Veinticinco (Or “Showing Up”)

31st July, 1990.
Warri, Bendel State.

“Isn’t the food here yet? ”

“Nna’m,  calm down, it’s almost ready. ”

Nna’m. That was how she addressed her husband. No sugary nouns, no shallow sweet-nothings, no expressions whose paper-thin weight you could even feel from the voice pitch. She loved him (dutifully at the very least), he protected her, she knew what she had to do around the house, he knew when to reach for his wallet, and that was it: the vintage West African couple, none of that Hollywood reality show faux gloss.

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Confetti

It’s finally here.  After years of hits and misses, reminders of promises made to a dying father, a gradually receding hairline, and fielding questions as to ritual oaths and even sexuality,  he finally takes a plunge into the deep and wavy sea called Marriage.  Yes,  it’s the day he finally decides to share his last name with someone,  the day he bids adieu to his youth,  the day evening hangouts lose their place to intimate family time.

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Hymns From Badore

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Six months had passed since I last set foot into a church building (my last appearance being Easter Sunday), but I did not feel for a moment that I had missed anything. The reading of the bible passages reeked of dour formality, the officiating priest churned out recycled sermons, the chants were the same, the hymns had not changed much, and I pretty much knew which activity followed the other.
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Red-Earth Yuletide

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“What was the point washing this car in the first place”?

He is right. Well, Fathers usually are. The season and the dust that accompanies it makes the task of washing automobiles a total waste of time, and the rural dwellings, dust battles for supremacy with the air you breathe. What are you doing in a rural area anyway? Well your family has (against your wish, of course) decided that this year’s Yuletide will be happening in your hometown. It’s your first visit in five years, never mind the fact that the distance between your village and your city of residence is just about 45 minutes. As the years pass, the exotic feel and the excitement of spending Christmas in the old country have waned. Maybe you would be a lot more enthusiastic if the distance was over six hours, like West and East. As a matter of fact, you no longer get it anymore, as to why people risk their lives each year traversing regions for an event that would barely last a week. But Father has spoken, and you have no choice. Continue reading

Puppy Passions

Sleeping really deep is one of my attributes, but only a man who was stone dead would have failed to wake up to the screams that pierced through my dreams that hot afternoon. I reluctantly but inquisitively dragged myself out of the house to find out what was going on, and my curiosity was only satisfied when I got to the source of the sleep-disrupting sounds. It was the home of the Ajabors, devout members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, whose abode was less than a four-minute walk away from mine. (The proximity did not stop me from panting when I got there; weeks of binge eating had begun to take their toll). Mrs Ajabor was deeply engrossed in meting out discipline on Daniel her 12-year-old son with a thick long garden branch, with her husband looking on in a manner that suggested unreserved approval. Continue reading

The Educating

The month of September is known for unannounced visits from Poseidon (the Greek god of rain), and on that late chilly evening it remained true to type. PHCN had been kind to this tiny neighbourhood at Trans Ekulu in Enugu for some weeks now, but that was not to be the case that day. Groans, shrieks and expletives greeted the air as PHCN promptly withdrew its services which, going by the nature of the weather, would probably not be available until sometime the next day. For the males in the hood, it meant that they had to find alternative means of watching Real Madrid and their fluid football that night; they would probably have to camp behind the window of Rev. Cletus’ house, as only he in the neighbourhood possessed a generator and loved football at the same time.

The power outage mattered little to Nneka however. She had managed to complete her Integrated Science Assignment in the nick of time and besides, the rain could only go to aid her sleep until early the next day, when she hoped to begin another day as a J.S.S Two student in a private school which was a forty-minute drive away from where she lived. To her, the only snag about PHCN’s cowering to the rain was that it robbed her of the chance to try out the new yellow dress, which her mother had sewn for her three days earlier as a gift for her 11th birthday.

By 8:15pm, Nneka already had her seatbelt fastened for an early flight to Dreamland. Back there, power outage did not exist, she had fairies at her beck and call and everywhere was as colourful as a wedding ceremony. Sadly for her, she had to get back to Earth less than 20 minutes later as the door of her room gave way. In the darkness, she tried to make out who it was had had interrupted her dreams. Her eyes met with little difficulty. It was Sam, her mother’s younger cousin who had been living with them for two years since he was relieved of his position as an Accounts Clerk at the Lagos branch of Nigeria Breweries Plc. In family circles, it was somewhat odd for a 30-year-old man to live comfortable off his relatives without doing so much as fend for himself, but Sam couldn’t be bothered. Afterall, Nneka’s parents didn’t seem to mind, he provided much help around the house, and on this particular night, only he was around to look after Nneka. Her parents, both evangelists, had travelled earlier in the day for a Leaders’ Conference in Akure, and would not return in the next 72 hours. Her elder brothers, Kene and Uche, were boarders at missionary schools in Lagos and Edo states respectively.

“Good evening Uncle Sam”, Nneka mumbled in her still sleepy voice.

“Good evening”, replied Sam quickly. After about two minutes in which he treated her to a long surveying stare albeit in the shadows, he eventually let his lips part with the words, “there is something I would love to tell you.”

Nneka was uneasy now. She was wondering what it was that would soon come to her knowledge. Was she to go out and get yet another item from Mama Eze’s kiosk? Sam  seemed to love sending her on late errands. Or was it the empty pots of stew she had failed to wash? Sam was not the type to spank her. What then would it be, she quizzed herself.

“I want you”, Sam said.

Want! Want!! WANT!!! Whatever could that mean, she asked herself. The word kept making dance moves in her head. WANT! She was still trying to digest the statement when without warning, she felt her feet leave the floor, and in another four seconds, she felt Sam’s 71kkg frame on her, and her lips swallowed up in his.

Nneka was confused, and not without good reason. Sam was virtually chewing up her lips. She had no idea that lips contained nutrients. She had been taught the six classes of food in school, but which category did LIPS fall into? Carbohydrates? Proteins? Vitamins? Before she was able to dwell on that, Sam had got to work again. His hands had found a pair of soft pawpaws, and he didn’t seem willing to let go anytime soon. Her small low cut night gown meant easier access. It was Christmas come in September for Sam. A wide grin strolled across Sam’s dark face as he treated the pawpaws to squeeze after squeeze. Rather firm and full for an eleven-year-old, he mused. It would be fair to say that no word exists to explain how Nneka felt. Shock? Fear? Confusion? None of these would fit in.

Sam wasted little time there. In a matter of minutes, his hands slid further down her anatomy, where he gently negotiated through a small shrub of grass before proceeding to explore the Wonderland. As his fingers surveyed, Nneka had terror written all over her face scarcely visible on this half-mooned night. There was somewhere there that caused her to jerk as Sam perused. It was as if he felt the need to reassure her, accompanying his movements with whispers of “Trust Me.” A stare which conveyed all she felt was her reply to Sam’s words. He returned a blank stare and a wry smile, then went about his business. Nneka’s confusion showed no signs of going away, but she was wrong to think that this was it. Ten seconds and a loosened zipper later, Sam began to put his most effective tool to use. Sam’s thrusts, which began deceptively gently before going full throttle, showed a release of bottled up energy. He couldn’t be blamed though, being placed on a two-year long libido leash since that evening with the daughter of his former colleague at the NBC was by no means amusing.

Sam’s movements brought back to Nneka memories of a wildlife documentary she had seen four weeks earlier. It had been about a large restless snake which kept crawling in and out of its hole, spewing out thick venom at intervals. Superlatives are lacking to describe the pain she felt. As the minutes rolled away, pain was replaced by resignation, and resignation by desire, which came to play as she held on to his black singlet with a loose but inviting grip when it seemed that his lust had begun to wane. She now felt a strange warmth for the man whom she saw as a monster only few minutes earlier. Her eyes lit up, and even more strangely a smile found its way to her face for the first time that night. Was this love? The love she saw in movies and those of her elder brother’s novels she often sneaked away to read? She couldn’t understand this feeling that now made her receive him with all innocent eagerness, and which was expressed in a fiercer way two weeks later when she tried to fight off the police officers who came to put Sam in chains and whisk him away at the request of her parents. It appeared that the men in black, whose faces seemed unwilling to accommodate any pleasant expressions, would need a lot more than repeated screams of “Leave Uncle alone” to let Sam go.

As Deaconess Mary-Margaret tried in vain to console her daughter who felt so sore at being parted from the man who had let her taste the forbidden cucumber of love, her mind took a short trip around what would have been. She should have acted upon the suspicion which arose every time Sam gave Nneka that shifty look, or the times he went on his tickling routine. She now wondered if the events of that night could have been avoided if she had explained to Nneka those chapters on reproduction which she had curiously stumbled on in Uche’s biology textbooks, rather than going ahead to shout her down. She pondered on how things could have been different if only she had explained to her inquisitive daughter what Antonio Banderas was doing with Angelina Jolie in the movie “Original Sin”, rather than place her palms over the child’s eyes. Oh, if only she had treated Nneka to a discussion about men, about feelings, about the Bedsheet Olympics. She had failed to give her child the sex education she needed. Well, the vacuum had been filled. Sam had taken it upon himself to do the educating, in his own way.