This is not fiction

In My Head, It Was Simpler…

I was going to finish secondary school, take JAMB, pass at first sitting and secure a place to study Law in the University.

In my head, it was simpler.

I would graduate after four years with a First Class degree or at the very least, a Second Class Upper and go off to serve my country for a year via the Youth Service programme.

In my head, it was simpler.

I would go to Law school, qualify and start practising. Perhaps join a firm, work my way up, become junior partner, then partner and possibly own my own law firm.

I would meet someone, get married, have babies and live happy.

In my head, it was simpler.

Simpler than what life actually offers…

Re-taking JAMB until you can afford to no more.

Getting into University eventually but dropping out because you can’t afford to carry on.

Working any jobs, all jobs, just to keep head above water and keep your dream alive.

Meeting the ‘wrong’ one; not meeting anyone.

Having children; not having children.

Trying to make lemonade from the lemons Life gave you but ending up with a nameless, tasteless drink…

In my head, it was simpler.

Or was it…?

I should have asked Life what it offers before I created ‘simple’ in my head. I should have said to Life ‘Is this your definition of ‘simple’ or have I got it all wrong?

I should have waited for Life’s reply.

With Life’s reply, I would have mapped out my mission and vision and then it would have been simpler.

 My refrain would then have been –

In my head, this is what life is’.

The Making of the Word

My Pencil

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My pencil guffawed.

It was a loud, harsh, grating sound.

It reminded me of the spirits, in the story, ‘ The Flute‘, by Chinua Achebe.

” You can’t write?’, he spat at me. “You can’t write and it’s all my fault???

Well, whose fault was it then?

I haven’t been able to put pen to paper…in this case, pencil. Surely it must be pencil’s fault.

I didn’t articulate my thoughts but he read them all the same. Were we not one?

I conceived my thoughts; he brought them to life. So it followed that if I couldn’t write, he wasn’t playing his part.

He spat at me again. This time, lead flew all over the page leaving thick, black marks.

“Write, you fool! Write until you can write no more! Write until your fingers cramp up and your eyes bleed but don’t sit there holding all those seeds of thought and blame me for not birthing them.

Why should I not blame him? I needed to blame someone! If not him, then who?

“Blame yourself!”, He spat again. This time, large chunks of my journal were gouged out by his lead missiles; he was taking no prisoners.

“Blame your foolish fears! Your foolish excuses! “…I have to sleep early”…”I’m working tomorrow”…”I’m not in the mood”…”My mind is blank, blah, blah, blah”, he finished off in a perfect imitation of my ‘whiny’ voice.

And yet he wasn’t quite finished.

“You think writing is a joke? A task for the faint of heart?” He snorted and shook his rear at me. The eraser looked redder than it normally did; like the baboon at our local zoo.

“If you don’t use me, someone else will…to measure planks of wood or to add up rows of digits… and then when there’s nothing  left of me but a stump, I wonder how you’ll bring your thoughts to bear.”

A horrifying darkness descended upon me…how can I not write?

My head will burst open like an over-ripe paw-paw if I didn’t use pencil to birth my thoughts.

I rummaged furiously through my black, leather bag: the one with gold-plated buckles. There was a fish-shaped sharpener at the bottom.

I shoved pencil into fish-shaped sharpener’s mouth, twisted him until his mouth was a sharp point, then I wrote and wrote and wrote…

Fiction

Before My Turkish Delight…way, way, way before

I hate blind dates

Beth and Lizzie don’t.

Imagine having two best friends named Elizabeth. You don’t want to know the kinds of excuses I have to listen to, sharing a flat with them.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I had no idea it was my ‘Elizabeth’, that was meant to do the dishes this week.”

“My name isn’t actually Elizabeth, it’s Elspeth and I don’t care if that’s the Scottish version, it’s not the same thing!”

So against their I-don’t-like-my-name-being-shortened wishes, I dubbed them Beth and Lizzie; end of.

But, I digress…

Beth and Lizzie were now dating; they met their respective boyfriends through blind dates.

It’s been four months for them and zero months for me.

I know what you’re thinking…well, I think I know what you’re thinking…but Elizabeth and Elizabeth 😛 were nothing like that. There was no…“Maybe you’re too picky…” “Perhaps you should soften your tone…” “Men don’t like blah, blah, blah…”

None of that. Having said that, I did notice that they arranged a tad more blind dates than I cared to count.

Anyway, I went along. For my friends, I would do pretty much anything (within reason, I hasten to add!)

So, here we were at the latest one. Lizzie’s boyfriend, Mark, had managed to book a place for six at the very-hard-to-get-into Himalayas. How he managed it, he wasn’t telling.

Mark is lovely and cheeky and sometimes damned secretive.

But, *sigh*, I digress again

Anyhoo how, here we were, enjoying a sumptuous spread of various chicken, lamb and veggie dishes – Tikka, Tandoori and Shashlik with free re-fill glass jars of Mango lassi and scrumptious little packages of veggie samosas, when my blind date, Kelvin or was it Kevin, finished off his speech about women; black women in particular and why he had sworn off dating them and all their various aggressions.

In the silence that ensued, it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually been listening to him. I had been too busy tucking into my lamb kofta, but somehow, blame it on my bat-like hearing, his last sentence echoed in my head, loud and clear like Lizzie’s off-key bathroom singing.

Dabbing my lips with my napkin, I turned to him, “When you say aggressive black woman, what exactly do you mean by that?” I asked, putting the napkin down on the table.

“You know, black women that are loud, opinionated and think they have to fight back at the world every time.”

“So you think they shouldn’t – in your own words – ‘fight’, ‘be loud’ or ‘opinionated’?”.

“I mean”, he carried on smugly, “You have to agree with me that there are other ways to tackle their issues…”

“…Their issues, I didn’t let him finish, “like being told what to do with your hair for instance?”

Kevin or was it Kelvin, rolled his eyes and looked first at Mark, then at Sean, Beth’s boyfriend with a ‘you-see-what-I-mean’ expression.

Both looked back at him, mystified.

“You know what”, I said to him with equanimity, having lost my appetite, momentarily, for the fragrantly-spiced samosas that was next on my plate. “You are a cowardly, black man.”

His jaw dropped.

I wasn’t quite done.

Lizzie and Beth snickered, knowing the rumblings of an eruption when they heard one.

“You ask us to use contraception but you insist on ‘skin-to-skin’. You demand that we tie our tubes but you wouldn’t do a vasectomy. You want us to be childless and sexless before you marry us but you plant your seed in every hole that vaguely resembles a vulva. You want us to support you and ‘stand by our man’, but you quake in your boots and give the most puerile of excuses why the relationship wouldn’t work, the minute you see our string of degrees, deeds to multiple properties and keys to our Bentleys. I think, no, I know I’ll take my chances with being an aggressive black woman any day than dumbing down with a cowardly black man.”

Now I was done.

My appetite was back. My samosas were still reasonably warm. I popped one in my mouth, tuned out Kevin or was it Kelvin and chewed slowly, savouring every morsel, eyes closed.

I didn’t hear the rest of what was said. I had turned off my bat hearing until Mark’s cheerful voice cut through my garam masala and jeera bliss.

“So no more blind dates then, Jehlani?”

Lizzie, Beth and Sean were going red in the face, holding back their long-buried laughter.

“Never.”