Making Love: Chapter 5

She found him leaning against his car when she got out after work. Aisha faltered, then picked up her pace and walked on. She thought about going around his car, but it was right in her way, and she had already started out on that path. If she let him run her off this way now just to avoid him, she could only imagine how much worse it would get. She steeled herself as she approached him. Light though her footfalls were, he raised his head and looked at her.

Aisha couldn’t quite get away from the slow smile that graced his lips and indeed, his entire face, when he saw her.

“Good evening,” he said softly.

“What are you doing back here?” she asked none too gently. 

“Here to give you a ride home.”

“One that I didn’t ask for.”

“You know, I didn’t get your name the last time we were here.”

“You didn’t ask.”

“I’m asking now.”

Unwittingly, Aisha laughed. What could it hurt, right? She hadn’t made any friends since being here, and with the exception of her colleagues, she hadn’t really gone out of her way to meet anyone. And the colleagues weren’t really out of her way. In fact, they were right in her way, so no effort there. This man had brought himself into her life, forcefully, it seemed, but she had no reason to be afraid of him. 

So she said, “Aisha. My name is Aisha.”

“Nice to meet you, Aisha. May I give you a ride home?”

She smiled her thanks, but her mouth said instead, “Are you really this nice or is this something else?”

He chuckled, taking her aback. She thought he would be offended at her obviously rude and ungrateful comment. “You will find that there are kind people in the world, and after a while, generousity won’t surprise you so much.”

With that, he held the car door open for her and she slid in. 

The drive was quiet, and he had on jazz music again. 

Okaye was trying to figure out where she was from, but he couldn’t seem to get a handle on anything. She was noticeably without any accent even remotely Nigerian. Truth be told, she had a funny European-like lilt in her voice, but couldn’t place it. He didn’t even want to hear her pidgin because he was convinced it would only be more comedic material for him. Deciding to be smart and wonder less, he cut into her thoughts unexpectedly. “So.” He drew that one word into three syllables. “Aisha. Where are you from?”

“Where am I from? I don’t understand.”

“I mean your origin. State of origin? Like, where your father – and maybe your mother – is from?”

“Oh! Right. Okay.”

Okaye laughed. “What did you think I meant?”

“I don’t know. I guess I thought you meant where I came from to work here.”

“Not really,” he replied, enjoying how she was relaxing into the conversation and in her seat, not as tense and aloof as she had been the last time he/d driven her home. “But you can tell me that too if you like.”

“Oh, well. My parents are from Kano State.”

“Really? So are you really Hausa or just one of those funny tribes that nobody really knows so we just say all your Northerners are Hausa?”

She laughed at how funny and serious he sounded at the same time. “I am truly Hausa, but I’m a poor representative.”

“How come?”

“I don’t speak Hausa.”

He pinned her with a surprised look that held hints of disbelief. “That’s not possible.”

“Is too,” she replied, and once again brought to his consciousness how odd her speech was. Like she wasn’t truly Nigerian. The absence of an accent and her wit and clever way of terming things and equally understanding things was too odd for him. “If you can, say something to me in Hausa.”

“And how will I know that you aren’t just playing me?”

“It’s in the eyes, man.”

He laughed at her expression and agreed. Then he said in Hausa, “You’re really pretty and I think I was destined to meet you.”

And she just stared at him. “What did you say?”

“What would be the point of telling you?”

“Weren’t you telling me anyway? And I really didn’t get any of it!”

He liked her this way, he decided. Excited. Interested and interesting. Fun. Her eyes held laughter, both at herself and at the situation. “Let’s make a deal.”

“I don’t know you. I can’t make deals with people I don’t know.”

“But you can get into their cars late at night from Jabi to Maitama?” he asked sarcastically.

“Good point,” she conceded. “What’s this deal?”

“I’ll tell you what I said  if you will give me five days of your time and agree to come somewhere with me the weekend that follows.”

Laughter bubbled up from her throat. “You want me to go out with you for one week in exchange for a simple phrase?”

Not exactly his plan but if that was the way she wanted to look at it. “Yes. That is what I want.”

“Okay. So what’s in it for me?” she asked seriously.

“Actually, everything about my request is what is in it for you.”

“That makes no sense.”

“I know, so why don’t you wait until our week is up? Patience is a virtue.” He smiled at her as he parked at her gate.

“One that I do not possess in plenteous measure,” she glared at him. 

Smiling, he pulled out his phone and had her type her number in. “If next week works for you, we can start Tuesday.”

“Now you make it sound like a job and I already have one,” she grumbled. 

Okaye chuckled. “You won’t be saying that by the time we’re done.”

By the time Monday rolled around, Aisha fell ill.  

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Art and Flamethrowers

I just finished reading a story that turned me so inside out, I can’t sleep. I wish I could give y’all the title so my fellow bookworms could go find it, but I don’t want it said that I encouraged you. My brain already works nearly as insanely as that of the heroine, and she really scared me. 

I would say I haven’t read a book that good in a while, but it’d be a lie – unless that while means a few days. 

Reading this book, coupled with the load of reading I’ve been doing on the side, made me see why and how I want to write. See, most people tend to think it’s just a skill or talent, or maybe something you learn in school and can do well. But writing isn’t something that should just be done well. Writing is art, and art should leave indelible marks in the minds of its recipients.

Art should change the artist first, and then wreak the most blissful and beautiful kind of havoc on whoever is on the receiving end.

Art should flow; yes, skill must be present and some tutelage to guide what may be natural, but no one can really teach you how to bare your soul. 

Yes. I really am one of those people. 

I read authors and books whose honesty, simplicity and soul trap my being in a memory lock that I am happy to stay in. 

And I want to be that kind of artist. Well, aside from trapping anyone Indiana Jones style though. 

I want to be honest. Simple. True. Undiluted. Me. Free. Open. 

I want to say what I truly want to say, not what I feel would be most comfortable to say. I do wonder about being misunderstood (just another day at the office for us weird brain people), but I also imagine that there is someone – or seven thousand – who will get it. I’m still wondering if I will take the chance of being misunderstood so I can be understood. And really, it’s not just about being understood; it is about drawing out the true heart and soul of another. 

What if I can spark up something in someone else, and I don’t have to meet them? They just have to be sparked up and stirred and touched and changed irrevocably by my art. 

In a world filled with constant regeneration of attraction to keep people coming back, I want to put out something deep and meaningful that will make them stay. Think. And maybe, just maybe, help them become who they were made to be. 

Makurdi Miracle and Healing Convention

Another programme, they say.

Church have come again, they say.

Relax. Settle in for what I’m about to tell you.

I have been a church kid for most of my life, but that doesn’t mean I knew a thing about church.

Or even the right things about God.

At the point of my frustration, I happened upon the man on the extreme right (@adahigah2) which led me to the man on the extreme left (@aromeadah) which made me meet the man in the middle (@mosimosugu).

God doesn’t change your life from the sky; He changes it by sending you a man. 

And these men are sent from God, no be mouth. They’re not just gang people coming to tell you things so that something can happen in your life that will never happen again until next year. They’re coming to bring you a 200-year miracle with words from their mouth. They’re coming with words and ororo to make you all that God made you that you don’t even know that you are.

So. If you’re in Makurdi, as you are liking this post and hailing my penning prowess, be marking your calendar and priming yourself to be at Precious Events Centre next weekend. 

One word from God will change your life FOREVER. 

Long post? Just say thank you. 😀😘

Making Love: Chapter 4

The mall was packed. Everyone seemed in a rush. Customers were ruder than ever, and servers were more short-fused than ever.

“You asked for three scoops of jollof rice, not white,” Aisha argued with a customer. The woman was round and small, she wore glasses and had not cracked the shell of a smile in the fifteen minutes that she had been at the counter, slowly edging Aisha toward the edge of hell.

“No, I asked for white rice, not jollof. Were you even paying attention when I was talking to you?”

Aisha wondered whether the woman knew that she was going to follow in her wake when she finally fell over this cliff. Her anger was reaching boiling point, and the insults were not helping.

“I heard you just fine,” she insisted, “and this is what you ordered.”

The woman shook her head stubbornly. “I can’t take that. That’s not what I want. You can either change it for me or let someone else come and take my order, please.”

Before Aisha could respond, another customer piped in. One of these underage kids growing beards around the place. “Sister, please just give her what she wants, na. You are keeping us waiting in line unnecessarily. The customer is always right.”

Then another. “If you people don’t know how to handle many customers at once then ask for help. They should assign more than two people at a time, abeg.” This comment continued in a mutter that Aisha couldn’t make out.

Struggling to keep it together with her now shredded self-control, Aisha swiped the plate from the top of the counter and flung it under. That was coming out of her pay, she knew, and it made her seethe.

Forcing a smile, she said to the pigheaded woman. “I’ll get you white rice. The same meat?”

“Yes na,” came the rude reply and Aisha felt her hand reaching out in a wide arc to land a slap on her cheek. But it was all mind motion, because she kept her fake smile on and proceeded to serve her.

She served the next customer in a blur of motion. As the next guy stepped up to the counter to place his order, her head snapped up. She knew that voice. It was the guy who wanted her to learn to multitask or call for back up. Remembering his rude comment from earlier, she looked around.

“Oge!” she called to a colleague. The girl had worked there two months longer than Aisha. This was a rare morning shift for Aisha so they were paired together with Deji and another girl, Anita.

“Please come and take over for me for a bit. I need to ease myself.” She turned to smile at the guy. It was too sweet to be real. “She’ll take your order. Excuse me.”

As predicted, the fool couldn’t keep his mouth shut. “Better oh. I hope this one is faster than you.”

Aisha smiled again as she turned away. Oge was the slowest server Aisha had ever met – both as a mall server and a customer. Plus, she couldn’t listen to more than one thing at a time, so he would have to give his order in batches if he wanted her to get it right.

Fool was in for a long serve.

 

 

“You should have married me if you knew I would be this useful to you eventually in life,” Okaye grumbled.

“But I didn’t know you would be this useful until you became this useful.”

“I need food and rest to properly understand that statement and not feel insulted.”

“Please,” she harrumphed. “Stop complaining. It’s just this small something you are pushing that you are doing as if I made you herd cattle for me. And as if you’re not going to eat half the food eventually.”

At that, he kept shut and pushed the full cart toward check out. Omojo could be brutal when she wanted, and she was even in a good mood tonight. She was his ticket to all home-cooked meals and he didn’t want that revoked. Every time she called him, he knew she needed a driver to and cart-pusher at the mall. Her husband, his friend, hated shopping, and since Okaye liked coming to the mall anyway, they figured out a system.

Omojo should do what she likes and what she needs to do anyway – shop – with someone who likes doing the same thing – Okaye.

It didn’t count to them that he didn’t actually shop at the mall. At least, not often. He roamed, checked out ladies and offered to buy them dinner or lunch or shoes – a one-time thing that would only repeat itself at the next leap year – in exchange for twenty minutes of their time. It worked ninety percent of the time, and he was happy with that success rate.

Going to mall with Omojo was a totally different story.

She didn’t let him talk to any ladies. She insisted on speaking the really difficult Igala she knew he didn’t understand and then moved on to make fun of him for not understanding. Then she asked his opinion on everything and ended up purchasing the exact opposite of whatever he said. In the event that he tried to be stubborn and not offer an opinion, she threatened him with his meal ticket which – believe it or not – she had in her purse. She designed it all by herself with dates and mealtimes on it. It had his name and phone number on, and the most hideous picture of him in all the word beside his details. It was a strong hold she had over him. Plus the fact that she was married to his closest friend and she told him everything.

Who tells another human being everything?

By some blessing, he was able to sneak from her for a full minute to pop over to the food section to see if he would find a familiar face. A particular familiar face. He was disappointed not to find her there and received Omojo’s scolding in meekness. He wasn’t even sure what he would have done if he did see her, so it was probably for the best.

Okaye trudged behind Omojo – as possible as it could be to trudge while pushing a full shopping cart – to check out and joined the queue. He brought his phone out of his pocket for no reason other than that most people nowadays swiped their phones endlessly to pass the time and he needed to pass the time on this slow queue. Goal.com was always a good place to go. Caught up recent achievements in the football world, he didn’t raise his head as he moved forward on the line and came to a stop at the checker’s desk.

His head snapped up at the sound of her voice, and a smile came unbidden to his face. It was her turn to look amused. She greeted again.

“Good evening sir.”

“Hi,” he breathed. “How are you this evening?”

“Very well, thank you,” she smiled back, still amused. She started lifting his items out of the cart and he watched her hands. She had a tattoo in the shape of a wristband on her right wrist and he thought it was attractive. Which made him feel even weirder because he was anything but a tattoo guy.

What are you doing here?” he asked.

She laughed. “I work here.”

Multitasking practice was paying off because she checked out his items even as he continued to talk.

“I know, but I mean, I thought you were at another section.”

“People get moved around,” she replied.

“I see that.”

Her amusement faded and she focused on her work. In silence, she rang up everything and took his card. Another reason Omojo liked shopping with him, he always paid.

He missed the look Omojo was giving him as he collected his bags and wished Aisha a good evening.

“You too, sir,” she said to his retreating back.

In the car, on their way home, she asked him, “Did you know the girl at the checkout counter?”

“Yeah, kind of.”

Reading him like a book, she laughed. “New project?”

“Yeah, kind of.”

“You and your mall girls, Okaye.”

“Mmm. I don’t think she’s just a mall girl, though.”

Making Love: Chapter 3

Aisha didn’t know whether to be mad or afraid. Not thinking hard, she snapped. “What is wrong with you?” She was speaking slowly but with as much annoyance as she could muster. “What is wrong with men? What is wrong with people in this country?” He looked amused again, much like earlier when he was standing at her counter with his friend. “You cannot just sneak up on people, especially female people, at night, in an empty parking lot, and ask to give her a ride home.” She consulted her phone for the time. “It is past 11pm. You are a strange man I do not know. If you kill me in this lot, people will speculate that it is because Moslems are trying to get one up on Christians. But I am a defenseless Moslem woman and you are just a strange man waiting for me to tell him to apologize and leave me alone.” She looked pointedly at him at that last statement.

To fuel her annoyance, he started laughing. Actually laughing. Out loud. She especially didn’t sound Moslem or anywhere near defenseless with the way her eyes were narrowed and fiercely fixed on him.

For all her bravado and her sarcastic speech, Aisha couldn’t summon the courage to turn her back on him and walk away. What if he attacked her from behind? Why oh why didn’t she listen when her roommate had tried to get her to a self-defense class? Now here she was, in Nigeria, in these troubled times, with a man propositioning her in the middle of the night because she served him food and mouthed off and he probably thought it was attractive.

As thoughts flew around her head a mile a minute, she didn’t take note of the fact that he had moved closer to her and extended his hand. It had a driver’s license in it.

“I am not a Moslem serial killer. My name is Okaye. This is my driver’s license and it has basic information about me on it.” He continued to hold it out. “I was thoroughly entertained by your response to my friend earlier but I just wondered how you would get home after your shift so I decided to come back and wait for you.”

Aisha raised her eyebrow in an oh, really? Moslem women were quite shielded from men but it was much worse when your father was rich and you were betrothed from an early age. However, she had her years of schooling in Europe to thank for her ability to act like a normal person before this man. At least, she thought she was acting like a normal person.

“I tried to come back in but I got back too late. The entrances were all locked and I thought I would wait out here for a while, just in case you hadn’t left yet, so you wouldn’t be stranded. I promise that I will not abuse or hurt you or take you anywhere that is not your home. My approach leaves much to be desired but I assure you that I do not mean any harm.”

He sounded sincere enough but Aisha wasn’t inclined to believe him because of his sincerity. There just was something trustworthy about him – and she had never felt trusting of any man in her life. No man had ever inspired trust in her before now and it was a bit surprising that it should happen on such a night with such a man.

She nodded her head and said okay, but as he turned to open the car door (which they had been standing beside the whole time), a precautionary voice prompted her to reach into her bag and finger the small knife she carried with her everywhere. She slipped into the car – a monstrous SUV – and exhaled in a whoosh.

“Where to?” he asked as soon as he’d gotten in and slid on his seatbelt, prompting her to do the same.

‘Maitama,” she replied.

********************************************************************************

 

If awkward had a superlative form that was as yet unexplored, it would describe the silence in the car. Aisha drummed her fingers against her lap and after a few minutes, Okaye turned on the radio. A slow jazz number filtered through the speakers.

“So you live in – ”

“So you came back – ”

They both spoke at the same time.

Okaye laughed and told her to go first.

“Did you really come back to the mall to pick me?”

He laughed. “Hard to believe, right? But I did.”

“Why?” Surprise and confusion was evident in her tone.

He shrugged, because really, what could he tell her? I found you highly interesting which made it easy for me to obey when the Holy Spirit nudged me to come back for you? Even to his ears, for someone who thought he believed in the favour of God, it was simply too out of the ordinary. Too odd. He looked over at her and she seemed to still expect an answer from him so he said, “I guess I just got concerned.”

“Why?” she asked again.

“Isn’t it strange to you that you’re the only female on duty in your section at night?”

“No, it doesn’t, and how do you know that?”

“Know what?”

“That I’m the only female in my section at night. I only met you tonight for the first time.”

He snickered at her. “You’re the one stationed in one spot at the mall, not me.”

Aisha was silent for a few minutes, trying not to process that line, but unable to let it go, she asked him what he meant.

“It means,” he said as he stopped at a red light, “that I am a single guy living in Abuja. I go to the mall nearly every night because I’m too uncreative to feed myself and I sometimes check out ladies when I’m there. When I’m running low on women to check out, I move on the ones that work there.”

She gasped. “Oh God. Are you a stalker?”

“I believe I already told you that I’m not,” he replied, still amused at how genuinely befuddled she sounded.

“So why did you tell me all that?”

“I thought you would appreciate it if I told you the truth, what with how truthful you were with my guy earlier on when we stopped at your counter.”

“That…” Her hands flailed about before her as she tried to come up with something. “That was just…” She sighed and the sound that reached him was almost resigned. “I didn’t mean to sound rude to the customer.”

“You weren’t. Well, at least not to this customer and his friend. You were honest in a – “

“Rude way?” she interjected.

“Is it just me or are you really stuck on this rude thing?”

She looked at him strangely, as though she was going to say something, and then turned back to the road. The way she folded her hands beneath her bosom, clutching her small purse between them, Okaye knew she was cutting off communication. He didn’t mind. In spite of being amused by her behaviour, he appreciated the quiet. His actions tonight were starting to bother him more than he let on. Of course, he could simply say he found it hard to ignore the witness in his heart, but it wouldn’t be the first time he was ignoring the witness, and he could have done it again. After all, who could really say that one witness was more important than another? Having obeyed and disobeyed in fair measure (and who was measuring anyway) he knew that you could never really know until you obeyed, and then it meant everything to realize that you were in sync with God. However, this felt different in a huge and scary way, and he wasn’t in a hurry to find out.

Making Love: Chapter 1

Aisha Shamsudeen was surprised at the number of Asians that flooded the mall. She was even more surprised at how relaxed and at home they looked amongst Nigerians. She was used to seeing and living among light complexioned people, but she thought that Nigerians would be weirded out by the degree of such in their midst. It was amazing to her; young black girls were even draped across the arms of some of these men.

Maybe all she knew about Nigeria was a myth, then.

This was her first day on the job at the Jabi Lake Mall and she had been in the country exactly three weeks. Add to that the two weeks she’d sent with her great aunt when she was twelve, and the first three years of her life which she could barely remember and you got the total amount of time she had been in her home country. She almost felt like an outsider but being in so many foreign lands over the last decade of her life had taught her how to hide her apprehensions and doubts well. And what did she have to be nervous about anyway? This was her country. She had a birth certificate to prove it, along with a first and last name that sounded just as Nigerian as anyone from the North of the country. She had no clue how to speak her local dialect, and even the Hausa that was generally known even by non-Northerners was mocking her. She didn’t mind. It was the twenty first century after all, and she heard that most Nigerian kids these days were raised in the cities and their parents had very little time to either take them to their hometowns or teach them the local tongue. So she blended in just fine.

It was a slow hour at the food service point so she let her eyes wander as far as they could through the mall, watching people. She hadn’t made any friends yet – nothing new there – but at least she had pleasant to everyone she’d meet in the last 2 or so days, and that was saying a lot for her. So far, she had introduced herself to one person only and that was the guy who was on this evening’s shift with her. His name was Deji and she was so pumped she had said it right that she did a jig when he turned his back.

No local tongue meant no accent of any kind, and having grown up mostly in Egypt but done a lot of traveling, she had thought she would pick up a foreign accent but that didn’t happen either. She didn’t know what she sounded like, really, and she didn’t care. After all, she hadn’t come home to analyze her speech impediments or brag on the lack thereof. She had come home to find something. She wasn’t sure what it was, but she had known that night three months ago, when she had awoken ina cold sweat in the bed she’d shared with her late husband that she needed to come home.

So here she was.

When she got off work a few hours later, she ordered an Uber to take her home. She still hadn’t figured out how to get anywhere on her own and was thankful for Uber services. Nothing like a driver and a good GPS to get you where you needed to be when you didn’t know where that was.

Her phone vibrated in the pocket of her jeans as she unlocked her front door and stepped in. it was Amina, her sister-in-law, texting to check on her. They’d been in touch ever since she left Egypt much to the disapproval of both their sets of parents. She was supposed to be in mourning for her husband, but after that night, she knew she couldn’t continue to ignore the nagging inside her that bugged her to leave and come to Nigeria. it was that nagging, they said, that had killed Ousmanou. If only she stayed content as every good Muslim wife should, he wouldn’t have died. Her mother blamed her father, and said it was because he had spoiled her by sending her to expensive schools in Europe and America. Her father blamed her mother for not teaching her the true ways of a Muslim wife. Aisha was tired of it all and she knew she was made for more and her life could be more, but she would never find it there, in Egypt, in the middle of such confusion and close-mindedness. Her reasons for leaving were her reasons and she had shared them with only Amina who had taken to her the moment they’d met a month to her marriage to her brother, Ousmanou.

She looked down now to read Amina’s text.

Hello sister. How was your first day?

Good, but long and tiring. I feel dead on my feet.

That’s good. Did you have any rude customers?

Two. But I was extremely nice and I’m practicing that thing I told you about.

What? Self-control for your tongue? Lol. How is that going?

I said all the nasty things in my mind, though. So does it count?

Lol. I’ll let you figure that one out. How are you?

I’m as well as can be. I miss you. How’s everyone?

I miss you back. They are all well…still angry too. Baba still says we can’t speak your name around the house.

It is alright. I understand.

Me too. Be well, sister.

You too, sister. Good night.

Aisha signed off and fell into her big bed.

Things Too Lofty

I was on Instagram.

Why? 

I don’t know. Well, except for the fact that it’s become part of my life now. 

Anyway, I was on Instagram, scrolling through timelines and such. Looking at cool pictures of cool people and their cool lives. 

Then my eye caught that funny plus sign IG puts at the top right corner of your page, showing you friends they’ve suggested. 

Even though I didn’t want more friend suggestions, I headed over there anyway.

And started scrolling.

And I stumbled on a profile of someone I know. In fact, I used to know this guy pretty darn well. And I couldn’t resist, I simply had to check out his profile.

First, I was excited. “He’s doing so well!” I thought. Then I went green. “Five thousand followers?!” Then I went even greener when I saw a particular photo of him and this cute looking chic with dimples and my crazy head just had to make me read the caption. What should have been an “awwww” turned into a disappointed “Wow.”

And I had to catch myself there.

Cos my mind started spinning out of control and unraveling in the most unattractive and unpleasant fashion, and doubts I didn’t even know I had about myself started to pop up. I started to wonder what if I hadn’t walked away (darn, I had to go and give myself away now!)? 

But I remembered a Psalm of David, and it put me at peace. He said, I do not concern myself with things that are too lofty for me to understand. My soul is quiet within me. 

It is too lofty a thing to understand the why’s and wherefores of relationships (even for a complicated thinker like me!), and truly, the answers aren’t all in our reach. Sometimes it’s better not to concern yourself with the pain of doubt and what-ifs. Instead, wean your soul from trouble and lift it up to God. 

As I had to do in that second so I could be overwhelmed instead by His majestic love and the beauty of my future, blessed by the righteousness of the faith of Christ. 

Right

I decided that maybe I should finally just write.

 And while thinking about what to write, I realized the real reason why I hesitate to write. And that was what I decided to write about.

Being right. 

Read again.

BEING right. 

Try that again.

BEING right.

And that has always been the problem.  Every failure, every rejection, every put-down, every unresolved conflict, every lost friendship, real or perceived, left me feeling like I wasn’t right. Not good enough. And I felt that way because, deep down, I felt I hadn’t done something right. So the first time a boy picked another girl over me, I picked the issue apart in my brain, examining every right or wrong action in the light of his choice. I made myself a prisoner of people’s expectations because I wanted to DO right by everyone, twisting myself grotesque for the approval of people who could change their minds without warning, leaving me parched for their pat on the head. Every time I tried to wrench myself free of this, it was like a leash around my neck. There was always someone there to mock or remind me of those chains. 

Then it came to me while I was singing an Igbo song in church. I heard the liberating statement inside me: Ele, YOU ARE right. 

I was and had been missing the point right from the beginning, the day the boy picked that girl over me. It wasn’t because of something I had or hadn’t done; it has never been. It has taken me so long to see that in God’s eyes and in His mind, I AM RIGHT. Emphasis on all 3 words.

I: The entirety of me, this Ele that God made. In this instance, the emphasis for my soul is that God finds me rightractive. 

AM: Present tense. Verb, to be. A state of being that is continuous, constant, indicating very possibly in this case, an eternal sentence.

RIGHT: Unable to be found wanting. Impossible for flaws to be detected in me because there is no comparison. There has and will only ever be one right Ele like me in the universe, and that is me. 

It feels strange to my mind, my heart, my feelings, when I say to myself now, Ele you are right. 

In case you were wondering, that’s my favourite translation of “I am the righteousness of God in Christ.”

The freedom feels foreign to me; to know that even in the face of things that attack my self-esteem and want to make me feel like I am at fault or not good enough, I am right in God’s eyes. He thinks I’m right, through and through. It now reveals other people in light of their choices that really have nothing to do with me. For the longest time, I took rejections so hard. If someone I cared about even expressed slightly something they thought was “unsuitable” to them about me, I would quickly hurry to change it. Enter bouts of frustration when I couldn’t conform fast enough into their shape of me. There went the merciless murdering of the true me and all my heart’s longings. There went the beauty of all my mindless quirks and the preciousness of my silliness. There went all my fun. There went any trust or faith I had in myself. I simply couldn’t recognize the approval addict I was becoming. 

Image: Instagram (Alli Worthington)

Knowing that Jesus loves me and that His blood has set me rights is becoming one of my life’s greatest freedoms. 

Making Love: Chapter 2

The weeks passed in a blur. In no time, she was counting two months of having worked at the mall. She had gotten the routine down and for some odd reason, she had gotten the same Uber three times in two weeks. Her shifts fell mostly in the evenings and she didn’t mind because she was not a morning person and she really liked to spend the early hours of the day by herself.

Her house was one of the few old ones on Colorado Close in Maitama, and due to the fact that it hadn’t been inhabited for so long – eight years – it didn’t have the same fresh and up-to-date look and feel that most of the other houses did, but it was neat, humongous and quiet. Unlike most people she knew who would be a tad uncomfortable living by themselves in a three story house with over seven bedrooms and lots and lots of space, Aisha was having the time of her life. She spent a lot of time exploring the rooms in the house. She always brought food from work so she wouldn’t have to brave the complication that was cooking whenever she got hungry in the middle of her daily explorations.

The house had been left to her and her twin brother by her aunt but he had died in combat the year they had turned twenty four so it was all hers now. Most of her memories of her aunt were stuck in her preteen years and they were filled with conflicting times. Hassana, her aunt, had become a Christian after which she’d taken up with a Christian man right before she was supposed to be married to the son of the Imam of the mosque they frequented. Aisha remembered how devastated her grandfather and her father had been. They were a dedicated and true Moslem family; where had they gone wrong with her? They blamed it on the four years she had been allowed to school in Nigeria. It had been a mistake, grandfather said. He thought that sending her home to school would help her especially since it was all arranged that she would stay only in Northern Nigeria for the duration of her studies. The plan wasn’t foolproof however, because Hassana disappointed them all and dragged their names through the mud. They disowned her and through her grandfather’s connections, they had discovered the man she had taken up with and exacted a fitting revenge on him. Well, at least as fitting a vengeance as true Moslems could mete out.

Aisha couldn’t help thinking how her actions were beginning to mirror those of her aunt, except there was no Christianity in view for her and there was definitely no man. Her man troubles had ended with the death of her husband and the ridicule she received for her early widowed state. She was only here to see if she could find some contentment for her soul.

On one of her explorations, she discovered a room on the second floor filled with about a hundred large boxes. Fascinated, she started to open them and found books. Books! Unable to contain her excitement, she sent Amina a picture of the books in three of the cartons. She would have preferred to send a selfie of her sprawled on the dusty carpet with the books but it was risky and she didn’t want to get Amina in trouble.

She got so carried away unpacking the books that she was almost late to work that evening. Already looking forward to her free weekend off from Wednesday, she excitedly attended to her customers and even smiled sweetly at the rude ones. She was back to her books as she got in the house that night and really applauded whoever had done the arrangements. The books were labeled in each carton according to authors in alphabetical order and arranged in the room in fiction and non-fiction sections. She opened the non-fiction section first and discovered they were also arranged in categories. When she was on the second carton, she noticed the labels on each carton. It was so easy that even a five year old would be able to figure it out. Aisha was glad because she had never been able to figure the system of library sorting no matter how many times she was taught. The labels on the non-fiction said “NF” for non-fiction, then the category underneath (autobiographies, biographies, cookbooks, journals, magazines, research papers, motivational, inspirational, religious, etc.) and the range of authors by alphabets under that. It made it pretty easy to decipher what was in each carton. The fiction labels were the same. F for fiction, categories and then authors.

She attacked the fiction section first and discovered authors she had never even heard of along with some of her own favourites. For sentiment sake, she opened the G authors carton in the fiction category and fished for Grisham first. Her eye caught one of the first that she’d ever read, The Client, and she took it with her to work the next day.

Thursday evening was a slow night so she had time to poke her head into her book sometimes for about fifteen minutes at a time. One of those times, while her back was turned from the serving counter and she was bent over her book, she heard someone tap on the counter. After ignoring it the first two times, she snuck a look and saw two guys standing there. inserting a page stopper in between the pages to keep her on the page, she walked over and smiled at them, asking them what they wanted.

She barely registered as ordered and she placed their food in the microwave. The silence wasn’t supposed to be awkward, but it felt that way somehow before one of them spoke up.

“Do you like your job?” he asked.

She laughed lightly. “I do.”

He seemed surprised by her answer and she told him so. The microwave dinged. She reached in to bring out the plates of food and pack them into the customized mall nylons.

“Most people in the service industry rarely enjoy their jobs,” he opined. “They act like we are feeling like they are less than us when we come to ask them to serve us.”

Aisha’s eyebrow rose. “Is that so?” Mark Sway and Reggie Love were temporarily forgotten as Aisha took their money and proceeded to answer the man now looking at her with an interested look. His friend simply looked amused. Conveniently pushing aside all her training, she thought a little bit of honesty would do some of these snooty customers good.

“Have the possibility been considered that there are just so many rude consumers in this country? I swear, they feel so entitled to everything and feel that because they are on that side-” she pointed in their direction “-of the counter, they can dish out whatever attitude they please and receive no comebacks.

“Some people are simply trying to make a living, you know, get past the humiliating lack of financial resources in their lives. They don’t need their self-esteem stomped on and trampled underfoot because of it.” Then she smiled sweetly, handing over their food with both hands. “But I thoroughly enjoy my job.”

By this time, three other customers had come up to the counter and were staring with unabashed interest. The young man who had started the conversation was staring at her with his mouth open while his friend was now laughing openly. Aisha turned to see her colleague, Collin, looking at her with a strange look on her face. It seemed she had paralysed everyone in place because the normally rude and impatient customers were silently waiting for someone to walk over to take their order instead of calling out a condescending “Excuse me” that took every iota of polite out of the excuse. For a brief second, the thought of getting fired crossed her mind but it didn’t bother her so she tamped it down, wished the two men good night with a dismissive wave and walked over to take the new orders.

The night eventually ended on a light note with Collin telling her to be careful after letting his overly cautious self to admit to how much fun the drama had been. They parted ways at the parking lot where Aisha had stopped to put on her jacket to ward off the early October chill. It was late but she took a moment to breathe before pulling out her phone to call for an Uber. Holding the phone to her ear, she swiveled on her heels and let out a small scream at the sight of a looming figure right behind her. The phone nearly dropped from her hand and she wondered flittingly if she was within the sights of any of the security guards. This could not be the night when she got mugged or molested at her place of work. The thoughts flew through her head in less than a second as she prepared to let out a real scream but was interrupted by the man.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to startle you.” He held his hands up in surrender.

Aisha took two steps back so as to fall into the glow of the overhead lamp that reflected across the lot, consequently drawing him into the light as well. Her heart was beating wildly. She surprised herself by saying “What do you want?” before seeing his face.

He replied as his face came into view. “Can I give you a ride home?”

It was the amused customer from earlier.

Longing for Love

Love is one of the most difficult (if not the most difficult) revelations for the human heart to take. Many say we were made and built for love. Others say that deep within us is the conditioning to love and be loved. However, we cannot ignore the fact that due to life’s hard knocks and tough, impossible situations, millions and millions of people live on the flip side of this love deal. The heart yearns and pines for love. Surges of hope assail us when we hear a love story, fictional or real. Then the memories of a less-than pleasant childhood or a relationship gone sour floats through our consciousness, and that hope begins to die a slow death. The devil makes it so hard for us to believe that we, imperfect as we are, can and should be loved. Plus, we forget that, imperfect as we are, we have deigned to love others at some point or the other and it stands to reason that we could also receive the same love from an equally imperfect person who is perfect for us.

But maybe we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves here. 

Maybe it is so hard for us to grasp the idea and reality of love in its fullness and purity, unconditional and flawless, because we have never stopped to fully consider that there is Someone who could (and does) love us unconditionally for real. Of course, everybody knows that God loves them. We all know that, don’t we? Well, at least in our heads we do. We say it without true conviction because maybe it’s a new sin to not be able to say that God loves me. But we have not gotten a hold of the realness of such a love. The possibility of being loved this way is weighty. It breaks and burns the borders of “proper loving”. It messes with the whole program of our insecurity and unworthiness and the promise of us being embraced and changed by such a wholesome love threatens us. We are swallowed whole by the thought of being accepted this way. I mean, it practically causes our minds to snap. 

How do I know this?

The mind is such a weird thing. Weird place. 

In there, somehow, we rationalize and reason every love gift before accepting it, trying in some way to link it to something we have done or not done, whatever the case. So we start acting like Hosea’s Angel (Francine Rivers’ fan club, raise your hands) who decided to do everything possible to be either impressive enough for her new husband or disgusting enough to him. If you can’t earn it, crush it, right? Because, please, boy, how can love be free? Like that? 

Hyaa! Abeg oh!!! 

Too many negative things have made us lose trust in love, yet we want it. 

We yearn for it.

Secretly, we cry for it, and vow that if we have one chance, just one, with love, we will take it.

How about breaking the love triangle, then? Instead of pursuing a guy or girl or mother or father or friend whose love you have to do a lot to earn and keep, how about turning around to learn to start receiving love from Someone who has loved you since before the beginning of time? How about reading His words over and over again until there is a bright flame of hope fueled by an unconditional, I-have-nothing-to-do-with-this love that makes you feel the special, all the romance, all the only-girl-in-the-world feeling you want? How about learning to simply believe and accept that you can be loved, and you are loved and that this love is enough? It is scary (if we’re honest), and we might lose ourselves – but that could be the very thing that saves us. We could be swallowed whole by this love (a whale kind of situation, maybe) but maybe we’ll be spit out in a better condition – not without our eye hair or with gross fish scent but covered and marinated in the fragrance of true love – content, grateful, free, happy, and the very best version of ourselves there could be. 

I’m just sharing an idea, you know. Just saying. Because it’s this type of thing that I need. Na this kind love I dey find, and it’s been right here all along. There is Someone who loves me regardless of me, who is relentless and eager to beautify me with the riches of His love. 

Why say no when yes is the good word?