avoid crossing roads and grow eyes at the back of your head

Nnwa,

You will come to experience a lot of things. I pray you do not go through pain; the confusion of having to live through seasons you do not understand or the damned feeling of fighting shadows – periods you are told to keep fighting through when really, you no longer know what you are fighting for. This prayer is selfish, for what is life without the black, the white and the in between? At this point, I would say bliss but it is not my place to make that call. Yet still I pray you get to be an exception. Should my prayers fail, you will know at least I tried.

Someone said bad things come in three. I think this someone does not know how to count well enough because I would say three is an understatement. A week ago I was doing well. My head was in the right place and I was all set to kick ass. Then right out of nowhere, an okada had to speed right into me. When I was younger, used to fascinate about how it would feel like to faint. I had seen people faint in movies and it had looked cool – well it isn’t. That mix of lightheaded confusion in moments you cannot control your own body is nothing ‘cool’. The guy sped away of course as the throng of spectators watched. The only one that cared enough to help was this one lady who kept insisting on helping me carry my phone and my handbag while offering to take me to hospital. Did I let her? No. I was hurt and angry and half cognizant but I was not stupid. Later I asked God to forgive me if I mistook an angel for a swindler. But I foresaw the lack of energy to mourn the loss of my bag, documents and phone so I clutched them close and declined her offer. Politely I hope. So I hobbled to the nearest shop and sat on those chairs spread outside under wobbly umbrellas. You know, the ones you either pay to ‘hire’ or buy something from the shop. My first thought was that this time, I had busted my leg for sure. I. Even I thought it was my fault when in actuality, I was not the one speeding. I was not the one trying to maneuver through traffic when I should have been patient enough to keep to my lane. I was not the one that saw a car and a pedestrian and decided hitting the latter was the best call. I was only crossing the road, trying to get back to the office so I could file my field visit report.

It had not been a while since I cried. It had been a while since I cried under the gaze of a dozen or more people but I couldn’t help it. I was not crying because of the throbbing pain across my leg and from the bump on my head. I wasn’t crying because the idiot had not even bothered to find out if he had ruined my beauty of a leg. I wasn’t crying because I had such little trust in people and good intentions even when I clearly needed help. I was crying because I sat facing the scene of the accident, realizing there was about a hundred ways that scenario would have played out. None would have ended up with me being able to move, let alone limp my way to that spot. I cried because I was bruised, dusty, happy and relieved. Cried because even when the people in my head worried about broken bones, my spirit sang praises as my heart gave thanks for what I now call my miracle. I cried again when the doctor said there were no broken bones, just muscle/ tissue trauma. I was mad, did the why me whining for a minute and then sat amazed at how there is always a ray of light, even though thin and feeble, in the storm.

The following days were not so easy though. The pain, the fear of leaving the house because perhaps this time, it would be a speeding car and I wouldn’t make it through and the questions. There are always questions. Life happens Nnwa, we cannot control how and most times what you will need to remember is to keep the experiences from tricking your mind into caging you. You will try to avoid everything, try to be safer every way you can. But that is no way to live. For no matter how safe you will think you are, you will still be a prisoner of fate. I have had a rough couple of years and yes, I would change how some scenarios played out but I cannot. Neither can I shape what is to come. But I can commit my ways to the Lord. I can ask for his grace and the cover of He that never sleeps nor slumbers. I can lean on His strength because there are days I cannot even muster enough energy to get out of bed. I can live one day at a time, avoid crossing roads and grow a pair of eyes at the back of my head ☺

This is not the last I will see of pain; the confusion of having to live through seasons I do not understand or the damned feeling of fighting shadows – periods I am told to keep fighting through when really, I longer know what I am fighting for. But I will aspire to get up each day and live. Because I realize it is simple to be the one that locks me in a cage and throws away the keys.

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My Engineer #2

Things were simpler when we were younger. We had the one best friend, the one favorite food. We had not seen enough movies to have a favorite one so the tape that didn’t get ‘eaten’ by the VCR became everyone’s go to by default. If you had a normal childhood, you never had clothes that were really yours. Most of them were someone else’s before they were yours. Woe unto you if you were a girl after two brothers and all that came your way were the supersized t-shirts that were all the rage that did not go with anything else you owned. So your favorite clothes were the ones you were only allowed to bring out on Sundays or for visits to your aunts where your mother had to make sure you out dressed your cousins, at least to show you were doing well. And even though you could not play because you knew not to break the commandment ‘thou shall not stain the lace frock’ or could not walk much because those pumps you saved for Christmas and other special occasions pinched all around because they never had the chance to be broken in – they were your favorite.

But we grew up and things became different. We made new memories everyday. We were no longer consumed with the unending wait to go to the rich neighbors house, the one with the Nintendo and the bicycle they did not know how to use -because why else would they not ride or play until they could no longer ignore their rumbling stomachs? We no longer had to find ways to dub over video tapes and cassettes so we could have our own channel O video mix or hits from whatever FM stations we listened to then without our mothers realizing that one of their ‘volume one to sixteen’ tapes was missing. We make new memories every day without even breaking a sweat. But still, those were the days.

If I was to pick out just one memory to never lose though, I could not. But then I just had a fifteen-minute conversation with my Engineer today. Fifteen. And I had done nothing wrong! Just a normal father – daughter catch up. I told him I had a massive back ache (because you do not tell your father that you are having cramps) and something close to malaria at the same time. We talked about how I was too young to start complaining about my back. Then he asked me how school was and I told him I was not sure – we complained that it was taking longer than we thought it would. 2 years they had said but now, it looks like it will be three. We talked about those math units from the last semester. The ones I did not think I would pass much. He said did I not know I was his daughter, I had part engineer brains and there was no way I would fail to scratch at least a pass. I laughed, not because I doubted my share of his gene pool but mostly because I remembered I needed to tell him about my friend. The one that keeps betting on sportspesa and has not won anything yet. And how the other day, he really could not sleep because his stomach ran and ran every time he thought that maybe he would lose that money he bet, the money he had told his wife he didn’t have. He is a funny guy my friend. He did not sleep. He did not win either, poor guy. We laughed not because we do not play but because we understood the wait and the disappointment of having that one team ruin your winning streak all too well. Us, we are waiting for the jackpot, we said as we agreed to send the other ‘kakitu’ when the big bucks came through.

Of course we went back to talks of school. It is what a good parent does. Focus on the big things. We talked about how these universities these days want to keep serving units like special diets, never enough to get you where you want to go so you can stay longer and they can make more money. We talked; and when I hung up, I saw the counter. Fifteen minutes.

We have come a long way, my Engineer and I. Today, I made him laugh. It takes technique to make Engineer laugh like that – that hearty chuckle that fades off but you can still picture him eyes closed (because we cannot laugh and open our eyes at the same time) and chest moving as his faded laughter tickles your ear. And I did it. For fifteen minutes. I did it. He called back a minute later and said he had forgotten to ask if I had a spare cable because the one he had for his phone got lost. I had made him forget that he had a question. I was on a roll. Of course I did not have a spare cable but I said yes and that I would send it the next day because why would I want to break our flow with unnecessary jargon?

I was talking about memories and how we make so many now that we can’t really hold on to them like we do those from way back when. Myself, I have decided I do not want to make any so soon. I want to savor this one for a day, or a week. A couple of months at least. You may not understand if your Engineer calls you just because or if you and your Engineer talk everyday for an hour and joke until your phone battery gives in. Me and mine have come a long way. Fifteen minutes. If I was to pick out just one memory to never lose though, I could not. But then, maybe I now can. We talked. I made him laugh. Fifteen minutes. And tomorrow, I will buy a cable. No, I will buy a charging unit and send it to him so that next time we can do twenty, maybe thirty. And I will be sure the battery will not die on us. Then, I will make my next memory.

Of Queer Habits | My Engineer #1

Nnwa,

Over the years I have picked up many queer habits. Or maybe I should start by telling you I have managed to piss off my engineer today. I did not pick up his call because I was in the middle of something. Not something –  a belated surprise birthday treat that…I digress. That is for another day. So I made him mad enough to send a mad text because he was mad. I did not pick up his call, I did not call back immediately. Queer habit number one.

My engineer and I are not friends. We had no time for that. So he would not know that I do this sometimes, maybe many times. This postponing of talking. If we were friends, perhaps he would know that it is not just with him or that it means something apart from ‘Please, I will call you later’ or ‘Can’t talk now’ or ‘Had a day from hell, need to breathe’. But he does not know, so he thinks it is something that it is not and that is okay, because he does not know and I did not tell him.

Because of this queer habit, sometimes I do not call back for a day or two; or even until you call back and then I realise that was supposed to be something I did. It varies because it depends on the why. There are days that are longer than others and I cannot find my voice at the end. Then there are those that cover you with too many thoughts that you cannot even find yourself. Sometimes I just fell asleep too early – there are many things. Sometimes it is just because this queer habit has caused my mind to believe that you will know it is not a you-thing.  But sometimes later is not soon enough. Sometimes, they do not understand this thing that my mind does when it needs to breathe. I do not have many friends.

Those that understand this queer habit have somehow become those that I talk to very often. I don’t know, maybe it is because with their understanding they have made friends with my mind. Because when it gets back afloat it remembers who reached out. Only that sometimes they have moved on and can no longer be found.

I hope I find a way to break this habit soon. I do not want to cross my engineer’s path this way again. I do not want you to learn this from me. I don’t want you to pick it because not everyone will be your friend, not everyone will understand how it works – this queerness. This world moves fast Nnwa, too fast. Sometimes the moments you lose you do not get back. Do not have queer habits. Pick up your phone. Because you will have your Engineer, perhaps you will be friends but if you won’t be, he will not understand. So I will need you to pick your phone and I will start to learn how not to make this queerness make people mad because in my head, I did not mean to.