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A Little Bit of Magic

Have you ever watched a city from its heights, at night?

Last night I sat on a cabana set atop a rock, and saw magic.

Magic was red and yellow lights, piercing the darkness, moving to unknown destinations. It was orange bulbs set at mathematical distances, lighting the roads for users. It was the shaded white house in the middle of bushes with a lit porch just behind me, like the scene from a fantasy film or a cartoon. Aah, Cartoons. Did you know of a long time ago, when media was black and white, and the fair lady always got the loyal knight? When programs started at 4p.m with the national anthem, and the television was a box of happily ever afters?

Last night something snapped, deep within, released acceptance of myself. It felt like peace; the confident breeze that caused the trees to dance and bow. I knew I couldn’t return to disgusted judging eyes, loaded salvos, hands that wouldn’t touch me, lips that slandered me. So last night I enjoyed the last bit of magic in my life; including the knowledge that I can take my own life by shutting my eyes and letting my feet jump off the cliff. The magic that I could smile while a rock split my skull into open dead shards of bloodied brains; because it was less painful than the discrimination I had lived with up until then.

When I coasted above earth a free soul, I saw a baby being brought forth out of its mother; innocent, precious, bloodied, priceless, beautiful. The best of simply awe-inspiring unadulterated magic. Then I realised how much more magical a smile through the discriminatory pain my life was, would have been.

#StandOut for #ZeroDiscrimination today; it’s a sparkle you can put in someone’s life. Your little bit of magic.

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This Morning

She smiled at me last night; chubby cheeks, toothless mouth, and bright eyes. She gurgled too; that nice-to-meet-you-whoever-you-are thing that babies have about them. For that minute I forgot the ache on my shoulders; consequent of bearing my backpack through one hundred and fifty metres of barely tarred road. I also forgot the headache that had started burning up my forehead: traffic had been bad, and the driver had stuck to loud, unpleasant noise -music, he’d called it- all through the 4 hour drive. She was the baby whose naming ceremony I’d missed 4 months ago.

I was awakened by sobs this morning. Torn from the heart, piercing my restless dreams, forcing me to wakefulness before it was dawn.

I was told that some minutes before then, while the crowds of Lagos woke in lazy stretches, the Baby had made her way back to heaven. All of us sleeping sentries, she had slipped past us; little spirit slithering through the silent house.

Death and Fatima Tumsah

Dear All,
It is with deep sorrow and a heavy heart that I regret to inform you on the departure of Dr. Fatima Tumsah….
“What the fuck?!”
I felt sweat break out on my forehead and absently wiped it off with the back of my hand. I adjusted my glasses- it was a new one, and I was sure that thing was happening when I read too fast for my brain to process correctly. So I closed my eyes, tried to calm my restless being for some seconds. In those seconds I heard the gushing of blood to my eyes, the rapid caffeine-infused tick of the pulse at my jugular, the insistent beating of my heart causing steady flutters of my lacy black shirt. I also heard my voice- the inner, quiet, prim and proper one- telling me to calm the fuck down. Too soon, I think, I reopened my eyes. I think, you see, because the words I saw were same as the ones I’d read the first time. That was not right. That could not be right.
“Dupe what is it?”
A far voice sounding alarmed; a little scared. Shuffling feet from somewhere in the distance I couldn’t hear clearly; blood was pounding in my ears. I stared at the letters of the opened mail on my computer screen, reading them over and over; willing that my interpretation of the words change. It didn’t.
Hands shaking me. Rude unwelcome hands interrupting the monlogue I was having with the mail on my computer screen. It forced me out of the fog of deafening comprehension.
“This doesn’t make sense. It can’t be. I can still read. But this can’t be right. Doesn’t make sense”
I was talking to the intruder; only not quite. I was talking with myself. Me and myself were orally voicing which to believe between the reality of the mail and the comprehension of my senses. It seemed at that point one of the two had to be wrong.
“Someone is d-d-dead?”
I began to really hate the intruder. She was not welcome to the debate. We- myself and I- were congruent on that nobody was dead. There was just a mistake that was making it seem so. We just didn’t know the source of the mistake- the mail, or our senses. But I began to shiver, and goose pimples started to pop over me. My fingers started flying on the keyboard; navigating to twitter to find the lady who had sent the mail and ask the clarification.
“She might not be online now”
I was seeing that she hadn’t posted anything for some days; and I knew I needed immediate answers. So I picked my phone, shaking fingers missing my pattern twice.
“God please somebody’s contact should be here”
It was the first time I was sincerely praying in so long I’d lost memory of how long. My phone had been stolen earlier in the year, in the time just after I had found Google contacts, just before I had transferred all contacts on there. I was begging God really bad that at least 1 number of a member of the National Youth Family Planning Network should be on my Google contacts. 1 number was; and shaking fingers pressed dial. In the space between that and the ringtone I bit my lips; scared to hear the voice at the other end and what it could say, yet sure it would say the mail had been a scam.
“Dupe… Yes… On Friday”
I became a blubber of stuttering words. It didn’t make sense. Did she know it didn’t make sense? Why, we just chatted last week. The week before then there had been some thing we had been tagged on. How was she dead? Did dead mean dead; as in dead as in dead dead deeaad?
I think she understood my confusion because she just kept quiet while I went on until I disconnected the call. My space was confining; I was feeling suffocated. I got up, loosening my top buttons as I did, fanning my face with my right hand, breathing through my mouth to get air through to my lungs. I looked out the window to the happy birds fluttering around Moringa branches, to school children running around in the playground. None of them was having an accident. Esther– the lady on the phone- had said Fatima had an accident. But nothing in front of me was having an accident. Even the birds perching precariously on thin branches were not.
Too little seconds later I was back to reading that mail. The whole mail; not just the first line. Fatima was really dead. Had been dead since Friday. Must have been buried on Saturday while I was bemoaning my flu, sounding like an old man with his tonsils torn out, and steering off social media. The more I thought about it the more surreal it seemed.
Only last year, two months and six days from now we were in Abuja; she and I eyeing fiesta 3-in-1 till we agreed to share a pack while our colleagues teased. We were mapping youth inclusion in family planning; the different caveats, angles… Debating, arguing, marshaling, smoothing rough edges, and  agreeing to the #doroyouth stand.
tums
 God! Words fail me Fatee. I came home to a mad work out staring at the walls till all I could see was your face and my lungs threatened to burst. Drenched in sweat, my playlist set to “Dark”, I can think enough to write now. And even now I cannot refer to you in past tense.
We did not imagine this Fatee; not in our wildest imaginings. You were one of the best: friendly, lively, intelligent, and alive. Remember us teasing them Olumide and Lekan about the last night club and how they were just ‘making mouth’? Fuck?! Remember the pre-conference; the noise, the silence… the everything. I have no words. I didn’t expect this. I couldn’t have.
Fatima Tumsah, as the yoruba would say;
Farewell
We shall now see only in dreams
When you get to heaven, eat what they eat; drink what they drink
Tell of our wars and stories
Till we meet to part no more
We will miss you. We already miss you. And we wish this wasn’t happening; that this didn’t happen. But no one asked our opinion or our permission. We are just those left to stare into empty spaces; seeing times that passed. Of your smiles and laughter. Of your voice and person. Of your passion and strength.
Lord! Rest in Peace Fatee.

HOLES

(For Adekunle Suara and AFCS Ibadan Alumni)

Sometimes you can’t change

You can’t choose

Most of us were just children obeying our parents, trying to get some distance away from our homes, or happy to attend the same school as our siblings. The rest were probably just following some scripted fate- destiny, if you please. But after we got beyond those air-force blue gates, we were greeted by a sense of security, and we grew to know we would never be the same.

We were proud- an acknowledgement of our worth- and with good reason. We had the best of everything: academics, socials, sports, intellect, beauty, facilities, Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Directorate attention. If you never heard our anthem, the second stanza said:

Oh Air Force Comprehensive School

You are the model among such schools…

The giant of armed forces schools

Our Commandants had a hand in that pride. They said we were “jewels of the jungle”. It was almost literal. We were intelligent children in a clearing bordered by forests on the Ibadan/Iwo highway. Our troubles were many, as with intelligent children. But we made them proud all the time, I swear we did. When they weren’t bemoaning our “escapades”, they were beaming with pride. They liked to beam more than moan, so they subjected us to discipline. Lots of it.

You see, we could not choose to emerge from the ‘jungle’ less than conquerors. Disciplined, strong, intelligent, the best at good and mischief… a coven bound by years of tears, swears, punishments, victories, discipline, pride, optimism, confidence.

Sometimes it seems you gain

Less than you lose

A black BlackBerry messenger display picture on a Saturday morning by one of ‘us’ made no sense. Saturday is one of those gifts of God -and whichever tyrannt designed the work calendar- to man. But that Saturday was August 29, 2015, and there had been a plane crash in Kaduna, Nigeria. It had been a NAF Dornier 228, and the pilot had a disturbingly familiar name. Kunle Suara. That name resonated with the jungle none of us would ever forget. Hurried calls were made to our schoolmates in the Force.

Screams, frantic Google searches, arguments borne of disbelief, tears, hysteria, shock, speechlessness…

In the end, we were sullen faces gazing into empty spaces. We were seeing break dances on social nights, a peculiar sweet smile that had too many girls ‘tripping’, that pace of walk by which we knew him. Senior Kunle Suara. A seasoned NAF pilot trainer, promoted last year, immersed in flight safety by international training, partner in a 4 year young marriage with a beautiful woman. In our pain, on our different forums, we tried to understand, tried to analyse. I think we hoped we would come up with such answers as “it didn’t really happen”, or “it can’t be true”. Inevitably our thoughts drifted to others we have lost, others we would never forget: Adeyoola Adeshola, Lanre Sanu, Abednego Maiyaki, Amadi Kindom, Jennifer Iliya, Wole Ladele, Wale Lawal, Shehu Sabo, Dauda Bello. We remembered the little ones the jungle claimed: Mildred Ifeanyi, Nike… The officers: Uncle Tokunbo, aka Gboks, who said merry christmas and deserted us before we returned to say happy new year. We wondered the same thing, I think: why do the good ones go early?

ks2Our hearts felt constricted by pain, and breathing was a difficulty. Another jewel had left the jungle of life. We were less our number, another star shut down in its prime. Perhaps we should have been ‘ordinary’, not so intelligent, so we would be less exposed to risk? Perhaps? What the fuck was life about? Why the hell did we run the risk of hurting loved ones if we lived? Why? Why? In our haze, we asked many questions. No answers came.

Now we’ve got holes in our hearts

Yeah we got holes in our lives

We are left to patch the pieces, to fill the holes however we can. We bear the pain marked on our hearts, from where their memories would sometimes rub raw. A picture, a song, a voice, a slang, a ‘step’, a stranger in a  crowd who moves like them, a body that looks like theirs from a distance… Those times, tears would fall off our lashes, or sad smiles confuse our faces. Fear, hope, and excitement would war; and we would be bathed cold to reality with the memory of loss.

Our hearts are at half-mast, our faces downcast, our memories pierced. We have holes. Spaces of people who would no more be in pictures or at events. People who would watch us from the after-world and maybe wish we did not hurt so much. Perhaps they too would carry holes even as they greet themselves and seal previous holes. Perhaps they would think of our holed hearts, and wish it wasn’t so. I don’t know.

Let’s not get scared and wonder if perhaps we should not live so fully though. For what is life if the heart does not feel the chill of fear, bat madly in joy, pound in excitement, thud crazily in love, bleed in pain? Let’s listen to songs, close our eyes, feel the pain… then get up when we can, to face the duty of honoring them with our lives

Well we’ve got holes, we’ve got holes

But we carry on

p.s: Thank you for the lyrics, Passenger (Holes).

TIME AND AGAIN

Would you be mine

Yes, if I’ll be wine

Alone on your shelf and stronger with time

…Time and again

closer

Clenched sheets

Arched beats

Insatiable beasts

…Time and again

Forgive me love

Why? Isn’t my wine still a bore?

Please. I swear the water’ll be never more

…Time and again

A tear, a hiss

No fear, a kiss

Come here, no fists

…Time and again

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Take another, love the other

Stay same, love the bother

The cycle’s same, ask a lover

…Time and again