Eyes

I thought I’d have a go at a series of similarly themed very short stories. I don’t know if these count as flash fiction.

Please enjoy…

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Her eyes saved me.

She was what we used to call a ninja back when we were in school. Her hijab was one of those ones that flowed from head all the way to knees, leaving only eyes and feet visible. I couldn’t tell if she was beautiful or plain. Scarred or flawless. But her eyes sure were pretty.

I was standing in front of her husband’s stall in the far corner of Sabungawa market pricing albasa (hausa for onions) when it began. I would say that I didn’t speak a word of hausa but that would not exactly be the truth. I spoke and understood a  few words of the language. She spoke no english. Having spent the last seven and a half months more or less living in hausaland, I had managed to pick up a few words and phrases of the language. Albasa, sai gobe (Till tomorrow), Lafia lau (Fine, thank you), ba kudi (no money), kadan kadan (small small), naira ashirin (twenty naira), naira hamsin (fifty naira), muje (Let’s go).

It was market. It was naturally rowdy and noisy and so I could never have gauged the situation brewing behind me from the sounds I was hearing.

Su na zuwa! Su na zuwa!!

I had no idea what they were saying or why they were saying it so animatedly and I would have shrugged it off except… It was the alarm in her eyes that interpreted it for me.

They are coming! Don’t you understand? They are coming!

I had been on my way home from CD. I had chosen a heck of a day to be standing in the middle of this market wearing a target emblazoned across my chest and back. My crested vest might as well have read INFIDEL across my busty front and SLAUGHTER ME behind.  No way I could possibly blend in. Nowhere to run. Or hide.

She looked at me with fear in her eyes… and read utter hopelessness in mine.

Without any hesitation, she pulled off her hijab, a taboo, no doubt, and shoved it over my head. She was rather pretty. With an ugly scar running down her crusty left cheek.

“Muje!”

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And he’s missing me if he’s not kissing me

And when he looks at me his brown eyes tell it so

The first time he told me he loved me over the phone, I laughed it off.

Love? Really? After only a month of dating? Oh please!

That’s what I thought. The next time he told me, two days later, I was in his arms over at his place. I looked into his eyes and I knew he was true. He loved me.

Over the next few years, he would tell me repeatedly how much he loved me, adored me, cherished me, and searching in the depth that his eyes were, I saw no lies. Which is why I could never have believed Amarachi when she visited one afternoon and told me the things she did.

“Who is Cynthia?”

His eyes. The turmoil. A storm was brewing  in there. The eye of the storm was when the pregnant tears finally fell.

Amarachi had told me no lies.

“Do you love her?”

“I love you. Only you.”

He was lying. Even now his eyes told me no lies.

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Other fathers hug their children, play with them, love them. You were always so official, so rigid, so unemotional. Sometimes, I wonder why mother married you in the first place. Wasn’t… Isn’t marriage supposed to be spurred and held together by love? Where is the love?

I have never seen your features belie any emotion towards any of your children. Not pride, not love, not shame. Only indifference. Have you any idea how painful it is to see you smile at the child of another while I receive nothing but coldness from you? Nothing ever seems to crack through that dam you’ve so stubbornly put up. You seem to be unaware of the fact that you’re no robot. You’re human. Those pent up emotions need to be let out someday.

Today, I will crack the dam.

The thin, grim line that is your lips will quiver. The creases in your face will twitch. Your eyes will divulge the feelings they have hidden away all these years when I tell you of my lover. I will do more than tell you, I will show you her. And you will erupt with all the fire and brimstone that you have rained down from behind the pulpit while at work, whilst only giving us cold, barren brick at home. You will demand and plead and attempt to blackmail your only daughter while she offers you nothing but the plain bored look you have given her all her life. All my life.

And I won’t turn my back on you and walk away… not until I see resignation and defeat in your eyes.

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I am looking at you and I am pleased. You are very beautiful.

Your smile is a wonder to behold and your eyes dart around intelligently. But your mind… it is your mind that holds me spellbound. The words they spill forth at me take me places I have never been and introduce me to people I will never meet. Every loop, every dash and every dot carries your character. The way you scrawl the heart over your name in your closing salutation tells me things that no one else knows, because I know I’m the only one who receives that heart. And I cherish it.

I must end this soon. Not because I want to, but because, as you can see, I am running out of space. Paper is quite expensive these days and so I must ration our exchange of correspondence to only one sheet at a time. You will find a plain sheet and a pencil for you to reply with as always.

I will see you someday and I shall not have to close my eyes to do it. No photograph can replace the beautiful words you use to describe yourself to me. It is an exquisite feeling I experience when you bare your soul to me, even more exquisite that I get to keep the words with which you do so. Every word we exchange brings us closer in a way that is truly indescribable. It is truly amazing how two people who as of yet, have never met can know each other so intimately.

Reply soon, my dear friend.

Yours Sincerely,

Benedict E. Smith

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Immense pride and joy well up within her at the standing ovation.

Suddenly, without warning, shame and self-loathing spring up in their place.

She looks up at the broad smile beaming from the young man’s face in direct contrast to the dark goggles sheathing his eyes. The thick blackness of the shades he is wearing compliments the glistening ebony of the piano behind him. The grandness of the Rubenstein by far out-classes the five octave casio electronic keyboard his father bought him when he was seven. The same keyboard she threw out countless times. The same keyboard that, despite her efforts, accompanied him on the journey to where he is now.

“Little boys should be seen and not heard”

“But our son is special, Hanna. He could be great one day.”

“The music. It drives me crazy. Why does he have to play it so damn much?”

“It will all be worth it. Some day”

Today.

Someone beckons to her to join him on stage. As she rises, the thunderous applause swells. As she approaches the stage, the shame bites harder at her insides. As she takes each step, another tear falls from her face. As they do from behind his dark glasses. The audience misinterpretes the tears, hers at least. His are tears of triumph.

She comes to where he stands and as she does, he senses her presence and turns towards his step mother and opens his arms.  She walks into his embrace and holds him close. The applause is rapturous now. She whispers in his ear.

“Your father would be proud”

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The Hum

I was featured on AfroSays about a year ago. Enjoy if you haven’t already…

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We trudge forward. Billions-strong, we march. We don’t even see the road anymore, only the one in front of us, feeling only the push of the one behind us. We jostle on, jostled by the ones on either side and we jostle back. We cannot stop, we must not stop. The hum of our voice collective drowns out any other sounds we may have heard. We hear only each other. We hear only each other now.

We were not always like this. We used to soar the skies. But now… We hardly even look up there anymore. The hum is too loud. It is madness.

Stubs now poke out of our upper backs, from whence our wings once flourished. Winged ones still fly the skies we do not look up to. From their vantage point, they can see where they are headed, and where we are headed… Mostly. Sometimes. Every now and then, a winged one flies so close, always drawn in by the hum, so close that we can touch them. And we pluck them, drag them down and bite off their wings, leaving them in the dust that envelopes us. And we trample on in our exodus to nowhere, now even more populated and hating it.

The hum. The hum is everything. The hum would sometimes bring a winged one to alight on the ground a ways from us… And drive them so mad, like us, that they would twist and constrict on themselves and proceed to bite off their own wings. The act a grotesque beauty in itself. And they join us too.

We feed. Only on our stubs. The stubs, they grow back, and we feed on the one in front of us. As the one behind, feed on ours.

But a few of us walk backwards, eyes constantly on the still-winged ones in the skies above, and they thirst, and long, and wish, and hope, and desire. And in their longing and desiring, their wings flourish, and blossom, and sprout. And they may return to the skies from whence they came…

And the day comes when each one of us arrive at the precipice that we never saw approaching. The hum, now so loud, that it drowned out the screams, until we ourselves, on the edge, screamed too. And were only pushed forward by those behind, who knew not what lay ahead, except for the stubs they could see. The stubs on our backs that flapped desperately in their utter uselessness as we plunged to nothingness.

And high above us, the winged ones spread their beautiful plumes and soar on back into Eden.

Letter To My Mother

Every year, on April 11th and on August 5th, my siblings and I celebrate the life of our late mother. We shared her with so many people who never hesitate to let us know how much they loved her and what she meant to them. I posted Smile, a poem I wrote in  her memory, on the occasion of her last two babies’ birthday last year. (Funny, after all these years, I realised for the first time today that she birthed her last two children on 08/05 and passed on 05/08. Weird and interesting, right?)

This morning, I received a beautiful, beautiful letter to her from my best friend. I’ve been given permission to share the letter with you. Enjoy…

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Hey Mama,

I’m Suliat Banderas*, your daughter.

I know you never got a chance to get to know me before you had to leave but that’s okay, I know you and I have kinda met…. through your sons.

I know you are sitting up in heaven loving and watching out for all of them… Tobi, Ola, Pelumi, Funto and Rachel too! I just pray you find it in your heart to love and watch out for me too…

I wish we got a chance to meet. I can tell you were an absolutely phenomenal woman. I would have loved to hear your amazing stories, see your beautiful smile, maybe get some cooking recipes and come to you for advice whenever I needed it… Especially now!

Oh well, we will all get to meet in heaven and we will talk and laugh till both our mouths ache 😀

I’m sure you already know, but just in case you don’t, your baby and I are in a very serious relationship. He fills my heart with so much joy, mama, its incredible! You did an amazing job raising him and I’m sure you must be very proud at how he’s turning out… I know I am!

Best part is, he’s not even really started yet.

To say I love him, mama, would be the understatement of the century. Your son is my whole world.

I solemnly vow to love, honor, respect and protect him always…. till my dying day. Mama, I will be his backbone whenever he needs support. His Cheerleader whenever he needs encouragement. His companion so that he knows he’s never alone. I will be his lover and his friend… Forever.

I do need your help though, mama… While you’re up there, can you please watch over me and ‘La’s journey? Please be a guiding angel as we go through our life together…

We love you, Mrs Folake Aworinde,
May your spirit continue to Rest in Perfect Peace.

click to enlarge

Love, Your Daughter,
Suliat Banderas

*Suliat Banderas may or may not be a real name.

( ._.)