Friday, 12 November 2010

Unforgiven & Not Forgotten

Samson Okereke was and still is my old time friend of mine. The last time I was here, just before I left for uni we had a small disagreement.
Through the years we've shared good times and bad times. We've made each other laugh, we've even made each other cry, but all in all he is one of the few people I consider a good friend.
Samson smiles at me and Peace, his wide smile showing his small gap in his upper set of teeth. He reaches out and I do the same; both of us greeting the African way; strong handshake ending with a click. He ushers me and my sister in. 
Samson's home is spotless; as it's always been. Instinctively me and Peace take off our shoes. Aunty Mfon (Samson's mum) doesn't allow people with footwear in the living room.

One day when me and Samson were kids, I was over at his place. He made the mistake of wearing his shoes into the living room. His mum was not happy! She looked down at the carpet at the tiny little stain his shoes made and began cussing him out in Efik, her mother-tongue (His dad is Igbo)...anyway lets just say from that the on, he never made that mistake again. (Not while she was around anyway.)

The living room is a beautiful place. It wasn't too over decorated; it was simplistic yet very noticeable. His mother is an interior designer. Samson stands by the doorway of the living room.

"Can I get you anything to eat or drink guys?" asked Samson.
"Nah, man. I'm good" I replied.
"I'm ok thanks" says Peace
"Are you sure?..Come on; Don't act like strangers in my house. I've just finished cooking"
I laugh at Samson and shake my head.
"In that case it's a definite no. I've tasted your cooking before. Never again"
"Hush up, boy. I've improved my cooking skills since I last saw you. Besides you can't even cook rice; Infact you can't even cook water!" he says amused.

Peace giggles. I nudge her with my elbow. I guess they both remember the time I tried to cook pasta. It was when I was 12 or 13. I used one of my mum's expensive cooking pots she uses for special occasions. I put water on to boil and forgot about it, I was watching 'Kenan & Kel'. Too cut a long story short the pot almost burnt and mum was ANGRY. After landing me with combination of smacks she made me kneel down and raise up my hands. Lucky for me dad wasn't home.
Samson leaves to go to the kitchen. He's gone for a few minutes then returns with a plate full of food and a glass of coke. He has alot on his plate. Chicken, rice, salad and fish. He looks at me and Peace teasing us with his eyes.

"So, Mikel how was your graduation ceremony?" Samson asks me with his mouth full.
"It was ok. Just like other graduation ceremonies...long and boring"
"Peace; you're very...peaceful today, how comes? You’re not runnin' your mouth as usual." Samson says cheekily.

"You used to talk just as much as me, sometimes even more." She responds kissing her teeth.
Samson always likes to teas her.
"What about your mum and dad?" he asks
"They're fine thanks" I reply.

Samson was very popular with my parents; my dad especially. Samson was extremely bright and always did well in school and my father never let me forget that. I recall times when he would say "Don't you see your mate, Samson?! See how well he's doing! You should try to be like him; even better..Does he have two heads?...If he can achieve high then so can you!" That was one thing which almost stood between me and Samson.
In recent years Samson has decided he doesn't want to go to uni. I laugh to myself when I think of this. If only my father knew; he wouldn't think Samson is so perfect anymore.

"So, have you started job hunting?" Samson asks between mouthfuls.
"No and I don't plan to anytime soon. I just wanna relax abit." I reply nonchalantly
"Serious? I thought you would have had something coming up by now"
"Well, you know...Your dad? He's a serious guy I thought he'd probably..."
I decide to cut him off because I know where he's going with this convo.
"Forget about my father for now. I'm grown now. What about you? You found a job yet?"
"Easy, bro. I was just askin'." He takes a big bite out his chicken. Samson really needs to learn table manners.

"Have you decided what you wanna do with yourself?" I ask him
He stops chewing for a split second then swallows hard.
"I'm going through my options"
"Haha! I wish my dad could hear this. He’d see how wrong he is about you"
Peace giggles a bit.
"What's funny?" I ask
"I was just thinking about the times dad always used to compare you to Samson"
"Don't remind me" I reply.

Samson looks on at us curiously.
"For real? So your dad actually does that? Wow."
"He used to. And it was very annoying. If only he knew how you behaved outside school"
"My grades made up for my behaviour. Besides you're no angel yourself.
"I never said I was. But compared to you...."
"Well that's the thing Mikel, compared to me I still got ranks over you. You just said your father compares you to me; ha! Anyway I guess were on the same level now. Seeing as you also don't know what to do with yourself"

Although he's joking I don't find it funny.

"Relax, Obi. You know Sam is kidding with you" Peace says.
"Well, I have my degree...from uni" I say without smiling
"A degree you didn't want. So hush Mikel"
It seems tensions are rising. I have a slight flashback to our last meeting; our disagreement. I won't lie; I kind of feel bitter now.

There is a small moment of silence which I decide to break.

“You're still kinda mad about our plans right?" Me and Samson are staring at each other now.
"Bro, that was a while ago, I'm over that"
"What plans?" Peace asks.

Before I left for uni, me and Samson planned to travel around together. But my father wasn't having it. Samson saw it as my fault and was very angry at me. I thought by now he'd have let it go. I guess I was wrong. With Samson, we could always forgive and forget. I guess this case was different. 

"Mikel! What plans?!" Peace asks again.
Me and Samson momentarily look at Peace then back at each other.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Journey to Memory Lane

I haven’t been out in a while. I’m beginning to miss what the streets of London look like. Me, Peace and mum are still in the kitchen. It’s evening time and mum wants to start cooking.

“Mum, I’m going out for a little while”
“Now that I want to start cooking, is when you want to go out. Or is it that you don’t want to help?” she asks jokingly.

“No, it’s not that. It’s just that I haven’t really been out. I just want to go around for a bit. I promise I won't be out late”
The last sentence echoes in my mind. It reminds me of when I was younger; every time I wanted to go out mum would worry that I might stay out too late and I’d have to reassure her. “I promise I won’t be out too late.”

I walk out of the kitchen and quickly hurry upstairs to put my trainers on. As I hurry back down Peace is standing waiting for me with my car keys. i give her funny look and walk past out through the front door.

"We're taking the bus. I wanna see if London transport has changed"
She hurries out catching up with me.

"Bus? why, don't we use your car instead?" she asks.
I shake my head laughing.
"Do you have money for petrol?" I ask her. she remains silent.

As we walk out of the cul-de-sac I begin seeing subtle difference that some of our neighbours have made to their homes. New flowers, new bushes and even new paintwork. Everything seems familiar but with a newness to it.
Me and Peace just catch the bus-stop; we had to quickly jog or we have missed it. For some reason Peace is too proud to run for a bus. We get on the bus; I'm thankful that I have my oyster because the price of a single fare is just ridiculous! Secondly I notice that a voice now speaks saying the number and destination of the bus. An inspector stands next to the driver chatting away.

"Wow, have I been away from London that long? The buses now talk."
Peace is amused at my observation.
"Yeah, but it's no big deal. I doubt people really notice" She responds.
"Well, it'll be good for tourists and those tryin’ to find their way"

As the bus drives through the busy London roads I look around. All the people walking headed to one place from another. I look at the shops which will later become different shops, buildings which will become new apartments. I know change is inevitable there's always that part you that's slightly apprehensive about it.

I remember my secondary school years, when me and my school-mates would parade these streets on a Friday after school and spend the pocket-money we saved up. (It's still surprising I got pocket money from a father as strict as mine.) I remember the games-shop where I used to buy computer-games; now it's a wine bar. A part of me feels like this is not the London I grew up in. As I think about it everything seems so sterile to me. There's nothing around to that has emotional significance and very few things around bring back childhood memories.
I see some teens still in their uniform, the sight of them annoys me; their reckless manner in which they walk and talk; as if youth is something new and exclusively given to them. But I don't hold anything against them; after all I was once their age; and Peace, not too long ago was just like them. 

I press the bell to get off and tap Peace on her shoulder. We get down to the lower deck and just as the bus stops I see two scruffy looking schooling children run to where the exits are. They must be year 7s. You can tell by the size of their school bags, which are almost as big as them and their blazer sleeves which come past the wrist. 
It's obvious what they plan to do. This amuses me as they clearly haven't seen the inspector. The bus stops and the exit-doors open and in a flash they run on, whizzing past me and Peace and up the stairs. Peace steps off laughing; this scene is familiar to her seeing as she did this sometimes. The funny thing is she always had a valid bus-pass, but I guess her and her friends just liked the fun of it.
As the bus drives off again I look at the upper deck. The inspector has caught them.

"Shame" I say with a smile
"That's so like you Mikel, you're like a school prefect" Peace says. Peace has always been a bit of a rebel. At home she was our parent's princess but outside she was brat. It was mainly the fact that she never got caught out, but if I even tried to get into any mischief I got caught.

"Where we going?" Peace asks.
"We?" I reply. "We ain't going anywhere. I'm just going around and you're just following" I say jokingly.
"Whatever" she says.

As we walk along I see my old secondary school. The big black gates old looking building brings back memories. My school is the one thing still around which brings back good memories... and some bad ones too. I turn in the street leading to the school and enter the residential area called

Melleray Lane
. I remember how those who had left yr11 in our school used to call it '
Memory Lane
' on account of all the memories they've had here.

"Why are we coming here?" Peace asks. "Are you going to visit your old school?"
"No, but there's someone I wanna visit; a friend"

As I walk deeper in the residential area Peace and I reach his door.  My closest friend and yet my most distance role-model lives here. I always saw him as the second son my father never had...but always wanted.

I press the bell and a few long seconds later the door opens. A happy voice greets me and Peace.

"Hey!...So you've remember me today"

Monday, 4 October 2010

If Only You Knew...

Evening time. A time when most people realised how they've wasted their day; including me. I just stayed in my room flicking through the pages of the book I'm reading. My thoughts go back to my father and the brief convo we had. It has settled me a bit; I guess it was only fair he explained the why he has been treating me the way he has.  I look up and see that the sun is starting to settle. I hear the sounds of children still playing outside, enjoying the summer evening. The sound of the front door shutting cuts into my thoughts.

"Obi, oya...come and help me with these bags"

I spring to my feet, rush out of my room and down the stairs. I see my mum standing, waiting for me.
"Where's Peace?"  I ask.
Mum gives me a funny look.
"Is it Peace that I asked for or you?" she says pointing. "Peace has gone out; but Obi, you're a man, you are supposed to carry these. Come and take them to the kitchen. After now you'll be the one to eat half of the food here" she laughs.

I begin setting out the items, while mum sits and watches. She bought my favourite pack of yoghurt and king-sized cookies. I break-off the cherry flavoured and strawberry flavoured yoghurts and hide them in the fridge where Peace won’t see them. She can the nasty peach flavour.

“Obiora, ha! So at your age you’re still hiding food from your sister?” she says amused.
 I just smile. I’m done setting out the shopping and decide to eat some of the cookies. My mum pulls out a seat and gestures for me to sit. I obey.

“Mikel…have you and your father spoken?” she asks
“Yes…yes we have” I reply. She uses her thumb to wipe of a crumb on my lip. I wonder why she still does that. I’m not 10 anymore.

“So you know why he expects everything plus more from you. I’m not taking his side, nor am I against him. I often felt he may have gone too far with his ways; but his intentions are good.”

One thing about mum was, although she is an obedient wife, she doesn’t outright agree with all my dad’s decisions. Rather she would try and reach some middle ground; but I guess in the end it usually went in favour of my father. She was more subtle in trying to make me and Peace do things we we’re told.

“If only you knew how far he came, then that would give you a little more understanding” she looks at me like I’m a boy.
She has always did that, despite my age, I’m still her boy in her eyes
“You know back home, your father had to do everything for himself. After his father went missing during the war, his mother struggled; and as soon as your dad was old enough he left home to find work. He was the one supporting his mother and siblings. The work he did was only just enough to feed them. Nobody and I mean NOBODY gave him anything.” She clicks her fingers for emphasis.

“If only you knew. Maybe…just maybe all the experiences he went through made him to be the way his is today. He used to tell me stories of all the youngsters back home who have so much potential but no opportunity and no one to guide them. and the young ones here who have both potential AND opportunity! But refuse to utilise it.” She shakes her heads disappointedly  

"Obi, i know you may not want to go in the direction your father wants; but whatever YOU decide to do make sure you choose wisely; because second chances don't come easy; And if you should end up not knowing what to do with your life...your father" I cut in.

"...Would only say 'I told you so..' ".

She just looks at me.
"No....but he would be so disappointed in himself. Remember why he is doing what he's doing to you."

We sit silently for a while and I begin thinking again. I don't want to feel guilty of anything, nor do I wanna seem ungrateful. My father has worked very hard no doubt, but I'm confused as to how I should feel. My dad has worked hard to provide the very best for his wife and kids and only wants the best for us; but at the same time he has placed bitter feelings in me towards him. I let the thoughts go.
It's just as he said, if I hate him today...I'll love him tomorrow. I guess I can forgive more now that I understand some of what he's been through. Even though I know there's more to be told.

"If only I knew" I say quietly to myself.

The sound of Peace coming in breaks the silence. She walks into the kitchen and looks at us both.

"What’s going on?" she asks suspiciously.
Mum just looks at her and says plainly "If only you knew..."

Friday, 27 August 2010

Hate me Today Love me Tomorrow

An hour has passed since breakfast. Me and Peace are in my room.

Although it’s sunny outside I leave my curtains closed. I like the way the sunshine passes through my blue curtains and gives the room a slight blue glow.

Peace sits at the small desk where my laptop is; she’s listening to music at high-volume through headphones.

I’m reading a book I picked from the small shelf on my wall. “Things Fall Apart”.
I’ve had this book for a long time now; this is the second time of me reading it. The first time I read it, it was just out of interest. I didn’t focus too much about the issues raised in the book. As time went on I began to focus on them more. I related myself to the son of the main character; he also had an over-bearing father.

OK, maybe my father isn’t as bad as the father in the book, but they both have a rift between them.

I begin thinking of what things will be like years from now between me and my father. I doubt they would be anything good.

I try hard not to think about the argument at breakfast. I feel a bit bad. Now everyone in the household is in a bad mood.

I close my book and ponder whether I should go and talk to my dad. Half of me says I shouldn’t bother; half of me says I should.

I hear heavy footsteps come up the stairs. It’s my father. I recognise the sound of his steps. Peace turns to the door curiously. Though she can’t hear anything with the headphones; it’s as if she can feel him coming.

My father enters my room (without knocking) and looks at me then Peace. Peace gets up and leaves. My father sits on the chair at my desk and looks directly at me. He is dressed smartly in a pure white shirt and a deep-red tie. He probably has a morning meeting.

He looks on at me. If I was a teenager I would be scared no doubt. But I’m grown now; the feeling now is more like a feeling of cautiousness.

“Mikel?” he calls me.

“Dad?” I reply.

“Ok. Your mother suggested I come and talk to you.

I pause to think for a moment. This seems too easy. My father rarely listens to what I have to say; and rarely does he ever approach me to speak. I remain silent.

“Why are you silent? I’m giving you the chance to speak.” His voice is calm yet authoritative. Even as now I can have my say, it seems like he’s the one who orchestrated it. The control he’s given me is under his control…if that makes sense.

I break my silence.

“Why can’t you just let me be?...since I can remember you have always controlled every choice I’ve made. Why do…” my father cuts me off.

“Because I’m scared.” He says weakly. He looks away from me. This is now scary. My father never shows signs of weakness.
“I’m scared that if you don’t become a success tomorrow, it will mean I have failed as a father; and everything I’ve worked to provide for you would have been for nothing. I may seem controlling, I may seem pushy; even to a point where it angers you; but you must see why I’m doing it. It’s all for your own good. You may hate me today but you’ll love me tomorrow” He stops speaking.

He comes and sits next to me. “Son” He continues “…my actions towards you are not done on purpose. They are done because if I let you slip just once, I’ll regret it 100times” he then hugs me.

Once again all that I wanted to say just evaporated from my mind. The only difference now is I’m not upset about it.

“It seems you have a lot you want to say. When your anger towards me has subsided, please come and talk to me…your mouth is silent but your face says many things”

My father has a habit of talking in metaphors; but only when he is serious.

I look at his face as he gets up. I don’t see any seriousness. His face seems almost apologetic; it scares me a bit. For the first time in years my father is showing signs of emotion.

“Now I have to go and quickly see Peace before I go out…Please son, don’t hate me for loving you”

 He leaves closing the door behind him. Finally my mouth works.

“I don’t hate you” I say quietly. I doubt he heard me.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Morning after the Night Before

Last night I hardly slept. Too much was on my mind.

I sit up on my bed and begin my prayers.

When I was younger mum made it clear to me and Peace that we must ALWAYS say our morning prayers. No matter what…even if the ceiling was collapsing; you must still pray.

The bulk of my prayer was about the issue with me and my father. Peace also.
I get out of bed and go straight into the bathroom. It’s a mess!

It seems some of Peace’s habits haven’t changed since I left. Her towels are on the floor, which is very damp. She’s left the cap off the toothpaste, the mirror and window are steamed up, and her shampoo and hair-care products are scattered near the sink.

I brush my teeth and go downstairs into the kitchen. I greet my family. My sister and mum are having hard-dough bread with butter and Milo. My father’s eyes make contact with mine. He doesn’t look angry, nor does he look happy either. It feels as if he’s been waiting for me. I look away and my eyes fall on his bowl; he’s just finished his Quaker oats.

“Would you like breakfast?” my mother asks sensing some tension.

“No thanks; I’ll just have some Milo”

I make my Milo with cold milk; that’s how I like it. I sit down and drink slowly. The silence in the kitchen is close to agonising. My father must feel the same ‘cos he decides to speak.
“Mikel, don’t think last night is over” he voice sounds deep but tired. I guess he didn’t get much sleep either.

“Over? We’ve barely started” I say with total abadon.
Mum looks slightly shocked. “Obi!..Are you mad?! Don’t speak to you father that way.”

“Sorry mum…sorry dad.”

My dad laughs softly. It’s the kind of laugh that he does when he wants to hide anger.

“Well, seeing as you’ve made it clear that you no longer want to listen to me, I’ll leave you.” He says calmly.

I’m surprised. I was expecting more of a challenge like the night before.

“My son has now become the parent, it’s as if he wants to throw away years of good upbringing.” My father continues.

One thing my father had a habit of doing was trying to play on emotions; it was his way of trying to make someone feel guilty.
“Biko, I want there to be peace between us…”

My father interjects. “There will be peace, once everyone knows their place.”

I know he is referring to me.

“I know my place definitely isn’t being suppressed by you” I say.

“Suppressed?...So me your father is now suppressing you” he says poking his chest.

“Yes. Ever since I was a child you have done it. I have NEVR been good enough. You have always found fault in what I do.” I say this all in one breath.

My mum gets up to speak. But I get my words out first.

“…And it’s affecting Peace too”

All heads turn to her. She sits looking at us nervously.

“She feels like she can’t exceed in anything with you; all she does is just good and nothing else.”
My dad now looks confused. My mum looks sad and confused. I try myself at playing my father’s game.

“All the negative attention you placed on me has had very negative affects on her.”

I feel like I’m exaggerating a bit, but hey, I guess I get it from my father.
Peace looks more worried now. I don’t like seeing my sister upset. But things needed to be sorted out.

“Adannaya?” my father calls Peace by her Igbo-name. “Adannaya, Have I not done my best with you? Have you now joined your brother to…”

Peace cuts him off.

“Dad, he’s right. Everything I’ve done has been good to you, but you never tell me how I could make it better. You push Obi in everything, even when he doesn’t like it. But not with me.”

Peace stops speaking and gets up. She places her plate and mug in the sink.

“I’m going to clean up the bathroom.” She says. She walks out; I hear her quick and light footed steps on the stairs.

I know it took a lot for my sister to speak out. It took me a lot too.

Anything that comes close to challenging an African parent was never a good idea. Even being grown, things like this brought back that fear of a child.
“All I want is a happy family! Is that too much to ask?” My mother says looking upwards as if praying. I hear the tones of frustration and sadness in her voice.

I leave my cold Milo unfinished and attempt to walk out. My mother calls me back.

“Mikel Obiora Nwadiké! Come here! What has gotten into you?!”

“Nothing mum. It’s just that I’m tired. I do love dad, but he needs to change his ways.” I talk as if he isn’t there.

I hear my sister’s footsteps again. Peace comes back in. I look to her.

“Everything’s fine Peace…come on, lets go; I’ll help you clean up the mess YOU made in the bathroom.”  i tell her.

Me and Peace walk out. As we walk upstairs we hear our mother voice.

“You see what you have caused?! Albert! I said this will happen! I told you in the beginning that if you don’t change something like this may happen!” she ends by kissing her teeth.

The slip-slap sounds of my mother’s slippers sound out through the kitchen and she cleans the rest of the table.
I guess mum has some issues she needs to sort out with dad too.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Moment of Peace

A moment of Peace

I came out to my garden for some quiet time but my mind is full of thoughts which just cloud my head. My mind won’t shut-up. I’m alone and it’s still hard to get some peace.

“Mikel, are you alright?” my sister asks grabbing my arm trying to scare me.

I’ll admit; she does take me by surprise.

“What are you doing out here?” She asks smiling triumphantly

“I’m just thinking…trying to clear my mind and get some quiet time.”

I’ve been standing out here for 20 minutes; the small argument with dad just plays over and over in my mind.

My legs begin to get tired; so I sit down on the grass; my sister sits next to me. She has changed into her purple-baggy silk pyjamas; they match her nails.

“I heard the convo between you and daddy.” says Peace.

“Seems like there are a few issues that need to be sorted out.”

“There is nothing to sort out.” I reply boldly. “Do you honestly think anyone can get through to our family-dictator?!”
Peace looks at me then takes my hand.
“Dad just wants the best for you…he may seem harsh, but you know him, that’s how he shows his affection.”
Instantly I get frustrated and try to keep my cool. Peace senses it and she leans on my shoulder. She used to do that with our parents too; when they were angry with her.

She squeezes my hand tighter. “You know how African parents are… especially dads. Tough love is what they…”
I cut her off before she can finish. She knows little or nothing about tough love! The golden child cannot tell me anything about tough love.

“Peace, please don’t go there” I say releasing my hand from hers. “You’ve had it easy compared to me. You’ve rarely had your decisions made for you.”

My sister opens her mouth to say something but then changes her mind.

“Has dad ever made a decision for you without even asking how you felt about it?” I ask rhetorically. Peace doesn’t answer.

I turn and look at her. Though it’s dark out here, I can still see her slightly from the light coming through the kitchen window.
“Has he ever scrutinised every piece of work you’ve brought home?”

Peace remains silent.

“Has he ever, even once said to you ‘You didn’t try hard enough’ when deep down you know you tried your best?”
“No…not really” she replies hesitantly.

“There you go then. Dad rarely shows displeasure in what you do. You’re as good as gold. If I could have had have half of your treatment….” I end my sentence there.

I love my sister a lot and I don’t want this convo to cause any bitter feelings between us, so I wisely end it. My grievances lie with my father, not with Peace.

“Mikel? Have you ever wondered what it’s like for me?” she asks.

Her question is sudden and slightly confusing.

“huh?...what do you mean?” I ask back.

“For years dad has always focused on you…when you’re not around it’s only you he talks about. He goes on about how you’re gonna make him proud, how you’re gonna do this and that, blah blah blah…”

What Peace has just said has thrown me into a slight confusion. I try to say something but now I’m the one who is lost for words. Peace continues to talk.
“You know sometimes…” she pauses for a second. “Sometimes I wish dad could fuss over me the way he does with you. Dad is just content with what I do. With you he’s always trying to make you better, trying to make you achieve more; but with me, what I do is just satisfactory… and nothing more.”

I cast my mind back to when we we’re younger and our school reports came home. Dad would go through Peace’s report, nodding his head approvingly; then he would say something like “Very good Peace, you have done well”. I realise what she just said is true.

With my report, he would sit up in his seat and his face would turn serious. After reading it he would say “It’s good but...” from there he would just break me down piece by piece.

I’m tired of the garden now, so I stand up and stick my hand out to pull my sister up. I’m sleepy now and I know my sister is too. I pause for a second before moving and hug my sister.
I hold my sister tightly. I never realised that the affects of my father’s action on me also affected her.

Peace was right; there are definitely things that need to be sorted out.

My father, Peace and I will need to have a serious talk...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


“Obiora, welcome back”, says my father as he hugs me. “It’s good to have you home. Nnọ”.

My father’s voice reminds me of James Earl Jones; his voice has a tone of authority and royalty.
As my father speaks, I feel the base in his voice rumble against my body. He releases me from his hold, takes off his jacket and hangs it on the back of his chair.

His pure-white shirt looks immaculate and well ironed; not a single crease. His navy-blue silk tie and trousers match perfectly and his black shoes shine proudly.
As he takes his seat I look at his physical stature. He has a head of jet-black hair with a small grey area above his left temple.

6’3 and built solid, my father has the body of a warrior. Although my father has never set foot in a gym, he is naturally big; and unlike some of my uncles, who have a typical West African diet, he hasn’t got a pot-belly. My father is in pretty good shape for someone in his late 40s.

As I take my seat, my family and I join hand hands, and we close our eyes. My father clears his throat and begins praying. I’m little bit grateful he’s the one praying, if it was mum she’d go on for ages.

After my father ends the prayers we all begin to serve ourselves and eat. My father piles a large serving of rice, stew and meat on his plate.

As I chew my eyes slowly drift up, so do my sister’s eyes. We give cheeky smiles to each other. I giggle quietly.

My mind flashes back to when we were younger and we used to pull faces at each other at the dinning table. Seeing as I was the eldest and the one who’s supposed to set a better example, I received the slaps over the back of my head. Peace only got the stern looks to make her stop giggling.

“Obiora, what is so funny?” my mother asks

“What? Oh, nothing…nothing. I’m just remembering something from when we were kids”

I return my concentration to my food. I then look at my father’s plate. It amazes how he can eat such a large portion. But it makes sense, a man his size eats to his ability.

“A King size-meal for a King” my father says as he catches me staring.

I focus back on my food and continue eating. I’m so grateful to be home. Now I can eat proper food and not the sardines and maggi-cube rice dish I used to make back at uni. I guess I should have listened when mum said I should learn how to cook; and not just my sister.

In the corner of my eye I can see my father. I can sense him working out in his mind what he wants to ask me; and the answers he expects me to tell him. This makes me apprehensive. I feel short of breath.

Through my late secondary school years and most of my college years, my father was always on my case. Every subject I took was decided by him. The college I went to was decided was decided by him; even the car I have was my father decision. 'No' wasn’t even an option. Life before uni was sometimes suffocating.

Time slowly passes and we finish our dinner. My sister heads straight to her room. I and my parents are in
the living room watching a Nigerian film. I sit watching uninterestedly; the over-the-top acting, poor sound quality and melo-dramatic storyline annoys me.

“Obiora, now that you have finished university, have you decided where you want to work?” My father asks without moving his gaze from the screen. Once again I feel short of breath.

The question puts me off totally. I’ve barely been back a day and already he’s on my case. This is exactly why I studied away from home in the first place.

“I don’t know yet, I’m still thinking.” I reply.

“But you’re not a small boy; I didn’t send you to university for fun. You should know what you want to do by now” he says as he turns to looks at me.

“I said I don’t know” I reply nonchalantly, “Probably something to do with accounting, after all that’s what you made me study.”
“That’s what I made you study?” He repeats. "How do you mean? Didn’t we both agree that…"

I cut him off in mid sentence. I decide to give my true opinion now. As he said; I’m no longer a small boy.

“Dad, I didn’t make any agreement. It was you who decided that should study accountancy. It was you who pressured me.” I speak calmly.

I avoid his eyes and twitch my fingers nervously.
“A whole graduate such as yourself and you don’t know what you want? Is that what you will tell people outside? Do you want to shame me?” my father raises his voice.

I take a deep breath

“But it’s not really about you” I reply even quieter than before. I try to control my breathing pattern.

“Not about me?” He says standing up. “Do you hear yourself? Who will they blame if you become a failure tomorrow? Whose name will they call if you achieve nothing?”

Biko, let us not argue now. It’s too soon. This nice time we’re having, let us enjoy it” my mum says trying to calm things down.

“Gladys please, let me talk to him. Just continue watching the film.” Now my father is standing looking at me.

I stand up to leave the living room; my father’s presence is now choking me. I hold my breath. I then walk out. Surprisingly he doesn’t call me back; but I can feel his eyes on me.
I walk through the hallway into the kitchen and step out into the garden.

The cool night breeze comforts me as I try to clear my mind. How dare he say all those things?
If I become a failure then it’s on me. He still has his status: Barrister Albert Nwadiké.
My own life choices, should not affect him; but then again that’s how my father is; he’ll take things twist them and make them about himself. I’m honestly sick and tired of him. I need to breakaway from him no matter what it takes. It’s MY life.

I look up at the night sky; finally…I can breath.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Meet the Family

As I pull-up outside my family home in Enfield in my 2nd hand car, (which my father once owned), I feel anything but excited to be back here. It isn't the dirty London streets, the terrible traffic or wailing sirens of police cars that bothers me; in fact living away from London I've almost missed these things. It is my household that I have mixed feelings about.

There is my mother, Gladys, who still treats me like a big kid, even though I'm the eldest out of two children.

There is my younger sister, Peace (yes that's actually her name) who is the only one I can really tolerate. My family see her as the golden child. Peace is little Miss Perfect and can do no wrong… if only my parents really knew.

Finally there's my dad, Mazi Albert Aloysius Nwadiké. Albert, my father is the decision maker in our family. At times my father acts like a dictator; he has this might-is-right mentality sometimes and rarely displays his emotions. He is the main reason for my apprehensive feelings.
I step out of my car, leaving my luggage in the boot; I walk up to the door and ring the bell; a few seconds later I hear a click and the door opens. I'm greeted with jubilant welcome.

"Mikel! Mik-Mik, you're back!" My sister screams; she giggles and throws her arms around me.
As we embrace, the smell of herbs and spices softly tickle my nostrils. She's probably helping mum out in the kitchen.

My sister lets go and takes a step back to look at me; I stare back; her sleeveless black top and knee high tight jean-shorts show-off her naturally toned arms and legs. It’s as if her body had been carefully sculpted. Her peanut brown skin looking flawless as usual. I know guys would probably be casting looks in her direction by now.

“Mikel, so you decided to update you’re wardrobe.” She says cheekily.

“Yeah, well you know you gotta live a little.” I reply, unsure if she is complimenting me or teasing.

She tugs at my new Ralph Lauren top and looks my jeans. I smile back proudly. I had a bit of money left over from my student loan so I decided to treat myself.
I head straight into the living room and slump down on the sofa. My sister plants herself down right next to me and yells out to mum.

“MUMMY, Obiora is home! She screeches, almost damaging my ear-drum.
I hear the slip-slap sound of my mother’s slippers getting closer. I get up and hold out my arms as she enters the living room. My mother practically charges at me and squeezes me, pulling me tight against her frame. She has to tip-toe to kiss my cheek. The smell of African cooking hangs on her clothes.

Nwa’m, kedu? My son how are you?” she asks smiling brightly.
“Fine, thanks mum. How have you been?” I ask smiling back.
“Well, we thank God. Anyway my son, we can talk later. Biko, you must come and eat, Mummy has prepared food. Peace, oya! Come and help me set the plates; your father called and said he’ll soon be home.”

As they leave to go set the plates I hear a car pull up outside. I go to the window and peak to see who it is. A tall and regal figure of a man walks up to the house.

“Obiora come and eat!” my mother yells from the dinning room.

I enter the dinning room and take my seat opposite my sister. Just as I get comfortable the tall and regal figure enters. We make eye contact. I force a smile and rise to greet the man.

“Hello Dad”...

Friday, 30 July 2010

Breaking Free

Uni over!....Finally!
No more sore eyes from late night studying...and 2hr breaks on MSN and facebook.
No more agonising hours siting in rock hard chairs watching hard-to-please lecturers teach from power-point.
No more stressing trying to meet up with deadlines!
No more eating microwavable foods for dinner, while my stomach yearns for real good African Foods.

*Deep sigh* Now I'm free...but stuck with this degree I did not want to do. Once again, my father has managed to fulfil another one of his goals...through me.

Hmm, I still have one more chain holding me; It's time I broke free once and for all.