Black Roses

black

In a voice dripping with so much empathy it was disgusting, they doled out rehearsed lines, a million times retold. “We are truly sorry madam, we did our best to save her”. Those were not the words i was expecting to hear, this was not a possible scenario. I was supposed to become her mother today, now I’m not sure who I am. “Oko  yin nko“, the nurse was asking me where Ade was, like I was supposed to know. Knowing his whereabouts was not my problem. It was his mother’s. My mind, traitor that it is, remembers. it remembers exactly why this was not supposed to happen.

…………..
“Mum, I’m pregnant”. I blurted out the truth I had known for weeks, as her eyes travelled from her pot to my eyes, I knew she had already figured it out. “Whose is it?”, she asked, “is it that stupid boyfriend of yours?” her voice heavy with disappointment and dangerously veiled anger. She stirred the stew with so calmly that I thought she was going to pour it all over me. She proceeded to tell me what I already knew, she expected more, with eyes glistening with tears, she told me my options, the ones she was willing to give me. “Tokunbo, listen to me very carefully, you can either get an abortion(which is illegal in my country) or you can marry him. If you’re old enough to have a baby, you’re ready for marriage.” Then the real speech began, how she a single mother struggled to put me through school when my father(whom I had never met) left. Then the tears began while I watched, dry eyed.
Two weeks later, mummy Tokunbo dragged me to my future in-laws house to explain how their son and I were stupid enough to put a fetus in my body. His parents were pastors, they had a reputation to uphold. It was decided, we would get married. I was a fresh graduate, he had just finished his service year. He said he loved me, that was before this alien invaded my body, now he looks at me with contempt. I barely remember if the sex was good now, apparently condoms are no guarantee.
His parents would pay for the wedding. Mama Tokunbo had no husband, I was her mistake too. I wish I could tell you that it was perfect, that I wore a lovely white dress, that my father walked me down the aisle. I wish Ade looked at me like I was the only virgin in the room, but that would be a sweet delusion.
I had a dress, it was yellow and it was ugly. I walked down the aisle alone. Their stares were like daggers, they wondered how I could break my poor mother’s heart after all she did to support me Their thoughts ended with ‘like mother, like daughter’, I’m sure. Halfway down, it chose that epic moment to kick.
Ade could barely look at me, He blamed me for being the irresponsible womb that chose to carry his alien. At least, he showed up, albeit unshaven, dishelved, and hung over. What is left of what is right for us is this façade of a marriage built on guilt, and a never-ending blame game.
In my mind’s eye, I tried to imagine what our lives together would be like. Would he become an alcoholic? Would he give up on us? Would he love it? Would he be the father it needed? What would become of it? Could I love it? Would it repeat my mistakes?
I slowly walked down the aisle to my new life, a spineless bag of fears and doubts. The deep baritone voice of the pastor told me that I had reached the altar and it cut into my thoughts unapologetically as he asked, “do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband?”, with such expectation. My mother’s eyes told me what I must say. I wondered if she would live with him and cook his meals. I allowed myself that playful thought before I heard myself say ‘yes’, when I wanted to scream ‘no’ from the rooftops.

………….
The tears would never be enough, I held her for all of five seconds before she turned blue and stopped breathing. I was supposed to be a mother, she was supposed to make him smile at me again. My heart is ice cold, barely beating beneath my chest, if I could go back…

END

Author’s note: This is based on a true story. There is nothing new under the sun, but a story though a thousand times retold should never lose its ability to stir our hearts.
Olamide

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I am She

I was doomed from the beginning.
Before I got a chance to know my family,
I was sold into slavery.
My father was royalty,
but when my new parents came,
He sold me off like a bale of cotton.

So, I became one of them.
Dressed like them,
Talked like them.
Ate, what they ate and quickly, I forgot my roots.
I was perfect at birth they said,
Ten fingers and toes all wonderfully made,
A headful of coarse black hair.
And no identity.

Throughout adolescence,
I was at war within myself.
I had many vices;
The love of money,
Of all things glittery and sweet
Of murder, drunkenness, and pride.
Many have died for me,
“For you”, they said, all for you.

I had an inheritance, but they took it all away, and called it theirs.
They named my streets after their sons while my father looked on unable to stop them.
My lands, my people, my crops…All gone!
My oil was my nemesis
It bubbled from within me
And came forth black, sweet and pleasant.
For a moment, it was my salvation,
Now, it seems it will be the death of me.
It is all I have left,
Until there is nothing left of me.
Today, I am coming of age
I weep for my sons, who have squandered it all,
For my daughters, who are struggling to rebuild me.

There is much to be grateful for,
For peace, however fragile,
For the seasons and for time,
For time, heals all wounds
I am in labour, while the world looks on
Each birth pang piercing through my core.
The world awaits a generation who will rejoice in my heritage,
Who will take back all that I have lost,
Who will reclaim my lost glory,
A generation that would not be ashamed to call me ‘mama’.

I am of many cultures woven loosely together.
Beautiful on the outside
Broken on the inside
Many wars rage on in my heart,
Those caused by beliefs, tribes and tongues that never agree.
The odds are against me, it would seem.
But, I am Nigeria,
I will thrive.

(c) Olamide Oti, 2014

Daddy’s Little Girl

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My earliest memory as a human was the day that I was born. I vividly recall my last night behind the walls that protected me and held me captive; smooth, firm, unyielding yet safe. The stranger whose uterus had imprisoned me had been restless all day. I had been tossed and turned in a million directions, swirling and bathing in the pool which was my home. I realized that the time had come to exit my cocoon. Then it happened, and I finally met the stranger whose body had been my home for months, and I knew she was my mother and the dark-skinned man  beside her who was grinning from ear to ear had to be my father.

I miss my childhood, the best memories of my life lie therein. I long for the innocence and resilience only a child can have and the reckless abandon with which we lived. One minute I was a zygote and the next, I’m all grown up and old enough to vote. I am no longer the young, charming innocent who could get away with the worst things. I have allowed the cruelty and bitterness in this world to taint and change me, and so I evolved into a cynical twenty-something year old who wants to be a child again.

My earliest memory of my family dates back to a different age. It was my fourth birthday, and my father had decided to take us all out. I remember my grandmother dressing us up in dungarees  and my mom weaving my hair into pigtails. We got into our sturdy and faithful yellow Mercedes Benz and off we went. He took us to the beach and we had the most terrifying horse riding experiences ever.

Then tragedy struck and things changed. We had to move, leaving behind our home, our friends and family. I received my first culture shock that year and grew up fast. Things were different, my father who was once so loving and playful had become a shadow which I barely recognized. I remember a conversation we had when I was six years old. I said to him, “Daddy should I call you Major, Sergeant, or Father?” and in his gruff and emotion-laden voice he replied, “Call me daddy”. I was ecstatic! My father hadn’t changed because he loved me less, he had changed because he felt inadequate as a father and a provider.

He taught me to ride the bicycle and caught me each time I fell. He taught me to play chess and made those tough years blissful. He always did say “Tough times never last, but tough people do”. I could not have picked a better father or family. He is the furthest thing from perfect. I would know, I inherited his feet, his dogged determination, his temper and his wit. Although, we are not the most expressive people in the world, but I’ll never forget the day my dad kissed my cheek. It was my first year in Med school and I had come home for the weekend and that’s when I knew for sure that he loved me and was proud of me.I miss being a child but I cannot wait to grow up and make him even prouder to be my dad, and in my heart of hearts I know that no matter how old I get, I will always be daddy’s little girl and he will always be my hero.