31 Bickersteth Street, Lagos.

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I was sitting on the balcony just outside my apartment, trying to take my mind off the sultry weather that the lack of electricity supply did nothing to suffice. Suddenly nine months felt like forever. I was undecided on whom to direct my anger at. The government who has resigned the fate of its best hands to a redundant system designed to break youths in every way imaginable calling it National Youth Service Commission (NYSC) or my uncanny neighbours.

There was Jaluu, the Babalawo (Native doctor/herbs man) third room from mine. He did not talk much, his only companions were his minions, wooden dolls, who would think a grown man like him would still find toys fascinating. That’s the way I saw it, but he took what he did very seriously and so did most of my co tenants. Many times, I’ve caught Amaka, Baba Emeka and Momi Tito paying him visits though they always deny it when confronted. Momi Tito especially, who was a single mother of two girls which she had for two different men, shared Jaluu’s love for toys. The girls, Tito, who was seven and Tiwa, who was five had someone new to call daddy every week. It must be confusing not knowing who their real father was.

Despite the interesting personalities of my co-tenants, we all attend the living church of signs and wonders two blocks away. It was amazing how they were able to display religious eccentrics with such abandonment.
Even more amazing was the pastor who was always fighting one to dozen imaginary spirits every church service. He knew their names as well as their likes and dislikes. I wondered if he knew his church members that well and what they did in secret. The real war would start then.

It was a sight every Sunday and I think that is one of the reasons why I attend apart from the fact that it was the nearest church in a thousand miles. Jaluu attended because according to him, there was one thousand and one ways to God, however valid, they should not be questioned.
‘We all worship the same God, we just have different nicknames for him’, he would say.
Personally, I think it’s because that’s where he gets his best customers from. Ironic isn’t it. For Baba Emeka, It was more of an avenue to invite everyone for a Sunday night drink at his local relaxation bar. It was the perfect get away spot for everyone to vent just before the Monday blues began. It was a small town. That kind of town where everyone knew each other.

This Sunday was different however, a man attended church service, a man they had not seen before! He stood in front of the congregation.
Man: Praise the Lord!!!!!

Congregation: Hallelujah!!!!!
Man: Praaaaaaiissssssseeeee The Living God…
Congregation: Hallelujah!!
Man: Prai…prai…Praise Master Jisos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Congregation: [ Silence]
Man: [ Singing ] I’m happy…I’m happy…I’m happy…Jehovah has done me well
Pastor Assistant: Err…Sir…Just say your testimony…we don’t have all day…


So the man began. He testified of how just last week he was healed of a life-threatening illness. He was healed of HIV. He was no longer dying. Hallelujah!
Everyone rejoiced with him as he danced round the altar, heralding the evidence of his miracle, a HIV negative result. Like the grateful leper Jesus healed in the bible, the man led the thanksgiving chorus again as he danced. Everyone echoed. Everyone except Momi Tito.
Curious. Why was Momi Tito not dancing elatedly with this young man who was lost but now has been saved? Instead she stood transfixed on the spot looking at the man in shock and then she blurted out in a display of despair.


Momi Tito: Ye…Ye …Ye… Mo ku o! … (I’m dead!)… Ina jo mi o (Fire is burning me) … Fire…Fire!
Baba Emeka: Fire ke? (What fire?) Where is the fire!
That was pastor’s cue. He was a specialist in these kind of things. After all, the bible is filled with stories of strange fires like this.
Pastor: Congregation, this is exactly what I preached about today, The Lord is good! The fire revival has started!
Then he turned to Momi Tito and said –
Pastor: Woman, thou art loosed!
I don’t think that was enough to unbind Momi Tito as she wrapped her arms around her upper abdomen tighter, crying bitterly.

At that point I had seen enough. I had to go sundry the remaining of my clothes before they all get back from church and there was no space left on the open cloth liner. Besides the ushers were already carrying Momi Tito to the special deliverance room cutting the action short.


Questions plagued my mind for weeks however. Why did Momi Tito shout like that? Who was that man that testified? How did his miracle happen? Well, Miracles do happen, but not in that church.
Well, after two weeks of dedicated snooping, I finally learned the truth.

Momi Tito was a sex peddler. The man was Segun. He had been Momi Tito’s regular client until he suddenly stopped coming. She never knew why he stopped coming, never bothered to look into it, never thought of him twice until now. She had been frequenting Baba Jaluu for drugs that would boost her immunity as she had been falling sick frequently. Also for the past few months, Baba Emeka too who had been in Momi Tito had the same strange illness and had gone to Jaluu for some explanation. Baba Jaluu himself had been. For you see, Momi Tito kept an unbiased clientele.


The air at 31, Bickersteth street has been sullen and remorseful for the past two weeks as my neighbours mourned their impending doom. They were all suspected victims of HIV- the disease without a cure. I tried to explain to them that it was a not a life sentence if they were positive.
“Don’t worry, I said. There are almost free ARV drugs available at -“
Jaluu looked at me with utter disdain cutting me short. He had an open aversion to modern medicine. He had a term for it – ‘ pretentious’.
However, I think what was more aversive was the fact that he was not the one prescribing drugs this time. And that he, the famed healer would have to beg Segun to take him to the place where he got healed. He would have to trust in Segun’s god now as that was the only god that could save him.

The Woman on Elm Street

Annie Marie waited under the lamp post clutching that raggedy purse. Her long navy blue gown , like an 18th century lady, stood out among people in jeans and skimpy skirts. She did this every evening for two centuries now.

‘John said to meet him here’ – She would tell the people hurrying past her.

‘You know my John?’ – She asked a child who was staring at her Inquisitively.

Once the local council tried to move her, give her some food and clean clothes, the food she agreed to, but said no to new clothes and that purse- ratchety as it was, she held on to it like she was holding on to dear life.

What was in the purse? – A foil wrapper with fingers in it – fingers she had cut off from all the men that had asked for her hand in marriage. They were not worthy. How dare they? When John comes, she would show them to him. All the men she had refused and defied for him.

The Fifth

Do you see me
The protest in my silence
Or do you just call it diffidence

Can you hear me
The pain behind my smile
It’s almost senile

A thousand swords
Are hidden in the chords
That my tongue could sing

Still I remain silent
The words I don’t say
Fall like a thud in my mind

To say or not to say
I’m at war with myself
And at the epicenter,
Is my tongue.

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Joseph’s Dillema

Mary has a man
And he has no name
Saw her just last week
Face as lovely as the sun
On a rainy day
She was my woman
Now she belongs to him
My Mary has a man

My baby’s got a baby coming
And he will not be mine
Help me understand this magic
Cos it’s killing me
My woman was with
Another man

Tell me
Did he hold you
Like I used to
Tell you you are rare magic
As he rubbed your tired feet
Does he know
How long i’ve waited
For a moment in heaven
With you

My Mary,
You had a man
In this very room
You ask me not to leave
Have you forgotten that
I’m only human after all
Still –
Explain it to me the dozenth time
How are you pregnant
With the Son of God?

Freedom

If knowledge is the key
Then show me the lock
Independence or Co-dependence?
Free man Freeman
The Black Man is Free
When his mind’s not in chains
Open Sesame

Wasn’t Me

I know what it looks like
You found her
Cold and lifeless next to me
My prints on the knife
Buried deep in her heart
Her eyes frozen in a plea
I know what it looks like
But I didn’t do it
I swear I’m not lying

Before God what i’m writing here is the truth
I met this girl on the curb or was it at the bar?
She was the kind of babe you had to look at.
It was her eyes and the way her curves delicately moved everything in her way
I was captivated and so were the ten other guys at the bar that day.
There was something tiring about her eyes though. You could see it even when they smiled. I knew she didn’t want to be disturbed but still I couldn’t help but order her a drink.

Two hours later, I knew the story behind her tired eyes. Gilted lover, pretty cliche. I was no better than the man that broke her heart but I wanted to be her knight for the night. So I invited her to my room. But I swear nothing happened. After an hour of watching The Looney Tunes Marathon – and finding out who was better at knife throwing, we fell asleep.

I woke up at dawn and found her in a pool of her own blood. Her body still warm but rigid and perfect except for the knife we had been playing with earlier buried deep within her chest. But I didn’t kill her – I didn’t do it – I swear i’m not lying!

Hidden Treasures

The world cheered as she sang
Canaries were no match

He spoke
And a nation was forged
A new generation of soldiers
With armed minds

He Joked
And choked grown men with laughter

There was a painter
Whose hands ressurected dreams
There was a physicist – tho an atheist
He made men thirst for God

They all died at birth
Hidden treasures in wooden boxes.

Me vs Me

It began late summer
I’ll always remember
The floor was cold
I could smell the mold
From where I laid
I watched my blood fade

On the blade that was –
Next to my tears
I said yes for years
Afraid of the test
That came
If I dared protest
I became –
A shadow
So you could glow
Trapped in the prison
Of my mind without reason
I was all you wanted me to be
And nothing like me
Now i’m looking at the mirror
Starring in horror
At the monster you created
I’m just like you now
Only more demented
All because I believed when you said
” – But trust me”

Monochrome

The atmosphere was grim, everything had a gray hue – the dark coats we wore, the wet corridors, the way the rain poured unapologetically on us as we matched in a file to God knows where and the stern look on that woman’s face. 

Teacher, Commander or Head Witch- none of us was exactly sure. All we knew was – she was one of them. The ones who created this system.

She stood about 3 feet taller than all of us, her pale face cemented with a scowl, her sleek hair packed in a tight bun at the back of her head. She was wearing a black coat like us too. 


We don’t know how we got here  or what was before now, all we know is everyday we march and take the train to point blank station. I did the same thing everyday until today. 


“Where are you going” said Nevul – my friend turned brother. There was no contract to it.  At 5, I was the youngest of all of us. He was 6 years older so he took on the role of a big brother and he relished in it. 


“To find answers” – I replied.


 We were standing in front of a building now. The building stood like one of those towers you would only expect to see at Hogwarts. Even more oddly, it felt alive. I made for the large door knocker – but almost immediately the door opened to us like it was expecting us. 


We were greeted by a long wind of stairs that wound down like it led to the bottomless pit itself. An empty barrel with a broom in it appeared in front of us. we exchanged a glance. We knew we had to get in- see where this was leading.

The train barrel moved at the speed of light. It finally stopped at a small room that looked like an office.


‘Now what!’ – Nevul exclaimed bewildered. ‘C’mon lets go before they find we are missing.’


‘Shh – take a look at this’ – I said in a whisper


There were e-files, digital archives of strange dimensions floating in a mess everywhere. 


“Take a look at what – “

‘The people in the files, the color, the flowers have you seen anything this pretty before?’


“What are you talking about – You can see color?! Thats biologically impossible!” – Nevil asked impatient now. 


‘Yes – not just color – There’s an unfamiliar feeling of serenity and warmth too.’

 There was a file that laid precariously close to a disk slot. Someone must have been interrupted while trying to place that there. The broom nudged me to place the file in. 


‘You do it’ – i said to Nevul;  but the broom pinned him to the wall as soon as he stretched his hand. 


An alarm was already sounding on the corridors, they had realised we were missing. They were coming for us. I looked out the window. Everything was covered in snow now. I sighed. 


We heard a door swing open and footsteps. 


‘Now!’ , Nevul screamed 


“Put the file in! It has to be you!”


” Whoever started this wants it to stay that way but you can stop this. You have magic in you. You see color. Thats your super power and as soon as they find out, they will kill you. You are a threat to this existence”.


The footsteps were nearer. 


“Do it now!”


There was a sudden gush of wind and  then everything went blank. 


22, Picket Avenue, Lagos. Tobi’s Computer screen reads: (RESTARTING DEVICE, UPDATING SOFTWARE, PROGRESS -66%)

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No Peeking

A Demonstration

Arrh! Juust Perfect!
Breathe,
Be here
Close your eyes
Count every sheep
Don’t wake up
Dream of me
Empty your soul
Earn my smile …


Feel your breath
Grinding away as you
Go on that solo journey to –
Hell and beyond
Hits on you now right? – Yes –
I poisoned your tea
Ira said a spoonful
Just enough to do the job
Joke’s on you now
Lol
Light’s on who now?
Me!


My message was clear
No peeking
No seeing the bride before
Or even getting a picture
Play the script like I – I –
Pictured – you half smiling & crying …
Quad Perfect – Hollywood Stuff
Question – was it so hard to wait?
Reason it – it was just 5 minutes
Sorry – but you know it’s bad luck
So I had to do it
Sigh – the real problem tho, is that – You —
STOLE MY MOMENT!