On Rainy Days – Danta’s Letters#1


Dear Ogonne,

It’s was raining and the sound of it beating on my roof woke me up. It’s been several minutes since I have been listening and watching the rain through my fogged window. If you had asked me how I felt, I’d tell you that I was happy and sad. Happy that obviously it’s raining, the sound of the rain feels like an old friend, the same as the organ that bellows in my church. There’s nostalgia and a lot of memories that come with the rain. I’m sad because I would really like to be out there in the torrid weather, cold water running down my sagging breasts and thighs, droplets catching on my eyelashes by choice, because I’m aware that there are several people out there, not by choice, who’d rather be inside, safe and warm.

It’s always like this for me when it rains. My memories sharpen, such as the ones of the house where we lived when I was a child. It had a bad ceiling and was drafty because the house was old and was not well maintained. Not only was it unpleasant when it rained, but it also got cold like an icebox. The only good thing was running outside to fetch water and play in the rain with the rest of the kids in the compound. This didn’t happen every time our parents were around. On the occasions when we were allowed, our underwear would stick to our skins like paint on canvas. There was little need for modesty, soon we would chase each other naked and screaming, with our bottoms freezing. It made no difference except it made the experience better. After we are called into our respective homes, we got dry and wrapped in towels. Sometimes our father would massage us with Robb (we turned down Aboniki, ask your mother, she knows what I’m talking about) and our teeth would chatter involuntarily for a couple of minutes as the chill was chased away. If our mother was up to it, we’d fill our bellies with a warm meal. After getting dressed in dry clothes, my siblings and I would huddle under covers for warmth. It could be on our tiny couch in our living room or on our spring bed that squeaked with the effort of holding our weight (it was well past the age of retirement). Part of the reason was to get our feet off the worn carpet that didn’t help to keep them warm. Whenever I think of warmth, I remember the times I fell asleep piled up like laundry with the rest of my siblings. When our parents were not around we’d fend for ourselves.

Most days we’d be too energetic to sleep, especially if it was still daytime. The games we played in the dark to pass the time can never be forgotten(because it was almost always dark when it rains, with the electricity cut off). We built forts with sheets, cushions and pillows. The neighbors would come sometimes and we could team up for wrestling matches or cards. We told ludicrous stories or rehashed old grievances. It was always something when it rains.

Days like this I’m stuck in my chair, my arthritic hands and feet testifying, and still the rain with it’s tap tap tap on my roof brings back memories long forgotten, sweet and sour. I expect your memories of the rain to be different from mine (your mother has heard stories like this, and I’ll send along with this letter some of the pictures from that time). Tell me what you feel when it rains in your next letter and don’t start with your excuses that I won’t find them interesting. Your stories make me feel younger than my years, so indulge this old woman. I wonder that it’s still raining quite frequently in June, hian! Soon the weather would be warmer; you should expect my endless letters complaining about the heat.



  • What’s The Truth?
    Our perception of the truth can be distorted…but we’ll still choose to die on that hill.
  • Left Behind
    The abandoned church stood like a man awaiting trial.
  • How To Live Like A Hero
    And the pressure keeps growing and growing and growing until you feel like you are moments away from exploding.



If ever I need to move on to the next level but get stuck trying to take that pivotal step, I acknowledge that you’ll find me, toss me off that cliff, and watch me fly. Glad to have you. 💗 Hey guys! Jesam is back! 😊😊😀


“How do I spell ‘Jesam’?”

“J-E-S-A-M”, she said.

Her voice calling out those alphabets were my earliest memory of her.

I remember the smile on her face as she slowly spelled out my name in a bid to have me join her.

But I didn’t. I was just happy to put a face to the voice I had come to know as “mommy”.

I was just happy to put a face to the voice I had come to know as “mommy”.

She’s been my biggest cheerleader and best friend for more than 20 years. She knew me completely and how to get to me…

Which made it weird that Saturday when she woke up and called me “Justin”.

I didn’t make much of it and smiled if off; it wasn’t that big a deal. But it kept happening.

Now in the cab going home trying to…

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A Christmas Story


It is undoubtedly my favorite time of the year. My husband, Damilare, and I just got back from our Christmas shopping on Christmas eve. We are spending the holidays with his large family in Lagos, and always it’s a lot to take in.

The whole gang is here – his grandparents, mother and siblings, their respective spouses and kids, several uncles, aunties, cousins, and a couple of close friends. I have stopped trying to remember which child belongs to whom. Growing up with my folks in England as an only child, Christmas was a small affair until I met the Gbadamosis – these guys turn every holiday into a party of sorts. Speaking of my folks – they are spending the holiday with a family friend in New Orleans – I should call to check in later in the day.

The day is bright and warm. The three-story mansion is beautiful and tastefully structured with clean lines and has an open balcony overlooking the spacious living room with doors on all sides that leads to other parts of the house. The Christmas decorations are put up by hired experts every year; even so, the place looks homey and inviting.

“Hello, everyone!” I sing hands weighed down with shopping bags as I walk into the living room from the entrance. My husband follows with his ever-present smile and hands burdened with more shopping bags. Lately, his smile has been giving way to frowns. Dammy can fit right into an NBA team with his height, while I’ll most likely end up with Girl Scouts.

I spy my mother-in-law coming into the room from the opposite door that leads to the hallway, and a smile lights up in her eyes as she sees me.

Kii re? Ahn ahn! Did you raid the store, my dear?” my mother-in-law asks.

As luck would have it, we’ve shared a bond since I married into the family. She dotes on my husband – I understand, I dote on him too. Also, I miscarried my first issue, not unlike her. I don’t know how we could have moved on if she hadn’t spent the next six months shuffling from Nigeria to London to spend time with us. Dammy’s father – God rest his soul – was equally very supportive. Happily, we have two boys now, Kolawole and Feranmi, and they are the joy of my existence when they aren’t up to wrecking my sanity.

Mummy, E ka ro!” I greet, the words tumble out of my mouth breathlessly, if not a little bit awkward, and my knees move to the floor.

“What are you doing? Stand up. Welcome, my dear.” She moves quickly to my side and pulls me up to my feet. She is pretty still in her blue caftan, and her hair is in braids that fall to the middle of her back. There’s a couple of gold rings on her fingers, nails polished bright red.

I make a face at him not to rat me out and try to convey my sweetest smile to his mother when she looks my way – do I look guilty?

“Dammy, don’t you think this is too much? Why are you making Anike carry these heavy bags?” she scolds and swats Dammy on the head.

He shakes his head, a frown already on his face, “Good morning Ma. Here, these bags over here are for the house.” He sets aside a couple of bulging plastic bags then looks accusingly in my direction. “Jess was indecisive about what gifts to buys for the kids, so she emptied the toy section. I told her to leave them in the car when he got back, but she insisted,” my husband says with exasperation before he leans down to place a kiss on her forehead.

Dammy didn’t tell her that I craved chocolate chip ice cream and wanted to get rid of the evidence outside the house. I blow him kisses, and he rolls his eyes.

Dammy moves to the spiral stairs – its traditional railings draped with fairy lights and garlands, set against the large windows that go up to the first floor.

“I’m taking these up to our rooms so that the kids won’t see their presents before we wrap them up. Jess love, drop the bags, I’ll come back for them. Just sit down and put your legs up.”

“Aye aye, captain! You know, I’m not invalid, even though this cherry doesn’t pop until next month.” I say to his straight retreating back.

I don’t want to make a scene in front of his mother. With her help, I park my very pregnant self in the nearest seat, groaning deeply as the ache down my spine unfurls.

“Where’s everybody?” I ask after she has given me an earful.

The room is deserted, with toys and knickknacks littering every surface – the former is unusual, the latter is unavoidable. The Christmas decorations are still intact, thankfully. Even though there’s no ritual for Santa or sharing of gifts by the tree on Christmas day here – you get prayer and gifts at odd hours – the house comes alive and becomes a marketplace with the arrival of more family members. We trade family secrets, gossips, and everything in between. I can’t complain because I have been having so much fun; it’s taking a toll on me trying to keep up.

“They are at the back of the house. Kunle is flying his drone, and the entire lot ran out to watch.” With a shake of her head, she walks off in the direction of the kitchen.

“That will occupy them for a while, I guess.” Kunle is her son-in-law, Pelumi’s husband. Pelumi, her only daughter, is the doctor in the family and my best girl.
She’s all shades of fun.

His mother returns with a glass of juice, a bowl of chin-chin and chicken, for me to eat, and I dig in.

The rest of the gang wander back into the house. The older kids act like they couldn’t wait to get rid of us, their phones pressed to their noses. They make me feel so old. The younger kids act like we don’t exist in whatever fantasy world they inhabit – except when they get hurt or hungry or both. I get swarmed by them, exchange greetings, and swat at my boys when they come circling me like hawks.
The room quickly devolves into barely contained mayhem, and I waddle-walk to the kitchen to escape.

The house took two years to complete to accommodate the large family, and sometimes I’m left speechless at the sheer size of each room. The kitchen is at the other end of the house on the ground floor, with double screen doors open to the back. It is hazy with steam from several cooking pots, and people bustle around. There’s a rhythm to how they work, like hands on a clock, talking loudly and sharing jokes. My mother-in-law is the undisputed captain of this ship. I find it mesmerizing to watch, but one disapproving glare from her, and I know it is a bad idea.

“I don’t need your help because I have enough hands; willing, and unwilling. There’s a roster this time. You’d be in it but for your condition.” She smiles mischievously and moves to oversee the girls arranging the glassware.

I glimpse Dare chopping onions, tears streaming from his eyes, and I can’t stop myself from laughing. He’s my husband’s older brother. He currently oversees the family business and can be intimidating, but the way he acts around his mother is proof of how scary she can be.

“Dare, how’s it going?” I tease, and he scoffs. “O da bo?” I say and relish the redness in his eyes as he shoots daggers my way – my cue to retreat before I get into more trouble.

‘Aunty Jessica’ rings in my ears wherever I go – only the older family members call me Anike; the reason it is so is a mystery. Anyway, it seems everybody is busy except me.

Soon I’m cornered by the grandparents. Oh no! I need a translator. I can barely string short sentences in Yoruba, and I only manage to say a spattering of words; my kids are doing better than I am. With them rapidly speaking, I am unable to understand a single thing. It gets awkward because they barely understand English too. Our conversations are always one-sided with a series of facial expressions, hand gestures – some indecipherable sign language of our own making. The general take from the encounter is a good one.

Uneasy and unable to commit to being treated like an egg, I go in search of my husband. The ache in my back has returned, and it’s starting to feel very uncomfortable. I check upstairs since it was where I last saw him head to, and find him on the floor in our room – toys and wrapping paper cover every available space.

“I thought we were supposed to wrap the gifts together,” I say and startle him. I reach back to lock the door to prevent the kids from stumbling in. “I was looking all over the place for you.”

A smug grin appears on his face, “Did you miss me?” I nod without hesitation. Being an only child helped me become independent at an early age. Lately, it can be upsetting dealing with ‘everything’ without Dammy. I can’t say how it happened when being apart from him turned difficult. However, I find myself looking for his face whenever I enter a room. I try not to be needy – in my defense, a gentle reminder that I am preggy – my hormones and nerves are off the chart.

“Your face is puffy and tomato red; you promised to put your feet up.” He says, again that frown turns up.

“I did. For a while, then I got bored. Besides, everybody is busy. Your kids are making a raucous downstairs with the rest; somebody put the music on my way up. Your family members are party freaks.” I say diplomatically.

He fakes a cough, “They are your family too. If I recall correctly, the last time we came around, you danced the night away.”

“Yes! Oh God, they’re contagious.” I try to say it with a straight face, and we both laugh because everybody knows I love to dance.

The bed is thankfully toy free – I can’t resist clean sheets, so I make a beeline for it. When at last, I reach the bed, I kick off my flip-flops and try to sit down, but my back shoots a lance of pain that my brain registers on the high side.

“Babe, please come help me sit. My back hurts.” Dammy springs up and rushes over. “I’m alright, I think I overdid it with the shopping and running around, but I’m fine. I only need to rest a little…”

“That’s it. You are not leaving this room again today. You’ll take your meals here, and I’ll insist that nobody disturbs you.” He says firmly, then helps me lay on my side, propping up the pillows to make it comfortable.

“Why won’t you listen to me?” Damilare grumbles as he sits beside me and rubs my back. I wince when he touches a sore spot, and the frown on his face deepens.

“Let’s trade. You can carry the babies while I do the fussing. I can do a better job,” I say cheekily. “Sit down, Dammy love! No, you don’t, that’s enough thinking for one day, you’ll hurt yourself,” I mimic his voice, and my reward is a smile. His hand comes to rest on my belly, and I place mine over his.

My time in Lagos has left me tan – mercifully, the sunscreen I slather over every inch of exposed skin saves me from sunburn. I’m tan, and he is dark. We didn’t expect to stay so long in Nigeria when we arrived a few weeks ago to visit. We stayed back for Christmas because my mother-in-law insisted she wanted the kids to be around, and our boys were fine with it.

“Stay with me. I bet your babies need to cuddle. They must feel left out of all the celebrations,” I say, hinting at how I’ve felt the last couple of days.

When the doctor told us that we were having twins, I swear my husband whooped and pumped his fist in the air as if he heard that his team won the Premier League. He got sober shortly and has since had this haunted look.

The birth of each of our boys was difficult, but thankfully the doctors did their best. The pain of losing a child is a brand in our hearts; perhaps it’s the worst thing that can happen to a parent. Pregnant moms of multiples don’t have it easy because everything intensifies. The worry and stress Dammy puts himself through all the time I was pregnant is hard to watch, but I understand that he is only trying to do the noble thing.

“Okay.” He scoots over and lay down beside me, holding me loosely in his arms. We talk about our plans for a new house when we get back to London and then again about our future, and it feels like old times when it was just the two of us. It doesn’t take long before I fall asleep.

My back is on fire. When I try to move, the pain stabs at my sides and knocks the air out of my lungs. Tears burn in my eyes, and I whimper pathetically. My hands thrash helplessly; all I want is for it to stop hurting.

“Jess! Babe, what’s wrong?” The lights come on in the room, in a glance reveals that it is still dark outside. Dami is next to me in a heartbeat.

“It hurts,” I manage to say. My thoughts scramble, the one that is worried about my babies the most persistent.

“Where? Your back? I’ll get Pelumi. Will you be alright by yourself for a couple of minutes?” he asks.

“Yes. Go quickly.” I cry.

Several agonizing minutes later, my husband returns with Pelumi – one hand holds a medical kit, the other hand holds her night robes close at the front. She is not the only one. A small crowd ends up outside our room like we are having a bizarre slumber party. I don’t know what Dami was thinking, waking them up at this odd hour. If I didn’t feel like roadkill, I would have laughed at the sight. I hope the rest of the house is still sleeping because I wouldn’t want my boys to see me like this.

While Pelumi checks me, my husband hovers like a hawk until she throws him out of the room and slams the door shut in his face. My body is so sensitive, and I’m grateful that her hands are gentle.

“Are you on any medication?” She asks softly. I shake my head.

“I’ll see what I can get for you to help with the pain.,” She says. From experience, I know that it is most likely Paracetamol, and I want to suggest something else. She didn’t say anything about my babies– I need to know that they are okay.

As if hearing my thoughts, Pelumi answered, “Your babies are fine, sweetheart, try to relax. Strong painkillers are not advisable in your condition, and from what I see, your back pain is likely from the weight of the babies. I’ve got chamomile tea; I’ll send it up to you.”

When she finishes, she calls Dammy in, and together they help me to the toilet to relieve myself, and I endure a warm bath. I feel a little better after taking medication and getting a rubdown (my mother-in-law bullied her way to my side).

I’m allowed to see the crowd of well-wishers. It takes a while before Pelumi removes them from inside and outside our room; the sun is already up.

“I’m not an invalid,” I say haughtily.

I am still in bed trying to talk Dammy out of changing our travel plans. He swings from not going at all because of my condition and going at once.

“Feeling better?” he asks.

“Yeah. You can stop making that face.”

“What face?”

“You look constipated when you frown,” I tease, and he hits me on the head gently with a pillow.

“Merry Christmas to you, babe,” I say then, give him a kiss for being amazing. Whatever happens, we will get through it together. I’m looking forward to the new year because it promises to be full of new beginnings.

“Merry Christmas,” he says, relief shining through his eyes, masking for a moment his worry and stress.

Kola drags his older brother Feranmi into the room; his other hand grips his Batman action figure. They are still in their jammies. The latter greets and heads to the toilet, while the former jumps on the bed and throws himself at me. My husband is quick to intercept. Kola is four, just a baby.

“The other kids say Santa did not show up because Nigeria is too far from the UK. Is it true, mummy?” he asks and fires out more questions in the same vein. I feel a stab of guilt for not paying closer attention to them since we arrived and quickly talk to God that I’ll do better, and can he please tell me what answers to give without technically lying. I tell my husband to bring out the presents; we are doing damage control. It looks like today is going to be a long day.

Photo credit: Pexels

A Penny For Your Truth


The truth scares the bejesus out of most people and that is why it is problematic to accept. I’ve learnt it the hard way. You can’t really know everything about a person. It’s not only because they may lie, pretend, hide or omit certain things. It could be that it’s on a need-to-know-basis, like in spy movies; sometimes you just can’t see it. You are looking at them but you’re not seeing them for who they really are. I usually don’t arrive at the heart of things all philosophical like Yoda but yeah, that’s how it is tonight as I go through everything that has happened.

It was the weekend I went with my friends, China and Kay, to see a play that my cousin Tari produced down at the theatre. Everybody loves the man, he’s the local super star. I managed to swipe free tickets from him – promoted him to favorite cousin extraordinaire. The play was going so well and I was chugging down drinks like no man’s business. Until I had to go, real bad. That kind of thing ever happened to you, when the show gets to the interesting part and you’re keen on savoring every bit of it but your bladder gets other ideas? I made funny noises and got out of my seat faster than you could say plantain chips.
As I was about to get down to business in one of the stalls I heard voices coming into the restroom. Ah! There’s no privacy in public. I tried to tune them out by focusing on the scruffs on my boots.

“Hey! Hey! Cut that out and listen” one of the voices piped loudly. The voice was husky, as if the owner smoked a pack a day. You know the fear that grips you when it feels like you’ve unknowingly wandered into a horror movie set? That was how I felt.
“Did you see the crowd out there? I told you Tari’s a good-for-nothing swine but he’s the reason why the company is doing so well. He may act like he’s got his shit together but that idiot deserves to have nails shoved into his eyes” Husky mouths off.

I really am in a horror movie. Tari? My cousin? Someone turned on the tap. I couldn’t hear much of what was said until it was turned off.

“Only thing his worthless ass is good for is wiping the floor” another voice said. The voice was different, squeaky like old bed springs. Squeaky sniffed as she talked “He tried to feel me up the other day while I was sorting out the costumes. Said he could get me to play the lead female. I’ve heard the other girls talking. They say a lot. I turned him down. I guess that’s why he dropped me before opening night” She said it slowly and the words fell heavy and cold.

How many Taris were in the play? I was reeling. I wanted to go out there and tell them to shut up. My Tari? No! Husky and Squeaky kept using colorful words to describe him. It was awful. They left and I wanted to follow but I still had my business to take care of. My momma said to me one time, “The truth is a wild card, when it steps into the building it can get real ugly.” This was after she gave me a major ass whopping for playing in the rain, even though I wasn’t supposed to and it made me sick with the flu for days. Tough love? I’m stubborn. That’s my truth, at least the one I’m aware of, which is why I still hop about in the rain. I refused to believe what I heard about him. Skies! It was really hard to deal with. It still is. You know trust is a fragile thing. If you go stomping on it be prepared to watch it shatter into a billion pieces. Try putting it back together. Good luck! You’ll need it.

Tonight I sprawl on a thin mattress up on the roof and absently swat the mosquitoes that feast on me like I’m jollof rice on a Sunday. My safe space. You can find me up here every other night looking the epitome of relaxed and without a care in the world. When it comes down to it, out here in the open, I’m reminded that I’m part of the phenomenon that is this colossal universe – though a tiny speck I may be – and that is freaking awesome and creepy at the same time. It’s creepy because a whole lot of things out there can influence the outcome of events, and I would be forced to react to this outcome. In fact not reacting is a reaction. And it works the other way around. Do you get what I’m saying? We are all inevitably woven into the fabric of the world, locked in a children’s game of tag. So it turned out that Husky and Squeaky left me with a bag of snakes to deal with and ever since I’ve been stuck on that night searching for answers.

The clouds hide the moon for a bit and I look as the lights that scatter all over town shine intensely. I imagine what most folks will be up to right now and it’s funny what I come up with. Maybe truths and what makes them true is easy. It could be that Tari is nothing like what I heard them say that unfortunate night, he probably puts up an act because of the line of work he is in. Also consider that earth is Midgard and I can prove it if I find Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge.
If I say the the truth can only be explained with things that can be seen but not felt, I should be ready to face the controversies as they twerk forward in their numbers. A lot of folks will want to know where sixth sense and instinct comes to play because there are people out there who have this awareness. I on the other hand did not get any misogynistic bastard vibes from my cousin, and I’ve never seen him be anything but polite and charming.

I’ve known the bloke my whole life. Again there’s only so much you know about the people in your life. I know China to be shy and reserved but that’s because she’s been dealing with her step sister’s nonsense for so long she’s become non confrontational. Tries to fix everything. My girl is the nicest person I know but when she brings down the thunder, you’ll quake in your pants. Kay – Kayode is just crazy. You’ll understand what I’m saying if you spend a few minutes with him. He’s a nerd through and through, with a mouth that gets him in trouble all the time. He also raps. Weird I know. We love to read, it’s our first love. We also cry whenever we watch the Titanic, especially Kay. If you ask me I’ll say I know all there is to know about my friends. They are my ride or die. But lately I’ve let myself get distracted by all the things I don’t know about them. It is not cool.

I’m going to switch to Dumbledor. He said: “The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with caution” He also said, “One cannot have enough socks” so yeah, you should probably listen to him. Life is hard, if not we won’t need each other to get through all the crazy. Life is also good, I know because there is evidence of it all around me. I don’t get a lot of things; like how we say war brings peace or to love is to hurt or quantum physics. I do know that a lot of what we do is basic, not so complicated. In philosophy some have argued that truth is grounded in belief. I believe in God. I believe in karma – what goes around comes around, to bite you in the derrière. They are my truth because I believe.

Clearly, who you say you are and who people say you are defines you. But in the end you decide what you make of yourself. So when I pay more attention to myself, and choose for myself, and believe in the choices that I make, it will transform into my truth. Whatever ‘it’ may be. Others will eventually see this one way or another and come to their own conclusion. This is why I still have to figure Tari out. I love him but I can’t live with not knowing. The first step is to condition my heart and mind to be ready to face the truth, that is what I’m working on; which is the hardest part to deal with. The next step is to find the truth.

What’s your truth?

Photo Credit: Pinterest

To Be Perfect


“Hurry up! We are going to be late.” My father shouted.

My father is a war veteran and he hates slothfulness of any kind. As his daughter, he expects nothing less than perfection from me.

My lips curl in a lopsided grin as I view the mess of makeup and lotions that’s the top of my dressing table. The oval-shaped mirror in its antique frame shows the rest of my bedroom which looks like a beast did a thorough job ransacking most of it. I mean look at my bed, my wardrobe – what’s left of it is everywhere. I spy a shoe hanging off the lamp.

“How did that happen?” I wonder.

My books are resting on every available surface, and my walls are papered with pictures, post-it notes, and album arts. The only space untouched by this madness is my desk which I like to leave uncluttered.

I’m petrified at the thought of cleaning up the place for fear of what I’ll find in my graveyard of festering laundry. It’s funny that I draw a line at littering trash; I cannot stand it. My friends think I’m weird.

My father will pop a vein if he comes into my room, although I find it unlikely. I stopped everyone from entering without permission after my sixteenth birthday, even the cleaners. When you have things to hide it’s better to take measures to not get caught. I’ll get to cleaning as soon as I’m back from this trip; if I come back.

I hear my parents talking.

“What is she still doing?

O bu gini? What is it?

My dad yells, “Young lady you better not make me come up there. The flight is for 8:00 am you know this.”

“Stop shouting my love, remember you have to watch your blood pressure!” I hear my mother say.

Their voices float up easily to my room at the top of the stairs.

“Obim! My heart! This your daughter will be the death of me. How much more time will she spend grooming herself when the entire town can bear witness that it makes no difference. She’s the most beautiful girl as far as the eyes can see, this makeup of a thing is all nonsense, and if she doesn’t get her act together…”

I can’t stop myself from snorting as I listen. The conversation reeks like moldy cheese. It’s the same thing over and over again, although not so far from the truth.

I do spend an inordinate amount of time dressing up; talking to myself once again to join the society and act the part of a young socialite that has everything going for her – the envy of her peers; trying to convince myself that my pain is the anchor from which I derive strength.

I’m beautiful – I say this with the conviction of one who has spent her entire life hearing it everywhere she goes. I know the bit about God creating us all beautiful and ‘in his own image’, but that ship doesn’t sail in my house. My parents believe that they played the most important part, concluding that there is a combination of their genes and a bit of oomph did the job.

You should see how they show me off in public, after which they pat their back for having the wisdom to make me a lovely little thing. A story for another day.

I quickly cram my essentials – phone, notepad, current book, powder, lipstick, keychain, and wallet into my purse, and peer into the mirror for the last time. Long, thick lashes adorn brown round eyes, hooded from years of trying to hide; if the eyes are the windows to the soul, I have a ‘no peeking’ policy. My nose reclines with an arrogant air like a peer of the realm, so I’ve heard. The lips are prone to frowns than smiles and I practice smiling for a few seconds; it is less like a sneer if I throw my head back. I run my fingers through my black hair but they get stuck in my tight kinky curls that contrast my clear fair skin. I look closer hoping to see what everybody else sees and more importantly what they fail to see.

My parents wanted a male child for a long time in their childless marriage; instead, my sweet behind popped out the first time my mother carried a child to term. Notwithstanding they named me Nkiruka – tomorrow is greater than today. Ha! How obvious can they be that I wasn’t enough? Unfortunately, I am the only child my mother was able to carry to term.

It’s a testament to my father’s love for my mother that he didn’t take another wife. I breathe deeply and leave the room, it will be a while before I come back here again. I take my time going down the stairs. There’s this song playing in my head; it’s Louis Armstrong’s/ When you are smiling. I focus on it, let it wash over me and that elusive smile finally emerges. My friend Dele sent it to me a while back; he shares my love for jazz. What would become of me without music?

“I’m here” I announce as I enter the sitting room. My mother shoots lasers out of her eyes and snaps at me. When she’s really upset but trying not to show it she gets formal like a flight attendant.

“You are advised to put an end to this childish behavior of yours. Must you always upset your father and me at every given opportunity? You were given a two weeks’ notice for a reason. This is a joint family vacation with your father’s business partners, do I have to remind you how important it is that you do not embarrass us in any way?” She says in her best air hostess voice.

“I’m your bloody daughter and not some vermin you have to tolerate, ” I yell in my head.

Outside I stare blankly at them; two peas in a pod, always to be found draped on each other’s arms. Well, whenever I’m found in the picture, it’s always as an afterthought or a strategic move to show off my family’s wealth and beauty. As I look at their drawn faces I acknowledge that they too are not without flaws, even as I admit that imperfections are not excuses to cling to.

When I do irrational things or refuse change even as it crosses my path, I like to think it’s on me. I may move past my flaws or they may never go away, so what? Where does it leave me? I observe the two people that gave me life until I hold their gazes.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been going through a lot lately” I apologize.

I see that they expect more but I wait for them to say something.

“If that is all let us get going,” my father’s irritation was obvious.

My hands shake, but I continue “I won’t be coming with you; I need to take time to figure things out on my own. I’m not sure for how long I’ll be gone; I’ll keep an eye in touch. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

I turn to leave. Mother moves to stop me and I let her.

“Nkiruka, don’t do anything stupid,” she says sharply.

I was ten when we went to a party in the neighboring town with quite a several people from our town coming along. Our town council arranged buses to convey us but my parents and I went along in our car. The party was choked full with kids high on sugar, teenagers mingling and getting into mischiefs, adults juggling trying to have a good time with trying to stop the kids from trampling everything in sight. The music was loud, the food was plenty and I spent the entire day with everyone but my parents which sucked.

After trying but failing to get their attention, I ran off to sulk in one of the rides set to entertain the kids. I was always doing things like that when I was little – attention deprived as I was – me as my only companion.

After playing for some time I found a secluded spot and fell asleep from exhaustion; by the time I woke up the party was over and the place was shut down for the day. My throat turned raw crying and screaming for my parents to come to take me back home, “I’ll be good, I promise.” I thought they had left me behind on purpose. I found out later that they only noticed my absence the next morning; they had assumed I hitched a ride back with the rest of the town folks and slept over at a friend’s place the previous night. Did I mention I was ten? When nobody brought me home by noon my mother started to panic.

After a futile search all over town, someone suggested that they head back to the place where the party was held. I was dehydrated and scared to an inch of my life when they finally came back to pick me up. Because the authorities and press were involved my parents were furious at me for a long time. Till today I’m deathly afraid of being alone in the dark.

Always I’ve struggled to be the perfect daughter, the poster child for the perfect family. It started with churning out good grades and conducting myself with grace and poise. I was quite popular. When that wasn’t enough I became the poster child for a dysfunctional home; burning down my car in a drunken fit is my worst yet. I’ve despised the imperfections that come naturally to me, written on the tapestry of my being. It has taken me years to get to where I am right now; a place of acceptance.

Maybe things do not need to have structure, maybe chaos is order and broken does not necessarily equal useless, maybe nothing makes sense, maybe deep down I’m still a little kid craving attention. I think she realizes something in the way I lean away from her touch and her eyes shines as she steps aside. I have so much I want to say, so much to ask. What was I expecting? An apology? Do they care if I go or stay? Is there a way for us to work things out? Do they love me? Do I love them? I don’t know if now is the right time to go over everything.

I watch as my father turns to tattoo her, how they both reach for each other at the same time and I’ve never felt more alone than as I did at this moment. If I find love like theirs will this cycle repeat itself? I force my legs to move. I’m outside. My bags are already in the car. I’m leaving. The sadness still stays but already I feel a rightness swirling and replacing the hurt. I know a few things about myself but I want to learn more; to grow; to become. The time has come to change my perspective of my name – Nkiruka, tomorrow is greater than today – no more will I let my past define me. I’ll chase this truth like the day chases the night until at last, I live it always and forever.

I’m okay with not being perfect
‘Cause that’s perfect to me
– Anne Marie

Photo credit: Pinterest

Chasing Happiness


My eyes sting, if I don’t stop moving I’ll unleash a flood. In other news, I don’t bloody care. I squeeze them shut tightly and let my chest expand with deep breaths. This thing happening to me, well, describing it is beyond words.

My heels refuse to touch the floor as I choose instead to bounce on the balls of my feet. I am a ballerina pirouetting across the room. My limbs are out of control and fly unmolested. I suspect that my hips are gyrating or rebelling by doing the opposite. I spin around until everything blurs. Then a scream escapes from my lips without any warning. It rings like bells, sweet like dark chocolate, and bright as a summer day. I stop spinning and place a hand on my racing heart, willing it to return to normal. My lips refuse to take their proper form but remain stretched from ear to ear.

I look up to the ceiling until my vision settles. The whole room is thrumming, the walls vibrate to the music; colors burst out in a riot even as the air shimmers.

I don’t always feel this way. Sometimes my heart races for a different reason. I’ll find myself curled up like a fetus in the womb, the cold would rise from my bones and a roar of turbulent waves will fill my ears.

I turn up the music louder and the alte highlife sounds have me moving like a penguin. My voice strains to hit all the right notes without success and I make a mess of the lyrics. I try out the zanku dance and throw in dabs for good measure. The truth is I’m a terrible dancer.

The other day I was with my friends. I remember fondly that we said and did tons of fun, important bonding stuff that I cannot fully recall. Still, I can confess that there were no dragons in my tummy, no crippling doubts about being loved and accepted, and no fear for what the next moment would bring. My heart was swollen with appreciation because I belonged and was loved simply for existing.

There was another time at work when we were focused on our individual tasks. Suddenly I noticed a lull in the usual office din – phones ringing, voices trying to drown out each other, keyboards going tap-tap-tap, slurping of drinks, and feet rushing in every direction. As I looked around, I felt my skin tingling as if the universe itself was watching and participating in the stillness. I couldn’t bear to ruin the mood by calling the attention of the others to it. So I sat there, feasting on the view and appreciating a moment that I would in later years regurgitate time and time again.

Those are the kind of days that I look forward to. When I’m alive and aware, not stuck in my head challenging every decision that I take or missing out on things because I’m too scared to try, and too scared to live.

I walk into the kitchen still bobbing like a bottle in a pond. Where’s the knife? I wonder. I search for a little while and eventually I find it at the bottom of the dirty pile of dishes stacked in the sink. Gross! I wash it clean. It is new, shiny, and sharp.

The intro of Fireboy DML’s – Gbas Gbos rents the air and I nearly drop the knife on my foot out of excitement. This is not how I had planned for this to end.

I place the knife carefully on the counter and reach for the pen and paper I’d brought into the kitchen earlier in the day. I breathe deeply, gather my thoughts, and begin to write. I make sure to keep my writing bold and legible.

I straighten up after I’m done and set the paper aside. As I start to reach for the knife, the kettle whistles, right on cue. Humming, I move over to the stove to turn it off. In a moment I take a sip from my steaming cup of tea. I add a generous amount of lemon juice and stir it in.

I grab the knife in one hand and stretch out my other hand all the while thinking if I should make a small cut or a big cut. Just as the knife is about to make the cut, the doorbell rings.

I place the tea on the kitchen counter and reach for the knife again. I can’t put it off any longer or I’ll lose my nerve. I’ve not come this far to turn back.

This life shoves a variety of flavors at you at every turn. Not every one of them is agreeable to your taste. Dead is a man that misses out on the flavors. I’m not dead – yet.

No! No! No!

“Uju! Uju! I’m home. Where are you this woman?” I hear my sister call from the hallway.

I was so close. So close. I hear footsteps behind me and feel beads of sweat run down my face.

“Uju o! Babe how far? You didn’t hear me calling your name? Obviously, you can’t with all this racket going on.”

I turn around as Amaka moves into the kitchen in that easy way of hers like she’s floating. She turns off the music and I feel trapped. I still can’t believe I didn’t do it. It’s too late now.

Amaka eyes me suspiciously as my silence stretches. I try to hide the knife that is still in my hand but the movement catches her eyes.

“What are you doing with a knife, Uju?” She asks suspiciously.

“Nothing” I quickly retort.

She eyes me some more, “You weren’t trying to…” She trails off.

A nervous laugh bubbles out of my mouth and my eyes dart to the side to avoid her gaze.

I hear her gasps loudly and I swiftly turn my head to look at her. She was looking past my shoulder. How did she get so close? She can see the note I left on the counter. Oh no!.

“It’s not what you think,” I say. I drop the knife and edge towards the door.

The hurt in her eyes pins me just as I’m about to make my sweet escape.

“Uju why?” She asks as she picks up the paper.

I cringe when she starts to read it out loud.

“Dear Amaka, I hope you’ll find a place in your heart to forgive me. Love, Uju.” She crumples up the paper and throws it at me.

“Where did you think you’d have ended up if you had done it? I can’t believe this! I can’t believe you would do this. You know how much I worked and yet you didn’t think twice before trying to do it again. Amaka, why are you so ungrateful? Why do you think about only yourself? What would I have told the rest of the family when they ask me what happened to….”

“I’m sorry, Uju.” I wring my fingers.

“Are you sorry? Are you? Because that was what you said the last time.”

I see red spots appear on her beautiful cheeks. She must wish to throw the knife at me because her eyes focuses on it.

“The cake is for everybody!” she yells. “How e take dey do you ehn! You alone ate all the cake the last time and now, you can’t even wait for tomorrow when the rest of the family arrives before gobbling this one up?”

I pout and start to grumble, “Amaka it’s all your fault for baking cakes that are divine.”

Amaka launches herself at me intent on wreaking havoc on my person, and I run out of the kitchen laughing hard.

“I’ll kill you today,” she screams.

I spend the rest of the day with warmth in my chest, food in my tum-tum, and light in my eyes, that is after Amaka stopped trying to kill me. I understand that I can only live one day at a time, and I have learned to treasure days like this – the happy days.

I put the music back on and this time Amaka joins me to groove. She’s worse than I am at dancing. I tell her this and earn myself a slap for my trouble.

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment below.

Photo credit: Pinterest

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