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'
You’re a piece of work.
Damn. I mean it literally.
Your body and your mind
Symbolise something real.
Time and effort crashing.
Nothing as real as that.
But I mean it really.
How long did it take to make you?
To mould your curves just right,
Placing the nips and dips,
Fixing them around your frame like soft clay.
You’re a perfect streamline of years in time,
Of a medley of mother and father,
Of grandmother and greater,
You have her nose, and his soul,
And you’ve also got that $5,000 bag I paid for.
You’re a piece of work,
And you aren’t finished yet.
It takes pain to maintain you,
Your dopey-eyed glances passed
From the first dopey generation to me.
Now I create you,
Having you dance,
To the sound of notes on the ground.
Baby give me this, baby give me that.
Baby clothe me and feed me too?
Damn. You’re a piece of work.
But you would never ever work.
My minty notes transformed,
Into the leather, the shoes, those rings.
When Pygmalion’s task is done,
I’d put you up in a glass box,
And show off my money’s song.
Maybe people would pay to see.
That’d be my reward- the only time you’d ever pay me.
Cause damn baby, you’re a piece of work,
Making me work harder than I ever did.
Azadei stood before the shore, her feet revelling in the layers of brown sand that caressed them. “Aza, come have a sandwich!” She turned to look at her father, who was now waving a slice of white bread enthusiastically, crumbs flying everywhere. He and her step mother were perched on wooden beach chairs, in the same spot they would always choose, each time after minutes of consideration. Rema was leaning forward, slowly layering bread with tomatoes and corned beef. She quite liked Rema, the grey-haired woman that had married her father. She was quiet, which made her words seem alien when they presented themselves. It also meant that Aza could sometimes forget that this new person was around. Aza ran forward, almost blinded by her brown hair as the winds pushed her. She sat forcefully on her knees, sinking into the sand that never left her. “Pap, what about today?” She looked softly into his eyes. “Not today, my love”, he said between bites. It was always the same.
Aza chewed through the layers, tasting the flavours that she was now well acquainted with. She turned to look out at the waves, watching as people bobbed up and down, heads sometimes being revealed unexpectedly by the blue waters. She wanted to be just like them, these people who dared to present themselves in confidence before the most immense entity she could imagine. It was almost alive, seeming to have real emotions, as it lapped softly and gently, or smacked hard against itself. Her father had never let her go. How she felt so fake, when she started at her new school, and had told the other students that she lived by the beach. Their eyes widened in wonder, as they looked at the girl who had in her hand what they travelled each month to hold. She felt fake just by wearing her bathing suit every Saturday when her dad would shout that they were going for a picnic. Then she would come back each time, drier than she had left. She closed her eyes and listened to the sound of the breeze, and how it struggled for attention against the shouts of excited children. She was suddenly called back by one of those alien words. “Drink”, Rema said, pointing at the water she had poured out.
That night, as Aza lay calmly in her bed, her hair wrapped lazily around her pillow, she could hear the sound. The sea was in one of its frightful moods, rocking relentlessly and carrying the winds against her window. She sat up in her silky slip; legs huddled together, with a smile sneaking past her cheeks. She was not like the children who quivered when they were approached by something strong. She liked how these powerful things would remind her of their existence by halting what she was used to. Aza came out of her bed to revel in the darkness that extended from the sands to everything else. This darkness was meant to scare her, to upset her, to make her knock softly on her father’s door. But it made her smile, even brighter than the sunshine did.
In a stroke of determination, Aza ran to her drawers, pulling out one of her bathing suits. She put it on, after wearing the scarf that her grandmother had given her. The feel of it around her neck, and its frays touching her collar bone, gave her a sense of ease, much like the ease with which her nana had always laughed. Climbing down from her room, she descended into the dark space that lay before her. Aza couldn’t see where she was going, but she couldn’t stop her feet as they moved quickly towards the sea, ready for her first introduction. It felt right, for her to be a little scared, not like when she knew exactly what was coming for each class in school. She heard more than a few alien words behind her. Rema had broken her silence, and was shouting in unison with her father. But she ran further still, her legs finally feeling the water crash into them. Aza began to laugh with the ease of her nana. The waves would keep her afloat, she knew that. So she let her brown hair greet the water, softly, as she descended into the welcoming exhilaration of a spontaneous sea.
She named him Mobo. The moment she had seen him, through the haze of sweat-filled dizziness and delirious pain, she knew it was only right. It was the way the brightness didn’t bother him, and the way he screamed so convincingly as though he’d had a chance to practice. As she peeked at him through the whiteness of the coats that separated them, his defiance, pushing through his arms and out to his legs, frightening the doctor who was trying to hold the scissors steady, made her sure that he meant freedom. In front of the bodies who’d pushed her door left and right bringing their offerings of smiles and prayers, she called him “baby” like she was meant to. But when she asked them to leave, too embarrassed to display her nakedness, she’d whisper “freedom” into his ear as he latched on trustingly.
He grew like she’d expected from freedom, with legs like tree stumps, and an appetite that justified it. Whenever they went to the clinic, he would be given a sweet just for being his mother’s strong boy. He would run through the adjoining compounds of his mother’s house, jumping over the neighbours’ pots and crashing through interlocked hands, just so that he could feel the harmattan breeze tickle his belly button. He loved to run. He would sneak away to join the boys that played football under the bridge. He would run so fast, that he would only be able to hear the roars of approval from the boys on the sideline, which would change to boos because he’d eventually forget the ball. People would smile at him and rub his head with the promise of greatness. But he was too young to know promises.
His mother found it hard to look at him, when the visit to the doctor produced more than sweets. He’d overworked his young limbs. His mother would pound her fists between sifts of flour as she mourned the hopes that his speed had lost them. His freedom had trapped him, and made him a prisoner. As a man, he was made to understand what his mother had seen the day she met him, feeling his tired legs that were built for the breeze. He resented the hunger that had now left him empty. Mobo would sit in the grey couch, and watch the vitality of the neighbours through the kitchen window, only to be jolted to thought by friendly calls of his name. That word with its killing sounds harassed him. Mobo. Mobo. Mobo? Freedom was a wicked friend that had promised to visit, but danced seductively past his gates. He was wicked because he ever was freedom. And it was only fair that he never was free.