The Day I Met Idris Elba

It was about 6pm… a grey, wet and windy evening. The wooden gate was unlatched. It kept butting its head against its frame repeatedly. Lovely, it would have been if it was rhythmical, but it was grating on all nerves.

Everyone heard it; no one wanted to go and end it. By 6.15 pm, I had had enough. I marched down the stairs, snatched my mackintosh off the hook, grabbed the keys by the side table and jammed them into the keyhole. Of course, they didn’t all fit!

Taking a deep breath, I chose the right key and let the others hang down, shrugged on my Mac properly, put the right key back into the keyhole and turned. The wind had grown fiercer…it seized the door out of my hands. I didn’t fight back. I jumped out instead, and let the door slam shut.

With the wind howling and the gate frantic in its banging, like an animal in pain, I reached out to still the gate; give it some relief from the pain it seemed to be going through, when the beam of a set of headlights caught my hand in mid-action. There was a strange sort of spluttering and the car rolled to a stop right in front of us.

“Excuse me, is it alright if I come down here and have a look at the engine of my car? I think it’s run out of water.”

Car running out of water? Was that…? Is that…? To be honest, I don’t know much about cars so I couldn’t say if they would run out of water or not but something about that voice sounded weirdly familiar and like a woman in a trance, I held the gate open and waved ‘voice’ and car through. It rolled down the drive-way, while I finally latched the distressed gate.

“Sorry to impose upon you like this but I forgot to top up the water in the car’s radiator and I believe that’s the sound of it over heating.”

As it spoke, the figure unfolded itself from the driver’s side, legs stretching for miles. When all of it had finally made its way out of the ailing but beautiful, sleek, low-slung piece of machinery, it turned out to be a man…a tall, dark and handsome man, no cliché. Just like the car but with enough water to make knees weak.

The man stretched out another long extremity – his arm; hand extended for a shake…

“My name is Elba, Idris Elba.”

No, I didn’t faint or any such thing (wish I did though), I just woke up!

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Nkemjika – What I now was

“Nkemjika! Nkemjika!”

It was a voice that sounded familiar yet strange at the same time.

And it called from within, not without. If’anachọ had found space inside of me. I do not know how he got in there; I don’t recall making space for him but somehow, he found a way.

Even though Ugonna, Maduemesi and Izuchukwu had prepared me to find me, they had also left their marks on me. I knew who I was, I knew what I was but what I wanted or thought I wanted was tainted by what I had.

“I am here,” I replied.

But when I looked at him, I saw the outline of Ugonna, Maduemesi and Izuchukwu.

I did not think If’anachọ was what I was looking for.

He spoke plainly but I heard their voices.

He looked carefully but I saw their eyes.

He sat beside me quietly but I heard their noise.

“Is there something about me you do not like?” His calm eyes bore deeply into mine. I looked at him again, thoughtfully, this time. I kept my gaze steady; he neither blinked nor flinched. The longer I stared at him, the less I saw the vestiges of Ugonna, Maduemesi and Izuchukwu in him.

“Nkemjika,” he called again.

“If’anachọ, I responded.

“I am not them. I am me. See me for who I am. I found space in you even when you did not make it and I fitted in. Unless you permit me, I will not take of you nor bend you. Who you are, what you are, is all I want; all I need.”

If’anachọ, was the Looking that found me.

Not on a pedestal, not in the shadows, not waiting for failure to be my success.

Looking found me and filled a space it found in me.

Opportunity

Opportunity knocked,

Sat,

Got into bed with me.

I rolled away,

Waiting

For Opportunity to touch me

Tap me

Roll me back round and

Give of herself to me.

But

Opportunity didn’t.

She saw me asleep

And Opportunity doesn’t wait for you to be awake.

So she got up and left.

I got up and ran

After her

But Opportunity was gone.

Opportunity waits for no-one.

What I was not [II]

It’s funny how If’anachọ appeared that year I got to know myself. With a direct gaze, hands held out,  palms facing upwards, clean and empty, I was tempted, heavily tempted but three thoughts dropped into my mind, kpọm, kpọm, kpọm, as heavy and loud as the rocks Somto drops into the overflowing stream to dam it.

Thought One: Did I need If’anachọ?

Thought Two: Really need him?

Thought Three: Was I incomplete unless I had him?

To all three thoughts and questions, my answer was no.

+++

“You know my name means ‘that which we/they are looking for/seeking’ ” He carried on gazing directly into my eyes.

I allowed a ghost of a smile to travel across my lips in reply.

His direct gaze remained on me a little longer, steady and unblinking, in expectation of a reply.

He got none.

This was me.

Nkemji-ka – ‘the one I have is greater’.

+++

Why I failed to embrace my name before now, I am yet to know.

Why I allowed myself to dance in the shadows, be a polished trophy and wait for other people’s failures, I am yet to understand.

Be that as it may, if If’anachọ thinks he is what they or we are seeking then he needs to go find where the seekers are. I will not adjust myself for him to fit in. I will not twist, bend or fold, just so that I can create a space for him. If he really thinks he is indeed what ‘they/we’ are looking for, let him bend, twist, fold, contort even and fit himself to me… if he can find the space.

+++

I may not have known myself; embraced my name previously, but now I have.

I am no longer looking but if looking finds me and finds space in me, so be it.

What I was not

I was Ugonna’s back-up plan, the one he would come to when all others failed. Only some seemed to take too long to fail and so I stayed in the back-(ground), waiting for the failure of others to be my success.

+++

Then Mmaduemesi came along and set a fire in my belly but would not shine his light on me so others would see. I was his shadow-dancer, his night owl, his cloud that covers the moon. He loved me only in the dark; come daylight, I became a stranger; a nodding acquaintance.

+++

Izuchukwu kept me on a pedestal. He took me down twice a day to polish me; he cared not for the smile on my face or the shine of my tears. He wanted only to display my comeliness for all to see. If I felt anything, he did not notice, so long as I sat pretty for everyone to gaze upon.

+++

Strangely, Ugonna, Mmaduemesi and Izuchukwu helped me come to know myself…to discover that I was not made to be a back-up plan, a shadow-dancer or a trophy… that I should not be sitting and waiting for others to fail so that I could succeed…or hiding in the dark because someone didn’t really want me to be in the light nor should I be kept on a pedestal as a display of someone’s achievements.

I came to know that I did not have to be any of these.

I was more than a prize, a medal…an outline or silhouette…a backcloth or backdrop.

I was me.