This is not fiction

‘Without You’ – Shining the light on Domestic Violence

We can’t stop. We wouldn’t stop. We need to beam that light on Domestic Violence until it has no place to hide any more!

We need to stop making victims feel like culprits; like somehow it was their fault.

We need to stop sending them to ‘pray’; a dead person cannot pray. Continue reading “‘Without You’ – Shining the light on Domestic Violence”

This is not fiction

It Was Just One Slap

This post spoke my mind in some many ways that I felt I had no choice but to reblog it; the first time I’m doing so.
It has to be done. The more we shed light on Domestic Violence, the less chance it has of hiding in the dark.
Clichéd or not, Say not to Domestic Violence!

Everyday Human

Really? One slap and you are done? what if it was a mistake? What if he apologizes for his mistake. So you just walk away from a home you have built over the years.How are you so sure that someone outside is not firing your home and knows you would leave because you are so impatient?

Hitting is not the worst thing and most times men/guys don’t just hit unnecessarily. When a woman rants ceaselessly the best thing to shut
her trap is some form of slap and she will shut up immediately. It happens to me all the time and I can rant like hell. Until my man hits some sense into me I will drive him mad with my ranting.

Domestic violence is an issue that is very close to my heart. One of my earliest memories is of a man that used to stay in our apartment…

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The Making of the Word

My Pens…My Fears…All The Things That Hold Us Back

My pens are calling me.

The Felt tips, the Roller balls and the Ballpoints; the Blacks and the Blues.

They are peeking out of my white and lilac pencil case; out of my Bought-In-Gambia, pencil case.

They are screaming, silently.

Their ink, dripping like blood from an open wound.

Their nibs, agape in agony.

“We are drying out,” they howl in pain. “When are you going to use us?”

Black and Blue Paper Mate Flair® glare at me accusingly.

“You bought us as a pair”, their eyes bore into me, one dark, one light. “You choose us because we didn’t come as a quartet with the obligatory Green and Red. You claimed that you didn’t like writing in Green; that Red is for writing dead people’s names”.

Black and Blue Script® laughed in derision, “A pair”, they chortled, “We came as a quartet, no Reds, no Greens and does she use us? No! Does she write with us? No! We’re wasting our time. Let’s all dry out, see what she does without us!

A bubble of hysteria formed at the back of my throat, a low pressure began to build at the base of my skull.

This couldn’t be happening. The pens can’t possibly dry out. It may not seem like it, but I need them; I really do!

I turned frantically to Pencil, to urge him to speak. To explain to Pens that using them meant leaving the known for…

He just shook Rubber at me. What did I expect? He didn’t want to be abandoned. If he spoke up for Pens, what will happen to him?

I turned to Bic®. I had used them all my life. They knew me when I could barely form a grip with my fat, chubby fingers; when I took their side in the Revolution against Fountain Pens. They had stuck by me, when all others failed; they lasted when all others finished. They were the only ones with a see-through barrel and a removable plug, perfect for a place to put the slip of paper with my name on it, when I had to identify them as mine in a sea of other Bics.

But today, the pack of ten turned their dispirited gaze away from me. Too loyal to add their voices to the growing dissent of all the others, they remained mute.

“B…Bu…But…”, the bubble of hysteria had transformed my usual articulacy into the sound of uncertain hailstones, striking a corrugated iron roof-top.

“B…Bu…But!”

A chant began.

“B…Bu…But!”

It began to rise and rise… the pens, all Blacks and Blues; Felt-tips and Ballpoints too.

“B…Bu…But!”

It rose and rose and rose like a monstrous wave… My ear drums threatened to rupture…

“B…Bu…But!”

The pressure at the base of my skull refused to remain low any more. It began to swell and swell and swell to meet the monstrous wave of chanting ‘Buts’

I screamed like a banshee over the wave.

“My job, it takes too much time…”

“My commute, it wears me out…”

“My fears, using pens means writing longer… writing longer means having a goal…”

I screamed louder than I ever had, hoping to be heard above the deafening sounds.

“…having a goal means being open to failure and rejection…”

“…being open to failure and rejection means…”

WHAM!

The chant slammed into me with a force of a tsunami!

The force of it knocked me off my writing desk.

Pencils, papers, rubbers and writing pads flew everywhere. I tried to scramble to my feet but my left foot was caught in a vise-like grip. I looked down to see what was holding me so steadfast. My pens, all of them, even Bic, had formed a giant claw; they pinned me to the floor.

I wriggled, writhed, kicked. Nothing.

I cried, pleaded, begged. Nothing.

They held me down, unmoving, unyielding.

Then I saw Pencil. He was moving across a fallen sheet; forming words with great speed. I tried to make the words out but they were too faint; I tried to stretch and pull the paper to me but the giant pen-claw dug even harder into my foot.

Then I felt the floor undulate, a strange sensation washed over me; I felt fluid, I felt solid, I felt nothing.

Then I felt my eyelids fly open.

I let out a shaky breath of relief. It was a dream…no, a nightmare. It was all over. I rubbed my face with sweaty palms, swung my feet off my bed to the floor. I needed to relieve the pressure that fear had placed on my bladder. There was a loud clatter as something or some things fell off my bed.

I looked down.

I could make out dimly, a shape of some sorts. I switched on my bedside lamp to see it clearly. It was my pens, all of them, Bics, Paper Mates, Scripts…it was also a giant claw.

Mums Pen Claw3

Fiction

Before My Turkish Delight…way before.

Hugo’s was packed to the rafters. I don’t really care for bars; restaurants are more my thing but Beth and Lizzie swore by them.

“The best place for meeting someone,” I could hear their voices in my head.

I missed my girls something terrible. Married within a month of each other, both couples had emigrated – Lizzie and Mark to Australia and Beth and Sean to Thailand, to teach English as a Foreign Language.

That didn’t change anything though. They carried on trying to set me up with blind dates still. I mean who could blame them? It worked for them right? It was sure to work for me.

So here I was at Hugo’s bar, waiting for my blind date, set up by my newly-wedded ‘friend-in-law’, Sean. He had a cousin who was, ‘searching’ so he thought it might be worth ‘hooking us up’

“Jehlani?”

I looked up from my drink; a cocktail of some kind with an impossible name – ‘Sneaky Susan’ or something or the other. Not that I cared. I wasn’t much of a drinker anyway, only when I’m out with friends or waiting, like I was, for a date, blind or otherwise, to turn up.

“Yeah, I’m Jehlani.”

“Hi, I’m Linford, Sean’s cousin”.

We shook hands rather awkwardly and I sat back down as he pulled up a miraculously, free bar stool.

He was gorgeous. I know, I know, looks can be deceiving but he was. He was a dead ringer for the actor, Michael Ealy, only taller, darker but with the same piercing, blue eyes.

“My dad and Sean’s dad are brothers”, he smiled by way of explanation. “My mum is Nigerian…Igbo.”

“I’m Nigerian too…” I replied.

“…Really?”, He cut in excitedly. “Is Jehlani a Nigerian name? I mean, not that I know all there is to know about its two hundred and fifty plus ethnic groups and four or five hundred plus languages.”

A tingle travelled from my toes to the nape of my neck. I just love a man who is knowledgeable about …stuff; all kinds of stuff.

I don’t know how long we chatted for, but by the time he was draping my silver-toned mackintosh over my shoulders, the bar was pretty much empty.

***

“Jehlani, are you still going to the hair dressers?”

I was sitting in front of his dressing table, with a Tesco carrier bag tied round my hair to ‘steam’ it. I couldn’t for the life of me, find my shower cap.

“Naa, I’m treating my hair myself and giving it time to breathe.”

“Time to breathe kwa?”, Nduka (he insisted I call him instead of Linford when I eventually managed to get a word in edgewise and inform him that my mum was Igbo as well) had found his way to my shoulders and was kneading the knots away.

“Hmmm, that always feels so good, Lin…Nduka, thank you.”

“You don’t need to thank me, Jehl, it’s my duty to make you feel good.”

That was the thing about Linford…Nduka (even in my thoughts, I still struggled to call him Nduka; somehow he looked like a Linford to me) he ticked every box. He was attentive, kind, knowledgeable, polite and damn good-looking but…that was just it! There was a ‘but’…but I just couldn’t find it! I knew it was there because it scratched the back of my neck, when I woke up in the morning and every night, before I went to bed. It was an elusive, little bugger! I couldn’t catch it and I couldn’t make it go away!

“So you aren’t going to fix your weave then?”

“Naa, I really do want my hair to breathe.” His hands stilled for a nanosecond and at the same time, a thought flashed through my mind – ‘What big hands you have…’ I felt a swift, sharp shaft of fear pass through me but it was gone before I could grab hold of it and examine it any further.

“Lin…Nduka”, I pulled the carrier bag back a little bit, “Look…my front hair is thinning. I need to give my hair breathing space between weaves so it can grow back. If I don’t, I will be looking at a bad case of traction alopecia.”

“Traction alopecia, kwa?”

“Yeess, a.k.a ‘Mama Iyabọ!”

“Oh I see”, he chuckled, “You mean when your front hair, as you call it, starts to fall off and leaves bald patches?”

“Exactly! Too much tension, pulling, weaving, braiding…mba…not good.”

“But I love those soft, wavy curls…”

“…but Lin…Nduka, those soft, wavy curls are not all mine! They are only there from time to time. My own hair needs attention too or I will lose it permanently!!!”

His hands grew still around my neck, again.

“There was no need to interrupt me or raise your voice.”

This time seconds ticked away and I felt the elusive ‘but’ crawling up my toes again, trying to scurry past, to get to the base of my scalp, scratch it and disappear again.

Crunch!

I clenched my stomach muscles as it was about to dash past my abdomen and held it tight. It wriggled and wriggled, trying to make for freedom but I had had enough. If there was no reason to doubt, then there would be no visits from an irksome ‘but’.

“Lin…Nduka, I apologise for interrupting and raising my voice. It’s just that I get passionate about anything to do with my hair; indeed anything to do with…”

He interrupted me this time.

“I know, I know, your emotions are your greatest downfall, Jehlani but don’t worry, we will work on that.”

Crunch!

I stilled it. I stilled the writhing ‘but’. I looked closely at it, my eyes still on Linford through the dressing table mirror.

Control.

That was what it was.

Linford was a control freak. But he was controlling in a ‘I-will-massage-away-all-your-troubles, just-leave-it-to-me’, way.

His burnished caramel skin and piercing, blue eyes made you think of Thor, Hercules and the son of Amadioha, god of Thunder, all rolled in one. His broad shoulders and muscular chest spoke of safety and refuge and his hands, those large hands promised to ‘take care of it all’.

But…

If you didn’t…that was what I saw in his eyes…if you didn’t let him take control, then…

“Do it for me, inula? Just wash out your avocado and egg concoction and go fix your hair”.

“Okay, if you say so,” I grumbled playfully, hiding my ensnared ‘but’ and the shaft of fear that had returned with a sharp tip that prodded my insides; hot like a scorpion’s sting.

Sweet Mother, I no go forget you…

My signature ringtone for my mum broke through my fear; not the ‘but’ though, I held on to it for dear life.

My mum loved Prince Nico Mbarga, hence the ringtone. She said he was the only authentic, Nigerian musician with the exception of Sir Warrior of Oriental Brothers.

“Li…Nduka, I have to take this, you know what my mum can be like”, I made to appear rueful.

“Jehlani”, my mum pronounced my name like it was an Igbo name.

‘Of course it’s an Igbo name! All Africa was originally Igbo, didn’t you know that?’ I could hear her voice clearly in my head. I don’t usually bother replying. I mean how can you argue with a retired Professor of African Studies, even she says the pyramids were built by the people of  Arọ Kingdom? Waste of your time!

“Have you left that boy? That oso chi egbu! Destiny-Killer!”

“Just about to mum, just about to.”

“About time. Meet me downstairs and be quick please; I’m parked on a double yellow line.

How she always knew when to bail me out, I’ll never know but that was my mum for you, an amalgam of intellect and clairvoyance.

“Linford, I have to go”, I didn’t even stumble over the name anymore. Nduka kọ! Nduka ni!

Kiti kpa lacha kwa ya anya!  (May smallpox lick his eyes!)

Sean’s cousin or not, it hadn’t come to the point where I’ll put my life on the line for a neck massage, extensive general knowledge or the body of a hybrid demi-god.

I grabbed my vanity case and its matching weekend bag, plunked some random baseball cap over the carrier ‘steaming’ bag on my head.

“So you will fix the weave then?”

“Naa, I think I’m going to let my hair breathe.”

This is not fiction

Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones – Joseph, King of Dreams [DreamWorks Animation, 2000]

So, I was watching Joseph, King of Dreams (2000) from DreamWorks Animation, directed by Rob LaDuca and Robert C Ramirez and I was struck, once again, by how opportunities are sometimes disguised as opposition.

Most people talk about how Joseph rose from slave to supervisor, from prisoner to prince. They talk about how his gifts ‘made way for him and brought him before great men.’(The book of Proverbs Chapter 18; Verse 16)

I talk about that too but for some reason, I was fixated on his time in Potiphar’s household. I tried to put myself in shoes; to feel what he felt when he was elevated, to see through his life through his eyes. I don’t know if I succeeded but I surmised that if it was me, who was promoted from the lowest of the low to such heights,  I would be overwhelmed, overjoyed and over the moon. I would have thought that all my Christmases have come at once. It would never occur to me that there would be bigger and better things to come but that it would take a false accusation and imprisonment to push me to even greater heights.

I do question that, you know…why does it have to be or why does God have to use adversity to advance us? I’m not sure I have all the answers but what I do know is that when things are going well for me or when I get used to one good thing, I’m loathe to leave it for another. The only way I usually let go is if I’m ‘pushed’ out.

Sometimes, we hold on to a thing because ‘it ain’t broke’ so why fix it? We hold on because it works, we are comfortable with it and we don’t really see anything better than what we have. Even when we begin to sense deep inside of us that that’s not all there is to life…that if only we step out, we will meet something better, we still hold on.

And so God brings adversity, to loosen us from our ‘stuck’ state and move us into bigger and better…places we could never begin to imagine; heights we thought were too lofty to attain.

Then all of a sudden, it falls into place…what we thought were stumbling blocks were actually stepping stones! And the best thing that could have happened to us, was that we were ‘thrown into prison’ because our release took us straight into the place of kings.

Fiction

My Turkish Delight II

I thought I was the only one who was perfection-prone. MTD hated anything constituting even a fleck on his ‘beloved’ Range Rover Sport. ‘Baby ọku’ he called it. Or tried to call it.

The man was learning Igbo with a vengeance once I agreed to go out with him.

‘Go out with him’. A delicious thrill ran through me. I was going out with him for real! Almost too real, the hard-dried cynic in me reared its tiny, deadly head like a fragment of an egg-shell in a tastefully-prepared omelette.

Tufiakwa”, I spat the thought out.

Ine, what is it? Your eyebrows are furrowed.

That was MTD’s Achilles’ heel; he could never get the double Igbo consonants right. So the ‘nnes’ became ‘ine’; the ‘nnas’ became ‘ina’. ‘mmili’ became ‘imili’ and the ‘mmanu’ became ‘imanu’.

But, his herculean strength was he noticed everything…even the slightest change in body language.

And yes, my eyebrows were furrowed, deeply furrowed. I was worried.

I was worried because he was learning Igbo too quickly. I was worried because I could sense a change in him; a slight closing. For a man who was ridiculously open about anything and everything, My Turkish Delight was hiding something from me.

Mentally, I began to prepare myself for the inevitable; it was bound to happen. It always did at this point – the point where you’ve got past the awkward, ‘Let’s-just-see-where-this-is-taking-us’ stage to the ‘This-looks-promising’ stage’ – the point where a rhythm starts to flow in the relationship and all of a sudden, they pull away and…nothing! They end it. It’s over.

Using my usual defence mechanism, I began to work out, in my head, how things will end.

His calls will dwindle to once every other day.

He’ll stop WhatsApping me frequently.

He will be too ‘busy’ with his restaurants to see me.

The excuses will begin to range from the sublime to the ridiculous…

His everyday ringtone snapped me out of my train of thoughts.

“Hmm…okay…siyah…yep…yep…alright then.”

That was all I heard from his side of the conversation by which time, his brows were furrowed.

Ine, change in plans. I’m afraid you’ll have to shop alone.” We had arrived at the traffic lights beside the Ilford Sainsbury’s. “I’ll pick you up in a few hours.” All this was uttered with his eyes on the road. No eye-contact.

No words came to my mouth either.

By this time, we had arrived at another set of traffic lights just before the bus-stop beside the Ilford Railway station. An unfamiliar silence descended upon our closeness and instantly a chasm wedged itself between us.

MTD didn’t even bother with the car park. He just dropped me off at the bus-stop and sped off down Cranbrook Road before the amber lights turned red.

Siyah’. Black in Turkish. That much I knew. He had to be talking about me.

I don’t recall crossing the traffic lights into the Ilford Exchange or walking through TK Maxx or bumping into some man with shopping who asked me if I was alright. I do recall going into the Pound shop and walking round the aisles and back out. I had to get home. It was all over.

Ine, Ine!” MTD was shaking me awake. I had fallen asleep, in front of the T.V, on the big, red, lumpy sofa I had since Uni.

“What’s the matter, Ine? What’s wrong? I called and called, no reply. I went back to the shopping centre and …”

I looked up at him, eyes crusty from dried-up tears. His voice seemed to come from a long way away. I just stared at him and waited…waited for what I knew was coming; what I knew would rip my guts out, hang them out for the birds of depression to devour.

“We need to talk”. He dangled what looked like a fob before me.

‘We need to talk’…those four deadly words. I carried on waiting. I wasn’t going to help him stab me. If he wanted to break up with me, he had to do it himself; all by himself. Let him ‘need’ to talk. I will listen.

“I know this isn’t what you want…wanted, but,” he hesitated, stroking his close-cropped beard, the gesture I’d come to understand hid his nervousness…the gesture that took me back to our first meeting…it seemed so long ago now… “But”, he carried on, this is something I want…have been wanting to do.”

Well, of course it’s what you want, I screamed silently in my head, how about what I want??? My eyes showed no emotion whatsoever. I had become an expert at the term – dead-pan expression –  when it came to the inevitable ‘we-need-to-talk’ phase.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” MTD finally realised that he had been doing all the talking.

“What’s that in your hand?” I managed to croak through my pain-filled throat.

“What I’ve been trying to tell you but obviously failing woefully”, He smiled ruefully.

“Come.”

He didn’t wait for me to respond but pulled me up from the sofa, my favourite red, threadbare throw, trailing on the floor. His long strides made mincemeat of the distance between the hallway and the door.

“Bọbọ ọku!” He announced theatrically.

Parked in front of the driveway was Bọbọ ọku, indeed. A gleaming, metallic red Range Rover Evoque, complete with alloy wheels and leather trimming. The fob-like thing was its keys.

I looked at MTD in confusion, wonderment and amazement.

“I know, I know I said siyah but Gizem had nothing in black,” he’d never looked so doleful in his life. “I know, you don’t want me buying stuff for you, Miss Independent Woman, but I want to. That’s what we needed to talk about.”

He searched my face for a reply.

My eyes replied with a tear rolling down each one.

This time my silence was shame-filled.

[For Eso because she’s been asking for it for so long 🙂 ]

Fiction

Fat, Little Sh**!!!

I don’t swear.

Ever.

I don’t use swear words, four-letter words or expletives.

I don’t even think them.

The foulest word that comes to mind and mouth when I am excited or upset is ‘Bloody’ or the phrase ‘Bloody hell’ and even then I apologise.

But on the first day of the third month of last year, I swore.

You see, there’s this girl that works at the reception. She was hired on account of her expertise, connection to the CEO; everyone knew it. I wonder why she thought no-one could tell.

She was a picture of sullenness and surliness; nowhere near what her job specification required. She was also fat, short and had rat-tailed hair.

I avoided her as much as possible, tried to come in five minutes earlier than the start of the work day,  so I wouldn’t see her face in the morning. It reminded me of curdled milk and mouldy bread; enough to put one off Full English breakfast for life.

Anyway, on this fateful day, I slept early because I wanted to get up extra early and finish off two of my outstanding projects. Projects and toilette done, I headed off to the office. I wanted everything to be just right. It was going to be my big moment.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that part out loud because the moment I stepped out of my front door, everything went pear-shaped.

First, I locked myself out; keys left on the side table by the front door.

Then I missed my bus because I spent three futile minutes, pulling at the door as if that would have solved anything. Too impatient to wait for the next one, I sprinted to the bus stop on the side street to catch the alternative bus… it pulled away from the kerb just as I turned the corner.

Hot, sweaty and bothered, I called for a cab which arrived almost immediately, wonder of wonders! Then we got stuck on the high street rush hour traffic!

A limp, bedraggled me arrived at the office just in time, but not a lot to spare.

“You are late!”, a high-pitched whine from down below.

I had no idea that the whine was directed at me so I carried on…walked past the reception to swipe my card and…that whine again.

“Didn’t you hear me, Charlotte or have you got your finger stuck up your a*** again?”

No one, no one; least of all, a fat, short unpleasant ball of dough, called me ‘Charlotte’ and used offensive language in the same sentence. I was ‘Charlie’ to everyone except my father.

I halted mid-stride.

“Good. Next time, I prefer not to run after you to deliver any messages.”

With an alarming dexterity, I plucked the Post-It note from her hand without actually turning and looking at her.

“Next time, you have any need to speak to me, address me as ‘Charlie’ or nothing at all, you fat, little sh**!”

A gasp, followed by tens of gasps rolled over me as I walked off, swiped my card and got into the lift to my office.

Minutes later, Johnny at security popped his head through my door.

“Mr Gaines would like to speak to you”, he said sternly, the twinkle in his eye giving his true feelings away.

I took my time in getting to the CEO’s office. Fat, little sh** was already there.

I knew which way this was going to go; it went that way all the time. I stood, uninterested, waiting for the reproof, the reproval, the harangue I knew was coming.

“Nettie, how many times have I warned you not to speak to Charlotte with disrespect,” Mr Gaines, my father, the CEO of Gaines & Fuller Inc. asked my cousin wearily. “She’s ‘Charlie’ to you and everyone else.”

Two astonished faces stared back at him.

For the first time in a very, very long time, my father stood up for me.

“Thanks…dad.”

For the first time, in a very, very long time, I called him ‘dad’.