Ghosts Of Writers Past

I will never know how i got there, but there was just something alluringly weird about this antiquated mansion where I found myself. Clad in an indigenously Fulani dashiki I couldn’t remember buying, I groped my way around this place which was well beyond all electronic maps and intelligence radars. Something about the thick darkness egged me on, as I supported myself with the walls of the hallway.

It must have been fifty minutes or so later when I bumped my head against what turned out to be a door. With what was left of my fatigued frame, I gave it a push and predictably I fell to the floor as it gave way. I was however reinvigorated by the sight that greeted my eyes. It was a large hall beautifully lit by flame torches, and in the middle of it stood the widest table I had ever seen. The table was surrounded with chairs of all shapes and designs, from wooden tripods to straw stools. There was something incredibly solemn about the hall, an air of greatness impossible to ignore. No one was seated at table however, so I chose to probe further and survey the hall.

In twenty decades I couldn’t have imagined what next I saw. At a corner of the hall were Aristotle and Plato playing what looked like a B.C. version of Chess, with Cicero watching closely, impatiently eager to take on whoever won. ”I’ll be lucky to play today, their last game lasted for two days”, Cicero said to me. Besides cracking 2nd century B.C jokes and teasing one another’s hairstyle, this game was all they were about. They had probably accepted the fact that the ideals expressed in their works were now mere Utopian concepts.

Awestruck but even more curious, I moved further. Not too far off sat the Greek poet Homer. Watching him engage in deep soliloquy, I doubted that he would ever know how much power lay in his poems Troy and Odyssey. I wondered how so much life could be invoked on paper that it had been subjected to several re-creations, of which Brad Pitt (Achilles) and Armand Assante (Odysseus), for all their acting prowess, could only muster a faint reflection of Homer’s imagery. The stool occupied by Homer had only minutes before been occupied by William Shakespeare. That was a man who in his time redefined the art of writing and indeed the English language. Transcending cultures, he had invented a number of words used today, including the term ”swagger”, which was the only way to describe the manner with which he now moved towards The Table. I wanted to ask why he didn’t try to simplify the language employed in his works, but then I was afraid of being the object of the aggression which he still harboured from being unable to eat his Easter eggs on the day he was last seen alive in 1616.

There had to be more, I mused. As i probed further with my eyes and feet, I would find Jonathan Swift, Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain engaged in a fierce argument about whose novel provided more adventure in its day. Swift stoutly defended ”Gulliver’s Travels”, R. L. Stevenson made a case for ”Treasure Island” and Twain felt ”Tom Sawyer” was more superior. They were eventually hushed by a shrill voice, that of Charles Dickens. There I was, face to face with a man who did a great job at penning down the socio-economic situation of his time, aptly expressed in ”Oliver Twist” and ”A Christmas Carol”. He asked me how London fared, and showed no emotion at my response.

My first reaction to finding Niccolo Machiavelli seated on a pentagram-shaped mat was to stare at him in hateful admiration. I wondered where he derived the principles highlighted in ”The Prince”, principles which had been applied by tyrants centuries after its publication, and had wreaked havoc on generations. As if he could read my thoughts, he muttered, ”The Prince? Oh well it was necessary for Italy at the time.” I still itched to interrogate him when I felt a firm hand on my right shoulder. The hand was that of H. Rider Haggard, the mind responsible for ”King’s Solomon’s Mines” and ”Allan Quatermain”, pioneer works of the Lost World literary genre which dwelt on the (then) unexplored regions of Africa. Rider Haggard was in a matter of seconds called away. it was his turn to guide John Milton to The Table, since the latter had mysteriously lost the bronze walking stick which aided his movement. I took a deep breath as I looked in admiration at Milton, who didn’t let his impaired vision stand in the way of ”Paradise Lost” and other offshoots of his poetry.

The sight of Christopher Marlowe and Oscar Wilde chatting away did much to fuel the atmosphere. They had been comparing their respective works ”Doctor Faustus” and ”The Picture Of Dorian Gray”, which had both centred on characters trading their souls for temporary bliss. Marlowe, still bearing the scar from the mortal wound sustained to his head in 1593, laughed when I told him how England presently looked like, screaming, ”and they called me a heretic!” Wilde, ever eager to give lectures on hedonism and fun-seeking, grinned when I told him of his words ”The love of oneself is a lifelong romance” being one of my favourite quotes.

A few steps further, and I was soon amusing myself watching George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway try to serenade Mary Ann Evans (known in books as George Eliot.) I marvelled at the imagery employed by Orwell in ”Animal Farm” (actually a political satire) and he sighed when he found that the world was now full of so much government propaganda and media control which he illustrated in ”1984”. Hemingway still bore the scar of his shotgun wound self-inflicted in 1961, and I had half a mind to ask why he gave up on himself, when ironically ”The Old Man And The Sea” centred on the themes of hope and resilience. I could understand why Evans chose to adopt the pen name George; the life of an Englishwoman between the 17th and 19th century was rather hard and there was no way ”Silas Marner” would have gone as far as it did if the cover print had bore Mary Anne. The mood was soon ruined by A. E. Housman’s morbid musings. Typical Housman, who in his time avoided love and preached about early death in poems like ”To An Athlete Dying Young.”

A debate was brewing among Richard Wright, Christopher Okigbo, Peter Abrahams and Cyprian Ekwensi at the farthest left corner of the hall. The quartet had found one another most comfortable to relate with since their arrival at the mansion, and in all their verbal spars, agreed that a lot had changed for Cush’s descendants. Abrahams couldnt believe that the South Africa illustrated in ”Mine Boy” was now controlled by people of his complexion, and Richard Wright had to laugh when I told him that the U.S.A was presently ruled by an African-American, a feat that could never have been envisaged when ”Black Boy” was published. Okigbo was mad at the fact that the Biafran dream, for which he abandoned his poetry for rifles and earned himself a room in the mansion, had since faded away. Ekwensi on the other hand couldnt believe the violent mess which Northern Nigeria, the scene for ”Burning Grass” and ”The Passport Of Mallam Ilia”, had been reduced to. From time to time they beckoned on newcomer Chinua Achebe to join them, but he declined, preferring to sit alone on his wheelchair with a permanent scowl on his face, brooding about what his country and his people had become. Never had there been a book which sealed a nation’s mood and spelt out its underlying socio-political divide like ”There Was A Country” did.

Thirty minutes or so later, and The Table got surrounded with all these heroes occupying every chair, ready for supper. I had been hesitant to join, feeling most unworthy, but Dickens reassured me with the words ”get your backside some comfort, lad, and pamper that belly of yours”.

”Yes, you may sit here until someone new shows up, maybe Wole (Soyinka) or (Ngugi) Wa Thiongo”, Achebe joined in. ”Those two should know that their time there isnt exactly in abundant figures.”

My mind was a perfect combination of excitement and nervousness as I threw questions to each of these great writers past, from their source of inspiration, to their love lives, to their struggles with society. I mentioned J.K. Rawlings’ ”Harry Potter”, met with a collective sneer except from William Butler Yeats, known for his interest in astrology and occultism which reflected in his poems. When I talked about how many sales had been generated by E.L’s ”Fifty Shades Of Grey”, an air of disappointment could be felt all around the table. They could not understand why ideas were now so lacking in Literature that Sex had to become the major theme of an entire piece.

Supper that day was roast beef and soup, the kind of soup described in ”Oliver Twist” as strong enough for two hundred and fifty persons if enough water was added. It had been prepared by Charles and Mary Lamb, best known for transliterating Shakespeare’s works into simple prosaic form. Getting my mud chair in positions, I got my hands on the beef and reached for a bite…..

If my pillow were a living thing, it would have screamed from having my teeth sunk so deep into it. No, this was no hall, this was my bedroom located somewhere in one of Nigeria’s southern states. ”Did I really have to wake up from that?”, I repeatedly asked myself. All at once I yearned to be in that mansion, that table, seated next to Achebe. I didnt want to wait a decade longer. Questions began to seep into my mind, from my ability to live a solitary life, to the ability to withstand societal opposition and ridicule, to the possibility of health risks. Then my eyes darted around the room, meeting with a dark suit, a Manchester United jersey and a video game console as they went along. After minutes of dwelling on future plans and deciding that I was not yet ready for that mud chair, I heaved a deep sigh and shut my eyes as Sleep locked me once again in her warm embrace.

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Preserving The Niche

From the lion to the earthworm, the life of every animal is made up of one important feature: its niche. This refers to the position of that animal within an ecological community, as well as the function of that animal in such a community. It also has to do with the particular area within a given habitat occupied by that animal. Every animal finds and carves out a niche for its existence and survival, responding to the distribution of distributors and competitors in its habitat. An animal would thrive in a place where resources are abundant and where pathogens or predators are scarce. Employing various methods (sometimes resorting to aggression) to limit the access of other animals to its resources, and escaping from predators, forms part of a niche. Burrowing of holes by rabbits can be described as a major feature of their niche.

So it is with us humans. We all have (or are meant to have) our niche, even if we don’t want to consider the fact that we are actually higher animals. Whether we realize it or not, everyone of us has got that situation or activity specially suited to our interests, abilities or nature. It can equally be seen as that comfortable or suitable position we get to take up in life. It has a lot to do with our approach in life, as well as what we do as citizens in this planet of ours.

So you have found your niche here in this world of ours, finally discovered what you should be doing with your life. (There are those who are not so lucky, sorting that out would be something I’ll delve into on a different day.) You now know that you know how to chase some round object with 21 others like you, or make us want to stop and move our heads when you’re on the microphone, or get our attention when we see you in front of our TV screens, or make Aristide Bance look like Brad Pitt, or leave us gaping when you take those graceful strides along ”that long platform”, or simply convey your heart’s content with ink. Well it’s one thing to find the niche, it’s an entirely different thing to try preserving it. Just as animals lose their niche and ultimately their existence when they fail to take steps to protect their habitat and resources, so it is that when you fail to build on your ability, it just might slip away and your time here ultimately gets less comfortable. There are various ways to keep us loving what we do, and doing what we love. Each come in handy, at least one should.

First off, be consistent. An unused machete soon begins to rust, and so it is with ability or skill. Lack of playing time on the football field has always been known to affect a player’s fitness, and ultimately his ability (never mind that this may be out of his control.) Never pass up an opportunity to do what you love doing. Ideas have a way of evaporating, and so always get your hands (or feet, or lips) in motion. Simply put, keep doing what you do.

Next, develop yourself. It’s important to learn new ways of doing what you are good at. It’s no harm for a bass singer to try adjusting his voice to create something of a falsetto, neither is it out of place for a defender to search himself for some attacking potential, or for that make-up artist to fix in that foundation without making it too obvious. The world we live in is often harsh on the static, and as such, self-improvement and dynamism is a necessity.

Beyond that, learn to take risks and re-invent. There’s no need dropping in the cliche of not taking risks being the biggest risk of all. I.K. Omoruyi (Jnr) is a lawyer and also an expert designer of male clothing (particularly suits), but it wouldn’t be insane on his part if he tried his hands at designing female wears as well. Oscar award winner Robert De Niro, known for his roles in action movies, has delved a bit into the comedy genre, and it was a gamble that paid off (circa ”Meet The Parents” and ”Sharktale”). Think carefully and examine the terrain before taking risks though. We all know how Genevieve Nnaji and Tonto Dikeh fared when they tried to ‘stretch’ from acting to music.

Furthermore, there is the need to hang around people of your ilk. It is not demeaning to actually be an understudy of someone who’s more established in your line of career. Dr. Fiyin Akinsiku has developed her secondary ability of writing, thanks to attendance of writing workshops involving Chimamanda Adichie (who by the way, needs no introduction). Should I decide to take up baking as a career, there is no way I can avoid meeting with ”sweet hands” like Ashama Aneshe or Bernice Asibor. However, a line should be drawn between interacting, understudying and sucking up; no one ever takes a boot-licker seriously.

Yes, the need could also arise to appreciate and explore other fields of endeavour different from yours. Sometimes it’s fun to see what others are up to, what it’s like to be them, how they do what they do. It could even help in generating new ideas to improve your skill. Will Smith and Jamie Foxx are perfect examples of how one can transcend various fields back and both; both have tried out acting and singing, and have proven to be well above average in each form of art. Dwayne ”The Rock” Johnson equally shuttles between acting and pro-wrestling almost at will. It need be said though that there exists a danger in being so drawn to ”the other side”, getting lost in it, and letting your first love slip. Vinnie Jones ultimately dumped football for acting.

Next, find a Muse. In Greek mythology, there were nine goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences, each serving her purpose. This is highly subjective, but there should be a female from where inspiration would be drawn. It could be a significant other, best pal, celebrity idol, or close relative. I love to write once in a while, and when I do, sometimes I get to have a lady serving as my source of inspiration (next to God, of course.)

Another important step to take is to discover those environments that inspire you, and work with those. There are locations which unleash your potential better than others. Many writers have been known to produce their works after drawing inspiration from secluded places. British rock band Coldplay had to settle for an old abandoned church in producing the album ”Viva La Vida” (2008). If as a baker or decorator you find it more convenient to do your thing in Lagos whereas you live in Benin City, you may need to take a not-so-short trip westwards, for the sake of your niche.

There’s also the small matter of finding ”the moment”. This has to do with discovering some kind of ‘force’ that makes your work tick. It could arise from a body position you take up, or an activity you carry out before setting out to work. Multiple Grammy-winning rock artist John Mayer revealed that the inspiration for his track ”Who Says” (2009) came to him ”post-coitus”. If there are any parts of this piece you don’t like, it would probably be because I wrote those parts sitting down, instead of lying down which I usually love to do. Your ”moment” could also come involuntarily, by way of an unplanned event. Rumour has it that the ideas for Adele’s Grammy-winning album ”21” sprung from relationship problems she experienced shortly before.

Apart from all that, it’s also a good idea to keep the right company. (This should be distinguished from those of your ilk.) The people around you should be those who appreciate your line of work, and ultimately love what you do. These people need to be there to do the encouraging, motivating, idolising, criticising, and in some extreme cases, the reprimanding. If you’re an aspiring model and you are surrounded with friends who have no form of admiration for the Gisele Bundchens and other key players on the runway, you may need to reshuffle your cabinet.

The tips outlined here are not all expected to be totally relevant, but at least it should prove useful applying one or more. And for those yet to carve out their niche, good luck with your search, and don’t stop for anything; there has to be a reason why you are here!!

(Follow this writer on Twitter @Le_Bouquineur)

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From A Bored Pen: 14 Years After Khakis Became Kaftans

Not quite 9am on Democracy Day. It’s been fourteen years since khakis were traded for kaftans, since Decrees became Acts, and since a 29 year old man tried to sneak into the National Assembly with an altered birth certificate and a doctored foreign degree. We wait for the sleep-inducing Presidential address, while the students of prestigious federal universities across the nation hope and pray that the name of their institution doesn’t get substituted with the name of a dead national hero seldom remembered during his lifetime. The weather seals the mood, and for those who’ve got their heartthrobs to exchange breaths with, there’s more reason to sail in bed. It’s a national holiday, and unless you don’t have an ATM card and forgot to make your withdrawal across the counter the day before, that should be something to smile about. Temporarily confined to my blanket, I felt the need to scribble this down out of boredom before sourcing for breakfast.

True, ‘Companies and Allied Matters Act’ sounds more humane than ‘Companies Decree’. It definitely sounds less tense having your state controlled by a Governor than by a Military Administrator. Multiple and random arrests are no longer made for having a dirty compound on Environmental Sanitation day. The editor of Vanguard need not entertain (too much) fear of a parcel bomb delivery. But on this day, how free do you feel as a citizen of this country? Can you truly post freely on the Internet? Can you boldly criticise and lambast erring leaders without the fear of being watched? Are those in power the ones you wanted there? Can you buy what you want without being at the mercy of a economic monopoly? Can you go just about anywhere you want? Can you even love who you want?

Where even an election among Governors can’t be conducted in a manner free from controversy, that says a lot about the kind of democracy we practise. The fact that journalists still live in fear of being physically assaulted portrays the kind of democracy that prevails here. We still await a cogent explanation for the murder of students in Nasarawa state by security operatives, whose only crime was that they were protesting the lack of water, a basic amenity that shouldn’t be an issue in a true democracy. Special prayers have to be conducted at the last quarter of every year due to the nature of our major roads, a dividend of the kind of democracy we practise.

True democratic societies enable you to maximise your potential, they help you live without the fear of hunger and make you broaden your perspectives. Down here, you’re finished if you aren’t pursuing a professional career or in Showbiz. Friends and family would scoff and sneer if you choose to be a painter or florist, no thanks to the mental ‘conditioning’ we endure here. I remember the horror on my father’s face when I mooted the idea of acquiring a major in History about two years ago. Believe it or not, the kind of democracy practised in a given society, genuine or not, goes as far as influencing ideas about friendship and Love. People are conditioned to draw closer to those they ordinarily wouldn’t want to be identified with, all because of the favour and financial advantage they can gain, no thanks to the economic disparity caused by our kind of democracy. What’s more, she can’t stay around him for too long if he can’t change her wardrobe regularly and if his monthly earnings don’t read at least six figures, since the democracy on show here means his genius doesn’t amount to much.

In a true democracy, people my age would be proferring solutions to national challenges and harnessing our skills to build the nation, not trying to impress the opposite sex. I need not comment about the alarming rate of political apathy in my generation, allowing those who have no ideas about true leadership to keep dragging us, slowly but gradually, to a political cum economic precipice. As Governor Rotimi Amaechi opined, you don’t expect leaders who didn’t get to power via your votes, to act like they are responsible to you. But still it’s Democracy Day, so let’s mark it, each in his own special way. Bask in the social freedom and political shift this day is remembered for, help yourself to a few pints of beer, indeed feel free, but don’t forget that the nation has a Criminal Code as one of its laws. For the philosophers and those of great intellectual depth, a little reflection and constructive criticism won’t be out of place, but please don’t forget to think up long-lasting solutions to the clogs that hinder our country’s wheel of progress. Except for the meals which would get me past the door, I think I’ll probably mark it in bed!

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Breeding A Lawyer, Eastern Style: Life In Camera

The first two terms of the 2012/2013 academic session of the Nigerian Law School have come with quite a stomachful. Not exactly a place for the faint-hearted. Life out there could be likened to a gladiator’s ludus, with its accompanying rigours and enerviating routines. From the grueling lectures where the volume of lecturers’ input is an issue of debate, brain-racking drafts, tasking group meetings and sacrificed hours of sleep, to the cuisines varying in quality, weekend hangouts and amorous partnerships formed left and right, the experience has been one to remember, if not relish.

It is said that pictures speak a thousand words, and it is only right that  photographs be taken for a range of purposes, be it to show off the quality of linen, or to mark events, or to reflect moods, or celebrate bonds, or simply decide to treat oneself to the flashlight out of boredom. This is how it is done in Augustine Nnamani Campus, Agbani, Nkanu West LGA, Enugu State……..

The Entrance

The Entrance

The Entrance

Early Days………

IMG01173-20121113-0715

Early Days

Early Days

We are instructed, nay, forced, to file out to the classroom in our corporate attire, and by that  I mean a white shirt (or blouse) and a black trouser (or skirt). Some take it up a notch by wearing dark suits (or coats as the case may be), though it’s safe to wonder how they cope judging from the tropical conditions we have to cope with. This is how you’ll usually find us between the hours of 8am and 1pm on a weekday………..

School Day

School Day

Mz Brown Eyez IMG-20130308-00035 Tracy N.K odekino IMG01690-20130220-0954 IMG01689-20130219-1043 IMG01675-20130213-0755 IMG01559-20130128-0758 IMG01378-20121218-0756 IMG01273-20121128-0852 Bema & Alice IMG01241-20121120-0739 IMG01249-20121120-0900

Well it’s not all sober when it comes to the weekly apparel. Students are allowed to wear native attire on Fridays, and any break from the conventional black and white is very much welcome. Here is what these aspiring lawyers do with that freedom…….

juliet IMG01954-20130419-1030 IMG01957-20130419-1032 IMG01959-20130419-1033 Traycee _olubukola IMG01413-20130111-0729 IMG01417-20130111-0732 IMG01421-20130111-0733 IMG-20130111-00171 IMG01362-20121214-0807 IMG01302-20121207-0719 IMG01307-20121207-0721 IMG01310-20121207-0800 IMG01255-20121123-0857 IMG01258-20121123-1147

A quick peep at Enugu’s cuisine, in the meantime…….

calabar kitchen

It’s impossible to cheat nature, and sometimes the human body has no choice but to react to fatigue and/or boredom……..”guy, school hard abeg!”

Screen_20130313_120553 IMG01368-20121214-1224

As part of the Nigerian Law School calendar, there are three dinners one must partake in before donning that wig and gown, two in the middle of all the academic work, and the last at the Call To Bar ceremony. While we await the third, this was how we lived through the first two……

kcee n dumdum IMG-20130318-00696 Chimme + Nkesi IMG-20130318-00164 IMG-20130318-00167 IMG01806-20130318-1806 IMG01813-20130318-1808 IMG01818-20130318-1825 Gbanja__ IMG01343-20121210-1658

The Nigerian Law School was never meant to be a seminary or pseudo-penitentiary. There is a an age-long saying about the results of ”all work and no play”, and whether it’s a shopping spree, a wedding, a birthday celebration, a club hangout or a photo session, the people here waste no moment in relaxing their nerves……

Bukenzo_m_ IMG01873-20130328-1726 IMG01874-20130328-1745 IMG01877-20130328-1835 IMG-20130323-02038 IMG-20130323-00593 Chizzy IMG01202-20121117-1519 IMG01205-20121117-1519

Pictures have always been a way of celebrating friendships. Here’s a tribute to the bonds that were created (or strengthened) while we struggled with Crown Kitchen and Alhaji Wadata…..

IMG01932-20130416-1026 Enugu-20130328-01020 IMG-20130328-00989 IMG-20130328-00986 IMG-20130308-00034 IMG01669-20130213-0753 IMG01674-20130213-0755 IMG01558-20130128-0758 IMG01415-20130111-0731 IMG01427-20130111-1000 Chime n Kachi IMG01351-20121211-0729 IMG02257-20121209-0906 IMG-20121207-00156 IMG02221-20121203-0731 Enugu lasses owans n nenye IMG01297-20121203-1026 IMG01269-20121128-0850  IMG01259-20121123-1147 Team RSUST Bema & Alice IMG01249-20121120-0900 IMG02063-20121120-0901 IMG01192-20121116-1025

………and yes, some bonds are much stronger than others!

Chimme n Nk IMG01864-20130328-1056 IMG01844-20130323-1426

There you have it for our lives in pictures! Apologies are tendered for any ”notable omissions” in this compilation. But then, I’d love to think that this is my perspective of things, let’s have yours!!

The Knowing

The night was not so young anymore. Somewhere in one of the apartments located in the off-campus community of one of the nation’s foremost federal universities, Mark was panting as he brought himself in and out of Chioma with all the skill he could muster. Perfect way to end the weekend and usher in a new working week. Being entangled with such a lady so beautiful and light in complexion was more than he could ask for. Mark couldn’t have wished for anything else…….

Or could he have? This was not exactly his mission here. He had only come to visit Chioma after her perennial accusations of not being a caring study partner. The night had begun with an intellectual discourse on Chinua Achebe’s ”There Was A Country”, followed by an exhibition of Chioma’s great culinary skills. They then proceeded to watch a few episodes of Spartacus on her notebook, after which one thing led to another, their lips collided and then the movements began.

No, Mark was not your typically experimental, virile and adventurous undergraduate with a considerably high libido. He was nothing of the sort. Mark, a penultimate year student of one of the Arts disciplines, was a young man from a conservative Christian background who had been grafted into one of the major fellowships on campus right from his first year. He had been very dedicated to the cause of soul-winning, and had in fact spearheaded a major revival which swept through the university the previous session. For him, this would be the very first time he would be applying his manhood to a purpose other than that of urinating.
Not so for Chioma. She had been through her fair share of relationships, and was quite ‘experienced’ in that sense of the word. She had heard Mark boast that he was above seduction, and tonight she would make him eat his words.

Mark was not having the easiest of nights. No gym class, no football training session, had ever made him sweat profusely and gasp for air as he did that night. He had even gone on to make his first insertion in the wrong place, but Chioma, who managed to hide her giggles, put him in the right direction. She was on hand to guide him, having him alternate between his palms and his mouth on her breasts, and having his tongue glide down her torso. When he let out an emission from his organ, she led him through the messy process, and when it had seemed to lose steam, she patiently worked it until it was ready to go again, facilitating the application of his fingers in the meantime.

Exhausting and enerviating as the whole experience seemed, Mark just could not get himself to disengage. Maybe it was the atmosphere; it was near-perfect for the occasion. The lights were dim and the weather was largely influenced by the downpour earlier on. Furthermore, serenades such as John Mayer’s ”Your Body Is A Wonderland” and Robin Thicke’s ”Lost Without You” had their fair share of airplay on the background via Chioma’s mini home theatre. And when these were combined with the visuals of certain scenes from the Spartacus series, secretion of the appropriate hormones just had to be at an all-time high. There was also something about the way the hair fell on her face, and the way she moaned upon contact, that seemed to spur him on.

Mark was an epitome of nervousness now, a plethora of thoughts and questions running through his head. How would he not know that his visit would culminate into this? Discussing a novel could only take so long. What would he and Chioma have done for the rest of the night, break melons? What other meaning could have been read into the honey-laced text messages she had been sending for the past few weeks leading up to tonight? How had he become so connected to a lady whose principles were much different from his? What had Benny Hinn’s ‘Good Morning Holy Spirit’ got to do with E.L.’s Fifty Shades Of Grey? Had he himself not admitted to his fellowship president that there was something inexplicably alluring about Chioma, after which he was told to be careful? How then did he end up here? Or was there a little bit of desire on his part as well?

Well, whether or not he wanted this wasn’t the issue; he had somehow found his way in, and he had to be a man on this score, hard as it seemed. By now he had let out another emission, but Chioma was on top of the situation, patient enough to let him get himself together and keep up with the thrusts. Afterall, Postinor was not out of circulation, she reasoned. Even if it was, she knew where to get lime. She eventually switched her position, straddling him and gripping it so she could feel more of him inside her.

For Mark, he could feel all his efforts at chastity go down the sewers. His resolution earlier in life to keep his fly zipped until his wedding night, was now a mere vocal exercise. He it was who had, in his zeal for the Lord, exhibited violence when he spotted two lovebirds canoodling under an almond tree at night, in his first year on campus. And now here he was! So much for Proverbs 31:3. So much for Hebrews 13:4. So much for 1st Corinthians 6:18. So much for 1st Thessalonians 4:3. So much for his personal mantras imploring God to ”keep him where the light is”. He had fallen to that which he had boasted of being immune to.

Mark’s mind was riddled with guilt like bullets in a windshield. He couldn’t believe what was going on, what he was doing with his body. This guilt soon gave way to anger. He wanted to curse the day he first met Chioma. As far as he was concerned, she was Delilah and Jezebel fused into one. With further reluctant thrusts anger gave way to resignation, and resignation to desire. He couldn’t deny that a tiny part of him wanted her, and wanted this. He had tasted the fruit, and he was going to enjoy this first bite. With all the lustful energy he could muster, he went into her with renewed vigour, a move greeted with prolonged moaning from Chioma. He lacked experience, but he would make up for it with passion. He no longer needed guidance in gnawing at her breasts, or in alternating between organ and tongue when he penetrated her.

In all the passion, Chioma spared a thought for what she had done, what she had unleashed in Mark. On the one hand, she felt slightly remorseful for making him break his vow of chastity. He was a really good person, different from many other young men she had known, one of the few genuine hearts around, and she wasn’t just about to change that about him. But ultimately, she reasoned, she had done nothing wrong. She had only shown him a more physical aspect of human emotions, while also proving to him that he was human afterall. For all she knew, he should be grateful for finding an avenue to express himself, to unleash his potential.

Two emissions later, and they were done. He would doze off soon after, Chioma’s head resting on his chest. But he wasn’t prepared for how he felt the next morning. A feeling of ‘post-coital tristesse’ was what first engulfed him. The sadness was overwhelming, to say the least. He wished that could be all he would feel, but it was not to be. Something most difficult to explain took over his emotions. The last time he felt anything close to this was at his baptism nearly a decade ago. And indeed, the events of the previous night could pass for some sort of emotional baptism. He had been introduced to the ways of the world. He took a long hard look at the mirror; that unusual glow that often lit his face was gone. En route to the classroom, he could feel everyone staring at him. It felt like they already knew what transpired between he and Chioma. ‘Is this how Adam and Eve felt after discovering they were naked?’, he wondered. A new chapter in his life had been opened, and his innocence was missing from its pages. Chioma was by no means his wife, but thanks to her, he had ‘known’ someone in the Biblical sense.

En Route

It’s 10.55am, just a little over ten minutes before you mark your second hour at this particular motor park, and still the bus shows no signs of taking off any time soon. Slowly squeezing ticket in hand, you begin to wonder when you’ll eventually get to your destination, which at maximum speed would involve nothing less than seven hours of your day, not including the urgent need to top up the fuel tank at intervals, the ‘statutory’ gauging of the stomach midway through the journey, and responses to the cries of incontinent passengers (which of course depends on the driver’s degree of sympathy). You put all these into consideration, and concede that your plans of exploring your destination town (it would be your first time there) in the later hours of the day are all but quashed.
In your mind, you begin to adduce several reasons for your current plight. You ask yourself why you didn’t heed your father’s advice to disentangle yourself from your bedsheets before 6am, so that you would find yourself with eager passengers and an alert driver on the first bus. You also wish your conservative father had accepted the political appointment which his childhood friend (a legislator) had tried to shore up for him; it would have flight tickets by now rather than bus tickets, eye-catching flight attendants rather than multiple-scarred bus conductors. You then ask yourself why you didn’t explore the option of a roadside bus; those ones charge for less and the bus actually moves, albeit several stops. But then, your mind goes back to the day you first mooted the idea to your father three years ago. You still remember the grim expression to his face, and the authority with which the words ”Not in my house!” spewed from his lips.
An hour passes. Your ticket finds itself somewhere in your left hand, showing signs of extensive squeezing. Part of you wants to hand it over, ask for your money back and set out in search of another bus, but your mind recalls the caveat boldly crested on almost every ticket: ”No refund after payment”. You also consider what time it is in the day and the rigours involved in getting another bus, and decide that your patience is not exactly a matter of choice. While you wait, a blind deaf-mute, led by a companion, approaches your side of the bus, bowl in hand. Your mood at the time, coupled with the lack of a really low naira denomination, means that you pass up the opportunity to show some generosity. Further contributing to the lack of serenity in the park are the shouts of hawkers calling for the purchase of their wares, from drinks which for all you know are largely diluted, to snacks whose expiry dates you can’t be sure of, to motivational books whose titles make you want to ask the seller if he ever applies the principles therein. It takes another 30 minutes before the bus is finally ready to move, but not before a ‘mobile preacher’ shares some scripture, says a few words of prayer and encourages the passengers to support the ministry with their ‘widow’s mite.’
You’d think that the movement of the bus finally offers some respite, but you are proven wrong soon enough. In the first place, your position in the bus offers you no room to stretch your legs, which means you’re in for a really long ride. While you begin to wish your legs were a few inches shorter, the woman next to you chooses to feed herself on garlic. Garlic! You resign yourself to keeping your nose close to the window for the rest of the journey, trying as much as possible to resist turning right. Another passenger who’s sitting next to the driver is making what you suspect to be a business transaction over the phone, in an indigenous language which you don’t understand and which, thanks to his tone and his high pitch, you immediately lose interest in learning. You feel your pockets for your music player, only to find out that you accidentally locked it away in the box at the boot. Yea, that big box which incurred extra charges. You decide to distract yourself with the dark-skinned lady behind you, but she’s reading a novel with her ears plugged and, judging from her response to your pleasantries, she’s in no mood for conversation. You heave a sigh, which goes deeper when you observe two lovebirds sitting two rows behind. With the level of coziness on display and the way they leaned into each other, you could swear that these two would definitely make out as the journey progressed.
No, the bus never gets quiet enough for you to delve into deep thinking as you would have liked. At intervals, different discussions and arguments spring up, from which European football club has the most fans, to the present state of Nollywood, to what measures should be taken to tackle insecurity in the country. The attention of everyone on the bus is soon captured however, when a male passenger implores the driver to stop so he can relieve himself in a nearby bush. Reactions duly follow, some in sympathy and others in derision, but no one appears to dance to his tune. It appears Mr. Incontinent had consumed some African salad at the park before the journey began. You wonder why he would go on to consume something so sensitive at a place where the quality of its preparation is not guaranteed. Well he holds it in long enough to avoid embarrassment, for in a matter of minutes, the bus makes its ‘statutory’ stop at a mall in the town which stands as the journey’s midway point. Relief for him, as he dashes to the nearest restroom, and relief for you too, as you can afford to stretch your legs and also pacify your stomach enzymes.
After a period of a little over 30 minutes, everyone is back on the bus, and ultimately on the road for the second part of the journey. Now the road is not so smooth, and it appears that the driver had a little too much to drink. Cries of ”weli ya nwanyo” and other calls for restraint in other languages (including pidgin) rent the air, but these seem to spur the driver on to even more recklessness. Abuse and counter-abuse ensue between driver and passenger, and someone maximizes the opportunity to chip in a fart or two. The day is gradually aging, and then you are treated to panic calls from your parents, the destination relative and your significant other, each anxious to know where you are. The bus eventually stops at a designated park by 7pm. You alight from the bus with hurting knees, just in time to see your box tossed out of the boot in a manner devoid of care. You shrug and tend to the box, and only get to your exact destination an hour, five calls and an exploitative taxi driver later. You are welcomed by the anxious waiting arms of your destination relative, and the story seems to end happily.
Two weeks pass, within which you’ve gained a few pounds. It’s now time to go back home to your immediate family, and it’s you yet again at the park, ticket slowly getting squeezed in your left hand, seated next to a woman eating sardines, and slowly preparing your mind for what lies ahead.