This is the difference.

Franklyne’s call.

That was the beginning of this trip. Something in his tone had me tense, I imagined what it was as he got off the phone. I didn’t wonder for long because he called back, completely broken, and it broke me. I confirmed you were gone and I couldn’t find my voice.

Maybe I should send Uncle Okezie a thank you card, because he presented a splendid memory, which I am going to remember you by.

I talk about you and struggle whether to use past tense or present tense. I know I should use past tense, but I am not willing.

Grandfather left a couple of months before you. I knew there was something wrong with the way that left me feeling. Somewhat distant and in denial. I wondered what could be missing. The pain? The PAIN?

This is the difference.

Day 2 of n….where n is indefinite.

I don’t know when I will get tired of counting. Maybe today,Maybe a year today. I remember when the Champions of #BBOG were going about their cause, and counted a far as 500 days. I wondered if they would tire, when they would tire. The people who started the counting cause, and fell by the wayside; it don’t necessarily mean that they had tired to lend voice..

I may not count what day it is without you on earth, but it is certainly not any easier.

I bid you Adieu my brother and friend, this vacuum is yours to fill, the memories together will do it.

Ohakwe Stephen Akwiwu lives forever.

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I met a Pilot today.

I met a Pilot today.

She made my life look excruciatingly bland.

She told me about the lows, how she almost lost her life before she fulfilled her dreams. I did squirm at them, because they were really low, but I didn’t wish to be like her.

Then she told me about the highs.

Oh boy! They are really highs (I mean she is married to a pilot too). I still didn’t wish to be her because, you know, fear fear.

I have shared all the colourful things I’d love to do but too afraid to try. I feel like it’s reducing the pallete of this my life.

The last thing she said to me was “You need to believe that you are capable of all that and more”.

Maybe I believe it. Maybe I am.

Conversations avec le pere.

“Daddy, I’ll be moving by next weekend for school”

“Ah! So you mean this Medicine dream is really kaput? Did you ever apply to those schools I brought you their brochures?”

This is normal path of career conversations with Daddy. My Padre has no intentions of letting things go. He is definitely the type to go for the opportunity to whisper “I told you so” with a coy smirk. I have dreaded it so much that it has turned to become such a delight. Like a game of ‘let’s see if you’ve still got it, if you are right and actually know me’.

Fortunately, he also realises that not all battles are for winning…but it won’t stop him from trying.

“I hear Nda Walter passed”

“Yes..yes. The children..oh! not that there’s ever a thing as a good burial, but his children did well with his funeral. It was befitting”

This was my attempt to salvage our conversation from going south towards awkward. Nda Walter was a very safe topic. He was a much older friend of my father’s, and we hung around his family a lot when we were younger, and we were very fond of him.

“That’s great. How is Nda Gold? I hope she is holding up alright? I haven’t seen them in ages”

“You haven’t? Then perhaps you should go and see them now that you are here.”

Classic Daddy move. Of course we both know that’s not happening, but it will be replayed that “I had wanted to come visit, but couldn’t because I was home for a very short time”.

Daddy was pleased to see me. He didn’t say so, typical Nigerian father, but it was in the way he fussed about what I would have for breakfast (Mom was out of town) and how nothing else mattered (not even that we were already VERY late to church) except our current conversation.

This time too he listened, he usually did most of the talking while I listened, but not that day.

I’ll probably always be a Daddy’s girl, and that’s a good thing because for most of my life, I have considered my father blameless. I recently found out how wrong I was, but not a single thing has changed between our relationship. Or maybe it has, but it’s not all bad. Instead, it’s made me more accepting of other people’s flaws (because Daddy was a pretty high standard).

Parents are pretty important to me right now, because I realise they need me more than I need them, and I want for them to know that I have got them. Especially as I am reminded by the losses around me.

May God keep them for us.

x

Daddy’s girl.

Memories I’ll have of this place.

Its lowkey been 10 years of making this place home.

That’s a lot of time to feel a certain fondness to this place.

Not that I feel the need to put a disclaimer, but every experience described here are personal and in no way intended to influence an action/reaction.

This town gave me a lot of firsts. Best part is that it has being home to my employers and good enough to them that in the past 5 years of my employment, I was never owed or had my salary delayed.

Having Grown up in a small city, I like that in a way this place gives you a similar vibe. That same feeling that you can guess a person’s location if you know who they hang with. As a newbie getting introduced to a group of people, it’s warming to become part of something, people who will smile and greet you like y’all are childhood besties when you walk into a place.

People-watching is one of my favourite pastimes. Beer barn is where I go on Fridays I get the itch to take a roll call and cocktail binge. I don’t know if the “Jamaican” bears same name elsewhere. Else, it will be sorely missed. However, I will not miss squeezing myself to fit others because all the people decided to find themselves in one small space.

I recently discovered the yum that is in the form of the best chicken wings I have had in this place on an evening of unwinding with Chidinma at Sky bar. The DJ in that place has never disappointed me. It’s also always a sane space (the bathrooms are almost always clean!). Heart it!!

I’ll always remember the Pepperoni on Evo road (yes! I finally learned the names of streets in GRA) as that place that had this portrait of O.C Ukeje that was beautiful and made me fall in love with his looks. I remember mentioning this to him and he had no idea someone somewhere was selling his market FOC. That was also a longtime ago. I think that studio moved or rebranded.

Sundays are literally fundays. The Adanne and I wake up and share our ideals for the day. 7am service at St Jude’s, breakfast at Genesis, grab moimoi at Skippers. Head home if sleep is prime or go avisiting if socialising is. The yam porridge at Genesis was my go-to order. I tried to replicate their style at home, it didn’t impress me so I’m sticking with my traditional style and if I’m craving theirs, they’ll provide it for a small fee. Presidential’s sunday buffet was where my sister and I went to eat till near food comatose. We sampled other places that offered Sunday buffet to find alternatives but somehow they didn’t displace HP (and also there is rice at home).

I joined a Bookclub. Gatecrashed their party and fell in love with them.They are an entertaining bunch. I learn alot from their diversity. I’m going to miss the meetings…fortunately the bomb daily conversations happen on the whatsapp group.. hopefully I can wager for Christmas party to happen when I don’t have to miss it 🤗🤗.

Bole, yam and Fish seems to be our most celebrated export. Needs no explaining why. Roasted yam has always been my favourite bit of the trio (duh, can’t you tell I love yam). When the yams are old and dry and sweet and you are fortunate to find a woman who makes a bomb palm oil sauce around you, *clutches chest* that’s like the best comfort.

There are certainly so many things I will miss about living here, but none of it comes close to my sister. She is the best part of this place for me. She broke me into this place and I loved it from her eyes first. It doesn’t help that we did almost everything together so almost everywhere is stamped with one memory or the other. The days I succeed into getting her to karaoke, just so I can show off her voice to all those people at The Office who probably thank god I don’t sing for a living. I am going to miss her asking my opinion about this and that, “Jem, should I….Jem, what do you think about…”

It’s been an utterly pleasant experience. I have a “basketful” of new family and friends. I think the english term for what I have enjoyed can be good fortune.

But my mommy said they haven’t given me husband so I should leave them and go, so I’m going 😀

Peace & love,always always

Jem.

(Not) Bucket list 

I was thinking today about all the many things I’d love to do, but may not. Then I decided to do this could-have-been-bucketlist-but-its-not bucket list, which is really a list of all the things that would be on my list if I didn’t have certain phobias holding me back.

Skydiving/Bungee jumping

I have a pathetic fear of heights. I still catch my breath when I’m in the elevator (this may also be a combined reaction of claustrophobia and acrophobia). You won’t catch me on a pirates ship, or roller coaster of any kind. I daydream about skydiving or bungee jumping but that’s all it ever is. I’m afraid that by the time I get to the other side my heart would have stopped beating.

Zip lining

This is very much similar to my skydiving ambitions. As long as I don’t look down, this should go well, but what are the odds?

Car-racing

I come from a family of wannabe speedracers. I mean that cartoon was a general favourite for years in the house (♪hums the speed racer theme song♪). In as much as this bit of information is revealing my age bracket, I also recently took driving lessons (yes, finally!) And can now legitimately dream of that wide open space harmless car race. I’m a better passenger than a driver though, so there…another unlikely dream.

Run for office (any office)

I am as uninterested in politics as they come. I hate large crowds. I have stage frights. I don’t suck up to people. I am always intrigued by straitjacket law abiding people (notice how I avoided saying I enjoy breaking rules) but when I’m in that my small sphere of management, I make a good leader (if I do say so myself), and if I was remotely interested in politics running for an office, even if it’s just to piss off the opponent, would be a brilliant idea.

Surfing

After watching 50 first dates, my sisters and I discovered my father’s “Beach Boys” CD…and then I fell in love with the idea of surfing. Only problem with that idea is I can’t swim (I plan to learn eventually) and at the slightest wave while I’m at a beach, I’m scurrying to safety (because I can’t swim, duh!) Good thing Beach Boys only sang about surfing in the USA, as long as I remain in Naija, I’m good.

xxxx

Jem

The #HallelujahChallenge

I’m big on challenges.

Anything that makes me want to conciously do something is a welcome occurrence. I’d do a writing challenge,  a drawing challenge, a fasting challenge  sef,  if the end product includes an improved me.

It’s been 15 days since the #HallelujahChallenge began. 15 more days to go and I am certain my midnights will never be the same. I have never spent my midnights in a more productive way. Halfway through and I feel the need to document this special occurrence, that its memory may be more vivid.

I have always liked Nathaniel Bassey. I can’t tell you exactly what it is that drew me to him; his deep resonating worded songs, which reflected his love for God, or the way they are expressed in the most calming melodies in praise and worship. Or maybe because he somehow reminded me of my uncle Chidiegwu, who shared similar qualities with him ranging from their disarming smile to their disciplined servitude to God. I don’t know Nathaniel personally, but I know my uncle, and some how I am convinced that they are genuine and goals.

Now is a good time to appreciate everyone who shared a post, publicising the #Hallelujahchallenge. It was enough to encourage me to join in and I have loved the experience entirely.

I understand that there have been misreadings of what the Hallelujah Challenge is, and I believe now is also a good time to explain in my own words what it is to me. The convener, Nathaniel Bassey,  by inspiration scheduled June as a month of praise and worship to God. For one hour every day in June, between midnight and 1am, Christians are joined in praise and worship via an Instagram and Facebook Live feed (pros of technology). The guiding Bible text  is from the book of Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 16 verse 25 and 26, with additional readings from the book of Psalms (Psalm 150, Psalm 147,Psalm 149) It was originally a local bred assembly but with the ubiquitous nature of social media, Christians all over the world have keyed into this exercise and you know what they say about where two or more gather in the name of God- The blessings and the testimonies have been profound.

As a christian, I have always been fascinated with praise and worship to God. Not because I am fantastic at it but because it is the one thing and only thing God requires from me. He said if i wont praise him, he is able to raise rocks and stones to sing in my place, and never will I let a rock cry out in my place. He is more than worthy of whatever praise I can muster and so I shall go over and beyond any chance I get to render my praise. I have been enthralled by the Olowogbogboro, the God whose hands are mighty to save, the one who is able to turn situations suddenly, just like that! And I have been acquainted with the soothing melodies and the fulfillment of Kaestring‘s “He is here”(That’s Lowkey an anthem now, can’t explain the pump in my spirit when it comes on!)

Of course like all good things, there have been criticisms  on why we (hello every one of the 70k plus streaming and praising!) are doing what we are doing, so it is important to educate these naysayers a little. They say subscribing to the Hallelujah challenge is not the solution to the problems in our country, Nigeria, nor a cure for our collective hypocrisy. I’d like to inform the people of such school of thought that It is not a revival to bring about any change in the country, or a miracle wreaking crusade of any such. It’s like when I do a writing challenge or a drawing challenge, I want to consciously rise up at midnight for 30 days to sing praises, and worship my God whom I think is deserving of even more. It’s not my job to fix Nigeria with my praise and worship. It’s our collective responsibility to do so (with that hardwork you people prescribe) at a time which has not been set apart for something greater. After all, prior to this challenge, I either spent my midnights fast asleep or chugging down alcohol or something even more unproductive. It’s not like I am expending anybodys mahour.

If miracles happen and prayers are answered along the way, it’s only as a by-product of my exercise..and not the core reason why I do what I am doing.

I don’t even get why anyone would have a reservation to the #HallelujahChallenge.

Is it really a bad thing that people, who share a common faith are rising to praise without the barrier of denomination and “my pastor said”??

If you have not been joining the exercise and praise is what you do,i.e you are interested, trust me, it’s a refreshing way to spend an hour. If for nothing, I have become a brighter morning person (I have always been a morning person but it definitely has become cheerier!)

The instagram handle is @Nathanielblow, and the Facebook page is Nathaniel Bassey. Remember what I said about Nathaniel being disciplined, his live feeds are set in such a way that at exactly an hour it ends. So you don’t have to worry about losing too much sleep. I usually catch an hour or two before midnight and the rest after. If you would like to join but have difficulties waking, you can send me a message, I’d love to be your alarm.

Let us give thanks and praises to the Lord, for he is good and his mercies endures forever!

Jemjem.

Building Bridge

Small talk about movies showing later, my (our) order arrived and I requested paper plates and cups to go.

“You didn’t say if you are going to see a movie, or what movie ” he asks, a little carefully.

I realise I’d been off-ish with him but his actions have been too careful,I’m certain there is more to it.

“I just wanted ice cream to eat while walking” he doesn’t say how ridiculous I sound but his face does.

“You are going for a walk?” He asks instead.

“Not in the fitness kind of way. I just want to walk on the bridge and eat ice cream” I leave out the part where it is on my bucketlist. Only one of us is allowed to be embarrassed for the duration of this meeting.

“Cool.  Can I come? ” he asks, actually interested. I hesitate, unwilling to share my experience with a “stranger”, when he adds “you can’t possibly be afraid of hanging out with me. I’m not technically a stranger, you know my grandparents.”

LOL! If only he had an idea, that I don’t even know his grandparents name.

But he does shed light to another bit I had overlooked, silly me! SECURITY!!

“What were your own plans?  You were just going to buy wrap and go home?” I ask.

“I was supposed to meet a couple of people here and catch a movie  but they can’t make it, so I was just going to buy the wrap and go home, actually.” He answered. There was a small pause between meet and a couple of people when he spoke,  I noticed but at that point couldn’t care about what he had wanted to say.

” Fine! You can come with me but I’m going to send your picture to my friends for security.” I quickly take a picture of him before he can mull over what I said and give his consent.

I send the picture to my silly neighbour, who is also a new bestfriend. In case of emergency,  I type, I was last seen with the fellow in this picture.

He giggles and I turn to find to him looking over my shoulder. “My name is Onyema. You can put that instead” he suggests smiling.

I don’t smile back, but I quickly add, His name is Onyema.  To which Stella replies “use rubber.” I already mentioned Stella was/is silly right?

“How did you get here?” I ask, because now that I’d decided to let Onyema come with me, we needed to sort logistics and get going. Midnight don’t last forever.

“Work Vehicle, but I have an Uber on standby. You?”

I’m a little befuddled as to how you keep an  Uber on standby, instead of responding, I let out a small sigh.

“If you really would rather go on your walk alone, it’s fine. You seem pretty uncomfortable with the idea”

“I’ll live” I mutter, not the most encouraging of responses, but I signal for him to follow. “I borrowed a vehicle, I can drop you back here when we are done walking” I say.

“Splendid”, He follows my lead.

I hear his gasp and I can imagine his face, Gboyega’s car always pulls this reaction from people.I’m really lucky Gboyega doesn’t have a girlfriend he trusts with his car more than he trusts me.

“It’s not my car. I borrowed it” I find myself saying without prompt.

“I heard you the first time.it’s a really beautiful ‘vehicle’ ” I can hear the cheeky in his voice especially when he says ‘vehicle’, and the unvoiced question ‘so whose car is it?’

I had an answer ready for whenever he mustered up courage to make his enquiry.  “my sugardaddy. He doesn’t want his wife to know he spent money like this” was my tailor-fit response to such inquisitions.

The beauty of driving past midnight is definitely on the clear roads,  streetlights strobing and very calming breeze. I don’t bother with airconditioning and my passenger seems to be relishing the experience.

I pack in the middle of the bridge, wordlessly and begin to go out of the car.

I can feel Onyema’s eyes boring my actions. “What’s up?” He asks, the edge a little on his voice. “I’m starting to think maybe I need to send your picture to my family and friends too”.

Now that was funny, so I laughed. Again.

“Too late”, I tease, and grab the bags of our food. I place them on the bonnet and start to share them between us. Onyema joins me.

“This moment is so snapchat worthy, but I’ll have questions to answer if I do” he gushes.

Clearly he is as smitten by the ambience as I am. “Your girlfriend will have you hanging by the neck” I tease, in reference to his reluctance to snapchat.

He giggles, “you know what’s funny?”

I shake my head.

“Do you remember when we met at my grandparents party?” He asks.

I’m a little torn as to whether to keep up the ‘I don’t remember’ charade, but it seems this is the puzzle piece I have wanted for so long, so I shrug instead.
He is not deterred. Surely he is not that forgettable.

“So when I walked up to you that day. I thought you were my girlfriend”.

I burst out laughing. I was laughing till I cried. I mean! What kind of boyfriend cannot recognise his own girlfriend in public.

“I’m sorry. WHAT?!!” I exclaim, catching my breath.

He is handling his embarassment pretty well.” I’m willing to explain” he says through his smile.

I motion for him to go ahead.

” So at the time of my grandparents party.I had met her only a couple of times. I think 3 times only. Her friends are my relatives and they were setting me up with her.

If you recall, I did say you looked diferrent with make-up on.

So yea! We had been talking when I mentioned that I’d like her to be my date to my grandparents party when the conversation froze.

I tried to call, but it wasn’t connecting. I spent the hours wondering if I’d said something wrong, and upset her enough to Barr my calls. I didn’t want to ask her friends, before they went on to tell her I was smitten, or used it as leverage to tease me. So I’d been lowkey looking out for her.

My God! You guys are so similar,  it’s almost unreal! Anyways, I thought you were her and playing games with me.”

In clearer light, his actions were very understandable. Heck! I’d do the same too if I were him.

“So what happened between then and now, because it appears you sorted your issues now, if she has become official girlfriend”, I can’t help fishing for more gist.

He chuckles, as if in understanding “it so happens that she was robbed after our last communication. My relatives heard of it after the party and we went to visit her. She hugged me and expressly told me how much she had missed me in all this time apart. It was a good feeling, we decided we were going to go steady, see how it plays out.”
I resist the urge to point out how dated”going steady” sounds, I give a small applause instead.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to apologise. I realise I must have been a jerk that a day we met? But you must understand my plight now.”

I cocktail my head,”are you apolosing or making excuses for your bad behaviour?”

He laughs,”I’m apologising. Really.”

I roll my eyes and he imitates me.

My ice cream is all melted so I gulp it up and have a momentary brainfreeze. Note to self: breeze from the water and ice from ice cream is overdoing it. Thanks.

When I recover , I fish for more gist. “So today, when you said ‘a couple of people’ you did mean to say ‘girlfriend’ ”

He blushed, “Ha! You noticed. Well, yes. Sometimes I feel a little presumptuous addressing her by that term so often and so soon.”

“Presumptuous? Is there a rule to these things?” I’m not sure why he has such opinions/ideas.

“No such thing. It’s just the type of person I am. If I use a particular word in over ten sentences within an hour, I tend to seek out synonyms to use. There’s a whole vocabulary full of such words to pick from”

“So it’s not just with girlfriend you have the reservation?” I ask, volunteering my neck to set him free for himself.

He nods in agreement.

“Cool. Cool” I start to pack up the leftovers and used items into the polythene bag that had housed our meal. True to his word, he had eaten only half of the jumbo wrap and saved half for me.

He takes cue and gets into the car waiting. When I get back in, Stella is calling on videocall. I answer it to put the twat to shame. The only reason she is videocalling is to garner evidence on her dirty conclusions.

“Oh, you are still alive. Okay o! Bye!” That was all she said, grinning wide.

“My friend, Stella, she is a nutcase.” I explain to Onyema, who nods in agreement.

I drop him off at the diner.

He offers his thanks and gets into an Audi (that I noticed was parked there before we headed out too). He probably wasn’t kidding about the standby  Uber thing.

It only occurs to me as I make note to ask him about it next time that I realise that I didn’t give him my name or take his contact.

Good job Das! Well played. Rme!!!