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betcha never

there comes a time in every relationship when, like a cat sliding down the algaed wall of a well, leaving talon trails, you know you’ve lost all traction – but you try to hang on as you slide into abyss. then you start to hear the voices … she walks out of the ensuite bathroom in a stunning red dress to find him sitting on the couch in the bedroom – the remote control to the sound system in his hand. she thought he was in the living room watching orlando pirates get slaughtered again. as she opens her jewelry box to take out a pair of stud earrings, she is thinking, ‘why does he keep watching that team with players that cannot even pass urine. isn’t it frustrating watching your beloved team fall in love with losing?’ she is gyrating to the song that has just started playing, unawares he is trying to shut moneoa up as she sings, “… my poor pride she feel so hurt and so betrayed/it’s alright you’ll never feel my love again/silly me, silly me,/how could i, how could i,/fall in love, fall in love,/silly girl, heh, ey, heh!/silly me, silly me,/how could i, how could i,/fall in love, fall in love,/silly girl, heh, ey, heh!”[1]

silence.

          “are you going out again?” she says nothing. she opens the wardrobe again and brings out a bottle of chanel’s chance. she sprays it on her neck, down her cleavage, and then she lifts her dress and sprays it between her legs. his heart is thumping hard against his throat.

           “are you going with mary-anne?” she looks at him, snorts. she walks to the mirror in the passage and pirouettes in front of it. satisfied, she comes back into the bedroom, picks up her red clutch-bag and the car keys from the bed. he gets up.

          “you didn’t answer me.” she looks at her watch, looks at him, then sits on the bed. she picks up the remote control, puts the sound system on and skips to track three. moments later vanessa williams is speaking her mind. he knows the song, he has heard it all evening as she prepared to go out. in fact, there are only three songs on the cd. he almost switched off the sound system when he came into the room and heard gladys knight singing, “neither one of us.”[2] he grabs the remote control and switches off the system as vanessa williams sings: “tonight i give you my surprise/i hope that you won’t mind/i’m giving you an eye for an eye/baby, i’ve found another/and he is my lover/and i’m going out for the rest of your life.”[3]

              “if you’re not going to answer me, then you’re going nowhere.” she looks at him, picks up the clutch bag and car keys and gets up. he pushes her back on the bed – knocking her windless. she knows what would follow. so, she says nothing. she grabs the car keys from the floor next to the clutch-bag. as she gathers the spilled content of the clutch-bag, he storms out of the room. as he settles into the sofa in the living room his phone vibrates. it’s a message from her. his first instinct is not to read it, but the first words displayed on the lock-screen catch his attention. he opens the message:

          “men who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, should know that’s where the knives are kept.”

[1] Moneoa. (2013). Is’xbhanxa. Mokoya Mix Vol. 2, Superbly Mixed by DJ Sabza.

[2] Knight, Gladys. (1972). Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye). Neither One of Us. Soul.

[3] Williams, Vanessa. (1995). Betcha Never. The Sweetest Days. Wing . Mercury.

smiling sobs

till your cryptic cry – i didnt understand

the loudness of your silence

when your tears tore the smiling silence

my heart heaved for manning my silence

and not sensing your smiles were sobs in silence

i am here – but now – i understand.

fkregie 2017.

the reunion

when i got here god asked me, “what did you do with your life?” i answered: i stole a thousand sunsets. i said a million prayers. i drunk tea by the veranda. i lost my eyesight to the unending road. i knew what it meant to hope, even on days when i felt like i had none. i listened to big drums talk and little church bells chorus. i saw rains come and go. i watched stray dogs cross over the gravel road ahead of our house. i saw eagles soar in the bluest sky. i heard owls sing at night. i saw wolves try to pass through our gate. i heard hyenas circling our compound. through it all, i did not waver or fear. in truth, i could not hear or see anything besides the loneliness of the dirt road that curves right before it gets to the market. i enjoyed listening to nothing more than its whispers about its journey and where it was headed – quite a fascinating tale, i might add. many times, i watched my man take steps away from me on the very same road. i had no doubt that he would come back to me. i had no doubt he would come back to my heart – where he belongs. but you called me up – and the years turned.

***

your old radio ran out of batteries and i became too overwhelmed to buy new batteries. but i did. i bought new batteries. i kept the radio on because when i get there we’d need to dance. and we’d need the music for something else but first – we shall dance. i love how you dance. we used to dance like our feet were on the sun. you – jazz and jam. remember the name i gave you? you’re both smooth and sweet. you danced right into my heart. danced right to the beat of it. in your absence, my heart still beats. my heart still beats with your smooth steps and the loud pounding of your feet. my heart still gets electrified like the day you serenaded me with marvin gaye’s “you’re all i need to get by.”[1] i laugh. 

***

the day you left earth my heart sank. how is it that you could leave earth without my being there? i remember looking at the road as if it had betrayed me. they think i’m a fool to think you’ll come back. they’ve talked about me until they couldn’t. said i’m a fool to keep on hoping. that hard judgement eventually turned to a soft sympathy. poor man, they’d say while they shake their heads … the news of your passing made it here fast and left quick. but in our house, i pickled it in a jar and saved it in my kitchen cabinet. i stowed some in the clay pot with drinking water by the stove. i stashed it with some of our best memories on the top shelf of our closet. when grief dragged me to sleep earlier i thought it was you with me in bed only to find i have slept next to the talk of your never coming home to me in heaven. treacherous and painful – i know you’d disagree with my loss of hope and my madness when you get here. i always thought you were too happy and too positive until i realized the world needed more love and hope than it did judgment and hate – until i realized there’s really nobody else i’d rather be with … they told me to remarry when you left earth. they told me to mourn when you passed. i couldn’t find it in me to. we’ve had moments of intimacy – moments when our souls consummated their love and gave birth to us. i cannot explain this enough to them. after such an act, there’s never been a you or me. there has only been an us … ever since i got here this us makes me rush from the market because i want to get dinner started before you get home. then i realize you’re still over there. though i eat alone, i don’t feel alone. this us makes it hard for my soul to yearn for anyone but you. they say my leaving you on earth made me lose my mind. yet others do say no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness and they go on to say it is the mark of an intelligent mind to entertain a thought without accepting it. i let them vent their sentiments in between our sips of tea and scones or when they pass by the passage by the house and i so happen to be by the fence. i let them talk about me in my absence too. 

***

it’s the night of the day you passed, and i dreamt of you. i am taking down the washing from the fence. the omega radio, with its aerial pointing to earth, is by the veranda on top of the garden table joseph made for me. as i return to the fence, i see a frame at the corner post, right where there are some dresses and petticoats shining in the presence of the sun. i walk over. he takes his hat off as i get nearer. my feet carry me toward the fence. your eyes meet mine. i have forgotten the clothes on the fence. we take slow uncertain steps towards the gate. until we are only separated by the fence – a fence i put up to keep others out. gabriel said god doesn’t allow fences here, i told him to wait until he meets you. we take steps forward. steps we have taken together before with better limber and with youthful carelessness. now the steps we take are … we take steps again and again and again and again. nothing sounds but the beat of our hearts. nothing else is worth seeing but our eyes. we want to blink but we both know a blink could be a lifetime as far as you and i are concerned. i hear your breathing which sounds like the flapping of owl wings and you hear mine. it smells like guavas. they’re your favorite and they are in season. my hands grip loosely and territorially at the fence as i take each step. i wish i had on something better than my overall dress and flip flops. i wish i had undone my head-scarf and did my hair just the way you like it. but all these thoughts don’t deter my or your steps. i berated myself for thinking that for i know, to you, the only important thing is me. by the time we get to the small gate, we stand before each other. my tears pour and yours moisten your face. you’ve changed so much and you’ve stayed the same. oh, that mischievous smile. i want to say as an apology for the times we’ve been apart physically but does it matter when now my chest touches yours? does it matter when you take me into your arms and twirl with me? does it matter when you have that mischievous smile on your face? a cry, a laugh, a dance. i don’t ever want to let go of you. we stay in each other’s arms for a moment. as if we’re reintroducing our souls. as if dusting out an old photo and remembering the time it was taken … that’s when your knock woke me.

            “you’re just in time for our afternoon tea.”

            “i know. i brought biscuits. your favorite.”

a few days ago, a friend of mine passed by to offer her commiserations on the passing of my dad. we wrote a collection of short stories together, so she has an idea of what my parents shared through my depiction of their lives together in some of the stories in that volume. as we talked, we thought it would be nice to write a piece that captures the love my parents shared, and how they will feel when they meet again. this story is the result of that brainstorm. thanks wame gwafila for the inspiration.

[1] Gaye, Marvin. (1968). You’re All I Need To Get By. You’re All I Need. Tamla. This was my parents’ favorite song. I heard it so many times, by the time I was six I knew the lyrics by heart.

wame gwafila & fkregie 2017.

lightning strikes twice

they say lightning doesn’t strike twice – well, scratch that. before leaving cape town this morning, i texted my regular airport cab driver, to let him know what time i will be arriving in gaborone. he texted back to say he will be waiting for me. as i alight from the aircraft in gaborone, some guy walks up to me and says, “hi, we were on the flight together on wednesday.” for the life of me, i hadn’t noticed him. but i didn’t say this, of course. we exchange pleasantries, he tells me he is a medical statistics person and i tell him i am a dramatist. as we walk towards the immigration post, he says, “i am samuel. i am from ghana. where are you from?” for some reason, his aura makes me free enough to joke with him. i introduce myself and say, “i am a motswana.” he laughs and says, “you’re not. there is something about you that says you’re not.” i tease him about being a personality reader. we laugh. then he says, “seriously, where are you from?” to which i respond, “nigeria.” he stops walking and says, “i am not trying to call you a liar, but can i see your passport?” i show it to him. he laughs and says, “i knew we were related. but you’re so light.” we laugh. i say “my mother thought my father wasn’t light enough, so she lightened his children.” we laugh. we part at the section where arriving passengers fill the entry form – as is habit, i had filled mine before boarding the flight. when i step out into the arrival hall, my cab driver isn’t there. i call him and he starts by apologizing about not being at the airport, that his cab broke down. that it will take a while to fix, so i should get another cab. i turn to a guy wearing a red marine cap, and a red “airport shuttle” crest on a white shirt to ask how much it will be to get to my place, which is less than a kilometer from the airport. he says p100. i say i always pay p50. he walks away without offering a compromise price. as i stand there, contemplating how i will get home, samuel walks out of the arrival hall, he asks if i have transport, i reply in the negative and he says, “you can come with me, i left my car here when i traveled on wednesday.” here i am, at home, thinking about the coincidence of my regular cab driver not being able to pick me, and getting a ride from someone who thinks ghanaians and nigerians are brothers. two coincidences in one day. what are the odds of getting two lessons on brotherhood in one day. it’s nice when lightning strikes twice, that the consequences is a lesson in positivity. 

fkregie 2017.

lesson from a cab driver

i don’t believe in fate, because i have a strong belief in coincidences – an encounter at 08:02 this morning reiterated this belief. this morning i request a cab from uber for a trip to cape town international airport, i have a 09:30 flight to catch back to gaborone. after waiting almost ten minutes for the driver, the app informs me “the driver has decided to cancel the request. please, make another request.” i do. and aaron appears on the screen. then the wi-fi connectivity in the hotel collapses on me, and i lose track of aaron. after five minutes i call him, “i’m driving fast sir, i will be there soon.” when he shows up, we exchange “good mornings” and he asks “are you traveling within the country or you’re traveling out of the country?” i say i am traveling to botswana. he asks if it is for a few days or if i live there. i respond that i live there. “botswana is a peaceful country, you are lucky.” we speak some more. i notice he doesn’t speak like the typical south african. “where are you from?” he smiles. “how do you know i’m not from here?” i settle into the seat – this is going to be fun. “from your accent and the way you speak.” he laughs. “i’m from cameroun. where are you from?” this is always a hard question for me to answer, answering that i am a nigerian is only part truth because i have lived more than three-quarters of my existence (in various societies) out of nigeria. i believe when you have traveled and lived outside your mother nation like i have, your mother nation only becomes your launching pad, for the other communities you’ve lived have molded you (perhaps more) than your mother nation. especially when you were born outside your mother nation. “i am originally from nigeria. but i am for the moment a motswana.” he laughs. “you’re funny.” now, that’s a statement that is ambiguous – does it mean you have a good sense of humor, or you’re a joke. i don’t ask him to explain – i choose the former. there is something about him that’s kind. he says, “i’m from the english-speaking cameroun. we are brothers.” then he proceeds to give me a lesson in the connectivity between the two nations i haven’t been able to find in any book. he adds a lesson on the history of the tensions between the french and the english-speaking cameroun – up to this very moment we are talking. he even mentions something nice the former military ruler of nigeria, sani abacha, did on behalf of the english-speaking cameroun. “abacha?” he laughs and promises to send a video via whatsapp to the number i had called him with. by the time we arrive at the airport i had learnt so much about the english-speaking cameroun. i am glad the first cab driver canceled for i will not have met aaron. wherever you are right now, thanks for the lesson and the connection, aaron.

fkregie 2017.

lesson from my father

in all you do – worry about the truth

even when you err – speak the truth

life shouldnt be about whether you lose or a win

for – in a battle between

truth and untruth

whats couth and whats uncouth

hard-work and laziness

reality and deceptiveness

reason and unreason

truth.couthness.hard-work.reality.reason

dont strain for dignity

they dont push for acceptability

they rise to the top – undeniably

at the right time – irresistibly.

fkregie 2017.

why should i cry – iii

two souls – un-dead – lots of fun-filled memories

and lesson-filled sad memories

why should i cry

if god knows the soul and the memories in me

are more important than physical separation – to him and me

why should i cry

god knows – for the soul of a body that rests to live on

the body that rests must leave in a beloved

a loving soul and loving memories to be passed on

but – for a while must make happy – this beloved.

fkregie 2017.

why should i cry – ii

memories of him that fill my head

this moment are full of mirth

you see – he that rests is a sapient soul

sad moments were learning curves for his soul

so – why should I cry

on his physical passing – why should it make me cry

when his sapient soul

lives on in my schooled soul.

fkregie 2017.

why should i cry – i

you ask – why are you not crying

i ask – why should i be crying

you say – death of a beloved should make you cry

for what you just lost

i say – when death takes the body, i cannot cry

for the memories are not lost

you insist – but death is not just anything

its permanent – the loss should make you cry

i insist – i have not lost anything

the memories live on in me – why should i cry.

fkregie 2017.

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