Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Night Before Christmas...


Today, I had a dream (or a vision or a burst of creative imagination from watching too many Christmas movies). Whatever it was, I met three women who are (or will be) a part of my life, and they showed me three snapshots of my life at Christmas. 

The Spirit of Christmas Past

I already knew who it would be before I saw her.
You guessed it. My Mother. I happily took her hand as we walked into my first vision.
The date is some time before Christmas in 1997. The family is scattered all over the living room. We are preparing our special song for the house fellowship Christmas Carol service. As much as I try to see further into the vision I cannot remember whether or not we had a tree, but I know for sure that we were truly happy. The vision shifts without warning and I find myself in an audience in the well lit front lawn of a family not far down the street.

We are together on the makeshift stage: Mum, my brother, my sister and I, singing:

There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus
No not one, no not one

Jesus knows all about life's troubles,
He will guide 'til the day is done

There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus
No not one, no not one

I always wondered why she picked that very un-Christmas song for a carol service and I never remembered to ask, but during the days after she passed away ten months later, and every other dark moment since then, the words of that song come back to me and they hold me together.

She walked away humming No not one, no not one....

The Spirit of Christmas Present

She looked so beautiful. So graceful, regal almost.
I have never seen her as I saw her now.
Of course, like a true 21st century spirit, my sister did not appear in a gauzy halo of bright lights. Instead she called me on the phone. But as I spoke with her I saw her in front of me, like she was right there. We talked about everything, and about how our lives were changing. As we talked I realized that I was blessed. Everybody seems shocked that I am spending Christmas alone in New York this year, but how can I be alone when I am surrounded by so much love. We are both embarking on very different journeys this Christmas season, she and I, but it goes without saying


She will be there for me and I will be there for her
Merry Christmas Omotara ♥

The Spirit of Christmas To Come

While I was sleeping I felt a cold hand tap my shoulder and immediately turned my face away from the disturbance to snuggle deeper into the warm blanket around my shoulders. Seconds later a face hovered inches from mine and I felt a warm breath on my cheeks. I opened one eye to stare directly into a face that was exactly like mine, only younger, and then both eyes snapped open. She giggled and clapped like I had performed a wonderful magic trick, and I knew.

My daughter, Addison (one of the names I plan to give her ☺).

She hopped down from the bed and held out her hand to me. I took her hand and we walked out of my studio apartment together into another place in another time. We came out of one of the rooms in another house to see a family at the bottom of the stairs, and we both kneeled by the banisters to watch them. Addison is about three years old, now and in my dream, and she is running around and getting in everyone's way. There is another child, a boy, he looks to be about seven and he's chewing his bottom lip in concentration as he untangles the lights for the tree and lays them out in a straight line on the carpet. The tree is huge, extending towards the roof of the foyer and there is a man on a ladder arranging ornaments from a huge tray that I am holding up. I look at Addison with my eyebrows raised in question, she smiles and nods in reply and we go back to watching them. This is my family.

He climbs down from the ladder and grabs Addison by her tiny waist just as she is about to frustrate her brother to tears and twirls her above his head. I smile at the sound of her excited squeals and his fake helicopter buzz. In a second, her brother is on his feet with arms outstretched, demanding his turn. An inexplicable sense of peace and calmness flows over me. But the more I try to see the face of the man at the center of my vision the more it is taken from me, until I am jolted awake in my bed.

Christmas Eve 2011, 8:41am

I never thought about it before but for me, it has always been about family.
Merry Christmas all...

For TheRustGeek, whoever u are...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Underwater...

I expected him to be surprised to hear my voice on the phone. But I did not expect the resistance that followed my invitation to meet up for dinner.

"Oh come on," I purred into the mouthpiece, "After all this time we should be able to share a simple meal for a few hours. Besides, I know you would like the satisfaction of hearing that heartfelt apology you deserve. Please?"

He finally agreed. I gave him the name of an outdoor Italian restaurant in the West Village and we agreed to meet at 6pm the following Thursday.

Once upon a time I would never show up early for a date.

I arrived more than 30 minutes early and asked to be seated near the small fountain at the back. While I waited I lit a cigarette and sipped a small Manhattan, and I relaxed. The past twelve months have been really interesting, and tiring. I have been trying new things: traveling, celibacy, a new hairstyle every now and then, Buddhism, going Vegan. Now, I am rebuilding bridges...

His shadow fell over me before I heard his amused chuckle.

"You're here," he said in disbelief, "I had a list of new drinks I was going to try out before you finally showed up."

"What can I say, I've changed." I smiled as I got up to give him a long, welcome hug. He smelled really good, different from the signature scent he had worn every day since his sixteenth birthday until the last day I say him almost three years ago. I sniffed deeply before I stepped back.

He seemed a little embarrassed by my display of affection and there was an awkward moment as we took our seats in the setting sunlight. I lit another cigarette and waited for him to look at me.

"My my. You were not kidding about the change," he said with an appraising look and a brief, pointed look at the stick in my left hand.

I smiled without a reply.

He reached out to touch the dimple on my right cheek with his thumb, and lingered. I held my breath and closed my eyes, allowing myself to savor his touch as he lightly caressed me in that one spot. Suddenly he took his hand away like the touch was a mistake and the moment passed. We ordered more drinks and made small talk as we waited for our food to arrive.

It was strange, after all the time we had been together we were like strangers. He said he had moved to a different part of New York City from the apartment we shared before and he had been busy with work. I told him I had been traveling the world. Guiltily I remembered we always wanted to do that together.

"I still cannot believe you smoke," he said as the waiters left the table after bringing our dinner, shrimp salad for me, something with lots of meat and peppers for him. "You absolutely hated smoking...and smokers. Plus, its bad for your health."

"Stop it. You sound like my mother," I chided him and he returned a sheepish, apologetic smile. "I saw her last month you know."

His head snapped up at that. "Th-that's great! When? Where?"

I raised my hand to stop the barrage of questions. His pleasure at the news that after almost five years of silence I had finally made contact with my mother was endearing. No need to tell him it was a disastrous meeting that I wished had never happened. I simply told him I had flown back home for a week and sought her out and apologized to her like I was doing with him.

My mother did all she could for me. She was a single mother at a very young age with a family that really did not support her. She worked very hard to send me to New York to follow her dreams of attending an Ivy League university and for two years I kept up pretenses as I trained and developed myself as a fashion designer in the city. She found out about my new profession from a television program and told me never to come home to her again. I obliged for five years. I was too proud to recognize her fear and pain, I was too proud to need my mother.

I was too proud to admit to my boyfriend that I needed him.

I was 18 when I met him in the school library six years ago in my Freshman year a few minutes after I decided that it would be my last semester in college. He had big dreams of becoming a litigator but my dreams of cutting up flimsy fabric did not seem ridiculous to him. He supported me through design classes, late nights crying and bingeing on ice cream because my instructors were mean and cold, and he held my hand when I launched my first successful line less than two years after I arrived in the city. He was by my side every day for three years. But I lied, I cheated and I broke his heart.

Now I was apologizing sincerely for being a fool. And asking him to take me back.

"I accept your apology. We were young and things were moving really quickly for you, but we can never be what we were before. We are different people today."

"We can do it because we love each other. I never stopped loving you. Do you love me?"

But he just shook his head. We finished dinner in silence and he insisted on paying for the meal. Before he left I did something I had not planned to do. He looked at me sadly and said he wished I had kissed him like that three years ago, like my life depended on it.

*

My therapist told me that I was wrong to think that there was no one in the world who cared enough about me to make me give myself another chance. I was twenty-five, with no real friends, no family, no one. But he told me to let myself live again. And he told me to go out there and find love. So I emptied my bank accounts and I visited every place in the world I had ever dreamed of. I did everything I ad held myself from doing. I broke all my own rules. And when that did not fill the ache inside of me I went to my mother. She told me she despised me. Her daughter was dead. Whoever I was, tattooed, addicted to expensive drugs, worldly, I was not her daughter. And James, he took back his promise to love me for all of eternity, saying he could not love me because it was impossible for me to love anyone but myself.

I wrote a letter to my therapist to let him know he had been wrong. If I stayed, I would fight the cancer all alone.

And on Friday I killed myself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fragments

Spreading yourself too thin
Letting everybody in

I knew one day 
my heart would feel the pressure
never knew it would be so soon
but today I woke up 
and I was bleeding
I was weak
and broken
a big hole 
where my heart used to be

My poor battered heart
in pieces too hard to number
A piece here, with my long lost friend
given to her for safekeeping, 
hiding my secrets, my fears, my dreams
A piece there, in the circle
friends forever, yes, forever
A piece of me in the old dusty chapel,
right there under the eyes of the watchful saints
A piece of me there, in a lost lover's hands
broken, abused, forgotten in a pile
Another piece here, on the artist's canvas
he took my bleeding heart,  
painted a picture of his world with it
angry spurts of red, 
tinged with true gloomy blue
and the fading green of hope
a shadow of the real

I want my heart back
all of it
keep your love
give me my heart
keep your trust
I'll take my heart
don't want your friendship
just a whole heart
tired of bleeding
done weeping
would rather be whole
maybe alone, but whole



Sunday, October 30, 2011

All of Us

This comes from all the Perfect people in the world
This is about the 'Others'
Liars Cheats and Thieves
Beautiful people who do ugly things
We can never understand them
The ones who can't get their acts together
and break our hearts finding their way
Free Spirits with broken wings
they do not take us flying with them
but come to us to fix them
Friends who take us for granted
- there when we are on top of the world
- nowhere when we are down in the pits
Friends who ignore our existence
- but always find us when they need us
- seeking us with empty compliments and useless platitudes
She who will not think twice about dating that One that broke your heart
He who borrows your hard-earned money and then acts like he owns the world
the ones who never invite you to the party
Self-destructive and us-destroying
Sinners who judge
Lovers who take but never give
New friends; Old friends
Unreal friends
Imperfect parents
Flawed relatives
Ungrateful children
Confidants who talk about our secrets
-like it's just today's news
- because to them that's all it really is
The Church preaching to the Choir
The Choir singing repentance to the Church
The gossipy virgin; The upstanding adulterer
Abusive, cheating husbands and their disrespectful, conniving wives
All the people we love who do not love us back
And the ones who say they love us but only know how to hurt us
Fanatics, Selfish
Prejudiced, Selfish
Judgmental, Selfish
Backstabbing, Selfish
Heartbreakers, Selfish
Uncaring, Selfish
Unfeeling, Selfish
We think these of everyone
Everyone thinks the same of us
In the end we are all of us
We are all perfectly the same
Taking and not giving
Making the world better and not getting better ourselves
You are me, and I am you
And that's all of us
-Selah

Monday, October 10, 2011

All in the Family: An Encore

Previously: Our Family Wedding (One Stranger)

It took an army of guards to get the guests out of the chapel, and then it was just us - the two families - and the stranger. Unexpectedly, it began to rain heavily outside, like a bad omen. Later we would all wonder why it rained on that sunny afternoon in June, but now we all sat apart from one another, scattered around the chapel and lost in our thoughts. We could not leave anyway; already, news of the scandal had spread through the city and reporters would be waiting for us everywhere.

The atmosphere was subdued, the kind that made you whisper even though you had no reason to. As soon as the shock wore off we all wanted to know what had happened with the groom and how they had kept it from all of us. It happened seven years ago, abroad, and it was easier to hide the scandal and pretend it had never happened. They never intended to deceive anyone, they said, but it had been decided that he could not run the family business. The wedding had only been allowed because they thought it was a family they could eventually trust with their secret. The groom himself was silent; he sat by himself in a corner watching us all. Every time he laid his eyes on me I could feel my skin prickle. The violence radiated off him in waves and I wondered which one of us he would go after first. But then the conversation turned around, the bride was not so innocent after all. We all turned on her. Her parents blamed themselves. None of us had known she had ever been married. Almost none of us. Velda stood up, her back as straight as her fragile, aging bones would allow, and walked up to Gabrielle before turning to look across the room at all of us.

"Gabrielle's secrets are not the most horrifying things in this room" She looked accusingly at all of us. "We should all look on the bright side, he may just have stopped you from marrying your own brother."

We all gasped in shock. Those were the first words Velda had spoken all day and her lips trembled in anger as she spoke. She turned from Gabrielle and walked towards the father of the groom, the man who had been her friend and right hand for so many years.

"I trusted you" she hissed at him in that low voice that she used when she was furious, the voice that has terrified us all for most of our lives. And then she crumpled right before our eyes and laid there on the chapel floor, she was not breathing...

**************************
My grandmother once told me a story: "Children born into adultery are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their parents, and Gabrielle is just like her mother..."

Velda learned that Gabrielle had married a boy at her university two days after it happened. But it was not to last. Gabrielle had one weakness, she could not live without the wealth she was used to, and Velda knew it. A ten-minute phone call was all it took, and 2 days later Gabrielle was on a plane to France where she would complete her semester, and then travel around the world for a year. It would be like her marriage had never happened. But instead of ending the marriage as she was instructed Gabrielle disappeared without a word. Surprising, Gabrielle had never been afraid to hurt anyone and no one could have expected that she cared enough about her new husband that she would rather run away than tell him she had chosen her family over him. It would have been easy to bury the secret and pretend it never happened but Velda was not one to take chances. She hired investigators to find and bury every tiny scrap of history that tied Gabrielle's fiance to the murder and shield the family from a scandal and instead, she discovered a marriage license naming Gabrielle as the wife of the murdered man's brother. It was like a bad joke.

*
One secret gave way to another. Velda had every member of the family watched at all times, she always knew what we were doing. She had known of Gabrielle's trip to the doctor to get rid of her unwanted baby, but it took much longer to learn that the affair had been with her future father-in-law. It had been a mistake, Gabrielle confessed, a harmless flirtation that quickly became something much more. It had not seemed to matter to him that Gabrielle was to be married to his son. As the pieces of the story started to come together, Velda realized that she had been the fool for too long...

Unknown to all of us Velda had a secret of her own. Many of us knew that she had helped the father of the groom with building his empire, but she was not only his benefactor, she had been his lover too. Somehow, after George, she was never able to fall in love with another man. And maybe it was the countless hours they spent together reviewing business plans and learning about oil in all the parts of the world, maybe it was the natural appreciation a woman feels for a man as she watches him take charge and start to rule the world like he was created to, whatever it was, they formed a bond that went deeper than business into the bedroom. It was their secret. To the world, they were simply business partners. But when the curtains were drawn they shared a passion so fierce that Velda was possessed by him. She burned with rage when she learned about the affairs with both her daughter and her granddaughter. It was too much to think that the man who had taken her body over and over had done the same to her daughter, and her granddaughter who could possibly be his daughter as well. It made her sick.

*
She told me all of this one night after I moved into her mansion to escape my family, the craziness of planning the wedding made it hard to spend another minute at home. As she spoke I noticed the constant trembling of her right hand. Velda was very sick, and she was trying really hard to hide it. I realized that I coud use it all to my own advantage. She was desperately angry and betrayed, and she wanted revenge. Together we came up with a plan that would put a stop to all the secrets and give Velda the satisfaction she wanted. We wrote a letter to Gabrielle's husband asking him to attend the wedding. Everything went as planned, the wedding did not happen, and any secrets that were not revealed in the chapel would be on the front page of newspapers in the morning. The only thing I had not planned was Velda's collapse, but even that worked out perfectly. Velda never recovered from her stroke. And I was her only heir.

As we hurried out of the Chapel on that fateful day to follow the ambulance to Holy Trinity where Velda was declared dead, someone held my hand and pulled me back into the Chapel. I was surprised to see who it was. He flashed a dazzling smile and told me he could tell that I knew all that was going on. "Good job," he whispered softly in my ear, "I couldn't have pulled it off better. We should have dinner sometime so you can tell me all about it."

My sister may have been his first choice, but I got the Best Man after all.

Fín

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Family Wedding: One Stranger

Previously: Our Family Wedding VI (Velda)

Good things happen to bad people too...

That's what I said to myself when Gabrielle announced she was getting married. She was so happy, it was painful to watch. She had everything, it seemed - a fantastic wedding, a wonderful charming husband-to-be, a childhood love that refused to let go, tons of money, a perfect life. So it seemed. But it was crashing down like a pack of cards...

We all look to the back of the room where the only stranger in the room is rising to his feet; he looks surprised, like he can not believe what he just did. I feel almost sorry for him, but I know that now he has no choice. It was time to pay the piper.

I would have bet my life that no one would be more surprised to see him than Gabrielle, but the look of horror on her fiance's face is enough to get me curious. He looks like he has seen a ghost, and suddenly more things are falling into place...

The stranger walks up to Gabrielle, and as he moves closer to her you could see him transform; his confidence grows and suddenly he exudes such an aura of rage that we are all held spellbound by what we know is about to happen...

"She cannot marry him. She is married to me."

There is a gasp from all the guests, a mumbled accusation from the groom, and tears from the bride.

But today, we are not looking at Gabrielle. All eyes are on the stranger....

******************************************************************************************************************************
I met Gabrielle in my second year in college at the Vet's office in the city. It was one of the many jobs I took to cover my tuition expenses. She was a beauty. I knew I did not stand a chance with her - girls like her never dated guys like me. But Gabrielle did not play by anyone's rules but hers. And she wanted me; she always joked that I reminded her of a guy back home who loved her almost as much as I loved her. She also joked that her parents would die if they ever found out who she was dating. And then one day she asked me to marry her.
I thought it was another one of the cruel jokes she played on everyone for her own enjoyment, but she was serious. We loved each other and she was willing to defy her parents for me. We were married secretly, and we gave ourselves a one-month Honeymoon before we would tell everyone and face the consequences. Gabrielle disappeared 3 weeks later. I never heard from her again. Her friends who only tolerated me when I dated her could not hide their disdain for me as they made it clear that my wife was gone, and she did not want to be found.
I spent months trying to deal with losing her. But when my older brother who ran our family's paper factory was killed outside a bar, I gave up on finding her and returned home to run the business. And here she was marrying the one man who murdered my brother in cold blood and killed my mother with grief.............
******************************************************************************************************************************

Coming soon: All in The Family (Encore)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Our Family Wedding: VI


There is nothing I love better than the sound of silence.
As the preacher pauses dramatically at that unnecessary part of the wedding service,
I can feel the nervous energy rise to a crescendo in the room.
You could hear a feather drop as they all stop breathing.
Even though most of them expect that it will be another part of the service,
simply a formality, they cannot help their excitement,
their anticipation of something extraordinary.

And then that familiar voice comes from the back of the room:

"I DO"... A wildly interesting choice of words.

I smile in spite of myself. I had not expected him to do it. Some people, you have no need to meet them before you conclude, and rightly so, that they are spineless. But he has surprised me, and very few people surprise Velda.

I turn my attention from the back of the church to look into the faces around me.

Every guest looks confused, shocked, wildly curious. I can hear their minds working, spinning the gossip tales they would tell as soon as they can make a dignified exit out of the chapel without running for the oak doors.
The Bride: pale as a ghost, her lips moving, no words really getting formed.
The Groom: if looks could kill.... well, it's no secret that he is capable of murder.
The Groom's Father: Bored, irritated, a man with more important things on his mind.
The Mother of the Bride: Mortified. I know that at this moment there is nothing else on her mind besides what people will say, what the gossip rags will print about the scandal that is about to unfold here. I know because that is exactly what I would be thinking.

After all, she is my daughter...

I was born on the fast track. No one recalls if the first word I ever said was "More", but it is most certainly the first thought I ever formed in my pretty little head. More. I have always wanted more. More than those humble two rooms that formed the house I was raised in, with my entire family, all six of us. More than my father's job at the Postal Office, and my mother's teaching job at the Catholic School up the street. More than the tiny shop out front that we all took turns managing, earning pennies to keep the roof over our heads and the clothes on our backs. More than the regular occurrence of a free novel and a bright pencil for once again being the smartest pupil in the class. More than that whistle, that longing look, the scribbled poems and whispered words that men lavished on me. There was only one thing I never needed more of: I was more than beautiful, and everyone knew it.

Working hard, being a great student and settling for the best jobs in the world would not give me the life I wanted. My parents were smart, educated and they worked harder than all the wealthy people I knew, and they worked themselves to the bone day after weary day. I wanted to be like the women I read about and only saw in magazines; they had the world at their feet and everyone scrambled to do their bidding. I watched them, I learned to act like them and talk like them and think like them. I watched their men too, they owned everything, even the women. That was the life I chose, all I needed was a fortune to call my own. As soon as I was old enough I was out of school, choosing to use my beauty and my intelligence for a far greater purpose. I was married and divorced a few times, each time ending up even richer than anyone imagined I could get away with.

People always thought I was too beautiful to be smart.

George's family did too. They underestimated me. He was 79, battling the weakness that comes with old age, confused that his mind was as sharp as the days when he built the largest business empire in the country as his body died a little more every day. While everybody rallied around, his sons and protegés, treating him with disdain and waiting for him to die and leave them chunks of his life's work, I became his friend. I was not even thirty, and I devoted two years to him, showing him the time of his life. He taught me how to rule an empire. "Owning wealth is wonderful", he always said, "but you have to control the people around you. You have to own them." I gave him the one gift he asked of me in return for the one thing I wanted: we spent the last few months together  in a secluded villa outside the country, and when his only daughter was born, I was a heiress with more money than I knew what to do with. We had both won. He showed them all, leaving them with nothing, and I finally had what I wanted, a kingdom to rule. A mysterious heiress, that is what they call me. Some even say I killed him myself after he signed the will.

I bought the villa the morning he died, hired the best caregivers in the world for my daughter, and I returned alone. For six years she was raised in the villa by herself protected from the world, even years later I explained her away as a child whose parents, close friends, had died tragically in another country. I told myself it was for her safety.

I had inherited a fortune legitimately. And it was time for me to enjoy it.

But I have always looked after her. She has never worked a day in her life, and everything she owns has been handed to her on a platter of gold, including her husband, her marriage. I ask for nothing in return from her, from all of them, except complete obedience. I own them, all of them in this room, their businesses, their homes, their secrets.

It is not a secret that I do not approve of this laughable charade, this wedding that will never be. But even the most powerful people get tired of pulling all the strings and working behind the scenes. I am an old woman, ready to dance with the devil for eternity and pay for my many sins. It is not enough to be rich and famous and powerful and then die while no one is watching. I want more. And I have found my stage.

I look at all their faces again and smile to myself.

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding: One Stranger

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Part V


The Father of the Groom

Nine hours before I have to be on a plane to Mexico.
Six hours ago, I should have been in a meeting with the Diplomat in Canada.
Oil in Canada will not wait for my son's wedding.

My Son. 

I could not control the loud scoff that escaped my lips with that thought if I tried. But quickly I remember where I am as my wife tightens her grip on my upper arm, reminding me to behave myself. I attempt to stare her down with a black look; a futile attempt really, the woman has never been a pushover. Or we wouldn't be here. A supportive family putting on a lavish ceremony for our disowned, undeserving son. The bane of my existence. A murderer, a waste. If I had my way he would be far away, a destitute, not living off my wealth like he has a right to it. But his mother always has the last word, and because she wants us to be here, we are here. 

For a man known in many circles as someone to be feared, my wife has a big influence on most of my actions. Lesser men would say she is controlling, or she wears the pants in our home. I say, I love her, and why not indulge the woman who has sacrificed most of her life and her dignity to give me a wonderful home? I know I am a difficult man, and yet she has never complained. Letting her have her way is only one of the ways I reward her for pleasing me. 

What she doesn't know, what no one else knows, is that there is another woman who holds the reins on my decisions even more firmly than my wife does. She is my confidante, my advisor, and her wishes to me are law. I look to my left and watch in fond amusement as she sits still in her pew, her back straight, eyes fixed on an unseen object in the front of the chapel. Velda. Tough matriarch. The single most fearful woman in the room. And my benefactor.

 No one remembers now, but there was a time when my now-sprawling empire was only a far-fetched dream. I was a young man with big dreams, and no means of ever achieving them. And then I met this mysterious heiress who changed my whole life in one afternoon. No one really knows the source of Velda's wealth, and naturally I was curious, but when she offered me her unlimited means to pursue my dreams of tapping into the earth's liquid gold, I asked no questions. In seven years, I was wealthier than I had ever imagined. And now, thirty years later, Velda still remains in the background, giving advice, planning the great future, pulling the strings, learning my many secrets...

Like my son. I remember her words clearly, many years ago when I had gone to her, mad with fury, murder on my mind. My wife had come home with good news: after three years of trying unsuccessfully to have a child, she was finally pregnant. I knew without a doubt that she had been unfaithful, it was impossible for me to have children. Velda had listened quietly, without judgement, speaking only after I had said all that was on my mind. Then she looked me in the eyes and said firmly "You will go home, tell your wife that you are happy and excited about the news, and you will love that child like he was your own. You need a heir. No one needs to ever know that you are impotent. No one." It was difficult, but she was right. I had discovered very early that I was unable to ever have children. But I kept it a secret and to my shame and discomfort I allowed my wife to deal with the guilt that it was her fault and that somehow, she had failed me. But Velda was right, I could never accuse her of anything if I wanted to keep my secret. So I accepted my first son, and my twin daughters, knowing every day of their lives that they were proof of the greatest betrayal from the woman I loved with my whole being.

However, a secret I could live with turned out to be almost too much to handle as our son grew from a delightful boy into a reckless young man. The ungrateful bastard has caused me and his mother more grief than any other problems we have ever had to deal with. From the bad behavior all through his younger years, to more dangerous activities as a teenager, all culminating in the murder of an innocent man outside a bar abroad. At every turn, his mother has pleaded and I have obliged her, paying the best lawyers money could buy to make all his troubles go away. But after he was convicted I knew that he could never inherit my empire. His mother asks why I hate him so much, it is not hard to point at his actions instead of his conception...

I look away from him and exchange a nod and smile with the Best Man. He could be my heir. He had lost his family at a young age, and my wife had convinced me to officially adopt him as my own. It was the best decision we ever made. He is everything I want in a son: smart, respectful, responsible. Velda agreed. It was also a brilliant coincidence that he was in love with Velda's god-daughter. We had it all planned out, we would wait until she was done with college, and guide them gently into a lasting relationship together. He would be my heir, she would be Velda's heiress, as well as her father's. Together, we would create the greatest empire in the country, and I would finally have a son I could be proud of.

But as she walks down the aisle towards the wrong son I have no choice but to accept that even without a penny to his name, he has again thwarted my plans, reminding me why I hate him so much. But there is still time to put our plans together. Velda has a plan and she is patient. So am I.

We all face the priest.

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the face of these witnesses, to join this Man and this Woman together..."

This needs to be over soon. I glance at Velda and her displeasure is evident on her face. I always wondered why she never said anything. For a woman so powerful and vocal in society and business and politics, she never seems to exert much influence in her family. But as I have learned, things are never as they seem with her. The priest continues to drone on and on about the sanctity of marriage, I tune him out as I rehearse again the few words I have prepared to sway the Board of the new company I am acquiring.

"Now, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."


The silence gets my attention and I look around. Everyone is staring at the one person who dared to interrupt this joyous occasion. And for the first time, Velda is smiling...


Coming soon: Our Family Wedding VI (Velda)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Family Wedding: IV


Mother of the Bride

FIFTY FIVE years old and still as dumb as the day I got here.

Every day since I have had breasts, I have gotten myself into one kind of trouble or another. And it always comes back to bite me right where it hurts...

Or at least leer at me, like my son-in-law's best man is doing right now... in front of 350 guests.

What an irreverent imp!

I have stooped really low many times in the past years, but my daughter's best friend is a mistake that I will never be able to explain, if it ever got out. It had meant nothing at first when I started to flirt with him at a wedding many months ago. Ever since I turned fifty I had been feeling old, and something inside of me craved attention, and passion, anything to feel young and attractive again. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that he wanted me too. What started out as thinly veiled banter quickly escalated, and before I knew it we were upstairs together in the Mayor's Manor while the entire city partied the night away at the biggest wedding of the year. It was so exciting, knowing we could be discovered at any time. I know that a part of me wanted to be caught. How envious would my friends have been? Only I could still command the attention and ardor of a twenty-something years young man. Just what I needed...

But at the back of my mind was one thought... He is in love with my daughter...

I have seen the way he looks at her with naked, intense longing when he thinks no one is watching. For so many years I was convinced that he was the one for her. No one has ever been as devoted to her as he is. All her life he has followed her everywhere like a lost puppy. I shake my head in bemusement. I have always been surprised that she does not seem to notice his desire. I see myself in her, a self-absorbed princess who barely notices anyone else in the room but herself. She is spoiled, just like me, and she feeds off the adoration of others, expecting nothing less than their undivided attention at all times. But I feel no sympathy for her love-struck friend, he had his chance through all the years he wasted being just friends with her. Good thing he has kept our affair to himself, no reason to create a scandal. what was I thinking? If this ever got out... If any of the things I have done ever get out...

I distract myself from my wayward thoughts by checking everything over one more time with my well trained eye. The flower arrangements are beautiful, flawless, they will be imitated by many brides in the coming months. The guests are seated just the way I planned, beautiful people in prime spots for the pictures, and the others tucked neatly in corners where they will not be photographed. I should commend the ushers for doing a neat job. Everyone is right where I want them to be; everyone except Aunt Velda, of course. No one tells her what to do. If only she would just smile. It is a happy day! It should be a happy day...

My baby is finally about to marry the man of her dreams. He is a charming young man, from a highly respectable family. And even when I voiced my fears about the speed of their courtship, her father insisted that it is a good match. I know what he really means is that merging his company and the new in-laws' in the future is a good idea. But still, he is her father...

Or is he?

The first time I was introduced to my future son-in-law, my heart stopped. Memories of the early days of my marriage came flooding back. My wedding was a grand affair, much like this one. I was the talk of the town for many months. But wedded life was not what I expected. My new, rich husband had no time for me. Gone was the attentive, dashing man that courted me for many months. Suddenly he was busy at all hours of the day. I spent many lonely afternoons while I listened in on business conference calls and pretended to be interested in his new ideas and his work. My young ambitious husband was caught up with building his empire.

I was bored out of my mind, tired of shopping, tired of long days at the spa. Being a trophy wife was starting to feel like a chore. Until he suggested that I take my first vacation: he pointed to the globe on his desk "pick any point on the map. I'll pay for it". My first holiday was an exotic island: it was a wonderful time. The sights, the food, the men: charming gentlemen, older, more worldly, distinguished and very determined. It was not hard to break my vows and allow myself to be seduced. It was my delicious secret. As my husband got busier I took more trips, until I discovered I was pregnant... I was always afraid my secret would be discovered when she was born. But she looks exactly like me, she always has... maybe I am afraid for nothing, but I wonder every day...

I could hardly wait to be done with dinner as she introduced her boyfriend to the entire family. And as soon as I could get away I was on the phone with the man I had always feared to be her father. He assured me coldly that I was mistaken. There was no way on earth my daughter is his. Now I know my fears were unfounded. Whoever her father is, my daughter is not getting married to his son.

Or is she?

The music begins and I watch with tears in my eyes as my beautiful daughter floats down the aisle on my husband's arm. She is so beautiful. At least I got that right. My heart swells with love for her, but it leaves an after-taste of intense fear...

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the face of these witnesses, to join this Man and this Woman together..."

My palms are sweaty now. My heart beating in fear. Can I allow her to take this big step without ever really knowing for sure? Can I trust the word of a man I hardly know? Would he be so cold as to allow a marriage between his only son and his daughter? What kind of mother am I? I have not prepared her to be a married woman. What if she ends up like me? Makes my mistakes? She knows nothing about being a wife, nothing about making compromises and sacrifices for another person. She is not ready... The thoughts are tumbling over themselves in my head...

"Now, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."


I feel dizzy. Now is the time. She will hate me forever. Before I allow my head to stop me from doing what my heart knows is right, I hear the words whispered over the nervous silence of the chapel "I DO"

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding V (The Father of the Groom)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Part III

The Best Man

Weddings.
Weddings Weddings Weddings.

The air is steaming again with the sweet aroma of desperate women. I do not know what it is about happy weddings that creates sad, lonely, ready-for-anything women. They are everywhere, and they are always trying to prove something. Its funny that by June every year you can already spot the serial wedding-hounds. Like Daisy - Lord bless those endless legs - and her exotic frienemy, Jummai. It would be awesome to get them together in one room. That would be a party. And then there were the older women who prowled weddings looking for fresh blood to make them feel young again. Those were the ones who let loose with such abandon that would make their younger competition blush. Almost everything I know, all the tricks that have women coming back to beg for more, I learned from an older woman.

Speaking of older women, it is taking a lot of restraint not to wink at The Mother of The Bride as she sits over there primly, doing her darnedest not to look at me. But her respectable attire does not fool me one bit. There is a feisty nymph inside those respectable motherly clothes. But this is not the time or place; and whether or not I get a repeat performance from her, something inside me knows that I will get her alone in a room again and watch those eyes grow dark with wanting me. Not that I really want to, but I never do what I should do. For now, I put my lecherous thoughts aside and turn my attention with the rest of the guests as they rise up to welcome the Bride.

The glowing, blushing bride.
My girl.

I have known her since high school when she was a sassy little know-it-all, and many years later I still feel that intense sense of protectiveness towards her. Even now, I want to snarl at every man in the chapel and growl

"Mine. She's Mine"

The same way I almost did when my best friend proudly announced to me that he was going to make her his. But I held back, I reasoned that he could only be taunting me into admitting what he had hinted at all these years - that I was in love with her. Besides, she was not remotely his type, and everyone knew he was still disgustingly in love with the ex-girlfriend who dumped him and fled to Europe. Wonder what happened to her... It was a huge shock to me when she shyly came to me and told me that she had decided to date him. "He's sooooo perfect," she had crooned, all smiles, as she gushed excitedly about him. I could not believe my ears, I had never imagined that someone like her could be remotely interested in someone like him and I truly regretted introducing them...

She had just graduated from college and had come for a two week visit, to relax and catch up. I think deep down I was hoping that now that she was all grown up, something would blossom between us. Unfortunately, my best friend had shown up uninvited to talk about his runaway girlfriend and see if I had any new information about her. It was a funny story really: he swore to everyone that he had done nothing wrong and that he was in love with her, but her family protected her from him like he was the devil. After many weeks, the subject was tiring and I just wanted him gone. So I did the selfish thing and asked her to take him to a local bar while I finished up the imaginary work I brought home from work.  I knew she would not be impressed with him and would find an excuse to get rid of him soon enough. But something must have happened that night because a complete change came over him and he started to pursue her ardently... and now, in less than a year, they are getting married... and I am still surprised by it all.

I look at her smiling and glowing as she floats down the aisle and I literally stop breathing. It's no secret by now that I am in love with her. I have always loved her. But when someone has so much power over you, you do everything you can not to fall into their hands. Because then they can really hurt you. So the more I loved her the more distance I put between us. And now it is too late; because how do I say to the only person I have ever loved "I love you, but I slept with your mother six months ago, because I wanted you....." I feel the sting of tears as I realize I am losing her forever and I look away. The mistake I make is looking sideways at my best friend...

The look in his eyes as he watches her coming down the aisle is cold, hateful. If I did not know him I would say he had the look of a killer, and even though he is not looking at me I shiver a little.


"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the face of these witnesses, to join this Man and this Woman together..."

Who is this man?

I have known him very well for years. And even when he has been away in school or taking care of family business we have managed to stay in touch. And I owe him my life: after my parents died and I had no one, his family took me in as one of them. They are responsible for my education, my comfortable life, everything. But they have always had their secrets. And as I look at her over his shoulder I feel the cold hands of fear squeezing me so hard that I can hardly breathe. I cannot, will not, let her marry this cold stranger...

"Now, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."


I open my mouth to speak, and before the words are formed I hear them whispered and echoed throughout the chapel "I DO"

No one is as surprised as I am...

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding IV (Mother of the Bride)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Part II

Once upon a time I had given up hope that good things could happen to me.
Really good things.

But as the doors of the Chapel open up to let in the radiant sun and her, I realize that every good thing I want is right there at the end of the petal-covered aisle, in a dreamy white dress that made me think of a field of flowers, a hammock swaying lightly in the breeze, a lazy summer day in a village in France. She is the girl of my dreams, my treasure, my answer, my whole world. I watch her face light up as she walks confidently into the chapel, a princess claiming her kingdom, and I feel my heart quicken. It is finally happening. This woman with her beautiful mind and gorgeous body and infectious smile is about to become mine. That beautiful smile slips off her lips for a second, I follow her gaze to the middle of the room, and I see him. He is a nobody, someone she cheated with earlier on in our relationship. I knew the entire time, and it was over almost before it started.

It is the only time she has ever cheated. I make sure.

I have never had to confront her with the knowledge, but it is good to know that I know everything about her, all her secrets, just the way it should be. I should have him escorted out after the ceremony however, just to further mark my territory. I dismiss him and turn my attention back to her. She really is beautiful, and I knew from that first day I met her that I would do anything I could to be here at the end of this aisle. And here we are. It feels like everything in my life is finally going to be alright. She steps up beside me smelling of vanilla and daisies and she holds my hand as we face the priest.

The priest smiles at us and pats our shoulders. I cringe inwardly. I do not like priests....


"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the face of these witnesses, to join this Man and this Woman together in holy matrimony; which is honorable, instituted of God..."


God. Yeah right.
For me there has only been one reason ever to get married.
God has nothing to do with it. Or maybe he does.
Meeting her when I did was definitely a miracle.
My best friend had talked about his cute, spoilt little rich princess friend forever. At first I thought he had a thing for her, he could never shut up about all the things she did while they were in high school, and all the time she was in her private exclusive college in a far away part of the world. But he insisted over and over that she was not his type, and was too quick to shove us together that first day at his apartment. Just the miracle I needed...


No one here knows that I am the Black Sheep of my family. The Fallen Heir. The disgraced son. Only my mother's pleading and my father's pride have prevented it from becoming a national scandal. I can just picture the headlines: "Oil Magnate's Son disowned and banished from Family Business""Family Secrets: What Really Happened Abroad"
Luckily, I have been spared the public humiliation. But as much as we present a united front to the world, my father has ensured that I will have to depend on him for as long as he lived or face the world with all that I have done, with no hope of ever having the kind of money I am accustomed to. The money that is my birthright. Oh how I hate the sanctimonious bastard!! 


Sure I made some mistakes; I got caught up, I did some dangerous things. That's what young men do. The drugs are only for fun, an escape to free my head of the tediousness of too many years of school. At first the arrests were minor, overnight. A bar fight here, a drunken misdemeanor there. A warning phone call from the old man, a tearful, pleading visit from mother dearest. Always, the news was covered up quickly, the records quietly buried. Until that one night. I still swear that he was alive when I left him on the sidewalk, bloody and whimpering like a fool. But the cops showed up later at my condo with warrants and handcuffs: Everyone had heard me threaten to kill him. Everyone saw me beat the crap out of him. No one saw him move after I left. ManslaughterI got 7 years because my father got the best lawyers money could buy, and served 5 years for being the best behaved inmate they ever saw. But it was too late. He had cut me off, without him I was as good as a pauper. No education, living under his roof and taking scraps from his lofty table, knowing that I would never touch a dime of his money. 


So I had to marry a princess, someone with an empire waiting to be taken over. The first few did not work out. They always ran away, they said I was too angry, too violent. And then my true love walked into my life. The first of two daughters of one of the few men whose wealth could rival my father's. He would need a capable son-in-law, and I vowed that I would be that man. It was not hard to explain away my lack of a degree or my absence from the face of the earth for 5 years, our family has holdings in many corners of the world and an education is second only to wealth in our world. My family would never reveal their secret, and the truth was too far-fetched for anyone who wasn't looking to imagine... It was a whirlwind romance, but who could blame us? I am a man in love - who wouldn't love their meal ticket? She is smitten. Her sappy parents are happy. My family is relieved and too eager to help me at my game. Everybody wins... 

"Now, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."

I scoff inside. Who would dare mess with me now....? Until I hear the words, barely above a whisper, "I DO" I turn around with a murderous glare in my eyes...



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Part I

Bride
Something Blue is really really tight...

I wiggle a little as the elastic band of my pale blue garter digs into the tender flesh of my left thigh. Serves me right for allowing my jealous younger sister order my wedding lingerie; she must have picked a small size on purpose. Now I am really looking forward to the garter-toss, not just because of the magic of having my future husband touch me intimately - in front of everyone we know. That is the part of the ceremony I have looked forward to since we agreed not to be intimate a whole month before the wedding.

But first, I have to get married.

The string quartet strikes the first chords of the wedding march.
There's a smile and a thumbs up from the wedding planner.
Daddy smiles proudly as he kisses my forehead and pulls the tulle veil over my eyes.
And we glide towards the aisle, just like we practiced.

Until we step into the doorway of the chapel hall and my eyes stop on him, standing there looking as irresistible as the first day I saw him. The music in my head screeches to a clanging halt. I feel like I have tripped over my dress but a glance at the guests show nothing is amiss. "How DARE he show up at my wedding?!" The smirk on his face tells me he knows I am uncomfortable, and he is fine with it. I turn my nose up inwardly and continue gliding. Our affair only lasted a few nights, a long long time ago, and unless he has pictures, I will be denying any claims he ever makes. Since then, I have had bigger problems to worry about.

I smile at everyone, but I avoid making eye contact with those on the groom's side of the aisle.
Everyone is smiling. Except Aunt Velda.
I wish Aunt Velda would smile one day in her life, sigh.
Even her ever-sour and disapproving face cannot dampen my mood today.
I see some people dab at tears in their eyes, so sweet.
Even the Best Man seems to have tears sparkling right there on his long lashes.
I look away from him quickly.
The flower arrangements look absolutely gorgeous, Mother sure deserves a medal.
Everything looks wonderful. Everyone looks wonderful.
Finally, when I cannot take it anymore, I look at Him.
My Love. The Man of All My Dreams.
He looks so handsome. And ecstatic, and only slightly terrified.

As I step beside him I take his hand and squeeze reassuringly, and we face the priest.


"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today...." 

The words take me back to another wedding, only six months ago... I was standing in the bridal train for one of my best friends when I started to feel like I would faint, right there on the marble floors of Our Lady of Fatima. Nausea rolled over me in waves. I was so frightened that it took a minute to realize what was happening. Morning Sickness. Only it was 3pm on a sunny afternoon in front of hundreds of guests at a huge society wedding. I concentrated with all my strength to hold my smile in place and not give in to the urge to run out of the hall and find the nearest restroom. Inside I was shaking. A wedding was not the place to do anything without getting everyone's attention. I looked around at all my friends in the hall and realized I could not tell anyone what was happening to me, not with the high stakes involved. Good thing my fiancée was away on a business trip. I survived the long wedding ceremony and attempted to sneak into the bathroom two times during the exhausting reception ceremony to empty my already empty stomach. Hours later, I escaped with wedding-planning excuses and drove to a pharmacy far out of town to purchase as many different brands of home pregnancy tests as I could find. Later that night, I sat on the bathroom floor shaking my head in disbelief as all six of them told me what I had known and ignored for weeks:

Pregnant.

Possibly pregnant for my fiancée, or the one man he feared and hated the most, even though they were closely related. It was a chance I could not take, not now that I had found The One. So I did the only reasonable thing: I took an unplanned shopping trip alone, and I got rid of it. Quietly. I never told another soul. No one would ever know now...

"If anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."

I smiled nervously at my husband-to be and caressed my now-empty womb softly as I congratulated myself again on averting a disaster... Until someone broke the silence... "I DO"

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding: Part II (Groom)

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Life in the SS Lane

No holiday is as perfect as the ones where you get to enjoy Grandma's pampering instead of Mummy's scolding for a whole week... and it is even better when Mummy goes away and Grandma comes to visit. Because then, you get the luxury of your cushy bed, all your video games, the PC for Solitaire (my obsession then) and all your favorite food and the tender loving care of your favorite Granny.

It started out a perfect day like that. I was a happy 7-year old bossing her siblings around and doing nothing meaningful. I remember I was by the large living room windows overlooking our front gardens when I felt a dull excruciating ache from my right knee down to my toes. I can only attempt to explain it to you: imagine that your bones are thick pipes filled with a creamy yellowish liquid (they actually are, kinda, that's your bone marrow). Now imagine that the creamy liquid starts to heat up, never really getting hot, and that the heat moves up and down in waves through your pipes. Because of the heat, the pipes get hot too, from the inside, (I imagine they start to glow an ugly red color too) and as the heat moves in waves the pipes expand and contract too, up and down in a wave motion, but only slightly, just enough to almost kill you...

That was what I experienced. Within an hour, all my limbs were on fire. I was massaged, overdosed with painkillers and prayed on like never before. As I lay on my sweat-drenched bed writhing and whimpering helplessly I saw tears on the faces of my grandmother, my 5-year old sister, my 2-year old brother and the househelp. There were no cellphones when I was 7, mummy would not be calling until later in the evening, and daddy was away at a construction site somewhere, out of reach.

"Maybe we should call Yvonne and Tyrone's mummy" my sister chimed in, rubbing my thighs with her little hands.

My grandmother ignored her suggestion with a sigh. What could our mum's best friend do that we hadn't done? By the time my mum called later that evening, I could only moan weakly into the phone. She started to cry, and promised she would be on her way as soon as it was dawn in Kaduna. The rest of the day was a blur: Grandma prayed for hours against spiritual attacks, but after a while she broke down, admitting that she was afraid and we needed some help. At 10pm she carried me on her back and walked the distance to the Teaching Hospital a few miles from our house, praying and crying and walking. Needless to say, there wasn't much help the hospital could give us. Nurses were tired and irritable at that time of the night, doctors were nowhere to be found. A nice matron offered my grandmother some sleeping pills and her cot for us to sleep. As I fell asleep I heard her whisper to my grandmother.... "Crisis le leyi o, mummy. Aromol'egun. Ko si ogun fun iru e" (This is what they call a Crisis. Rheumatism. It has no cure.)

Before that day I had no idea I was born with the dreaded SS genotype...

I lived like this for about 5 years, the pains came, I took Ibruprofen and a mixture of other drugs and cried myself to sleep until they went away just as suddenly as they came. Sometimes they lasted a few hours, sometimes a few days. Other times it was not as intense as that first day, just a dull ache that prevented me from running around as much as I wanted to or smiling as much as I used to.

There really is nothing to make it better. Hot and Cold compresses did not do much, massages really did not help, pastors prayed, my diet was changed, I used about 9 different pills everyday to keep my blood count up. But it was a part of me, this curse.

But the story gets better. One day I had to do a routine blood test for school. The doctors already knew what to expect, but when my lab results came back as genotype: AS everyone was confused. They took so much more blood from me, ran so many more tests, but the Sickle Cells were nowhere to be found. I haven't had those pains since then. Sometimes there's a twinge of something, but I'm starting to think it is just a figment of my imagination. I thank God every day for this miracle, my wonderful, inexplicable miracle. Till date, apart from that one night in the Matron's room I have never spent a day in a hospital bed, never needed a transfusion of blood or water, and I haven't been sick more than once a year, if even. But I never take it for granted.

That is the story of Me...

My friend Franque inspired this post with this article today, read here. Even though my family was spared the pain of having children who suffer from the horrible effects of the SS genotype, we should all be aware of the horrible nightmare that it is in our society. So many people die from it, and so many more suffer all their lives from the terrible symptoms that come with it. My parents admit now that getting married knowing the chances they were taking was a terrible idea. I suffered for their choice. Marriage is hard enough. LIFE itself is hard enough. All that 'Love' evaporates when life gets real and you have a child whose suffering you know could have been prevented. And no amount of happiness now is worth that life of pain... Think about it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Seven Days...

That's how long my friend Chuka has been gone...
And since then I have tried to write a beautiful piece about him
to tell everyone just how wonderful he is, how wonderful he was
And every time I started to write, the tears came
Even now...
But something has to be said:

He was one of the best friends I ever had
He shared my joys, my pain, my journey through life
And I still cannot believe that he is gone
I know it is selfish but I keep asking God,
"Who is going to be my best friend now?"

I think about the dreams he had, dreams we had
And my heart breaks again,
my chest even hurts sometimes.
But then I think about the life he lived, the life we lived together
Those first days in Jos, getting to know him
My last few months in Nigeria, wishing I wasn't leaving
Four years I was away, keeping in touch like life depended on it
Our breakup, Our makeup
Last December, so much joy at seeing him
January, the hurt of saying goodbye again
Last Sunday, wishing him a great wedding weekend...

I miss him. So much.
I wish I could find the words to express how much I miss him.
Maybe in another Seven Days.
Rest in Peace, Dark Angel
I love you, always.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm Saving It!!

Anike:
All the lights are blazing. Bedroom, Bathroom, Closet, Hallway.
Shut it Down by Drake is playing on repeat in the background.
Her whole wardrobe is strewn on the floor, on the bed, on every surface that's safe for clothes.
It's date night.
Her sister is perched on the far corner of the bed, eyeing the commotion with a bit of bewilderment, and looking at Anike with a mix of suspicion and envy. "This one you're glowing and buzzing with excitement like this...."
Anike stops applying her cherry-red lipstick midway and looks at her, "Why shouldn't I be excited? It's gonna be a great night!" She giggles and shimmies and does a little twirl to the song, frowns at the lipstick in her mirror-reflection and wipes it off to replace it with clear lipgloss. "You can't kiss properly with lipstick," she explains to her audience and her sister huffs and looks away. But not before she mumbles "Just don't do anything you will regret... It's obvious you really like this one"
"It's just a date, and maybe we'll hang out at his place afterwards and, umm, you know? Nothing serious, he KNOWS."
"I'm just saying. Be careful," her sister retorts. "That's all." 
Anike sighs and sits down, somber for only a minute. She gets this from everyone: her sister, her friends. As soon as she gets excited about a new man in her life the worries surface again, seeming like everyone else is on edge and trying to protect her from herself. But she knows what she's doing, what she has been doing for 23 years.....

Yvonne:
In her mind she's thinking (Oh my gosh, when did my bra get on top of the coffee-table?!!!)
But her hands are running up and down his back, touching him everywhere else too. She's kissing him back ardently, moaning every time his touch grazes her nipples and when *gasp* he. kisses *oh* her. right. there *hmmm* somewhere. between. her. navel. and. her. hipbone. And when he goes even lower, his lips leading the way for his experienced, wicked tongue, she bolts right up from the couch. "We should, erm, we- we should slow down" (Oh shit! shit!) He's half-kneeling on the couch now, arms akimbo. He looks at her with a slight frown, looks down at her hand pointedly, then back up with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. "Oh sorry, sorry!" She stammers and blushes red as she snatches her hand from his penis like its hot steel, and then she reaches out again to put it back in the folds of his boxer shorts: a very uncomfortable task because he's suddenly much bigger than when she got him out. (Stupid! Stupid, stupid Yvonne!!) She can't look him in the eyes now, so she wrings her hands with a mortified look on her face hoping the ground opens up and swallows her whole. She hears him smile (isn't that crazy how she's so in tune with him) before he reaches down and lifts her chin up so she's looking into his clear gray eyes. 
"Yvonne. Sweetheart, did I do something wrong?" he asks in that patient, deep voice that melts her every time, almost a whisper.
"No, not- not at all. I just, erm, just want to take it slow. This time" She bites her lower lip, a reflex action. He smiles and places a butterfly kiss right there. (Oh my God, I'm in so much trouble!) He suddenly jumps up, grabs her hand and tugs her up. "Come, I want to show you something. I have a surprise for you, in the bedroom." She followed him, and her only thought as they walked was that the whole apartment was lit up with candles and she absolutely loved this John Legend song flowing out of the speakers. One hour later she was sitting downstairs in her car, heart pounding, a new Michael Kors watch in the passenger seat next to her, waiting for a response to her text message from her frustrated boyfriend. Her message said "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." 
In her mind she's thinking (Saved! Again! Thank you Jesus!)

Hadiza:
Nobody knows about The Rape. It's even hard to call it a rape, because there was some consent. Not to everything, just some things. And then he had gotten too insistent and she didn't want to fight it even though she didn't really want it. She had said NO, but then she had enjoyed it. How do you call that Rape? She knew that it must never happen again, it is forbidden. And while it was hard, she made the decision to keep herself away from men completely. No one understands it. She hears all the time "How can a pretty, smart, decent girl like you still be single?" "Hadiza, gaskiya it's been too many years that you have been single. Won't you pick one of these guys that keep toasting you? They're all good men." "Or are you a lesbian now?" "What is your problem?" "Do you think you're too good for me?"
How you explain to them that this is life or death? And the only way you can avoid death is to avoid them all, at all cost? Boyfriends lead to trouble...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There is a world of people out there, men and women, who have several different reasons for holding on to the almost elusive concept of celibacy. For some of the people I have talked to, it's a new thing they're trying, just some part of their lives they want to control in this crazy world we find ourselves in. For others, it is a lifelong journey of holding on to something they perceive as sacred. Other people find it is a choice that they have been given, the cause of it fear or past hurt or mistakes that have been made. And the lines are seriously blurred. Everyone defines it differently and there are many different boundaries that people involved set for themselves. My favorite quote on the subject, "I'm a virgin, but they probably don't think so in Heaven." And just as with every lifestyle choice that people around us make, we all have an opinion about it. What's the big deal? Does this make them think they're better than everybody else? What is wrong with them? They must have a problem, a defect somewhere, a lack of opportunity. But as a friend told me last Sunday, "It's a CHOICE. If I am not asking you to deal with it by being in a relationship with me, it really isn't any of your business". And here I rest my case.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Last Call: Forgiveness

It's one of life's funny twists that has me writing this right after I wrote Closure. That was random, this is my life, today....


In the past, when I have decided that someone would no longer be a part of my life I have been able to make a clean break from them. But, the time it took to make that break is something that no one else has been able to understand. Sometimes, it takes oh so long that some of my present relationships begin to suffer, simply because other people cannot understand why I am still sticking around. But the reason is simple: When it happens, I want to be sure. 100 percent. I never want to leave with any doubts about whether or not a person should be in my life, and I always ALWAYS leave room for forgiveness.

Jesus told Peter in Matthew 18: 21-23 to forgive his brother/sister who was guilty of any offense 70 x 7 times (that's 490) for sinning against him. That is a lot of forgiveness. I don't know how I can allow anyone to hurt me up to 50 times and forgive them over and over and still have a heart left. And with all the different relationships in my life, it seems like an exercise in craziness, this forgiveness thing. I know it is very hard, and it is not the brand of forgiveness most of us practice, because how can someone hurt you more than once (up to 490 times, btw) if we claim to forgive them but never speak with them or deal with them ever again.

But I digress from my main thoughts this morning: the reference to the Bible came up because as I contemplated cutting someone out of my life last night, a third party "used God to beg me". And because of this little reminder I am torn. We all get to that point where we are absolutely done, where there are no reasons to hold on to a friendship or relationship because the other party has taken us for granted and shown by their words or actions that our feelings mean little or nothing to them. And this is where I am today. Today, I am ready to throw in the towel and keep things moving. I have all my retorts polished and ready "Life is too short to waste on one person" "I'm not stupid enough to continue to let this happen" "I cannot keep watching my back because it is hard to trust them now" "I am tired of always forgiving the same old sins" and many more.

But I have not forgiven Four Hundred and Ninety times, not even close... ♥♡

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Closure

I do not know what this word means.
The concept? Even more alien.

They tell me it is the thing to do when a relationship ends:
you call the other party up,
you ask questions about everything that's bugging you,
you get answers,
you're satisfied or at least enlightened,
then you go home and you are able to sleep at night again.

Alien concept.

I once tried it, you know,
the whole nine yards.
All I really wanted to know was "Why?"
But just like the Great curious ones,
one question led to another and another,
until I was cut open again,
to bleed out of all my perfectly disguised scars, again.

So now when I say goodbye to someone in my heart, I do ask.
I ask myself why: why would I let them hurt me again?
What else could I possibly need to know that would make me feel better?
Does it matter why he 'forgot' my birthday three years in a row?
Is there any good reason that she could give for telling those hurtful lies about me?
Can he take back that one night with another woman with words?
Will a thousand apologies make things better?

I will admit that sometimes it means something (a lot) just to hear them say "I'm sorry", but even that is hardly ever enough. To find closure, I know I have to look inside of me. Because no matter what anyone else says or does, I am responsible for my pain. I have to find it within myself to forgive myself, and forgive them and shut the door; not with an angry bang, but with the silent but sure click of finality. At times I get lazy, and in a bid to prolong what I must do for myself I seek the answers in someone else, hoping that somehow they will say or do something that will set me free and make the bad feelings go away. But who am I kidding...

And will I ever really get closure? A part of me knows that these perfectly disguised scars will always be there: invisible to you but just a bit tight right where it hurts. Where is the closure in that?

Closure. (n) an often comforting or satisfying sense of finality
xxx


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bibánké

I remember the exact moment I fell in love,
the last time I was in love.
It was a nice fall evening,
I don't know what day of the week.
I remember we were taking a drive 
somewhere around the city, 
Asa's song came up on the radio, 
and he started to sing. 
This was one of those rare moments that 
he was completely himself,
living in the moment and not being so 'cool'. 
I think it really helped that he could hold a note too...
But for the first time, I really saw him.
And I swear my heart shifted a little bit
And just like that, I was in love.
The rest, they say, is history

I never thought about this before, but Asa popped up on the playlist this morning and the memories came pouring back.
The End.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I ♥ U

3 words.
8 letters.
A world of meaning.
The beginning.
The end.

A lot of things in the real world confuse me (this is the real origin of my dizzydami  pseudonym, btw). Lately, I have been thinking about the big deal everyone makes about saying "I love you". There's so much protocol attached, in my opinion, to something that should be one of the easiest things in the world to do...

Who says it first?
How soon can you say it?
Who can you say it to?
Should you say it back?
What if they don't say it back?
How should you act after you say it?
Like I said, protocol(s)

Yesterday, I picked a couple of random friends and told them in very simple words, I Love You. The reactions ranged from nervous, awkward acceptance to dismissal to disbelief to shock to serious conversations and grave declarations of undying love. To some, I had to explain and issue serious reassurances that I wasn't picking baby names or trying to become the next Mrs. Dude. I was simply telling the people in my life who matter to me right now, that I loved them. Plain and simple... or maybe not.

This is how I sees it:
Love is so multidimensional that none of us have been able to really define it. But for some reason it seems we have limited it to a romantic concept, a weapon between the sexes, something that determines the balance of power in a relationship. But that's bullshit (pardonnez mon français). Saying I love you cannot be that complicated. It does not make you weak, and it should not be a tool to elicit any obligations from the person you say it to. Its quite simple. Three words that tell someone that today, right now, they have a place in your heart. Whether or not it means you cannot live without them (or their famous jerk chicken recipe) or that you will catch grenades and jump in front of speeding trains for them depends on you; and expressing that in real words that they can understand is very important.

I once dated a guy who struggled for weeks to say those words. After a while I started to tally the number of times he said "I Love...." and was never able to complete the phrase. It was all so comical to me, because I said it all the time not caring whether or not he was able to force the words out of his throat. I think the fact that he was so afraid to say it even made me love him a little more (I'm weird like that). But the real tragedy was, even when he did the most horrible things that hurt me, his response to my accusing tears was "But I love you" like the words were a magic balm, a priceless gift that fixed everything, as if just saying those words was the most important thing in the world. Ironically, those were his last words to me, but that's another story.

All I'm trying to say today is, I think that if you love somebody, for any reason, you should just go ahead and tell them. Sure, some people will take it to mean you have enslaved your soul to theirs, but that's really their problem. It saddens me that people, even within very close families, find it hard to express the most basic feelings of love for one another (unless it's a funeral, of course).

Why should you wait until it's too late....?

~ P.S. I LOVE U ~

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Strange Bedfellows

There she was. The most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
She was at my door, saying Yes...


I remember meeting her for the first time. She was so beautiful, I was dumbstruck at the sight of her. I barely heard my best friend, Tunde, mutter to me under his breath "PJ, pick your jaw off the floor and say hello to my woman...” Tunde had spoken about her endlessly for weeks, and even though I had vowed not to get involved in his numerous brief affairs, I started to take him seriously. I mean, Tunde was gushing about this girl, I had to meet her.


I have been Tunde’s unofficial wingman since our early days in Law School, and many years later it is still not an easy job. Not because he has any trouble getting the girl; Tunde’s preying prowess is legendary and he has never needed me as his right hand. My job usually begins when he’s done with them; I’m the best friend, the one who should know what they did wrong and how they can fix it, who knows the secrets to keeping his attention; sometimes they blame me for wanting him to myself and turning him against them, and after being caught in the middle one too many times, I refused to meet any of his 'temporary girlfriends'. But he insisted that Shalewa was different, and at one time even hinted that she could be The One.


That first night I met her, I was sold. She was everything any man could want. Beautiful, smart, just a little naughty and very confident, every girl in the room at our favorite hangout paled in comparison, every other girl Tunde ever dated really. They were so happy together, and when I asked her what an angel like her was doing with a devil like Tunde, she said “Love finds us where we least expect it,” like that summed it all up. I congratulated him; he had definitely found a keeper. And I wisely kept my confusing, growing attraction to her a secret. It was weird, Tunde and I are never attracted to the same type of people.


But their fairytale was not to last. A few months later Tunde was up to his old tricks again. And Shalewa turned to me. It was another heart to patch up and send away, but this time I did not mind one bit. I seized my opportunity to get close to her and got to know her. Up close, she was even more amazing than I had thought. And against all the rules, I persuaded Tunde to give the relationship another shot. But he wasn’t having it; his reason was “She’s too perfect. I can’t stand those innocent eyes judging me every time I dare to do something human”. Classic Tunde. It was either the girl was not good enough, or she was too good for him…


A few weeks ago I saw her at a friend’s party and convinced her to ditch the party and grab drinks with me. It was the alcohol that did it: one minute we were sitting at the bar, just two friends talking about old times, and the next we were on my couch and she was pouring out her heart to me. It was like old times really, she always said I was easy to talk to. But this time I did not just listen. While she was telling me how every man she had been with had selfishly tried to mold her, I was staring at her lush lips…


“I want to kiss you so badly”
The words were out before the thought formed itself in my head. She laughed. Just a soft, disbelieving laugh, like you would politely laugh at a bad joke told by your boss’ wife. But then she looked at my face, and I could sense her bewilderment.
“Why?” she asked softly.
I told her. When you’re in love with someone, you see everything about them and I saw everything about Shalewa. I told her how I love her sense of humor, how laughing at herself only made her more beautiful in my eyes. I love how her eyes sparkle when she faces a challenge, whether it was a game of charades or suggesting a new restaurant for dinner to Tunde and I. I love how honest she is, how she never makes excuses and how she always puts others first. I love that dimple that only shows up when she’s thinking up some mischief, and the graceful way she moves. I love how she accepted me as a friend and never thought to punish me for Tunde’s actions, and how easy it is to talk to her about how much I love her.
And then I tried to kiss her.
She was off the couch in a split second.
“We can’t do this PJ. I like you too, a lot, but Tunde is still a factor and I know I’m not ready for this.” 
She said that last word with all the emphasis she could muster. I knew I was asking her to take a huge step, but I pretended I was too drunk to notice. I turned on the charm -Tunde was a good example after all- and told her all the reasons she would want to be with me. She knew, and I knew that Tunde would not be the least bit interested, and as I sensed her hesitation I moved in for the kill. She wanted me too; she just couldn’t convince herself that it was right. And as she walked away from my couch and my life, I implored her to think about it one more time. “Love finds us where we least expect it, remember?”


Two hours later I was jarred from sad sleep by the insistent ringing of the doorbell. My first thought was "Tunde". She told him, and he was here to raise hell. I opened the door to find Shalewa standing there, an uncertain half-smile on her face.
“I have been in my car, thinking.”
I tried to respond to her but no words came out.
“Tunde never noticed my dimple, you know? Not in six months.”
Still nothing. She sighed.
“If it’s okay with you, I just want to be held tonight”


I was still speechless but I opened the door wider for her to come in and before I knew it was coming she kissed me. It was amazing. I kissed her back with all the pent up longing I had and as I started to nibble my way down her creamy neck I heard her muffled question.
“What?”
“I said ‘how long have you known’?”
“Known what?”
“That you were a lesbian. I would never have guessed”
I smiled and went right back to kissing her neck. No point telling her she was my first. I wondered for a brief second how this would look to my long-term boyfriend who was all the way in Europe, and if I would ever tell him. And then I focused on Shalewa…


-Pelumi J. O, Esq.