Reunions, Memories And Mixed Drinks

“Hey, are you ok? ”
“Yes, I am. Why do you ask? ”
“Everybody is having fun, and you just choose to sit here? ”
“I’m getting into the groove, just watch, you will be begging me to slow down.”
“Ok o. Until then. ”
With that, he went his way, leaving you to sit on the sparsely decorated white plastic chair, a tall glass of red wine and a flurry of thoughts being your choice for company, at least for that moment. The curiosity of the man you just had a conversation with was not without good reason; it was not the kind of evening where being alone with your thoughts would be a particularly popular choice, afterall, high school reunions were not organised too frequently, what with the financial obligations, logistics and all. Continue reading

The Periwinkle List

​9.58am.

Victoria Garden City, Lagos.

It was an unusual time on a Monday morning to still maintain the affinity between my back and the multi-coloured bedsheet that I had been too lazy to wash over the weekend; I should be in my slave plantation of a workplace, dazed by the grueling traffic from a few hours before, responding to threatening office mails in servile fashion and flashing plastic smiles to customers with an unnecessarily huge sense of entitlement…..but today was different. The ones who worshipped on Fridays rather than Sundays had their version of December 25th going on, so the federal government pleased all 9-5ers as it rarely did, by announcing a two-day public holiday. Left to me, I would have loved that a search be conducted for another missing moon thereby causing an extension of my days away from the plantation, but no horses were going to have beggars riding them. I scrolled down my phonebook (in vain) for the phone numbers of friends who would have me partake in a binge on those juicy ram parts, and finding none, I opted for another outlet to search for company: my social media timeline.

Being a creative comes with the urge to express your art on social media, being active on social media while displaying expertise in your craft translates to a significantly huge following, and from that ultimately springs up a dedicated fan base. I did not necessarily rate my prowess by social media approval, but if the likes, comments, retweets and shares were anything to go by, I was pretty good with my pencil and paintbrush. Creativity attracts enthusiasts, and sometimes enthusiasm evolves into devotion, some of which would usually flow from the opposite sex…..which allows for flattery…..and flirting…..and the tendency to confuse curiosity with genuine admiration, and in extreme cases, a mix-up of art appreciation with emotional attachment. 

I was aware of the complicated procedure involved in creating new e-bonds; the witty lines, the comebacks, the need to avoid corny statements, the necessity of keeping out small talk, the continual steering of the conversational wheels so they remained in a particular direction (especially if your intentions were not exactly noble, though there was no real way to gauge that), the need to conduct due diligence on the timeline to get a clear picture of their views on issues (like ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and feminism), the rule of typing in full (relevant in this age of Grammar Nazis), carefully negotiating the line between straight talk and douchey behaviour, the silent prayer to avoid the ones who made every inbox conversation the subject of a status update…..so I opted to direct my sliding tackles to familiar terrain instead. There was no way I could get a new social media acquaintance comfortable enough to pay me a visit in hours. 

I figured that it would be futile convincing Temi to come over; she often complained that I replied her Whatsapp messages after three business days, and only chatted her up when I felt like having her around. Oge was eight hours away, and even a free flow of “extensive physical interaction” with her was not guaranteed. Somto’s crush on me had faded, her calls and texts no longer streaming in like they used to, my uploads of landscape drawings no longer “captivating” enough for her to publicise like she loved to do five to six months earlier, though I admittedly complicated things with my unresponsiveness and mental shut-outs which (coincidentally) began after that two-day visit. I was left with the option I felt would be the easiest, the tempo of our curiosity ride still good enough to secure a rendezvous…. 

********

Cathy was a graduate of Economics from the University of Lagos stuck in that limbo between the end of national service year and that first contract of employment, as well as an art enthusiast…..or at least that was what I could gather from her Facebook timeline. I slid into the fast-flowing river that was her inbox, just at the same time her situationship with Tunde, a writer famed for his cheesy poems often published on rainy nights, had hit the rocks. Being a creative gets you surrounded by similarly wild minds to the point that it feels like a cult, so the friend request was always a question of “when” rather than “if”, and if seeing that we had about four hundred e-friends in common was not going to get me comfortable, Lord knows what would. 

The popular story was that Tunde had got into a heated e-scuffle with online personality Hymar David over a post which the former had perceived as a subtle dig at his craft, and Cathy had unwittingly clicked the like button one of Hymar’s incisive comments. Tunde had gone ahead to unfriend Cathy, who responded with a post about “nursery rhyme scribblers who lacked depth”. Tunde, nursing a bruised ego, composed a long poem on “paper dolls and blondes clothed with dark skin”, and Cathy hit back by uploading screenshots of the many conversations they had, from the downright corny to the ones laced with smut. 

I was aware of all this, and from the first “hello” I knew I had to impress. A long chat history laced with wit and sass evolved into a back-and-forth texting marathon, then the likes on every single sketch I uploaded, then the Instagram mentions, then the 2am voice notes, then the exchange of photos involving mounds of flesh (though I was careful not to send out shots of my ‘German machine’ in sheer over-excitement, who knew where those could end up?) 

A request to stop by and check out some of my new furniture was met with some reluctance from her. Her words were:

“James, you live at VGC, and I in Ketu. See the distance? ”

“Geography means nothing where Desire is involved”, I replied. 

“All these mushy lines you artists use. By the way, I think we’re going too fast, we only started talking three weeks ago.”

“Cathy, I think it would be unfair of you to try dictating the pace of this thing between us, let’s go with the tempo, why interrupt the flow? ”

And when I slowly pencilled out her features on a white cardboard paper while she lay totally unclothed on my mattress, she inquired:

“James, you’d better make sure no portion of this sketch leaves this room. ”

“Baby, you want us to sign a non-disclosure agreement? ” I answered, making a derisive face. 

“Hmm…. you called me ‘baby’……how many of your female fans on social media have you addressed by that term? ”

And midway through our joint bath, before which she had tightly wrapped her legs around my hip, clutching my head as I nibbled at her breast and mouthing unintelligible statements as I ploughed the moist mangrove swamp with the German machine, deciphering the texture of her butt cheeks with my palms, she implored:

“Jamie, none of this makes your Facebook page, even in the most subtle of posts, ok? ”

“I am not a writer, Cathy, only writers kiss and tell….and by the way, it’s ‘James’. Let’s clean up, dress and sleep.”

We didn’t find our clothes, at least not until she left the following evening. We had no need of them anyway. 

*********

12:19pm.

Victoria Garden City, Lagos. 

According to the general “missed calls rule”, I made it a point of duty not to dial a number after two attempts without a response, but I had broken the code for Cathy’s sake, and even after the fifth attempt, all I got was the “no answer” notification, accompanied by that tone which meant that the human at the other end was unable (or unwilling) to pick up. Determined to not appear too “thirsty”, I refrained from dialling for the sixth time. I wouldn’t have lent much thought to all of it if the two text messages from my phone had been met with a reply. Cathy was usually the first to trigger the text-a-thon, so this was unusual. 

I swam through the waters of my newsfeed into her Facebook inbox to drop another chat message (I had sent out a random “hey miss” by 7.52am), and I found that not only was she online, she had seen the words from few hours earlier. She had also posted three updates within the past hour, shared a video, and commented on two short stories. Yea, i caught all the details in totally insecure fashion. 

Cathy was ignoring me. 

There was no need to make a fuss out of it, but I wanted the company.  Cathy’s company. I could feel her butt cheeks all over my palms, and with that flash of thought, I grabbed my phone, scrolled to my Facebook messenger and typed:

“Not quite good at multi-tasking, are you? ”

It was read within minutes, with no reply given, but shortly after lunch which comprised of bread and egg sauce (I couldn’t stress myself to conjure an actual recipe or visit Nigerian Lazy Chef’s Instagram page),  I scrolled down my newsfeed to find a recent status update from Cathy. It read:

“Ultimately, we’ve got the right to choose where we want to be, who we are comfortable with, and for how long.”

I got the message. The novelty had worn off.

 I ceased all communication with Cathy. It was not a conscious effort, but the texts dried up. She withdrew her likes from a few of my sketches, and pulled down the photos of us together taken at The Palms from her wall.

In the following weeks, the social media pages of a young man named Mickey felt the effect of Cathy’s keypads. I knew Mickey, affectionately known as Mickey Strings; he had shared the stage with promising Nigerian rock acts Johnny Drille, Phrance and Nathmac at a number of gigs, played the guitar as well as the harmonica, and the pseudo-elite girls who frequented Bogobiri Lounge couldn’t get enough of him. I stumbled on a video of him rendering a cover of Mumford and Sons’ “Believe”, and while I felt he was trying too hard, I couldn’t deny the talent. Cathy clicked the ‘love’ button on all his posts, shared his videos, reposted his practice sessions on Instagram, gave glowing reviews of his songs (I particularly liked the guitar solo on his hit track “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone”), and was quick to upload photos of them smiling together at Hard Rock Cafe. 

I shrugged inwardly whenever I saw those updates. If i had invested my emotions in the positive social media feedback, or expected anything meaningful to spring from soft-copy affections, then a short scroll down Cathy’s timeline would have got me clutching my chest in agony. It was not that deep, no, it never was. Everything ran its course, from high-octane crushes to weather-induced company, and this was no different. 

“Sometimes you are reluctant to translate e-acquaintance into real-life familiarity because of the difficulty in gauging the level of depth (or lack thereof), as well as the particulars of intent…..and other times your thoughts run in the lines of ‘oya coman feed your curiosity and be going to your house’ ”

*********

7.21pm.

Freedom Park, Lagos. 

“Dude, why aren’t you up there performing tonight? ”

It was the Lagos State International Poetry Festival, and while we were waiting for the headlining acts, we had to make do with a few performances from two “cold-weather poets” who had opted to sacrifice meaning in order to achieve rhyme schemes. Sure enough, there were no rules to poetry, but I just found the renditions abysmally poor. The atmosphere of the event was getting lost on me, causing me to take solace in a glass of Heineken, but I only just spotted Tunde, and I set about to teasing him. 

“Oh, you want me to perform, so that someone will run to her wall and do an editorial on nursery rhyme scribblers”, he cut back. 

I laughed. We both knew who he was talking about. 

“Oh, where is that one by the way.” I was eager for some gossip. 

“I should be asking you.”

“No, we should be asking Mickey Strings.”

No information. This meet-and-greet was getting boring. 

“Talk of the Devil! ”

Tunde had seen him first. I turned. It was Mickey alright, on one of those rare public appearances without a guitar. Dressed in a navy blue turtle-neck t-shirt, beige-coloured trousers and black sneakers, he walked up to us, leading to an exchange of “bro” hugs. 

“Why are you here alone? ” I inquired, wasting no time to put him on the spot. 

“What do you mean? ” Mickey asked, confusion finding home on his face. 

“Usually, you would be here with….”

“Oh!!!! ” Mickey exclaimed. He had finally got where I was driving at. “We don’t talk anymore. As a matter of fact, she blocked me on Twitter.”

“Wawu! ” I blurted, feigning shock. 

“Guy wetin happen? You guys were the IT social media couple.” Tunde was hungry for some gossip too. 

“Well, we had this argument. She wanted a song written for her, and she wanted it on her birthday. My muse deserted me at the time, and I couldn’t deliver, so…..one subliminal diss, then another, then one day I go to her Facebook timeline and see “Add Friend. ”

“Na wa o….. ”

“Oh well….. I hear she is crawling all over Femi Laniyan’s feeds nowadays.”

“Who’s that one? ” My ears were now more alert than ever. 

“He is one guy who recently joined the cast of Tinsel, same time as Falz”, Mickey responded generously. “He is tall, dark, team beard gang sef. Played ‘waka pass’ roles in Phone Swap and The CEO.”

“Cathy sha! ” Tunde cut in. “Should we tell him? ”

“Where’s the fun in that? ” I retorted. “Let the girl have her fill. I’m sure we were all just part of a long list.”

“Waking up next to very male creative on your timeline is a pretty tall ambition, but who says a woman cannot dream? ” Mickey was getting salty now. 

“The way they treat some of us creatives like periwinkle ehn….pick, suck and move ahead”, Tunde interjected. 

We giggled.

“The worst part is when they show up, seeming all genuine, and then you make the mistake of pouring your heart out to them. You are left with the feeling of being naked”, Mickey added. 

We slowly nodded in agreement. Poor Mickey, he probably thought he had found someone he could be honest and comfortably vulnerable with when he met Cathy. 

I poured some more Heineken into my glass from the bottle and dutifully observed the bubbles. It was amazing, really, how the foam would appear so thick for a few moments, and then settle back into the glass without warning…..just like social media relationships. I thought about the “hey James, I really like your drawings, they have so much soul” inbox message I received earlier in the day from a lady whose friend request I recently accepted, grinned and took a long sip. 

The Detached

(The following is a narration of true events that took place in the wee hours between 27th and 28th March, 2016.)

27th March, 2016.
Lagos, 10.22pm.

I kept my gaze on my smartphone, waiting for the Airtel network to convert the little spiral lines into a green tick, and send my message across hundreds of kilometres to the heart of the East. It was a late Easter message to Ugochi, with the extra gloss of “I’ve missed you a lot” and “I really want you around”. I didn’t have faith in achieving any kind of positive outcome with those words, but I had nothing to lose by typing them out either.

Continue reading

Catching Up….Or Not

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Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have had any business in the banking hall that day; i did not operate any account with them, and I had no deposits to make on anyone’s behalf, but the phone dealers across the street had shamelessly failed to get their POS machine functioning properly, so I had to make a withdrawal at the nearest ATM available (yea, ATM, not “ATM machine”)…..but a number of the notes that popped out consisted of “oil money” – literally, stained with palm oil – so i elected to step into the hall and ask for substitute notes. Afterall, the erring papers came from them.

Continue reading

THEY SHOULD HAVE KILLED CHIVALRY

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(The next lines you will read are inspired by true events that transpired in the final few hours of January 31st, 2016.)

“Bros, abeg help me check time. ”

“It’s eight-thirty right now. ”

He nods in acknowledgment of your response and places his foot a little more firmly on the throttle. It’s Sunday night in Lagos, few hours separating you from that month in the year where everyone becomes a poet and the prices of flowers and chocolates skyrocket. Lekki is the destination, and the roads look free enough to conduct a Grand Prix…..except for the Ajah axis, that is; you could end up in a traffic jam at eleven forty-five p.m in that part of town. In any case, you both are sure of getting to her place in less than forty minutes, where same would have taken one hour and a half on either of the five days of certain gridlock.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Strange Boots

23rd September, 2015.

The spot hurts, and not without good reason. Twice in the space of ten minutes, that corner of my head has made forcible contact with a sharp-edged portion of the bus. Not that the bus is comfortable by any standards, but there is something about this part of the bus that makes it seem like a reservoir for pain. My head was already previously aching from a long day at the slave site I call an office, so the double bump is just perfect. No, I didn’t cause the hurt myself by nodding carelessly to loud music. On the two different occasions, passengers had thought it wise to make unsolicited body contact while boarding the bus, and apparently, an apology is too much to ask for in this big city. Life is too short for that, and besides, you should understand that the one thing on every passenger’s mind is getting home, so courtesy and good manners face suspension like a country’s constitution under a military junta. I am learning. There is still a lot to catch up on around here, but I’ll be fine….  Continue reading

Power Nap

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(Author’s Note: The set of paragraphs you are about to read is a narration of true events that took place in the early hours of June 30th, 2015.)

9.00pm.

Lagos, Nigeria.

“Hey, good evening, what’s the name?”

I’d seen her, light-complexioned and long umbrella in hand, come out of a house at the other side of the street. There was something
about her cheeks, something that made you want to stroke them for 25 hours. It was cold, she was
covered in a dark blue sweater, and for a moment
I wished she was all wrapped up beneath my
blanket. I decided to find out who she was, but
she uttered no response, and as a matter of fact she switched lanes. As it turned out, we were
going the same direction, so i caught up with her
and repeated the question.

“What’s the name?”

“Excellence”, she replied.

A younger me would have resorted to chuckling as my first reaction, but I smiled, and then we got
talking about how I had not seen her before, and how PHCN had improved its services since the
new administration took over. There is something about the weather that has it always come up as
a subject of conversation, and in a matter of
minutes we were talking about the rainy season.

“This rain sha. Everywhere gets flooded, and
moving around becomes ‘difficant’.”

Difficant?! I wondered if that was a new word in the dictionary. Well there was always a chance
that I had heard wrongly, so i lured her into
repeating the statement.

“I didnt get you”, I said.

“I said that movement becomes difficant”, she repeated.

A red flag flew at full mast in my mind’s eye. I
told myself that I would definitely not have sustained interactions with the lady after that
evening, but our feet were still pointing in the same direction, so we kept walking.

It was pretty windy when I stepped out, but at least it was dry. Excellence’s decision to step out
with an umbrella proved to be one borne out of
foresight, as it soon began to drizzle. She could have continued walking, afterall, she was sufficiently
protected, but she chose to run with me beneath
the zinc roof of a kiosk which had closed for the
day, in a bid to find shelter. Then without
warning, she drew herself closer and leaned
forward to take up my lips into hers. For some
reason I couldnt explain, i shifted backwards,
declining a taste of her lip gloss.

The winds intensified, and for the first time I looked in the direction of her legs. I noticed she
had been wearing a short gown beneath that
sweater all along. The breeze did a good job of raising the gown to reveal her smooth thighs, and
I began to feel that I had pulled away too soon.
My hormones had been triggered, and I literally reached for the lower end of her gown. This time
it was her turn to shift backwards, but she added
a little something extra: she let out a cackling
laugh.

It wasnt just any kind of laughter. It was the kind
you hear in those marine kingdom scenes from
Nollywood movies. The goosebumps on my skin
took perfect shape. Her hair was responding appropriately to the wind, and she wouldnt stop
laughing as she stared at me…..

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“A girl I’d never seen
Lay next to me with golden skin
I sprung up to my feet
She asked me what was wrong
I began to scream
‘I dont think this is me,
Is this just a dream
Or really happening?’ ”

***********
4.15am.

I was back in my apartment, jolted back to
reality, but Excellence’s laughter had seeped in
from my dreams and into my world. I then tried
to open my eyes and get up, but found myself
unable to. I knew what was happening. It was
another of those nights.

Yes, someone (or something) had come to ‘press’
me in my sleep yet again, and as was often the
case, I couldnt see who or what it was. I knew
the drill: get pinned, lose my ability to move any
part of my body for a number of minutes, then
struggle in my sub-conscious. This time the
malevolent force had chosen to fix my head and
neck in a chokehold. It was an annoying situation,
but I had a new day to begin, and ‘he’ wouldnt
negotiate, so the fight began.

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I forcefully tried to open my eyes, but they felt like
they were stuck with glue. My spirit then kicked
and dug an elbow into my assailant’s sides. He
wouldnt budge, so my spirit kicked again, all the
while barely able to churn out cries of “Jesus,
Jesus”. We rolled along the wall, and even found
ourselves mid-air, before my spirit sunk its teeth
into my attacker’s form. I struggled to break free,
kicking again, before the force finally let go.

“I want to wake up kicking and screaming
I want to wake up kicking and screaming
I want to know that my heart’s still beating
Still beating, I’m pleading”

The fight had lasted for two ‘Dreamland’ hours,
which would transIate to about twenty ‘Earth
minutes’. I was able to open my eyes at last,
finding that I had fallen off the bed. I knew that
this was by no means the last visit from whatever
had attacked me, but I also knew that the
weapons of warfare were not carnal in nature.
The issues of superstition and excessive belief in
the metaphysical were topics for a future
discussion, but I loved to think that a lot of
battles go on in the spiritual realm, and that my
spirit had lived to fight another night.

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Too Much To Ask

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“Chidinma, it’s really cold. I need you here.”

“Awwwwww.”

“How’s it been over there? Do you even get to go out?”

No o. I get to be indoors alone. It’s so boring, from the house to the office and back. I just came in now. I’m so tired.”

“Ouch. Coming back this late. Your boss is just being mean. I’m so sorry Baby, I wish I was beside you.”

Hmmm….me too. When will you be back from Lagos? It’s been three weeks.”

“I’ll be home to you soon. Stay beautiful. I love you.”

“Me too.”

Yeah,  that was Chidinma’s new way of responding to my sweet-nothings. “Me too”, because the words “I love you too” were a little too stressful for her tongue, or probably consumed too many micro-seconds. I smiled as I hung up, not because of any giggly sensations generated by the phone call, but because of the unfolding of events. Continue reading

Sisters Not Needed

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Oron, Akwa Ibom State, 2014.

The lights in the room were turned off, but then they were not exactly needed, not this breezy late Tuesday evening. The moderate brightness from Mark’s laptop was deemed to be enough for the room, and besides, the low lighting created a cinema effect. Yes, it was another movie night in Flat C, the bubbliest flat in this lodge designated to the corps members deployed to this old town, where fish had a swollen population and ladies were fluent in the language of love. Continue reading