I don’t want a whole day
Can I have minutes?
In which you fill all of you
With a bit of me;
Moments where you count down time
Till you see me again….
Till I walk thru the door and say;
“See me again!”
Again to always to forever…
And a day.
“She’s stable now. It was food poisoning – something she ate. We were able to pump her stomach in time, and she’s responding quite well.”
My ex-wife mutters a small prayer of thanks and buries her head in my shoulder, hers moving up and down, response to the sobs shaking them. I hold her gently, saying my own thanks as I put my arms around her. I am grateful my daughter’s fine; grateful I haven’t completely messed things up for us.
“Thank you doctor,” I say.
“Baby…” my ex sighs softly.
Something happens to my belly every time she does that. Every time she calls me that.
“Yes?” I answer, throat all bumpy and rough.
“I’m glad you’re here. I know how busy you are; I understand how much time you have to do the things you have to – especially now with your book out. Thank you.”
I push her away gently, still holding on to her arms and look into her eyes. “She’s my daughter too, which would mean there’s nothing I can do for her that would be too much. You understand?”
She smiles, pushes my hands away and places her head back where it was. “I know. I know. Just – thank you.”
And that’s that.
From the corner of one eye, I see my ex look at me like It’s always you first.
I don’t say anything, the tightness in my chest is reflected in my grip on her hand. I know; I’m probably hurting her – but she doesn’t mind. I couldn’t even let go if wanted to.
And I don’t.
“Hi baby,” I say. At least, that’s what I intend to say but what comes out of my mouth is nothing remotely close to that. The girl on the bed smiles wanly, lifts a hand that has ropes – I mean tubes – attached to it. I don’t know when I start crying – in fact; I don’t realize I am till I taste saltwater.
“Don’t cry daddy,” she says, smiling bravely and struggling to sit up. “I think it was the juice I drank. Ogechi gave me some juice.”
My ex rushes to her side. “Baby, you should lie down – “
She looks at her mother with that eye I assumed before now is reserved for me. “I want to sit up, mummy. I want to be able to look at my parents properly.”
On unsteady legs I walk to the bed, cross to the other side and gently put my hand against her left cheek. It – I mean she’s warm; but it’s a healthy kind of warmth. Her smile remains radiant – even if it’s weak.
“It’s good to see you, Daddy. You and mommy together.”
I try not to look at my ex – instead focusing on the little girl who has been a constant source of joyful torment to me most of her life.
“It’s good to see you too, little girl.”
She frowns. “I’m not so little, daddy. What do you mean?”
I let go of her cheek, leaned back and scratch my beard. “Well I – “
“Are you hungry, darling?”
That was my ex. There was a strange, strained note in her voice…something I couldn’t quite…
At that moment, scales fall from my eyes with the suddenness of NEPA restoring power and I realize; with startling clarity –
My ex is jealous of my relationship with my daughter.
I am so surprised I stumble back a few steps. That doesn’t make any sense to me.
She spends more time with this kid than I spend looking at my reflection. She feeds the kid, dresses her up for school, takes her there most times, brings her back most times, takes her to the hair dresser’s, the tailor’s – takes her to church – everywhere.
Some resentment starts growing in my belly and I frown.
I barely see my daughter twice a month! I’m the absentee father –
You’re the absentee father who’s hardly ever there – and yet the mother literally disappears once you are.
“Daddy – what is it? Are you okay?”
I look at two of the most important women in my life and lie.
“I’m fine. I just need some air.”
And I leave the room before either of them can look surprised.
It’s been twelve minutes.
My left foot taps on the ceramic floor, making a low but distinct kokoko sound. A passing nurse squeezed her face in my direction once.
I looked at her – I mean really looked at her – and she scrambled away.
Yeah. I’m ugly when I smile. You really don’t want to see me frown.
So I’ve been sitting still, thinking about the ladies in the room behind me. Resentment has decided to leave me alone – and in its place now sit understanding and regret.
There’s a swishing sound behind me – and my nose identifies my wife – I mean my ex-wife – before any other parts of me are aware of it. She sits beside me, places her head on my shoulder and sighs softly. Her hair tickles the side of my face – her hand is heavy and warm on my thigh – but everything feels right.
Like finally finding your perfect size of the shoes that caught your eye from the store window – three hours later.
I feel her smile – I see it vividly in front of me even though her face is out of sight. “Hmmm?” she mumbles sleepily.
“I apologize if it seems as if I commandeer all of our daughter’s attention away from you whenever I show up. It’s not like that at all. I cannot compete with you when it comes to taking care of that child – and I’m not even trying to. There’s no point. You’re her mother – and honestly – I couldn’t have gotten a better one for her if I cloned one.”
She turns into my shoulder and pulls my chin down with a gentle hand till I’m looking into a pair of eyes that must have inspired God’s most beautiful night sky. Smiling softly, she begins to speak.
“I know. I know; you don’t intentionally do it – just like you didn’t intentionally leave us alone to grow without you. That’s not to say it didn’t happen – it just wasn’t intentional.”
Her shoulders move up and down and a small whoosh of air leaves her lips – but she doesn’t break eye contact with me. “It’s like that prodigal son story – feeling angry because he was unappreciated when he could have just asked for whatever he wanted. I’m her mother, she loves me and nothing can change that.”
She pauses and then, another soft smile teases her cushy lips. “But you’re her father. And she loves you – which only means she will miss you – and be happy again whenever she sees you. So – it got to me and it still might – but I understand it. And it’s okay.”
Some food I have no memory of eating is suddenly stuck in my throat – and it feels as though I’m looking at her through layers and layers of nylon. I pass my hand over my face and look at it.
It’s wet. With tears.
“Aww baby,” she says, wiping my cheeks with tender fingers. “What is it?”
I take her hand; hold it away from my face. “I…I love you,” I say, after not saying it in a long time. And I have to admit, the look on her face makes it entirely worthwhile.
She doesn’t respond. Not with words anyway.
I got caught up with this girl who was also caught;
In a strange situation – and that really cut
I tried to talk to her – but she was so curt
And she has an ex boyfriend – whose name is Kurt
I know you don’t believe me – and that kinda sucks
That’s like kicking a sore – or bleeding a cut
But don’t say that to me – else we’ll end up in court
Oh no now I’m in trouble director just yelled CUT!!!!!
Terry Tha Rapman, one of my favorite rappers once said in an interview; when he was asked what piece of clothing he hated most: “Socks! Very annoying things! You only wear them twice – and then one foot disappears and you keep seeing one foot – and you can never tell whether the one you’re seeing is the one you lost or not!”
Some of us have exs like that. You know; that ex that has almost become your rebound person? Any and every time a relationship doesn’t work out you park yourself right back to them – and they always seem to be available?
She was that to me. Her. She.
Interestingly, she likes Hershey’s. Just saying.
Anyways – she called me that afternoon to say she had just landed at MM2 after a long and dusty flight from Abuja, she had a meeting with some new business owners her oga was courting – and that she would be free and mine for the evening.
Maybe; not in those words. Maybe she didn’t say it like that.
But that was what I heard. Convenient, shey?
Sha – that evening I arranged myself quite carefully and looked at myself in the mirror – a small perk I allow myself only twice a year; once before the first date of the year and after the first breakup of the year – and headed out. My destination was E-Centre Yaba, and the goal was to see a movie, grab a couple of drinks and see her to her hotel.
And go home immediately after. I swear, that was the plan.
But when I saw Kemi all my plans went out of the window, along with my common sense and eighteen-month-old celibacy oath. She looked like sex would look if it got up and walked out of the dictionary one lazy night and literally put on a woman’s form.
I was finished.
I tried o! Before you judge me, I swear I tried! The only thing I didn’t do was to take a cold shower – and if we had been at Ikeja CIty Mall instead of E-Center I would have run into Shoprite, bought a pack of Eva Water and a bucket, run into the rest room and doused myself – clothes and all.
Oh devil, why did you make me suggest Yaba?!
God – help me!
Kemi – Ms. Suicidal Tendencies herself sat down and ate pizza, looking at me from over her fish-eye glasses and smiling at my discomfort. “Are you okay?” she would ask at five-minute intervals, little finger of her right hand somehow always picking something from in between her teeth.
I sat there and stared, a drowning man.
“Can we go and watch the movie now?” I asked, hating the way my voice shook. She looked at the inside of her wrist, and then at me.
“Which movie is that?” she asked.
She yawned and covered her mouth. “Babe – I’m tired. Let’s go return those tickets.”
I was going to tell her how impossible that was – but I shut up and hurried so I could walk beside her instead of behind her – for obvious reasons.
Somehow she got the guy behind the desk to give me my money back, and then, leaning on my arm she led me out of the building and into a cab. “Lekki – Maple Cottage,” she told the driver.
I was barely settled in my seat when this wildcat grabbed me and started to eat my face – the exact same way she had been devouring pizza some minutes ago. Somehow her glasses were over her head and out of the way. I started to tremble – I started to vibrate like I had that Nokia 3310 in my pocket and it was ringing. I grabbed onto her arms and held on for dear life – and somewhere in the distance I could hear a sound – something that sounded like the wind howling at the top of a very high building.
Suddenly she pushed me away – and I became aware of two things; slobber all over my chin and chest; mine, I was sure – and the fact that we were standing still.
The cab wasn’t moving.
“Driver, what’s wrong?” she asked brusquely, impatiently pushing her glasses back on her nose. I looked around, afraid we were about to be victims of the kind of stuff we only heard about on the news and Twitter before now – but we were at a police checkpoint.
That reassured me slightly.
“Oga wetin happen?” I asked, my voice sounding like Super Mario was hiding somewhere in my throat. I cleared it away but the driver had heard me. Quietly, he opened his door and went out of the cab. “Na you I wan talk to,” he said to me.
“What’s the matter?” Kemi asked again. I untangled myself from her, arranged myself and got out of the cab. The driver was waiting some distance off.
“Wetin happen na?” I asked as I drew near him – suddenly afraid.
“Oga, I no dey disturb you o. Anything wey you like, you fit do inside my taxi; you dey hear me so? I jus’ wan say make you kiaful; shebi na hotel una dey go? Ehen na, wait make we reach di hotel – den you fit fire aunti anyhow!”
I was wondering whether to tell him to mind his business or to say thanks – when a gleam in his hand suddenly darted towards me. I sprang back – and then what he was holding became visible.
Automatically I reached for it, and as my hand closed around it he said, “And you dey fall my hand with that noise wey you dey make! Oga, you never kils woman before?! If na kilsing make you dey shout like dat – wetin you wan do if na d koko?”
I stood there, holding the condom in my hand, feeling like the only guy at the show who didn’t get the Basketmouth joke, driver’s loud uncultured laughter sticking taunting fingers in my ears and wagging saliva-dripping tongues in my face.
Oh wretched fool that I am…
My dad told me about his desire to acquire a girlfriend.
“I want a young girl – someone in her twenties,” he said, unable to sit still in his chair; looking only twenty years my senior. “You know, someone that can get this stale blood pumping and some clotted pipelines working again.”
I regarded him in silence for a while. And then I said, “I hope you’ve written your will and prepared your last testament. And I also hope; you’re ready to go down in history as the first man to do a two-way transition.”
He frowned. “Whatever are you talking about? Two-way transition – what’s that?”
“You’ll cum and go,” was my response.
They say Berger used to take black skulls
They lined them up
Used them to build levees
Why do you think it’s called Wall Street?
So they took two thousand more
Who the hell cares?
What two thousand?
They don’t even have healthcare!
Two thousand from a town away from here
Two thousand lives sacrificed to an absentee god
Two thousand destinies extinguished! Oh! My! God!
Is it time to drop the pen and pick up the sword?
Gone With The Wind.
Lies of a telltale heart
Damn. Play it again, Sam.
But life goes on, right?
Let me get these campaign posters out of your sight
Put up obituaries, bang on the black boxes
I hope; one day we all will get the picture
My daddy used to tell me “Run away when you see any of these two things: a man without a conscience, and a woman with love in her eyes”.
The first I understood immediately.
The second made no sense to me till two nights ago when I was walking Kadija home from night class.
I like her.
She is small, really pretty with eyes that can look like saucers – or a dog’s – depending on what she wants from you, and a nose that is…well…
A nose that is cute.
Her mouth is something else. It constantly makes me think of a hard day on campus, without food, thinking about Seyi’s Shawarma.
The best shawarma anywhere. Quote me.
So – imagine I’ve been waiting for the shawarma, mouth releasing juices inspired by the aroma of cooking dough and chicken and various sauces.
And then finally. It is ready.
So I grab the hot meal, unwrap it – and take a first look at what I’ve been waiting for.
Kadija’s mouth is like that. But I digress.
Kadija is beautiful. And I know that. And her friends know that. And my friends know that.
And they think we should be together. And our coursemates have been championing that cause since we gained admission.
Now that I think about it, I guess I can say I wasn’t exactly averse to the idea. I just didn’t think someone like her would want to be with someone like me.
She wanted to be friends. I was thankful for that at least.
It was enough. Then.
Two nights ago, we had just finished reading a particularly tricky handout – the man was fond of hiding stuff in his notes and then basing test/exam questions on the hidden stuff. We cracked a cipher to the rest of the class – and they were hailing us as geeks, telling us to get married and raise a family of geeks – that the world needed our children.
We laughed with the rest and said our goodnights.
Now I live off campus – in a hostel opposite school to be exact while she lived on campus, but the two hostels weren’t far from each other so I walked with her to hers, leading the way through dense bush paths that would have seemed daunting but for the lights that blazed along the trail. NEPA had been good to us.
She was unusual quiet, not saying much but reaching for my hand and hanging onto it. I don’t think I mentioned the softness that is her before…but she is soft. She is soft.
As we walked that night, I found myself wondering what it would be like to hug her. I eyed the gentle swelling on her chest – and guiltily turned my head away.
I shouldn’t be thinking such things.
Too soon I saw the lights that indicated we had arrived her hostel. Confidently she walked the path, leading me by the hand almost without looking and then we were at her door. She stopped, pulling me up beside her till we were both underneath the security lights and then stood there looking at me.
“Goodnight,” I croaked.
She didn’t say anything – she just stood there and looked at me – pinning me there with that something that was stirring in the depths of her eyes.
My father’s words floated down – as though from the bulb;
“Run away when you see any of these two things…”
Guy, I couldn’t move.
Suddenly her eyes loomed closer – but it wasn’t until they receded did I realize what she just did.
She had stood on tiptoes and tried to kiss me.
Did I mention how tall I am?
She fell back – and then smiled, gleaming white teeth swimming in a sea of pink. She whispered ‘don’t move’ in a conspiratorial tone and disappeared, opening and closing the door.
I was blinking, trying to get the sparks out of my eyes when she returned bearing something. She set it down in front of me – then I realized it was a stool – and maintaining eye contact – climbed it, slowly put her arms around my neck –
My brain started buzzing, turning a particular code over and over but I couldn’t get it at the time –
And then the coolest lips in the world touched mine.
Seyi’s Sharwarma sweet o. No lie.
But it was ashes compared to what I had in my mouth that night. In fact, if she agrees to kiss me like that once a week I wouldn’t touch that shawarma – or any other one for that matter – ever again.
I think NEPA took power and restored it like fifteen times in the whole thirty seconds we kissed.
Finally she let go of my mouth. Finally I could breath again.
And finally, I got the code my brain had been turning over since.