The Big Idea"The knowledge that I am listened to attentively works in a sort of virtuous cycle to improve the quality of what I say"- Achebe's 'A Man of The People'
Her flowers blended with the fallen leaves that clothed the field. It seemed like they had only touched the slab a moment ago, but she could barely see the yellow petals which stuck out so elegantly from the stalks she’d cut. The autumn nakedness put her solemn offering to shame, making this place of sorrow somewhat beautiful. She clutched at her stomach through the thin black dress, the only one of the shade she owned. It was almost inappropriate how light and frilly it was, brimming with life, while everything around her uttered words of death. There was no one else in sight, a fact that somehow put her at ease. She was not accustomed to the conventions of mourning.
Taking a hesitant breath, she shook her feet free of the shrubbery that had layered it. She grasped the sides of her party frock firmly as she lowered herself unto the concrete. This was the only way she could do it. She bit her lips as she thought of what to do next. She supposed that tears were in order, but she could not summon them. Pinching her sensitive eyelids had always worked when she was a child, but that continued deception had strengthened them now. Crying itself would be the greatest deception. She ran her finger softly over the raised grey surface, feeling the dents in the name she’d always said so quickly. Now she had to stop and remind herself of how the words sounded. She moved her lips softly, mouthing the sounds that made up this person she’d once loved. They felt foreign against her rosy cheeks.
In the filled desolation of that place, her mind began to wander. To times and things that they’d shared. She smiled as she remembered something that had once made her laugh. Slowly, her face hardened as she struggled to pick out the punch line. What was it? Ah, it was gone. The memories had already begun to fade. Some day, she’d forget that she had laughed at all. A soft wind blew at the hem of her dress, bringing her back to this place. It was so quiet here, a silence that lured her to speak, to fill the air with worthy things. But nothing came. Sitting there at a loss, she turned to the back of the field and stared hard at the grey van parked in the distance. He was awake now, and was looking at her in expectation. It made her smile.
She returned her glance to where she sat, and focussed hard again to find words to fill the space, but nothing came. In her determination, she reached softly for her left ear, struggling to take off the stud that decorated it. Grasping it tightly, the metal point protruding, she leaned forward to touch the face of the slab, and frowned deeply as she crafted her message. The grating sound annoyed her, and she had to work hard for it to show. As she stared at the finished word, her heart eased. Standing up and dusting her dress, she beheld it one last time. Her flowers were now buried under the conviction of autumn, the season when many things would be shed. As she turned to meet the one who was waiting, her dress flowing inordinately, she realised that sometimes, bye was enough.
My name is Alala. I am a dreamer. Let me dream.
When two leaves merge, as though they had fallen from the same autumn branches, is it natural that they be blown apart, forced away forever by cruel winds?
I see people every day. Their faces are sprinkled in my side views as I zoom through my existence. It’s as though they had been paid to be extras in my life, filling up space to make it look more wholesome. The same way that I am in theirs. A millisecond, and they’ve vanished, under the market umbrellas perhaps. What else could 110 million people be doing here? We’re all acting out films in parallel, you know.
I was groomed within four walls. Brought up to be a specific person, with specific tools, of my language, and my culture. And then I was sent to other walls, where I would meet others like me, pre-determined cast members that would be forced to watch my life play out. And it would make sense that we’d be friends, because we were young and knew the same things. Then I would be fully made.
But how does one explain being made, and still meeting a near remake in far-flung quarters? How do you explain being 17 years separate in sights and sounds, but crashing neatly together in humour and words? How is that so? To have your lips move for more than half a day in one stretch to this life-determined stranger, without feeling that he’s strange at all, or wanting to stop, or walk away?
How does life replicate the same circumstances for my inordinate stranger two continents away? How is he still so receptive to my words despite the space from which they rose? I mean, yes, we watched the same cartoons, bending our heads and laughing at the same eventualities that children’s cartoons would always give. He’d never get the girl; he’d never catch the mouse. She’d always disrupt his work. But it would be newly funny each time. And we’d both laughed. But he hadn’t been teased by pap, and taught by canes. He hadn’t stood between his parents, interrupting the flow of strong forceful Yoruba, as opposed to Sweet. Soft. English.
Yet we meet. As though it had been a mistake. A second longer, and he’d have moved. A moment later, I would have been drinking from the fountain with no one watching me. But a second went slowly past. And that possible mistake of time never felt more unmistaken. Then seconds became weeks, and weeks became the strong conviction of years. In that time, I have let you into my movie. You’re the freaking star of the show.
What was all the trouble for? We crossed paths and merged lives, so cleanly like nothing had gone before we came. Yet we walk away, as though satisfied by the fountain water, done with our acting out. Never crossing paths or merging lives again. Now, that has to be the biggest mistake. And all the art and songs we talked about would mourn their new obscurity.
So we’d be forced to live out our eternities in parallel lines and separate spaces, perhaps in different languages too. And it wouldn’t make sense. Because unlike those in other scenes, life picked you out for me. Not certainty. Or pedigree. Or church. But life. Yet our lives are wiped of all traces of each other, like a movie I will store in a box. In my closet. And never play again.
My name is Alala, and I am a dreamer. Perhaps I dreamt you up one day. So maybe it’s only natural that we fade away…
If it were you,
You’d have lost more than tears,
Countless drops falling on the parquet floor.
You would miss more than me,
Classes and books laying unattended to.
You would question more than trust,
Your days and times merging coldly as you go.
So I guess it’s good that it is me.
If it were you,
You’d die in the quiet of a house in the woods,
Despising the walls for not being friends.
You’d freeze in the cold of a body without warmth,
As anyone you hold dear is anywhere but here.
You’d float through life on an unconscious cloud,
With empty bottle contents contained in your breath.
So I guess it’s good that it is me.
As it is me,
I welcome the pain.
I let it serve as I reign.
I take all the blows and make it poetry…
So I guess it’s good that it is me.
It has been such a painfully long time since my last post and I apologise. Sadly, the thing about good literature (hopefully something I contribute to!) is that it’s impossible to force it. So I spend my days walking around, trying to bump into something that inspires me. It will come, I know this 🙂
In the mean time, I received an email that brought me the purest dose of happiness I remember. I had applied for a creative writing workshop that was to be held in Lagos for 10 days, and taught by the queen of African literature, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Any African writer could apply. Weeks had gone by, and I hadn’t received a response, so I took it on the chin, and accepted the defeat as a learning process.
But, lazily checking my phone today, I never expected this email from the queen herself:
Thank you for applying to the FARAFINA TRUST creative writing workshop.
Your entry was one of the final shortlist of fifty from about eight
hundred and fifty entries received.
All fifty showed immense promise.
Sadly, we had to select only twenty four because we don’t have the
resources to accommodate every writer on the shortlist.
I want to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your entry- and to
send my regards for your continued writing.
You win some, you lose some. And even when it seems like you lost, you may have actually won 🙂
I will be back soon.
That I didn’t break,
That I didn’t fall,
That You held me high,
Right through it all.
That I learned the truth,
of Life’s cold ways,
And You stopped the fear,
That darkened my days.
That You lifted me,
On wings of Gold,
And let me soar,
and kept Your hold.
That I became again,
Who I was before,
And learned to retain,
The “me” at my core.
That I fell in love,
With each new place,
And experienced things,
That I can never replace.
That You delivered me,
From walls too near,
And helped me to breathe,
Every breath so dear.
Freedom from strain,
How can I better
Say thank You again?
More times await,
They’re looking to me…
Here’s to fate,
And to destiny.
It’s been a while! I have a special delivery today 🙂
The new issue of the very innovative online medium, Ayiba Magazine, is finally out. The issue is an ode to African Women. And my piece, “The Tease”, is in it 🙂
This piece is one of my favourites, because it was inspired by a beautifully life-changing event for me.
On International Women’s Day, I went to see Angelique Kidjo and Fatoumata Diawara, both amazing African musicians, in concert. And it was everything.
I watched Fatou dance barefoot on stage, tossing her scarf and swinging her braids, with more power and passion than I have ever seen. This woman moved like she was music itself. Angelique Kidjo, who is much older, was no different. I watched them move so freely, even aggressively and unattractively at some points, with no concern for who was watching. They were confident enough to do exactly what they wanted, and let that be all. In that moment, I understood what it meant to be a strong African Woman. And the realisation even brought me to tears. (I’m such a dweeb).
So, “The Tease” was based on this. It’s an ode to these women who unwittingly became my role models. It’s an ode to MY definition of what it means to be a strong African woman, which is to be a “Tease”.
Please read “The Tease” here:
Also, check out other works in the Ayiba Mama Africa Issue:
P.S. I made a drawing to go with it. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit the dimensions of the website. So here it is:
I hope you like the piece, and that my little story didn’t bore you! Please let me know what you think 🙂
Thanks for being here.
Love, love, all the love,
I’m back again to let you know that a story I wrote, “Measuring the Walls” just got published on Bella Naija, Nigeria’s most popular entertainment and lifestyle website! I am so excited, and grateful, and excited 🙂
I know that the frequency of my posts look a lot like I haven’t actually left 🙂
Please read the story, about a girl called Dumebi and her sheltered life, here: http://www.bellanaija.com/2013/04/16/bn-prose-measuring-walls-by-inktippeddreamer/
Please let me know what you think 🙂 And share if you deem it appropriate!
Have a beautiful day, and week, and month!
Love, love, love,
So I know I said I was going away for a while to revise. This is still true! But something happened on my way to the library today that forced me to write. At the train station, a very dark announcement was made which upset me. But I was shocked by how normally people seemed to take it, and how normally the announcer stated it. It made me realise how always moving so fast can eat into our souls and our humanity.
So I wrote the poem below as an ode to the person who seemed to be forgotten in the midst of city life. Bye again!xxx
“There are minor delays on all lines…
Due to a person under a train…”
His voice went out in slow, even beats.
“The circle line is part suspended…”
The ponytailed girls continued to sway,
The bigger one said as she giggled,
“Silly person climbed in the wrong way!”
“The central line is part suspended…”
I heard the groans circle my space.
“I’m already ten minutes late to work”
The man wrung his wrists, frowns across his face.
Someone’s ten minutes late to life…
“The jubilee line is closed between…”
“My doctor’s meeting is down the drain…”
Life just went on behind the screen.
“The entire district line is suspended…”
A woman groaned to her daughter’s pleas,
“It’s not the end of the world”…
Yes. It’s not, I wanted to scream.
At least not of ours.
Our time, our dates, and our silly pain,
Fall like heavy bricks along the drain,
If we try not to complain…
And think of the person. under. a. train.
Thank you so much for being here. It has meant the world to have people who want to see and read my truths. It has been incredibly rewarding to be able to escape reality every week, and put a bit of myself on this blog.
But I must now face my reality- one that involves big bad law exams. Unfortunately, I have to take a step back from inktippeddreams until July- when the beast which stalks before me presently would finally be dead. I have to do this because the quality of what I write or draw is very important to me, and I’m sure, to anyone who follows this blog.
Thank you for your constant support, and I know that I will be back from July with a wealth of material, stolen from the realities which I try so hard to escape. I hope you will be back then too 🙂 Now, I will fade away for a while…
In leaving, I wanted to share my favourite poem I have ever written- I wrote it about three years ago, and its about being “Blocked Out” from the world around us. It’s in the post below. I guess that’s the message which I want to linger because it’s so vital- to experience life and be there for the people who matter most.
Thank you for the love, and I hope we all fight to take away the distractions that block us from the beauties of life 🙂
See you in July, and good luck with your own realities.