I don’t talk about my dad much.
I mean, I got daddy issues. Who doesn’t? He had/has his failings, did a lot of stuff to my mum, to and my siblings – what father hasn’t?
However, to reduce my relationship with the man who gave me life to a couple of disagreements and discontent on my part? That’s unfair.
I love my old man. I do, I really do. I was thinking about some of the memories I have with him and I realize; I love the old man. Failings and all.
Also, because I know beyond all doubt he loves me. Warts and all.
I always brag about how I got the best of both worlds; how God intended for me to be a writer. It’s true. Is it coincidence that I was born to a father who read everything EXCEPT romance and poetry, and a mother who only read romance and poetry? I’m shared this story many a time, but in case you haven’t heard it, when I was fourteen I accidentally burned one of my father’s hardcover ‘Complete Works: Charles Dickens’. He had warned me several times – he and my mother had warned me several times about reading by candlelight and not placing said candle in a holder. At that time, I was young and headstrong. Like every typical youth, I thought I knew everything.
I sha burned half the book when I fell asleep and the candle burned down to it. Damn thing burned a hole in the living room carpet, burned the pillow my head lay on – I still think it’s a miracle my head didn’t burn off.
However, whatever parts the fire missed, my dad’s belt took care of.
After flogging the fat off my behind (I got most of it back tho) he gave me his volume of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, asked me to read and come tell him the story after a week. His memory was a steel trap. If I dared to edit the story in anyway, he would know. He wasn’t asking for details tho, he wanted an accurate summary.
That was my first review.
How can I not love that man?
My father loves music. I got my schooling on Fela/Sunny Ade/Ebenezer Obey/Don Williams/Jim Reeves/Kenny Rogers/The Beatles/Everly Brothers/Elvis Presley/Sam Cooke/Frank Sinatra/Bob Marley/Brenda Fasie/Mariam Makeba/Harry Belafonte/Nat King Cole/Ray Charles/Stevie Wonder and damn near every classical musician from my father. My love of movies comes from him also; from The Three Musketeers to Casablanca to Gone with the Wind to Casino Royale (the Sean Connery first) to every Bond film; from Connery to Dalton that is, to Tom & Jerry to Bugs Bunny to Looney Tunes to –
Damn. I know you just thought my dad is awesome. You can say it out loud.
He is. And I’m damn lucky to have him.
No, he isn’t dead nor dying anytime soon. He is as well as a seventy-seven year old man can be. He’s happy, causing trouble for his neighbors and asking me when I’m getting married. I just thought about him today; a long and oft-happy recollection of my growing years. And I am reminded; how blessed I have been.
I’m grateful. Love you, Papa.
These days I find myself cooking more often than is usual. I don’t know; maybe eyaf reach time for someone to make an honest man of me.
Today sha, feeling adventurous, I decide to make Catfish Peppersoup. I go to the market, buy stuff and get to work. Roughly two hours later, house smelling like curry leaves, I open the pot to look at my handiwork.
Sure, there’s ‘catfish’, there’s ‘pepper’ and ‘soup’, but the way I just separated them in writing is how they are separate in the pot. I sigh – and then, start to laugh.
I laugh because I remember something that happened years ago. I used to love moi moi a lot, so one day my mother decided to teach me how to make it. She started me from the beginning of the process; she gave me my own beans to grind – even though the whole house was having moi moi that morning. I brought it back home, mixed it, added all the other supplements and portioned it into leaves – myself.
And then, I set it on the fire.
About thirty minutes or so later, she opened her larger pot so I opened mine. Where hers was a happily boiling pot filled with moi mois resplendent in heat, mine was a boiling pot of ‘a mess of beans and water’. I hadn’t wrapped the leaves tightly enough so they’d opened mid-cooking.
I sat there feeling miserable. I must have thought that was my breakfast floating around in hot water – or maybe I was sad because I missed a chance to impress my mother. Whatever the case, I sha sat in the kitchen, pot before me, feeling sorry for myself.
My mom noticed and came to sit with me. I cannot remember her exact words, but it was something to the effect of; “You tried, right? Right now, you know more about moi moi than you knew last night. The next attempt will definitely be better than this one.”
I remember asking; “What if it isn’t? What if I make a mistake again?”
She said, “Wa je egba ni yen!” meaning “You’ll be flogged, then!”
But she smiled at me and kissed my forehead.
And I think about that now and realize; while my mother’s reference in that moment may have been moi moi, she was actually talking about life. And how sometimes, things don’t work out the way we intend them to, how sometimes we blame ourselves for our failures and shortcomings – and forget to tell ourselves; ‘At least you tried’.
At least I tried. And though it didn’t turn out like I expected it to, I’m better for the effort. I’ve learned one more way to not kiss a girl, to not write a book. To not create an ad, to not write music lyrics. To not treat a spouse/partner, to not talk to a friend.
And more importantly, how not to make Catfish Peppersoup.
So I’m in my workspace now, chewing catfish, munching pepper and drinking soup. And with a pure water sachet at hand, I drink a toast to Mrs. Josephine Iyabode Odukoya, the only woman in nine realms who could have raised me.
Mama Mia. Mi Amore Forever. La ‘mour ne pas nu frontier.
I’m at one bus stop in Lagos; along Ikorodu Road to be exact. The clock on my dashboard shows 6:09. There’s a spot of traffic, even though it’s so early. I resist the urge to slam a tired fist into the steering wheel and instead, look outside the window on the far side of the car.
It’s after six on a weekday morning after all; the streets are awake. All sorts of people bustle back and forth, most having left the warm comfort of their beds for the pre-sunlight cold morning, chasing the more-elusive-than-ever naira. My stare lingers on…and stops on a woman standing on the curb a few meters away from me.
In the light from several headlights she’s easy to see, but there’s something about her that makes her easy to watch. She’s light-skinned, petite, well-built, nothing excessive, comfortably round in the right places. She looks like Elsie before Elsie looked like Elsie.
The thing that makes me stare; however is her smile. It’s bright without being blinding; effusive without being superficial. She wears it with style, as naturally as armpits wear hair. It’s the kind of smile Beyonce smiles when she and Jay hug. The kind of smile J Lo had in those pictures with Drake. The kind the girls in pictures with Deoye always have on…
You know; that smile.
Her lips are moving; for a second it looks like she’s saying something to me (even though she isn’t looking at me). And then, I realize; she’s on the phone.
I lip-read to a small extent; snatches of her conversation come to me. Words like ‘tonight’ ‘eat out’ ‘later’ ‘stress’ ‘office palaver’ are beautifully formed by her mouth, she talks rapidly so it’s hard enough already. Ambient noise fades away, along with the honking of horns and humming of restrained vehicles. It’s almost too easy to imagine who’s on the other end of the phone; the husband on his way to his own point of commerce sharing an intimate moment with the wife he can’t seem to get enough of, the faraway boyfriend who goes to sleep when she goes to work, or maybe she’s sleeping with her sister’s husband –
My mind wanders into a few ‘darker’ possibilities; consciously I restrain and tell it to leave well enough alone. I like the idea of the faraway boyfriend best; I start to toy with –
Loud honking and yells alert me to the fact that vehicles are moving. Calmly, I take my foot off the brake and allow the car surge forward, waving my apologies to the danfo behind me. I drive away from that spot but her face – or rather, the look on her face stays with me. It’s a look I want to put on the face of the woman I love for the rest of her life, a look I want for everyone I care about. It’s a look that makes my chest full, and I have to sigh to relieve the pressure. It’s a look that makes me believe in something other than myself; a look I’m sure makes Sango sit on his fiery throne and call to the other gods; “Abeg una go fit help? Dis one pass me o.”
It’s a look that, for the moment takes my mind away from my cold and lonely bed in a grim, humorless apartment in a light-less neighborhood, off the 145 naira price of fuel – and makes me think; instead of the warmth another human being carries on the inside, a warmth that blesses you if you’re fortunate enough to find someone willing to share theirs with you. It’s a look that makes light of darkness and makes a joke of time, of death, of sickness and sadness.
It’s a look that tells me; as loudly as the thoughts in my head; “You are not alone.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.
#WeInTheKitchen #WeStayChefing #SomethingWarmYourWayComes
Deoye opens the door, takes a look at me and sighs. “This man,” he says as he turns away, leading the way into the house and scratching somewhere below all the while, “Wetin carry you reach here now – man or dog?”
I intend to laugh – to show some sort of commiseration with his humor. What comes out of my mouth however; is a croak. My friend looks over his shoulder at me – and seeing something on my face, disappears into the corridor while I stare patterns into the black and red Persian rug on his living room floor.
I see movement in the corner of my eye and turn in that direction to see Deoye returning with a bottle of – a bottle of something I don’t think I want to know. He hastily pours a healthy draught into one of the glasses he’s carrying and hands it over, spilling some of it. I calmly take it and sniff the contents.
I empty the cup in one swallow and grimace as the cold-and-bitter liquid hits my chest rudely. My eyes water, but I do not cough. Silently I hold out the glass to him and just as wordlessly he fills it. This time I drink till it’s halfway empty – and then I sigh.
My back finds the sofa and I fold into it, leaning my head back and closing my eyes. I hear my friend puttering around; his desire to ask what the matter is a palpable presence, but I know he won’t. He will wait for me to start talking in my time. It’s why I came here in the first place.
He does not have long to wait.
“It’s over, bro. It ended – in the worst way possible.”
My eyes are still closed but I hear him stop moving. I can hear the questions burning up his throat – he so dearly wants to ask what I’m talking about but he knows I am not to be hurried. I will speak in my time.
“It cannot be a relationship, can it?” he ventures to ask after my silence stretches for longer than he can bear.
I do not say anything but the smile that stretches my stiff lips is as good as an answer. My eyes open in time to see him smack his knee in frustration. “Seun! Shebi you said no romance this year! You said that!”
I lean forward. “Put yourself in my shoes bruh…”
“I know – I mean you know what you said…”
You know what you said. ‘No romance’, you said to any and every one who cared to listen. ‘I’m just going to focus on my career’. And focus on your career you did, and the changes started to appear in the physical plane. One of such changes is the thickness that suddenly invaded your midsection. But it didn’t bother you.
You are as fit as a fiddle.
So life continues with you taking everything in stride. You keep moving and working, the only time(s) you allow yourself any kind of social life is when you see a movie with Deoye and Banky – or when you go eat fish pepper-soup with Uduak, and a little stolen moment with my daughter.
Moments that have become few and far between.
But you tell yourself everything is fine, and since you actually look better than ever nobody minds. Nobody notices anything – least of all you.
And so it is, you walked into that store that afternoon to get some Fruit and Fiber; stuff you like to chew on as you write. But you’re detached, the active part of your mind is caught up in scripting scenes for the TV series you’re working on. You handed the box to someone you thought was the store attendant and turned back to the shelf for milk when a deep, cultured voice colored with mild amusement asked; “How long am I supposed to hold this for?”
You turned around to answer and found yourself staring at the most beautiful mouth you have ever seen – and you have seen your fair share. Movies, TV commercials, newspapers, models, billboards – name it.
“Ah – I’m sorry. I thought – “
She was smiling – and that smile somehow made you stumble and stutter for words. You were tongue-tied in the presence of a female, and because that was a new experience for you, you became irritated.
“Sorry,” you said again, snatched the box out of her hand and stomped past towards the cashier’s desk. You felt some kind of heat underneath your collar – you kept sneaking looks over your shoulder, hoping you would be done before she came up to the payout area. When the salesgirl handed you your receipt you exhaled with relief and hurried out of the store – only to stop outside, stumped.
You couldn’t remember where you parked your car.
You stood there, looking around and wondering if someone was playing a joke. Putting down your purchases, you stretched to rest your arms and then bend your brains to the problem.
“Excuse me – is everything okay?”
You couldn’t help it. You jumped a foot in the air before you realized it was the same voice. Barely restraining yourself, you turned towards her and barked; “Of course I’m fine! Thank you!”
She recoiled – and then, in eyes that were suddenly as clear as the sky on a sunny day you saw a myriad of emotions – fear, terror, guilt, shame – and before you could react to any of that she stepped away. You barely heard the ‘Sorry’ she mumbled as she hurried away, nylon bags bumping against her legs, and you felt a familiar sensation.
Without thinking too much you stepped after her and caught up with her just as she opened the trunk of the red Camry and dumped the bags unceremoniously. She turned away from the trunk, fingers impatiently brushing hair out of her face – and then she collided with you full on. She was so surprised she staggered backwards, saved from falling only by the car.
You stepped away to allow her recover, and then slowly, to not startle her, you step close and lightly touch her arm. “I’m – I’m sorry I spoke to you the way I did,” you said, somehow better self-possessed then. “I was just – there’s a lot on my mind is all.”
That gorgeous mouth smiled at you – smiled; not that lip-twisting grimace Lagos girls have perfected – and she spoke, “It’s okay. I was wondering why you were so grumpy. I thought you had a headache.”
You cocked your head to the side, trying to guess her meaning, but her smile didn’t dim so you figured she was joking.
She joked a lot, as you came to find out.
Later that day, as you laughed and talked over drinks at Yemi’s Bar and you told her how you stood outside the store trying to remember where you’d parked your car – meanwhile you left it at home, she asked how old you were and you answered.
“That’s too early for Alzheimer’s,” she said, looking serious as she sucked Orijin Zero through a straw from its can. You almost snorted Smirnoff Ice through your nose; laughing gustily as you were. She was beautiful; beautiful like you had never known and somehow it seemed the hardest thing for you to let her go. You were fawning over her, preening as your neighborhood friends came over over and over again, stumbling over themselves to say hi.
You laughed and smiled and soaked it in and tried not to think of when you would have to tell her goodnight.
But all good things…
And even though you were expecting it, the look that jumped in her eyes when she asked what the time was and you said, “Almost ten” put a frown on your face. It was the same look she had earlier, and you intended to ask her what the matter was but she shrugged it off and said goodnight to you reluctantly – or maybe that was just wishful thinking on your part. Whatever the case, she stood and held her arms open to you – and as she ended the hug she brushed her lips against yours lightly.
She said her name was Nike.
Three weeks later and you allowed yourself accept that the life is good you have been telling your friends since was nothing but a lie; a joke, a lame attempt to color something that soaked up all the paint you applied. Nike was a light in the dark world you inhabited, and in spite of your reluctance to open up to her because of your fear that just like everything else, this too was going to wait till you couldn’t do without it – and then disappear into that valley happy memories disappear into. But she was real and in 3D and you dared to hope.
And contrary to your excuses, your career did not suffer a setback. In fact you wrote as though your fingers were alive and they were working in synch with your brain. You wrote some of the best work of your entire career in that short time – and you particularly liked the look that came into her eyes when you read some stuff you just wrote to her.
She listened to you, following your words with the patience you have come to associate with her – and when you were done, she mouthed her favorite parts of what you’d read and kissed you.
You were alive.
So when she called you that night sounding like no Nike you knew, fear stole your voice and replaced it with frog-like croaks, freezing your brain at the same time.
“….he’s going to kill…me…”
After clearing your terror-stuck throat like nine times, you were able to get some words out. “Who? Who is going to kill you, Nike?”
And then, you heard a heavy object smashing into something solid – something that sounded like a wall…or a door.
“Nike?!” You yelled, fear giving strength to your vocal chords. “Who is going to kill you?! What’s going on?! Where are you?”
She moaned – and only then did you realize the love of your life was in pain.
“My husband…my husband is going to kill me…”
Everything suddenly made sense in the worst way possible. You understood why she was terrified of staying out later than nine sometimes, or why she had bruises and discolorations on some parts of her, or why she told you where she lived but begged you stridently to not visit.
A scream jerked you out of your pointless woolgathering and you jumped out of your house and into your car. Surulere is just twenty minutes away; you thought, and it’s Saturday. There shouldn’t be any traffic. With trembling hands you connected your phone to the car speakers and tried to keep her on the phone.
“Nike,” you said, “Isn’t there some way you can get out of the house? Don’t you have neighbors – aren’t people hearing you screaming?”
There was something in her voice when she answered – something that had you slamming the brakes though you were in the middle of the road and had vehicles behind you.
It was an air of finality.
“There’s no point…I cannot…I cannot run….I’m trapped here…Seun….” She says your name with some kind of whisper. “Seun…I love…”
“Don’t tell me that over the phone!” You screamed into the air-conditioned interior of your car, screaming just as loudly as your tires as you whipped the wheel around. “I’m on my way – I’ll be there in a few…”
Her laughter – the same laughter that put many a shiver in your loins chilled them now like they were doused with cold water. “Oh…I love your stubborn nature…it’s too late…I’m dead…”
Over her voice you could hear something finally give way – the door; I think – smashing into pieces. You heard the scream of flying wood as pieces hit walls, furniture…
“Ni – “ you began – and then suddenly had to hit your brakes again because you had been driving without looking and suddenly there was traffic up ahead.
Traffic. On Ikorodu Road on a Saturday night.
You cannot believe your luck. Tears started their patient journey down your face as, over the blaring of horns and the screaming and cursing of aggrieved drivers, you heard heavy breathing and the whimpering of a scared woman. “Nike! Nike!!” you screamed desperately – as though that could slow down what was about to happen by a second.
Suddenly she screamed – a loud, keening cry that had you covering your ears – and fell silence as you heard the sound of something heavy smashing into something yielding – like a car tire squashing an overripe watermelon. You could hear the snap and crackle of bones breaking, the putt putt putt as blood and organic matter turned into paste.
You couldn’t disconnect the call so you heard every bit of it…
“…you – sorry, I mean I got there just as the police were taking him away. He had killed her…Deoye, he pounded her head into the floor with a pestle. He…”
I close my eyes again and let my head sag wearily against the back of the chair. But that does not stop the tears.
From the end of a tunnel I hear Deoye speak, “Come on Seun. What…what is this, ehn? Another of those your crazy stories that will have people asking if it really happened? Okay, you try. It worked. I almost believed…”
His voice trails off and I open my eyes to see what interrupted him. He’s staring at my feet – and my eyes follow his. My left Converse sneaker is covered in blood from the previously-white sole to the ankle.
I nod sadly. “That’s all that’s left of her, man. Blood and an unrecognizable mess – all that remains of someone I – “ I choke, and to my horror start sobbing.
“She…she said her name was Nike…”
But I Love You
I know that doesn’t change anything
Doesn’t change the bullshit I did
Doesn’t erase the crap I put you through
But I love you; I do
Even my Twitter knows
I don’t know if you notice,
But I’m not on Twitter much
And when I am,
I try to flirt with some of the other girls
Like magic; your handle pops up
I can’t go on
I just log out
Sometimes I want to scream and shout
The memories are stalking me, I’m asking how
Can I just delete that last thoughtless tweet?
But I love you; I do
Even my Facebook knows
Now, Facebook I do more of;
Because I’m with people I know much of
So we banter, argue, talk, discuss
And as it is with Twitter your face comes up
Doesn’t help that we share plenty friends
Not to mention how they keep tagging us with their pens
Their poems, stories and stuff like that
A couple even add us to groups; my bad!
But wait – should I have unfriended you
Acted like you’re some stranger I never knew?
Gone around my business like nothing happened?
Make you disappear in the haze of some spliff?
Make it look like it was my choice we split?
Vodka to the brim; several stiff drinks
Plus several lips can’t erase the memory of one kiss
And I love you; I do
Even my Smartphone knows
Like the way you hypnotized my friends and family
Even my phone treats me like I’m the enemy
It saved all your texts in a backed-up back up memory
It did that before I could delete any
When I call a girl; the network stops
I blamed MTN; I thought my credit was bust
Then I realized; female calls don’t come thru
The only one I can call is you
I don’t see texts from other girls
Innocent or not, bloody phone doesn’t care!
But how can I explain the choice you made?
To leave me – to leave us; a chorus with no refrain?
Still I love you. I do
Even YouTube knows
Saw a video of you at some seminar
Even better than that; you were the guest speaker!
So I watched, watched and watched again
Like I’m enjoying the pain of feeling crushed; again
But the thing is –
The thing is, since then I cannot use YouTube
On ANY system; from Lagos to Accra too;
When I open the page; this is kinda freaky
That video comes up; believe me
I’m watching something else; it’s in the corner waiting
And because of your face I cannot resist clicking
Coincidence I thought; science can explain everything
Till the same thing happened on a friend’s Smartphone in Britain
I do love you; I do
The thing is; do you?
Click on Image To Download This Ain’t Poetry
I’m watching your mother get ready – I mean get dressed – as we prepare to go out. Sorry; you’re right. There’s little difference between ‘getting ready’ and ‘getting dressed’. The need to be clear would – should make you understand; as few words can, the jumbled state of my mind when I was writing this.
Well, I’m watching your mother prepare for a night out with me, and I have to tell you – it’s one of the most humbling things I have ever been privileged to witness; the simplicity of a woman getting pretty for her man.
I like how she smiles at me over her shoulder every now and then; as though asking softly; Like what you see?
She is beautiful; your mother is.
But this is why I brought that memory to the fore of this letter; I’m sure you remember that my sister got married pretty recently – of course you remember. You were the prettiest bridesmaid there.
I was watching on the sidelines – and I realized one day I’m going to give you away to another man like me; yet very much unlike me, I hope. Because as somehow as that – or this – may sound, I hope you don’t marry a man like me. A man who left his wife for some ‘irreconcilable differences’ nonsense. A man who’s quite the failure at playing ‘dad’.
A man who failed – is failing – at his most sacred responsibility.
Or maybe I assume too much. I am wrong; for already speaking marriage to you at so early an age. You might grow up and decide marriage is not for you. You have every right to do that – there’s nothing wrong with it. Marriage; as I am sure you would have realized from watching me most especially, isn’t for everyone.
What is most important for me, as your dad is your happiness. However you decide to define that; as long as it doesn’t interfere with another person’s life, is mostly up to you.
Having said that, I realize a very profound truth;
Sooner or later, I’m going to have to give you away.
Maybe not to another man. Maybe to your dreams, your passions – or maybe you’ve just grown too old to sit on my lap and listen to me drone on and on about Dapo and his problems, life, romance and stories that touch. Whichever, whatever, I’m going to have to give you away.
Sooner or later.
So what I should be doing right now is giving you the tools you need to survive out there in this cold, bleak world that has changed so much from what it was; some for the better, most not so much. And one of the things you need most to do that; is for the first man in your life to be there to hold your hand, to guide and answer many of the many questions you have and keep having.
Baby, I can’t even apologize. I wouldn’t dare.
I remember when I called to cancel our night out on my birthday – I particularly remember how you sighed and said, “It’s okay dad. I’m used to it.” Honestly, I would have preferred a slap from you. I would have been incensed and angry at that – but I wouldn’t have felt the degree of shame and self-loathing I did. I got off the phone on my birthday feeling like killing myself and then –
I messed up. I’ve been messing up for a while now.
You know, every time I do something like that, every time I see or hear the tears you bravely try to hide whenever I disappoint you, every time I hear the joy in your voice when you scream ‘daddy!’ – every time I have to crush that joy and replace it with something sad and dark – I die a little. I lose some more of what holds me together.
I use my sad and lonely existence as a barrier to forming close friendships; because I had to learn fast and early on that everybody leaves. Everyone goes away eventually – therefore forming deep bonds with other humans is doomed to failure – even before you begin.
But that’s an excuse that’s rapidly wearing thin. Because; as I have had reason to admit more than once lately, while it’s true that people leave, they also leave because you push them away. So in protecting myself, I am an unwitting catalyst of the same thing that makes it necessary to protect myself.
I hope I have not confused you.
But what’s more appalling in the midst of this vicious circle?
Why would I want to protect myself from my own child?
I have become quite selfish, is what I have discovered. In my maddening obsession with protecting myself from heartbreak and sorrow – because I am narcissistically thinking I am the only one who has gone through such – I have learnt to think only of myself.
To the point I’m afraid to spend time with my own daughter.
I wonder what the point of this is. It’s not like I’m ready to change. It’s not like I’m going to come and marry your mother again and then we’ll become one large happy family and ride off into the sunset, while John Legend music plays in the background and the cinema crowd is hiding more than a few tears.
No. Real life doesn’t play out like that.
I know; you’ve grown quite a bit between this and the first letter. Sadly, nothing has changed much despite all the promises I made and the letters I wrote or have written. In fact; this letter is almost the same as that one – word for word. Still telling the same story and making the same empty excuses.
So what is the point of this?
It’s just a little something to acknowledge that I do you wrong; and I know I do you wrong. It’s a memo of me admitting that I’m not quite the man I make myself out to be; no matter how hard I try, if I keep trying to excuse my inadequacies my efforts will never count.
And it’s just a small reminder that I do love you.
I love you.
I know; they say actions speak louder than words – but; as you will undoubtedly grow up to find out, if you ever have to let someone you love go, words sometimes speak louder than actions. It’s hard to believe I ever loved – I love – your mother, judging by the way I walked away all those years ago. Yet here I am, trembling like a sixteen year old on his first date, watching your mother get ready. I also happen to be a writer, baby so I do understand the potency of words.
And this is me saying; in spite of all my misdoings;
I Love You.
Even the caged bird sings.
I go over that line again and again, keeping my mind as preoccupied as my hands are, with buttoning my shirt slowly. I don’t want my mind to be idle – because then it’ll become filled with thoughts of you.
Thoughts I know are not good for me. Not right now.
It takes about – I don’t know; some seconds sha for me to realize all the buttons on my shirt are done – my fingers are just fiddling. I also realize they would be twitching like a drug addict’s the moment they have nothing to do, so I shove them in my jean pockets.
And then I turn towards the room, taking in the walls as I have many times on similar nights – knowing there’s nothing new to see but finding it easier to look at them than at you.
And I know you know what I’m thinking – because I feel your eyes bore in my back; I feel the smile lingering on your lips. I see every little detail – right up to your brown thighs uncovered by the shirt with just a button done. My sleep shirt; you call it.
I still don’t look at you.
No. It’s the green grassy veldt outside your bedroom window that has my attention. It’s the view that makes me think of you; the view that reminds me constantly why whenever it gets a little chaotic in my world you’re the one person I seek out.
You’re my peace. My calm. You make me so happy.
So why is it so hard to look at you?
Look at me; I hear you whisper.
My feet drag as I turn – and then the slow flows from my feet to my throat as my eyes arrive and loose themselves in your tangled tresses. I keep the eyes on your hair – your face in general; determined not to look at the light-colored strip of flesh so proudly displayed.
I suck in a shuddering breath. It’s not that easy.
I know you have to go; I don’t need apologies or explanations. It’s okay.
I hear what you’re saying – I just don’t agree. It’s not okay. I swore the last time and the time before that it was going to be the last time. But like a goat with his heart stuck on eating the neighbor’s grass…
…I keep coming back.
And I know it’s selfish of me. I know this – whatever this is – is one-sided. I know it’s about me and my needs – or maybe we should just be honest and call it what it is – my lust; I know this isn’t what you want or even need –
I need this too, you say as though you can hear me think.
I stand beside the window and watch the evening sun bathe you in red; highlighting the black in your hair in some kind of way I don’t exactly understand. I’m not a poet; I don’t know how to put words together in a flowery and sensible manner – but I look at you and realize; God really took His time putting you together.
I know it’s a cliché – but it’s truly true.
You uncurl your legs – legs that seem to go on for days – and stand, rocking softly with the springs of the bed. Bouncing, you make your way to the edge of it and reach towards me with your arms. Smiling and shaking my head, I walk towards you – but I’m barely there before you bounce up once – and then jump off the bed towards me.
Okay. I wasn’t expecting that – but I stay unruffled as I take a huge step and catch your arms. Like the dancer you are, you land lightly – even though most of your weight is on my shoulders. You laugh in my face, brushing the hair out of it before leaning it against mine. We kiss softly – the kisses of comfortable lovers who do not have anything to prove to each other – lovers who have drunk from the water dispenser of love-making and are sated.
For the moment.
The light dances in your eyes as you lean your forehead against mine – and to my chagrin it occurs to me that this is not about me after all; I dare to imagine that you’re actually happy.
That surprises me. You; surprise me.
I’m about to speak – I’m about to go through the motions; say those things comfortable lovers say to each other – things that really mean nothing when they go under the microscope – but we say them anyway.
I’m about to mumble a bunch of sweet-nothings – but your finger silences me. Don’ t apologize; you whisper. Don’t tell me how you wish you hadn’t come back to me with your wahala. This; you are the most happy I have been in a while – and while I wish you were still mine; I’m grateful to have this much.
I inhale through the thickness in my throat. I love you, I say simply.
You smile softly, shaking your head. You don’t have to say that; you remind me.
I love you, I insist. You do not say anything; choosing rather to keep looking at me with those puppy-love eyes. I step backwards, away from you – before turning and heading towards the door. Opening it, I step through and close it behind me – and then lean against it like they do in all those romantic movies.
It overwhelms me – this much feeling. I get to feeling like I’m a character playing out a movie – like all this is beyond my control. Like I’m just fulfilling someone else’s fantasies for me.
But I know I am responsible for my life. I am the liar, the cheat, the impatient lover too much in a hurry for – I don’t even know what it was I was hurrying after – the sucker who all but threw away the best thing ever.
I wonder why you allow me back – even though we both know I’m just around for the sex.
Or maybe that’s another lie I’ve become comfortable with.
It doesn’t really matter. I get my feet under me and push away from the wall, heading to my house – to another woman I call wife; another woman I love.
In the same way, yet very much differently.
Sigh. Such is life.
Or maybe I’m just full of shit.