Sunday, 5 April 2015

Our Hopeless Place

We met in a hopeless place, a place where dreams die or are raised-
and in the depths of that hopeless place, we fell in love: like lilies struggling through the cracks of  parched earth.

I gave you my life, in the place which had become our home, a home filled with dreams and hopes.
But I didn't belong there.
Maybe because I was alone in our home of dreams and hopes;
and you were far away, not in love, in that hopeless place.

But still I hope, because I fear that a dream aborted today
Might have been a dream to raise, hopeless though it seems.
Time has turned and turned again, and I remain hoping, in the hopeless place I have made my home.
And you remain far, far away.

-Agwu Margaret Ada.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


Before I begin, you’ll have to disabuse yourself of all sententiousness. Do not snicker, do not guffaw, and do not raise your brows so high they disappear into your questionable hairline. Do not do that thing where you try to keep the mirth in but fail and it bursts out in an embarrassing shout...wait, I just checked it out, and it’s called guffawing. I already mentioned that. Whatever, just don’t.
It’s imperative that you keep an open mind as you read this. I am not weird-just your average girl with an average brain and an above-average body. I don’t need “help” or preaching from you holier-than-thou types with your flat noses in the air like you’re trying to sniff out sin.
The thing is... I consider myself a kiss connoisseur. Yes, you read right, I collect kisses, and I am considerably experienced both in the giving and taking of said act. I live for the rush, the endorphins, the feeling of euphoria that kissing gives me-and I am damn good at it.
Let me tell you what started it.
Ayo was my first, and you know what they say about firsts. He was the stud of the whole fifth form: star striker and next in line for captain of our winning football team, he was an excellent break-dancer with ‘usher-like’ moves that left girls creaming, and his circle of friends included the most popular of the most popular- some of them sixth formers. It didn’t matter that behind his tall, dark good looks, brooding eyes and flashing white teeth was the personality of a teaspoon and the brains of a cactus; no, that did not matter at all. When Ayo smiled at a girl, she was despised by her friends for the rest of the day.
He was that good.
He was a dream, a teenage dream who always had the coolest bandanas and baggy camouflage shorts to go with his trademark jean jacket with a flaming red skull on it. He was the dream of the entire female population at school.
Ah, Ayo. Just thinking of him makes me...but I digress.
Ayo and I got together in the middle of the second term, during the holiday extension classes and we caused the stir of the year. Not because I was a plain Jane or dowdy or unpopular-no. It was exactly for the opposite.
I was the unattainable girl.
 You see, growing up with a divorcee mother who thought all men belonged in a zoo made me indifferent to men- and consequently, more desirable to them. I inherited my beauty-queen mother’s mocha-coloured skin and almond-shaped brown eyes, a tall slim figure stacked with a gravity-defying bosom and wide hips. I had heard talk of me being the school “Beyonce” bandied about, but I didn’t care.
Not when I was aloof, cold and an insufferable snub, especially to the boys. And I believed whole-heartedly in the superiority of my sex.
That was the main reason why my being spotted in his trademark flaming skull jacket caused such a ruckus. Personally, I remember that I'd only agreed to date him because I was bored. And boy, did he cure my ennui! I can’t remember any conversations I had with Ayo about anything, but I remember kissing. Lots of kissing.
Wonderful, heart throbbing kisses in the reference section of the library; slow, playful kisses in darkened classrooms in the precious fifteen minutes we had to ourselves after prep; naughty, stolen kisses at the corner of the stadium during games; hot, hurried kisses outside the gate just before our parents come to pick us up during the holidays...the boy knew what to do with those lips of his! All he had to do was glance at me in class and I'd turn into a puddle of jittering hormones.
It goes without saying that I failed most of my courses that term. The last part of fifth form is a blur to me, but I remember the feeling of Ayo’s lips with razor-sharp clarity. I can still taste minty toothpaste, smell sweat and Brut deodorant, feel the roughness of his fuzzy teenage chin...
Ayo got me hooked. Hooked on kissing.
Now, this whole narrative is not about him- NO; frankly, apart from his lips, he was dumb as soup and could not carry a conversation if his life depended on it. This narrative is to defend my addiction! There are worse things than being hooked on hormonal endorphins, right?
In my foray into the addictive world of osculation, I have noticed that there are different types of kisses and different sensations come with those kisses. Let me explain with these classifications, which are drawn from personal experience and named after the person who has influenced said experience most memorably.
I will start with Ayo, because...well, nobody kisses better than an “Ayo” kisser. He nibbles, he licks, he sucks...and he dies it all with an unhurried, confident ease that you cannot help but respond to. Ayo kissers leave women with weak knees and thumping hearts. These kisses are slow and deep and sensual and makes your insides into a hot mush of liquid pleasure that spreads through you and makes your limbs weak.
I could describe “Ayo” kisses all day, but nothing will come close to the real deal. If no one has ever kissed you like this, ladies, (yes, even you, Miss Prissy Nose-in-the-air. don’t think I didn’t see you judging), drop everything right now and go exploring! I promise you that it is well worth it. And guys, if you cannot kiss like this...well, all hope is not lost. You could be a Sam kisser.
Sam kissers are comfortable. They’re the kind of guys you could kiss for an entire night and not risk losing your head (literally and figuratively, if you know what I mean wink wink). At first, you may feel nothing but a faint pleasantness, but Sam kissers are consistent. They stick with their steady technique, and after a while, you start to feel the heat. The coals of pleasure are stoked slowly, but once the flame is ignited, it’s worth it. Sam kisses you like it’s his job, and he is very, very good at it. There will be no wild excitement here, but there is a comfortable feeling of euphoria.
Sam kissers are the guys you date if you don’t want to lose yourself and fall madly in love (the horror!). There is no danger of a raging inferno. You will kiss Sam forever, and you will not complain-not unless you cheat on him and meet an Ayo. Guys, definitely aim for this one. You can’t go wrong. If you fall short, then you could be a ‘Buchi’.
Ah, Buchi. Buchis are cocky and overly confident braggarts, loud and pompous. In fact, they could bullshit you so much that you expect great things from the nigga! However, when they get down to it, it’s like an overly enthusiastic dog is licking your face. To make things worse, because he believes he’s God's gift to women, he is not open to correction or suggestion. He slobbers all over you, and then looks at you with a grin like they’re saying “I just totally rocked this girl’s world. Hope she doesn’t faint with pleasure or fall at my feet in worship. I hate when they do that.”
Nigga please! I'm sitting here with saliva dripping from my freaking nose! Ew.
To make things worse, he could also be a Nino. Ninos go from zero to a hundred within the space of a second. You close your eyes and your lips meet his and the next thing you are assaulted with lips, tongue, teeth, hands everywhere! Before you can say “what’s up dude?” he’s holding out your bra like it’s a freaking trophy. You’re left wondering what the hell is happening. They vary in their degree of bra-unclasping deftness, and I have found -sadly- that most guys fall into this category. This is not good statistics, dudes! Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned snogging? Let me tell you, it’s a dying culture!
Lemme take a few seconds and calm down before I talk about my last category-the Deles.
These guys are like Buchi and Nino joined together, but the major difference is that they’re zombies. Yes, zombies. Kissing a Dele is like kissing a fish-you are left bewildered and with a weird taste in your mouth. However, all hope is not lost. They could go in two ways: either your Dele is open to suggestion, or he’s not. If he is, ladies, give him time. He might improve-or he might not. Maybe your Dele can metamorphose into a beautiful Sam butterfly (let’s face it, that’s the highest he can aspire to), or maybe not, but life is all about chances, right?
If he doesn’t, dump him and find Ayo, stat! Life is too short.
My connoisseurship is not without its risks and pitfalls. Don’t even get me started on the halitosis, crooked teeth, thrush, mono, throat infections...really, guys, help a sistah out and invest in dental floss! Yet, in spite of these, I don’t plan to give up. I collect kisses, damn it! I love it, I'm good at it, and if you think it’s disgusting, why don’t you meet me for a tutorial? I can stake my industrial strength MacCleans toothpaste on the assurance that you will become a convert.


Everything changed after Calabar.
I looked over the proofs for the month’s publication, but I wasn’t seeing the beautiful actress who was going to feature on the cover of our magazine. I was seeing a potentially malicious document that threatened to ruin my life.
My assistant was hovering, as usual. She was rail thin, towering over my five-foot 8 frame at her almost six feet. Being an assistant in a fashion magazine was more of an accident, a stepping-stone for her. What she really wanted was a modelling career; I see scores of girls like her every day-hanging around my magazine like vultures and waiting for their big break. She did her work with a complacency that bordered on comatose.
I took off my glasses and stood, discarding the sheets of pictures. ‘I'm going out, Brittany. Postpone all my appointments by three hours.’ She blinked in her slow, puzzled way, watching me as I took my beige tuxedo jacket and put it on over the pink bohemian blouse tucked into a knee-length cream coloured wrap skirt I was wearing.
‘Mrs.’re going out?’ The girl had a talent for stating the obvious. The only reason I have not fired her yet fact, what was the reason? It’s not like I need one, her ridiculous name is reason enough. Brittany? Please, give me a break.
I turned to her; my eyes swept her fashionably slim figure swathed in an impossibly tight, black Marc Jacobs sheath dress. How does she breathe in that?
‘You’re fired.’
I did not wait around to see her puzzled look mature into disbelief.

Everything changed after Calabar.
Irene is filled with a feverish energy that makes me nervous. It has been almost two years, and yet she has not lost the slightly dazed look she gets whenever we are around each other. It is as if she has not yet recovered.
I haven’t, but I'm not the one trying to have a baby.
I heard footsteps and I looked up. Amaka was walking toward my workshop. Through the frosted glass door, I could see my wife right at her heels, her economical, purposeful steps very familiar. When you’re been with someone for ten years and loved them for fifteen, you get to know them inside and out. I removed my protective goggles and gloves and motioned for them to step into my office next door.
Whenever Irene came to my gallery-which was not very often-she always looked around like she’d stepped into a home for orphaned children: and if you know my wife, you’d know that this is not a piteous look, mind you, it’s more condescension.
She came in and closed the door behind her, effectively dismissing Amaka. She flashed a bright smile at me. ‘I hope I didn’t take you away from your little project, Law.’
I tried not to smile. Nothing that was not big money registered on my beloved’s radar, and understandably so. She has always been in the limelight, and was raised to believe that she is a Princess-and she is, of sorts. Her mother was, and is still, one of the highest grossing actresses of her generation, and her father has served in several ambassadorial capacities for our great nation over two decades and three administrations-one of them military. Irene ran her own fashion magazine, she has several chart-topping music albums and appears in cameo movie roles right from when she was a child.
I, Lawrence Ani, am just an artist. Of course, I am fiercely proud of my wife, she is the light of my life. Yet sometimes...
I have known her since we were teenagers together in secondary school. I loved her from a distance and when we graduated, I thought I would never see her again. Fast-forward years later, and she is at the first exhibition featuring two of my pieces. I was euphoric throughout the night, walking on air and basking in the big break I had been working on for years, and suddenly this vision of loveliness walks up to me and links her arm with mine. It took me a few startled seconds to realise that it was my teenage crush.
We went for a very late dinner that night, and what followed was a whirlwind courtship. Three months later, we were married. Until today, sometimes I wonder what she saw in me that made her walk up to me that night and say hi.
‘It’s okay, honey,’ I dutifully kissed her proffered cheek, ‘I can finish up later. What’s going on? Don’t you have an important meeting today?’ ‘I postponed it,’ she put down her bag and shrugged off her jacket, and I took it from her and hung it on the garment rack in my office. She was halfway through unbuttoning her top before I realised that she was taking off her all clothes. I rushed to close the blinds. ‘Irene! What are you doing?’ ‘We are having sex, babe, try to keep up.’ ‘Are you serious? We can’t...’ ‘Lawrence, we’re trying to have a baby. We have to keep trying!’ ‘This is what I keep saying. Irene, after Calabar, I think it’s too soon...’ ‘I don’t care about Calabar, I just want a child! It’s like you don’t even want this marriage to work.’
I was chagrined, ‘how can you say that? We have been through too much for you to say that I don’t want to be married to you!’
She sank into a cushioned seat, now dressed only in her purple lace chemise, face in her palms, her shoulders shaking.
She knows that gets me. She knows all my buttons.
I started taking off my work overalls.

Oh God, she’s droning on again. Somebody shoot me.
I honestly don’t know why she bothers. We all know she’s miserable. Not that anyone can blame her, after Calabar. Irene and Lawrence are holding on to that marriage by their bloody fingernails-and she doesn’t make things easy for the poor man. I have seen her husband recently, and he has a heart-wrenching, trapped look in his eyes. It is so sad! The worst part is that she will continue to push and push and push him until she breaks the poor sucker. She’s so wrapped up in herself that she doesn’t stop to wonder how the he feels.
None of us will tell her that. We will all coo sympathetically and take her side and tell her how underappreciated she is in her marriage. Nevertheless, we all know the truth. We know Irene. She can be stubborn and driven to the point of single-mindedness, and she doesn’t mind whose head she steps on. She’s self-centred...
‘Hey! You’re not saying anything. What’s up?’ Lizzy tugged on the sleeve of my silk top, one perfectly pencilled-in brow artfully raised. I took a sip of my martini and shrugged, ‘I'm going to sit this one out, Lizzy.’ ‘What does that even mean? Our friend here has issues, it’s our duty to comfort her,’ Ngozi said like she was quoting from the gospel, and Lizzy and Eno nodded in agreement. I sighed wearily and met Irene's eyes. She was looking at me coolly-her signature “you are going to get burned for this” look.
I know that look. We went to the university together and I knew the implications of getting on her bad side. She was the Queen Bee of our little dysfunctional group, and none dared defy her. Seeing as I continuously violated that unwritten rule, we were unlikely friends.
Maybe it’s because I don’t worship her as much as she want to be worshipped. Whatever.
I still didn’t say anything. Wild horses were not dragging any comment on my friend’s marriage from me. Absolutely not! I have enough problems of my own.
They gave up on me and continued the discussion. By now, Eno had launched into a lengthy description of her latest trip to Dubai and Lizzy and Ngozi were enraptured in her adventures. I noticed that Irene was still quiet, and I started to feel sympathetic towards her. Maybe the bitch really was hurting.
I sighed, folding under my own convictions. Me and my bleeding heart. Curses! I leaned over and patted Irene's arm gently, ‘I’m sorry, Rene. I know you want me to be on your side, but I don’t have to say anything for you to know that I am. Always...okay, well, maybe not always,’ I smiled and the corners of her eyes crinkled in response, ‘you know what I mean.’ ‘Thank you, babe. Perhaps sometimes...sometimes I'm selfish. I’ve not even asked how you’ve been coping with your mother-in-law visiting.’ I rolled my eyes, ‘well, let’s just say there’s  a reason I'm stocking up on liquid courage,’ I motioned at my almost empty glass. We giggled, drawing the attention of our other friends. ‘Oh, I see you two have made up’, Ngozi said, a bit resentfully. I smiled. ‘Yes, Ngozi, we have.’
Sometimes, these women are real bitches. But when it counts, they are the best allies a woman could have.
My frigging bleeding heart again! Curses!