Tag Archives: love

‘Cali’: Part Eleven

Hot yellow light sliced into us from nowhere.

It blinded me. I flinched. The asshole drew back. He turned towards the light. A look passed over him. Anger. In that split second, it seemed to me as if he was baring his teeth.

“Chielozona?” The silhouette behind the car headlights was a welcome relief.  I walked quickly towards Cali, almost skipping in my haste to get to him. I threw myself in his arms.

“Cali…my car died and my phone died and…”

“It’s okay,” he said. He held me a little away from himself and scrutinised me. “I waited than I drove down here slow-slow to see if I would catch you on the way. Sorry I wasted time.”

“No, it’s not your fault,” I shook my head. It was just like Cali to apologise when he was the one helping me out.

The dizzy feeling had all but dissipated. I cleared my throat but Cali was no longer paying attention. His gaze was directed at asshole behind me who now slammed the passenger side door and came towards us with my things in tow.

“Here,” he said, thrusting his arm in my direction ungraciously. He bared his teeth again, not quite a smile but not a grimace either. I could not tell what it was supposed to mean but it made me uneasy. I looked at Cali. He was unmoved, casually brushing his jacket aside to slip his hand into his trouser pocket.

“Cali this is Mr…” I almost said ‘Mr Asshole’ but checked myself at the last minute. “He’s a customer. He was just going to give me a ride.”

“Tenk you,” said Cali. He held out his right hand.

“Later, stranger,” said the asshole ignoring the hand. He walked towards his car, started it up and drove away.

A frown creased Cali’s forehead. It disappeared when he turned, smiling to me. “Ngwa let’s go, mummy.”

On the drive home Cali was silent. I didn’t say much too. My brain buzzed like a hive of bees. Something had nearly happened or had happened but I couldn’t figure it out still and it bothered me. If Cali hadn’t come would I have…what would I have done? Would I have gone with him? I felt myself wanting to, in spite of myself. And what did the asshole mean by ‘unaffected by me’?

“Mummy? Are you okay?” asked Cali. I could tell he was searching my face in the lit spaces between the darkness.

I looped my hand around his neck and pulled his face towards mine. Cali pulled the car over.


My fears seemed unfounded the next morning. I felt like one of those women tied to train tracks in old black and white films, screaming ‘Help!’ and waiting to be rescued. In other words? I felt foolish. So when Cali offered to drive me to work, I refused.

“It’s cool, Cali. I can get to work by myself. There is nothing wrong with my legs,” I joked.

He tweaked my nose. “Did I say there was something wrong with your legs?” His eyes jumped about in his face. I could tell he was glad to see me. “I just want to take you, that’s all. You’re my darling wife.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s like that the men in your village marry? No bride price? No palm wine on my head? You’ve tried.” I grabbed my bags.

“Okay, okay. Don’t be angly. You’re my wife-to-be?” Something in his tone made me turn around. Cali held out a box. My heart skipped a beat.

“Cali…what is that?”

“I was going to keep it until later but I think that now, you should take it. From me to you.”


“Okay, okay. You don’t have to open it now. Just…take it.”

The box was a bigger than your standard ring box when I looked closely and my heart descended from my throat.  “Thank you,” I kissed him.

“I know you will like it….you don’t want to open it?”

My phone started ringing. I smiled at him, and raised a finger. “Hello?”

It was the bank manager. I handed the box back and raced for the front door.


“I swear I didn’t park my car in your spot, sir. I tried to get home yesterday and when it wouldn’t start, I just left it where I had parked it. By the wall.”

“I do not appreciate having to walk a long way through the car park with sensitive documents flying about because someone, a junior member of staff for that matter, takes it upon herself to displace the manager.”

I wondered what one had to do with the other but said nothing.  I had not parked in his spot, but  did he not have a briefcase for his documents?

“Mr Elendu sir, it won’t happen again,” said the floor manager, cutting eyes at me. I rearranged my face so that my thoughts would not show on them.

“See that it doesn’t,” said Mr Elendu. “It was very embarrassing.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll move it now.” I left quickly before the floor manager could run after me to breathe fire down my neck.

I slipped my keys in the ignition and turned it. My car roared to life.

‘Cali’: Part Nine

“I should LOWER MY VOICE?!” The woman shouted. She was getting louder, in that very Nigerian way of escalating an argument very quickly. People turned.

Real fear clutched at my heart. My hands grew cold. How would I pay my rent? How would I get another job? I had lied to get this one, won it by out-talking my rivals, as one senior management person told me on my first week. Could I do it again? Were there even vacancies?  I didn’t have enough saved up for my masters’. I couldn’t make a proper living as a writer, not without some side hustle. My life prospects flashed before my eyes. None of it was good.

Of course I didn’t want to work as a banker for the rest of my life. I hated the job! But it was better to quit than to be fired. And it was more pragmatic to quit when one had other things in place. Otherwise…

The floor manager marched towards my cubicle. Asshole reached over and placed a hand on the woman. She turned towards him.

“What seems to be the problem?” asked the floor manager. Her voice told me what I suspected. This was it for me.

“There was just a misunderstanding…”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Chielozona,” she turned to the woman. “Would you like to make a complaint?”

When the woman turned towards us again, she was smiling, all the harsh angles of a face contorted in anger had dissolved like a sugar cube placed in water.

“Sorry?” she said, looking dreamy.

The floor manager’s smile superior smile faltered. “I asked if you would like to make a formal complaint. You were shouting. You had a problem, abi?”

“Me? Shouting? No. It was just a misunderstanding,” she said. “No problem at all, ma.”

Customers turned back to what they were doing. The floor manager huffed and stomped away.

Asshole concluded his business and poked his head in my window – regardless of the woman standing there – and said “I’m leaving, I’ll see you later.” As if we were friends. I said nothing.  I didn’t look at him. I was so shaken up. Something had just happened and I couldn’t place my finger on what exactly. Asshole didn’t move from the glass. I looked up.

“You’re welcome,” he said.

I went through the rest of the day in a daze, counting down the hours till I finished for the day. I suddenly missed Cali with a fierceness that made me ache.

I slipped my phone out of my pocket. Cali, I will like to come inside tonight.

It had barely sent when I got my reply. Yes mummy. I am here for you. Then, Do you want me to pick you?

No, I drove. I’ll come to you.

What do you want to eat?

Surprise me.

Cabin and milk then.


I started to feel better.


The floor manager took her frustration out on me by giving me a lot more work to do. I didn’t complain. I knew I had got off lightly. She was just annoyed that she had not got rid of me this time. By the time I left work the car park was deserted. I had parked my car almost by the front wall, a tight squeeze as there had been no space but now it looked forlorn being there all on its own. It shone ghostly sliver in the moonlight.

Shouting a greeting across to the night watchmen, I darted across the car park, taking courage from their sleepy responses. I flung my things in the passenger’s seat and slammed the door. I slid the key in the ignition and twisted it.

Nothing. Not even so much as a wheeze.

I tried again. It didn’t work.

“What the…?”

I pulled out my phone to call Cali but it was dead. I sighed. The day just kept getting better. I sat in the car while I weighed up the benefits of using one of the calling stands on the road to call Cali, then waiting for him to come all the way through traffic to get me, versus just jumping on an okada.

The okada won. I grabbed my things and set off, determined not to walk past the perimeter of the bank’s fence where it was well-lit. I waited. There were no free okadas. I was about to give up and make a call from the MTN umbrella down the road when a dark car pulled up beside me. Its driver wound down the window and a gust of cold air wafted out.

“Ah, it’s my friend with the attitude,” said the asshole. “Get in. I’ll give you a ride.”

PDA and the ‘I Love You’ bomb.

Long ago, in a far away land called New Cross, a tall dark man sought the hand of a comely wench.

“Give me your hand now. Why do you insist on walking behind me all the time? We’re supposed to be walking together!”

“Biko, leave my hand. Are we conjoined twins? Haba!”

The tall man persevered and won the heart – if not the hand. That came later – of the comely wench. And one day, her mother came to stay.

“Ah,” he said as his mother-in-law breezed in avoiding skin contact with her daughter. “Now I see where you get it.”


In case you still haven’t figured it out, the tall man is Hubs and the (not-so) comely wench, yours truly.

The house I grew up in was notoriously anti-PDA. Still is. My parents had separate rooms and everything. In fact, it was not so much anti-PDA as it was anti-A. Our house was the antithesis of commonplace affection. The place in which feelings came, dragging its battered hind legs, to die.

My mother’s manner of showing love was in the way she threatened to mete out punishment for real and imagined wrongs:

“Aga m atu gi akpukpo.” – ‘I am going to flay you.’

“Aga m amakapu gi nti.” – ‘I am going to slap your ears off.’

“Mbuo gi okpo m ga abu gi, obala agbaa gi n’imi.” – ‘If I knock you on the head eh your nose will bleed.’

Yeah, she’s hardcore.  She is soooo going  in an old people’s home as soon as she is too weak to run away. Or chase us.

Suffice to say my mother is not prone to tenderness and we took our cues from her.  Since my father was not quite around, he could do nothing to stop it. He tried though. After prayers one Christmas morning he asked us all to line up and kissed us on both cheeks like he was some kind of Judas (mixed metaphor but it stays).

I never want to experience that again. The sensation was similar to salted worms wiggling about in my belly trying to escape.  I thought I would be sick. All you could hear all over the house was the sound of taps as my sisters and I scrubbed our faces and had second showers to wash the sensation away. One sister went down with malaria-like symptoms in the middle of the Harmattan season.  That day blighted the whole year. In our house, 1994 did not happen.

But my youngest sister Ketchup is too small to remember this, which is why early this morning she sent all of us a Whatapp message which read:

Attention Please!

Please if I speak to you on the phone and after the call I tell you ‘LOVE YOU’ please don’t feel awkward or embarrassed. I’m learning to be a sweetheart.

Cue umbrage from the rest of us:

“Don’t call me.  Inukwa!” This from me.

“See this goat. Better don’t tell me anything. Tell your papa,” said Crayfish.

“#SMH,” said Hashtag.

“Let me block your number sef,” I said.

“Hahahahahahahahah! Tell them, mezuo ya,” said Pastor. “Make sure you say the full thing ‘I LOVE YOU’.”

We all ignored her. She’s getting married soon, is in the throes of ‘sometini’ and doesn’t count.

“#damagedgoodsthings” Hashtag summed up, in case it was not obvious.

It’s not Ketchup’s fault.  She is one of the children my parents had after they decided not to have any more and so she doesn’t understand the taboo she’s just unleashed. Our collective day is ruined.

Of course living with Hubs these many years has kind of taken my edge off. He’s the only child of his mother and thrives on (displays of) affection like a plant under the sun.

Dwelling in a London might have ruined me further and while I no longer automatically distrust people who use endearments like ‘Dear’ as easily as they draw breath, I do find calling me ‘Love*’ quite irritating, especially when I know that you wouldn’t spare your piss if I was on fire. I can hug people without breaking out in a sweat. I can kiss on the cheek, two if I have to. However unless you are literally on your deathbed, please do not hold on to me longer than is absolutely necessary.

But I think the biggest change happened after Tot was born. It did not happen unconsciously, nor did it happen immediately. It is something I have had to and continue to  work on. What do you do when your child asks you for a hug after all? Say no?

Yes. If they are being cheeky and hoping to use hugs as a way to avoid tidying up their toys. Or if you have something hot like a pot in your hands. Otherwise I give him what he needs. What does it cost me anyway? My waistline? My sanity? Those are already kaput. And time may well come when he might not want me to touch him anyway. Better get those in now. I enjoy his baby hugs.

Affection like so many things has degrees. If I feel like I should hug you I will. Other than that, please shake my hand, it is nothing personal.

As for my youngest sister Ketchup and her little sweetheart experiment, we all know no good can come of it, not with us as her sisters.  We’re all too damaged. But if she is willing to get her dose of ‘normal’ affection elsewhere, who are we to stop her? We all did and it’s not too shabby.

Just…you know…as long as nobody tries to touch my face. That is where I draw the line. Put your hands anywhere near my mouth and you know it’s coming away sans phalanges.


* I will only accept this from one person and she knows herself.

You know how sometimes, you see something and you wish you had written it yourself? (This is how I amass writer friends. I simply decide that rather than being jealous like I used to in…ahem! …ages past, I would simply befriend them.) Well, this one is one of those such things. I could have used the lesson in this when I was 16.
And 19.
And 23. Heck, I could have used it not three years ago, dammit!
Ah, I miss writing poetry.
Enjoy this one.

I bind myself loosely so that you’ll see me
and not too tightly so that you can understand me
-neither helped
So, I come apart trying
…and you aren’t here for the pieces.
Pieces that you say will never touch floor,
Scrape earth,
Feel dust,
Are stuck in muddy expectations
I don’t recognize them anymore-

Me. Is this me?
This come-away, this back-and-fort-undecided
Without-conviction-or-a-clear-purpose girl?

This can’t be me

You see
I, pour forth from generations of kings that disregard their crown
Not because it doesn’t fit but because
The weight of gold is a constant reminder
of a responsibility we constantly wish-away.

Now this is me
Hands-on, cut-the-crap, say-what-you’re-about girl
You can take this response as my ability to get up
even when I touch floor
To trust again and slide from rubble
Knowing that these cracked situations are training wheels
…I train
…I catch a bus
…I ride…

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