Reaper

This is how death comes
In the middle of the day
He won’t sneak in
Nor bid his time
He’ll sit on your couch with you
Finish your jokes for you
Might even offer to be the brunt of it
He’ll steal your heart
And you’ll let him
He’ll sleep on your bed
And you’ll allow him
He’ll whisper into your ears
And you’ll listen
Not because you want him
Not because you love him
Not because you need him
But because
He’s that alluring
Mystified charisma
He’ll kiss you and take your breath
Counting down the seconds
For you
One by one
Till the life isn’t in you anymore
He’ll hug you while you die
He might even cry for you
Kiss you on the forehead
And when you fall to the ground
White faced and breathless
He’ll turn away from you
Smiling away with his dagger
On his way to make a new acquaintance
Death won’t steal you
He’ll entice you
Until you can’t resist him further

Reaper

25/12

You wake up with the sound of your sister’s voice sounding slightly annoyed. She tells you that you’re going to have to pay a family visit today, and this pisses you off too. She says it’s your father’s idea and there’s no day better than this to go. You go through the motions dreading the car ride and subsequent sickness that comes from the prolonged journey, driving through Lagos is never a fun idea much less to Ikorodu. You arrive unannounced with the fruit basket hastily put together by your elder sister, with your father leading the way. Your eldest sister is too busy trying to keep up with him while you help the other sister who’s evidently struggling with the weight of the watermelons that were an afterthought in the not-so-big basket.

There’s a lull and then an uproar. Smiling faces and loud laughs from people you’ve successfully avoided for two years coming out to greet you, to lighten your load, to welcome you. The old woman barely upright in her stance greets you wide smiled and almost toothless. She hugs you like her life depends on it, then looking up to see your face, maybe trying to memorize it so the next two years of silence wouldn’t be so hard. She’s aged, obviously but she’s still active. You struggle to communicate with her in your less than half baked Yoruba, with little assistance from your father. She looks at your father, her son and thanks him for bringing you. She laments on the amount of time it has been, how she asked for you constantly. And the disappointment from not hearing back from you. She looks up, arms stretched and thanks God in every manner she can think of. She thanks him from letting her see her grandchildren one last time before she dies. She’s close to tears now, you can hear it in her voice, her gratitude naked and unashamed muttered in her Ijesha dialect. You imagine her mortal sadness if you hadn’t arrived. You don’t need to understand Yoruba to know her pain. It’s funny how the “grand” things you ask for pale in comparison to her anguish to see you maybe for the last time.

She laughs occasionally. She reminds of how she carried you when you were little, but your sisters were too old to allow her carry them so they went around with the house help. She encourages you to eat, just a little for the sake of odun. You hesitantly agree. Your Yoruba fizzles out with nothing left to say, and then you communicate in English to your sisters. She doesn’t understand but she’s content to have you there, to have seen you, touched you, embraced you.

During the ride back home your father will tell you she’s 96 years old and still very agile, how she’s doing well for her age. He’ll tell you what a shame it was that you never met his father, that he too was strong for his age. Although you knew when he was dying and you were so close to it you almost experienced it. You will hear him miss his father and then you’ll kick yourself a little for being angry earlier. He won’t tell you he misses them, he’s too rough edged and grown up for that but you’ll know in all the subtle ways he expresses it. This will be your Christmas; emotionally tiring.

25/12

An ode to the man.

Growing up I’ve always had a lesson teacher/tutor whichever you prefer, to help me through the academic year. And believe me they came in different shapes, sizes and personalities. But the most memorable and probably loved – largely because I spent the bulk of my formative years with him – was my Ghanaian lesson teacher; Mr. Patrick. I don’t mean to exaggerate but he was awesome. He was an awesome teacher, mean flogger, and somewhat friend, and encourager. He was one of those people that never saw a reason to stop believing in you; and by God it got exhausting

Mr. Patrick taught me for 5 years, Nursery 2 – Primary 4. And from nursery 2 – primary 1 I pretty much excelled in school. When I got to primary 2, there was a new girl in class named Rachel. Rachel was smart, very smart and she was Efik. She became my biggest competition in class for the 1st position. I was geared up, I wasn’t ready to relinquish superiority over my home turf to a newbie. It was an interesting fight, the constant struggle for topmost position and the constant disappointment that came from having clinched second. I remember the beginning of every school year, Mr. Patrick and I would sit at the dinning table and discuss our aim, our collective goal and how to get it. It was funny because he’d offer me incentives like money or a new storybook, there was always something to offer just to motivate me.

He’d say “Are we getting the first position this term?

Followed by my very emphatic response “Yes!

As the terms rolled by and the report cards topped with “2nd position” piled up, the eagerness dwindled and the “yes” became a “maybe”, then “hopefully”, then “I don’t know”. But through it all, the quiet conviction behind his question never faded or dwindled. It remained, patient, unwavering and never doubting. At a point I stopped getting disappointed that I came second, but disappointed because I’d let him down once more. In the two years I spent with Rachel as a classmate (I left the school after primary 3), I never did surpass her in class.

I grew up realizing that probably one of the most exhausting things is people’s faith in you, in the fact that you are able most especially when you don’t think you are.

I also grew up to realize that my class teacher in primary 2 and 3 (same person) was tribalistically biased, and that I more than deserved the first place.

I can’t ever forget Mr. Patrick not just because he believed in me, but because he gave me hope when I needed it the most and helped me believe in myself too. Mr. Patrick doesn’t teach me anymore and he isn’t a part of my life anymore but I do miss him, his Ghanaian accent, and his impeccable English.

Sometimes, I’d wish I was still little and I had Mr. Patrick to believe in me once more when I can’t. But then, I’m not little anymore and I have to learn to stop relying on people to help me believe in myself. I have to grow up and be my own Mr. Patrick and exhaust myself with vehement belief even when I just can’t.

An ode to the man.

The hurt you seek

You scream freedom for the fifth time this month

How many more before the month runs out?

You dream only of the love you will never attain

You go back on your word and promises to yourself

You only know how to love her, that girl

The one with the questions in her eyes

And the quiver in her voice

You know nothing else

Neither redemption nor salvation

Because somehow loving her is all you learnt to know

Loving her is all you wish to know

But you lie to yourself hurt after hurt that its over

But we know better

We’re all waiting for this storm to subside before you begin another.

The hurt you seek

The Dream.

image

The day my parents died, I knew.

I barely ever sleep at night due to my ever present insomnia, but that night was different. I wasn’t exactly tired but TV wasn’t doing it for me that night and I hadn’t updated my book collection, so sleep was the next best thing. It was unbelievable how easily the sleep came, and how that time it wasn’t dreamless. The dream happened in flashes, I can’t remember it coherently, because no one ever does, but I remember waking up and feeling scared. I remember seeing my mom and dad lying there motionless, and watching their auras rise from them. The last thing I remember seeing was my sister crying, and I couldn’t stand that defeated image of her.

Two weeks after.

My parents had to leave the house early to catch their afternoon flight, so the goodbyes were pretty much brief and breezed through. I hadn’t forgotten the dream, but I just didn’t know how to stop it. My sister couldn’t care less about anything I said, she thinks I’m a pest. It’s evening and I’m trying to have a conversation with her, but she’s too busy typing away on her phone. She eventually shuts me up, and tells me to go warm the stew for dinner. I could hear the buzz of the TV from the kitchen. I scoop the frozen stew into the saucepan as my sister laughs at something. I have a bad feeling in my stomach as I place the pan on the burner. There’s a loud gasp and she goes:

“Oh my God Toke, there’s been a plane crash”.

My heart stops and I don’t feel it start again. I’m there staring at the melted reddish orange of the stew turn a dark red and then brown, and I wonder if my life will transition in steady stages. The stew thickens but I keep stirring it; its the only thing I could do to not pass out. Maybe concentrating deeply on this will eliminate everything else from happening.

“Maybe if I stirred hard enough…” I think.

My sister’s phone rings, a few seconds pass then the scream. I knew.

The Dream.

Day 7: fight or flight

what happens tomorrow when the voices take over and your sanity slips from the fragile grip of your mind’s hands
what happens when the past comes hunting you looking to draw blood from you and break you down
what happens in the dark when you’re mentally fighting for your freedom from hands that have held you down every night for the past 6 years
what happens when no one is there to help you through it
you know what they say – fight or flight
flee or stay
are you strong enough to face off the reenactment of your worst nightmares?

Day 7: fight or flight

Day 6: distinct

We are not the same people
we haven’t lived the same lives
I am water gentle yet firm
timing my every move, my every tide
I seek completion and control
I am kind but deadly
I envelope and yet I release
you are the wind
oblivious yet profound
you seek something
always searching
you’re the traveler
the one who searches
you’ve been to so many places at a time and yet one
you breathe life
I steal life
you are wind
I am water
we have lived different lives
we are not the same people.

Day 6: distinct