Dear Dad, I’m in a distant land And I’m loved; I’ve got some Christmas cards, boxes and packages, I’m having fun with friends Some gradually becoming like family; But when I hear the bangs And see the fireworks I can’t help but think of home.
From Childhood, Christmas was known for love and homecomings, Meeting family not seen in a while And August visitors of course
From Childhood, Christmas was known for pleasant surprises, Round family circles and prayers Rounds of laughter and sarcasms As we take turns to tell stories of how the year went.
From Childhood Christmas was known for togetherness
and lovely smiles I’d secretly admire Mom’s beauty When’er sings the carrols
Then we’d cook almost all through the day: Different delicacies for visitors and relatives Not seen in a while And there’s always the visitor who’d come when everyone is about to rest.
Dear Dad, I’m in a distant land And I’m loved I’ve got Christmas cards, boxes and packages, I’ve attended Christmas gatherings and parties But when I hear the bangs And see the fireworks I can’t help but think of home.
Whenever I passed by Berger, I will see him, sitting at the corner of the street with his long stick and ragged bag; His hairs were strands of dreads locked for either centuries or God knows how long; His clothes were pieces of ragged-white turned brown by the combined effect of dust blown at him from non-challant road users and the wind itself. His skin was dark, not the typical complexion of a beautiful black skin king, but from the myriads of days without water and soap to lather on the body. He knew nothing about our world or so I thought. Whenever a passerby walked towards him, he would pose like an angry lion, waving his rugged stick in the air.
On his right, he had a packet of cigarettes with which he snapped at road users, On his left he held one of the sticks which unlit he would bask in the guise of smoking something to calm the nerves. On a good day, a jolly-good fellow would throw a lighter at him and he would gracefully enjoy his pipemeal. A day came, I decided to throw a candy at him, he waved his rugged stick at me, picked the candy, placed it in his ragged and dusty bag, looked up from the bag and grinned. Bewildered, I wondered if he understood the language of our world- the language of love, resentment, painful-gains and chaotic- harmony.
I thought I could show kindness to him but didn’t know how to about it. First, if he was psychic as he seemed then I would have to devise ways of expressing care without his marking my face; second, what on Earth would I offer him that will be tangible and helpful to him, considering my status in life and his condition.
An idea popped into my head, I could throw some crispy mints at him, and he would pick them and placed it in his decayed bag as he did with the candy but what if hoodlums attack and take the little coins from him? Not even his rugged stick will save him from them. After about thirty (30) minutes of conversing within, I made my way to the GTbank at Omole Phase two (2) inserted my Naira MasterCard into the Automated Teller Machine, (ATM) withdrew some cash from the little savings I made during my NYSC, entered a shopping mall and got some goodies. By the time I was done shopping, it was already late in the evening. Knowing I could fall into the hands of one of the hoodlums, I took my goodie bag and made for Annie’s house which was like a stone throw from the mall.
The next day, I woke early, without waiting to bid farewell to Annie, I took the bag of goodies and I went straight to his usual spot.
Carefully I dropped the bag filled with clothes, candy, soaps, eateries, money and what have you; They weren’t perfect but I found satisfaction dropping that goodie bag some miles away from him. As though he knew it was for him, He carelessly dropped the unlit cigarette and made for the bag. I watched him with so much curiosity as he seemed to count every single item on the bag; suddenly, his eyes shifted from the bag to someone across the road- me. My heart raced as he fixed his dark- grey, sun-burned pupils on me, slowly I moved from where I stood, He rose with the bag and made towards me, I slowly moved from where I stood, towards the direction of the Agberos, at least they may be kind enough to save me from him.
Without removing his gaze from mine, he crossed the road coming towards me, I increased my pace, but he seemed to be faster than I was. I started running as fast as I could turning around he was running after me. Just when I thought, I would be caught up by an act of kindness to a complete stranger, he Stoped, bowed and mutterred something that seemed like gratitude.
Relieved I went back home. At least I neither fell into his hands nor that of the hoodlums not knowing which would have posed more danger.
The day after, I made yet a visit to his usual spot; to my surprise, he had his hair trimmed, his red shirt sparkled in the dazzling December Sun. My cheeks fluttered as he slowly walked towards me, though I was afraid, I at least knew he wasn’t deranged . He stoped at a reasonable distance from where I stood, forced a smile, with clouded eyes, he echoed:
“Ese, Eni to Olorun ran,Oluwa maa bukun fun yin” [Thank You God-sent, God bless you]
I went back to Anie’s house smiling, grateful to God that I saved a life out of my life savings. At least I still had to appreciate her for letting me bash into her house unannounced and leaving before She woke.
At 12:00 pm, I found myself at my sister’s house, the whole family was already celebrating the arrival of the new baby.
After waiting for what seemed like forever, the doctor came up to me
“You’re her sister right?”
“Yes doctor, can I see her now”
“Uhm… we’re sorry Madam”
“Sorry?, Doctor what’s going on?”
My temperature had risen, my cheek flattened. I wanted to act like a matured girl, but my eyes betrayed me, the numbness in my bone found a way to express itself through the heated tears drooling down my cheeks. I was a shy girl, but this time, dragging the doctor’s Labouratory Coat was nothing compared to how I was eager to let out my frustrations.
My mind travelled back to the day after NYSC camp, how she had begged me to stay; I would have stayed but Lagos was almost breaking me. I was tired of the hustle bustle, and traffic-jammed life of Lagos. Moreover, She was having serious marital issues at the time. Emeka had turned her into an opponent in a boxing ring. Most days opened with screams, shouts and blows. Some boxing sessions landed her in the hospital and she’d come back with either a broken jaw or a torn flesh. It seemed Emeka enjoyed creating those designs on her body. She had real scars plastered on her shiny body. Her perfect, mirror-like skin reflected every single day of the torment. Her beautiful hair were strands he could pull anytime he was drunk, he would caress it so hard till they pulled off, then he would break the bottles on her skull to heighten the pleasure.
A thousand times I had arrange her escape. I wanted her to run so far from him. On the 25th of July 2016, I went to the extent of renting an apartment from the little savings I had so we could relocate with the Children and put an end to the myriads of mishaps. But Idara was too weak, She was afraid He’d find her and her punishment would be worst. I suggested divorce several times but being a ‘Public Figure’, She was too concerned with her reputation in the eyes of the society. She wanted her marital life to seem perfect and arranged in the eyes of the Public. As a Banker who had risen to the level of a Director with Jecho Bank Plc., She’d rather die in Silence than let her marriage be a public ridicule.
I was a tough girl, I could have stood by her and support her but watching her suffer everyday was affecting me. I didn’t even realise I was getting rude towards the Kids, we had little or no time to play video games or go to our favorite shawarma spot; I remember the day Emineimo came for the normal moonlight stories, I had shouted on him out of frustration; I never realized he was deeply hurt untill I went to the balcony and found him crying.
There I knew I needed a break, If Emeka was a saddist and a tyrant. I didn’t need to add to the tyranny, the home was already heated and if there was anything the kids needed at the time, It was love, care and support from their ‘considerate’ Aunt. The daily frowns on Idara’s face however seemed like a live coal on my head. I was boiling every single moment; I had lost the calm on the inside and I really needed it back if not for me, for the kids who at the time were helpless.
When NYSC presented itself, It was just the perfect opportunity to escape. I needed the serenity that the walls of Ibadan presented. I had to choose Ibadan over Lagos and I gracefully completed my NYSC there. Now it seemed it was the worst decision I’d ever make in the Century. Idara in her secretive habit had kept the pregnancy from me. When it comes to having her babies, She had her way: She’d rather keep it a secret till her tummy protrudes enough to break the news to the world. That was the pattern with Emineimo and Uwemedimo. But this time around, her Surprise pack was almost destroying me.
I found out She was heavy during the Covid-19. But that was rather late, I was already given a Primary Place of Assignment in Ibadan. There was little I could do, I offered all the support I could during the lockdown and left to my Primary Place of Assignment when it called. Now it was all about the guilt that hunted me. Maybe things would have been different if I had stayed but I was scared of my attitude towards the Kids. I was becoming an angry bird and loosing my temper at the slightest provocation. Flashes of these memories added to my torment as I found myself rolling on the floor.
“Madam, you don’t have to be dramatic, Carrel Specialist Hospital would do everything possible to ensure that she delivers safely”
” Doctor it’s been days since we came to this hospital, Regarding these lovely kids over there, She hadn’t spend up to a day in the hospital”
” The issue is She’s having obstructed labour and vaginal delivery might put either her or the baby at risk”
” Ma’am all we need is your signature on this Consent form so we can proceed with the Ceaseran section…”
I scribbled my initials in the paper without bordering to read it’s content; Down in my heart, I was praying that nothing goes wrong.
The curious faces greeted me as I swayed to my desk, picking the hand over note, I placed it on Ini’s palm. He examined the paper like a frightened child, threw it on the table and made for my palm. He suddenly stopped as though he was controlled by some force. With a heive, he stretched his palms to mine, Fixing his gaze on mine . In his eyes I saw that plea but my mind was made up and he seemed to read everything single thought on my mind at the moment.
“Eddie won’t you stay?”
“I can’t Ini, I bet you’ll be fine”
He released my palm and smiled. I knew there was more to that smile. Hardly had he came than I talked of leaving. He tried a thousand times to talk me into staying, but I wanted an environment where I would feel relevant. With all support, I got from Anie and Co., I sometimes felt lost when I had issues related to my profession. They saw me as a professional and expected all my projects to be of standard; I had challenges which they couldn’t relate to, all they cared about were the results.
Mrs. Utitofon had organized a send forth party for me. In no time the table was set. Soft music played while We sat round eating Potatoes Chips with stew. It was the only day I ever received a hug from my employer. Although She seldom smiles, she smiled so much that it got me at the verge of tears. She told me I added colour to her personal life and the Company; I found it ridiculous because she never compliments my effort. She had an eagle eye with which she could picture all the mistakes in my project without even looking at it. When it comes to Mrs. Utitofon, one thing was certain: “The boss is always right”. The only option I had was to comply with her terms. On several occassions, She told me I wasn’t enough, Countless times had she told me I was Sturdy. But a girl has to keep her head high.
After the launch, I took pictures with Ini and Bolu, then I felt a pat on my shoulder,
” Edidiong I know I may have been rude to you, but your projects and ideas were perfect. I would rather you stay”
She smiled and walked away, I wondered why she kept the compliment till a day after my POP. It would have probably changed my perception about the firm. But I guess it was too late. One last look at Anie and Co. and I bidded farewell to the Bodija. My sister was heavily pregnant at the time, I had to travel next day.
The Journey to Lagos was an unpleasant one: The piercing sun seared through boiling skins which inturn dripped salty liquids generating enough heat in the sardine packed bus; The traffic partnered with the street Vendors who flung their goods at every single vehicle that afternoon; Occasionally there would be sighs from passengers, but the sighs were too low compared to the horns of Earth breaking Vehicles and other ear blocking sounds
Reality knocked at mind and took it away from the happenings around. Mmeyene, a girl I met in the Lodge took her position as the first in the list of issues my mind had to deal with. Before our POP, She had gotten a job with a top notch Accounting firm. She was married and expecting a baby in the next two months. My life on the contrary was a mess. Dad had promised a position in a manufacturing company but I had no interest in it. I guess the only attractive thing about the company was the huge pay; however, passion was my drive. I had the intension of furthering my studies, but a lady needs a job to keep up. I was in a serious relationship with Edima but I had doubts about spending my forever with him. He was nice and homely but very manipulative and controlling…. “Madam, No be for Berger you wan drop” It was the Conductor, “Olodo, wetin this dull face dey find for Lagos sef?” I ignored his tantrums, paid my fare and alighted. I crossed the pedestrian bridge, and took a bike to Omole Phase 2. It was the begginning of a new life and the fear of living up to expectation gripped me.Barely had I reached home than my phone buzzed, It was Edikan.
If we are stars shining from our corners
In the galaxy
Creating a sporadic spot and a milky way,
Why do we behave like footballers
Scoring own goal
Why do we run marathon
For fear of allowing others to out run us
Why do we constantly criticize one another
As though we need it to fill our bellies
Why do we inspire ourselves with so much hate
And feel happy when our others go down
If stars really shine all day
Why do we try to trade our selves
For heights we’re sure we’d reach
If stars make constellations
Why are we in constant competition?
Planning to break grounds
We don’t have interest in
Cause we want to outlive others
If stars are held by their gravity
Why do we forget we are held by our gravity?
If stars do really end
Then we must remember that one day we will end.
And new stars will glow at their own pace and time