Sisí Èkó: Na Me Carry Last!

I have come to master the fine art of jumping bus in Lagos. Believe me, it is an acquired skill, which requires lots of strategies.
This morning, I went into stealth mode. When I got to the bus stop in Ajah, even I was shocked to silence by the size of the crowd. Kai, which kain Monday morning wahala be this one like this? And it being Monday meant that I had the dreaded weekly meetings at eight o’clock, so I had to hustle my way onto a bus sharply.
Which brings me back to stealth mode: When you’ve scoped your fellow hustlers and you realize you’re no match for them, both size and scowl-wise (some people’s faces ehn!), you wait for the crowd to surge towards the next available bus and when they’re locked in the human body wall, look for any crack in the press of bodies and Jejely pull them apart, preferably around the knees or mid-thighs, and what you get is a red-sea-moment. QED!
Some chick who was already on the bus gave me a funny look but I ignored her while I patted my hair back in place. She can like to mind her business oh and not be judging somebody biko.

 

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FYI, I’m not the lady in blue with her legs all over the place. Just saying. Besides, remember stealth mode?
As if the struggle to get on the bus was not enough, the conductor announced that the fare was two hundred and fifty bucks instead of two hundred. When we protested he didn’t even hesitate to ask his driver to park so we could get off. The guy no just send us at all. That’s how all of us just used style to swallow our protests without losing too much face.
There was peace or some semblance of peace (a few people still continued to grumble under their breaths about the fare hike and the conductor continued to ignore them) until we got to Lekki and our driver decided he wanted to turn around and head for Ajah instead.
          “Abeg make una come join another bus.” The conductor said
See how people just vexed and practically bit the conductor’s head off. We that our bodies were still chooking from the extra 50 bucks. On top all our noise, the driver simply parked the bus and the conductor started calling passengers for Ajah.
          “Shey una no go come down, abi you wan make I carry you go Ajah?” he said insolently and that started off a fresh round of abuse which of course got us nowhere. When we were done ranting, we sha kuku got down from the bus. Rather than give us back the balance of our fare, he of course decided to put us on other buses. I doubt I’ve ever seen any Lagos conductor part with money. The money exchange process is like a pipe with a one-way valve, it flows in and never comes out.
Finding buses for all of us was another drama entirely, coupled with the fact that Uncle Scrooge the conductor argued with all the other conductors over how much he would pay them to take us on. With all of this, time was ticking and I was going to be late. Finally sha, I was sat on a bus and on my way to work.
Right after we went through the Toll gates, my dearest new conductor’s phone started to ring and get this, his ringtone was the Christmas song, in August. Like who even still uses that?! The guy ignored our laughter and snide comments and whipped out his Nokia 3310 (where did he even dig that out from?) with a lot of demo and picked the call.
          “Pilot.” He said to the driver after he got off the call. “Yellow niyen oh! E be like say traffic dey Bonny Camp.”
I sniggered. I couldn’t help it. Afi Yellow naa!
          “Ah, na wetin him talk?” the driver asked.
          “E don block finish oh.”
          “Wo, we go pass Falomo be that.”
My ears perked up at that.
          “Falomo bawo? I’m going to Kofo oh!” I said.
          “Which kain thing be that, na Onikan I dey go!” someone else protested.
          “Shey you no hear say traffic dey Bonny Camp?” the conductor retorted.
          “So because of that, I should carry my head and go to Falomo abi?” I fired back.
          “You wan make I carry everybody go siddon for inside traffic because of you abi?”
See as the other passengers just carried face at that point. They weren’t going to show any solidarity. This was Lagos after all and it’s each man for himself.
          “If you no wan go Falomo, make you come down for Law School niyen.” the Conductor said.
That’s how I was ejected for the second time this Monday morning. There’s only so much rejection a girl can handle oh. Like that was not bad enough, when it was time to get off, the conductor gave the other passengers who got off fifty bucks each. Me he eyed from top to bottom and informed me that my first conductor had given him just fifty naira at Lekki and that my fifty naira had already expired. Before I could say jack, he and his driver zoomed off onto Falomo bridge and left me at the side of the road with my mouth hanging open and my hand still held out for my money.
Welcome to Lagos Baby!

Angelica (Jinx) Jones

Ireti sat cross-legged on the floor at the side of the gymnasium, shaking with a mixture of excitement and mind-numbing fear. With each moment that passed, she expected to wake up and realize everything around her was just a dream.
Not only was it unbelievable that Nigeria would be represented in Artistic Gymnasiums at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but it was way out of this world that little her, Iretiola Ogunsakin, a nobody all the way from Oluyole in Ibadan would be on the Women’s Team!
She was the youngest member of the team and was the only one who had been kept on at Tony International Gymnastics Club despite being unable to pay for classes. As Coach Tony, the head coach at the Club kept telling her uncle, there was just something about her that was extraordinary. He said she reminded him of himself at that age and that her talent was sure to take her places like his had taken him.
Ireti had been visiting her mother’s brother in Abuja for a school holiday when she was eight when she had gone to watch her cousin, Tundun who was two years older, at the club. That was when Coach Tony had spotted her and had insisted she signed on. In less than two years, she had become one of the best students at the Club and had excelled on every apparatus.
Now, here she was, a long way from that wide-eyed girl from Oluyole, about to take part in the Qualifying Round of the Olympics. At that point, the girls on the Nigerian WAG team had forgotten all about the long fight to get there despite everyone saying going to the Olympics was just a waste of time and money. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t received any funding from the Federal Government or that a good percentage of the Nigerians they were representing had no inkling about what on earth they were doing. They didn’t care that no one believed they would even make it past the Qualifying Round not to talk of actually winning any medals, or that they had arrived in Rio on the very day of the Opening Ceremony because of the fiasco with their plane tickets. Nothing could dampen their spirits, not even the hideous tracksuits they’d had to wear for the Opening Ceremony. Being at the Olympics alone was a victory for them and all that mattered was that very moment in time.
Their Team had been scheduled to start with the Vaults, then they would go on to the Floor Exercises, followed by the Uneven Bars, before finishing up with the Balance Beam. There were five girls on their team; Nancy who was 19, Tundun and Jessica who were both 18, Chioma who was 17 and Ireti who was 16. For the Qualifier Round, four of the five girls would compete in each of the events and three of the four scores for each event would be added up to determine if they made it through to the Team Finals. According to Coach Tony’s plan, they would start each event with a good performance to set the pace, followed by the weakest links and then close with the strongest member of the Team to wow the judges. Being the best gymnast on the Team, Ireti was taking part in all four events and was closing out three of them.
When it was finally their turn, the Team was announced and a weak cheer went up from one corner of the Gymnasium, probably some Black Americans showing a little solidarity. The girls were pretty sure there were no Nigerians in the audience!
          “Oh my God, I’m so nervous!” Chioma whispered from the front of the line. She was starting out the Floor Exercises and was awaiting her cue to proceed.
          “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” Ireti said, reaching from the back of the line to squeeze her arm.
          “Will you stay in place!” Tundun snapped. “The judges are watching, don’t come and disgrace someone here jare!”
          “I’m just…” Ireti started.
          “Please don’t bring your razzness here!” Tundun cut her off.
Just then, Chioma’s name was announced and she stepped forward to the spring floor. The music started up and she commenced her routine. Ireti’s annoyance with Tundun was totally forgotten as her anxiety escalated. They were actually competing in the Olympics! Until the very moment she stepped onto the Spring Floor, she had somehow believed it would never actually happen.
          “Great job girls!” Coach Tony said, high-fiving each girl in turn after the conclusion of the Floor Exercises. “That was amazing! I need that kind of energy on the Vaults. Nancy, remember what I told you, energy on the spring board. Chioma, remember, focus on getting your pre-flight right and on maintaining a tight body position. Ireti, you’re starting this event. You’re building up the momentum, give it everything you’ve got!”
          “Sha don’t jinx us!” Tundun murmured under her breath and Nancy snickered.
          “What was that?” Coach asked.
          “Nothing.” Tundun said and Ireti started to get really angry.
Usually, she let Tundun’s slights pass but she was beginning to get tired of it.
          “You’re closing this one out Tundun, it is your forte so bring down the roof, alright?”
          “Yes Coach.”
          “Alright, let’s do this!”
          “At least, some of us don’t need to be teacher’s pet to get attention.” Tundun said as the girls walked to the start of the runway.
          “What’s your problem!” Ireti hissed, getting really pissed.
          “Guys, can we just focus and get this over and done with?” Chioma said.
          “Well, you’re my freaking problem!” Tundun ground out.
          “Shhhhhh!” Nancy snapped. “We’re on international TV, keep your family issues to yourselves!”
          “What did I ever do to you!” Ireti snapped in a harsh whisper.
          “Oh God, can we not do this now?” Chioma said, going to chalk up.
          “Get your heads in the game guys!” Nancy snapped at them angrily.
          “You waltz your way into my home and my life and think you can just take over!” Tundun said through clenched teeth, facing Ireti.
          “What is that supposed to mean!” Ireti said, trying to keep a straight face as a mechanical arm bearing a camera swooped past them.
          “Oh God!” Nancy groaned and went to join Chioma at the chalk bowl.
          “It means you’re a pathetic little parasite and nobody wants you here!” Tundun spat and Ireti recoiled from her in shock. “Do everyone a favour and crawl back into the crappy hole you crawled out from!”
Tears sprang to Ireti’s eyes and she was lost for what to say. She clenched her fists, trying to control her hurt and anger. Her face started to burn with humiliation and she felt the heat spread through her until it seemed it would consume her. She unclenched her fists, feeling a tingling sensation in her finger tips and took deep calming breaths.
Just then, Chioma yelped and leapt back from the plastic chalk bowl.
          “It melted and burned me!” she exclaimed, cradling her right hand in her left one.
In shock, they all watched the chalk bowl melt, plastic goo mixing with chalk powder, slipping down the stainless steel pedestal and plopping onto the floor. A few officials ran up to see what was happening and a first aider guided Chioma to the side of the runway to examine her hand.
          “What happened?” Ireti asked, as the girls crowded around Chioma, forgetting the fight momentarily.
          “Are you alright?” Nancy asked in shock. The bowl had melted right after she’d scooped a handful of chalk.
          “I just felt this wave of heat and the thing practically became liquid!” Chioma said.
Coach Tony and Jessica ran up to them from the other side of the gymnasium where they’d been watching.
          “What happened? Are you alright?” Coach Tony asked.
“She got scalded. Luckily, it’s nothing serious. Her hand brace caught most of the hot fluid.” The first aider said, rubbing some ointment on Chioma’s fingers.
          “Thank God!” Ireti said, heaving a relieved sigh.
          “How does it feel?” Coach Tony asked. “We could ask the judges for a postponement, or you could sit this one out.”
          “No, it’s fine.” Chioma said.”
          “Are you sure?” Nancy asked crouching in front of her.
          “Yeah.” Chioma replied.
          “I’ll be right back.” Coach Tony said, going to speak with the officials.
          “Thank God you’re fine.” Nancy said. “Imagine coming all the way to the Olympics just to go and get a freak injury!”
          “Abi oh! Before we had even started anything sef!” Ireti said.
          “It’s not too hard to imagine when we have Madam Jinx in our midst!” Tundun retorted.
          “Abeg, don’t start this thing again biko!” Chioma said.
          “Can you two stop this nonsense?” Nancy said.
          “I’m sure it’s her bad head that just wants to ruin all our chances here.” Tundun said.
          “You’re the one who has a bad head!” Ireti fired back.
          “Can you guys just hear yourselves? You’re both ridiculous!” Jessica said, disgusted. “I’m embarrassed by you both!”
          “Well you can tell her all that juju her mother has been doing won’t work here!” Tundun said.
          “And you and your mother can stop spreading lies about other people up and down!” Ireti replied.
          “You and your mother can stop manipulating my father!”
          “Okay girls, the officials have called a ten minute break.” Coach Tony said, returning and interrupting the bickering. Ireti and Tundun stared at each other in sullen silence while Chioma, Jessica and Nancy heaved relieved sighs.
After the break, the Vaults event went on without any other incidence, not even the silly fight between Ireti and Tundun.
The Uneven Bars started with Jessica, followed by Nancy. While Tundun was up, Ireti waited at the side, her heart thumping and her hands shaking. She went over her routine in her head, both looking forward to and dreading the moment it would be her turn. Just calm down she chided herself. She wondered if her mother and six siblings would be watching on the old black and white TV with the crooked antenna. She wondered if they would even have power supply in the first place. The last time she’d spoken with her mother, she had told her their little I-better-pass-my-neighbour generator had packed up again. For the millionth time, she asked herself if she should have stayed behind at the Hair Dresser’s shop in Ibadan instead of chasing this dream. At least by now, she would have been helping her mother out with their finances. She watched Tundun on the Bars absently, lost in thought.
Tundun was almost at the end of her routine and was performing a flip from the high bar to the low bar when her hand slipped. She made a wild grab for the low bar but didn’t have enough momentum and she missed. Coach Tony who was spotting her stretched out his arms to catch her fall. The spectators gave a collective gasp of horror as it became apparent that she was going to smack her head against the bar on her fall, and at the angle at which she was falling, the impact would very likely snap her neck.
Ireti felt the heat rush through her body again, with an intensity that threatened to set her ablaze. The next thing she knew was that she was whizzing through the air and grabbing at Tundun a split second before she hit the bar. The top of Tundun’s head grazed the Bar instead, dislodging the doughnut bun she had packed her hair in. Tundun’s hair went all over Ireti’s face and filled her mouth as they both fell heavily into Coach Tony’s out stretched arms and the three of them collapsed onto a heap on the floor as 29.6 million viewers around the world had their collective jaws hit the ground.

Bestie of Life

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! This can’t possibly be happening!
I was having a heart attack, cross my heart and hope to die. Really. I refreshed the Internet Explorer window again and tried to open the word document. I got the same error message that the file I was trying to open was corrupt and could not be opened. I ejected the flash drive and tried it on another laptop. Same results.
Kai! T’emi bami!
That wretched stick of a thing had somehow gobbled up my project and I was due to show it to my Supervisor. Unfortunately for me, my supervisor is stationed at Idi-Araba, not Akoka, so I always have to make the dreaded weekly visits there to meet with him. And if you had a sadistic supervisor like mine, you would realize that you didn’t even need a world-people flash drive for him to do you strong thing. In fact, my predicament would have him doing cartwheels in glee.
There was only one person that came to mind in that instant and I called her up immediately, knowing she would have a solution sha.
          “Bimpe.”
          “Hey what’s up!”
          “I need your help.”
          “What’s the matter?”
          “Please tell me you’re still at home.”
          “Why, what’s wrong?”
          “My stupid flash is corrupted! And I have to show Ajayi my Chapter six today!”
          “Wow!”
          “Everything is on my desktop at home. I just need someone to send it to me.”
          “Okay, let me see…”
          “You’ve left already abi?”
          “Yeah but don’t worry about it.”
          “Ah, how will you do it now?”
          “Shebi you can access your emails from Idi-Araba now?”
          “Yes but I don’t want to put you out like that oh, I’ll just rush back and pray that there’s no traffic.”
And Dr. Ajayi will gladly kick me out of his office for being late.
          “Don’t worry, I’ll email it to you.”
          “Are you sure?”
          “Of course! Don’t worry about it.”
          “You’re simply the best!” I gushed, relief washing over me.
          “Haha, and I know it!”
          “Thanks a million, I owe you big time!”
          “Yup you do! Give me like twenty minutes.”
          “Okay, oshey ore mi!”
          “Laters.”
What ever would I do without that girl? Bimpe is simply the best friend and sister anyone could ask for. She is the Martha to my Mary in the practical sense of it. She is as organized as I’m scatter-brained and the thing with my project is just one of many instances where she’s come in and saved the day. Who went to face off my Landlord when he suddenly decided to disconnect me from power supply? Who plans our shopping and cooks for the week on weekends? Who helped me pick out the dress to wear to my class Dinner? Who helped me sort things out when my junk-heap of a car was burgled and my laptop and handbag stolen? Me, I just had a total meltdown. Who was there to kick my butt through second semester exams last year when I lost my mum? Now you’re starting to get the gist.
We had been roommates in Moremi in year three and we got along so well even though we were in different faculties. We decided to step up to the Big Girls level in our final year, so we got BQs in Ozolua and stayed just around the corner from each other. We were more than Besties, she was more like the sister I always wished I had. I had even introduced her to my crazy clan of cousins and nieces and nephews and all what not. We’d all been close growing up and usually got in and out of trouble together. She’d been a hit with them and had been literally adopted into the mad-house. That was why I was doubly excited when Capt’n Zii, my usual partner in crime within the clan gave me gist of this road trip to Ghana. When I got back home that day, I was bursting to tell her the news.
          “The guys are organizing a road trip to – wait for it!!” I started dramatically and she laughed. I started to make dramatic drumming sounds.
          “Hope everything went well with your supervisor?” she asked and I ignored her. That one was past tense joor. I was talking legendary stuffz here and she’s bringing up Mr. Ogre.
          “Ghana!”
          “Wow nice!”
          “Yup, yup.”
          “Gee, can I come?”
          “Of course! Why do you think I’m telling you? Zii has warned me not to show my face if you’re not there too!”
          “Yay!”
          “I’ve thought the whole thing through.” I said and she gave me a dubious look. Everyone knows I’m soooooo not the planner. “We have to go by air because we only have the long Independence weekend, but we can save money if we share a room. We can also save on feeding by taking some edibles along. Then we can…”
          “Really? We’ll share a room?” she interrupted. “The both of us?”
          “Yeah. We could save more money if we got a bigger room and shared with two other people but I guess it’ll be better if it’s just two of us, I know my family, they can be cu-ray-zay! The cost shouldn’t be too bad and I’m sure we’ll be fine. Worst case, I’ll pull the Baby-Sis-card with my Brother and get some money off him.”
          “You’re willing to let me come on a family trip!” She asked getting all mushy. Bless her, she was such a sentimental wuss.
          “Of course! It’s going to be such an amazing trip, we’re going to have such fun!” I said literally bouncing off the walls in excitement. “Its just gonna be us, no adults or babies! Tunrayo and Denrele are coming, and the twins as well. Dare is bringing a friend as well and uncle Leke said Ireti can come, which should be very interesting, what with all that drama between her and Dara! Oh God, I can’t wait!” I gave a silly little laugh and she laughed too, getting infected with my excitement. Then she threw her arms around me and kissed me smack on the lips.
          “I love you Boo, I’m so glad I found you.” She said earnestly.
Say what?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I pulled back from her, totally lost for what to do or say!

 

*An abridged version of this story was originally published here on Breakpoint.
Breakpoint is the official Blog of Connected, a Christian Entertainment and Social Networking Platform. Read up on events and activities on Breakpoint and follow @connectedlagos

Erik Lehnsherr

          “Woo hoo!!!” Dare exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. “Welcome to Vegas Bay-bei!!”
          “I’ll raise my glass to that Bro!” Akin replied stopping on the crowded sidewalk to do a moon walk. Dare cheered him on until he ended his little display in a spin on his heels. The flow of pedestrians just continued around them without anyone giving them a second glance. This was Vegas after all and people had seen worse on a Friday night.
Dare and Akin were visiting The United States for the very first time. Both were literally fresh off the boat, having gotten their first jobs with Chevron right after completing their Youth Service program. As soon as they were due for their first leave, they decided to go all out and have the time of their lives. Neither one had ever been out of Nigeria before so they had every intention of painting the town red and every other color they could lay their hands on. They had made their way from Long Beach to Hollywood and had finally ended up in Las Vegas. And of course they had been putting up every inane picture taken on social media and updating their profile status every five seconds.
          “Okay Bro, what’s next?” Akin asked trying to put on an accent and failing woefully.
          “Let’s hit the clubs and pick up some chicks mehnnnnnnn!” Dare replied, his Ogbomosho accent ruining his exaggerated drawl.
          “Yo ma men, that sounds like a great idea.” Akin replied, thumping Dare on the back.
They hailed a cab and headed for The Strip.
          “Where to?” the cab driver asked.
          “We’re hitting the clubs men!” Dare said, putting on his Ray Bans sun glasses with an exaggerated flair even though it was almost 11 pm.
          “Yeah man, we’re gonna party hard!” Akin answered, putting his arm around Dare’s shoulder.
The cab man took one uninterested look at them in the rear view mirror and pulled out into the traffic on The Boulevard. When he finally pulled up in front of a club, they piled out excitedly and Akin settled the cab fare.
Inside the club, it was already crowded. The entrance opened up into a sort of mezzanine gallery which looked down into the dance floor. On the mezzanine level, away from the railing were semi-closed off VIP booths and directly opposite the entry was the bar. Both levels of the club were packed and the guys started to inch their way along the gallery towards the bar. Akin tried to say something to Dare but Dare couldn’t hear him above the pulsing music. Akin put his lips to Dare’s ear and yelled into it.
          “Is that a man?” he asked motioning with his head at a lady who was leaning on the railing a few feet from them. She was wearing a short figure fitting leather dress and high heeled shoes. She had long black hair that reached almost all the way to her waist and her face was heavily made up.
          “What?” Dare asked, also trying to be heard above the music.
          “That woman or guy or whatever!” Akin replied.
          “Why would you think that is a man?!” Dare exclaimed.
          “Well…”
The lady caught them staring then and turned to smile suggestively at them and blew them a kiss from between blood-red lips.
          “Oh wow, it’s a man sha!” Dare said, seeing her face properly. “He sure had me fooled!”
          “Dare, I think…” Akin started, taking a look around them.
          “Look at that cute Babe sitting alone at the bar.” Dare said cutting him off. “I’m pretty sure she’s a girl!” he said laughing.
Dare looked distractedly at the bar. “Dare listen, I think this is…”
          “How do I look?” Dare asked patting down his hair. “Think I’ve got my game on?”
          “Wait, what are you trying to do?” Akin asked grabbing a hold of his arm.
          “I’m going to chat up the Babe at the bar. Who knows, someone might get lucky tonight!” he wriggled his brows at Akin and adjusted the lapels of his sports jacket.
          “Oh no you don’t!” Akin said, pulling him back. “Trust me, you don’t want to do that.”
          “Na wetin do you now? Abi you don lose your ginger ni?”
          “Shut up and listen to me!” Akin snapped. “We’re in a Gay bar you idiot. The last thing you want to do is hit on a woman!”
          “What?!” It was Dare’s turn to take a good look around. “Oh crap! We’re in a Gay bar!”
          “Yes Einstein!” Akin said, turning round and heading for the door.
          “But why would the cab man bring us to a…” Dare started.
His words were drowned out by the sharp burst of gunfire just a few feet from them. If they hadn’t been standing so close to the source, they would have thought it was fire crackers, like most of the other patrons in the club did.
Akin watched a few people fall to the ground before total chaos erupted in the gallery. He grabbed Dare’s arm and tried to pull him towards one of the VIP Booths. Unfortunately, it seemed the gunman was reading his mind and had directed his fire power that way. Instinctively, Akin changed directions and pulled him towards a door to their right which he’d spied earlier. Dare stumbled and fell and was almost trampled by the panicked crowd. Akin wrestled his way through the crush of bodies and finally succeeded in pulling him off the ground. He grabbed a hold of Dare’s pants by the belt and resolutely headed towards the restrooms against the flow of bodies, half hauling Dare with him. They heard more gun fire as they crashed through the door into the female bathrooms.
          “Oh my God, what the hell was that?” Dare gasped.
Akin didn’t answer but continued to drag him into a toilet stall. He shut the door and lowered the lid on the toilet bowl.
          “Jesu, mogbe! What’s happening?” Dare asked, starting to shake.
          “Shhhhh!”” Akin snapped. “We have to get up on the lid and crouch there.” He continued in a whisper. “Just stay quiet, okay?” he said and Dare nodded, looking like he was about to start bawling hie eyes out.
They heard other people pour into the bathroom, screaming and hysterical. Intermittently, they would hear shouts and gun fire intermixed with disco music as the door opened to let more people into the bathroom.
          “Just stay calm.” Akin whispered as they huddled together on the closed lid and Dare nodded rapidly, starting to shake. They stayed that way for what seemed like an eternity and listened to the hysteria that was unfolding in the bathroom.
          “He’s crazy!” one woman whimpered. “He’s just shooting everything in sight!”
They heard the door open again and thankfully, the only sounds that trailed in were from the loud speakers; the shooting had stopped.
Next thing they knew, the screams and shots were coming from right outside the cubicle door. Dare peed himself and started to cry and Akin started to mutter Psalm 23 without even realizing he was speaking at all. The shots stopped as suddenly as they had started and just when they thought the gun man had left, he kicked open the door to their cubicle. He took one disgusted look at them huddling together on the toilet seat and aimed his automatic rifle at them.
Reflexively, Dare put up his arms a milli second after the gunman pulled the trigger and he watched mesmerized as the bullets followed the arc of his arms and shattered the wooden walls on both sides of the cubicle and the ceiling. The gunman’s finger relaxed on the trigger as his eyes snapped to the light fixture overhead which had been smashed by a flying bullet. He looked back at Dare in confusion, his mind not comprehending what he’d just seen. Dare stared at him as well, his face mirroring the gunman’s bewilderment. The gunman took two fearful steps away from them and then raised the rifle again and squeezed the trigger. Dare didn’t think, he raised his hands again in the primal instinct of self-preservation. The barrel of the rifle bent upwards in response to the motion of his arms. The bullet from the first round ran into the mangled barrel at more than 1,200 m/s, packing almost 3000 joules of energy behind it. Right on its heels was the next round, doubling the pressure in the barrel. The barrel exploded while rounds were still clattering from the magazine and the gunman’s upper torso went up in a fire work display of blood and bone and soft tissue.

Bruce Banner

          “Hey Alex, what’s keeping you so long?” Banky snapped.
He was standing over Alex’s desk and looking down at him with an irritated frown on his face.
          “It’s not like it’s rocket science!” he continued, his voice rising. Several people in the open office looked their way.
Alex pushed his glasses up his nose and looked at Banky with intense dislike. The guy was always trying to belittle him in front of people every chance he got.
          “If it was so easy, why don’t you roll up your sleeves and get to work!” he retorted, clenching his fists to stop his hands from shaking.
Banky planted his hands on Alex’s desk and pushed his face in Alex’s angry one.
          “I’m your Team Lead and you answer to me.” He said through clenched teeth. “You will do as I say, when I say it, do you understand?”
Alex laughed in his face.
          “Well, Mr. Top Shot, maybe if you didn’t go about taking credit for other people’s ideas, you wouldn’t sound so pathetic!” he said.
He got a sick sense of satisfaction watching the veins in Banky’s temple bulge as he fought for control.
          “You’re the pathetic one, weirdo.” He spat straightening up. “I expect to see a Demo by 10 a.m. tomorrow.” He said and walked out of the office.
Alex took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself. It felt like every eye in the room was on him and he imagined that they were all filled with the derision he’d become very familiar with right from childhood. It didn’t matter that he had an IQ of 189 or that he’d always been top of his class. Alex was and always had been the kid everyone else loved to pick on and call names, even his siblings.
Even though he knew he shouldn’t get worked up by Banky, it was still very hard to reign his anger in. As far as he was concerned, Banky was just a shallow, cocky bastard who hid behind his pretty face and flamboyant ways. Banky was trying to climb his way up at the Software Development outfit at which they worked not by any brilliance of his own but by taking credit for other people’s work and basically stomping on his colleagues’ heads to get to the top. He was the kind of person who would use any trick in the book, as long as he got what he wanted.
          “Hey, you okay?”
Alex’s head snapped up at Isabel’s voice. As always, he was tongue tied in her presence. Not only was she pretty, she was also friends with him. He still marvelled at the fact that she was nice to him even though almost no one else was.
          “Don’t let him get to you.” She said smiling. “He’s probably just under a lot of pressure from the bosses to get the Project done.”
He returned her smile and nodded
          “Yeah.” He mumbled.
          “See you at lunch?” she asked and he nodded again.
He was mustering up the courage to say something else to her when Banky returned to his table.
          “Hey Isabel, ready to go for lunch?” he said putting a proprietary arm around her waist.
          “Just a moment.” She said shifting on her feet and subtly dislodging his arm. “I’ll catch up with you.”
          “Why are you always hanging around this loser?” Banky asked. “Psychos like him just take your pity for granted and then turn grand stalker!”
          “Come on Banky, don’t be mean!” Isabel said, giving Banky a chastising look.
          “See you later.” She said to Alex and left.
Banky gave Alex one last malevolent stare before he turned and left as well.
          “Weirdo.” he muttered under his breath.

Alex clenched his fists again, trying to suppress the overwhelming rage he felt. He felt pressure building up in his head, causing bright lights to pop in his eyes and giving new meaning to the notion of ‘seeing red’. Gradually, his breathing slowed and his vison cleared, and he unclenched his fists. He watched, mesmerized as blood flowed back into the white furrows his nails had made in his palms.
He skipped lunch, too upset to face anyone, and worked late into the night as he often did. By the time he was leaving, everyone else had gone and the office was silent and empty. He packed up his laptop, slung his jacket over his shoulder and took the service lift to the car park on the ground floor. He usually parked his Honda Civic in the spot closest to the back door and the dumpster so he generally avoided the main lifts. No one else liked that parking spot and it was the only one he didn’t have to fight with anyone for.
As he pushed the door open, he heard a loud creaking noise and looked up just in time to see the metal bucket of fish entrails plummet towards his bewildered face. He snapped his mouth shut in time before he was drenched in blood and smelly guts. The bucket clapped him smack on the head before it clattered to the ground and he tripped over it, stumbling into the car park. He dropped his jacket and tried to reach out his hand to one of the supporting pillars in the car park but he went sprawling instead.
Damn you Banky! I’m going to make you pay for this!
He let out an angry growl and thumped his clenched fist on the concrete floor. Again, he started to feel the pressure build up in his head and behind his eyes. The blood vessels in his eyes popped and he really did see red this time. He let out a blood curling roar and flung his laptop bag away. Inside his body, it was total chaos. His chromosomes were shattering, making shreds of his DNA as his size almost tripled. He experienced a metabolic surge that destroyed his red blood cells and reduced his haemoglobin to green biliverdin. He screamed in pain as his bones popped out of place, making sharp cracking sounds and more than doubled in size. Muscles and tendons bulked up around grotesquely huge bones, defying the laws of conservation of mass. His wrist watch popped off his widening wrist and the buttons on his shirt flew off. His pecs bulged out, shredding his shirt and his pants ripped, sending his wallet flying out of his back pocket. His now mangled feet burst out of his leather shoes, green veins snaking up from his gnarly toes. He threw back his head and let out another roar, wiping slimy guts off his bulging brows.
          “Alex?”
He swung around at the sound of the voice, his arm shattering one of the support pillars. He got clumsily to his feet and the top of his head broke through the concrete ceiling.
When Isabel saw the ceiling start to cave in, she screamed and stumbled back towards the lift she’d just gotten out of. Alex charged towards the sound, breaking and smashing everything in his path.
Isabel got into the lift but it wouldn’t move because the lift shaft had started to fill up with debris from the floor above the car park which had started to cave in. she screamed again when the lights in the lift blinked out.
The angry green mass that used to be Alex saw an H beam collapse onto the elevator, almost totally crushing the cab. Somewhere in all the red, angry mist that was in his head, he felt a twinge of recognition at the scream coming from the elevator, but the angry red mist was overwhelming and it snuffed everything else out. He let out another roar and slapped away the H beam like it was a tooth pick. He tore at the walls of the elevator cab and picked up the now unconscious Isabel. He swatted away at broken concrete and mangled metal as he made his way from the building and out into the open. Gently, he laid her down on the floor and then turned around and went crashing into the night, letting out another angry howl.

Sisí Èkó: Smiley Baby and Me

I took a bus the other day from Àjáh to Obáléndé and surprisingly, probably for the first time in the four odd weeks that I’ve lived in Àjáh, there was no drama at all with the bus journey. Conductor was placid and quiet, no cursing or fighting with the passengers. Passengers were nice and sweet, no drama with change or the bus fare. Driver was passably sane, no double-oh-seven stunts or abusing every other road user’s mother. All was great and the sky was blue. There wasn’t even traffic.
At Agungi, a young mum got on the bus with her baby girl, who couldn’t have been more than about six months old. Right from the word go, the Baby smiled and gurgled and waved her hands and practically let the sun into an already very serene bus. I was sitting in the row behind her and her mum, and she turned around to face me and we made funny faces back and forth at each other. At Jákàńdè, another lady got on the bus and took the seat beside me. Being the cheerful baby that she was, she turned and smiled at the lady too. Then I saw her line of sight drop down to the lady’s bust line. Oh well. Even I had noticed that the lady was, ahem, well endowed. Next thing is Smiley Baby’s eyes going from her bust line to my non-existent one mine and I could see the bewilderment on her open, expressive face. Then she looked up at me in wide-eyed wonder, as if to say “You poor thing, whatever happened to you?!”
Believe me Sweetie, I’m asking the very same thing! :/

Sisí Èkó: You Don Hit My Car!

I was out this morning with my then Boyfriend, Kúnlé (yeah, I more than gladly shenked jumping bus today). We were approaching the fourth roundabout on the Lékkí-Èpé Expressway when Kúnlé changed lanes without looking and promptly smashed the left headlamp of a black Toyota Camry.
Kai, we don enter am today!
The Toyota Camry crossed us off and blocked out exit. I sat in the car, dreading the inevitable confrontation. The driver’s door opened and out stepped this chic. I was a bit relieved at that, seeing as little her couldn’t possibly drag Kúnlé out of the car and beat the crap out of him. That scene with the soldier and the danfo driver is etched into my brain.
          “Hey, you just broke my headlamp!” she said, sounding really pissed.
I was about to put on my let’s-talk-one-sister-to-another smile and start to beg her when Kúnlé’s voice floated across the car to me.
          “I can’t have this discussion with you, you’re a woman.” He said, not even having the courtesy to look at her.
Say ginni?
          “Excuse me?” the lady said. I could feel her anger starting to boil up because I was feeling the same thing.
          “I can’t be standing in the middle of the road, arguing with a woman.” He said insolently, staring straight ahead. “So if you don’t mind, abeg remove your car from my front.”
          “Just what is that supposed to mean!” That, from me. Like seriously, what the heck!
          “Why will I be wasting my time arguing with a woman?”
          “Oh really?” I said.
          “Yes. She should know her place. Let her call her husband to come, if not she should get out of my bloody way.”
The lady didn’t say anything but just calmly walked away. I guess she realized I had way bigger problems than she did, seeing as I was the one joined at the hip to the caveman.
          “Are you even listening to yourself?” I sputtered. “You’re not…”
          “You can talk to this.” The lady reappeared and before anyone could say jack you son of a gun, she tasered him. Yep, you got that right. Little Miss Calm and Collected, with her Ty-Bello Afro and Louboutins (how on earth does she drive in those babies?!), carried a Taser gun in her black Toyota Camry. And the caveman? I watched him dance like a demented doll in a wacky Frankenstein movie, his eyes rolled back and spittle flying everywhere, with my jaw on the ground. Just as quietly as she had come, she left, got into her car and drove off while Lagos watched on in a daze, wondering what exactly had just happened before their eyes.
And me? I jejely waited for Mr. caveman to regain consciousness. He sha had to drive me back home first before I told his chauvinistic face “Ok, bye”.

Sisí Èkó: Navigator

This beautiful Saturday morning (aren’t they all beautiful!), I spent 45 minutes in Obáléndé waiting for the Bus to Berger to fill up. When it was finally full, the conductor sauntered over and proceeded to collect his money.
          “Oga, you no fit collect money for road?” a man on the third row grumbled.
          “Na for road I go pay Agbèrò?” The conductor retorted.
          “So you knew that one since, you come just dey collect money? Someone from the back row said, disgusted. At this point, I knew how the drama would go, probably ending in a I-no-get-change argument. I was about to plug in my ear phones to drown out the noise when one madam beside me upped the ante.
          “Oníranù, the time him suppose dey collect money, na that chingum geh him dey chase up and down! “ she said drawing out a long hiss.
          “Na ya business?” Oga conductor challenged, stopping in his collection to face off the woman.
          “Abeg dey collect your money dey go, this heat too much oh!” another passenger said.
          “Abeg make I fire am! Abi you no hear the nonsense him dey talk?” Oga conductor asked.
          “Ehn dey collect your money as you set fire am nah!” the passenger said.
          “Woman wrapper!” madam hissed.
          “You dey jealous?” Oga conductor fired back.
          “God forbid! Na your kind me I dey follow?!”
          “Why you no talk nah, I for come toast you join.” Oga conductor said eliciting a few titters from other passengers.
          “You don dey crase! “
He finally finished collecting the money and we left the park, thank God!
The next sign of trouble was when the engine started to cough like a nicotine addict.
          “Oga, this your moto go reach so?” someone asked.
          “No worry.” Oga driver said. “Him dey kamkpe!”
          “Abeg, if he no go reach, make we come down oh!”
          “Come down for where? When I don pay for garage already!” Oga conductor retorted, ready for another fight.
          “I say him dey alright, he just dey warm up!” Oga driver reassured.
That’s how we left Obalende and climbed on top red mainland bridge with our kpa-ka kpù-kù bus. The thing would go kpa-ka kpù-kù, kpa-ka kpù-kù, ó-tó-gé (I swear, the groans of that engine sounded like it was saying just that, true!), then we would go vroom vroom vroom and then kpa-ka kpù-kù over and over again. I reckoned sometime this century, we would get to Berger.
We were fine and dandy for a while, in fact, after you settle into the engine’s rhythm, it actually starts to lull you like a child’s lullaby. That was until it started to rain on 3rd mainland bridge and we found out that our kpa-ka kpù-kù’s wipers didn’t work. And oh, Oga driver was as blind as a mole too. Unfortunately for me, I was in the first row, behind the driver, so I saw everything in HD.
          “Oga, you no get wiper?” the lady in the passenger seat asked alarmed.
Oga driver ignored her.
          “Abeg stop oh!” she said.
          “Stop for where?!” Oga conductor who’d been spoiling for another fight demanded. “Abi you no see say na for 3rd mainland bridge we dey?”
The fortunate souls in the back seats were blissfully unaware of the wiper shebang and found something else to fight the conductor over.
          “Oga, this your bus dey leak oh!”
          “Abeg close your window jare, rain get enter!”
          “Na Sharaton you think say you dey?           “ Oga conductor retorted forgetting madam in the front seat for the moment.
          “Don’t mind them. They will be collecting money, them no go fix their vehicle. “ one woman said in disgust and other passengers agreed with her.
Ha, if they only knew! There were way bigger issues than leaky roofs on ground!
Consequently, the other passenger in the front seat became the Navigator and Oga Conductor the right side mirror.
          “Small-small.” Navigator said, motioning with his hands.
          “Your side.” Oga Conductor said.
          “Peeeem-peeeem!” The Corolla to our left said.
With that brilliant plan in place, we made it to Ìyànà Òwòrò in one piece. Barely. Next issue was the line of tankers and trailers joining the Berger bound traffic from there.
          “We no fit stop for here?” madam in front asked hopefully.
          “Madam, nothing do you. Your side!!” Oga conductor said.
By this time, the fighters in the back seats had found out about our precarious situation and had sobered up. Well, sort of.
          “Oga, you no dey see? You wan jam trailer? “
          “Oritse gbami!”
          “Lord have mercy!”
          “Kai, I don enter this one oh!”
          “I for no enter road today oh!”
As if to add it’s own voice to the melee, the rain started to come down even harder.
          “There’s a tanker in front! Small-small. “ Navigator said and Oga driver stepped on the brakes.
          “Not so hard!” Navigator gasped and we all screamed as we were thrown forwards like rag dolls.
In response, Oga driver stepped on the gas and we were all thrown backwards. I cannot write the sort of colourful language that followed. Ah, I fear that I wee be corrupting the eyes of Nigerians if they had to read it on here!
In the midst of that drama, something let out a hoot that almost had me peeing my pants and all hell broke lose.
          “Ah, trailer dey your right!”
          “Your side! Your side!”
          “Ah, Jesus I am dead!”
          “Oga stop this bus oh I wan come down.”
          “He dey your side!”
          “Na tanker oh!”
          “Blood of Jesus!”
          “Yéè mo gbé! “
          “Orí ìyámi òh!”
Next thing, we hit a massive puddle and the sounds of the water forcefully hitting the undersides of the bus and the avalanche of water that hit us on all sides were the final nails in the panic coffin.
The type of mayhem that ensued was enough to cause even the sanest of drivers to lose control, not that ours was anywhere near sane to start with.
          “Abeg please stop for Mobil oh, we cannot continue like this!” one passenger implored.
          “Ah, we don pass Mobil since.” Someone else said.
          “We don pass?! I think say we still dey toll gate oh!”
          “Ah, toll gate ke?!”
For all we knew, we were already in Ìbàdàn sef!
          “Na Òtédolá gate be that in front!” someone exclaimed.
I doubted it seriously but the thought of a safe place to get off was too good to pass off.
          “Abeg stop make I come down, I no go Berger again!”
          “I go waka the rest biko!”
          “Why you wan get down inside this rain?” Oga conductor asked.
          “You no see the nonsense your driver dey drive?”
          “How? The guy dey alright now!”
My head did a 360 and I stared at the conductor in utter disbelief, like really?! That was when it really hit home that we were in the hands of mad men and I joined the crazy clamour for the bus to stop.
In response, Oga driver swerved to the right towards the bus stop without first consulting his Navigator and Oga conductor and he had his right side mirror clipped off by the tanker on his right.
          “Yeh, go your side! Go your side!” Oga conductor screamed, not that Oga driver could have heard him above the panicked screams in the bus.
Oga driver swerved left and stepped on the brakes.
          “No stop, no stop oh! Another one dey your back!” someone from the last row screamed.
We stumbled on until Oga driver finally brought the bus to a stop beside a dilapidated filling station. As soon as the bus stopped, frantic passengers spilled out into the pouring rain. Mehn, it had never felt so good to have rain slap me in the face, I was alive and in one piece!

Meeting The In-Laws

          “He doesn’t exist ” Sandra declared and Blessing gasped I’m faux shock.
          “I’m sure he’s just a myth and a figment of her imagination.” Sandra continued.
          “She probably just made him up to fool everyone ” Thomas, Blessing’s husband said rubbing her protruding tummy and she practically started to purr.
          “Don’t be so mean!” Blessing said and giggled, enjoying every bit of the conversation.
Mr. Nwachukwu, the girls’ father looked at them over the top of his Sunday Sun, opened his mouth to say something and thought the better of it. They were awaiting the arrival of their weird cousin and her so called fiancé. Cousin Ezinne was weird in more ways than one but the one Blessing couldn’t stand the most was her annoying accent, which they were all sure was fake. All because she had gone to University in Scotland, she had to come and be forming with her fake phone and her eccentric ways. A few weeks ago, her mother, Auntie Nkiruka had announced that she was coming home to get married and the whole family had been astir with the news.
          “Which kain engaged?” Sandra continued. “Someone that didn’t even have a boyfriend two seconds ago.”
          “Abi oh!” Blessing chimed in shifting in her seat to ease the ache in her back. She was almost eight months pregnant with her second child.
          “From where to where now?” Sandra added.
          “I’m sure it’s pride that has caused her to remain single until 32. Which man wants a Professor woman doing gra-gra in his house?” Thomas said and Blessing nodded in agreement.
          “When she was meant to have settled down, she was busy chasing some pipe dream.” Mrs. Nwachukwu said shaking her head.
          “It would have been better for her not to have even gone to school at all and be properly married, rather than having all these degrees and awards with nothing to show for them.” Thomas said, really warming up to the topic. “Will her PhD make her a real woman ehn?”
          “With all that reading, she probably thinks she’s better than everyone else.” Sandra said, drawing out a long hiss.
          “What if it’s something else?” Blessing said slyly.
          “What else could it be?” Their mother asked.
          “What if she’s a lesbian!” Blessing said and the other women gasped.
The Sunday Sun came down all the way this time.
          “Why would you even say such a thing?!” Their father asked glowering at her.
          “Think about it. How is it possible for anyone to get to that age without as much as a Boyfriend? Abi have you ever seen her bring any man home before?”
          “It’s true sha.” Sandra said. “Who knows what nonsense she has gone to learn in that place.”
          “See why I always advised her mother to bring her back home to Lagos.”
          “Don’t ever mention that nonsense in this house again!” Mr. Nwachukwu declared.
          “But it’s true now Daddy, she…” Sandra started.
          “That’s enough!”
Blessing exchanged a knowing look with her sister.
          “Whether we say it or not, people will come to their own conclusions and talk, and it’s the family’s reputation at stake.” Mrs. Nwachukwu countered.
          “Has she not brought a husband home like you all asked?” their father said exasperated.
          “Let’s wait and see first.” Sandra retorted and he shook his head and went back to the Newspaper.
          “He’s probably a married man with children.” She continued.
          “Abi oh, just like Caroline.” Blessing chimed in.
          “That one is another case entirely, opened her eyes wide and had not one, not two, but three children for the same man who kept promising to leave his wife for her!” Mrs. Nwachukwu said. “God only knows what girls of nowadays are coming to. I blame it on bad upbringing.”
          “Yes oh. God forbid that any of my children becomes like these our cousins.” Sandra said snapping her fingers over her head.
Just then, the doorbell rang and the house girl ran to get the door. Cousin Ezinne came in holding hands with the mythical fiancé and all their jaws practically dropped to the floor. Not only was he very real with red blood flowing in his veins, he was also very white.
Ezinne went down on both knees in front of her uncle.
          “Ehihie Öma.” She greeted.
Ghost Fiancé prostrated before her uncle and his wife. He actually prostrated! The nerve of that girl, trying to pull the wool over their eyes!
          “Good evening Sir.” He said.
If he noticed the mouths hanging agape or the incredulous looks coming his way, he showed no signs of it.
          “It is a pleasure to finally meet you Sir.” He added. “And you too Ma’am.” He said to Mrs. Nwachukwu.
          “Uncle, Auntie, this is Jared” Ezinne said shyly.
Despite how excited she’d been about introducing him to her family, she was very nervous. Her uncle was the first to overcome his shock and he proffered his hand, which Jared shook.
          “You’re welcome. Please have a seat.”
          “These are my cousins, Sandra and Blessing, and this is Thomas, Blessings husband.”
          “So, this is your fiancé!” Sandra blurted out and Ezinne beamed.
          “Yes.” she replied.
They all stared, flummoxed as the myth they had thought was non-existent settled his behind on the leather sofa. He took Ezinne’s hand in his and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
          “So how did you two meet?” Mr. Nwachukwu asked.
          “We met at University.” Jared answered. “We were housemates during our third year.” He said and Sandra’s and Blessing’s ears perked up at that.
          “So you two lived together?” Blessing said almost jumping out of her seat in righteous indignation.
          “Yes.” Ezinne replied. “We lived together for almost two years actually.” She turned in her seat to look at Jared. “Remember we had a leak in my Block during the last few months of year two and I was placed in a temp room on the second floor of your Block.”
          “Oh yeah, that’s true. I was on the fourth floor, so we didn’t really get to know each other well until our third year.”
“Okay,           so you lived in a Block of Apartments?” Mr. Nwachukwu said, giving the girls a pointed look.
          “Yes, the University’s Student Apartments.” Jared said.
Sandra huffed under her breath. Story for the gods, like that was going to fool anyone.
          “What do you do?” Thomas asked, eyeing him up. Let’s see if he was man at all.
          “I’m a Geophysicist with Halliburton. Been with them the last four years, since I completed my Masters degree. But now, I got an offer from Exxon Mobil so I’ll be returning home to Houston in a few months.”
          “So you’re American.” Mrs. Nwachukwu said.
         &nbsp          “Yes Ma’am.”
          “So you’re going to move to Houston.” Mrs. Nwachukwu said to Ezinne. “We thought you were finally returning home.”
          “Yes I’ll be moving to Houston. I’m already looking for Academic positions there.” She replied, crossing her legs. Blessing’s eyebrows shot up when she saw the line of music notes tattooed on her right ankle. She caught Sandra’s eye and shook her head in disgust.
The interrogation continued for almost two hours and with each moment that passed, their opinion of Ezinne kept dropping until it was at the bottom of the barrel. They didn’t want to have a big wedding (so now, she’s too big for all their family members to attend her wedding), they wanted to wait a year or two before having children (Agaracha did not realize that her biological clock was ticking away) and they wanted just two children (of course she would be too busy chasing her career to have time to raise children), Jared’s family was Jewish (what happened to all the Catholic men in the world oh?) and they were going to have a Nissuin instead of a Church ceremony.
          “I’m sure she’s just using him to get a blue Passport.” Timothy said as soon as Ezinne and Jared were out the door.
          “Before!” Sandra said. “It has arrangee written all over it!”
          “But why on earth would he want to be with her?!” Blessing exclaimed indignantly “She’s so old, why would anyone want to marry her?”
Outside, Ezinne almost collapsed with relief.
          “Wow! That went way better than I expected!” She said.
          “I told you it would be fine.” Jared replied.
          “I was just so nervous!”
          “You did well Babes.” He said giving her hand a squeeze.
          “I’m so glad we got that out of the way.”
          “You think that was scary? Wait until you meet my family!”
          “They can’t be as bad as my family for sure.”
          “They’re old-fashioned Southerners and won’t be too happy about having colored grandbabies…”

In Their Steps

I sit quietly, holding his tiny body in my arms. The fever that wracked his body last night has left him cold today. He hasn’t cried in days and I long to hear that sound that tells me my child is fighting, the sound that tells me he hasn’t given up, that like me, he is holding on for dear life.
I know some medicine will help him but Mataima won’t give him any. Even when I dared venture outside my uncle’s walls to go to the hut that serves as the health care centre, she turned me away.
Boko Haram Bride she spat but I didn’t care. The other women have called me worse. I clung to her shawl, begged for mercy, for the child I said, not for me but for the child.
She dragged me into the hut by my arm then, showed me the maimed, wounded men within, the stench of death and decay chocked me, brought fresh tears to my eyes.
They are the ones who deserve mercy she hissed. Your lot did this to them, to their families. I will not squander medicines on your bastard child.
I’d turned and left then. My little Boy did not do this I want to say but the words didn’t come.
As I returned to my uncle’s compound, I heard the whispers. I saw the fear in the averted faces.
They are afraid of me. That thought shocks me the most. Their disdain, repulsion and whispered Karuwa* I have somewhat come to expect, but the fear baffles me, how can anyone be afraid of me, I’m just seventeen, not much more than a little slip of a child.
You will bring them back here, you’re the ruin of us all.
Are we sure she doesn’t have a belt under her hijab?
You lay with a man who kills your people! How can you live with yourself?

I desperately want to tell them I didn’t create any of this, I didn’t ask for this, I don’t want to be damaged. I want to be fifteen again, dreaming of flying a plane in the open skies one day. I want my mother to hold me in her arms as I hold my son, but they tell me I killed her the day I left.
I feel it when my Baby takes his last labored breath. I am too weak with anguish to take one of my own, so I sit still with his lifeless body in my arms, arms as empty as my heart.
I know the family will be relieved, jubilant even, that the blood of Boko Haram has gone from them. They will say it is God’s will, God’s way of exacting justice for the atrocities of Boko Haram, they will say it is atonement. I want to scream that I don’t believe God would punish a little child like they have, that the face of God can’t possible hold their self-righteous sneers. But the words won’t come still.
Thoughts of the forest come to me instead. The longing for it is so strong in my empty heart that I think I will lose my mind. It both terrifies and draws me at once. I want to go back, go back to the rocky heights that make me feel like I’m flying, the leafy shea trees that provide respite from the sun. I want to hide from these people, from the family that has turned on me, from the friends that now hate and despise me. I can’t help but think that my son would still be alive had I stayed in the forest.
The thought of wearing a belt flits through my mind. The peacefulness of death would be better than this sham of a life I now live. Maybe then Boko Haram will hail me a hero, not the outcast I have become to my people. How ironic would it be if I followed in the steps of the ones who have stolen my life from me. By a twist of fate, I would also be following in the steps of the ones who are stealing my future if I let my anger and pain take over, and I kill and maim. Life sure is full of ironies.
Or maybe I should go like a coward, swallow some guba**. You never live beyond the day you become a captive. All you know is torment as you wait and hope for rescue. All you know is pain and shame if you survive and return. Same side of the same unfortunate coin.
One day, maybe I will forget. Maybe I will forget everything; the forest, the thoughts of dying, the hateful looks, the cruel words, the pull of my son’s lips on my breasts. Maybe. But today I am consumed by pain and anger and shame and confusion and this deep dark hole that seems impossible to fill.

*Whore
**Poison