LEARNING TO LOSE

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It took me three tries to start seeing Game of Thrones; three tries, each attempt more torturous than the last. First time I heard of the series, I was in Senior Year in High School. I had gone out with my friend David to get the third season of Spartacus and we saw the first Season of Game of Thrones on display. He casually mentioned that he’s heard about this Game of Thrones and it was supposed to be like Spartacus. I shrugged it off; no series could be as awesome as Spartacus.

First try watching  GOT after the hype from the early fans and I couldn’t get beyond the first episode. It seemed lazily scripted, hazy and boring to me. Second try watching it, after everyone had tried to force it down my throat and I couldn’t get beyond the first episode still. It just gathered more haziness after the first attempt – and why was everything so dark? On the third try, after everybody was already using the now hackneyed “you know nothing Jon Snow” line and after much of the world had taken to the show like moth to light, I got pass the first episode and I haven’t stopped since.

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Episode 4 of the Season Finale of the show was released on a Monday morning, and halfway through work  that morning, I smuggled myself to a location, and watched it with the keeness of a devotee; laughed where the jokes were told, shrank when the fear rose, cringed when Gendry made a fool of men and kept a tear for the pain that I hadn’t foreseen (No, I didn’t really cry). At this point, I was absolutely absolved into the GOT verse and I make no apologies. I mean, why not? It is, by every means, a fantastic show. The intrigue, the gore, the sheer majestic story telling and beyond that though, below all that, the endless life lessons. I used to find it corny when people say they learnt life altering lessons from movies, but GOT gives me reasons to feel otherwise.

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In Episode 4 of the season finale, Sansa told The Hound that she is grateful for having had dealings with the likes of Geoffrey, Little Finger and Ramsey Bolton, because  if she had not know them, she would have been a little bird all her life. Her perspective struck me, but what struck me more was how profoundly true her words were – and they are true. If she  had not met these “monsters”, she would have led an easier, happier life perhaps, and she would have remained a prey in a game where preys only wait to be picked for meal. In meeting these sadnesses, she came to learn life in the harshest ways, but in ways that ensured that her lessons endure.

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And her words got me thinking; about life, about losing, about failing, about suffering. And now I wonder that perhaps we underestimate the place of bad things. Perhaps we underappreciate the artistic appeal, the underlying beauty in ‘misfortune’, ‘suffering’, ‘faliure’. We all confess with our mouths that life is not a bed of roses, but ironically, we live half expecting it to be. And so we ululate in grave disappointment when we fail, when we fall short, when we suffer. I am guilty of this too, so I make no judgements. And for this, we suffer doubly; once for our sufferings themselves and then for failing to draw strength from them. We fail to utilise the great courage and drive that I have realised comes from negatives. We double over and collapse, crashing like dominoes. Oh, trust me, I know – been there, done that.

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The point is, life is not easy – but hell, we have to live it. Life afterall, as Coldplay would say, is a guest house and we are to entertain whoever comes – a joy, a depression, a meaness, whatever momentary awareness, whatever unexpected visitor. And in living it, we are faced with two options when bad tidings do come (and they will); to learn and grow, or wilt and die (okay, maybe not exactly, but I needed the dramatic touch). I wouldn’t assure you that the first option is better – that’s your call; but I will bet that it is the option with more promises of positive yeild. Isn’t that what you were after all along? And I know this is a cliche point, and I hate cliches just as much as the next guy, but this is one time I will be indulgent – because the way I see it, this point is only cliche because it has been so dutifully reiterated, due to how important it is.

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It’s like Denzel Washington once said, ease may be a bigger threat to success, than harsh conditions. Flip that, and you get that harsh conditions, addressed from the right perspective is the perfect fuel. And no, that’s not to say that ease is nonsense. Ease is desirable, don’t let any one tell you otherwise. We love ease, that’s why we bother in the first place. Privileges are beautiful things, serial success is a beautiful thing, but hardships or faliures are just as beautiful too, if we can utilise them right.  

So, go on little bird; take the long road if you must, grow, learn through the hardships and maybe one day, you’ll wake up and find you’re the Queen you always wanted to be. 

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LIFE HAPPENS

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The Story

Maybe we will never know why life happens the way it does. I mean, how could we? Life happens to us all, with little input from us. Most times we decieve ourselves that we are in charge of the progression of our stories, that our choices, our efforts, our decisions, our human devices really matter enough to determine our narrative. It’s easy to believe this; which is telling, because the truth is never easy. And maybe, we get to affect our own stories just a little bit, maybe we contribute to the picture of our lives in some ways, a little colour here, a little highlight there. That is likely all there is to it. Because how can we claim to be truly in charge when we don’t even know how our stories start and we hardly have a say how they end? And the vast narrative between the beginning and the end merely dazzle as the winds of life blows, moving with every blow and every gust, more than we care to admit.

She was like the ocean. Calm on the surface, revolting tirelessly beneath and arches of magic in between. I on my part, never really had the soul for magic or any likening for the sea. When I first met her, she struck me as odd; large eyes that danced in the light, a mischievous smile, radiant face, full upper-lips, and a spirit so excited you could almost see the energy jolting from her being.

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Life is so different from fairy tales; in life, stories start in the most ordinary ways. No “long long time ago”, no “there lived a princess”, or “damsel”, or “beautiful maid.” With life, stories start with your every day guy, living the average life, nursing modest dreams, running into an every day girl, in an every day town and finding the key to the extraordinary somewhere between living average and some 100 conversations. Our story was a little different. Every day guy, average life, messed up city, and an extraordinary girl with a tireless soul. I met her in a cab! Of all the places in the world. Although I first saw her in the party I was escaping from that evening.

I had first seen her while my friend introduced me to every other girl at the party, making sure to get them to notice my green suit and how it compliment my frame, trying too hard to keep to his promise of getting me hooked, telling whichever of them cared enough, which would make most of them, that I am an architect. Ladies dig that, he would tell me. I wasn’t much interested in the party, or the girls, or the wine he was forcing me to drink. I wanted to go home, and have a warm bathe, and watch a regular TV show or another anime, and sleep and wake up tomorrow, and head to work. He felt I needed a life, I felt I needed my solitude. But I humoured him anyways, and went to the party, and smiled, shook hands and drank white wine, and complemented the overly bourgeoisie hostess; one of those that entertained the urgent need to spend every moment reinforcing the notion that they spent a considerable amount of years in England.

I noticed her a couple of times after that, I caught her eyes almost every other  time I looked at her. It was as though she could tell whenever I was looking at her, and each time I was, she caught my eyes and wouldn’t look away until I was forced  to coyly withdrawn my gaze. Not once was she first to withdraw. At one point, she winked at me, and smiled. I could tell she came with a date, which was probably why we didn’t get introduced. I could tell she was different. I would find out later that I was dead wrong; not about the date – she did come with a date. She was not different, she was just more. 

I finally wriggled away from the party, and was about to head home. I had waved down a cab and I was about to close the door when I saw her rushing out of the hotel, her shoes in her hands. She waved at the cab driver, who could only manage to get halfway through telling her that he was already taken, before she entered the cab. She asked if I didn’t mind that she joined me, that she was kind of in a hurry, and I said I didn’t mind, that I wasn’t in any hurry myself, and that I was happy enough to be leaving the party. To which she laughed and asked if the party sucked that much, and I replied with a shrug. Her response left me reeling with laughter.

“At least you get to meet me” she said. And to this I laughed. Not because it was so much of a joke, as much due to how she said it; like it wasn’t a joke.

“Well, I can’t say. We haven’t even met”

“And you were going to leave without meeting?”

“I believe I was”

“Well, seeing as you’re stuck in a cab with me, you’ll have no choice but to meet me now”

We spent the remainder of the evening haggling over the most insane things; she had the most unorthodox perspective on things, you see. This was after she single handedly  requested the cab driver to take a detour and take us both to the fanciest restaurant in the vicinity, only to make us leave the restaurant minutes after, when she remembered that she could get better food from a road side vendor just down the street. We spent the night running between locations, eating in a tricycle, laughing, and finally getting chased by some guards after she made us jump into the little pond of sea beside the Oriental Hotel.

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You know how they say we fall in love when we least expect? Well, my story was different in this regard too. I feel in love, knowing fully well that I was going to. I may not have admitted it to myself, but I knew, from that first evening, I knew I was going to fall recklessly and stupidly in love with that girl in the red gown, that ran down the stairs, hijacked my ride and held me hostage for a night. And love? Love makes a fool of us all. In her eyes, I saw the world anew. Yeah, it’s cheesy. I, of all people, should know. I am the kind of guy that used to think hugging a friend was cheesy, so yeah. But love made me the whole bowl of cheese. She taught me the names of stars, somewhere during the many saturday nights we spent star gazing at her request. She taught me the names of birds, the difference in their calls. She taught me beauties in the smallest things. She knew too much about the ordinary things; she could milk a whole world from the most mundane. In a way, she was as much art as I ever saw in living form. I guess that was what made her unique. My parents thought she was too wild, my brother thought she was too good for me, my friend finally realised that I wasn’t going to be needing a wingman anymore.

We got married in secret, because she felt it was more exotic. My parents were mad; they had planned to invite half the entire state. Her parents would have been mad too, if they weren’t, well, dead. My brother was my best man at the wedding, and promised my mother that the traditional wedding was going to be theirs to plan. That was 4 months before she died. You see, who could have told us at that point that we were stupid to be worried about things as base. Her death was my fault.

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She was 3 months pregnant when she died. One evening, she told me about this exciting event she wanted us to attend; I told her I had work to finish and she would have to go alone. But she insisted and I bulged, and so we bathed and dressed, danced somewhere in between bathing and dressing, simply because she liked to dance, although she wasn’t so good at dancing; one of those rare things she couldn’t do well. We were almost at the hotel where the event was holding. We were coming towards an intersection when my phone rang. I had forgotten to Bluetooth it to the car, and in the split second I spent trying to locate the phone, a trailer ran into us, right out of nowhere, like a hand from the dark, sending our lives spiralling into nothing.

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I should have died, not her. I spent four weeks in the hospital, underwent several surgeries and somehow clung on to  life against my own wish. But what does it matter now? Death finds us all in its own way. I might not have died in that car, but I surely died that night. What I am about to do, has meaning only for the sake of concluding an ending that has lingered too long. Maybe we will never know why life happens the way it does. I, for sure, never will.

The Note

Mama,


This is the last of me you will ever have
As I write this, I am already half way dead
And in a couple of minutes, I'll hang from a fan
I'll be floating from dear life

I understand that this sounds weak
I understand it seems that I am giving in
“Taking the easy route” as they say it
The many corny things they say


But I am not weak, I am merely tired
Not of life itself, but of living it
I am not weak, If I am strong enough to die
But the world never understands

They say there is beauty in pain
Some sensuousness in suffering
Some collateral sweets in sorrow
Some aesthetic gift in hurt
How convenient!

Poetry is easy, philosophy is cheap
When describing the things one doesn’t feel
And aphorisms are their authors’ arrogance
Simple minds, simpler quotes

There is no beauty in the truest of pains
It is raw and sharp and reckless
Like a wretched ulcer of the soul
What is the beauty in that?

And sorrow as I have felt
Is that which burns like mamba’s venom
Suffering, as I have endured
Has no limits, no damn tenure

Sorrow, Oscar says, is one endless moment
And this is the truth I know
What folly is it to live in torment?
When one can ease into death

You see, It is not that I can no longer live
It is that I have no wish for life
Can you understand?
That I have no appetite?

By the time you read this, my flame would be out
Not because I have lost my fire
My light did not blow out Mama
But candle has burn out


Words never sound right when you need them to
And emotions are like waves
Washing up at will
I apologize

And this is goodbye forever.

GHOSTS OF GIRLS WHO NEVER WHISPERED A WORD

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Late in the day, hot in the afternoon, I was in every kind of hurry. I needed to be in Lagos before the end of the day, so I could make it to work the next day – and maybe avoid an earful.

Opi Iweka was busy as usual, people crowded in an oily cluster, some dragging you, most dragging themselves, screams of Lagos, Benin, Ibadan revolting in the air in tireless  decibels, as high above, the sky shone a sheen of purple, like the underbelly of an octopus.

As it was late, I wasn’t able to find a bus to Lagos despite having walked the length of the busy  transport centre. I eventually settled to get a bus to the bypass in Benin, from where I would rely on sheer luck and my bravodo to find a way to Lagos before the day slipped away. It was between that and night travel, and I wasn’t going to risk feeling like fungus at work the next day.

She was seated under a shed in front of a container that I could bet sold items like toothpaste, biscuits, satchet gin, kai kai and expired soft drinks. The container was not open, for whatever reason, and she was enjoying the owners benevolence, seeing as they did not lock up the certainly beloved wooden bench they would use to entertain customers who needed to get drunk on cheap alcohol after a hard day; mostly drivers and touts the way I imagined it.

She was beautiful. Beautiful in a way that did not take the breathe away; the type that slowly dawns on you and then proceeds to slowly steal all of your attention.

I first noticed her after paying for my seat in the Sienna Mini-van I had found going to Benin. As I couldn’t wait inside the car, for reasons such as the heat and the really incomprehensible fish smell, I decided to rest by the door and take in air. She was seated opposite the Sienna, just some metres away. I noticed that she had such well sculptured nose, and she was a tall, and not exactly curvy like most tall girls aren’t. Well, I couldn’t possibly be sure, seeing as she was seated.

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Perhaps, I should have spoken to her. The bench was long enough for two, there was nobody on the other end. I could have pretended I needed a seat. I would have sat by her side, fussed about the heat and proceeded to ask her name.

“It’s so hot these days. It’s almost impossible to cope. I am  Charles by the way. Or Nnamdi. You can call me Nnamdi.” Nnamdi because it was Onitsha and I couldn’t go seeming like an outsider, even though in actual fact, I was.

 

“Hello. I’m ………….”  She would have told me her name, and smiled. Most likely. Either that, or she would have acted uninterested, and withdrawn and I would have had to push on. Then I would have said something stupid like “I hope you can understand me though. I really can’t speak Igbo much” and then say “Ah. That’s such a relief” if by some luck she answered that she was fine with speaking in English.

Maybe she was a student. Maybe she was going back to school. UNN? UNIZIK? I could have asked her if she stayed in Onitsha. We would have laughed at some point. Maybe just me at first, then she would join in eventually – smitten by my charm or finally comfortable enough to patronize my jokes.

She had these really beautiful eyes. Sleepy, clear like a brook, piercing eyes that defy my feeble attempts at describing. Her lashes hung low and long, dancing  around her eyes like picturesque beach umbrellas. I would have told her this – not in these exact words though. I would have professed it with utter amazement, with deliberate simplicity. She would have smiled, or shrinked. I would have held her eyes as I said it either ways, so she would know I was being honest. Her eyes had this story in them, some sadness that flickered in the dullish shimmer of her pupils. Maybe, one day, she would have told me what it was; that quiet that lined her soul on that day.

Her lips were beautiful too. Incredibly imperfect lips, her upper lips hanging some inches longer than her lower lips, making her seem like some exotic bird. Somehow, she looked more beautiful from the side, which was unbelievable, because it’s such an impossible angle from which to be beautiful – from the side. I can’t even manage to look decently good-looking from my side, and there she was looking like all the artistry of the angle was made to play for her entertainment.

I would have told her this too. But I didn’t. I didn’t say a word, didn’t bother. I just stared unabashedly at her, knowing she could feel my gaze on her, wondering what she thought of it, occasionally looking away, just in case she wanted to stare back but wouldn’t want to make my eyes, noticing that she did stare at me on occasions, wondering what she thought of me. I gave the guy I bought satchet water from a tip; I may have done this if she wasn’t there, if I wasn’t hoping she was watching, but I did it with a little more in mind this time. It was stupid really; I wasn’t hoping she would think I was generous, I was hoping she would see I wasn’t everyone else, if you understand what I mean. On two occasions I almost caught her eyes on me, on both she took them away quickly enough. 

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A bit of me really wanted to talk to her. But I knew all along I wouldn’t. She was one of them, I felt it. One of those girls I would end up beating myself over not talking to. One of those who have me asking myself “what use” when they are in sight and haunt my mind once I am assured I would never see them again. There have been many of them; they haunt me at their convenience. They all struck me in the heart, but never could pull me into talking to them – not because they were not magical enough; but because something in my being did not need me to bother. Maybe, somewhere in the heart of my heart’s, I knew it was going to be more beautiful this way – no words to ruin whatever those few moments meant; no truths or lies to ruin our small piece of nothing. Or maybe I was being a coward; I don’t have much trouble starting conversations though, so it couldn’t really have been that. Maybe it was just reticence? I tend to suffer that a lot. Or maybe it was my script, if things were meant to play that way. I guess I’ll never know.

I sometimes wonder about them. How we could have been friends; who they are; what their stories could have been; who they love; where they live; what their names are. I wonder too, about all the beauties I may have unearthed in talking to them, befriending them. I also wonder how many of the girls I give premium in my life, would not be in my life, if I never said Hi. It sometimes scares me, the thought of all the ghosts of memories I have, how easily some of the people I know could have been one of them.

As the Sienna pulled out to leave the park, moments after the two men supposed to seat beside me had finished fighting over whose oversized girth was occupying the most space in the car, I hoped the driver wouldn’t drive so fast so I could take in her features one last time. While the driver pulled into the road, I turned to look back at her, lucky I was seated by the right window. I found her straining to look at me, trying to avoid the wooden pillar that was used to hold up the top of the shed which was obstructing her view. For a beautiful brief second I caught her eyes, and in it, what seemed like a tiny sadness at my leaving. I smiled weakly, a tiny sadness lining the gesture. 

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WHY ROCK?

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If you hate music, whoever you are, this isn’t for you. If you hate secular music, this probably isn’t for you. If you hate rock music, this certainly isn’t for you. Or maybe it is. Maybe it is just the rhapsody you needed.

I don’t do this often – and by ‘this’, I mean write about the things that intriuge me the most, the personal magical stuff. I mostly pursue more relatable topics; love at best, the overly serious incidents of life at worse. But today, I will take a step into the forbidden. Today, we will rock (you¶).

Rock! Let us start by dispelling wrong myths. Most conservatives or non-experimentals or bandwagon followers have a perception of Rock that is only likable to seeing an object as it’s contorted shadow. To them, rock is lots of sound, crazy noise, weird haircuts, finger paint, long black boots, flimsy clothes and the glitz and glamour of shallow eccentricity. While these elements are often recurrent in the rock theme, they do not define rock – and they do not take the place of its beauty. If you prefer a different range of aesthetics, you could easily ignore the design and focus on the substance. That said, most of the wrong narrative about rock has nothing to do with the substance of rock itself. So, for today, try to look beyond whatever excesses that colour rock and look to the substance and re-assess. It’s is as it is with rap; all the blings and slang cannot really take away the true beauty of it. Neither does the fact that some rap artists are wack, take away from the true rap legacy, built upon the incredible craftsmanship of the likes of 2Pac Shakur.

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Another myth is that rock is loud (nonsense) music. No! No! Rock is not loud music, neither is loud music rock; Rock is made of so many sub-genres of musical expression and profound in the range of their inclusion. Admittedly, some rock music is ear-jarring loud. But that’s not  all there is to rock. The best cool easy-flowing songs are rock. Heck Coldplay is a rock band! You will be surprised to find that you have a rock sub-genre that perfectly aligns with your music taste and you may have even been patronizing this sub-genre of rock all along without knowing it. Rock is that diverse. So, think again before stereotyping Rock. In fact, Rock cannot be truly stereotyped because rock is the product of going against stereotype.

Why Rock?

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Rock, as I see it, is the very apogee of musical expression. By that I don’t mean it is the classiest or most soothing, or best perceived or most urbane type of music – I mean, simply, that it is the very apogee of musical expression. Because Rock is the musical genre closest to the very core of music. Music as a medium of self-expression, music as a medium of self-identification, music as a lease of freedom. Rock embodies these qualities in the most beautiful ways, and for this reason, Rock is the very apogee of musical expression.

Rock is limitless. Rock has no rules and therefore no limits. To give listeners a taste of true freedom, Rock itself is truly free. That is why Freddie Mercury when looking to come up with an idea for Queen’s second album could afford to model the album after the tenets of Opera! Rock is without formula, unlimited by any tenets or pre-ordinance of style and has no place for conservativeness. Rock is a language – the secret language of true eccentricity, explosiveness and boundless expression. That is why Elvis Presley could lose himself so thoroughly in a rock performance so much that he become one with the music – waltzing with every note and every beat, with every string that went and every drum that droped – merging so seamlessly with his art and drawing us into that sacred benediction as well.

Rock has no meaning, because to have a meaning is to be pretentious, to be limited, to be conceited. Rock’s only purpose is expression – the very meaning of life. That is why Freddie once said that Queen cannot be defined because Queen does not bother to have a definition. Rock was born of that urgent need to separate from the mundane, the laborious and limiting sensitivities of normalcy. Rock was born as a kick against the man. Rock is the community of the unconventional, the outcast, the rebel, the revolutionary, the eccentric, the extraordinary.

A friend of mine, me once that to be a true Rock head is to be some kind of genius. While I will admit that she is a rock snob, all too freakishly immersed in her own grand delusions of superior taste, she may have been right. Because to truly enjoy rock, you must be able to tap into a higher musical scheme,, with such depths as the very fabrics of the cosmos.

Rock, true Rock, is everything that music should be and then a little slice of heaven as desert.

Rock, in its pure form, does not seek the contrived and elevated end of soothing the soul or distracting it from it’s suffering or impressing upon it with its stories of life – rather rock seeks to allow the soul feel itself. This elusive climax is what true rock is about.

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Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe Rock is just loud nonsense music, with feverish electric interludes and random shartling drummings.  Maybe the undying legacy of the Beatles, Queen, Rolling Stone, Nirvana, Elvis Presley, Coldplay, Alice in Chains, Guns n Roses is but gibberish afterall. 

TO LOVE A BROKEN THING

images (3)~2.jpegWhat is it about pain that is so fatally attractive? What is about the dashing troubled, the eccentric misfits (whose eccentricities only shield a deep underlying pain); what is it about the wounded souls that we just can’t resist?

Have you ever loved a broken person? I don’t mean the rascally or the unadulteratedly wicked; I don’t mean the ones who are troubled by their own choosing, and hurt others because they can.  I mean the broken things; the souls that have seen the brunt of life, the ones that sheath their pains and try to rise above it, the ones that always, except by some miracle, fall into their darkness no matter how they try – as we who have loved them have found. What is it about them?

I have tried to understand. But even my experience with this phenomenon has not helped me to reach any cogent conclusion.

I remember that someone once told me that I have no pain in my eyes, in a way that suggested that it made me less attractive; at the time, I did not understand. I still remember, that someone else later told me (after certain incidents that she did not know about) that I have a sadness that lingers in my eyes, in a way that suggested that it made me attractive. I remember, that I too have loved a person, that I know was broken at the time – and I realise now that their pain was what helped me to truly love them. And I have seen pain, con a person into falling so deeply in love with another, and yet, I still don’t understand. By my experiences, I can say I have flirted with this concept practically and from both sides, and yet, I cannot seem to understand it.

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What I have found however, is that there might be a mechanism in the human mind that makes pain, sadness, darkness (anything that looks like it) so attractive to us. It is perhaps, a mechanism similar to compassion, but something different. Because it can’t be compassion; compassion does not have the depth to drive such attraction. Or does it?  Speaking of depth, perhaps it has something to do with the depth that we somehow feel exists in their souls; because pain has a way of creating such depth or an illusion of it at least. There is something so touching, so enthralling, so deep about the fact that these persons are not merely ordinary, but possess a ‘sublime’ touch with life, due to their experiences.

So, is it this depth? Or is it instinct? I remember someone once told me that men have a natural instinct to protect and women have a natural instinct to repair. So, now I am wondering, perhaps it is a glitch in this wiring; perhaps this natural encoding drives us to be attracted to the broken. Maybe it is the purgation that comes with realizing how much they suffer and the consequent instinct to protect or repair them, respectively. But is that it? Is that why pain is so attractive? Because there is something in us that drives us by instinct to try to remove it from others?

Or is it something else? Is it a need to identify?  I have found that we sometimes find love, where we find demons like our own; in the disturbed places, in the troubled souls, in the mosaic of buried scars, in the eyes of people who have tasted the brunt of life, like we have. It is just like how they say ‘deep calls unto deep’; pain, it would seem, calls unto pain. Are we all victims of this paradox? And it is in fact a paradox, because love should seek to complete itself, to find the things that it does not possess. But does love merely seek to find itself? Even so, we are not all broken, so I can’t say for sure that it is the need to identify that drives this phenomenon.

I still haven’t found my answer yet; maybe I never will. These things are elusive like this, but maybe that is not so bad. Maybe the fun is in trying to understand; maybe the thrill is in the journey itself. And In my journey, I have so far found out that for some reason, the broken people are the most beautiful; or seem to be the most beautiful. There is something disarming about the broken, the struggling, the hurt, something about these people whose eyes show glimpses of some storm, some war inside, that makes them extraordinarily beautiful. Yet, beauty comes at a price. I have found that loving them, comes with a repercussion; and that fatal attraction, that overwhelming drive to save often blinds us so we do not see these risks. Because loving a broken person can break you and will almost certainly break you. Because in those moments when they relapse into their darkness, nothing can save you.

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Also, I have also found that in some rare occasions, when we eventually succeed in nursing them back into health, we are allowed a taste of infinity; even for a second.

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PS: I use the word ‘broken’ inclusively. I realise that not all suffering or pained people are broken per se.

So, tell me reader, what is your experience with this? Do you think pain attracts? Why does it?

Please, share your thoughts.

BETWEEN LOVE AND SELF

Your phone rang, in that annoying way it does, sharp electronic sounds clicking rapidly, clattering against each other almost in a deliberate cacaphony.

 

You wondered why you never bothered to change the default ringtone  to something more…..tasteful; maybe a song you like, something by Passenger or Garret Kato; or maybe a composition, one of Lindsey Striling’s more likely. You wondered if it was because subconsciously you had accepted that the jarriness of the painfully familiar tune would help ensure that you pick your calls since you would not want the phone to ring too long and since rejecting calls was, well, rude.

 

You picked the phone from the bed on the second ring, and stared at her name on the screen. Nothing prepared you for the daze that came with seeing those letters sprawl on your screen.  You stared, transfixed, the seconds tolled, the ringing continued and memories came flushing into your head with a reckless desperateness.

 

But between the daze and a sudden diziness that gripped you, you were most of all surprised. For one, you were surprised you still had her number. The thing about Google contacts, it seems, is that it ruins the luxury of mistakenly loosing numbers you can’t come around to deleting. For another, you were stunned that she would call. You let the phone ring for a while, wondering what she would sound like when you picked, what she had been up to all this while, where she was, who she had become, wondering about everything really.

 

You had not spoken in 5 or 6 years – a  long time eitherways. The last time you spoke, you remember she had gone on about how she couldn’t keep you an emotional hostage anymore; about how you obviously wanted more than she had the capacity to give. And as she rattled on, you wondered how conveniently selfish she was being, while somehow convinced that she was doing everything for your sake. It occurred to you that the storyline was more for her consumption than yours. So, you let if fly, the watery storyline, her proposal of an end.   You could feel your heart tearing at the seams but you didn’t try to stop her. You can’t make someone love you- this much was true. You couldn’t make her love you. It was one choice she had to make herself, one she didn’t have the will to.

 

So, here she was , the girl you used to love , calling. Why?

 

“Hello” She whispered into the phone, a cautiousness resonating through her thin voice. You remember that voice, the various fluid pitches of it; it’s laughters,  it’s angers, it’s ecstasies. You remember days when that voice buoyed you into deep dreams, carassed you into heavens.

 

“Hi Human” You responded, a wetness teasing the side of your eyes as a new wave of memories crashed through your heart. Human; that was the nickname you called her. It had come to define most of your stock jokes.

 

The first time you met her, you had been taking a tutorial class. You were in your premium year in the University and you were taking her class, the then Sophmores on a course on Greek Mythology and Literature. As you taught,  you made occassional references to your name, “Anias”, a variation of “Aeneas”, the Greek Demi-God, in a playful attempt to familiarise them with the hierarchy of Greek Deity. After the class, she came up to you and introduced herself.

“Hey, I’m Nneoma, and I am human. Actually, Nigerian human if you prefer to be specific”.

It was the both the cheesiness of the  joke and the effortlessness of her charm that did you in. You laughed so hard your glasses almost fell. You knew instantly she was something else. There you were, an American-Greek, and she a Nigerian who was only just schooling in America and somehow she made worlds of difference come crashing with one easy lease of humour.

“Nice to meet you Nneoma” you had responded, letting her name roll off your tongue, purposeful highlighting your mastery of cultural variances of pronunciation. She smiled when you pronounced it properly and you felt rewarded.

“ I am Aneas, a demi-god”. You continued, tongue-in-cheek. Her retort would leave you in another feat of laughter.

“Nah. Not with that skinny frame. That defeats every Greek Deity Stereotype we have managed to cultivate. But don’t worry, I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine”. She had said. Eyes twitching with a mischievousness you realised even then was tireless.

“And what’s your secret?” You said, laughing.

“I  am not supposed to be into white boys” she replied, making a face, eyes clear as mid-morning sky.

That was years ago. You wonder why you still called her that; why you lingered over the word in thesame teasing way.

“You still remember that nickname” she responded, offering a laugh that was genuine, despite the pain that crackled in her voice.

“It’s not the only thing I remember” you said. Letting her laughter draw you in for only a second of weakness.

“Why are you calling?”

“I have missed you” She said. There was something raw, something aching that you could almost taste in her tone. A weakness that she always so over-enthusistically guards. It was not the words – she ordinarily had that  uncanny ability to say just about anything and manage to send any emotion across – It was the unguardedness of the tremor of her voice, the sheer depths that she had forgotten to mask. You wanted to hold her, to hug her, console her. But you also wanted to hurt her, to fist into this vulnerability that she so selfishly had kept for herself all these years and twist in until she felt something akin to the pains she caused you.

 

“You are not calling me because you ‘miss’ me Nneoma.” You replied, a coldness lacing your words, suddenly disgusted by the fact that she had such powers over you and knew it; powers she never let you come close to welding over her. It wasn’t fair; worse still, it wasn’t safe. You hardened.

 

“I just wanted to know you’re okay. I have been meaning to call for years…”  As her voice drailed away, you wondered how she was the way she was; so fiercely self guarded. How could someone be this emotionally withheld? It never made sense. That she could feel so much and supress it, that she could want so much and somehow refuse it.  That she could not let herself be eaten by emotions like everyone else.

 

“ I am okay Nneoma. I’ve been enjoying my freedom” you retorted, referencing her breakup soliloquy, wishing you hadn’t come off so harsh. She sighed on the other end of the line, and you could not even begin to fathom what was going on in her mind, what her sigh said. Was she hurt? Did she see your words as justified? Was she exasperated already? You could never truly read her! Oh, It was always so frustrating.

 

“See Aneas, I know I hurt you. When we broke up, there were so many things going on that I was not in control of and I was scared of being overwhelmed by them. I was choking, do you understand? I needed to breathe, I needed to be able to be as I like, a bird, flying as I will. I was scared I would lose myself to you in a way that would cost me more than I could afford.  I know it doesn’t make any sense. That was why I didn’t explain it to you, that’s why I made up that bullshit narrative I knew you would see through. It’s just, there are things my mind does that I cannot explain or defend – things that just are. I did not call you to revisit old hurts. I just wanted to hear your voice again to say I am sorry; and to see if, I could have some…..redemption, by making things right with you. It’s okay if you hate me. It’s okay. I understand that I deserve it…”  

 

You could feel your heart melting, slowly, deliberately. There she went again, playing your heart like a Cello. You shrugged, flashes of the pain you kept so close to  you jarring you back to consiousness, again. You could tell she was trying not to cry. It hurt you that she didn’t, because it reflected again just how much restraint she had over her emotions; how much you didn’t. You wiped the line drawing across your face, suddenly mad at her. She was right! You should hate her, but you couldn’t and it infuriated you. She was asking for a redemption that she did not care to work for. It infuriated you even more. Worse still, it was just as emotionally selfish as she always managed to be. Did it even occur to her what calling to get “redemption” meant for you? Where did it leave you and the upheaval her call would engineer? Did she wonder? What did the scheme make of you? A giver as always? How convenient!

 

“I’m glad you called to help your conscience, but  I don’t need your compassion Nneoma. I only ever needed your love, but you snatched it from me because you were scared of frailties and demons you created for your own fascination. You won Nneoma. What else do you want?”

 

As you ended the call in the seconds after your words had settled, you visualised her gasping, although you knew she wouldn’t. If she was ever dazed, it never showed. As the tone dipped to signal the end of the call, it dawned on you that for the first time since you’ve know her, you felt fully in control.

 

You knew it was just a farce though, you really didn’t have any such control – it was just the anger boiling through you, disguised as a detacheness that made you temporarily impervious to her. Once it subsided, you knew you would call her. As much as she hurt you and as much as you wanted to hurt her back, if only for some semblance of self gratification, it would seem your love for her transcended your feelings of self.  When you called her, you would say “I’m sorry” like you were always too eager to do when ever you made her feel even the slightest hurt. You would explain how you felt and why you said the things you did and you would then meet her for lunch. You would laugh over old memories and you would forget how much she hurt you, although temporarily. Ultimately, you know how it would end, with you kneeding in pain. But you would call her, because it would seem you love her more than yourself.

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Bird Song


Sometimes love fails us. Most times, we fail at love.

 

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(1)

The chairs are scattered about and the table is askew. The fridge is open and half empty, I wish you were here. The sofa beckons in its sober crimson couture way, and I go to it. And when I shut my eyes I see you. I do not know why you can have this effect on me, after all I was the one that called the shot. I was fed up with your theatrics and your insistence on your “privacy.” I couldn’t ignore the many calls that came and went that you dismissed as being from no one. I was mad, very mad the day I saw Sofia in your apartment, though I admit you were both dressed and well apart, but a girl and a boy alone, was well, a girl and a boy alone. I have courted your memory for 4 days now and frankly I hope this phase will pass. I have pushed you away knowing I will likely hurt me more than I you. I know you have tried calling and that you are the one that knocked for hours this morning and I am afraid that you may never come back. That I may have finally pushed you away. I know we have dated for 2 years and that I never once said I love you but I never really saw the point. Love was giving and receiving and I felt that since we both felt it that a slight uncaught whispering of it might in the end jinx it. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe if I felt it enough like you did I would have said it, over and over again. I would have flung it like a bird song over the hills of Ibadan and allowed its echo resonate over every inch of your being till you were deeply aware that I did. Maybe all the things I said were what drove you to keep doing things that you knew I couldn’t stand. Again, maybe I was wrong. I could have apologized instead but I decided that I would let you mess with my heart no longer, that I will not sniff at my pillow at night wishing you would stop doing the things that you know too well were hurting me. Maybe you were just being you. I have made peace with your presence and now your absence hovers on my chest, heavy like the quintessential burden the Christian faith mandates us all to bear. Tunde, in the deepest corners of the soul where all the darkest desires are hidden, your name will always resonate; but for now, I have willed myself to let you go and this I will do.

UCHE OSITA JAMES

(2)

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I see you in everything; in the fluorescence light – its coy illumination, in the soft pillow – its cozy embrace. I feel your presence, a familiar tingle that lingers like a ghost hovering around, haunting, teasing, killing me.

My days have gone blurry Irene. It’s like I am stuck in a hypnotic haze listening to the whistle of  memories that sound like dreamy birdsongs. I find myself phasing through conversations, through activities, through life. I understand why you left, but I just can’t understand how you could. We were never perfect Irene, we never were meant to be. But I always thought, maybe wrongly, that we were too beautiful to cease.

And I loved you Irene, maybe even too much. But you never really believed that I loved you; you always doubted my words, even before we became lovers. You sometimes pretended that you did not, but I saw through your act Irene. There is only so much distrust you can hide from a man. The truth is, you always thought me a player, a disaster waiting to happen. Remember? You told me this that first day I stopped you on the road and complemented your eyes. I could even say that you feared this supposed fact so much that you created it yourself and we suffered from it. But maybe I wouldn’t be fair if I blamed you for everything. We, our end too, were always both our responsibilities.

Thinking about it now, that was always going to be our undoing, wasn’t it? You could never trust me, and I could never be trustworthy – even when I was doing nothing wrong. I can understand that though, that between my past, effortless flirting and horde of female friends, I did not exactly give you the easiest job. But this was always who I was and you of all people should have known me enough to know how harmless these features of mine are. I always thought that if I was doing nothing wrong, nothing wrong would happened with us. I guess I was wrong; the worse infidelity it seems, is the one that brews in the mind, the mere apprehension of it – and I feed your mind to gluttony. It funny in a way you know, you always feared that I was going to break your heart – when all I ever wanted was to have it – and so you broke us both, before I could break you.

You were mad, very mad the day you saw Sofia and I in my apartment, and though you would admit we were both dressed and well apart, but a girl and a boy alone, was well, a girl and a boy alone. I remember frantically explaining to you that we were just friends and that nothing was going on. I remember feeling like I was reliving a frustrating memory and maybe I was, because this scene was one replete in our narrative. You would always have reasons to question me, and some-how, stupidly, I always had something to answer for.

And I loved you Irene, I still do, maybe even too much. Irene, in the deepest corners of my soul where all the truest emotions are hidden, your name will forever be etched. But for now, I have willed myself to let you go, if only to save you from me, and the dangers I never really posed.

VINCENT CHIMOBI OKONKWO