Monthly Archives: January 2014

This is how you lose him.

Yours is not a friendship conducted on Twitter but that is where you find out anyway. It angers you, this rumour. But then something about it makes your breath hitch in your throat and you’re dialling dialling furiously hoping it is a lie.

The voice on the other end makes your heart pound. It is unusually tinny, a confirmation of sorts. But you still ask the question, stuttering, mumbling, evading. Your grief bursts out of you, searing, tearing, burning. It surprises you. You scream, you cry; the kind of weeping which cuts you in two. You fold over. You hear your child crying alongside you, scared of your reaction. It sounds like it’s coming from the TV. You cry in stops and starts. Stop; doubt, hope. Start; belief, despair. You think of his children.

You get in the car, picking up friends along the way. Grief ambushes you along the journey. Your mind fills with the absurd details of your friendship, distracting you. You cry some more when this tactic does not work. You hold your tears in check when you meet his widow. Your sorrow seems vulgar, brash in comparison. She has barely any tears left. She looks like a dish cloth, wrung out and left in that state to dry; twisted up.

You cannot sleep. You know you should. You tell yourself ‘Sleep deprivation helps no one’ but still you cannot. You think of his children again; all his hopes and dreams tied up in them. You think how he smiles when he tells you about them, how this smile cuts a swathe across his face. His smile. His hugs. How he hugged as if to completely absorb you into himself. How you wriggled out of them at first engrossed in your own anti-tactile bullshit.

Your head is full of snatches of conversation, impressions, whispered words, private jokes. Other people have private jokes and whispered words of their own. The internet is lighting up with them. You are amazed. It is amazing how many pieces of friendship are out there, how each one of them is a piece you did not know, precious, like buried treasure in a sunken ship. Great people have that ability. They make you feel like your friendship is the only one that matters.

You feel guilty for grieving. You recall feeling a twinge of pride? elation? when he said ‘Chale you treat me like an orphan you know’ because it somehow meant you were different. But you are not different. You are crap. A crap friend.

You think about the fights you had (because you fight with those you like). You think about the distance you put between you, between your other friends, convinced that the choices you have made mean you no longer have a place in their lives. You think about that phone call after his A&E stint; you defensive, him angry.

You took him for granted a little and now you want to make up for it a whole lot. But you cannot, not in this life. So you turn to your dreams. In your dreams, he is still dead. Your subconscious refuses to lie to you, to give you a desired ending – more time together.

And this is how you lose him.

Igbo dads and dangerous phalluses.

Once upon a time I was heading out to study for my final university exams with friends when my father called me back.

“Nwunye,” he shouted after going through the names of the other twelve of my siblings.

“Sah?” I answered, because I am a good child.

“Where do you think you are going at this time of night?”

“I am going to Ogo’s house, sah.” I looked at my watch. It was 5 pm.

“Which Ogo?”

“Ogo my friend, sah. You have met her sah.”

“I have?”

“Yes sah. She has big…brains sah.”

“Ah, the big-brained Ogo. So what are you doing in her house at this time of the night eh?”

“We are studying sah. Me and Ogo and Chiamaka and Ifeoma.”

My father grunted, picking  vegetables from his teeth with a toothpick. When he finished, he popped the teeth back into his mouth. “Okay. But this one you are always  going to study with those girls…” He fidgeted.

“Sah?” I bristled, thinking he was calling their character into question. Did he not remember who they were?

“Just know I don’t want any daughters-in-law. I want sons. Sons-in-law.”

I caught many flies in my mouth on the okada to Ogo’s house that day.

Yes. This really happened.  I remember relaying the story to my study group when I got to Ogo’s house. (And for those who are wondering, yes, I did attend university from home. If you’ve only known me as an adult, you’ve just had an ‘Ah-ha’ moment because shit just made sense.) My friends thought it was funny. Me, I was just dazed that my square to the power of infinity dad knew about lesbianism. I didn’t dwell too much on this though because I would have started to wonder what else he knew and my imagination cannot handle things like that. Every generation likes to think they invented sex after all.

But this is what I do not understand.  This is the same man that flogged the brown off my skin because I went on a date with a guy at seventeen. It wasn’t even a date if I am honest. Okay, it kinda was. But I was in my second year of university and for chrissakes it wasn’t like I lay down on the road and had sex with him. That came much later. I wouldn’t recommend it by the way. Vehicles are a bloody nuisance and Nigerian grit gets into cracks like you cannot imagine. Sometimes when I sneeze, a little bit of sand and coal tar comes out.

A good Igbo girl is not supposed to think of guys other than as things to beat in school which is unsurprisingly easy.  (Yeah, I said it. Heh heh!) Not even when the boys in question are your cousins. You get to a point when your breast buds appear and all male cousins suddenly become off limits.

You spend the next few decades learning that men are the enemy. You spit when they talk to you, your put-downs are legendary and if they touch you, it’s hi-ya! and out pops their eyes. Your parents applaud you, chaste Virginia, you. At what point are you supposed to stop using them for target practice and start seeing them as potential mates?  It was a wonder I even tried that first date on for size. (Such was the level of my inexperience with humans of the male persuasion that the first date became the start of a two-and-a-half-year stint.)

I know I have said all this before, but things keep happening that make my jaw drop. Some Igbo parents can really screw up their female kids.

At what point am I supposed to consider giving you (if I desire it) sons-in-law as opposed to daughters-in-law? After all the scare stories about the beastly nature of men, their dangerous phalluses and their fickle-mindedness in dealing with the consequences of their sexual actions (pregnancy, disease. Pregnancy.), when exactly am I supposed to think “Hmmm. I’d like to jump on that dangerous phallus and snare me a diseased baby or two?”

Cover up, close your legs, don’t whistle, don’t sit on a man’s thighs, don’t laugh with a man, he’ll think you’re cheap, don’t whistle, don’t wear rings on your fingers if you’re not married, don’t go anywhere once the sun sets, don’t be arrogant, don’t correct a man in public, don’t raise your voice, don’t argue and my personal favourite , don’t drive – he’ll think you’re feeling too big, then who’ll you marry?

No wonder some women cry at their weddings. Lucky me, I didn’t. My dad did though. Huge, splashy, snotty tears and much hysterical sobbing. My mother looked as if she wanted to give him Snickers bar.

I guess he was just relieved I ended up with a dude.

I have seen some people on social media say gay men should be stoned, killed, imprisoned. Their crime? In three words: ‘Not  loving women’. If that is the case, I think we may soon run of space in our prisons. Because after all  how many men love women, really really love women in Nigeria?

My short story in Eclectica magazine

Hello friends!

Just a quick one to say my short story is out in Eclectica Magazine winter 2014 issue today. Huzzah! Click here to read it. It’s called ‘Jermyn’ and is it’s the second-to-last at the bottom of the page.

After you have done so stick around and enjoy the other short stories and literary offerings in it. I know I will. Eclectica is a wonderful magazine – and not just because I am in it.

This is what working in my house sounds like.

Yesterday one of the mums in the new playgroup I tried out with Tot asked me what I did and I told her.

“Really? How do you work? What does he do when you work?”

“He plays by himself,” I said.

“Oh.” I could see her regard me out of the corner of her eye, trying to consider whether the ‘worthiness’ of being an’ artist’ outweighed her suspected neglect of my offspring. And whether – maybe – she should call someone.

“What language is that you’re speaking to him?” she asked instead.

“Igbo. It’s a Nigerian language.”

“I read a book about Nigeria recently,” she started slowly.

“Yeah?” I responded, knowing what she was going to say.

“Yeah, it is called ‘Half of a Yellow Sun.'”

Of course. “That’s about Igbo people.”

“I thought it might be! My goodness. Do you know, I knew nothing about the Biaf…Biafra? at all before that.”

I knew then she would not call social services. And I thanked God for the book which had enlightened her.

But to answer your question Mother-at-playgroup, this is what it sounds like when I am trying to do some work. I forgot the recorder as soon as I put it on which is why it runs for as long as it does (3 minutes). It was meant to be shorter.

It starts off with me reading back what I have just written after I switch on the recorder, hence the bit of silence from me while Tot babbles on.