Saturday, September 27, 2008
When a couple of Bloggers left comments on my last post asking me to pass along their thanks to my mother for having me, I chucked to myself, gave a tut tut and promptly forgot their request. Oh don’t get me wrong. It was a noble gesture. Very kind. Really sweet. Possibly sexy if I reconstructed the reason behind their thanks but the problem with acting on their suggestions was that no one took into consideration an important fact.
My mum is unofficially insane.
She’s been insane for a while, irreparably so. Long enough for me to know that there is no way to fix it and glaring enough for me to feel occasionally guilty.
Insanity, they say, is inherited. You get it from your children.
Guess which of her kid’s is responsible for driving her mad?
Okay. That’s a no brainier.
Stop giving me glaring looks. I’m not terribly proud of the fact that I’m responsible for 6 of the 8 wrinkles on my mum’s forehead. I keep pointing out to my mum that I didn’t exactly request for her when I was in heaven. I asked to be sent to either the Gates family or the Bush family. Some angel messed up with my paper work and sent me to some place called Nigeria. Home of the world’s smartest flies, 120 million people and the oldest known fossil (found clutching a preserved bag of golden coins); Nigeria was as unlikely a choice for my earth getaway as you could find.
But just as I came to fall in love with this disorganized country, finding within it countless little pieces of delight which a quick foray would never have revealed, I came to fall just as madly in love with my mum after getting over the fact that I probably would never have a Lear Jet with which to go to school.
My mum however, as far as falling in love was concerned, didn’t fall in as easily
I tasked her sanity right from Child birth. The Doctor, a man who I never got to meet but who I still feel pity for, walked over to her and stared whilst she groaned on the hospital bed.
We’re going to have to do a Caesarian he announced to the nurses. At that point his decision was stemmed from the need to save my Mum’s life. He needn’t have bothered. He should have asked me. My mum is the strongest woman I have ever met. She is also the queen of Multitasking. She could conduct a battle in War torn Germany, watch American Idol, figure out what needed to be bought in the house for supper and still have a baby just in time to catch the return of Idols after an advert. As it turned out, his life defining decision came to define certain things in my life. If anything the resultant scar would be reason for over a hundred speeches which I would come to hear from my mum,over flogging the persistent theme “You ruined my Bikini Days!”
My mum still insists that there has to be a record of me at Heathrow airport. As a 3 year old boy I somehow managed the astonishing feat of getting lost twice in the airport whilst still holding her hand. One minute I was there beside her asking her why those white men were looking at us that way. And the next, my mum was asking those white men if they happened to have seen a silly black baby come this way.
When I was five I tried to go for a record third MIA but my mum was ready. She pretended to look away whilst talking to a cousin of mine. Through the side of her eye she watched with astonishment as I made my move. I looked left, affecting an uninterested stare at a porter, and then right. I stole a surreptitious look at her supposedly busy self, and was satisfied with her apparent inattention. Sensing that the road seemed clear for my record making escape I made a slight shuffle away from her.
I don’t know about baby records but I’m sure Heathrow officials still watch a certain video which had a certain young boy screaming from the agony of having his ears turned in uncertain directions by an enraged mother. The video is probably filed under the folder “Barbaric acts of love by Africans.”
An hour later though I was on the plane heading back to Nigeria. The stewardess was conned by my toothy request to see the pilots flying the plane. My mum didn’t even protest. I got to seat in the cockpit with the Pilots whilst the white fools joked about “how solid a chap I was.” And how “great a pilot I would be in the future”
My mum didn’t smile when I returned. Maybe she was hoping the self eject button would malfunction and launch me back to heaven.
I was a confusing bundle of extremes.
My mum had come to happy terms with my brilliance at primary school. It was one of the few good sides to training an extremely mischievous child. Which was why she was shocked when she stumbled unto me lecturing the neighbors kids that a Gecko grew into a lizard which grew into a chameleon which grew into an alligator and inevitably into a Crocodile.
The kids next door stared with alarm at our fence which had lizards running everywhere and shivered with the thought of what it would be like in another 2 years when we had over a 100 crocodiles leaving in our backyards. When one of them found a Gecko crawling on the walls of his parlor his parents didn’t understand why he screamed so loudly.
I drove my mum crazy.
It’s an accepted fact now. Back then she fought hard against it. She refused to scream in frustration when she found me opening up our Black and white television because I wanted to fix it and add color. She refused to break out in tears when she realized that for the last month I had been flinging my uneaten Eba behind the bookshelf and waltzing to the kitchen with a cheery “I’m done.” Just so I could return to watching TV.
And when I replied to her request to put the machete away that the item in question was pronounced “Muh Shet ee” and not “Ma Chet!”—And could she repeat her request with the current pronunciation this time—she struggled really hard not to bury the machete in my neck.
We joke about it now.
She talks about how difficult a kid I was. How exasperated I used to make her feel. I laugh at her and pretend that I really can’t remember. It’s all an act. I really do. I remember the night I accidentally mixed her reserved 20 liters of petrol with 5 liters of kerosene. I remembered how angry she was when she worked in on me smoking the stub of a cigarette left by a guest. I remember how confused she used to be when I would be selected by Sunday school to represent them in Church quizzes saying I was by far the smartest and best Christian they had. I laugh as she jokes about these moments and I marvel at the resilience she showed through it all. Lord knows I wouldn’t have stood for it. I would have invited the kid for a trip to Lagos. Pulled over in the middle of the highway and toss his sorry butt unto the smarting tarmac. Fortunately my mum was much nicer. She just hung in there and got very very very good with the cane.
Every year my mum asks me if she is getting her Jeep.
I and my other siblings joke about it. (No I wasn’t the only child. There are 4 of us). We have all come to the decision that until we get our mum the Jeep she craves she never truly will forgive us for driving her mad. My younger brother, who gave my mum one of the remaining two wrinkles the week he was suspended for cooking corn stolen from a teacher’s farm, joked about it last month. We are getting weary of joking though. We have decided that next year we will seriously consider fulfilling the woman’s request even though she already has two and a half cars ( don’t get me started on the 20 year old Nissan she refuses to sell.). It is the least we can do, my sister said to me. I agreed with her, my mum has done a lot more than put up with us. She has sought to make us proud.When my mum teased my sister last year to consider getting married soon, my sister retorted that she wouldn’t consider the idea unless the invitation card sported the words “The family or Dr. Mrs. Thigszerlty..”
5 months later my mum registered and begun her PhD program.
“That woman self.” My sister groaned to me. “Now I have to get married.”
I will pass on all your thanks.
But I’ll need to do it in a much grander way. Simply saying thank you to a woman who we ( my siblings and I) collectively drove mad might not be enough. We need to do something to show that we are madly in love with her. That we are grateful to her for her persistent and occasional humorously role in our upbringing. (“AIDS is not like love” she once told us. “It is forever!”)
My sister has announced that from next month we shall all mandatorily chip into a “Mummy Present” foundationesque account which she is going to open. I am okay with the idea. Even better I am delighted with it. It is the least I can do to show my love for a woman who treated me with unbelievable patience in the midst of baffling stupidity.
I remember once I stood beside her in the kitchen as she strove to teach me the secrets of cooking. I watched as she stared the Jollof rice with a wooden spoon.
“Don’t stir the food with a metal spoon in a metal pot. The rice will just start burning.” She informed me.
I nodded my seven year old head in silent acknowledgment.
“What happens..” I asked. “If you stir it using a Plastic spoon in a plastic pot?”
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
10 years ago she asked me to write a story.
It wasn't for her. She wanted to enter it for the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. Excited with the idea i grabbed my pen(The good old days before the keyboard.) and proceeded to write as she requested.I ended up writing three short stories which she submitted.
I waited 6 long months for the result.
And i didn't win.
I felt miserable that day. I sat dejected in front of my meal angry with myself for letting her down. Angry with myself for putting my hopes up.
She walked into the room and, noticing my depression,came over and gave me a hug with a soft chickle.
"You're so silly." She said. "They were all good stories. You're a winner in my books."
It took me a while to grasp what she meant.
Today i seek to honor her.
Thinking of what to write,I came to the realisation that i had no idea how to go about expressing my love for her. Words seemed mere beside all she had done for me. Nothing I thought of seemed fitting enough.I wanted something she would love and approve off. Something that told her how much i valued her contribution to my life.
It shouldnt have been dificult.
It took a lot of digging within my box but i finally found them.I pulled out one of the three stories I had written for her. I laughed as I read it. Looking at it now i see how i never could have won.
And yet I did win in a lot of ways.I won a valuable lesson in life.
Never to let my failures get to me.
And she taught me that lesson.
I am posting his for her without correcting my old mistakes.I am proud in my flaws because they can only mean i can get better.I am humbled by the fact that despite my flaws I always been perfect to her.
I am here because of her.
I am me because of her.
Happy Birthday Mum.
This one's dedicated to you.
I ran through the woods.
Cutting out paths were none existed. Branches whipped back slapping against my skin. I had cuts in so many places, I had lost track of where. I could feel the cold trickle of blood but not the pain. There was no time for pain.
All I could feel was fear.
They were trying to kill me.
Thus far they had been unsuccessful. Perhaps as a result of lack of skill. Perhaps as a result of my luck. Whichever it was, one was bound to soon outweigh the other. The end would come soon and it would star either a blood-spattered me or a dead and still blood-spattered me.
I loved the injured living me idea better and so I ran faster, ignoring my wounds. They would eventually heal once I escaped.
I would escape.
They had thrown caution to the wind. Bullets were being fired at me and places where “me” might have been.
I stumbled and fell just in time to avoid a bullet that clunked into a tree above me.
How many where there?
Three, four, five.
I didn’t know.
I was certain of three I had seen. Fleeting glances, but they had stuck. One had a red shirt on and the other two were dressed in army fatigues. I was also certain that there was another ahead of me. Possibly two.
Three, four, five men trying to kill me.
I leaped successfully over a boulder that appeared from nowhere. Behind me, I could hear the panting and curses of the men. They were tiring. I was losing them. There was a secret cave half a mile ahead. If I could just reach it. Perhaps this would be over.
But first, I would have to reach it. Another bullet whizzed by me. A quick streak of light on my periphery. They were hungry,
Must run faster.
I didn’t want to die.
My life was measured by seconds. It had been four minutes since the first shot was fired. A life time ago.
As I took a measured leap over a log that lay in my path, I felt a blurring pain in my leg and realized that I had been hit. I screamed.
In shock? In fear? In pain?
I stumbled, attempted to keep up with my pace and then I fell.
I refused to yield. I tried to crawl.Ignoring the growing pain. There was no time to stop and cry. I had a plan. All I needed to do was complete it.
Up ahead of me there was a cave. If I could get to it …..
Perhaps I could hide.
Perhaps I could live.
I swore to myself.
I would live.
I would not die.
The harsh rusting of leaves warned of their impending presence. Seconds later three men burst through the woods. Red shirt was one of them. None of the other two wore fatigues.
There were five.
I watched them approach with loathing. Strangely, I had no fear. All I felt was blinding hatred and anger.
“We got him” Red shirt said. He was panting. Out of breadth.
I made him run. I thought to myself. A spasm from my gunshot wound almost blinded me with pain. I gritted my teeth. I would not scream in front of these men.
No. I swore to myself again. I would not die.
I would live.
“Not yet!” Another said reaching for his gun.
I stared at him with hate.
I would live.
Leaving the woods, one deer shy.
Monday, September 15, 2008
It was hard to place when he died.
A minute earlier I had stood unnoticed beside him on the edge of the road.
He was waiting for the traffic lights to turn red so he could safely cross. We were not alone. Other pedestrians hovered around. It was a couple of minutes after 4 and most had the tired look of frustrated workers who would give anything to stay at home and explore the possibilities of regaining sanity. With slightly hunched backs, they clutched their worn out briefcases impatiently, their eyes focused almost permanently on the lights. The god for the moment were those traffic lights.
His rule was law. Right now his rule was red. They awaited his green.
Like them he had a briefcase as well. A worn out leather affair which sported a tiny sticker announcing ,to any who cared to read, that he was employed in those most ambivalent of jobs. Logistics and Accounting Resources.
If the tell tale wires didn’t betray him, his gentle bob from side to side let everyone in on his estrangement from this noisy impatient world. He whistled inaudibly as he listened to some song on his IPod.
He went everywhere with the IPod. I had heard him say a couple of times that it kept him sane at work. Having an IPod, he often said, made his life a lot easier.
It certainly helped killing him.
The truck roared down the road flying towards the junction. Eager to round up for the day, the driver didn’t pay attention to the traffic light as he approached. That was his first mistake. He only noticed the red light a couple of meters before the junction. He panicked and attempted to slow down quickly to correct his oversight. He slammed on his breaks.
That was his second mistake.
The truck went into a slide. Shrieking loudly it fishtailed across the road sending neighboring pedestrians into a survival run. People screamed. The air was suddenly filled with shouts of warning, shock and Outrage. He didn’t hear any of them.
Once the lights turned green he took a casually step into the streets whistling the chorus of his favorite song. He was feeling in a good mood and why not? In another 5 minutes he would have been home.
If the truck hadn’t hit him.
3500 kilos of uncontrolled metal slammed into him. The IPod was an instant victim. It shattered beneath the force breaking it into a thousand pieces which mixed easily with his shattered bone. Pain burst into his beautiful world of music. All of a sudden his image of home was gone replaced by one of flying glass, whirling surroundings and blinding pain. The force of the impact tossed him into the air like a bean bag kicked by an angry kid. There was a stream of red as he flew. His Mind barely had time to comprehend what was happening before he hit the floor with a resounding slap echoed by the screams of horror from the pedestrians. The force of the landing cracked a rib. He slid to a stop with his leg bent at an unnaturally crooked angle, he didn’t notice it yet but he had left three of his toes behind.
Oh god he silently gasped battling the streaming pain.
And then the cars hit him.
The toss has sent him into the opposite green lane. Cars swerved to avoid hitting the sprawled man but they weren’t quick enough. Three cars ran over him. Sending his body flaying across the highway. A sickening streak of blood marking his trample skid.
By the time traffic came to a shocked stop it was over.
It was pretty hard to place when he died. In five seconds he had suffered an unbelievable sequence of physical trauma. He had so many broken bones the doctors would need to have a series of operations before they could repair him. He would be in bed for months just trying to flex his remaining two toes if he had survived. But he didn’t.
He was dead.
I made my way slowly across the street.
There really was no need to hurry. Most people were in stunned shock, others had rushed over and were crowded around his body wondering how quickly they could get him to the hospital. They needn’t have bothered. He was as dead as a stone cast into an ice pond.
I didn’t say this because I could see the gaping hole through his side, or I already knew about the fractured spine which the doctors would later find. I knew he was dead for certain because he was meant to be.
It was the reason I was here.
He was the reason I was here.
I had come expressively for him. Like a driver waiting at the arrival airport I had come to pick him up.
I was his assigned escort angel.
I stood beside his dead body and watched his living soul come to terms with the suddenness of its release. After a couple of blinks his eyes came to rest on me. They widened in alarm.
“Dead?” I finished for him. I nodded my head gravely.”Yes. Yes you are.”
He scowled at me.
“I was going to say naked. Am I naked?”
I stepped back in surprise.
“Well, no….I don’t think you are. You look okay to me. A bit hairy but that’s accepted fashion in heaven.”
He looked quickly at me.
I read the question in his eyes.
“Yes.” I confirmed. “You’re going to heaven. You lived a righteous life.”
He closed his eyes with what I thought was joy. I was wrong. He opened them a second later and the fury in them stunned me. He glared at me and said in an extremely clear voice.
“What?” I gasped.
“Get lost. I’m not going to heaven. Not now at least. Come back in another 50 years. I should be ready by then.” He got up and dusted himself down.
Ordinary I would have been amused. Our celestial gowns are pretty neat stuff. It was almost impossible to get them dirty. Even Lucifer (heretofore to be referred to as “whatshisface”) was impressed with it. Thousands of years of wearing it in hell and he still looked clean whenever he stopped by for a debate. But I wasn’t in a mood to talk about the benefits of wearing the celestial robe. Not when I had a soul who was claiming he didn’t want it.
He was walking away from the accident site. I ran after him quickly. For a soul who had just suffered an accident he was in pretty good shape.
“Sir …” I began as I reached him..
“Quit that. You know my name. It’s Nnamdi.” He looked across at me “Stop being so formal. You’re an angel aren’t you? When the angels came to meet Mary they didn’t say “Ma’m you’ll be handed a young Sir by Immaculate Conception. We’d prefer if you called the young Master, Jesus. Please sign here if you approve.”
I gasped and looked around quickly.
He closed his eyes in irritation and kept on walking. I wondered where he was heading too.
“Sir...er…Nnamdi. We really have to go.” I said again.
“No we don’t. I’m not going anywhere. I already told you that.” He snapped at me.
What’s your name?” He asked.
“Mourinho.” I replied.
“Okay.” He said. “Mourinho...Fuck off!”
The thing about swearing was that it wasn’t always a sin. It was so hard to decide where exactly one placed these loud exclamations by humans. Humans considered swearing as wrong and too some extent they were right. Using the lord’s name in vain was a sin. But where did you place scenarios where people asked you to go sleep with someone. It was clearly an offered suggestion. Was it a sin? That was unclear. To decide that you had to be aware of the facts surrounding the question. What was his relationship with the person who yelled “FUCK YOU!”? If it was his wife did it make it okay? If she meant it as a joke did it make it okay? Even more importantly, if it was none of the above why wasn’t it okay. When a person yelled out the words SHIT and FUCK he was deemed to be in the wrong by humans. But in the ethereal the jury was still out on how exactly it qualified as a sin.
SHIT and FUCK were body functions experienced by every human. Why was saying it a bad thing? Most humans were offended by mouthed utterances with such words and yet they smiled and laughed when they talked about words like SEXY and MONEY. Two words that had us angels cringing in our boots over the infinity of possibilities.
What was wrong with yelling out occasional words that meant nothing really? Why couldn’t a person yell out “SHIT” when he fell down a flight of stairs? When Jesus was being crucified I doubted he whistled “Whistle whilst you work.”
It was a running debate amongst us Angels. When did cussing go from being an expression of emotion to a damnation of your soul?
“Damn you” was clearly a sin, but” Fuck off?”
How did one handle that?
“You don’t want to go to heaven.” I asked slowly. It was the first time I had come across a soul who wasn’t excited about going to heaven. Most of the time they were eager to rush home. Nnamdi was something different.
He sighed and slowed down in front of a door.
“No... Well yes. Yes I do.”
He looked at me and walked right through the door.
We were standing in a room that appeared to be the parlor. In the corner a TV was set on some local Cartoon cable channel. The room was resultantly filled with the high pitched chatter and happy notes of kiddy fun. In a corner sat a young girl. She looked to be in her late teens. Her eyes were pale behind the glasses she was wearing. Propped up against her knee, she was reading from a book. Her look was one of intense concentration.
“I do want to go. But I can’t. Because of her .I can’t leave her behind.” Nnamdi’s eyes clouded over. “She is my daughter.”
”Your wife….” I began.
“Is dead?” He finished for me. “Yes she is, she died two years ago.”
I pretended to scowl.
“I was going to say Not naked. Your wife is not naked.”
He smiled for the first time and then broke into a chuckle.
“She’s in heaven. Dressed are you are.” I said.
“That’s good. I’m glad.” Nnamdi said staring at his daughter. “But I really can’t leave her here. I’m all she has in the world now. If you take me now who will take care of her?” He looked at me quickly “Don’t you dare say Angels!”
I remained quiet and pondered the situation.
“I’m serious Mourinho. I’m not going to heaven. I’d rather go to hell than spend one minute in heaven with my daughter left behind. She is too young to go to through life alone. I’m all she has right now. You can’t take me. I’d go to hell first” He said.
There was a loud whoosh and all of a sudden fire flashed all around us. Suddenly the room was filled with the glare of bright burning fire. I could feel the soft heat emanating from his body. I peered through the fire at the new person who had just joined us.
“My name is Michael.” Angel Michael said.
Nnamdi nodded his head. His face had a stunned look. I didn’t blame him. The chariot of fire was an incredible vehicle to behold. The burning horses pawed the ground softly. Resplendent in their flaming beauty. Talk about smoking hot.
“How come you don’t have one of these things?” he asked me admiring the burning Chariot.
Angel Michael caught it and frowned. I felt like kicking myself in the wings. Blushing in front of archangel. It wasn’t going to look good on my file. He turned from me to Nnamdi.
“We’re sending you back.” Angel Michael said softly.
The change on Nnamdi face was incredible. Suddenly his eyes moistened with joy, the frown on his face quickly replaced by a radiant smile.
“Don’t be too happy. Your body is in pretty bad shape. We’ll fix your spine and hasten your healing but it’s still going to take months before you’re okay. You’ll have to walk with a limp for the rest of your life.” He peered at Nnamdi.” that shouldn’t bother you.”
Angel Michael nodded.
“That’s good then. Here is what should bother you. It’s not easy getting into heaven. Ask Moses. All that good and he almost didn’t make it. You’re going to have to work very hard to make sure you get in a second time. The demons are unto you now. They’ll work over time to frustrate you into falling. They’ll taunt you with your condition. Anything to make you falter.” Michael rubbed a hand on one of the horses Mane. “Don’t.” He warned.
Angel Michael beamed and then pulled out a parchment with an accompanying quill.
“Very well then. One last thing to do and you’re good to go. You need to sign your release form. Nothing special. Protocol you understand. Just a simple disclaimer. You are aware of your actions; you are sound of mind and in good health... of course you are. ..You’re dead. Ha Ha.”
I watched Nnamdi ass he signed whilst Michael chatted merrily.
I was moved about how much he cared for his daughter. The last three months I had witnessed acts of human sacrifices that had stirred me. I had seen men starve for their family. I had seen mothers suffer unspeakable acts of torture so they could protect their children. I had see brothers shiver so their sisters could be warm. But this… a father giving up his position in heaven just so his daughter could go through life a little happier. This I hadn’t seen. This was love.
Unquestioned. Uncontrolled. Unconditional. Uncanny.
And then it was time for him to go.
“It was nice meeting you Mourinho.” He said with a smile.
I nodded my head. I was at loss what to say to him. Goodbyes were not something I was used too.
And then I had an idea.
“Sod off!!” I said.
He broke into a chuckle, a soft rumble which grew into loud laughter. His face was contorted with mirth as he laughed really hard. He was still laughing when he vanished. I hoped his body didn’t break out into laughter in the ambulance.
“Nice guy.” Michael said. “If he survives the first five years he’ll definitely be back here.”
He tapped my shoulder and got into the burning chariot.” I’m sorry about that. Every now and then we get people who just don’t want to go to heaven yet. Most of the times we persuade them but when chaps like yours start asking to be sent to hell instead…. Well...You want to just listen to their demands and send them back in.”
I nodded my head sagely. Then a thought occurred to me.
“What did you mean by him surviving the first five years?”
“Oh nothing really. His accident was pretty bad. He’s going to need a lot of surgery before he is okay. But eventually he’ll be fine. One thing’s for sure though. He is going to be impotent for at least the next 5 years.”