Learning to breathe

Archive for the tag “short story”

Red

goth-haircut

On this side of the world, your clothes stick to your body in an uncomfortable embrace and the sun is not familiar with mercy. The nights are no different as the moon and sun are in an eternal conversation; they hardly ever disagree and hardly ever give us respite from the heat. The clouds on the other hand are quite sympathetic…empathic to unfriendly degrees. The clouds shed tears because the Sun and Moon are not merciful to us. Somehow, their tears become unmerciful to us; taking houses away, children too I heard in the news last night and grandparents. What use are tears if they aren’t shed in moderation? They just cause more pain and heartache.

It is unusual how I woke up this morning thinking about the elements.

Maybe it was because I could not get more than two hours of sleep just a little before dawn. If it were possible to shed even my skin so I could have gotten proper sleep, I would have without thinking twice.

My name is Teniola Red. I’m half Nigerian and the other half of me is British and French. I have fair skin and hair that is strawberry red. Both my parents are dead and I have lived most of my life in France but a few months ago I moved to Nigeria with the hope that I will find myself here. I have tried modelling, acting, singing even dancing and failed terribly so now I’m trying my hands at writing. The publishing firm wants the first draft of my book in a month and I don’t even have a plot yet.

“Ugh.” I fling the pen out my flat window and light a cigarette while finding myself a spot beside the window. My neighbor’s husband all but drops his briefcase when he sees me barely clad in underwear and a cigarette. He rearranges his face before his wife sees him gawking.

“Good morning, Mrs Akinyemi!” I call from my window with mischief shining brightly in my eyes.

“Good mo-“, her greeting catches in her throat as she raises her eyes from her phone to look in my direction…ultimately at my body.

I see shock, jealousy, anger and malice flash in her eyes in quick succession before she hisses and says: “Dapo je ka ma lo. Ki lo n ranju mo?! Wonu moto fun mi, my friend!

I wink at Mr Akinyemi shamelessly and continue puffing my cigarette as husband and wife hastily enter their car and drive off.

“Hahahahaha! That was a good one. Totally worth it.”

My laughter is hollow and it echoes through my house reminding me that I’m the one who is alone and not Mrs Akinyemi.   I trudge towards the refrigerator and pour myself some vodka, letting it burn a trail down my throat and allowing it make a fireplace in my stomach.

What is wrong with me?

I rummage through the untidy pile of clothes on my bed for something comfortable to wear in this heat. I finally settle for a tank top and a pair of shorts. I reach for my wallet on top of my wardrobe, feeling around for the leather possession. My hand finds a nylon bag.

Nike’s coke

A smile claims my lips as I grasp the nylon bag in my hand, walking towards the living room table.

I may not have to go out after all.

I remember Nike left her coke here before she traveled to Abuja. I watched her snort some of the stuff before she collapsed on my sofa swearing softly.

“What is it with you and this stuff?” I asked her as I offered her a glass of juice.

She was looking at me but she wasn’t really seeing me. Her eyes were hazy and she had a new moustache of white.

“You can’t understand till you’ve tried it”

“Pshht! Not my thing.”

I eyed her as she lay on the sofa with her head thrown back. She looked content.

I arrange the powdery substance into three lines as I saw her do that day. Only the lines are thicker and a little shorter.

Was this how she did it?

I can’t be precise in these things. I am not familiar with them.  I close my eyes and count to three preparing myself for the euphoria.

One…

Two…

Three…

Oh my God…

Is this euphoria?

 

My head feels light. Very light…

Did Nike snort all three lines at once?

Did the room spin?

Were her fingers tingling?

Was her skin cold?

Did her heart threaten to burst out of her ribcage?

Realizing that I still have control of my legs, I hurry to the kitchen and run water over my head, hoping it will return me to normal condition. But now the kitchen is spinning and the water won’t stop running.

Am I turning the tap the right way?

I hold on to the kitchen sink for dear life before the water, the flood, pulls me under.

Why is it so dark?

Am I dying?! Oh my God! Am I dying?!!

Oh my God! Oh my God!

The darkness is suffocating. The darkness is thick. The darkness is palpable. The darkness is an entity.

Somebody help me!

The darkness is coming for me! It’s coming inside me!

Can anybody hear me?!

Silence…

There is a…bright light.

A very bright light

 Photo credit: http://www.creativefan.com

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Thoughts, thoughts, ramblings, musings

What do I know apart from what I know?

Nothing.

I met someone new and he taught me new things. He taught me things I can’t be sure I know because what a heart knows by heart is what a heart really knows.

What if I know by mind? Or soul? Does that count for nothing?

He taught me new fragrances and  he taught me art. He taught me to feel and he taught me honesty.

He taught me to sing and he taught me to sound breathy.

But I had no intention of staying under his tutelage for long and I disposed of that type of education with the coming of full moon

Till a certain full moon came that I did not stay outside to watch, to admire, to love, to  soak in.

Instead, in slumber I was watched, admired and stolen from.

Rudely awoken at an even number and informed that I wasn’t the only one watched, admired or stolen from while humans slept

You have to hang loosely to things that can easily be forced out of your hand because it was never yours. I learned that under his tutelage, under the full moon.

Another teacher stays a die hard fan

He teaches me but he hardly speaks. Talking is too much. Talking is unnecessary; he  lives like a blackboard and chalk.

A walking illustration, he is

I stay here to muse and wonder about the teachers I learned from this past week and my mind recoils, not wanting to process any of it fully. Doesn’t want to have to process anything.

Some things are best left the way they were given you

Other things are gifts you have to check thoroughly in the mouth

Do you understand any of this? Does your mind keep you up at night?

Will you lose yourself in the forest that is your mind?

Or will you build a safe house somewhere at the edge?

Either way, you’re not really safe in the thing that is your mind

There is always something unsafe about safe so choose which direction of unsafe you will fall.

Before you are pushed over the edge

Tchink and Eden (Chapter 5)

“What are you?”

She smiles as she hauls me out of the liquid “I was expecting a ‘who”?

“What?” I am puzzled.

“Who are you?’  Not ‘what are you?”

What difference does it make? I say to myself.

I see the stag on the other side of the foreign lake, resting. My heart is no longer beating hard and I take this to mean that I am no longer afraid. I must have left my wits at the bottom of this lake because if I had them about me I would spread my wings and fly far far away from these…things. Yet, there is something about the way this being is fashioned that compels me to stay and study her. I know it’s a ‘her’ because she sounds feminine. Aside from that there isn’t anything feminine about her in the lome sense of the word; she looks nothing like Yovec or Mama Tchaek. Something like a lot of gold colored yarn is sprouting from her head the way grass sprouts from the ground.

Does she water her head, then?

Her skin is not pale or even translucent but it glows and is the color of a baby lome’s nose when he is crying. Her eyes are endless depth of blue and they are half the size of my endless depths of black. Amazingly, it does not diminish their beauty; I could stare into her eyes for the rest of my life now that I have lost my wits. She is robed in white like a fresh born lome too.

Why does she have robes on? Does she have something to hide? Or is she just a large, deformed baby lome?

Suddenly, I feel naked and a shade of pink creeps into my cheeks when she turns and catches me staring at her.

“I’m surprised you do not ask questions.” She says as she bends once again, reaching into the strange lake with her left hand.

“My mother gives me firm knocks on me head when I ask visitors and strangers questions. She says I don’t mind me business”

She laughs. Her laughter is deep and throaty…bubbling up from her insides.

“Maybe you do ask a lot of questions then but I can handle your questions. Go on, ask.”

She still has her left hand beneath the surface and she is still bent uncomfortably, facing the other direction, facing the stag.

“Who are you? What is your name? Where are you from?”

“My name is Lysa. You needn’t know where I am from; you wouldn’t understand.”

“I dinna want to think that you think me to be simple.”

“No, you’re not simple, Tchink. If you were simple, you wouldn’t be standing here right now.”

My heart slammed against my chest.

“How do you know my name?”

“There are a lot of things that I know, Tchink. For example, I know that you should be meeting your friends at the meadow right now and I also know that you would love some fish.”

She finally brings her hand out of the liquid and along with her hand, a big wriggly thing. It looks like an over fed slug with big eyes and mouth. She calls it fish and she says that I would like to have some of it but all I want to do is run to the meadow.

“I would love to get back to my friends now.”

She smiles again then nods her approval.

“We have so much to talk about Tchink but you can go meet your friends now.”

My heart swells with relief and sadness at the same time but I manage to spread my wings and fly.

I will come back for my wits at a more opportune time.

Tchink and Eden (Chapter 4)

Just before dawn, I sneak out of my room through my little window. The only window in my room actually and fall silently on lush carpet of grass. I walk alone down the narrow path; my only companion is the sound of my feet. Even the early birds haven’t sung this morning. Fog hangs thickly around me and all I can see clearly is the space ahead of me.  I inhale the morning air, feeling cleansed instantly. I close my eyes for a minute and just…feel.

I stop at the lake of decon to drink; I woke up thirstier than parched land. I am careful not to lean forward too much as I bend to take a sip of the refreshing liquid. When I have my fill, I look just a little above the surface of the lake and see a beautiful stag directly opposite me. Its gaze becomes very disturbing after a few minutes and I splash some decon its way, in the hope that it would run back into the bushes. But this stag does not move an inch or bat an eye. Curious, I splash some more. The animal still does not move. Audacity shines in its eyes. I refuse to lose a staring contest to an animal so I sit on the grass, by the lake, and stare right back.

After what seems like eternity, the animal slowly turns back into the bushes and I let out the air I hadn’t realised I was been holding.  I start down the path again towards the meadow to meet Yovec and Tcheb but I only took a few steps when I feel a piercing gaze boring into my wings. My heart pushes against its cage and I will my feet to continue moving against their wish. I don’t know what it is I feel right now. Fear? It cannot be, it shouldn’t be…it’s just a stag. Stags can do nothing to me. Yet, I can hear my heart louder than the sound of my feet.

Before I think of dispelling the thought from my mind, I break into a run. Not in the direction of the meadow so Tcheb and Yovec won’t think a foul spirit has got me. I don’t know where I’m running. All the trees look the same at this speed and not once do I stop running until I come into an opening that looks something like the meadow where Tcheb, Yovec and I meet but this one is smaller. I can spread my wings to fly now if I sense the stag or another like it is in this area.

The sun is out in its full glory in this meadow and I start to wonder if I ran for so long.

It can’t be.

I see a lake just ahead of me and I gingerly approach the lake, thirsty.

My jaw drops open as I find that the liquid in the lake is nothing like decon. It is…is..colorless and I can see my likeness in it. I take small steps backward and away from the water with my heart pushing strongly against my chest. I turn around slowly only to find the stag a few staggered breaths away from me. The stag is the colour of fresh decon and its eyes bore into me, past my skin and bones. My feet are moving backward.

Backward

Backward

And I find myself falling into the lake of unknown liquid.

There isn’t any time to panic. I try to compose a scream but bubbles emerge from my mouth.

It feels like time has stopped and I’m not going to drown. I know this with a shocking certainty; I will not drown. I fall deeper and deeper into the lake and let its warmth envelop me completely. Just before I shut my eyes, I see a hand reaching down into the liquid towards me. The further I sink down into the liquid, the hand reaches further down…

I reach for the hand just to be sure I am not dead yet. In an instant, I am out of the lake and find that the hand is not attached to a lome but a being with eyes the colour of the sky…

Tchink and Eden (Chapter 3)

Tcheb, Yovec and didn’t see each other that day after the morning’s episode but Yovec’s words couldn’t find their way out of my head. I rolled the thought over and over in my head and tried desperately to make meaning of it.

What if a lome had come back from exploring other parts of the world?

But then, Yovec said that it didn’t look like any of us. Maybe it was a lome but it looked different because Yovec was flying above it.

What exactly did she see?

I want to believe without doubt that Yovec saw a lome and thought it to be something else but I know it wasn’t

It wasn’t.

“Tchink, boy!”

I jumped off from the spot I had been sitting on. Mama Tchaek had asked me to fetch her a fresh drum of decon for the meeting Papa Tchlan was going to have with the older lomes at our home. I hurriedly grabbed my pail and dunked it into the lake. Somehow, I managed to dunk myself into the lake along with the pail.

I came up spluttering but triumphant with a full pail of decon. I practically ran towards our house and towards Mama Tchaek.

She was standing arms akimbo in front of the house but instead of the disapproving look I expected to find on her face, I found she was amused and she was trying so hard not to break into a fit of laughter.

“I fetched a fresh pail, Mama” Some decon from my head had found its way down my face and a puddle of decon began to form at the spot where I stood.

“Did a foul spirit push you into the lake, Tchink?”

“No, Mama. I dinna look-”

Mama Tchaek finally burst out laughing. She fell on the front porch laughing. She laughed hard, holding her sides.

My lips curled up in a smile, I must be a sight for Mama Tchaek to laugh so hard. I ran past her and poured the decon into the drum and ran back out to the lake to fetch some more so I could move on to other chores.

The path to the lake was narrow and windy but opened up into a small circle of lush grass around the lake. I am the only one at the lake at this time. I wonder what Yovec and Tcheb are doing and I hope that Yovec isn’t still in shock about what she saw. I couldn’t wait till afternoon when we would finally see each other to talk properly about what Yovec saw. Excitement rushed through me as the Sun shone brighter, drying off the decon on my body.

I’m fetching my last pail of decon now and I stop for a minute to admire the lamb that wandered towards the lake. It had come from amidst the bushes and I made a mental note to tell Yovec and Tcheb about the new path I had discovered. For now, I’ll concern myself with finishing my chores before noon.

 

I listened in on the elder lomes’ meeting. They were talking about boring affairs like home boundaries and constructing a new home for Chief Kerst. Noon came soon after and I rushed off to the meadow; that’s where we meet during the day. Yovec was already there waiting.

“Yovec!” She smiled and offered me her hand as I made to sit on the rock beside her.

“Tchink, where’s Tcheb?”

“I dinna know. He should be here soon. Tell me about the thing you saw this morning, Yovec. I’ve been dying to hear all day.”

“What do you want to hear, Tchink?”

“I want to hear what it looked like.”

Yovec jumped off the rock, fell on her knees and began to yank some grass out of the earth.

“What are you doing?”

She ignored me and continued plucking grass. When she had two handfuls she sat on what was left of the grass and piled the grass on her head. Then she reached for two big leaves and put one at her chest level before placing the other at the point where her legs began.

“Are you alright, Yovec?” I heard Tcheb say from behind me.

“She had something like this on top of her head and it was the color of decon. Then she had something to cover her body. That’s how I knew she wasn’t like us.”

“But she could’ve been carrying some things on her back, Yovec. You probably mistook what she was carrying for all this you’re describing, Yovec.” Tcheb explained.

“She looked at me! That’s why I fell.” Yovec was standing now. I could see frustration in her eyes. “She didn’t have our eyes. Her eyes were smaller…like the size of seeds and they had the colour of the sky in the afternoon.”

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