my Gillette razor. I broke it open and extracted one of the blades. And then I looked through what was left of my medicine cupboard and picked out the Actifed bottle. There were still a number of pills in it. Carrying it over to the table, I stripped down to my boxers and then I wore my favorite clothes; a black Green Lantern T-shirt that was a gift from my wife, blue Live Mechanic jeans – things that had no meaning for me anymore. I was ready to go.
Breaking open the seal of the Schnapps I took a large gulp that brought tears to my eyes and emptied half of the bottle. Before I began to feel the effects, I swallowed four Actifed pills, followed immediately with all the Phenobarb pills I had gotten; six. And then I sat back.
Slowly, that pleasant lethargic feeling that came with an overdose began to steal over me, but that was not the goal. That was to be my anesthetic. Moving slowly, I grabbed the razor and, with manic strength cut through my right wrist severing the artery and several veins at the same time.
There was a huge gout of blood, spraying the walls with bright red. I felt some pain…but due to my inebriated state it was from a distance. It did not hurt that much. I sat down there and watched my life blood drain away, wondering how something that looked so watery could keep a human being alive. There was so much of it.
I began to feel dizzy; white spots decorating my vision. By then the blood had stopped spraying and instead was steadily pumping from my open wrist. I tried to stand up but lost my balance and fell across the bed.
And just like that, I was dead. It was finally over.
Or so I thought.
I love poetry.
And not just because I write it, but because well-written poetry can do so much with so little. They say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ I say ‘one well-crafted piece is worth a million pictures’.
Bias? Possibly. But you check this out:
Loneliness knows my name
She calls (again) now
With the familiarity
Of a decade’s cold embrace
We sup on tears
In this cocktail of
Diverse wrong turns
And missed chances
The unending torture of
This soon to close cycle
Yet my name knows loneliness
What do you think?
Without further ado, peep the debut of author, performing artist, writer and friend Iquo DianaAbasi Eke (she wrote the above piece too!); Symphony Of Becoming – A Collection of Lines (that’s what I choose to call it) now available at a bookshop near you.
Coming soon to Amazon, Kindle, iTunes and wherever books are sold. I suggest you do yourself and your collection a world of good – and add this to your literary (and even real) life.
Have a fantastic rest-of-the-week!
Innocent blinks like an owl caught in sunlight as he wakes up slowly. For some seconds he is completely disoriented, and then it all comes rushing back to him. The promotion…the congratulations…the surprise party…the Hennessey…
He is supposed to be at work. He sits up suddenly, winces and grabs his head.
What a hangover.
He shifts on the bed to get off it – and suddenly realizes he is still wearing his work clothes. A frown settles on his smooth features. He couldn’t have been that drunk. He stops moving and tries to remember exactly what happened after the party…but nothing comes up. It’s all blank.
He can’t even remember how he got home.
His glance is drawn to the bedside table – specifically to the wedding day picture of him and his wife that had been on that table since they got married. He sees his own grinning face from where he is sitting – but there’s something not quite right about the other person in the picture.
He leans forward and picks up the picture frame, noting that the glass that protected the picture from dust was absent. He runs his fingers over the picture, wondering how and when that happened…
“Good morning baby! Congratulations again! You were so tired yesterday I couldn’t disturb you. But what do you say to some early morning celebrating?”
Innocent freezes. There’s something wrong with the voice.
He turns on his behind, intending to ask his wife why she sounds like that.
And then he takes one look at the woman who obviously just came out of the bathroom, barely-there towel showing off long, lean light-skinned thighs to advantage. She leans against the door of the room – smiling coquettishly.
Innocent takes one look at her.
Okay. Thank you so much for staying with me. I really hope you enjoyed that!
There’s obviously something going on in the above story – but I leave you to figure that out. There’s something I’d like to ask you though.
Are you who you are because you know it, or are you who you are because everybody else says that’s who you are?
I mean, if you woke up one morning and everyone around you said you weren’t who you thought you were all your life; your husband/wife/
girlfriend/friends/the MTN-card selling girl on the corner all suddenly said they did not know you, would you still be you?
Imagine Innocent; going from knowing and being unknown to not knowing and being known.
Do ask yourself; what is identity? And just what makes us…US?
Please have a frabolous – yes; F-R-A-B-O-L-O-U-S weekend!
You may also like: True Fear I
Innocent woke up screaming and kicking like a drowning man.
It seemed to him that he had been having the worst nightmare of his life. But he woke up, and the nightmare continued.
The woman, now wearing blue jeans and a black blouse was sitting on a chair watching him. The moment he came fully awake, she jumped up and looked at him in fear.
“Are you awake now?” she asked, sounding an interesting mix of ‘concerned’ and ‘afraid’. “Can you start leaving? My husband…”
Innocent sat up, fiery grip of hangover headache replaced with the cold grip of fear. There was no rational explanation for what was happening to him, and it was too pat to be a setup. Still…
“Henrietta, how can you be talking like this?! I am your husband! We met on our way to camp in 2003…Nasarawa. We played around for a bit – and then became serious in 2005 after we…”
The woman suddenly burst out laughing. “Oh oh! So, you and my husband set this up abi? Hehehehehehehe!” she laughed, sounding relieved. “Oya, where is he?”
Innocent stood up slowly, quickly clutching the towel as it started to unravel from around his waist. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he told the still-chuckling Henrietta. “I did not agree with anyone to set you up. I am your husband – Innocent Asuke.”
She laughed again. “I thought you were going to say ‘Idibia’. Are you sure that’s not your name?”
Innocent didn’t see what the joke was. “Henrietta, do I look like I’m joking?”
She looked at him. “You’re not my husband. Do you want to see the wedding certificate?”
Innocent shook his head. Looking around him for the clothes he had discarded earlier, he started to wear them slowly. When he was fully dressed, he took his keys and phone from the bedside table and dumped them in his pocket. Then he picked up the toothbrush he’d dropped earlier and placed it on the bedside table in front of the picture, the picture whose glass he had smashed. He did not look up till he was done, and even then he did not look at the woman.
“Are you leaving?” she asked him. When he did not answer – just walking past her towards the living room and the exit, she said “How did you get in sef? When did you get in?”
Innocent did not answer, walking slowly towards the main door instead. When he got there, he pulled out a bunch of keys and easily opened the door. He stood at the door and regarded her with calm coldness.
“Henrietta Omuna,” he began, noting with pleasure how her eyes widened at his use of her grandma’s pet name for her, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll see how long you want to keep this charade up for. And then…”
He walked out of the door and shut it behind him. He looked around him to be sure he was in the right neighborhood, and nodded on recognizing his landlord’s grey Toyota Camry. In fact, maybe it would be better if he just spoke to the man…
“Hey! Who are you? Who are you looking for so early in the morning?”
Innocent looked towards the direction the voice was coming from and spotted a portly man wielding a wooden cane walking towards him. It was his landlord of course – except there was no indication that the man had seen him before.
He automatically started backing away, realizing how awkward it would be telling the man the same story he had just been telling Henrietta. He mumbled something about ‘wrong address’ and slowly made his way towards the gate a few meters away.
He would have made it to but for the fact that Henrietta chose that moment to open the door and yell “THIEF!”
Not waiting to see what the landlord’s reaction would be, Innocent broke into a run. He actually took a moment to appreciate the joke of his situation; running for his life from his house – or at least the house he paid rent for, before he flew at the gate full speed.
Fortunately for him it was open, and he ran through hoping the neighbors wouldn’t be interested in the commotion. Most of them should be at work anyways…
That was as far as he got before the truck smashed into him.