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Posts tagged “Divorce

For Want Of A Child VI

 

Masthead 6

 

“Where were you last night?”

 

Fola looked up from his plate of noodles. “Are you talking to me or singing P Square’s first single?”

 

“Hohoho. Very funny.” Frank pulled out the chair opposite his friend on the other side of the dining table and sat down. “Where were you, Folly?”

 

Looking like a greedy kid in a noodle ad, Fola shoved his fork underneath a large helping of noodles and ferried same to his mouth. Keeping his eyes on Frank, his mouth worked the noodles into a finely ground paste.

 

And then he swallowed it. Quite loudly too.

 

“Oga, don’t start interrogating me. You’re not my wife.” He heaped another helping, moved the loaded cutlery towards his mouth – and paused. “You’re not going to work?”

 

Frank looked at Fola silently – and then rose. “If you don’t want to answer me, no wahala. But your wife is going to get tired of your behavior sooner or later – “

 

Fola waved his free hand. “Oga come o, if I need marriage counseling I’m too sure I won’t be asking a very recent divorcee – especially not one who gave up on a twelve-year old marriage.”

 

Looking like he didn’t quite know whether to be happy or sad, Frank stared at his friend, feeling as though his heart was beating in his fingers. Fola continued shoving noodles in his mouth, answering Frank stare for stare.

 

Frank eventually moved away from the table. “No vex.”

 

He was almost at the door before Fola spoke. “Where are you going?”

 

His answer was in the sound of the main door closing.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

The first thing Frank saw as he walked outside the house was a pair of light-skinned legs on the other side of the road. The legs seemed to go on for a while – then end in a pair of short shorts. He had a moment; he was actually beginning to appreciate the legs for what they were when their owner turned away from the kiosk from which she was buying something – and their eyes met.

 

“Hi Frank,” Efe said.

 

He stood still, somewhat like a child with his hand in the proverbial cooking pot. He knew he was supposed to say something; she was staring at him with a half-smile, t-shirt and shorts making her look teenager-sweet, poly bag dangling from her left hand enhancing rather than removing from the picture –

 

And then an okada passed between them, breaking the spell. Frank actually blinked.

 

“Hold on,” he said, looking up and down the street before crossing. Efe started walking to meet him – stopping only when her chest was a few inches away from his. He looked down at her – and then abruptly shifted his gaze as he caught a small and unintended glimpse of light and round flesh.

 

“Is that an apology I hear, Frank?”

 

He cleared his throat. “Yes. I – I’m sorry I didn’t show like I promised. It was a long day – and I – I guess I got carried away.”

 

Her smile widened – and it was so infectious he couldn’t resist. “It’s okay. I’m just upset that my afang went to waste.”

 

“Haba,” Frank muttered. “I’m so sorry.” There was a bit of awkward silence – and then he spoke again. “Aren’t you going to work?”

 

Efe shook her short hair. “No – I’m on leave.”

 

“Leave?” Surprised made his voice lighter. “And you’re still in town?”

 

She sighed, and sadness of some sort made her look older. “I’m tired of traveling – this is actually the first leave in over eight years I’ll be spending in Lagos – and my husband isn’t home so I’m lonely.”

 

He was sure it wasn’t her intention but what she said only made him feel guiltier about missing on their appointment. “You know what? If you don’t mind, I can come around sometime this evening – “

 

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, dear. You’ve let me down once – I’m not so sure I’m willing to hang around for it to happen again.”

 

“But Efe, you’re not going to hold one mistake against me forever are you? Why na? I’ll come around – sometime this evening. I promise.”

 

Both her eyes looked into his – one after the other; and then her smile brightened. “Okay,” she said, patting his arm. “I’ll be expecting you. Call when you’re on your way, okay?”

 

She walked past him, moving as though she was dancing on her toes. She turned once, smiling over her shoulder – and she was gone.

 

Something about that smile bothered Frank.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Afo, what exactly is the problem with my car?”

 

The man Frank was talking to straightened from beside the golden-brown Corolla, knees creaking. He continued to uncurl till he towered over Frank, fingers brushing sand off the chest area of the formerly-blue-now-black coverall he had on.

 

“Oga Frank,” Afo started to speak. “Na the whole front leg bin get problem. We dey work on am – but as e still dey make dat noise na im make we never bring am. We don change bearing, change tie rod, change shock absorber – na only this afternoon wey we look am again na im we see say the drum don bend.” He spat onto the street and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand while Frank; feeling uncomfortable, looked away.

 

“So – you no go vex. We dey try do confam job for you noni.”

 

Frank exhaled and looked around the busy mechanic workshop. “Okay – but are you – shey you sure say dat na d wahala?”

 

Afo smiled. “No worry. If after we change the whole front leg and e still dey make dat noise, na to buy new car.” He turned away from Frank and huddled over the wheel he was working on. “In Jesus’ name, your moto go ready tomorrow.”

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Yeeee!”

 

Silence descended on the tailoring workshop with the suddenness of power outage – and as one, the workers turned to look in the direction from which the sound came. James came running, pushing past a few of his colleague to stand beside the man who had screamed;

 

Frank.

 

“Oga, wetin happen? You dey alright?”

 

Frank straightened, exposing what he had been bent over. Somehow his left forefinger had become tangled in the seam of the school uniform he was working on – and he hadn’t noticed till he stitched the unfortunate digit. James watched, mesmerized as blood sluggishly pumped from the long and deep gash – along with black threading.

 

“Don’t we have first aid in the shop?”

 

The words galvanized Alhaja into action. She gathered her gown and ran to Frank’s office while James snatched up one of the many pieces of material lying around, rapidly tied a crude bandage around the wound.

 

And then he ran out of the shop yelling, “Nurse Joy! Nurse Joy!”

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“I’ll be coming over soon – I hope that’s okay with you,” Frank said into the phone.

 

“Ahhh!” he yelled involuntarily – before turning towards the buxomly Nurse Joy with a frown. “Take it easy now,” he ground out from between his teeth.

 

“Maybe if you stopped moving around so much…” she answered, holding up the needle she was sticking in his finger. “I am putting stitches into your hand. What do you expect?”

 

“What is it, Frank? Are you okay?” Efe’s voice came over the phone.

 

“Yeah – I had a small accident at work, but it is being fixed right now. So – I’ll probably be there in – “ he looked at the time on his phone – and jumped as the nurse poked him with the needle. He took in her teasing smile and, shaking his head, turned back to his call. “ – about an hour or so.”

 

“Okay Frank. I’m waiting.”

 

“Alright. I’ll see you – “

 

That was as far as he got before a stabbing pain shot from the damaged finger into his brain. He jumped a few inches in the air, letting go of his phone and screaming his pain. The phone fell from his right hand, hit his right thigh –

 

Hit the floor and split into five distinct parts.

 

Frank’s behind sought out the stool again, and he sat down gingerly, favoring his finger – the finger with one thread still dangling from it – and then looked at the phone on the floor.

 

And then he eyed Nurse Joy, who was standing, mouth open.

 

“Are you done?” he asked.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

He pushed his right forefinger through the debris of the phone on his table looking for his sim card. He found it – and sighed.

 

“James!”

 

There was a moment of silence; one in which a quick count to three may have been completed then – “Oga!”

 

 

There was a scramble of footsteps, and the door opened.

 

“Oga?” James repeated, breathing slightly hard. Frank threw his wallet on the table and tried opening it with his one functional hand. James watched the silent struggle for a bit – then he took the wallet off the table and opened it.

 

Holding it towards Frank he asked; “wetin you need from am?”

 

Exhaling slowly, Frank leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. “There’s a card in there with the number of the taxi man who carried me home yesterday,” he paused. “Call him and tell him to come get me.”

“No wahala oga, E good make you dey go house sef – as rain wan fall.” James responded as he slowly thumbed through the several cards in Frank’s wallet. He found the one he was looking for, pulled it out and held the wallet towards Frank again. “Oga, your wallet,” he said.

 

Frank nodded without opening his eyes. “Just put it on the table, James.”

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

Although it was nearly dark and his eyes were only half-open, Frank recognized the house as the cab arrived in front of it. He knew it wasn’t as late in the evening as his half-open eyes would have him believe – but his painkiller-doped body screamed for sleep nonetheless. He climbed out of the cab on trembling legs, wondering at the moisture in the air while reaching slowly in his back pocket for his wallet –

 

It wasn’t there.

 

Awkwardly, he shifted to allow his fully functional hand reach around his body to pat all his pockets.

 

It wasn’t in any of them.

 

Trying not to panic, he leaned forward and peered into the car to see if it had fallen out of his pocket somewhere along the journey.

 

He didn’t spot it.

 

“Oga Frank, wetin you dey find?” Baba Soji’s always-angry voice came from the driver’s seat.

 

“Na my – my wallet. I no sure where I drop am – and e no dey my hand.”

 

“Ehen? No wahala na. I fit come your shop tomorrow come collect my money. E jus’ be say some tins go dey inside am wey you no suppose lost – “

 

Frank nodded, interrupting. “I’ll find it, thank you.” He turned away from the taxi, injured limb held out in front of him like offered libation. “Tomorrow then.”

 

The cab zoomed away – but he didn’t register it. He barely felt his feet touch the ground as he walked through the house gate and towards the door. For an idle moment the mush he called a brain became clear enough for him to wonder if there actually were other tenants in the house and why he was yet to meet any of them –

 

And then, a loud crash and yell came from the house – the apartment – he was approaching.

 

“Fola?” he intended to yell – but what came out was more of a gargle than anything comprehensible. He tried to run towards the door – but only succeeded in stumbling forward; very much like a man in a strange room with the lights off. He made it to the door, and lifted his hand to knock when –

 

“ – you bastard! You’ll be going up and down, pursuing those small small girls around town! Have you no shame?!”

 

There was another crash – “YEEEEEEE! I will kill you today! Witch!!!!”

 

He lifted his hand; intending to bang on the door – and then he remember what happened that morning between Fola and him. He remembered how awkward it was for him in the house already – he thought about the fact that he was a grown man squatting with a friend…

 

His hand fell to his side.

 

Lightning flashed – and rain kissed the streets around Frank; falling heavily – the tears of a petulant child. He turned slowly, patting his pockets in the same manner the rain was drenching him; slowly but steadily.

 

No phone. No wallet.

 

What were his options?

 

Like the pointing finger of an okada man, his gaze bent towards the brown house on the corner down from the one he was standing in front of.

 

Efe.


For Want Of A Child II

Masthead 2

The old man’s laughter rattled the windows of the house – even though he was sitting in the backyard.

“My son, what have I tell you? I mean what do I told you? Dat ya wife is onye na amughi nwa – she cannot carry shuldren! But luff – luff haff bland you; common sense come commot for ya sense!”

Frank leaned back in the cane chair and sighed. He sure wished his mother was home.

“Look papa, just because Igo couldn’t – just because we couldn’t make babies doesn’t mean you should insult my wife.”

Pa Omure cackled loudly and slapped his only son on the shoulder. “Hohohohoho…weeeeee! You no go ki’ mi!” He suddenly pushed his face up against his son’s. “You get wife?”

Frank reared back and almost fell off the chair. “Pa…okay. I don’t have. Not since I did what you asked. Are you happy now?”

The older man touched his chest. “Me? I dey always hapi – always! Your sister jus’ commot wit her husband and shuldrens for hia! Your small sister!”

Frank hung his head. No matter how detached he tried to act, his father’s words stung. “It’s not like we – it’s not as if I didn’t want children, papa. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for…”

“And dat is why I yam happi you haff use your common sense to commot from dia!” Pa Omure’s voice was reduced to a whisper. “When woman is dey her husband house, she cannot produce pikin, what is the value inside such a…”

“Papa, did you call me here to listen to you insult my wife?”

“You no get wife. You nefa get. Na why I call you hia be dat. You go fit meet Idowu, my neighbor pikin…”

“Franklin! Franklin o, my son!”

Mama Omure’s entry into the backyard was very much like the arrival of a gale. Light-skinned, buxom and tall – she was an easy six feet two – her presence was hard enough to ignore, and then she was lively and energetic – in spite of her sixty-something years.

“How are you my darling? No, don’t answer that. You look horrible.” She bent over and pulled his cheeks as he struggled to rise. “You’ve lost weight! Of course you have, when you sent the only person in this world who cares about you apart from me…”

“Mama, I have missed you so much.” Frank interrupted the lamenting woman, squeezing her against himself and hiding his face in her shoulder so she wouldn’t see the tears. “How is everything? Papa was just telling me that Evelyn came over..”

Mama Omure eased herself away from her son and went over to her husband. “Good evening, Pa Franklin. How’s your body?”

Not waiting for an answer, she handed the old man the black nylon bag she was carrying. “I bought you some cashew nuts. You can chew on that while I make dinner.”

And then, pulling her son by the hand she led the way into the dark interior of the house.

*********************************************************************************************

“Are you okay, Franklin? I know I ask all the time but – are you really okay?”

Frank leaned against the kitchen sink and closed his eyes, sighing softly. “What do you expect me to say, mama? How can I be okay?”

He felt rather than saw his mother leave the vegetables she was washing – felt her come stand beside him, worry heavy in her voice. “But darling, you decided to ask Igo for a divorce…though come to think of it, she didn’t exactly protest…”

“Yes mama, I asked for the divorce. When I saw myself almost cheating on my wife of twelve years because somehow, my desire for a child had overcome my desire for her, what was I supposed to do?” He opened his eyes and turned to look his mother right in the face. “I know I asked for the divorce – but that doesn’t make it easy.”

“And we are also not making it any easier for you.” She squeezed his shoulders in a gentle hug. “I apologize for your father and I. What you need is our support, not our criticism.” She left him and walked back to the gas cooker. “How is work?”

“Work…” his voice faded away. “Work? How can I work, Nne? I cannot concentrate, I cannot do anything. I keep thinking about…” He went quiet for a bit – and then continued. “Work is fine.”

His mother chuckled. “Ah, Franklin. I think what you need for now is to rest. Rest, and allow yourself time to heal. Everybody seems to be in such a hurry these days.” She hit the spoon on the edge of the pot before turning to regard Frank patiently. “Understand your father. You’re his only son – the only hope he has of his name going on. Doesn’t mean much to me – but you can understand what that would mean to a traditional Ndigbo man.”

Franklin smiled wryly. “An Ndigbo chief, you mean.”

His mother laughed – and then Frank interrupted. “But Nne, what is this I hear about you getting me a wife?”

She sighed. “There’s this neighbor of ours your father is suddenly best friends with – and he has a daughter who is still unmarried…”

“Did this idea start after my divorce or before I even started – “

A phone started to ring – and Frank looked at his mother. “That’s me,” he said, pulling at the phone. “Let me just see who – “

The caller ID said one word; Igo.

*********************************************************************************************

“It would be good if you came early, Frannie – I mean Frank,” his ex-wife breathed into the phone. “The lawyers say it’s just a few small details about the account and businesses…”

“I already said I didn’t want anything from that – “

“I don’t want it either – but we signed papers. We signed papers, which means you cannot just pass them to whoever vocally. There has to be another set of signings or…”

Frank exhaled loudly. “Okay okay. I’ll be there by nine in the morning…nine is okay, abi?”

“Nine is fine, Frank. Good night.”

“Wait.” Frank said desperately. “Igo…are you…how are you?”

A sound that sounded curiously like a sob floated down the line, and then Igo answered harshly, “What do you care?”

Click.

Frank stood in the shadows of the corridor in his parents’ house in Bariga, looking at the phone in hand but not really seeing it.

“Frank! Food is done o!”

Snapping out of his reverie, he answered, “Coming ma!” and then dialed another number. The call went through – and was picked on the third ring.

“Hello oga?”

“Hi James. Look, I won’t be coming to work for a while. I have some things to sort out and take care of – so I’m leaving you in charge, you hear? Take care of everything.”

“Oga – I hope no problem o. Shey madam dey – “

“There is no problem. Look, just do as I say. You hear?” Frank impatiently interrupted him.

“Okay. Everything will be as you want it to be oga.”

“Thank you. Good night, James.”

“Good night, oga.”

Click.

*********************************************************************************************

“You’ve lost weight, Frank.”

He chuckled mirthlessly. “That’s what everyone’s been telling me lately – and yet I hardly miss a meal. Maybe buka food doesn’t exactly agree with me.” He laughed again, emptily; hollowly. “Mama said the same yesterday; and tried to load me with food enough so I wouldn’t be hungry till next year.”

Igo smiled wanly. “And of course, you tried to eat everything. I don’t blame you; mama can cook.” She paused – and then rushed on as though afraid of being silenced. “How is she…and and papa…?”

Her voice shook.

“She misses you, Igo.”

His ex-wife nodded and looked away, brushing her eyes free of something that may have been tears and mumbling something Frank couldn’t hear.

“What?” he asked.

“Our lawyers are ready,” Igo answered, and walked ahead of him into a dark room.

*********************************************************************************************

He knew there was a much better way of spending the time he was in that room, sitting across his ex-wife and staring at her like she was someone he did not know – but the going ons in the room didn’t interest him.

She did.

He hastily signed every paper he was handed without looking – he trusted that Damilola, his lawyer would have made sure it was safe and well; he found it distracting.

He continued watching Igo, taking in everything she did – every move she made and making something; a memory of it. For all he knew, this was the last time he would see her so he wanted to make it significant.

He watched every unconscious tucking of a stray strand of braided hair; every hesitant smile at her lawyer (who he thought was staring at her a bit too boldly and quite unprofessionally), every unsteady scribble of her pen – every accidental glance his way – and something filled his chest.

Pain. And regret.

When she sighed and straightened, he realized they were done – he realized his lawyer had been talking to him for a bit. Frank coughed, and then turned slightly towards his right hand.

“Sorry I didn’t hear you,” he said.

“Sure.” Damilola grimaced. “Everything is tidy now. You have access to some money from the joint – “ Frank interrupted, rising hurriedly and knocking back his chair as he saw Igo exit the room. “I’m sorry! I’ll be right back!” he yelled over his shoulder as he hurried after her.

“Igo – Igo! Wait!”

Her shoulders hunched as though she expected a blow, and then she turned slowly – but her eyes – her face – remained averted. “Yes, what is it?” she asked in a voice that was tired yet trying to be angry. “What do you want?” she said again, her voice sharper than it was before.

“I don’t want anything…well that’s not true, but what I want…” he trailed off when he saw the baleful look she regarded him with. “I just want to say I’m sorry – I’m so sorry for…”

“You can save your apologies Frank, or repeat them to yourself if it makes you feel better. I don’t want to hear them; I’m not listening to any more of your nonsense. For twelve years – “ Her voice broke; she drew in a sobbing breath and buried her face in her hands.

“Igo…” Frank began, reaching for her hand.

“Don’t touch me!” She whirled on him, tear-streaked eyes blazing with fires that seemed to leap at him. He didn’t immediately realize he had taken a step back.

“Don’t touch me…” her voice faded to a whisper; but the vehemence was still quite obvious. “I gave twelve years of my life to you; to a marriage simply because I believed in it. Do you think you were the only one under pressure?! I have a family too; and the same way your dad told you to leave me is how my parents, friends – siblings…” She wiped her eyes and continued.

“I loved you, Frank. I invested twelve years of my life in you, in us. The years weren’t always rosy – but I gave my all. I realize now; you didn’t deserve my best – and you sure didn’t deserve me.” She turned and started walking away. She was opening the main door to step into outside when she said something – but the door had closed behind her before he realized what she said;

Stay away from me.

“Frank…Frank? I’m sorry – but we need to see to the rest of these – “

“Send them to the shop, will you Damilola? Thank you.”

And Frank walked out into the sunlight outside – though it could be moonlight and thunderstorms for all the notice he took of it.


For Want Of A Child – Prologue/Episode I

SAVING DAPO - Masthead Prologue

“It was really good having you guys over. Really.” Igo’s eyes asked her husband abi? and he nodded, kissing her on the nose.

“Thank you so much for coming – and bring the kids over next time. You know we love to have them always!”

Together they watched the Osagies’ rear lights disappear over the landscape of their NEPA-abandoned street – the wailing and screaming of several generating sets providing theme music for the moment. And then they turned, arms around each other and walked into their compound.

“That was great, wasn’t it? I like to see Ese – and her husband? Cool guy.”

Igo eased herself from her husband’s arms and opened the door ahead of him. She stepped inside and waited for him to enter so she could close it after him, but he pulled the door out of her hand, closed it, shot the deadbolt and kissed her.

Chuckling, Igo kissed him back briefly and then leaned away – but he followed her, backing her into the wall beside the door and pressing insistent lips against her resistant ones.

“Hmm…baby…” she started – and inadvertently gave him access to her mouth.

He laughed loudly as she, sighing, threw her arms around his neck in surrender.

*********************************************************************************************

“Thank you, dear,” Igo said, sipping wine from the glass he’d just handed her and allowing her shoulders sag into the chair. “So – what do you want to do next; watch TV or play Monopoly?”

He smiled, drained his glass and shook his head. “Those will be too distracting. I just want to hold my partner – my wife, my better whole and sing to her.”

Igo smiled. “You’ve been doing that for ten years. Aren’t you tired yet?”

Walking over, he started to speak. “You’ve been breathing for thirty-six years; aren’t you tired yet?” He stood beside her chair and stretched out a hand.

Placing her empty one in it, Igo set down the wine glass – and then allowed her husband pull her to her feet. She blinked in confusion for a moment as the lights dimmed – and then focused on his eyes as they stabilized again.

There was a gleam in them – a shine that made her heart sing and her ears heat up. She stood in front of him, as though mesmerized – and then closed her eyes as he leaned in and kissed her forehead softly.

“Happy tenth anniversary, sweetheart.” He said.

She hugged him to herself, lay her head against his shoulder and mumbled; “Happy tenth anniversary, darling.”

They stayed hugged up, swaying softly to music that played from the speakers of their hearts – music only they could hear but no less real. It was a really romantic moment –

And then the lights went dim again.

“What’s wrong with that generator?” Igo said out loud.

Her husband stopped moving. “Wait her a moment, sweetness while I go check it out.”

He kissed her cheek softly – and moved away, effectively creating a vacuum in her arms. She sat down on the floor beside the chair; amazed by the realization that she missed him.

She missed him already.

The lights flickered, went off – and then came back on a little brighter. Almost immediately she heard the rattling of the door, smiled as the generator sounds became momentarily louder – and then faded out again.

“The plug was shaking in its socket – baby, what’s wrong?”

The tears streaming down her cheeks were startlingly clear from the doorway.

Moving into the room, he crossed it in swift strides and knelt beside her chair, to take her hand in his. “What is it? What happened?”

She inhaled, drawing in a huge shuddering draught of air and then swallowing the sob that almost spilled out. And then burst into tears, throwing herself into his arms as he mumbled “It’s okay” over and over again, soft tones at direct conflict with the confused look on his face.

*********************************************************************************************

“I’m sorry darling,” her voice came from the depths of his right chest area.

He looked down – but could only see the top of her head. Leaning in, he kissed that gently, noticing a few whitening strands in the midst of the raven-black mass. He kissed her head again – and she moaned sadly and raised her face.

“Did I just do a number on your anniversary mood?”

He shook his head. “Everything will be right again – as soon as you tell me what inspired the flood.”

She turned away but leaned into his arms. “Oh – it’s – “ she fell silent as he squeezed her softly, and she closed her eyes against still-leaking tears. “You know why Ese doesn’t bring her kids here anymore, don’t you?”

He cleared his throat. “Because they want to spare our feelings? They don’t want us feeling awkward?”

The gentle up and down movement of her head told him he was right. “And it hurts so much,” she spoke. “So much – it hurts when I see you look at their last one – when you carry her up…it hurts to see the pain in your eyes. It hurts to hear you cry in the bathroom…”

His arms tightened around her reflexively – but other than that, there was no sign he had heard. She sobbed softly.

“I can’t help but feel it’s my fault – even though I know doctor after doctor has given us both clean bills of health. I hate that I cannot give you the thing you want most – “

Gently but firmly, he turned her around and kissed the corner of her mouth. She trembled slightly as her arms found themselves around his shoulders – his quite comforting shoulders – and she kissed him back enthusiastically.

“How do you know it’s the thing I want most? Have you ever asked me what I thought about the situation? Sure, it hurts at times – I feel so hurt that I may never know the joy of being called daddy; or the pain of watching my child fall and hurt himself – “ he caught the look on his wife’s face and added, “ – or herself for the first time, it hurts more when I think of you.

“But I’m comforted. And happy – and fulfilled. I married the woman I love more than life itself – and I would like to think she married the man she loves more than anything else. I didn’t marry you for children, Igo. And like someone in the good book said – “Am I not worth more to you than ten sons?”

She chuckled, wiping back tears and made to speak – but his quick kiss silenced her quite effectively and he continued. “It’s been ten years. Ten years of ups and downs – ten years of it being just me and you. And you know what?”

She shook her head, spellbound by the loving in his eyes.

“Child or no, I can’t wait for the next ten.”

Igo snuggled against the warmth – against the security, love and happiness her husband represented. “See baby, I still ask myself how you choose me in the midst of all the girls who were hanging onto you then.”

He shrugged. “Really? I had eyes only for you.”

“You do say the sweetest things – “

He shook his head. “You make it easy for me, darling.” He leaned in close till her eyes, nose, ears – everything was full of him – and then he said,

“Happy Anniversary sweetheart.”

She would have answered too – except that her lips were quite busy.

Masthead 1

Two Years Later

 

It was one of those afternoons in which the sun seemed to be on a mission – a mission to keep everyone behind closed doors, or to make everyone wish they were. It beat down with unrelenting fury, rubbing the heads and shoulders of the people in it with fiery palms and at the same time tickling the soles of their feet with scorching fingernails.

Those on Mushin Street thought they had the worst of it.

“E no go beta if we come back come carry dese tins later? Dis sun na wa o.”

The speaker, a tall lean Segun Arinze lookalike stood beside a haulage truck, squinting down the street while squeezing sweat from his forehead. His dirty-blue overall stuck to his body around the shoulders, chest and back – sweat ran down his arms in rivulets. His partner wasn’t much different – he also had similar patterns of sweat on his costume – he just happened to be the shorter of the two.

“Ol’ boi, wetin we wan do na? De man dey para!”

The taller looked over his shoulder at the house they were moving things from. “E jus’ dey provoke. Now now e no go talk, before now e go begin yarn opata. Dem say im an in wife fight – na im make e commot.”

“Ehen. No wonder. You no know say woman fit drive pessin craze?”

The subject of their quite-intense discussion sat in what was before sitting area for two people with bright hopes and even brighter smiles. Now, he tried to smile but his lips quivered with strange emotion – so he gave up.

How long does it take to end a life?

His fingers wandered through the suede frills of the seams of the chair he was sitting in as the question repeated itself in his head.

How long does it take to end a life?

Of course, there was no answer – or he couldn’t find one.

He scratched his neck and wiped sweat from his forehead.

Why is this room so hot?

Leaping to his feet, his eyes darted to the air conditioner – except a gaping hole was what met his gaze. Oh. Air conditioner left yesterday.

He thumped himself on the forehead. How did I forget?

It was almost impossible to believe two people in love had once lived in the apartment. Now it looked as though a hurricane had come through and left nothing in its wake – nothing except organized carnage. Papers littered everywhere, pieces of a life that had once been the envy of everyone around them. A brightly-colored gleam caught his eye and he leaned over to pull something from underneath paper debris.

Something that turned out to be an anniversary card.

Happy Tenth Year Anniversary darling; it read in sprawling cursive – Igo’s handwriting. His hand trembled – and he jumped as the shrill ringing of his phone startled him into dropping the card.

“Wetin?” he swore loudly, reaching in his hip pocket for the offending device. It was a call from a number he did not recognize. “Yes?” he said curtly, shaking slightly from the fright. “Who is this?”

“Oga Frank, dem no let us enter the house o. Dem say another pessin don rent am since last week – “

“What?!!” He ejaculated, moving quickly towards the front door as he spoke. “Wait. I’m on my way there now!”

He ended the call – swearing loudly as he bumped into a small stool set negligently beside the door. “Who be de madman wey put this stool dia?” he yelled as soon as he stepped out of the house and into the yard, brandishing the stool like a security guard holding up a dane gun.

The taller of the two furniture movers scratched his head. “Em, oga na you o.”

Frank slowed down, embarrassment making his movements awkward. “Ehen,” he said, setting the stool down gently. “Okay. Dem say de pipo for de house no gree dem enta – I wan run go settle am.”

The shorter of the two watched as Frank hurried out of the house – and then nudged his companion who was stacking the stool in the back of the truck.

“Dat man get problem no be small,” he said, shaking his head in pity.

*********************************************************************************************

“But sir, this isn’t fair! It isn’t right! I paid – “ Frank was interrupted.

“Young man, I said the landlord has changed his mind!” The caretaker, a hungry-looking version of Saka retorted. “Give me your bank number, and I will have my boy here – “ he gestured towards a teenager wearing sagging jeans and a dirty white vest leaning against the wall. “ – he will transfer your money back now now.”

“Don’t call me young man,” Frank muttered under his breath. “I’m forty-one years old.”

He turned away, dismay making a lie of his comment – at least facially. Feet dragging, he walked to a truck the twin of the one back at the house and addressed the driver who was looking at him with hopeful eyes. “Sorry, Peter. We have to go back to the house.”

Peter, the truck driver shrugged. “No problem, oga Frank. No be so all dese yeye caretakers dey do?” And he nudged his dozing assistant for affirmation.

“Na so, oga mi,” the boy jerkily muttered, and promptly went back to sleep.

*********************************************************************************************

“There’s a small issue with the house I got – so I’ll have to keep these things here while I get it sorted out ma.”

The old bent woman looked at him from over her glasses. “You’re the one who chased yourself out, Frank. Nobody asked you to leave. You can keep your things here for as long as you like.”

Frank tried to smile but couldn’t quite make it. “You should understand, ma. It’s not easy – “ She cut him off.

“I know, Frank. I understand – my prayers are with you and that wonderful girl Igo. So beautiful.”

Frank hurried away as some peppery sensations behind his eyes made their presence known. Igo…I thought we could make it.

“Make we begin dey offload am?”

Frank nodded. “Begin offload am.”

*********************************************************************************************

“…so I need a place to stay for a little bit while I sort out my house issues…”

Frank nodded, thinking wryly that he hadn’t completed a single sentence all day. “Sure man, thank you. I’ll probably be around in the evening…” he moved the phone from his ear to look at the screen – “around eight or so.”

He nodded. “Thanks, Fola.” And disconnected the call.

Frank looked around the apartment, wondering at the detachment he was feeling – a feeling perfectly complimented by the long shadows drawn on the floor – shadows of the burglar proof. He was standing in the middle of the shadows – and the effect combined to make it look as though he was behind bars. Tears pooled in his eyes and started the slow journey down his cheeks.

He made no attempt to wipe them.

His feet echoed hollowly as he made his way to one of the rooms. He went in, spent a few moments – before coming back out, this time carrying a phone charger. And then he walked out and towards the gate.

Aliu, the gateman opened the gate wide as he saw Frank approach. “Kai, Oga Phrank. Kai Allah, no be so e por be o. Kai kai…” he muttered, shaking his head. Frank nodded as he walked past the man, forcing trembling lips to stay glued together for fear of sobbing.

Down his cheeks they ran, on the streets they dragged.

Tears and his feet.

His phone started ringing and he mechanically pulled the device out of his pocket. In that moment, he wore the entirety of his forty-one years on his face – jagged lines that seemed to emphasize the idea that all of life is but a puzzle.

“Hello?”

“I hear you finally purshued that your emuti barrel of a wife. Good boy! Good – “

Frank impatiently interrupted his father. “Papa, look – don’t insult my wife, you hear? Do not…”

It was his turn to be interrupted. “Quiet there! What does a pikin lak you no? Ehn?! What do you…you…” the man spluttered and began to cough, loud and deep coughs that seemed to come from his belly instead of his chest.

“Papa, sorry. Take it easy…” Frank wiped tears off his face and sighed – a deep, tired sigh. He knew what was going to follow – he could repeat the conversation word for word.

“You see, Franklin, I do not have much longer to live on this earth, and Chukwu did not see fit to bless me with plenty sons. Only you so if you don’t want me to be forgotten…”

“It’s okay Papa, I hear – “

The man yelled into the phone as Franklin hastily held it away from his ear. “No! You don’t hia me!” He coughed a bit and then continued to speak. “Nna come to the house on Thurday. Me an your mother haff a new wife for you!”

Click.

Wife?!

Staring at the phone in his hand, Franklin muttered, “Oh great. My life is now one big Nollywood movie.”

He started to laugh, horrible croaking laughter that broke – and then became a sob. He opened his mouth to scream, to yell – to complain to a stoic God – and then, from the corner of his still-streaming eye he noticed a woman staring at him in fear, arm around a pretty little girl who was also staring. He was quite the spectacle, okadas had stopped with riders pointing at him, cars were slowing down and causing traffic.

“Frank? Frank! Are you alright man?”

Not stopping to check who it was, he started to jog, scrubbing his face as he ran. Car horns blared behind him, tires screeched – but he heard it all through a layer of static; a steady buzzing in his ears. The tears continued to stream unabated and he continued to run.

After running for what seemed like forever – but was only a couple of minutes, he collapsed against a wall, hands on knees, inhaling jerkily. Some turmoil inside his belly let itself known – and then he started to retch, dry body racking spasms that made him jerk as though he was being mildly electrified.

Minutes later, the retching stopped and he straightened.

He hadn’t eaten all day – thankfully – but his mouth was sour, and a little something to wash it out wouldn’t hurt. He looked around to get his bearings; loud music and assorted smells told him he was in the notorious area of his neighborhood.

A smile darkened his features – a sinister, unpleasant smile – as he pushed away from the wall, resolving to do something he had not done in fourteen years.

Smoke a cigarette.


Love Drops – Excerpts I

Good morning, awesome people.

As promised, a mere week from today, we will be sharing our latest effort; the dual project ebook/EP titled Love Drops.

To give an idea what we’ll be looking at, please read an excerpt from one of the stories below:

******************************************************************************************************************************************************

“Why aren’t you married?”

The question shocks her mouth open – and then she closes it and rearranges her face into a frown. She cannot resist a barb; “If I was married, would you be here?”

His self-possessed mask slips and surprise appears as though conjured up. “I didn’t mean…” he shakes his head, dispelling the cloud around it. “I’m sorry.”

She’s instantly contrite. “Don’t mind me.” She holds herself still – and then the words pour forth. “I never really thought any man was worth the trouble.”

He nods slowly, as though approving her response. She watches as he takes another pull at the cigarette – and then the glimmer off one of his fingers inspires a question.

“Why are you married?”

He starts awake. “Ehn?”

She nods in the direction of his ring. “Your ring. That’s a wedding ring, right?”

Her eyes lead his towards the middle finger of his left hand, and he stares at the white gold band as though he hadn’t seen it before. He holds the hand up for a while, staring at the ring, cigarette smoke from his right hand wrapping itself around his face like so many white bandages –

“I can’t exactly call it a wedding ring; seeing I don’t have a wife – “

“What happened to the one that gave you that?” She is curious.

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************

We hope you’re as excited about this as we are!

Have an amazing week!


Just Saying

“What happened between you and my mum?”

Annoying child.

I kept looking around the Barcelos’- hoping I would see either a ‘quiet’ or ‘no kids allowed’ sign.

No such luck.

I didn’t – couldn’t meet her face. But it wasn’t because of anything other than that she had asked me a question I didn’t have an answer to.

What had happened?

What went wrong? When did we decide to…

No. We didn’t decide anything. SHE had asked for a divorce and something – probably guilt, had stopped me from arguing or fighting.

In fact, the only reason there are divorce papers is because it was a formality since we did the registry thing. Churches do not acknowledge divorce.

But what had made her ask for a divorce? I wasn’t unfaithful. Where was the time? I was barely able to come home for dinner at times, I was gone before they were up – all in the name of providing them with what I thought they needed most. The almighty naira.

Interesting; looking how far that got me.

And that; is what the problem was. Is. Because I haven’t stopped working absurd – nothing short of ridiculous hours.

That was what made her ask for a divorce.

I was working myself steadily towards an early eternal rest…my excuse being there were things to do and no time. So I put work first – and everything came next.

“What happened, daddy?”

I finally looked her in the eye, cut to the heart to see the unhappiness lurking in their innocent depths and knowing I was responsible. It hurt a lot to admit it, but I hadn’t been such a hit as a husband or father.

Shame on you; I thought.

“What happened?” I repeated. “I don’t know exactly what it was, but somehow it was my fault. I think I just stopped talking to her.”

She cocked her head sideways, dangling the fried-rice stained spoon in her hand as she watched me. “But dad, didn’t you live in the same house?”

Interesting question.

But this time, I knew the answer.

“Baby, you still have most of your toys?”

She smiled confidently. “Huh uhn.”

“But do you still play with them?”

She put the spoon down and set her chin in her palms, looking at me intently. I was suddenly afraid I had used a wrong example.

“Are you saying mum was a toy and you outgrew her?”

Uh oh. “That’s not what I…”

“That’s not nice daddy. Sorry I interrupted you. That’s not nice still.”

I scratched my head. This girl must be punishment for my mistakes – and it would seem as though they were just beginning.


Found

 

 

Memories

Memories

I turn the floppy disk in my hand and stare at the inscription; ‘Baby Shower 09:11:04’.

 

 

Wow. I set aside the box I picked it up from, sit behind my desk and hold up the diskette, staring at it as though I can see the contents. Superman’s X-Ray vision or something.

 

 

Yeah. The ghosts get bad around this time of the year.

 

 

Dust hovers in the air for some seconds as I send them from their abode with a puff of air. I’m sure I have the files on this disc backed up somewhere but I cherish things like this because of the memories they hold. Not the pictures.

 

 

This disk represents a moment in time. A snapshot of my life – of life; as it was at a particular time.

 

 

I wonder if the baby whose pictures are in here knows what a floppy disk is.

 

 

A smile adorns my mustached lips as I see her there; eyebrows wrinkled in concentration trying to answer the question I just placed before her young intellect. After some minutes of raking through files and files of memory data, she’ll look up at me with a disgruntled look and say accusingly; ‘daddy, you haven’t taught me that!’

 

 

A burst of laughter turns into a sob as I cover my mouth in horror. What am I doing?

 

 

It is the retort that came into my head in response to her response that has me crying.

 

 

“Daddy, you haven’t taught me that!”

 

 

I would have chuckled and said ‘What have I been teaching you then?”

 

 

What have I been teaching her indeed?

 

 

That love is a myth? Or that men usually don’t know what they want till it’s gone – and then they spend the rest of their lives chasing shadows because they let go of substance in a moment of weakness? That fear is more powerful than love – and that it makes no sense loving someone because no one is good enough to fight for?

 

 

I’m a thirty-something year senior executive in one company like that – yet I cannot stop the water faucet that suddenly opens behind my eyes. I imagine I look like one of those burst Water Corporation pipes, water leaking all over the place. I laugh at my own joke and the tears stop.

 

 

I wish my mother was still around. I see her look at me, shake her head and say ‘darling, what do you call someone who knows what’s best for everyone except himself?’

 

 

My voice echoes in the dark room as I audibly answer a question asked in my head. ‘A hypocrite?’

 

 

I hear my mum’s chuckle loud and right in my heart. ‘Lonely and confused.’

 

 

I remember Ibi telling me a while ago; “I can’t stay here and watch you kill yourself. You’re going to drag me along with you – and I…we have a child to care for.”

 

 

Now it’s done. Everything – she’s gone.

 

 

Or is she?

 

 

“Thank you for explaining, daddy. Mummy says you’re the smartest man she knows.”

 

 

That’s my daughter talking. We spend time – more time than ever these days, but I avoid her eyes every time I say goodbye. Because I know what waits in them. I know what she wants to see happen – and I’m not sure it’s the best thing for all concerned.

 

 

Have I learnt anything new? Am…I…learning?

 

 

“I don’t know what to do…” Steam dissipates in the cold air as I stare at the ceiling in frustration.

 

 

Mother lowers her glasses and looks at me with a smile. ‘Oh yes son, but you do.”

 

 

I shake my head as though that would make her go away. “But…but mum, I’m so scared.”

 

 

“But you’ll know. You’ll know – and then maybe you’ll finally have some peace.”

 

 

Peace. Where did that go?

 

 

I pick up my phone and though it is 1:17 on a Monday morning, I call my ex-wife.

 

 


Dreaming Awake

 

 

Your silence is like a third presence in the room. It keeps my arms beside me with bands of steel when we both know they’d rather be around you.

 

But the same silence keeps me on my side of things because something in your eyes suggests that I’m much safer here than near you.

 

I wonder why.

 

I wonder about a lot of things these days. Like why you’re so bothered I won’t be around for our fifth anniversary when we live in the same house like comfortable strangers. We talk – but we’re actors rehearsing lines from a script. I know your questions, you know my responses. They’ve been the same for the past eighteen months – regular like clockwork.

 

How was your day dear?

 

Fine. Yours? You kill your boss yet?

 

Polite laughter.

 

There’s dinner in the cooler, darling.

 

Thank you.

 

We have our sides of the bed. There’s a wall in between them – a wall that cannot, must not and will not be breached. There’s nothing there visible to the bare eyes – but the Great Wall of China might as well be there.

 

You ask if we’re done. You ask if there’s nothing more to us.

 

You ask if…you ask if there’s someone else.

 

The words have a shaky feel to them. They command my attention to your expression, and I see the shimmer of something – a liquid on the surface of your eyes.

 

Tears.

 

I stand there and watch them spill over with bullet-time slowness, convinced we’re all just props on a movie set. I’m there but I’m not part of what’s happening. You ask me why I married you if I was going to allow things degenerate to this point between us.

 

That’s the issue.

 

When I married you, anything like this was the farthest thing to my mind. I married you because, in spite of everything I believed in ‘happily-ever-after’. You made me believe in that.

 

But somewhere along the line, you stopped believing and I gave up because I didn’t have enough for two.

 

I gave up on you. I gave up on us.

 

You ask if there’s someone else. Again.

 

See? We’re following a script here. Must ‘someone else’ be the ‘why’ we’re so unhappy? Must I take to drinking and come home late because I’m having issues with my wife – in my marriage? Can’t there be something else; like work for instance?

 

In a matter-of-fact tone of voice you tell me I am not going anywhere. I try to explain to you how important this trip is – how the future of our company depends on the outcome of this Abuja meeting. You ask if it’s more important than the home I always come back to.

 

There’s no difference in your voice as you tell me I’ll have to make a decision. You tell how there’s still hope for us – how we can still make it happen. The feeling of being on a movie set persists – it’s really as though I’m hearing you talk in slow motion through the curtain of tears that cascade down your face steadily.

 

I don’t have a lot of choice, do I?

 

The door opens and a two-year old version of you walks in, almost blinding me with the sun shinning in her eyes. She rushes towards me and I kneel down to gather her in my arms. A burning sensation within my chest announces itself – my heart is breaking as the volcano behind my eyes erupts in a hot shower of tears. I hug our daughter to me and I sob…

 

The tears are there when my eyes open but everything else stays behind. I sit up on my bed and hold my head in my hands. I tell myself I’m just missing you – that it’s because I’m trying to adjust to single life again. But it’s more than that.

 

It’s a lot more than that.

 

It’s been six months – six months during which I’ve moved on. Six months of which everything has been better than ever – six months of being absolutely single and, for the first time in a long while; loving it. Not because it gives me an excuse to ‘explore my options’ but because it’s been six months of getting to know me all over again.

 

It’s been six months of seeing myself for who I truly am and working towards being a better me. It’s been six months of growth and development, six months of putting things in perspective.

 

Six months of thinking about you and smiling like an idiot in the middle of Oba Akran. Six months of suddenly bursting into laughter, startling the other occupants of the BRT bus I’m riding home in.

 

Six months of letting go.

 

So the dreams are not symptoms of my heart refusing to accept that you’ve gone. I don’t doubt we’ll go on our separate ways and live lives that are undoubtedly good. But in the same vein, I can’t honestly say we don’t belong with each other.

 

Were we ‘happenstance’? Were we ‘coincidence’? Were we stray cats who bumped into each other one rainy night and shared something millions search for all their lives and only few ever truly experience?

 

Too many questions. Not enough…

 

‘Limpopo’ starts to play somewhere not too far off, providing this movie with the perfect theme song. It takes me a moment to realize it is my ringtone; meaning means my phone is ringing.

 

I grab it – and though it has been six months I know the number. I know it because it’s written on every part of my memory in letters of fire.

 

Excuse me.

 

There’s a drum beating as I take the call. And the first thing you say to me is…

 

‘Have you been dreaming about me?’