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'
There were greens left in her teeth.
She used to eat them so slowly,
Smiling at the thought of how she’d look,
Smiling as they slid down her throat,
Sliding off the years that’d passed.
It was really rather sad to know,
She’d betrayed her sweet tooth,
And those greens couldn’t save her.
She’d lived less for even lesser.
And in her finest of forms,
This lady could still not fight.
She was beaten as she would be,
Because her victor never missed.
And it left the greens in her teeth.
The sound was something incestuous. He stared at his offending palm, propping it up by its brother as if for inspection. It was almost as though he was the victim, as little needle pricks of pain pierced hastily through his open hand. His tears streamed to match hers, revealing a sensitivity that was misplaced against his brute force. She had gone quiet now, only breaking her code to release the deepest of sighs. The silence left him feeling unsafe, although he had fought this dreadful battle for its sake. He looked up, confronted by the sight of her cheek, softened in the place he had met it. Filled with regret, his lips circled the open air, meeting and parting with no result. The death of words was his only legacy. He watched as she retreated from him, flattening herself against the brown walls, letting it caress her back. He had finally achieved the space he needed to reign. This was the last step in his transformation to something god-like. But it felt so bloody incestuous.
When he’d met her years back, he was sprawled out lazily in the park, and her height had cast a deep shadow over him. He’d been trying to redress that imbalance ever since. His displeasure had grown with every octave that her voice would rise over his; with every decision she’d make for them that had stuck; and with every instance that she’d interrupted him before their friends, to assist his arguments. She was selfish over a throne that she had taken by force, when his back had been flat on the ground. Yet, her selfishness had taught him how to be a man, in the most powerful and undesirable sense. So, slapping her was almost a rite of passage. And it felt right for one split second. It was like he could stand straight and let his hands linger coolly in his pocket. But there, standing before his subject, her brown hair tousled over her face, matted with salty tears, he saw that he could not be a god without her devotion.
Suddenly, as if stung by a radioactive realisation, he ran to her side. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”, he held her hair tenderly with his harder hand. Smoothing over her softened cheek with the affection of a dozen kisses, he got up and headed towards the blue door. “I’ll fix it”, he whispered, knowing that the silence would carry his words. Once he closed the door, he was confronted by the bite of a cold winter. Now his hands were forced to linger in his pocket in a wholly different sense as he walked determinedly past people, and things. In winter, everything seemed so moderated, the cold forcing people to move with the greatest simplicity. Reaching his destination, he rapped hard against the great oak door through his almost frostbitten knuckles. That door had been one of his first and strongest memories. It opened slowly to reveal the face of his childhood priest. “Felix, come in”. He entered the large hall, feeling the warmth of the surrounding candles that were always lit devotedly by Father.
He looked up at the altar to behold a huge wooden cross, an artefact that he remembered clearly from the catechism days of his childhood. So he walked towards the front, completely ignoring Father, as if guided by the presence of a greater being. This was why he had come, to bow to a greater god than himself, to be humbled for once and for all. “Why are you here, my son? It’s been years since I’ve seen you come down this road instead of walk through the market square.” Felix wrapped his arms around himself, both because he’d always been intimidated by Father, and because his tightly wound hands would symbolically keep the shame within. “I want to continue where I left off with religion, Father. I’m in search of something big.” The priest directed this bumbling man to sit with him in the closest pew. “From what I remember,” Father mused as he stroked his chin, “you stopped at receiving communion when you were twelve.”
Felix looked down in shame, unwilling to meet the Father’s judgement. “Yes, Father, that is right. I was disappointed by the bread. It wasn’t as filling as I had expected.” Father burst out laughing. “I knew you were always so simple. Don’t worry, God needs all kind of soldiers in his army.” Felix shifted in his seat, “what army? Who has already enlisted?” Father laughed again. “You never paid attention in class, did you? It’s an imaginary army of believers.” “Oh.” Felix loosened up. He’d always had his concerns about war. “So”, Father continued, “all you need to be a confirmed soldier is some more catechism classes,”… “yes”,…”a white outfit”… “yes I have one of those”…”and a warning that you’ll get slapped”… “huh?” Felix stopped. Father sighed. “It’s usually a light pat to symbolically confirm you as a soldier, but I tend to get lost in the powerful moment and hit harder.” Felix leaned forward in his seat, stroking his face and slowly beginning to smile. He had found a greater god as he desired. But he’d also been pushed towards redemption. A slap just like the one he’d dished out today would force everything back in its place, and he’d feel something close to Lesari’s softened cheek. “Tell me more Father”, Felix said, as he submitted to the presence behind the hundred lights. “I’m finally listening.”
My name is Alala. I am a dreamer. Let me dream.
There are many beings that need the sympathy of paused moments. But I’m here too. I don’t want to be forgotten.
I’ve always bought pretty things, and turned them into gods. I breathe power and energy into them, hoping that they’d receive it, and breathe them back out at me.
I’m afraid of being small- that my voice would only rise in harmony with millions of other voices, voices that fight harder to be heard. So I’ve willed my prayers into being, clasping on desperately to things that laid quietly in shops.
I had a four leaf clover, and I took on superstition. I’d wear it and close my eyes, praying for the luck that rested in its leaves. But it never came. Or maybe it did, disguised as the counting in maths that would eventually fall at my feet. Probability. But it was improbable that I’d put it down and lay it to rest. So I buried it, and found a new god.
I cried when I lost it, clutching at my neck for the comfort that I’d created. It was a portal for God to pass through- an easy way to my heart. A place for us to meet silently, away from the other voices. So I wept, afraid that I’d become inaudible, or just scared to risk it. It’s still gone from me.
I worship probability now. The chance of luck falling at my feet. And the chance of my voice getting bigger.
My name is Alala, and I’m a dreamer. Perhaps I could dream myself bigger.