The last time I heard my mum’s voice was over the phone. The last words she said were ‘pray for me’.
I didn’t. Not really.
The one thing that keeps haunting me – tormenting me; so to speak, is the thought that I said I was going to take her to see a movie at the cinemas. I said I would make time out of my busy schedule – and I would take her to see a movie of her choice.
I never did. There wasn’t ‘time’.
Maybe taking her there would have helped her stay around longer. Maybe not. Maybe it would have made NO difference whatsoever to her living or lack of it, but I would have had at least one more memory to cherish – one more smile to think about and be happy when I think about her not being here. I wish, with all of me, with all of my heart that she stayed a bit more so I could enjoy having a mother for a while longer.
No such luck. She left without warning.
It’s been a while – a year actually, and it feels like I never had a mother. It feels like it’s been forever.
To be honest, I have had to do a lot of growing in the past year – learn stuff I’ve always taken for granted just because I someone who covered my behind for the most of it. And as I go through the lessons and motions, I learn more about myself and the bigger picture called life, I’ve had a better understanding of where I fit in and what I owe. And I realize – while I might have lost my best friend – while death might have taken something from me, God replaced it with life.
I’m at peace with it. I’m grateful for the opportunity, to be born of the woman who birthed me. I learnt so much from her, and even now I’m still learning. I see a lot of things clearer now, I understand that life is too short to bear grudges, I understand to make memories with people I care about because ‘bleak’ as this sounds I WON’T always have them with me.
They say ‘life is hard’. I ask, ‘how did you know? With what standard did you measure it? Who told you’?
Let the people you love know you love them. Don’t say ‘I don’t have time’. Make the time. We all have 24 hours, yet The Wright Brothers built a plane.
Spend time with special people, smile while you can. No matter how that relationship plays out, make sure you have more to smile about than to cry about.
And most of all, thank God for those special people. You won’t always have them with you. Not physically anyways.
Rest In Peace, Momma. I am making you proud.
We had a small bet.
I’d offered her lunch at my place and she came over faithfully. She brought a bottle of white wine and I was about to serve the meal when she said something about not bothering about window dressing because she already knew the meal couldn’t be anything more than noddles.
I was offended.
I told her – or rather asked what she would do if the meal was nothing remotely similar to noddles. She said she’d stay over.
Can she tell you how lonely she’s been?
Those nights of wishing you didn’t leave;
Days of pulling out her hair, destroying her weave,
Those same braids you paid for, but only after writing her ‘please’
Can she share how cold its been?
Explain how her pillow replaced you between her thighs,
How screams of freed passion have become deep and trapped sighs,
How something soft and cold at warm and strong now tries?
How she uses your messages to identify male lies?
Can she use make-up to explain a break-up?
How her tears play the role of facial cleanser,
How her lip gloss tastes sour without your kiss?
How you stripped away your loving foundation, left her nothing to build on,
And oh! How she smells, fear is now her roll-on?
I understand you, its not your fault too,
It was something that wasn’t like before and that scared you
You should have told her how you felt but sometimes words won’t do,
So you left, all torn inside cos you thought it was best
Meanwhile, you were nothing but a victim of fear
She might not want you back but at least talk to her,
Don’t allow fear keep you trapped, get it out of your mind,
Better make corrections now while there’s still time,
I know so much because the face you see in the mirror is mine.
Life isn’t easy but you can try
Still thinking there’s no need for a lie
I don’t say it all, but I can fly,
I’m just saying
Pay attention really watch the lines
Life is downhill but we all climb
Always let the punishment fit the crime
I’m just saying
Love is a given, who’s doing the giving?
Which are you good at, taking or receiving?
Life is a short trip, you ready for the long haul?
Really, I’m just saying
It was our first kiss ever.
Can I not go into details? I’m sure even though we all know what happens during a kiss, we would rather not be reminded of the gross details; no?
But it was a big deal for me; kissing someone I’m really fond of. I must have passed all the science subjects in my head as our lips met and clung to each other. I mean…
Bad guy. I had sneaked a Buttermint in between my lips minutes before, Buttermint because a former kissing partner had complained about the harsh nature of Tom-Tom, and I never pass up a learning chance.
We kissed for a while.
One day, Priye woke up in his house. He had his bath, ate breakfast with his sister, and went to work.
But what sort of story would that be?
This is what really happened.
That Wednesday morning, Priye was feeling slightly disgruntled. For some reason, he was discontent with life in general.
No; he did not want to die. But he did want more.
He wanted more than a job where he had to spend hours and hours counting and staring at other people’s money. He wanted more than having to sit in a bus for hours; sweating like a defrosting Harp bottle and wiping his face with a handkerchief that rapidly got as soaked as the BYC t-shirt right next to his skin. He wanted more than having to inhale generator fumes night after night – and then having his doctor tell him lungs were just as black as that of cigarette smokers. Idiot doctor. It wasn’t his fault – after all he rode home every evening in an air-conditioned Toyota Evil Spirit.
Priye also wanted more than a girlfriend whose only job was reminding him that her biological clock was winding down; that he should do the honorable thing and marry her.
“Honorable thing,” he mumbled. “According to who?”
All that was going through his mind at after four in the morning. Before he had his bath.
By the time he walked out of his compound and towards the bus stop, he was mad enough to charge Aso Rock with his bare hands and spit in the president’s face – if he made it that far. And then, as he came out into the street and remembered there were no okadas to carry him to the bus stop – from where he planned to catch a BRT bus to work, he jumped up and stomped down in frustration.
“God!” he yelled. “Which kain life be dis sef?!”
Hearing no answer he continued to mumble underneath his breath; something about not paying his tithes that month, and started the long walk towards the main road out of his neighborhood.
Twenty-nine minutes later he was on the BRT line, sweating from the running-walk. He looked at his BB screen; 6:12am. Still have time; he surmised, staring at the various faces on the line. Some stared back woodenly, looking like mannequins in a boutique window. Others were chatting animatedly as though they were lined up outside a Tuface or D’Banj show or something, looking excited. Maybe they are living their dreams; he thought to himself. I can’t hate them for that.
He looked around for one of the ticket salesgirls and saw her standing with a fair lady who was obviously buying a bus ticket. The sales girl’s had her back to Priye, so instead he watched the lady doing the buying. She was slim, all arms and legs. But there was something about the way she wore the suit she was wearing that made her look like a fair version of Kelly Rowland. Priye did not like Beyoncé.
The arrival of a bus reminded him that he was yet to buy a ticket. Quickly he looked around, searching for the girl from before. His roving eyes met that of the fair ‘Kelly Rowland’ as she looked at him long and searchingly before slowly dragging her gaze away. Priye felt funny inside and started thinking about speaking to her.
Expecting the line to start moving, he was therefore taken aback when the freshly-arrived bus just drove past the queue and went to park somewhere behind the line. Priye joined his voice to that of other people raised in complaints.
“If you don’t like your job, quit.”
Priye was startled. The voice came from in front of him.
He blinked before realizing that the sales girl was standing a few meters to his left, facing him with a small smile hovering around full lips and trimmed eyebrows raised. He cleared his throat.
“Excuse me?” he asked her.
She nodded and said, “Ticket?”
Priye was confused. The voice wasn’t the same anymore.
In a daze, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Fumbling, he picked up the first thing his fingers touched and handed it to her. It was his GT Bank ATM card.
Patiently and smiling all the time, she took the wallet from his unresisting fingers, took the ATM card he was still offering, put it back in the wallet and pulled out a five hundred naira note. Moving quickly, she handed him back his wallet, opened the small purse slung around her shoulders, pulled out a ticket and a wad of notes. She rapidly flipped through the wad and sorted out his change – handing him the notes and his ticket.
“Are you okay?” she asked as Priye collected and almost dropped his change. He nodded, slightly embarrassed. The girl looked at him for a bit, that small smile still hanging around her lips – lips full enough to lecture Lagos touts about the finer points of lip-locking – and she walked away, putting her feet down firmly like a man.
Priye found himself staring at her behind – a behind that was neither flat nor fat; but one that was there. It was not one to get your salivating if you liked them there; it wasn’t one to grab your attention, but it was one to hold it once it had it. A behind that was there.
“Excuse…excuse me,” Priye mumbled as though waking up from a trance and left the line abruptly. Apparently the girl had not heard him; she had stopped to sell tickets to another set of people. He tried again.
“Pssss – sorry. Hey! Ticket!” He yelled, drawing several stares from the other people standing on the queue. Priye continued walking, making a beeline towards the girl who had stopped and walking looking at him, arms akimbo. She was still smiling that small smile.
He slowed down as he got nearer, suddenly self-conscious. “Ehn,” he began, as though fishing for words. “Emm…I’d like your num…your number please,” he said, looking at the girl – her mouth to be exact.
The mouth widened slightly in a grin, exposing small neat white teeth.
“Oga banker,” the girl said, “what exactly do you want with me?” she asked Priye, cocking her head to one side.
At that moment Priye thought she was the sexiest thing he had ever seen. And just like that, that image; the image of Tiwa Savage he had in his mind – the image of her bending over that guy in the ‘Love Me’ video; the image he used as his bar for sexy – that image was gone forever.
Replaced by that of a BRT ticket salesgirl fully clothed, standing arms akimbo and smiling at him.
Na wa o.
He came back to the now. “I don’t want anything…not really…at least not yet,” he added hastily. “If you would just give me your number, I would be able to figure out what it is exactly I want – and then get back to you.”
The girl laughed and rolled her eyes. “Okay, na new format be dat one o,” she said, head still cocked to the left of her body. “Not too strong a line – but fresh. Haven’t heard it put like that before,” she finished.
She opened her hand in a silent gesture – and Priye, understanding hurriedly put his BlackBerry in her palm, watching as she rapidly typed in her number – and then handed the phone back to him. He collected the phone and stood there, staring stupidly at the number knowing he was supposed to ask a question but having no idea what it was.
“It’s Tinuke,” she finally said, teeth widened in a grin. “You can save it as Tinuke BRT – in case we’re more than one.”
Priye finally woke up from his daze. “Actually, you’re the first, so Tinuke will do for now.”
She smiled and waved as she walked away, still putting her feet down like a man.
Priye smiled all the way to work, all the way through the Marina traffic and all the way up the steps up the Union Building. He was even smiling when he submitted his resignation letter. He was smiling when he broke up with his I-want-to-marry girlfriend.
He smiles a lot now. Life is good.