I watched as she pushed her back against the heavy metal door and tried to catch her breath. Her heart still throbbed from the terror that had struck it. She had secured the rusty lock on the door and was certain the cold-blooded brutes that sought to maul her would be unable to break in.
She closed her eyes and flung them open moments later, letting them wander around the dimly lit room. The room was large. About three times the size of her own room. Or was it my own room?
Her eyes settled on the bed on the opposite end of the room and she froze in alarm. A filthy bed it was. But it wasn’t the flimsy mattress that had seized her attention, nor was it the dust-ridden bed sheets and overused pillows that lay in a chaotic heap on it.
The silhouette of an eerie creature with fiery eyes, more terrifying than the brutes she had barely escaped, stood on the bed, causing its frail wooden frame to squeak and fueling her trepidation so that she let out a cry so piercing it seemed to have emanated from my own lungs.
She hadn’t thought of locking it and the beast must have made its way in through the window. She dashed for the door to her right. It lead to a small room, illuminated by an elegant tiered chandelier. A bathroom. Or was it a library? An antique book shelf stood across one length of the room while the other length of it was graced by a bathtub, shower and toilet—all made of bronze. She marveled at the owner’s conflicting preferences. The disparity between the bedroom and this room was…
She remembered the large room.
The eerie beast was in there, probably about to break through the bathroom door to reach her. Intuition propelled her towards the bookshelf and just before she collided with the wooden structure, the shelf ingested her.
She was now at one end of a hallway, so long, it was impossible to see its end. She had just started to run down the hallway when a figure appeared in front of her.
The fiery-eyed beast.
There was no door or window in sight, so how had it found its way in? She turned back and began running towards the spot where the bookshelf had barfed her out. Something struck her in the back of her head, making her dizzy. I felt dizzy too. The hallway began spinning wildly in circles.
My eyelids flew open.
Do I slide my pen like a writer?
I must have written a hundred letters to my lover
Does this wig make me look like a lawyer?
I often defend my friends in disputes
I sometimes help in bathing my little sisters when they’re ill
Could I be a nurse?
I could paint an alluring image of the sunset
If I possessed the proficiency of an artist
I could sashay down a runway
If there were heels high enough to equate me with the standards
Perhaps I could Pilot an aircraft
If my sense of vertigo lessened with elevation
I could be a broker, a banker
An architect or an athlete
Perhaps an engineer
Or maybe a farmer
Do my ambitions make me seem ambitious?
Oh do tell me!
Mom had traveled to Italy for her master’s program, and on completion of our first academic session at a university in Ukraine, my sister and I were to spend the summer break with our mother in Italy.
We both rounded up our academic year and proceeded to apply for the visa that would gain us entry into the country of our mother’s temporary abode. We followed the necessary procedures and sometime during the wait for the embassy’s response, which of course was to come in the form of an Italian visa on our passports, I fell ill—a little cold here and a little body pain there—but I persevered. Mom had informed us of her newly rented apartment with room enough to comfortably accommodate my sister and I, and her plans to take us shopping and sight-seeing around the city of Florence where she lived. These prospects for the best summer ever kept my tenacity tank fueled up.
But as the days went by and we waited patiently for our passports, I got sicker. When we were eventually called to retrieve our passports, I bade my sister (who was scheduled to join us in Florence a few days after my departure) goodbye and embarked on the 8-hour train ride to the capital city where I would retrieve my passport and leave for Italy.
On the day of my departure I retrieved my passport from a smiling attendant at the ‘Visa Application Center’ and quickly proceeded to the airport, sicker than ever. Upon my arrival at the airport, I presented my passport at the check-in point and wearily waited for my luggage to be weighed and collected. After what seemed like a decade of flipping through the pages on my passport, the passenger service agent looked up at me and requested for my visa.
“Where is your visa?” She asked, still flipping back and forth. “I’m sorry but I can’t seem to find an Italian visa on your passport” I recall her saying.
At this point, my head had begun spinning. And as I collected the passport from her and began turning the pages myself—in hopes that the agent was only a crazy little lady—I recalled the events that took place during and after retrieving my passport from the ‘VAC’ that morning.
I had gone to collect my passport. The lady who handed over my passport had beamed at me. I assumed it was a congratulatory smile. I was too certain, sick, and in a hurry. I hadn’t bothered to check the contents of the envelope handed to me… Otherwise I’d have seen the piece of paper that accompanied my passport, explaining why I wasn’t granted the visa.
A complete merge of my short story series—Once upon a holiday.
It was the summer of 2005. And while my Dad was away in India on military obligations, I had journeyed with my mom and siblings to a family friend’s residence in the south-western part of Nigeria for the long holiday.
It was a warm and quiet morning, I observed as I occupied an armchair on the balcony. Now seated comfortably, following a series of alternating the positions of both myself and the chair to ensure that I was snug to my heart’s content, I looked around and gradually absorbed the contents of the unfamiliar environment. The sight of Life in the city was sufficient eye candy for me; I had a knack for watching people go about their daily hustle. It was a scene so freely handed by nature that I was much too grateful for such generosity to tire of it. And from where I sat on the second floor of the home in which I was presently, albeit temporarily, an inhabitant, the scene before me was invaluable. I could see cars on the high way, men and women walking to and fro going about their sundry businesses, neighbors exchanging pleasantries, children playing, people buying and selling…
With ease I could get accustomed to the smell of freshly fried yams, bean balls, roasted corn and plantains and the scent of the various delicacies that filled the air, I thought with tingling pleasure. Leaning back in my chair, I attempted to distract myself with a novel I had brought along with me to the balcony. I opened it and began to read, but closed it soon after realizing I had lingered on the first line of the first page with no apprehension forth coming, as my attention was constantly drawn to my immediate environment. A book, I could always read, but I would not always sit out here I decided with finality and placed the book aside.
Just as I retired to relishing the beautiful morning, I felt a stare bore into my sides and suddenly became conscious of the possibility of being watched by one or more pairs of eyes. Curiously, I turned in the direction of the stare and my eyes met a male’s undaunted gaze. He glanced on for a while and withdrew his gaze with a half-smile that induced a whim of excitement in me. I looked away and the next time I turned to steal a glance, he was gone. I tarried on the balcony a while longer and eventually resigned indoors: something even more endearing had secured my fancy and belittled the scenery outside. Charge my enchantment on the smile that accompanied his prolonged gaze, but the rest of that day was spent in anticipation of laying my eyes once more on the beautiful stranger that had captured my interest.
A couple of days went by, and one morning, as I left the house to take a brief walk to acquaint myself with the environment, I laid eyes on him again. This time, he was in the company of two younger boys—whom I later found out to be his brothers—and they all seemed absorbed in a game of Ludo. Having mentally schemed a plan to get past them unnoticed, I proceeded my noiseless walk towards the gateway. And had I not inadvertently looked in their direction, though I might not have gotten by unnoticed, I would have been delightfully unaware of my failed strategy. Upon sighting me, he sat up and gave me a thorough stare, which thankfully escaped the notice of the highly absorbed boys who now seemed to be engaged in some form of mild argument over the game. I met his intense stare momentarily, and timidly retracting my gaze I made my way out of the compound.
I stayed out for half an hour, and hoped that on my arrival back the Ludo-playing pack would be gone. With my mid-day snack of roasted corn and sliced coconuts—carefully wrapped in almost 10 pages of old newspapers by the friendly and zealous local seller who insisted that my corn had to be kept warm during my zero-mile trek back home—in one hand, I walked back through the gateway and into the compound. And to my relief, the little bunch had disappeared. As I continued my walk towards the house, the sound of rustling compelled me to turn around, just in time to see him jump over the little fence demarcating his compound from mine, and make his way towards me. My heart throbbed with enthusiasm as I stood rooted to the ground and watched him stroll towards me.
He was tall and dark complexioned with a refined physique that added an edge of elegance to his movements. I began to take a swift study of his physiognomy but before I could take it all in, he had closed the distance between us.
With a flash of his seemingly perfect smile, he addressed me in a calm tone. “Hi. I am Niyi. I saw you a couple of days back, although I doubt you remember seeing me…”
Oh I remember our brief eye-contact more than my pride will permit me to admit. I thought to myself.
“…cos I had only seen you shortly before I went indoors.”
He paused and waited for a response but perceiving that none was forthcoming, he carried on. “I have been here for almost a month and that was the first time I had seen you around here. Do you live here? Or are you visiting family members?”
My mouth went dry. Now at close range, I realized that he was much more good looking than I had initially given him credit for. And unable to speak for fear of being betrayed by an inconsistent hoarseness in my voice, I opted for a nod of acknowledgement—which did nothing in particular to answer his questions, but sufficed in concealing my timidity.
He shot me a peculiar look but hastily substituted it with a warm smile. “I thought so…” he continued, seemingly unfazed by my lack of verbal response. I began to suspect that perhaps he thought me mute, and thankfully finding my voice, I promptly cut in.
“My name is Ara”
“Ara” he repeated thoughtfully. “That’s a…” The exterior door leading to the porch swung open, cutting him off, and Esther appeared in the doorway.
“Ara!” Esther exclaimed, unaware of additional company. “Where you waka go this early momo?” she drawled jestingly in broken English “…I thought you had gotten lost somewhere o…” she continued as she stalked through the doorway, and eventually catching sight of Niyi, she halted and waved at him in a short, airy gesture.
He returned her greeting with a cordial smile and turned to me, “You have a lovely name Ara. I really hope to see you again soon.” and on that note, he turned around and left.
Following a failed attempt at suppressing her urge to giggle, Esther ran down the small flight of stairs elevating the porch from the ground, and gripping my small square shoulders, she blurted out,
“You met him finally!”
“Yes I did!” I whispered in exaggerated delight.
“Well, now that you’ve talked to him one-on-one, what do you think of him?” she fixed me with her inquisitive gaze and before I could reply added, “ah he is so fine!” her voice husky with enthusiasm.
Indeed he was handsome, and quite soft-spoken too. I also could not help but take cognizance of his significantly altered accent, which was indication enough that he had lived outside the country for most, if not all, of his life. However, whether or not he was in the country to settle permanently, I knew nothing of. “Er… I think he is fi…ne” I dragged, and we both giggled.
“Is that roasted corn?” Esther seized greedily at the wrapped snacks in my hand and before I could extract it from her grip, she made a mock run up the stairs and indoors.
Niyi and I had begun to see a lot of each other in the weeks ensuing our first meeting, and our fondness for each other rapidly evolved as we passed most of our time together. Hours had turned into days, and days into weeks…
It was the evening after my 18th birthday and a week to Niyi’s 22nd birthday, and I had gone out to bask in the evening breeze while I routinely occupied myself with a novel. I had barely started reading when a whisper in my ear startled me. “Have you been thinking about me?” a tranquil voice asked and I lifted my gaze and smiled up at Niyi.
“You wish” I answered giggling.
He sat down beside me and pulled me into his brawny arms, and we both sat in silence for a while. Then entwining my fingers in his, he raised my hand to his lips and kissed it. “I need you to promise me something Ara” He said in a low, almost inaudible tone.
I squeezed his hand playfully and snuggled up closer to him, “Hmm and what is this thing you need me to promise you?”
“That no matter what happens, you won’t forget me.” He murmured, as though he feared that he might choke on his words.
I stared up at him and gently touched his face, “I could never forget you even if I tried to.”
The following morning, my father’s return back home was announced to our utmost astonishment. He was said to have planned to surprise us by coming home much earlier than we expected, and informing us only after he had landed in the country—which implied the immediate termination of our vacation. I hastened out to inform Niyi of the impromptu development, but he was nowhere to be found that morning, and before long, we were bidding our hosts goodbye.
As our family van pulled out of the driveway, I remember looking back and seeing Niyi. He had never looked so sullen. “Was he angry? Or just sad?” Were the thoughts that ran swiftly through my mind as I watched him stand implanted to the ground with his gaze fixed on me. Neither of us waved. And as he gradually faded out of sight, I let warm tears flow freely as I mentally waved goodbye to the best epoch of my life, and the first man I had ever fallen in love with…
We all have stood at the foot of a stairway desiring to get to its top, but utterly overwhelmed by the daunting task of ascending the flight of stairs, wondered if we would ever make it up in one piece.
Similarly, many of us albeit having the desire to obey and please God, are disheartened by the seeming impossibility of absolute submission to Him. We think of the endless principles we are required to live by and esteem them far too uncompromising to keep up with, so we do not bother to take the first step in a race that we have foredoomed.
I remember looking at a senior secondary school’s science curriculum as a Junior, and I recall vividly how incoherent the course components appeared to be. But I also remember looking back on my secondary school days as a University undergraduate and yearning for my much-too-easy senior secondary school workload, which once appeared impossible to me. Likewise, the principles of God appear to be wearisome and incapable of being accomplished from the outside of its borders. But only when we embrace the person of Christ and His principles do we realize how much easier life is hemmed in by His love [Matthew 11:30]. All that is needed on our part, is to take the first step into the frontiers of God’s laid down principles for our lives. That first step we take is the more significant step; it is a [subconscious or conscious] display of our faith, and it is what paves the rest of the way, by pushing us further from the bottom and closer to the top.
The first step of faith is equally applicable at every phase of our walk with Christ, regardless of how far gone we are in our walk. I was well into my Christian journey before I decided to completely trust God with my tithes. And that singular vote of confidence in His ability to provide has seen me through an abundance of provision. It goes without saying that God is ever faithful in honoring His promises and rewarding our obedience.
After weeks of desperately wandering the corners of Inspiration Villa, seeking out its contagious stimulus, it hit me! Inspiration had been with me all along. It had wandered those vague corners with me in the disguise of My life. Hence, it is little wonder I had shoved it aside in the quest for a picture perfect story. Something with no link to my personal life.
But what story could be better suited for a ‘perfect story’ than a happy tale culled from one’s personal life challenges?
The last couple of months have been quite dramatic to say the least. It’s like some unforeseen forces had deemed the customary flow of events in my life too lacklustre for my own good, and had consequently taken upon themselves the duty of unleashing two years’ worth of surprises in two months. Which were both exciting and gratifying as they initially unfolded, but quickly escalated into unexpected turn of events and mistakes that nearly cost me more than I could lose.
So where’s the happy ending in almost losing?
The happy ending lies in the springing up from a bad fall. Well, I didn’t exactly spring up, as that would imply that everyone involved—myself included—moved on from my mistakes without difficulty. But that is far from the truth. I am still getting over my mistakes. The beauty in all of these however, is that the people I hurt the most are the ones pulling me up and cheering me on. They have put their hurt aside to love me and go through this with me.
I have learnt a lot from my mistakes but there is one principal lesson I firmly hold on to, as it’ll possibly see me through a lot more in life as I progress: What matters is not how hard we fall, or how long we’ve stayed fallen as a result of shame and guilt, but how we pick ourselves up each time we fall, and take the outstretched hands that offer to support us. The happy ending waits at the finish line. And as long as you are breathing, you haven’t hit the finish line.
“Good Morning Jesus” is a poem by my friend Ug. I think he is a spectacular poet. I enjoy reading his pieces of poetry and I thought to share one of his poems.
Where you are, I long to be;
Deep in the ocean,
Let a canon be strapped around my feet;
Sunk in you forever.
High in the mountains,
I will pitch in the gorge,
If there be no ropes, these nails shall suffice,
You have showed me a life,
I have tasted of your glory, albeit a glimpse,
Nothing else can compare,
Neither fame, nor wealth,
Man, woman, or child,
Nothing can replace who you are to me,
In you, there is no vacuum,
Complete in you, we are.
I give you thanks,
In everything you have done,
Those I know, those I am oblivious to, those I am soon to realize.
In all my rebellion, your long-suffering led me to repentance.
Like Paul, Let your life be magnified in my Life,
Your grace has kept me thus far,
Indeed, it is you, who prods a man to will and to do that which is pleasant before your Eyes,
Like a Pendulum,
Your Grace and Mercy
Is my strength, my swing, my source, my strategy.
The flesh is weak in itself,
Feelings can be deceitful,
In you shall I trust,
Thank you for the freedom from the bondage of sin
Thank you for Life.
Dayo and I began to see a lot of each other in the subsequent weeks and our fondness for each other rapidly evolved. Hours turned into days, and days into eight weeks.
It was the evening after my birthday and I had routinely gone outside to bask in the evening breeze while I occupied myself with a book. I had barely started reading however, when a whisper in my ear startled me. “Have you been thinking about me?” a tranquil voice asked and I lifted my gaze and smiled up at Dayo. “You wish.” I replied jokingly.
Dayo sat down beside me and pulled me into his brawny arms, and we both sat in silence for a while. Then entwining my fingers in his; he raised my hand to his lips and kissed it. “I need you to promise me something Ayo.” He said in a low, almost inaudible tone. I squeezed his hand playfully and snuggled up closer to him, “Hmm and what is it that you need me to promise you?”
“That no matter what happens hereafter, you won’t forget me.” He murmured, as if he feared that he might choke on his words. I stared up at him and gently touched his face, “Your name is engraved on my heart.”
The following morning, my father’s return back home was announced, which also implied the immediate termination of our vacation. And before I could inform Dayo of the impromptu development, we were bidding our hosts goodbye.
As our family van pulled out of the driveway, I remember looking back and seeing Dayo. I had never seen him look so sullen. Was he angry? Was he sad? Were the thoughts that ran swiftly through my mind as I watched him stand rooted to the ground with his gaze fixed on me. Neither of us waved. And as he gradually faded out of sight, I let warm tears flow freely from my eyes as I mentally waved goodbye to the best epoch of my life.
This a merge of beautiful pen-friendship poems; AT RANDOM by CHEEKY, and A MESSAGE TO MY NEW-FOUND FRIEND by LORENZO COSTIGLIOLO. I simply added a line or two.
It was at random that we met,
A chance that not many get.
… And I like you
For what I don’t see of you
Your voice through written words,
Though not a syllable spoken,
Heard by none, yet sweet as a bird’s song
Ringing through the dark silent night.
Not knowing who you are, really,
Only met the perfect you that lives on printed pages,
No height nor weight, no shape nor age
I have never seen you,
Heard you, or touched you.
Those kind of chances are very few.
To meet someone from far away,
Never knowing if they’re here to stay,
Not knowing if what they say is true,
Of what they’re doing and telling you.
So far away, but yet so near,
The “not knowing” is the fear.
Is it truth, or is it lies?
Will a heart grow, or will it die?
Either way, the bonds of Friendship’s strings are tied.
Will I look back on this with regret or glee?
I will leave time to tell.
A heart may be broken,
Or made to mend;
All because of that