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Interviews, Series
Long before Celebrity Interviews and decades before Twitter blurbs and Polls; likes and dislikes, teenage author, Marcel Proust, answered a series of questions asked by the  Daughter of the Future Prime Minister – Felix Faure, while playing a parlor game. The responses and question seemed normal at the time, but has since taken a life of its own. Posthumously coined the Proust Questionaire, it has become a way for great luminaries to ponder life’s greatest notions – love; hope, happiness and even the essence of life itself. These questions are simple, yet revealing; and although on first grasp might look quotidian, a little introspection would reveal layers upon layers of sensibilities. The Proust Questionaire remains a timeless reminder of the caprices, appeal, and innermost self of the creative spirit, and a tunnel through which masters and literary greats continue to whisper to us through the ages. Centuries later, the questions remain a direct, yet subtle probe of consciousness and complexities, usually part revealing and part funny. When asked what his current state of mind was, David Bowie replied – ”pregnant,” and when Proust was asked where he would like to live, his reply was: “in the realm of the ideal, or rather, my ideal.” Not known to allow themselves be penetrated, writers and creatives generally, are known for elaborate masks, built with beautiful wordplay and grand illusions, but  we are at least given a fraction of the simple, yet profound intricacies of a brilliant mind and the strangeness that allows a person gaze into the unknown to create further unknowns. This is how to question the creative at heart, and dreamers by rote. We pose these questions to the author of our February book of the month, Amaka Azie.
Amaka Azie is an author of romance novels set in Africa, and a part-time family doctor.
A twin, she is one of five children born in Lagos Nigeria.  She considers herself a bona fide  Nigerian having lived in the three major regions of Nigeria: she grew up in Lagos and Abuja, attended secondary school at Onitsha, and went to University in Benin City. She currently resides in England with her husband and daughters.
Her titles includes “Thorns and Roses,” “Melodies of Love,” and “Starting over Again” among others.
  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Relaxing on my day off with a good book and a glass of wine.
  2.  What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I’m too blunt. I tell it as it is, sometimes without tact. My husband keeps saying, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it that counts.” I’m learning.
  3.  Which talent would you most like to have? The ability to read minds. Won’t that be great? To know what everyone is thinking? I could rule the world with that.
  4.  For what fault have you most toleration? Tardiness. I’m sometimes late myself, so I can forgive lateness, as long as it comes with apologies.
  5.  What virtue do you most esteem? Honesty. I dislike two-faced people.
  6.  What is your idea of misery? Living one’s life to please others. My uncle Anozie says, “the true state of happiness is being oneself and not giving a (swear word) what people think.”
  7.  What is your motto? Never give up.
  8.  If not yourself, who would you be? The woman engaged to Idris Elba…I’m just joking. I won’t trade myself with anyone. I love myself far too much.
  9.  What is your favourite colour and flower? Red. And Lilies.
  10. Who are your heroes in real life? My younger sister, Ogo. She never lets circumstances interrupt her zest for life. I admire her. My mum. She is ever optimistic. Her faith never wavers. I wish I could be more like her.
  11. Who are your heroes of fiction? Jack Bauer– All that stubbornness and zeal to save people’s lives. If I’m ever in trouble, I’ll want him on the case, that’s for sure!
  12. What is your favourite virtue? Generosity. Giving without expecting anything back. I admire people like Oprah Winfrey. She gives with enthusiasm. I want to tap into that spirit of open-handedness.
  13. What do you most appreciate in your friends? Honesty. I surround myself with friends who tell me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear.
  14. What is your greatest extravagance? I’m a gadget freak. I have three laptops and 3 tablets. I don’t know why I can’t stop buying them.
  15. What virtue do you deplore in yourself? Honesty. I’m too honest. Even when I should tactfully not be. I’m learning there are times to withhold my opinion to spare people’s feelings. It’s not always easy, but I’m getting better at it.
  16. What virtue do you most deplore in others? I don’t think self-righteousness is a virtue but some people do. I despise people who are judgmental of others because of either religion or personal achievements. I think everyone has a story, even the person who you believe is the scum of the earth, deserves to be heard before judgment.
  17. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Fela. I love how he spoke the truth without fear. He didn’t care how many times he got locked up. He criticised the government in his music boldly, and continued to do so till he died. I wish I could be as brave as he was.
  18. What qualities do you most like in a man? A supportive man. A man who knows when to listen and when to act. A man not intimidated by a bold, confident woman.
  19. What is your current state of mind? All I can think about now is the current novel I’m working on. I’ve been editing and re-editing. There is always something I want to change. At some point, I’m going to just have to let go and trust my instincts.
You can get her books through the following links: Amazon page: http://bit.ly/AmakaAzie Okadabooks: http://bit.ly/AmakaAzieOkadabooks Goodreads: https: : www.goodreads.com/amakaazie You can also get in contact with her through her Facebook and Twitter handle: Facebook: http://bit.ly/AmakaAzieFacebook Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmakaAzie
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Series
This series takes a keen look at Nigerians, home and abroad, who have made a name for themselves in any particular endeavor that relates to art and how their arts impact popular culture.  The portrait of President Barack Obama will soon go up in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and the former president personally chose Nigerian painter Kehinde Wiley to paint him. Kehinde Wiley, who painted a lot of the arts found in popular series “Empire” took up the paint brush at age 11 when he enrolled in an art class and frequented Museums. His regular visits to the Museum made him conscious of the lack of representation of brown faces in the portraits, and even at that young age, his keen sense of self built in him an understanding of the role of power and privilege or its dynamics in art.  Kehinde Wiley’s Art is bold, very colourful and tries to present comtemporary culture in a backdrop of classic art, all in the quest to open the door into a world his likes were never invited to. Kehinde Wiley’s Mother is an American woman who met his dad, a Nigerian, at UCLA. Kehinde Wiley, obviously, is a twin (Kehinde is the name given to the first child of a set of twins by the Yorubas). He was born in South Central L.A and earned his B.F.A from Yale. As if that isn’t improbable enough, Wiley is one of the most commercially successful artists of his generation. Wiley’s Art is a history Laden representation of the present, with insights from popular culture. Some of his subjects are popular black individuals that includes MJ, LL Cool J, Biggie, Eto’o amongst others, painted on a backdrop of decorative patterns; arts and crafts; fabrics and floral designs that are sourced from all over the world. He is also known to do ‘street casting’. In Wiley’s arts, the ‘very’ white Kings and saints of Classical protrature are reborn as Blacks; possessing the same pose and dignity, but with modern attires to represent contemporary culture. The thrones and crowns are replaced with blings and Nikes. 20150220161406-EL137.63 His work has been likened to that of Markelene Thomas – the Brooklyn based painter whose complex rhinestone and acrylic paintings of black women draws heavily from pop culture, and the late Jean Michel Basquat who reconstructed arts by pulling strings from his origins. But Wiley’s Pastiche paintings bear more resemblance, theoretically, to the controversial works of Barkley Hendricks in the 70’s. Like Hendricks’, Wiley’s work is also deemed controversial by some critics. They are quick to point out that his paintings, especially the inclusion of designer labels, are too pop culture infused to be regarded as high arts. In an interview with the New York Times, Wiley answered: “Fashion is fragile and fleeting, but it is also an indicator for the cultural and social appetite for a nation.” He went further in an interview with NPR, “Why take it out? The brands people wear are serious business.” But the issue or question as regards the measure of his assistants’ involvement in his paintings are not so easy to answer, and won’t go away anytime soon. The patterns in his works, a mainstay of his style as much as anything else, are painted by these assistants in a studio in China. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the involvement of outsiders in his art, and the quality of the patterns sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. And while Wiley has chosen to paint the everyday, or the powerless, the fact he is set to paint a former President, especially one as iconic as Obama is a testament, not only to his talent, but to his unwavering and triumphant believe in the inclusivity of art. Western Arts, Wiley believes, has ignored brown faces and he sees it as as a duty to change that history, until blackness or brownness is as much a thing in Museums as whiteness. And it has to be said that he is succeeding, and in doing so has become one of the influential artist of the 21st century.
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Series
This is a weekly feature where we take a look at someone, something or a period that has changed humanity. This week being Stephen Hawking’s birthday, we look at his Ted talk, which seems like the perfect culmination of both his life’s work and his ubiquitous scientific mind.   Sometimes – oftentimes infact, the best way to move forward is to question our answers, even the most mundane and assured. Having an open mind illuminates a path that leads, not only to self discovery, but also to an understanding of the future. Stephen Hawking was a brilliant theoretical Physicist, who, even at 76, had possesses one of the soundest minds in human history, and that, despite a body riddled and made helpless by Lou Gehrig’s disease. Yet, he still manages to put his best foot forward in his inquisitive quest to not only ask the difficult questions, but also the unanswerable. He once surmised: “My life’s work has been to unify the theories of the very large and the very small. Only then can we answer the more challenging questions: Why are we here? Where did we come from?” Stephen Hawking, who was Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge was born in 1942 in England, and spent his life trying to answer the ultimate question – “Why are we here?” and “What does the future holds?” No one knows why we are here, and the tale of the beginning of life, while traced to the big bang – an expansion of the singularity that exploded and expanded the universe – part of which our planet is, hasn’t really resulted in answering any of the questions. That didn’t stop Stephen Hawkings though. That answer and many more are found in his brilliant Ted talk where he tries to ponder the answers.
This brings me to the last of the big questions: the future of the human race. If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, we should make sure we survive and continue. But we are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. 
You can watch the TED Talk below.
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Fiction, Series
“You’re unusually close-mouthed for a guy,” Idowu said. The restaurant they were in was nice – and quite quiet for that time of day. Frank nursed the bottle of water on his table and stared at the woman sitting opposite. He couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t feeling more irritated than he was. “There’s nothing quiet about you – typically,” he retorted and almost raised his hand to slap himself. “That was unnecessary,” he continued. “I’m sorry.” Idowu waved his apology away, smiling graciously. “It’s okay – I understand. It would be nice to hear some voice other than mine though.” Frank took a swallow of his water. “I’m not an interesting person – I like work and sleep and food.” He paused. “I only recently started smoking again.” She squeezed her nose at him, looking quite young all suddenly. “How come you don’t smell – like most of them do?” Frank made a rattling sound that was supposed to be laughter. “You hang around smokers abi?” Idowu nodded. “1 – 1.” Their laughter was soft and careful – if jovial. Frank kept catching himself staring at her chest, and looked away every time their eyes met. He didn’t mind her company – it wasn’t like he was getting anything done at work in the first place. But he was feeling awkward around her and it wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t done this in a while. “I haven’t done this in a while,” Frank said. “I don’t know how it works anymore.” “It’s simple. You talk, I listen – I talk, you listen. It’s basically a ‘getting-to-know-you’ kind of exercise.” “Hmmm,” Frank said. “Okay. Why do you want to marry me?” Idowu coughed into the glass of juice she was just drinking from, hastily putting it down as she started to choke. Frank looked on, horrified as she continued to cough and beat on her chest, attracting the stares of other customers at the restaurant. A serving girl bustled over, opened the bottle of water she was carrying and shoved it in Idowu’s hands. “Here ma – drink a little.” Idowu nodded, weave bobbing as she took small sips of the water. Slowly, her coughing subsided – and then stopped – but her chest continued heaving. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and then she raised her face slowly to look at Frank. “Nice question. That would make it 2 – 1, abi?” Frank hesitated, but when he saw she was smiling he smiled back. “I cannot allow you to be shinning off me like that na,” he joked – and then his tone became sober. “Are you okay?” Idowu coughed softly before nodding. “Yes, thank you.” She pushed her hair back and smiled. “Really not the best impression for a first date, right?” Frank looked blank. “Who said anything about a date?” Idowu blushed. “3 – 1. Well done.” Frank smiled, moving his bottle of water aimlessly over the table. He let his shoulders sag and he slumped into his chair. He was starting to enjoy himself – he was starting to enjoy the company. “Do you have a car?” “Sure,” Frank answered. “I drive a Corolla. Has some issues concerning the wheel shaft and so on – so it’s been at the mechanic’s for a while.” “I understand.” She paused. “So – so I heard you recently got divorced.” Frank sat up and frowned at her. “Yes I did. So?” Idowu waved long, tapering fingers in front of his face. “Look, I’m not trying to fight you. Getting a sense of you however; is important. I’d like to know you before I decide if I just want to sleep with you or keep you.” Frank sniggered, intrigued in spite of himself. “And I don’t have a say in the matter?” She smiled at him. “How well do you know women, Mr. Frank?”   ***********   “…lot of pressure from both our families about her – our – childlessness. And honestly, I think somewhere along the line, we started to grow apart. I just didn’t see any reason to continue a lie so I …” Frank shrugged. “I cannot imagine what that must feel like. Pele.” There was a pause – and then, “So what happens for you now? I mean, do you want a wife or do you want a child?” Frank sat up – and then back down. He hadn’t really thought about it. “I haven’t really thought about that – about moving on or what the next thing is supposed to be. It’s my first day back at work after so long, I’ve started smoking again after so long…” he shrugged. “I’m still missing my wife – a lot – so for now I’m just taking it one day at a time.” “Work – that’s tailoring, right?” Frank nodded. “Can you actually sew – or you just own the business?” “I’m an international tailor,” Frank remarked dryly. Idowu chuckled. “Male or unisex?” “Actually, I cannot sew male clothing to save my life.” Idowu’s mouth dropped open. “You cannot be serious.” Frank shrugged. “I thought guys were more sexist that women. Another stereotype, right?” Idowu held up her hands in surrender. “I surely apologise. I find male hairdressers and guys who can make female clothes fascinating – I just have never met a male tailor who can only sew female clothes.” “That should help you remember me,” Frank said. “Oh, I don’t think I need any help with that!”   **********   “Oh – I promise. I will call you.” “You better.” Frank froze as Idowu leaned towards him – and then he relaxed as she kissed his cheek softly. “What did you think I was going to do?” She asked as she leaned away. He shrugged. “I try not to think that far.” Idowu laughed – and then shivered. “The weather’s changed.” “Yes it has,” Frank answered, and then stepped off the restaurant’s sidewalk and towards Idowu’s CRV. “Unpredictable as always.” She opened the door and got in. “I meant what I said about you calling,” she warned. He nodded. “I know – and I meant what I said about promising to call.” “Okay.” She waved and drove off.   *********** “But Afo, you said my car would be ready yesterday. I didn’t even call you then – so that it wouldn’t be as though I was disturbing you. And now it’s still not ready?!” Calm down, Frank told himself, snapping his fingers to resist the itch for a cigarette as Afo his mechanic mumbled an explanation. Not having a car was becoming a pain, a bother – an inconvenience. And he told the mechanic same. “My not having a car is becoming a problem. There are only so many places I can take a taxi or jump on okada to now.” He went quiet – and then said, “Okay, alright. We’ll see.” And hung up. Poking his head around his office door, Frank called to James. “James!” he yelled. And when the boy came scampering up he said, “Help me find a cab that can take me home.” He cocked his head sideways and then asked, “Anything happen while I was away?” James nodded. “The Alhaja don come collect her clothes – and she don pay balance. Some new orders came too – mostly school uniforms and choir gowns. I thought you’d want to look at them tomorrow.” Frank nodded. “That’s till tomorrow then. Please get me a cab.” James nodded and ran off.   ********** “Fola!” There was no answer. His knuckles smarting, Frank lifted the front door carpet and took out the house key. And then he opened the front door. “Fola!” he yelled again, snapping on the hall light. The other parts of the house was in complete darkness – and the sitting room was silent; highly unusual if Fola was in the house. And his wife wouldn’t be back yet. But what about the kids? He left the hall light on and made his way towards his room upstairs, careful not to bump into anything. He was fiddling with his room key, trying to find the lock when it occurred to him that his phone had a flashlight. Just then, the key slipped in and he opened the door. The room was cold in spite of the AC being off – so he threw on the light switch and shut the door. The AC stayed off. He put his phone on the bedside table, and then his keys – and was reaching for his wallet when he remembered Efe’s invitation to dinner. Frank groaned loudly – but continued unloading his pockets. I hope she doesn’t think I intentionally freed her o. I just forgot. He was removing his trousers when he heard the main door open. Hastily he slipped back into his pants and stepped into his bathroom slippers. And then he hustled out of the room, buttoning his shirt as he went. “Fola!” It was Stella yelling. As Frank got to the stairs he heard her say; “Oya go and sleep. I don’t have the strength to supervise you bath yourselves – so we’ll do that in the morning. Goodnight.” He heard some mumbling of what he imagined to be ‘goodnight mummy,” but didn’t know for sure. He waited until the children’s rooms closed – and then he continued downstairs. “Good evening, Stella.” Frank said to the woman who was stretching and yawning over the kitchen sink. She whirled around, and her frown deepened when she saw who it was. “I thought you and Fola went out together – went out and forgot to go and pick my kids. Where is he?” He couldn’t hide his surprise. “Forgot to pick the kids? Are you saying you’re just getting them from lesson?” She didn’t answer him. “Where’s Fola?” she asked again. “I – I haven’t seen him all day. I went to work!” Stella looked at him – and then she exhaled, all the animosity leaving her body with a rush of air. “I’m sorry, Frank. It’s just – “ she sighed. “I don’t understand how he forgets the children in school!” She shut off the running tap and wiped her hands. “So you’re not one of his drinking buddies?” she asked. Frank turned away. “I don’t drink.” He stopped at the doorway, and then turned back towards the disgruntled wife. “Have you tried to call him? Something might be wrong – “ “There’s nothing wrong, Frank. Your friend my husband is just irresponsible. This isn’t the first time.” Frank surprise was evident in his gait as he suddenly seemed to lose air like a deflated balloon. “Wait – what?” Stella chuckled as she took a pure water sachet from the fridge. “He’s been coming home early since you got here because you stay at home most of the time and he didn’t want you to be alone. So he gets the kids and comes home to stay with you.” She cut the water sachet with her teeth and drank some; dentures gleaming like neon in the dark. “The moment you started work he returned to his old habits.” She looked at Frank. “You told him you were starting work today, abi?” Frank nodded. “Ayuwa,” Stella said and snorted. “At least you aren’t as irresponsible as he is – or maybe your wife would say different.” She trudged past him out of the kitchen, and as Frank looked on thunder rumbled in the distance. *********** Directed by @seunodukoya
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Fiction, Series
The sun was barely stretching; lazy arms reaching to uncurl the blanket of the night by the time Frank was standing in front of his shop. He looked at his phone for the time; 6:42am and leaned against a table standing to one side. His fingers itched – straining to reach into his pocket for the pack of White London that rested in there – a desire that seemed to have heightened within the past few weeks. He shuddered – and pulled his hand away. He didn’t – wouldn’t want his staff and work neighbors to know about his ‘sudden’ passion for ‘cancer sticks’; as Fola jokingly referred to them. Besides… Besides, it was too early for him to smoke anyway. So he leaned against the bench and watched morning arrive Orile while wondering when his shop would open.   *******   Frank started awake groggily and looked for the time again. It was a few minutes to nine. The sun was out in all its angry glory and Frank rubbed his neck – specifically the small ache that had made its way there. He looked around – he was still outside his shop – and was about reaching for his phone when he spotted the person he’d left in charge; James alight from an okada. Frank’s clenching and unclenching fists were the only sign he was feeling some kind of upset – otherwise he was still, at least externally. James still hadn’t seen him. As the okada drove off, James started his jaunty walk towards the shop, not in any hurry as he smiled and waved at the next door shop owners and people who kept hailing him. He didn’t notice Frank in front of the shop till he was climbing the stairs. And then he froze, dismay, surprise and fear fighting for expression on his face. “Ah – oga! Good…good…” “Open the door and allow me enter, James. I’ve been standing here since after six.” Poor James tried several times to put the key into the huge padlock; repeating and failing at an exercise he had performed every day for the past three years almost effortlessly. After watching for a bit, Frank impatiently snatched the keys from him and opened the shop’s metal doors – and then he stood aside, allowing the hapless manager stumble into the shop before following him. “James, give me your phone.” Frank said quietly, stopping James in his tracks as he approached the first set of windows. He turned around and silently handed over his phone; a battered Blackberry; before continuing to the window to pull back the curtains. The sunlight chased away the shadows that clung to the deepest parts of the shop – and Frank nodded approvingly, looking like a new king surveying his domain. The shop was as clean as he insisted it had to be – he ordered them to sweep every day before they closed shop – and they hadn’t neglected that part of his instructions. They got that one right. He watched James hastily head to the cupboard against the shop’s far wall to unpack half-done jobs – before calling his attention and then shaking his head slowly. “Not yet James,” he began, “let us wait for the others to arrive.” And James, knowing the others were going to be very late – and knowing he couldn’t warn them that oga was around, sat in his chair and chewed his lips while mentally willing his fellow workers to hurry.   *********   It was a few minutes to twelve noon before the last person arrived – and at that point, the tension in the room was thick enough to be cut with a chicken wire. Frank regarded his hapless employees – or rather; regarded the various emotions they wore on their faces; hopelessness, fear, sorrow – and tapped his forefinger on the table before him. A couple of the workers jumped in fright; most of the others just looked up and looked away. “How many of you are not happy to be working here?” The seven employees – James included – four men and three women, ages ranging from twenty to forty looked at each other, and then back at the boss. “Oga, we no understand,” James muttered. “Which language you wan make I take talk am?” Frank snapped. James seemed to shrink into a shell – pretty much like a snail. At another time, Frank would have laughed. But not that day. “If you’re not happy to work here, you can just carry the things you came with and leave now.” There was silence for a bit – silence interrupted by the vibrating of his phone – but he ignored it. And then one of the women, Alhaja spoke up. “We are ferry happy to be hia, Oga Frank. ‘Is the devil that make us to be late…” Frank silenced her. “The same devil will make your salaries late too. How can you resume here at ten o’clock in the morning?! Do you know how many people I had to turn back because the shop wasn’t open?!” A lanky fellow standing in the back opened his mouth – probably to point out that Frank also had the shop keys – but one of his colleagues, someone somewhat more discerning than he shoved an elbow in his side. He closed his mouth. “Maybe you thought something had happened to me – or maybe you were hoping I was dead – “ There were various shouts of ‘ah!’ ‘God forbid!’ ‘Tufiakwa!’ and Frank, lips curved in what could only be referred to as a smirk interrupted them. “You can all be saying that now, yet you’re behaving as though I wasn’t supposed to return. Is this how you run a business?” His staff hung their heads in shame.   ********* Frank sat in his darkened office, a vacant look on his face. He had just gone over the accounts with James – and he couldn’t help wondering why he wasn’t in a better mood. The staff’s tardiness hadn’t affected their turnout rate much – and the books looked just as promising as they had when he was around. But he was feeling out of sorts. He picked up his phone to call Igo – he actually started to punch in the numbers when the last words she’d said to him echoed in his mind; Stay away from me. Gently he put the phone down, and slowly clenched his fists and teeth. The air was beginning to feel oppressive; he wanted to get up and just go away – go somewhere. He wasn’t in the right frame of mind for work – His phone rang. It was an unfamiliar number – but he picked it anyway. “Hello?” he grunted. “Hello Frank. This is Efe.” “Eh..Efe?” he paused for a moment – wondering who it was. And then – “Efe! Hi! How are you?” She laughed, a sound Frank discovered he was starting to like. “I thought you wouldn’t remember me. How are you?” “Fine, fine. I’m back to work now.” “That is good. I’m pleased to hear that. When will you be back home?” He hesitated. “I really can’t say yet – Why? Is something wrong?” She laughed again. “No jo! I’d like to invite you over for dinner – that’s all.” “Ah – “ Frank began, and then paused. “Well…” he began again. “Come on, Frank dear. We’re adults. You’re my best friend’s ex-husband, I’m married with kids. What’s the worst that could happen?” What’s the worst that could happen – indeed? “Ah – sure! What time?” “Any time from eight pm is fine. You can call me on this number when you’re on your way.” He nodded – as though she could see him. “Alright,” he said. “Bye!” she said cheerily and hung up. Frank stared at his phone – as though it had suddenly grown eyes and a mouth – and then he set it aside, resolving not think too much about Efe and her offer. But… “…oga?” He jerked out of his woolgathering to find James looking at him with concern. “Yes, what is it?” “Oga…there’s a woman here to see you. She say her name is Idowu…” Frank frowned. He couldn’t recall any female Idowus in his life, past or present. He couldn’t remember ANY Idowus for that matter. “Is she a customer?” James scratched the little fringe of hair on his jaw. “Oga, I don’t know. When I asked her what she want, she ask for you.” Frank sighed and nodded. “Tell her I’m coming.” But James lingered. “What is it?” Frank asked the boy who was twiddling his fingers and exuding an air of nervousness. “Em…oga, are you okay?” Frank stopped his rising movement and fixed James with a stare and he; getting the hint moved quickly out of the office. Allowing himself a stingy smile, Frank stepped out from behind his table and out into the main shop. “I know independent women are quite the in-thing these days, but women still like to be pursued, you know.” Started, Frank looked towards the voice to see a pretty woman folding a newspaper and rising from a bench to his right. She walked towards him, looking very official in a white blouse and black skirt. Heels showed off her brown legs and everything else showed off her body. She had a nice body. “Excuse me?” She stopped when her face was a few inches from his. “I called you last night – and I’ve sent you a couple of texts this morning. No response.” She paused, and then looked at him accusingly. “Did you even read the messages?” At the confused look growing on Frank’s face she rolled her eyes. “Great. You don’t even remember me.” Frank shook his head. “I’m sorry – but who are you?” She smiled. “I am Idowu – Idowu Bakare. My father lives next door to your parents…” Frank hit himself on the forehead. “Don’t vex. Idowu!” Of course! She was Idowu, the girl his parents – his father; at least – wanted him to marry. *********** Directed by @seunodukoya
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Fiction, Series
“Man, Folly, this is one kind jare.” The living room was way larger than Frank was used to – the ambience was quite pleasant too. He and his friend were lazing on the sofa, watching Super Sport and jawing. It was almost a week since he had moved in with his friend – and they were just managing to sit together for the first time in a while. It was awkward. “What is one kind?” Fola, his voice musical and quite effeminate asked, scratching his thigh in a distracted manner. “This,” Frank said, waving around. “I’m a grown man squatting with a friend in his own house – and to make matters worse…” The front door opened and a loud “Honey I’m home!” interrupted the friends. “Hey baby!” Fola said, rising to hug the slim, fair and taller woman. They kissed briefly. “…he’s a happily married man with children,” Frank muttered under his breath. And then he rose and smiled politely. “Good evening, Mrs. Akanji. How was the day? “It was splendid,” she gushed, hugging Frank eagerly. “And please, it’s Stella – abi baby?” The last part was added as she turned towards her husband, still holding Frank around the waist. “Hmmm? Oh – yes, right you are darling,” Fola answered, his attention occupied with the screen in front of him. “Frank can like to be formal sometimes,” he finished, and tuned off from everything except the television. His smile a bit strained, Frank stepped away from the clutching woman whose cheery grin followed him. “Have you boys had dinner?” she asked as she exited the sitting room. “Yes, Fola made rice – which is about the only thing he can make. It’s a bit salty, but I’m sure you’re used to his apology of cooking by now – yeee!” He grabbed his side in pain and frowned at Fola who was glaring at him. “What?” Frank asked. “How can you be bad-mouthing my food in front of my wife na?” “How can I not – if you’re trying to kill me?” “Baby, where are the kids?” Stella asked from somewhere within the bowels of the house. Fola looked away from the TV for a moment. “Ehn?” he said, distractedly. “The kids? They went to bed since. I gave them dinner and we did homework and watched small cartoon. And then they slept.” There was the ping! of a microwave going off, and then “All that already?! How late am I sef?” Stella’s voice was becoming louder as she spoke – and then she reappeared in the doorway, carrying a steaming plate of rice. Frank moved out of the way in time else she would have dumped herself in his lap. As it was, she propped her feet on her husband’s thigh, leaned against the cushions and grinned at Frank, a habit he was rapidly finding annoying. “I’ll leave you lovebirds to it then. Me, I’m off to sleep. Thank you so much for having me, Mrs. – Stella – I hope I’m not too much of an inconvenience.” He turned and made his way up the stairs, acknowledging the couple’s greeting with a wave of the hand. “Baby, is your friend okay?” Stella asked her husband, with a mouthful of rice. “Hmmm? Oh Frank? He’s fine, don’t worry. It’s just one of those things.” ********** Exhaling heavily, Frank slumped on the bed in the cold guest room. He lay on his back for a small while, hum of the air conditioner lulling him into a doze – and then he rubbed his forearms, shivering from the cold. “Where’s that…” he looked left and right, and then jumped off the bed before proceeding to pat it down, searching for the AC remote. His left hand touched something hard, and he pulled aside the covers to reveal what the hard thing was – His phone. A small green light was blinking at the top right hand corner of the device; a signal that he had pending messages. Grunting, his quest for the AC remote forgotten at the moment, he entered his unlock code and opened the phone, hands trembling with excitement. He had nine WhatsApp messages from three chats – he felt down as soon as he realized none of them were what he was expecting. Sorry about your… Man! What happened? We thought you were happy… He cancelled the messages without reading them – and; feeling sour sat and looked at the phone for a moment. There was a hitch in his throat and he cleared it a few times, wondering why his hands were still shaking. And then, without allowing himself too much thought he dialed her number. He tensed slightly as the call connected and began to ring – but there was no other sign that he was nervous. The silence between him and Igo was stretching longer than he was comfortable with – he would really like to speak with her. The number you have called is not responding… He didn’t realize he was holding his breath until with a oooooofffff, air rushed out of his mouth as he exhaled. Impatiently, he tossed the phone away, lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. But he could not sleep. ********* Sometime later, his phone began to ring. He pounced on it, shaky hands almost dropping the phone in his agitation. When he finally could hold it steady, he looked at the screen – and his trembling stopped – because it wasn’t Igo who was calling as he’d hoped – but a strange number. Grunting, he switched off the phone, tossed it away again and closed his eyes. But still, he couldn’t sleep. ******** “How far guy? No work again today?” Frank groaned and rolled over, covering his eyes from the onslaught of light piercing the curtains. And then he swore and sat up. “What time is it?” he asked Fola, who was standing by the door, a tolerant smile on his face. “It’s a little after eight.” Frank slumped on the bed, and then regarded his friend with a raised eyebrow. “You nko – no work today?” Fola’s hand waved up and down, pointing out the fact that he was wearing a suit. “I just came back to get some stuff – sudden portfolio review at the office.” He stepped away from the door – and then looked over his shoulder at Frank. “I understand what you’re going through – or maybe not. Sha, you have to rejoin humanity at some point.” He pulled the door shut. “Have a nice day, my guy.” Frank slumped back on the bed – and the door opened again. “How about this girl you were telling me about – this Idowu girl your parents want to hook you up with?” Fola asked. Frank frowned. “What about her?” “Have you met her – is she pretty? What do you think – “ “I met her briefly on my way out the last time I went visiting. I was leaving; she was coming in from work so we didn’t talk much. I didn’t even see her well – because it was evening and all – but I’m not even interested in that now.” Fola nodded. “Okay. Take care.” ********** It was early evening before Frank ventured out of the house in search of a mallam he could buy cigarettes from. As he walked, several things ran through his mind, slipping like water through cracks in asphalt. He could barely think about a particular thing for too long – thoughts kept chasing themselves across his mind; shadows in dying light. Should I have sacrificed my marriage because of a child? I’m a man. How else do you measure a man than by his achievements – including adding his physical quota to the population? But we were so happy… And they continued, running circles, going on and on and never coming to a stop… Not until he spotted the aboki’s kiosk. *********** He puffed angrily on the cigarette as he walked, as though trying to find out how many White London sticks he could smoke within five minutes. Inhaling harshly, he ingested raw smoke through his nose and bent over, hacking, coughing and spitting out the smoked out husk of what was once a cigarette. Dragging air into his lungs, he straightened and reached into his pocket, intending to light another one. So caught up in what he was about to do, he didn’t realize a car stopped beside him till someone spoke. “Frank? Franklin…Franklin Omure?! When did you start…oh my God. Oh my God. I’m so sorry…” His hand freezing on entry into his pocket, Frank’s head turned on a neck that was suddenly stiff to look to his right, wondering at the same time who could address him so familiarly and recognize him in spite of the darkness. She was a woman; that much he could tell from her voice – not a very tall one, he surmised as he looked at her through the lowered window on her side of the car. Still, she was a blur in the dark, illumination from the dashboard display not enough to show clearly who she was. “Excuse me, I’m sorry I don’t recognize…” She reached towards the roof of the car and with a subdued click she was bathed in interior car lights. What you or I would have seen would have been a light skinned, attractive woman on the plump side, lips looking like they were stuck on, eyebrows too arched to be natural – and a pair of breasts that belonged on a porn site. What Frank saw was his wife – ex wife’s – best friend, Efe. ********* “I saw you on Monday alighting from a bike – but I wasn’t sure and I was too far away to be screaming. So I thought if it really was you, I would see you again.” She paused and smiled at him. “And here you are.” Frank shifted in his seat, looking out at the passing estate horizon. “And here I am.” He had always felt uncomfortable around Efe – she had a way of unsettling him with her eyes. “How are you doing?” she asked him. While he hesitated, she answered for herself. “It can’t be too good if you’re smoking. I’m so sorry.” Frank sighed. “I wonder what you’re apologizing for. And really, apologizing so much doesn’t help.” He shifted in his seat again. “What are you doing here anyway?” Her soft laughter was a sound of pure pleasure. “I live here – just down the road. It’s the brown house down on the corner from where you stay.” There was a small pause. “What are you doing in here? Is this where you live now?” Frank sighed. “I’m having a hard time getting accommodation so I’m squatting with a friend and his family. I tell you, it’s awkward.” The car stopped suddenly and Frank looked up to realize they were in front of Fola’s house. “If ever you want to talk – or just see a familiar face, I’m just a few blocks away.” Her hand slipped from the wheel and unto his thigh. She patted it twice – and then took her hand away as Frank opened the car door and got out. And then he put his head through the window. “I’ll remember that.” He was quiet for a bit – and then; “How – how is Igo?” “She’s sad, Frank – but no worse than you. Worry about yourself, okay?” As he stepped away from the car, he heard; “Frank?” He turned towards her. “Yes?” “Where’s your car?” He sighed. “Mechanic.” “Oh. Okay then. Take care!” She waved as he straightened and then zoomed off. *********** Directed by @seunodukoya
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Series
The old man’s laughter rattled the windows of the house – even though he was sitting in the backyard. “My son, what have I tell you? I mean what do I told you? Dat ya wife is onye na amughi nwa – she cannot carry shuldren! But luff – luff haff bland you; common sense come commot for ya sense!” Frank leaned back in the cane chair and sighed. He sure wished his mother was home. “Look papa, just because Igo couldn’t – just because we couldn’t make babies doesn’t mean you should insult my wife.” Pa Omure cackled loudly and slapped his only son on the shoulder. “Hohohohoho…weeeeee! You no go ki’ mi!” He suddenly pushed his face up against his son’s. “You get wife?” Frank reared back and almost fell off the chair. “Pa…okay. I don’t have. Not since I did what you asked. Are you happy now?” The older man touched his chest. “Me? I dey always hapi – always! Your sister jus’ commot wit her husband and shuldrens for hia! Your small sister!” Frank hung his head. No matter how detached he tried to act, his father’s words stung. “It’s not like we – it’s not as if I didn’t want children, papa. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for…” “And dat is why I yam happi you haff use your common sense to commot from dia!” Pa Omure’s voice was reduced to a whisper. “When woman is dey her husband house, she cannot produce pikin, what is the value inside such a…” “Papa, did you call me here to listen to you insult my wife?” “You no get wife. You nefa get. Na why I call you hia be dat. You go fit meet Idowu, my neighbor pikin…” “Franklin! Franklin o, my son!” Mama Omure’s entry into the backyard was very much like the arrival of a gale. Light-skinned, buxom and tall – she was an easy six feet two – her presence was hard enough to ignore, and then she was lively and energetic – in spite of her sixty-something years. “How are you my darling? No, don’t answer that. You look horrible.” She bent over and pulled his cheeks as he struggled to rise. “You’ve lost weight! Of course you have, when you sent the only person in this world who cares about you apart from me…” “Mama, I have missed you so much.” Frank interrupted the lamenting woman, squeezing her against himself and hiding his face in her shoulder so she wouldn’t see the tears. “How is everything? Papa was just telling me that Evelyn came over..” Mama Omure eased herself away from her son and went over to her husband. “Good evening, Pa Franklin. How’s your body?” Not waiting for an answer, she handed the old man the black nylon bag she was carrying. “I bought you some cashew nuts. You can chew on that while I make dinner.” And then, pulling her son by the hand she led the way into the dark interior of the house.   ********   “Are you okay, Franklin? I know I ask all the time but – are you really okay?” Frank leaned against the kitchen sink and closed his eyes, sighing softly. “What do you expect me to say, mama? How can I be okay?” He felt rather than saw his mother leave the vegetables she was washing – felt her come stand beside him, worry heavy in her voice. “But darling, you decided to ask Igo for a divorce…though come to think of it, she didn’t exactly protest…” “Yes mama, I asked for the divorce. When I saw myself almost cheating on my wife of twelve years because somehow, my desire for a child had overcome my desire for her, what was I supposed to do?” He opened his eyes and turned to look his mother right in the face. “I know I asked for the divorce – but that doesn’t make it easy.” “And we are also not making it any easier for you.” She squeezed his shoulders in a gentle hug. “I apologize for your father and I. What you need is our support, not our criticism.” She left him and walked back to the gas cooker. “How is work?” “Work…” his voice faded away. “Work? How can I work, Nne? I cannot concentrate, I cannot do anything. I keep thinking about…” He went quiet for a bit – and then continued. “Work is fine.” His mother chuckled. “Ah, Franklin. I think what you need for now is to rest. Rest, and allow yourself time to heal. Everybody seems to be in such a hurry these days.” She hit the spoon on the edge of the pot before turning to regard Frank patiently. “Understand your father. You’re his only son – the only hope he has of his name going on. Doesn’t mean much to me – but you can understand what that would mean to a traditional Ndigbo man.” Franklin smiled wryly. “An Ndigbo chief, you mean.” His mother laughed – and then Frank interrupted. “But Nne, what is this I hear about you getting me a wife?” She sighed. “There’s this neighbor of ours your father is suddenly best friends with – and he has a daughter who is still unmarried…” “Did this idea start after my divorce or before I even started – “ A phone started to ring – and Frank looked at his mother. “That’s me,” he said, pulling at the phone. “Let me just see who – “ The caller ID said one word; Igo.   ********   “It would be good if you came early, Frannie – I mean Frank,” his ex-wife breathed into the phone. “The lawyers say it’s just a few small details about the account and businesses…” “I already said I didn’t want anything from that – “ “I don’t want it either – but we signed papers. We signed papers, which means you cannot just pass them to whoever vocally. There has to be another set of signings or…” Frank exhaled loudly. “Okay okay. I’ll be there by nine in the morning…nine is okay, abi?” “Nine is fine, Frank. Good night.” “Wait.” Frank said desperately. “Igo…are you…how are you?” A sound that sounded curiously like a sob floated down the line, and then Igo answered harshly, “What do you care?” Click. Frank stood in the shadows of the corridor in his parents’ house in Bariga, looking at the phone in hand but not really seeing it. “Frank! Food is done o!” Snapping out of his reverie, he answered, “Coming ma!” and then dialed another number. The call went through – and was picked on the third ring. “Hello oga?” “Hi James. Look, I won’t be coming to work for a while. I have some things to sort out and take care of – so I’m leaving you in charge, you hear? Take care of everything.” “Oga – I hope no problem o. Shey madam dey – “ “There is no problem. Look, just do as I say. You hear?” Frank impatiently interrupted him. “Okay. Everything will be as you want it to be oga.” “Thank you. Good night, James.” “Good night, oga.” Click. *********   “You’ve lost weight, Frank.” He chuckled mirthlessly. “That’s what everyone’s been telling me lately – and yet I hardly miss a meal. Maybe buka food doesn’t exactly agree with me.” He laughed again, emptily; hollowly. “Mama said the same yesterday; and tried to load me with food enough so I wouldn’t be hungry till next year.” Igo smiled wanly. “And of course, you tried to eat everything. I don’t blame you; mama can cook.” She paused – and then rushed on as though afraid of being silenced. “How is she…and and papa…?” Her voice shook. “She misses you, Igo.” His ex-wife nodded and looked away, brushing her eyes free of something that may have been tears and mumbling something Frank couldn’t hear. “What?” he asked. “Our lawyers are ready,” Igo answered, and walked ahead of him into a dark room.   ********   He knew there was a much better way of spending the time he was in that room, sitting across his ex-wife and staring at her like she was someone he did not know – but the going ons in the room didn’t interest him. She did. He hastily signed every paper he was handed without looking – he trusted that Damilola, his lawyer would have made sure it was safe and well; he found it distracting. He continued watching Igo, taking in everything she did – every move she made and making something; a memory of it. For all he knew, this was the last time he would see her so he wanted to make it significant. He watched every unconscious tucking of a stray strand of braided hair; every hesitant smile at her lawyer (who he thought was staring at her a bit too boldly and quite unprofessionally), every unsteady scribble of her pen – every accidental glance his way – and something filled his chest. Pain. And regret. When she sighed and straightened, he realized they were done – he realized his lawyer had been talking to him for a bit. Frank coughed, and then turned slightly towards his right hand. “Sorry I didn’t hear you,” he said. “Sure.” Damilola grimaced. “Everything is tidy now. You have access to some money from the joint – “ Frank interrupted, rising hurriedly and knocking back his chair as he saw Igo exit the room. “I’m sorry! I’ll be right back!” he yelled over his shoulder as he hurried after her. “Igo – Igo! Wait!” Her shoulders hunched as though she expected a blow, and then she turned slowly – but her eyes – her face – remained averted. “Yes, what is it?” she asked in a voice that was tired yet trying to be angry. “What do you want?” she said again, her voice sharper than it was before. “I don’t want anything…well that’s not true, but what I want…” he trailed off when he saw the baleful look she regarded him with. “I just want to say I’m sorry – I’m so sorry for…” “You can save your apologies Frank, or repeat them to yourself if it makes you feel better. I don’t want to hear them; I’m not listening to any more of your nonsense. For twelve years – “ Her voice broke; she drew in a sobbing breath and buried her face in her hands. “Igo…” Frank began, reaching for her hand. “Don’t touch me!” She whirled on him, tear-streaked eyes blazing with fires that seemed to leap at him. He didn’t immediately realize he had taken a step back. “Don’t touch me…” her voice faded to a whisper; but the vehemence was still quite obvious. “I gave twelve years of my life to you; to a marriage simply because I believed in it. Do you think you were the only one under pressure?! I have a family too; and the same way your dad told you to leave me is how my parents, friends – siblings…” She wiped her eyes and continued. “I loved you, Frank. I invested twelve years of my life in you, in us. The years weren’t always rosy – but I gave my all. I realize now; you didn’t deserve my best – and you sure didn’t deserve me.” She turned and started walking away. She was opening the main door to step into outside when she said something – but the door had closed behind her before he realized what she said; Stay away from me. “Frank…Frank? I’m sorry – but we need to see to the rest of these – “ “Send them to the shop, will you Damilola? Thank you.” And Frank walked out into the sunlight outside – though it could be moonlight and thunderstorms for all the notice he took of it. *********** Directed by @seunodukoya
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Series
“It was really good having you guys over. Really.” Igo’s eyes asked her husband abi? and he nodded, kissing her on the nose. “Thank you so much for coming – and bring the kids over next time. You know we love to have them always!” Together they watched the Osagies’ rear lights disappear over the landscape of their NEPA-abandoned street – the wailing and screaming of several generating sets providing theme music for the moment. And then they turned, arms around each other and walked into their compound. “That was great, wasn’t it? I like to see Ese – and her husband? Cool guy.” Igo eased herself from her husband’s arms and opened the door ahead of him. She stepped inside and waited for him to enter so she could close it after him, but he pulled the door out of her hand, closed it, shot the deadbolt and kissed her. Chuckling, Igo kissed him back briefly and then leaned away – but he followed her, backing her into the wall beside the door and pressing insistent lips against her resistant ones. “Hmm…baby…” she started – and inadvertently gave him access to her mouth. He laughed loudly as she, sighing, threw her arms around his neck in surrender. *********** “Thank you, dear,” Igo said, sipping wine from the glass he’d just handed her and allowing her shoulders sag into the chair. “So – what do you want to do next; watch TV or play Monopoly?” He smiled, drained his glass and shook his head. “Those will be too distracting. I just want to hold my partner – my wife, my better whole and sing to her.” Igo smiled. “You’ve been doing that for ten years. Aren’t you tired yet?” Walking over, he started to speak. “You’ve been breathing for thirty-six years; aren’t you tired yet?” He stood beside her chair and stretched out a hand. Placing her empty one in it, Igo set down the wine glass – and then allowed her husband pull her to her feet. She blinked in confusion for a moment as the lights dimmed – and then focused on his eyes as they stabilized again. There was an intent gleam in them – a shine that made her heart sing and her ears heat up. She stood in front of him, as though mesmerized – and then closed her eyes as he leaned in and kissed her forehead softly. “Happy tenth anniversary, sweetheart.” He said. She hugged him to herself, lay her head against his shoulder and mumbled; “Happy tenth anniversary, darling.” They stayed hugged up, swaying softly to music that played from the speakers of their hearts – music only they could hear but no less real. It was a really romantic moment – And then the lights went dim again. “What’s wrong with that generator?” Igo said out loud. Her husband stopped moving. “Wait her a moment, sweetness while I go check it out.” He kissed her cheek softly – and moved away, effectively creating a vacuum in her arms. She sat down on the floor beside the chair; amazed by the realization that she missed him. She missed him already. The lights flickered, went off – and then came back on a little brighter. Almost immediately she heard the rattling of the door, smiled as the generator sounds became momentarily louder – and then faded out again. “The plug was shaking in its socket – baby, what’s wrong?” The tears streaming down her cheeks were startlingly clear from the doorway. Moving into the room, he crossed it in swift strides and knelt beside her chair, to take her hand in his. “What is it? What happened?” She inhaled, drawing in a huge shuddering draught of air and then swallowing the sob that almost spilled out. And then burst into tears, throwing herself into his arms as he mumbled “It’s okay” over and over again, soft tones at direct conflict with the confused look on his face. ************ “I’m sorry darling,” her voice came from the depths of his right chest area. He looked down – but could only see the top of her head. Leaning in, he kissed that gently, noticing a few whitening strands in the midst of the raven-black mass. He kissed her head again – and she moaned sadly and raised her face. “Did I just do a number on your anniversary mood?” He shook his head. “Everything will be right again – as soon as you tell me what inspired the flood.” She turned away but leaned into his arms. “Oh – it’s – “ she fell silent as he squeezed her softly, and she closed her eyes against still-leaking tears. “You know why Ese doesn’t bring her kids here anymore, don’t you?” He cleared his throat. “Because they want to spare our feelings? They don’t want us feeling awkward?” The gentle up and down movement of her head told him he was right. “And it hurts so much,” she spoke. “So much – it hurts when I see you look at their last one – when you carry her up…it hurts to see the pain in your eyes. It hurts to hear you cry in the bathroom…” His arms tightened around her reflexively – but other than that, there was no sign he had heard. She sobbed softly. “I can’t help but feel it’s my fault – even though I know doctor after doctor has given us both clean bills of health. I hate that I cannot give you the thing you want most – “ Gently but firmly, he turned her around and kissed the corner of her mouth. She trembled slightly as her arms found themselves around his shoulders – his quite comforting shoulders – and she kissed him back enthusiastically. “How do you know it’s the thing I want most? Have you ever asked me what I thought about the situation? Sure, it hurts at times – I feel so hurt that I may never know the joy of being called daddy; or the pain of watching my child fall and hurt himself – “ he caught the look on his wife’s face and added, “ – or herself for the first time, it hurts more when I think of you. “But I’m comforted. And happy – and fulfilled. I married the woman I love more than life itself – and I would like to think she married the man she loves more than anything else. I didn’t marry you for children, Igo. And like someone in the good book said – “Am I not worth more to you than ten sons?” She chuckled, wiping back tears and made to speak – but his quick kiss silenced her quite effectively and he continued. “It’s been ten years. Ten years of ups and downs – ten years of it being just me and you. And you know what?” She shook her head, spellbound by the lovingness in his eyes. “Child or no, I can’t wait for the next ten.” Igo snuggled against the warmth – against the security, love and happiness her husband represented. “See baby, I still ask myself how you choose me in the midst of all the girls who were hanging onto you then.” He shrugged. “Really? I had eyes only for you.” “You do say the sweetest things – “ He shook his head. “You make it easy for me, darling.” He leaned in close till her eyes, nose, ears – everything was full of him – and then he said, “Happy Anniversary sweetheart.” She would have answered too – except that her lips were quite busy.   Two Years Later It was one of those afternoons in which the sun seemed to be on a mission – a mission to keep everyone behind closed doors, or to make everyone wish they were. It beat down with unrelenting fury, rubbing the heads and shoulders of the people in it with fiery palms and at the same time tickling the soles of their feet with scorching fingernails. Those on Mushin Street thought they had the worst of it. “E no go beta if we come back come carry dese tins later? Dis sun na wa o.” The speaker, a tall lean Segun Arinze lookalike stood beside a haulage truck, squinting down the street while squeezing sweat from his forehead. His dirty-blue overall stuck to his body around the shoulders, chest and back – sweat ran down his arms in rivulets. His partner wasn’t much different – he also had similar patterns of sweat on his costume – he just happened to be the shorter of the two. “Ol’ boi, wetin we wan do na? De man dey para!” The taller looked over his shoulder at the house they were moving things from. “E jus’ dey provoke. Now now e no go talk, before now e go begin yarn opata. Dem say im an in wife fight – na im make e commot.” “Ehen. No wonder. You no know say woman fit drive pessin craze?”   The subject of their quite-intense discussion sat in what was before sitting area for two people with bright hopes and even brighter smiles. Now, he tried to smile but his lips quivered with strange emotion – so he gave up. How long does it take to end a life? His fingers wandered through the suede frills of the seams of the chair he was sitting in as the question repeated itself in his head. How long does it take to end a life? Of course, there was no answer. He scratched his neck and wiped sweat from his forehead. Why is this room so hot? Leaping to his feet, his eyes darted to the air conditioner – except a gaping hole was what met his gaze. Oh. Air conditioner left yesterday. He thumped himself on the forehead. How did I forget? It was almost impossible to believe two people in love had once lived in the apartment. Now it looked as though a hurricane had come through and left nothing in its wake – nothing except organized carnage. Papers littered everywhere, pieces of a life that had once been the envy of everyone around them. A brightly-colored gleam caught his eye and he leaned over to pull something from underneath paper debris. Something that turned out to be an anniversary card. Happy Tenth Year Anniversary darling; it read in sprawling cursive – Igo’s handwriting. His hand trembled – and he jumped as the shrill ringing of his phone startled him into dropping the card. “Wetin?” he swore loudly, reaching in his hip pocket for the offending device. It was a call from a number he did not recognize. “Yes?” he said curtly, shaking slightly from the fright. “Who is this?” “Oga Frank, dem no let us enter the house o. Dem say another pessin don rent am since last week – “ “What?!!” He ejaculated, moving quickly towards the front door as he spoke. “Wait. I’m on my way there now!” He ended the call – swearing loudly as he bumped into a small stool set negligently beside the door. “Who be de madman wey put this stool dia?” he yelled as soon as he stepped out of the house and into the yard, brandishing the stool like a security guard holding up a dane gun. The taller of the two furniture movers scratched his head. “Em, oga na you o.” Frank slowed down, embarrassment making his movements awkward. “Ehen,” he said, setting the stool down gently. “Okay. Dem say de pipo for de house no gree dem enta – I wan run go settle am.” The shorter of the two watched as Frank hurried out of the house – and then nudged his companion who was stacking the stool in the back of the truck. “Dat man get problem no be small,” he said, shaking his head in pity. ************ “But sir, this isn’t fair! It isn’t right! I paid – “ Frank was interrupted. “Young man, I said the landlord has changed his mind!” The caretaker, a hungry-looking version of Saka retorted. “Give me your bank number, and I will have my boy here – “ he gestured towards a teenager wearing sagging jeans and a dirty white vest leaning against the wall. “ – he will transfer your money back now now.” “Don’t call me young man,” Frank muttered under his breath. “I’m forty-one years old.” He turned away, dismay making a lie of his comment – at least facially. Feet dragging, he walked to a truck the twin of the one back at the house and addressed the driver who was looking at him with hopeful eyes. “Sorry, Peter. We have go back to the house.” Peter, the truck driver shrugged. “No problem, oga Frank. No be so all dese yeye caretakers dey do?” And he nudged his dozing assistant for affirmation. “Na so, oga mi,” the boy jerkily muttered, and promptly went back to sleep. ************* “There’s a small issue with the house I got – so I’ll have to keep these things here while I get it sorted out ma.” The old, bent woman looked at him from over her glasses. “You’re the one who chased yourself out, Frank. Nobody asked you to leave. You can keep your things here for as long as you like.” Frank tried to smile but couldn’t quite make it. “You should understand, ma. It’s not easy – “ She cut him off. “I know, Frank. I understand – my prayers are with you and that wonderful girl Igo. So beautiful.” Frank hurried away as some peppery sensations behind his eyes made their presence known. Igo…I thought we could make it. “Make we begin dey offload am?” Frank nodded. “Begin offload am.” ************* “…so I need a place to stay for a little bit while I sort out my house issues…” Frank nodded, thinking wryly that he hadn’t completed a single sentence all day. “Sure man, thank you. I’ll probably be around in the evening…” he moved the phone from his ear to look at the screen – “around eight or so.” He nodded. “Thanks, Fola.” And disconnected the call. Frank looked around the apartment, wondering at the detachment he was feeling – a feeling perfectly complimented by the long shadows drawn on the floor – shadows of the burglar proof. He was standing in the middle of the shadows – and the effect combined to make it look as though he was behind bars. Tears pooled in his eyes and started the slow journey down his cheeks. He made no attempt to wipe them. His feet echoed hollowly as he made his way to one of the rooms. He went in, spent a few moments – before coming back out, this time carrying a phone charger. And then he walked out and towards the gate. Aliu, the gateman opened the gate wide as he saw Frank approach. “Kai, Oga Phrank. Kai Allah, no be so e por be o. Kai kai…” he muttered, shaking his head. Frank nodded as he walked past the man, forcing trembling lips to stay glued together for fear of sobbing. Down his cheeks they ran, on the streets they dragged. Tears and his feet. His phone started ringing and he mechanically pulled the device out of his pocket. In that moment, he wore the entirety of his forty-one years on his face – jagged lines that seemed to emphasize the idea that all of life is but a puzzle. “Hello?” “I hear you finally purshued that your emuti barrel of a wife. Good boy! Good – “ Frank impatiently interrupted his father. “Papa, look – don’t insult my wife, you hear? Do not…” It was his turn to be interrupted. “Quiet there! What does a pikin lak you no? Ehn?! What do you…you…” the man spluttered and began to cough, loud and deep coughs that seemed to come from his belly instead of his chest. “Papa, sorry. Take it easy…” Frank wiped tears off his face and sighed – a deep, tired sigh. He knew what was going to follow – he could repeat the conversation word for word. “You see, Franklin, I do not have much longer to live on this earth, and Chukwu did not see fit to bless me with plenty sons. Only you so if you don’t want me to be forgotten…” “It’s okay Papa, I hear – “ The man yelled into the phone as Franklin hastily held it away from his ear. “No! You don’t hia me!” He coughed a bit and then continued to speak. “Nna come to the house on Thurday. Me an your mother haff a new wife for you!” Click. Wife?! Staring at the phone in his hand, Franklin muttered, “Oh great. My life is now one big Nollywood movie.”   He started to laugh, horrible croaking laughter that broke – and then became a sob. He opened his mouth to scream, to yell – to complain to a stoic God – and then, from the corner of his still-streaming eye he noticed a woman staring at him in fear, arm around a pretty little girl who was also staring. He was quite the spectacle, okadas had stopped with riders pointing at him, cars were slowing down and causing traffic. “Frank? Frank! Are you alright man?” Not stopping to check who it was, he started to jog, scrubbing his face as he ran. Car horns blared behind him, tires screeched – but he heard it all through a layer of static; a steady buzzing in his ears. The tears continued to stream unabated and he continued to run. After running for what seemed like forever – but was only a couple of minutes, he collapsed against a wall, hands on knees, inhaling jerkily. Some turmoil inside his belly let itself known – and then he started to retch, dry body racking spasms that made him jerk as though he was being mildly electrified. Minutes later, the retching stopped and he straightened. He hadn’t eaten all day – thankfully – but his mouth was sour, and a little something to wash it out wouldn’t hurt. He looked around to get his bearings; loud music and assorted smells told him he was in the notorious area of his neighborhood. A smile darkened his features – a sinister, unpleasant smile – as he pushed away from the wall, resolving to do something he had not done in fourteen years. Smoke a cigarette. *********** Directed by @seunodukoya
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