One Year Blog Anniversary and Epiphanies

Today, a year ago, I wrote my first blog post after three years hiatus from blogging; a blog which I deleted, by the way. [To be honest, I didn’t actually write it, I just copied and pasted one of my old posts just to get me started]

But today’s post, funnily enough, is not about that. Even though I had this grand plan of writing this great anniversary post! This post of all posts that will trump all other posts!!!

Man proposes, while God disposes, right? [One of my mum’s favourite sayings]

Anyway, today’s post is based on a realisation of myself; a realisation that I have this child-like quality of taking people at their word. That, when someone tells me something, my first, second and third reaction is to believe them. I don’t see any reason why they’ll lie to me as I know I wouldn’t lie to them so, why shouldn’t I believe what they say? It also means that I put a lot of value on words and I don’t believe people should profess things lightly. So when someone tells me something, even though their actions say the very opposite, I tend to believe what they say rather than what they do.

So, I was ruminating over a certain situation; someone had been saying stuff to me for, well, quite a while now but it was only today that it struck me that that’s all they ever do – say stuff.

During my ruminations, a word dropped into my mind – ‘By their fruit, you shall know them.’

Now I know not everyone believes the Holy Bible or reads it or agrees with it. To some, it is a fairy tale, to others, a folk tale or a tale written by men for reasons best known to them. Be that as it may, some of our everyday sayings, our thought processes, even the general moral code by which some of us – believers, non-believers and unbelievers – live by, come from the Book.

Have you ever used the term ‘scapegoat’? Then you refer to the goat that was ‘presented alive before the LORD to make atonement…and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness’. (Leviticus 16:10) The scapegoat is, putting it literally, ‘the one who sends the sins away’.

What of the term or the idea of a ‘David and Goliath’ situation? For example, when there’s a stand-off between a small, cottage business and a giant (no pun intended) conglomerate? Well, you’re looking at 1st Samuel 17:32-51, when David, a simple, shepherd boy ‘smote’, Goliath a giant of over nine feet tall, with a slingshot! (I love that word – smote).

My point is that whatever you believe, or not believe, the Holy Bible is a treasure trove, a rich source of, quite frankly, a whole lot of stuff!

Take for instance this scripture that I mentioned at the beginning – ‘By their fruit, you shall know them, as simple and as self-explanatory as it is, it hit me with the force of icy water poured on a deep sleeper!

You know how you work hard to make a relationship work? You give excuses for the person; reminding yourself of how wonderful they were when you first met them or how wonderful they used to be? Or how you try to convince yourself that your boss is really alright? That it’s not his/her fault? It’s just stress, traffic, cold coffee, a dirty carpet, cigarette stains on the desk…[you fill in the rest]

Well, the Holy Bible has news for you! (…me actually. I’m just including you so that I’m not alone in my situation 🙂 )

You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore, by their fruit, you shall know them.” – Matthew 7:16,18,20.

Some of you might be formulating a counter argument, reply or riposte. I respect that but while you’re doing that, let me just finish the point I was making.

Rather than waste my time, justifying a person’s behaviour, I’ve begun to ask questions; questions I never really asked before this epiphany of mine.

I’ve now begun to ask – “What is their fruit? What are their actions? What do their actions say to me?

You say you love me but that’s all you do…say. When I look back at how long you’ve been saying you love me, I realise that you’ve actually done nothing for me, zilch! Nada! It’s all been undying professions of love but when the opportunity arises to do something confirming and re-affirming that love, you’re suddenly ill, incommunicado or extremely busy with very important things.

You say I’m an excellent worker but when the time/opportunity arises for you to promote me or reward my excellence, you prolong, procrastinate, or even prevaricate! You say, you declare, you pronounce! You tell everyone, you speak of it everywhere…you do nothing!

You are the tree; your actions are your fruit.

As a mango tree, when I come to you, in your season – the month of May –  I expect to find ripe and ready-to-be-plucked mangoes, not guavas, paw-paws or coconuts. I may even accept unripe/undeveloped mangoes, if not, then you’re of no use to me or to anyone whom you’ve convinced of your ‘mango-ness’.

People’s actions are a clear indication of who they are. Are there exceptions? Of course but that’s not what this post is about. Today’s post is for all those, like me, who know deep down inside that a person is a fraud but find it difficult to accept because of all the wonderful things they say that warm the cockles of your heart – by their fruit, you shall know them. And if they are fruitless or are producing a strange fruit; if they say good things, profess love and all other sweet things, remember, that ‘faith without works is dead’.

If a brother or a sister is naked and destitute of daily food and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled”, but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?’ The Book of James 2:14-17

Following Your Heart: Walking The Straight and Narrow

My sister once said to me, “Follow your heart and everything will be alright.”

She isn’t the only one.

A lot of people say that.

On social networking sites, blogs, articles in newspapers and magazines, and in everyday conversations.

I’ve always pictured following your heart as this path you walk, in the early morning light, when the day is yet to break fully. The sky is a canvas filled with pink bubbles and cream cakes with a dose of lemon and ginger tea to balance things out.

The fact is, and I’ve come to realise this, that ‘following your heart’, requires you to be on the straight and narrow; to make your ‘heart’ the focus even when your head is scared witless and wants to go back into its shell, its safe and secure place, where the familiar is prince and routine is king.

‘Following your heart’ means you close your ears to people who will kindly push you off the straight and narrow with their well-meaning advice.

‘Following your heart’ means closing your eyes to other people; people who appear accomplished, people who have ‘arrived’, while you’re still journeying.

Your path is not theirs.

Following your heart also means hardening that heart to decisions that may hurt in the beginning but pay off at the end.

And so I have followed my heart to Okada Books.

I will still share short stories here on Roastcornandube; serialised stories will be on Okada Books.

Follow your heart too.

And people who your heart call to, will come to you and with you.

MIASMA

I’m not even sure that’s the right word for it but every time I think about it, that word MIASMA, jumps into my mind.

What is this ‘it’? you ask.

‘It’ is this wall…not solid, stretchy like a balloon, you know. Like a wall of jersey…you try to go through it and it just, well, stretches.

Your face is imprinted on it like one of those spooky, religious ‘iconic’ paintings.

You try to break through, but it feels like drowning.

You know there’s something on the other side; it keeps calling to you but the feeling of drowning is too strong…you pull back.

You try again, this time you are able to poke a hole with your index finger. You put two fingers through, then a hand and then an arm but that will not suffice. You know this.

Your face, your whole head needs to get through that stretchy wall; that MIASMA.

You don’t though.

The feeling of drowning overwhelms you so you push a little, then stop. You push some more, then stop. You’re busy, you’re active.

You convince yourself that it can’t be all that bad, at least, you’re doing something.

But,

You know you’re not.

You know that if you don’t break through that MIASMA, you’ll never extend, expand, grow, blossom.

A CURIOUS CASE OF EDEMED’ITIS [AKA WRITERS’ AFFLICTION]

“Are you not going to write?” Ada-Dadii asked me.

“I am but the writing has refused to obey?”

“What do you mean?” My sister-in-writing looked nonplussed. “Are you not the writer? How can your writing not obey you? Isn’t that your darling pencil in your hand? Ehn, make her obey!”

My gaze didn’t waver from my blank page.

“Ada-Dadii you don’t understand. Writing and I don’t have that kind of relationship; I’m not the boss of her. For instance, the other day, I started a blog post and my writing decided to turn itself into a short story. Next, I tried to write a short story and it refused to go beyond a blog post! Nne, kee ife isim mee? What do you say I should do?”

Ada-Dadii sat down beside me, a pensive look on her face, “Hm, this is very serious o! OKB, this is a curious case of Edemed’itis.”

“Yes”, she answered my unspoken question, “Edemed’itis! It is a condition that afflicts every writer from time to time so that they cannot put form to the many stories in their head. Even if they do manage to write anything down, they never really finish it or they begin another in the midst of one they were writing before!”

After a long pause, in which I ruminated over her words, I raised my head and looked straight into my sister-in-writing’s magnificent brown eyes.

“Does this Edemed’itis have a cure, a solution, an antidote?!”

“I…” A veiled look and those magnificent eyes turned away, “…can’t say, OKB, just write.”

“That’s what they all tell me…”

Mr D. Preshon Pt. 2 or What Jehlani Saw.

Jehlani saw swirling mists and darkness.

Darkness so deep and complete that it was hard to make out the figure of her friend standing at the door.

She reached in and tugged gently on her friend’s forearm; moved her an inch into the brightness of summer but the darkness slammed them both hard… back into its swirling vortex!

Jehlani saw Mr D. Preshon’s face in the vortex. It spun around her and Meeya like one of the scenes from a Batman movie; one where the Joker has his face plastered round his victim’s mind and the mind fractures into a thousand pieces, unable to bear the malevolence behind the rictus of a smile…

…the smile, that same smile that Mr D. Preshon offered to her that fateful day at a cafe in Cambridge opposite the Fitzwilliam museum where her mum was invited to give a talk about the origins of the Afro comb.  Did she resist him? How did she resist him? Did he come back? She couldn’t remember…she couldn’t seem to remember anything. This mist…this fog…this darkness; the swirling, the eddying…

Focus, Jehlani! Focus! Her mind screamed at her, silently, in her mum’s voice.

Her mum, that was it! Her mum…what was it? The thought was swirling in the vortex with her. She needed to capture it before it got sucked away into the never-ending abyss that was Mr D.Preshon’s abode.

Her mum referred to Mr D. Preshon as nwa Ekwensu – Ekwensu’s offspring; Ekwensu being the god of mischief. She also said that Ekwensu came from the phrase, ‘Onye kwe, o su’ – ‘when one yields, it will commence’…Ekwensu’s life blood was acquiescence, cut that off and he had nothing…

All these thoughts passed through Jehlani’s mind in mere seconds. She knew she could ‘resist’ nwa Ekwensu, Mr D. Preshon, as it were, but what of Meeya?

‘First things first’, her mum’s voice in her head again.

She focused her entire being on her mum’s voice and began to push back at the mist, bit by bit. She pushed and shoved, keeping her mum as a point of focus. The mist fought back but it had no form, no shape and for Jehlani, it had no point of focus. In her mind, she could see her mum commanding imperiously “Nwa Ekwensu, be gone!” … and then the mist disappeared.

Jehlani opened her eyes, slowly. She was still holding on tight to Meeya and just as tightly, Meeya’s eyes were still closed; her face contorted in fear and pain. Her work wasn’t done, Jehlani thought. Her friend had been pulled deep, too deep into Nwa Ekwensu’s lair; she would need to distract him while she drew Meeya away from his grasp.

“Mr D. Preshon!” Jehlani yelled into the vortex, injecting as much scorn and contempt as she could muster, “Pick on someone your own strength!”

She felt a bristling from the pushed-back mist and pulled Meeya towards her with all the strength she could gather.

‘CLANK!’

Her friend was chained! This wasn’t a case of ‘distract-and-extract’, this needed something drastic but subtle at the same time; drastic may prove more damaging to Meeya.

“What to do…what to do” Jehlani muttered a touch frantically to herself, all the while clutching firmly unto Meeya’s hand. She wasn’t about to let her go, no matter what.

“Meeya! Meeya!, Jehlani whispered. Something else her mum once told her – names weren’t just appellations but powerful markers of one’s chi, identity and self. That in Age of the Spirits, if you heard your name being called and answered without establishing if the caller was human or elemental, you disappeared.

Jehlani needed to keep calling her friend’s name but she wasn’t sure what she would say to her if Meeya did reply, still chained by Mr D. Preshon. She had been visited by Mr D. Preshon but neither captured nor chained so what do you say to someone going through something you’ve never been through before???

What would my mum do? Jehlani conjured up her mum’s face in her mind’s eye once again. She would keep calling Meeya by name to keep her chi from going over completely, speaking to her until she established some kind of link.

“Meeya,” this time, Jehlani raised a voice a notch louder than a whisper. “Don’t let go of my hand, whatever happens. Just like you didn’t let go when we were being chased by that pit bull at East Ham Central Park and we had to jump over that thing…what was it again?”

A flicker of something other than fear passed across Meeya’s face, Jehlani held her breath –

“Barking Central Park, not East Ham, you dolt.” Jehlani could barely make out Meeya’s croaky whisper before her face returned to its previously fear-and-pain contorted state.

A huge sigh of relief escaped from Jehlani before she could stop it. Actually, she didn’t care if Mr D. Preshon heard it or knew what she was plotting.

Her friend had responded to her.

Jehlani saw that there was hope.

Whitney Houston

It’s not right and it’s not okay

You said you wouldn’t close one more door

To make me hurt anymore.

You walked away from me

And now I have nothing…

‘Cuz I don’t have you.

I thought you would save all your loving for me

I thought you knew me so well…

Knew that I wanted you to dance with somebody…

…Me

Didn’t we almost have it all, Whitney…

…Didn’t we?

Why does it hurt so bad, Whitney?

I’m so emotional Whitney.

Even though I know that

It will take eternity to break us

And the chains of Amistad couldn’t hold us.

So where do broken hearts go?

When the open arms of their love is not waiting there?

I want to run to you, Whitney

But you’re not there.

So I have to believe

That there can be miracles

That the Greatest love of all

Will never let me stand alone

That I have to stop crying because

On earth we weren’t meant to stay

So goodbye Whitney

But only for a time

Because

You will be waiting, for me, for us…after judgement day

Mr D.Preshon [ Pt1]

He wasn’t even ugly which was ironic.

From the way some people described him and the aftermath of his visits, I was expecting to see a grotesque, malformed creature; a cross between Oji-Onu and Quasimodo.

He was neither.

He was just an ordinary looking fellow with ordinary looking features.

No deformity, no ‘malformity’, nothing.

So, when he brought with him darkness, soullessness and utter nothingness, I wasn’t prepared.

***

I met him at a time when I felt like ‘all my lines had fallen to me in pleasant places.’ I was doing well in my business – an online stop-gap store; a sort of middle-man type thing where people who wanted unusual gifts or items could place their orders and I’ll source it for them. When I acquire the item and sent them proof of it, they paid. If I couldn’t get it, I would try to find an alternative. If they weren’t happy with the results and didn’t want the substitute, then they didn’t have to pay a penny. That rarely happened though but in the event that it did, I would advertise it on my site as a ‘buy-now’ purchase. It never failed to find a buyer.

So yeah…I was doing quite well on that front and if business ever got too slow, I just dusted my agency registration card and took a few temp office jobs to tide over any dry spells.

But…one thing I didn’t do; perhaps I thought there was no need to, was acknowledge that there was a small hole in my centre and within that hole, some kind of light-deflecting mist, swirling in slow, lazy arcs. Had I know that that was the point of contact, the opening of the portal, for his visit, I would have done something about it; what, I didn’t know but something.

***

It was a glorious autumn day, with a slight nip in the air but not enough to send diners into the warm confines of cafés. Sitting outside on a table of two, I clutched, in one hand, a steaming, mug of hot chocolate dusted with cinnamon and an amaretti biscuit in the other. I wasn’t really thinking about anything, just soaking up the relatively warm sunshine before the much colder months set in.

Next thing, I felt, rather than saw a shadow in front of me; it blocked the sunshine momentarily, and then it sat facing me.

“Mind if I join you”? The shadow asked.

I shook my head, a bemused eyebrow raised. I couldn’t possibly say no when it had sat down already, could I? In any case, it was a café, open to anyone who wanted to sample its fares.

“Is the coffee any good”? He inquired.

“It’s hot chocolate actually and it is the best”, I couldn’t hold back the smile, “To me, anyway.”

“Then maybe I’ll have one and a couple of those delicious-looking biscuits”, he smiled back or rather arranged his features in what was trying to look like a smile.

At this point, I should have downed my drink at the risk of burning the back of my throat and excused myself sharpish but what was being British if you weren’t polite regardless of the warning sirens blaring your head. So, I carried on sipping my ambrosia slowly and before I knew it, I had told him all about my business and how fulfilled I was and how everything was pretty much…well, peachy. As soon as I mentioned the word ‘fulfilled’, he smiled; this time, a real smile but a smile of swirling cold mists and scorching, acrid smoke.

“Fulfilled, then why did you summon me?”

“Summon you?” I stared at him stupefied, “Man, I don’t even know you!”

“You don’t? Then why do you have something that belongs to me?” He pointed at my midriff.

I rose up quickly from the aluminium chair, dropped some bills on the table and stumbled away; almost tripping over the cobblestones in an effort to put as much distance as I could between me and the man that introduced himself to me as Mr D. Preshon.

***

In the weeks that followed that fateful meeting, I managed to keep things ticking over quite nicely but when I wasn’t online, I was under my bed covers watching mindless television. I didn’t, wouldn’t go out; I didn’t, wouldn’t have people come over; I did nothing but stare into the darkness that threatened to overwhelm me.

I plastered smiles on my face when I had to deal with people face-to-face.

I inserted the cheeriest tone in my voice when I had to answer the phone.

No one saw the darkness. No one seemed to understand.

“I’ve met Mr D. Preshon,” Moji told me. A faint ray of light flickered in the darkness; I waited expectantly for her to reveal how she dealt with the aftermath of his visit so I could do the same.

“He’s a harmless guy that likes to sit and chat with people at outdoor cafés,” she carried on cheerily, “He’s no harm at all, no harm.”

Bailey and Gina said pretty much the same thing; although Gina did mention that she felt a bit down after she had spoken to him, “but only for a few days, mind… I just shook it off.”

Well, I couldn’t shake it off!

Three months went by, then six, then nine and by then, the darkness was complete.

It deafened me.

It blinded me.

It caused me to see only despair, desperation and defeat.

Even though I had only met Mr D Preshon once, I recognised that ‘harmless’ voice, drawing me into that vortex of swirling mists and scorching acrid smoke. I had nothing left to fight it; I rose up in a trance to follow that voice, to walk into that portal to the other side…I had no more reserves left…nothing that could stop me from losing myself in the maelstrom.

At that very moment, the moment I reached the opening of the portal, I heard a barely discernible knocking at my front door. Persistent like the buzzing of a stubborn mosquito, it slowed my steps and altered the form of the mist. If I didn’t stop that knocking, I wouldn’t be able to get into that mist and it was calling me now frantically; urgently. So, I went to the door to send the ‘knocker’ away with a flea in their ear.

It was Jehlani.