Memory Palace

You moved out exactly a year ago and it’s the first time you’ve gone visiting since then. Your cousin who took over the house cajoled you several times to pay her a visit but between work and every other hustle, you were just not able to find the time to. Or at least, that’s what you told yourself.

Now tonight, as you step in there for the very first time in 12 months, you feel the assault on your mind as the memories come flooding back. Right from the doorstep. Every single corner of the house holds a memory. The living room, your bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen… everywhere significantly reminds you of him and in a matter of seconds, you find yourself falling back and crashing through time, roughly landing in memories you thought had been discarded forever.

The couch in the living room reminds you of weekends spent cuddling in front of the TV as you watched episode after episode of your favourite shows. Arrow, House of Cards, Breaking Bad…

You shut your eyes as you walk into your bedroom- rather, your former bedroom and there are flashes of you both wriggling on the bed, bodies moving in perfect rhythm to music emanating from your souls. You see dimly lit candles surrounding your small bed and rose petals littered on the floor. You shut the door behind you and cover your eyes with both hands, willing the images to vanish but they don’t. They become even more alive and you can smell his sweat in that instant.

You forcefully open your eyes and slowly walk out of the room. You stop by the dispenser close to the kitchen and as you fill your glass with water, you hear him hiccupping and asking for some water. You see yourself filling the glass up and taking several gulps before handing it to him, all the while laughing like a mischievous three year old at an amusement park.

Then you realize that you can’t hold the glass still because your hands are shaking and you walk into the kitchen where you see him standing over your shoulder as you prepare his favorite meal of fried yams and vegetable sauce.

The entire house is a memory palace. Every corner holds something tangible and significant, it is almost too surreal. You remember countless arguments with him yelling and you calmly pacifying him. You remember hushing him with kisses when you sensed a fight brewing, you remember decent massages after long, busy days at work. You remember a lot of things you coulda sworn you’d forgotten forever.

At this point, you realize you can’t even fight the memories and so you surrender to a fight you lost even before it started and you let the memories make their way back home with no inhibitions. They are so much and you just open your heart up to them.

Like how he’d lean on the bathroom frame while you did your laundry. How he would help slice the ugwu as you prepared your special Egusi soup. You remember the one time you took really ill and were home alone. If he had not showed up that day, you probably would have died. But he did and even as your eyes fluttered open and shut, you saw the look of panic in his eyes as he lifted you carefully and rushed you into his car and straight to a hospital.

You remember how the relationship ended. It was quite far away from the house. Out of town even. But you had to come back to that house when it was over.  You remember how you were brave for three days before finally giving in to the hurt and sinking to the floor of your living room with your back to the kitchen door. You remember crying your eyes and your heart out on that floor. And then you remember taking the decision to move and leave it all behind. The house, the memories, even the city.

It’s your first time back and it’s amazing how you suddenly remember everything with such startling clarity. You sigh and then you pick up your phone to text him. You have not communicated with each other in such a long time. Of course, he’s the ex for a reason. You’re not sure you miss him. You think you do, but you’re honestly not sure. Perhaps, it’s just being back at the house for the first time. You’re uncertain what you feel but you think you should text him.

So you unlock your iPhone and find his name in your contacts. You begin to compose a text and immediately, you stop and ask yourself. “What is the point?” What are you even going to say in the text? “Hey, I’m at my old place and it’s filled with memories of you?” Right.

You slide the phone back on the center table, walk into the bedroom and shut the door. You’re only here for a couple of nights. Surely you can get through them without doing something stupid.

Letter to B

letter to B

Dear B,
Today is December 10, 2013. There’s nothing really different about today. Nothing unusual. Just that this day a year ago, you told me for the very first time that you loved me. And in one night, after about a month of hanging out with some random guy, I suddenly had a beau.
I know how girls go on and on about how their man is different and unique and special and awesome and bla bla bla. But you, for real, you’re different. I think I suffered a kinda culture shock being with you. Your different is annoying. I say annoying because I’m still beefing you for being so awesomely different. You do have some of the regular human traits but the things that make you different? Arrggghh. Sometimes they’re cool, sometimes they make me want to shake you to bits. Lemme draw a list sha
• You speak clean decent English and you’ve got some interesting words in your vocab. Like pedantic. I learnt that from you and it’s one of my favorite words. You also say “ridiculous” a lot. And without intending to, I found myself doing same.
• You think outside the box. Naah. Scratch that. You think outside the outside of the box. For you there has always got to be a why. And then you always consider various perspectives. You’re certainly not a tunnel vision (a ‘new’ concept I learnt from you too btw) kinda person.
• Then you have the most insane amount of random information stored up in your head. That makes me really mad and very jealous (but jealous in a totally cute way 🙂 ). You know so much about too many random stuff. Literature, music, art, econ, geography, sports, (oh yeah, I became a ManU fan because of you :D) dance, government, world politics, just name it. You sha know something about everything.
• And then you’re skilled at so many things. Football, dance, martial arts… I remember the first time I tried to practice my small martial art skills on you. Let’s just say, I knew after that to never ever try to ‘fight’ with you.
• You do NOT wash. In fact, you cannot wash to save your life. And this is really great because whenever I get compliments from you, I know they’re honest and straight from your heart.
• You’re realistic. You don’t build castles in the air or chase vague dreams. You’re always talking about probability and real choices and decisions. You’re a Do-Something kinda person. I remember the day I walked into church and saw you and your brother picking litter. I asked if everything was okay and you said “yeah, the place is just dirty so we decided we’d clean up.” I smiled to myself. That was so you! Always proactive 🙂
• You’re tough on me. No sugar coating. You tell me the truth as it is. And always you drive me to do better and shine brighter. Always you say “babe, read the news, read articles” and I’m like “psssh. The news is all violence. I don’t have time… bla bla bla.” But now I’ve started reading the news. And articles. Not because you asked, but because just like you, I want a better me. And I promise you, I won’t stop.
You make me proud B, always. Because you’re stubborn and driven and motivated and hardworking and selfless. If I’m so proud, I can only imagine how your parents feel. You’re really an asset. Precious, priceless.
You make me happy. Not because you’re thoughtful or sweet or soppy or sensitive. Truth is, you’re not anything like that. Lol. I’m laughing as I type this coz I remember how many times we fought over those stuff. Like when I saw my name stored in your phone as “Ogechi Nwobia.” I hit the roof. Shuo! Am I your business partner? Lol. We reached a compromise though. In fairness to you, you have tried to be more mushy on my account. And it’s both funny and cute.
I remember you jumping the fence at Garki market for me. I just had to write “the most romantic act ever.” It was the nicest most thoughtful thing ever. I can’t think of anyone who’d have done that for me.
You make me happy because you’re real, you’re honest and you’re true. There are no shades, no layers. There’s just you. With you, I am not just myself. I am a better version of myself. With you I feel contentment. That feeling of having everything and lacking nothing. That’s not common. But that’s what you give and I’m grateful. I started writing this a long time ago, I guess now’s the perfect time for you to have it
“Without the heart, there’d be no heartbeat
Without the heartbeat, there’d be no life
You are my heart…

Without a weakness, there’d be perfection
But perfection for mortals is only an illusion
You are my Archilles’ heel…

Hercules, Tarzan, Batman, superman,
Unreal heroes from fables and movies,
But you are my living breathing hero…

With you there’s a better me
With me, there’s a nicer you.
Defying all the odds,
We stuck on each other like glue
In truth, I wouldn’t have it any other way…

There’s so much I can say to you but you don’t really like long soppy stuff so I’ll end on this note. You said “some people make you feel good, others make you feel better and a few make you feel great. You make me feel great.”
To that I say “Roses are red, violets are blue, no one I love as much as you.”
Thank you for the past year.

Thief that stole…

I was there o. minding my own business and just trying to get by
And then you had to manifest ya crazy sef
Who sent you sef?
Oh I remember her
The woman that asked you to coach me
Coach is all you were asked to do o
Not make me laugh
Not tease me endlessly
Not text me all day
Not keep me company at every point
Not avail your shoulders for me to sleep on
Not listen to me bare my heart
Not help find me a good place to be
Just coach
That’s all you were asked to do
I did not mind your jokes
I did not mind your tease
I did not mind the texts
I did not mind your company
I did not mind your comfy shoulders
I did not mind your listening ear
I did not mind the good place you got me
But I did mind the robbery
I trusted you very much
And that was my “undoing”
Because you used that against me
And You robbed me
You stole my heart
And cupid shamelessly watched on

Coach is all you were asked to do
Not make me fall in love with you
Now see what you done did
Every moment I’m thinking of you
And smiling like an idiot too
At some point all love songs were silly
Now they have absolute meaning
And even my poem from forever ago
Seems like it was written just for you

“When I first met you
I knew for good measure
That what I did do
Was for true pleasure
Try as I may
To think less of you
I find out day by day
That I am made a fool
To keep you from my heart
Is a lifetime in jail
I thought I was smart
But my courage went stale
Now I have discovered
With you, true love is real precious
And also recovered
From being too cautious”

That’s for you, the thief that stole my heart.
-The Hopeless Romantic

Most romantic act ever

– B, could we please go to Garki market after work today? I’ve got to make soup tonight. Mum’s coming to town.
– Okay, sure. As long as it doesn’t take too long.
– Thanks luv
I know how much guys hate markets. I really did not want to ask but I did not have much of a choice. It was the most convenient way to get the shopping done.
He shows up at my office at about 5:00pm looking really casual in a T-shirt and shorts. I get into the car and he drives off. The roads are heavy with traffic. Not surprising. It is rush hour and most people are in a hurry to get home. Certainly not favourable driving conditions. We get to the market alright and before our very eyes the main gate gets shut.
“Ahan, what’s going on?” I ask no one in particular
“I dunno. Let’s chill for a while and see if they’ll open it.”
I shrug and go back to chatting away on bbm.
After a while, he leaves the car, goes to make enquiries and returns a few minutes later. He puts the car in reverse and tries to fit the car into a parking space he found by the road. I’m not the driver, so I keep clicking away on my phone.
“Babe, you should be helping me, not be on your phone.” Irritation laced the edges of his voice and I quickly put the phone away. We park the car nicely, get out and walk into the market. We notice a bit of commotion going on as we walk towards the entrance. Men dressed in yellow and maroon simply say the market has closed and no one is to go in again.
I cannot believe it. I actually think it’s funny. And then I walk to the other gate and they say the same thing. I decide to use my “lady charm” and get one of the guys there to let me in.
“Oga, I’ve had a long day, please I just want to buy a few things and go home to cook. My mother’s coming to town abeg.”
He looks at me and smiles
“Ahh, aunty, I wish I could help you o. but my oga is inside there looking at us, if I let you in now, I will be in trouble.”
I smile back and continue
“But you will not be in trouble now. It’s only me, abeg. Just let me go inside and buy a few things. I’ll be out before you know it. I didn’t even know this market had a closing time. Look at me, I’m just coming from work, ehn oga? Abeg na.”
But Oga would not budge and I gradually become tired. I look behind me and “B” is no longer there. And I began thinking “why did I have to drag him here with me today? He’ll just vex now”
I’m about giving up on the “Oga at the gate” when the all too familiar ring tone “stereo heart” plays into my ear. I wonder why he’s calling me. Probably to get my attention, I assume. I look up but can’t see him so I answer.
“Babe, omo, I think I can jump this fence o”
The fatigue I’m experiencing disappears in a second. Say wha?????
I laughed tiredly still
“Baby, there’s no need, let’s go home.”
I’m walking towards where I left him and in seconds he comes into view.
“Babe, I’m serious. I really think I can. It won’t be a big deal”
I am tired. Too tired for this. He hangs up and we meet up with each other. He’s got to be kidding, I think.
“Babe, I’m serious. I really can. Look. No one is paying attention. Just tell me what you need.”
I laugh and lovingly place my arms around his waist.
“No baby, really, it’s not worth it. Let’s just go back to the car. Besides, I’ll need to see the things myself to know what quantity to buy.”
He’s still insisting on going in and eventually, he wriggles free from my grip and looks into my eyes. I look right back into his and what I see there shocks me. He’s not joking! He’s actually serious! That all too familiar twinkle is there! The one that tells me he’s up to some serious mischief and nothing I do can make him change his mind. Then I really begin to freak out!
“Baby no! No! No way! I won’t let you do that. You can’t! It’s crazy! You shouldn’t!”
He’s laughing all the while and he says “it’s really easy. Look, let me show you how easy.”
I think I’m going to pass out from fright. And I keep trying to dissuade him. We argue for a few more minutes and eventually, I reluctantly give him the money and my list. I’m still sceptical and I say
“What if they catch you?”
He laughs and says
“They won’t. If anyone starts pursuing, I’ll get lost in the market”
The two gates are about 150 metres apart. The “security men” to our right are totally oblivious to our presence but I fear that if he jumps in, one of them just might notice. The other group to the left keep glancing our way intermittently. I’m so frightened; I feel like I’m going to faint. There is a car and a pillar shielding us but only partly and I’m so scared that if he jumps, someone might actually notice.
I turn my back to him, I really can’t watch. Almost can’t breathe either. And in a few seconds, he neatly takes on the fence and lands softly on the other side, on both feet. I am literally seconds away from passing out. No kidding. I wait for someone to raise an alarm and for the chase to begin but nothing of the sort happens. Instead, the people at the first gate create a barricade, shutting in those who are still in the market. I begin to panic again. And then he calls
“I’m in. just text me the prices”
“Baby, they’re locking people in the market, maybe you should just come back”
“Ehn? Abegi! Let me see how they will lock everybody inside. I haven’t even gotten to where they sell foodstuff. Just text me the prices.”
I say ok and do like he has said.
I’m so giddy from the entire experience, I’m trying hard not to pass out and so I remind myself to breathe. I keep pacing the sidewalk and his calls keep coming in.
“Don’t you need tomato?
The onions look small. Maybe I should buy some more?”
I eventually lean my back on the very fence he leaped over and I’m thinking “what manner of love is this that a man drops every form of freshness and swagger to jump the fence and get me all I need to cook?”
He creeps up behind me and startles me. I jump and then he laughs. He’s got that really charming grin on his face and then he walks away towards the gate. A couple of people who notice us from within the market laugh. Maybe they think him startling me is cute but they have no idea!
He walks out of the market, blending into the crowd like the rest and no one will ever know he got in illegally… my hero! And then he says “see? How easy was that?!” I laugh and hug him really hard. To him, this was nothing but to me it is everything!
He takes me home and I hurriedly whip up his favourite meal. It’s the least I can do to say thank you. That to me, was the most romantic act ever…
Because he will walk into his office the following morning, clad in a suit and tie with neatly polished shoes and he will carry his mini laptop bag containing a mac and an iPad and no one will know he is the very same guy who jumped a fence only the previous night for his lady!
….the Hopeless Romantic

Diabetic Love

diabetic love
Sweets, sweetie, sweetheart,
Mine, my boo, my darling, my love,
My sweetness, my sunshine,
My heartbeat, my soulmate
Nkem, Obi’m, Uso’m baby’m,
Ifunanyam, oyoyo’m, yori yori’m
I could suffer from diabetes with all the names you called me
Matter of fact, I did
Way too much sweetness, I’d say that’s what killed me
Way too much sweetness
It killed my ability to reason
To think
To be logical
It killed my ability to question
When your actions didn’t match your words
When the distance was more emotional than physical
When you were physically present but emotionally absent
When I asked why, you called me more names
“Obi’m you worry too much”
I really felt like I was your heart
Like without me, you wouldn’t truly live
But the signs were all there
I tried to tell myself the truth
It seemed your heart had been taken by another
But I couldn’t bear to think that I would have to walk away
Away from all that sweetness
Away from all those words
Away from all those names
Sweet nothings
That’s what you whispered to me
Empty words
Even though I thought they held something
In time I was to know better
The long walks in the park
Counting the stars late at night
Lengthy conversations over the phone
Sweet messages in the morning
They were tattooed in my heart all through the day
And the ones at night too
They inspired my dreams
And fuelled my fantasies
I should have walked away
But I couldn’t
I was trapped in the diabetic love
The diabetic love you offered me
All sugar with nothing healthy
And so I died
Slowly but surely
Your diabetic love killed me
Because the sugar destroyed me
And when you finally decided you were done
I did not stand a chance
You walked away without looking back
Without a second thought or glance
“Nkem, Obi’m, Uso’m baby’m,
Ifunanyam, oyoyo’m, yori yori’m”
It was all for nothing
You simply gave me diabetes
And left me to die with no cure…

…The Hopeless Romantic