Friday 14 September 2012

Familiar Strangers

During the drive to our Nigerian-home, my father began talking about the family, trying to familiarise me and Peace with our aunts and uncles. As my father talked I began pondering about the family members.

My father had three younger siblings, two brothers and a sister.

Uncle Ikenna was the second born after my dad. My father once mentioned that uncle Ikenna was a managing director at a bank.

Aunty Nnenna was the third born.

I remember as a young child when she came to visit us in London. 
I was around 8 or 9 years old then. Peace had been getting on my nerves so I hit her. As usual she went crying to my mum, who then came charging into my room with the wooden spoon. I could still see the little smirk on Peace's face as she looked on expecting to see me get beaten. Luckily aunty Nnenna saved me!

The youngest of my father's siblings was uncle Ikemefuna. 
Uncle Ikemefuna lived in Port Harcourt, where he worked in an oil company.
My aunty and uncles had their own kids, but Peace and I hardly ever spoke with them, apart from the brief phone calls at Christmas and Easter. We usually tried to avoid those calls but mum would usually catch us before we could sneak out of the room. I didn't really like having forced conversations; I could barely think of anything to talk about.

The drive was excruciatingly longer than it needed to be and the heat was unrelenting. It was such a relief to finally arrive at our destination. I looked around at all that I saw. It was like something I had seen in Nigerian-films, with high-walls and large gates.

Uncle KC beeped the horn a few times and within a few seconds the gates were opened up by a gate-man. We slowly pulled-up into a compound and stopped in front of a large house.
The outer walls of the house were painted a cream-colour with neatly cut shrubs and hedges running across the edges of the compound.

We all got out of the car and uncle KC helped us carry our luggage to the house.

The inside of the house was nicely set up with beautiful décor; the furniture was almost like something out of a catalogue.  I was filled with a bit of warm-pride to see the efforts of my father's hard work.

As I stood looking around, a house-boy came up to help carry away our luggage. He was a young boy of about 18, but looked older. He smiled politely at me as he walked over to where our luggage was.

"Chike! How are you?" my father asked nicely.
"I'm fine thank you, sah! I hope your journey was pleasant"
"It was fine, thank you...we arrived safely, that it was we prayed for"

Chike had a bright smile with a neat gap in his bottom set of teeth. He seemed to have a spring in his step as he came over. I stepped forward to help him but was startled by a loud voice. Aunty Nnenna. Chike had started taking our things away as I turned to give my attention.

“Wow! Obiora, you have grown! Dimkpa. Look at you! And see Ada! Adannaya!”

My aunty Nnenna came rushing with eagerness to me and buried me in her bosom as she hugged me. Within moments my mum also became overjoyed with excitement and hurried over. As expected the exchange was loud and fast. The joy they both showed must have been contagious because my father joined in with them; he didn't rush over but you could certainly see the joy in his face. I and my sister were quite surprised at this, as this was something we rarely saw from dad. Peace decided to take advantage of this moment and took a picture.

Just when we thought the moment couldn't get any more joyous my two uncles came over and saluted my father; their deep voices echoing across the hallway. Uncle Ikemefuna embraced my father and the two of them hugged tightly, patting each other on the back. Uncle Ikemefuna was a tall as me but naturally larger in size. He had a thick beard and low-cut hair. He was dressed smart but casual in shirt and trousers.
My mother and aunty were still exchanging pleasantries and catching up on time passed as they made their way into the parlour.

Uncle Ikenna came over. He was a tall figure, slightly taller than my dad. Dressed in traditional Isi-Agu and red-cap, he walked with an air of importance which kind of reminded me of my dad.

It had been quite a while since I saw my aunty and uncles. I still vaguely remembered them.

Uncle Ikenna stood facing my dad and the two greeted each other with salutations, slapping each other’s palms.

"Okosisi!... Nwanne'm nkem oooh!"

As Peace and I stood watching, my father turned to us, gestured with his head, 'Come and greet!' and like the well-disciplined children we were, we went over to greet.

"Hello Uncle Ikemefuna." We shook hands with the usual click of fingers that Nigerian men love to do.
 "Obi, Ada; ke ka unu mere?" My uncle asked.

I just about understood the question, but I couldn't respond. My father and uncles just laughed knowing neither I Peace could speak Igbo. We just smiled in response.

"Obiora, Adannaya, come; don't you want to greet me? Am I a stranger?" My uncle Ikenna asked as he put his arms around me and my sister.

I wasn't used to being called by our Igbo-names by people other than our parents but for some reason it didn't feel strange. I hugged him back.

"My children, welcome back home;" Uncle Ikenna said happily. "Ngwanu, come. We have to catch up."

With his arms around our shoulders, he led us towards the living room; the sounds of laughter and loud voices from family members could be heard chiming across the hallway.

I felt my father pat me on the arm as he hurried past us towards the living room.
I guess meeting the rest of the family would help me understand more about my father, and the strange relationship me and him had. 
I mentally prepared myself about what was to come. 
One thing I needed to do if I was to understand anything, was to acquaint myself with my other family members... these familiar strangers.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

A Journey Home - Part 2

We had finally made it to Nigeria. After a long flight from London to Lagos, we then had to take a local flight to Enugu. At that point I had already become tired of planes and had become very irritable.

After the stress of handling our luggage and trying to avoid bumping into other travellers, we made it out of the airport to a vehicle waiting for us. 

A slim man stood by the family sized car; he looked like he had been waiting there for some time. The man saw us and began approaching; he beamed a bright smile and let out a shout of joy. 

"Oga! Madam! Welcome! Welcome ohh!"
My father laughed and the two shook hands and hugged briefly; he came over to my mother and greeted her too. 

"KC?! How are you?" my mother said smiling.

"I dey ooh! I dey! We thank God." KC replied smiling as he turned to me and my sister.

Being the well-trained children that we were, Peace & I greeted KC before he greeted us.

"KC, so you're still this a chewing stick! Aren't you eating enough?" my mother asked jokingly.

KC didn't reply he just laughed as he and my father began loading our luggage into the boot.

KC was our driver...well; he was actually the driver for my family in Nigeria and he had been their driver for some time. I couldn’t say I remembered KC. I only knew his face from some of the photos we had back home in London.

After my parents and KC were done exchanging pleasantries, we all got in and begun our journey. KC and my parents were chatting away about the usual things: politics, the differences between ‘home’ & UK, how much me and my sister have grown and haven’t become spoilt like those other ‘useless children’ back in London; …that bit was something my mum often pointed out when talking about my sister and I.

I was already starting to sweat from the heat and Peace wasn’t making things easier. She was starting to dose off as she leant on me, and she was starting to sweat also; whatever anti-perspirant she was wearing wasn’t working very well.

“Peace! Lean off me man! You smell.” I said impatiently.

My sister didn’t even budge. She just kissed her teeth at me.

“You shouldn’t even be talking about who stinks; your b.o is just making me dizzy.”

I tried to nudge her off, but she was proving stubborn.

As my camera was packed in my luggage, I decided to take some mental pictures of the sights of the city. Everything seemed so interesting; the cars, the noise, the people even the trees...everything felt new… as if I hadn't seen such things before. 

Back in London I hardly appreciated such things, but here in Nigeria I seemed to be intrigued by them.

A little smile spread across my face as I looked at everything around. I then looked over at my father who was at the front looking out of the window. I could just about see a small smile on the side of his face too. He seemed quite happy to be back.

As child I remember some of the stories he would tell my mum, about where he grew up. Some of the stories were sad, like when he was re-telling the things he could remember from the war; and some amusing like the time he and his brother were in the village and they saw a masquerade being chased by two-dogs.
My father never really spoke to me and Peace about these things. We used to sneak out from our bedrooms and eavesdrop while my mum & dad spoke in the living-room.

As KC was driving, an Okada pulled up in front of us; KC impatiently pressed down on the horn and threw insults at him through the open window. 

"Abeg, comot from de road joh! Non-entity!...anuofia!" 

I began laughing. My father smiled a little and gestured for KC to calm down. KC kissed his at the Okada driver as we over took him. The Okada simply ignored him. My mother however didn't find it funny at all...she was more concerned.

"Biko, Kelechi! Take it easy, you know these Okada men are sometimes irresponsible drivers."

"Madam, I'm sorry, no vex oh; but that na de only way these yeye people go fit understand...everyday they'll be riding stupidly on the roads. If to say de driver get helmet, I for just jam am wit' dis moto.

Though Peace was half asleep she heard that last comment from KC.
"Hmm. KC, you're a joker." she mumbled.

At that point my father turned to Peace.

"Ada, call him 'Uncle Kelechi', he's not your mate." my father said calmly.

KC didn't seem bothered. 

"No mind ya's fine. Just call me Uncle KC." he said happily.

As time went on Peace had drifted off fully into sleep, but this time she was leaning on mum, who had also dosed off.
My father and ‘Uncle KC’ had finished their conversation, so he decided then to speak to me.

“Mikel, look around you; these streets are where I grew up, where I sold goods to help support my mother and siblings; where I saw and heard various things. As I look around I see the dramatic changes this city has gone through.” My father’s voice had a solemn tone to it.

As he continued my interest slowly grew. The traffic around us seemed to be getting less and less congested; cars and other vehicles started flowing a bit more freely.

“Obi, this place holds a lot of memories for me…many, many memories. While we’re here I will share some of them with you. You’re growing into a man, so I know you may appreciate what I’ll tell you.” My father stopped talking. He seemed to be lost in thought.

I began to wonder what things he wanted to tell me. Part of me wanted my father to continue talking; to continue and tell me everything he had to say; but he just remained silent, causing me to be swallowed up by curiosity. I reminded myself that this wasn’t going to be easy for my dad. Although he wasn’t saying a lot I knew this was probably the most he had opened to anyone. My heart felt warm with appreciation for my father’s efforts; and of course I knew that I also had to put in effort if me and my dad were going to make any progress together.

I tried to mentally prepare myself for anything that came during our time in Nigeria; whatever happened I would just embrace it.
I prayed a short prayer for me and my father, and then I leaned my head back and enjoyed the rest of car ride home.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

A Journey Home - Part 1

It had been weeks since the matter of me and my father’s night-time discussion had occurred. As the weeks slowly went by everything seemed to get back to normal…which basically meant just tolerating everything in silence. To be totally honest things weren't too bad. There were a few moments when my father and I got on but things still could have been better.

Over a month had passed since I came home from uni; and I was starting to get bored of being at home most of the time. The youth-club which Samson was going to show me had closed down to due government cuts and; so my summer plans were now non-existent. The only consolation I could look forward to was the family-trip to Nigeria that we had coming up.

Me and my family had visited Nigeria once before. I was quite young then and barely remembered anything except the immense-heat and running scared for my life from masquerades in the village.
As young a child Nigeria was a place my father only spoke of when mentioned in the news or if the National team lost a football match.

I had always wondered why I and Peace didn’t visit more often. My father and mother use to travel there once in a while and leave us behind; this was when me and my sister were old enough to be left alone though; and of course unlces and aunties would occasionally check up on us.

When the time eventually came to leave Peace and I seemed quite excited. Although we had heard many scary and weird stories about Nigeria, it didn’t phases us…if any of the stories were true we’d just have to see it for ourselves.

Preparing for this journey had been an experience in itself. Relatives kept calling my mum asking if they could bring items to her and help deliver them to their own relatives in Nigeria. My mother had to politely refuse. The stress of being responsible for other people’s items was something she didn’t want.

At the airport, my sister and I looked on at other passengers in amusement as some of them tried to find ways of dodging the excess-weight fee for their luggage. They tried turning their luggage in different positions, moving the contents around inside even arguing with the airline staff. To my mum and dad this all seemed normal.

The call for our flight had been announced and so we headed to the gate to go on board.

On board my father and I sat together. My mum who was already starting to doze off, wrapped herself in a blanket. Peace sat next to her reading a book.

“Mikel, when we reach Naija…I think it would be great if I showed you a few things…I feel this would be a great opportunity for us to…”
my father paused.

“” I think that's what he wanted to say.
He looked at me.

“Obiora, my son…I only ask you to do one thing for me, if we’re going to bond as father & son I want you to also make the effort…meet down the middle, try to understand me at times also… i na ghota? You understand, right?”

I responded with a nod and just tilted my head back, closed my eyes and let my thoughts carry me off.

I began thinking of how me and my father would actually start to bond. It was the first time I ever heard him mention the word. The word ‘bond’ felt foreign. The relationship we’ve had had never really been like those you see on TV; playing football, play fighting, you know, typical father-son stuff. My father’s main focus was always my education; and as for him and my sister…well their relationship was no better.

I used to hear that fathers & daughters were always close, but I never saw it with Peace and my dad; we were both close with our mother, but with our father? It was a totally different case. Yes we loved him but if you were to ask us if we liked him…I couldn’t answer. I guess if this trip went according to plan that might change…hopefully

So far I kept thinking about ME and my father, but a part of me wondered how he was going to get close with Peace. I came out of my thoughts and decided to address this to him. My father was half asleep, I knew how much he hated being disturbed when resting but I decided to ask anyway.

“Dad? What about Peace? Are you going to try and bond with her too?”

My father yawned and grumbled his answer to me.

“Yes, but that will be between me and her…let me first focus on you first.”

I remember when my mum told me about some of my father’s past; and how he was the bread winner of the family after his father went missing during the civil-war. I tried to think of what my dad went through to make him becoming the man he is today. I wondered if his hard-life growing up was the cause of his sometimes emotionless character.

As my father sat there with his eyes closed, I just looked at him; one thing I just realised is that he rarely ever spoke about his past. Anytime he did mention his childhood was when he was nagging me or Peace.
I remember one time when Peace was around 14 or 15;  my dad had asked her to get him a glass of water and she did get it…but she had an attitude about it. My dad just shook his head in disgust.

“You kids today in this country are spoilt & lazy. When I was your age I had to walk miles under the sun to a river to fetch water. All you have to do is walk to the kitchen and it becomes a problem…it is a shame”

The harshness of his own childhood was probably too much for him to talk about; but whatever the problem was, it was something he didn’t want to share. The only person my dad opened up to was my mum. And one notion my mother believed in was, whatever is discussed between parents is kept between parents; so she didn't tell us anything either.
I guess the trip to Nigeria  was what I should have really been focusing on.

Slowly I became a bit bored of my own thoughts and started drifting off to sleep.
I dreamt that masquerades flogged me & my father. Whilst I cried out in pain, he remained silent not saying a word about it.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Rough Round the Edges

I awoke from sleep, I checked the time on my bedside digital-clock: 4:32am. I grumbled in frustration. One thing I always hated was waking up at such awkward times. I had just managed to get comfortable considering it was a very warm night. I briefly thought about Samson and the youth-work he spoke about.

I got up to get a drink. I tip-toed my way down and crept into the kitchen. The floor didn't feel as cool as it usually did. I walked to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water. I sat at the kitchen table and reflected on my life, my father, my future and even my sister. She did still have unresolved issues with our dad; i assumed he and Peace spoke about these issues the other day.

The sound of my father's footsteps broke my track of thoughts; I had a split second thought at how people recognise the footsteps of individuals in their household. I held a mouthful of the cool-water and when he entered I gulped it down. My dad switched on the light and I winced as the light painfully hit my eyes.

"Mikel, you're up." My father said.
"Yeah. I couldn't sleep, the heat is bothering me." I replied.
My father laughed soft and quietly.

"Heat? ajebutter; what will you do when you go to Nigeria?" He said amusedly as he took a seat right next to me.
"I'll find a way to cope" I replied smiling.

"So what's new?" He asked me.
"I was just thinking...about stuff. Me and my life, you and Peace.."
"Me and Peace? why, what's wrong?" My father asked.
"Haven't you and her spoken lately? I thought you did the day me and you had our talk?" I looked at him for a few seconds h just looked back.

"Obiora, what is wrong with Adannaya?" I could tell he was genuinely concerned because he called my sister by her Igbo-name.
"Nothing dad, it's just that she feels she can never top herself with you" My father looked at me as if I had just spoken in a different language.
"Dad, whenever Peace had achieved something you've also just been satisfied with her. You never really focus on her like you do with me?"

My father scoffed as if I was telling him a lie.
"I've been very kind and fair to her and I know she wouldn't be ungrateful for that!"
I continued speaking.
"With me, I've always...ALWAYS had to top what I have previously done, but when it comes to Adannaya..." I paused for a few seconds and took a drink of my water.
"...everything is just fine, she told me you're just content with what she does. I mean, can't she please you like how I do sometimes?"
I slowly bowed my head a stared at my water-bottle. I felt as if I had just betrayed my sister.

My father's eyes continued to rest on me. I could feel them on me. The chair creaked from his weight as he leaned back.
"I don't want to make you feel like you're a bad father but, you're ..." I hesitated to speak.
"Gini? Oya..., complete your sentence" he demanded.
My tongue felt dry, as if I hadn't been drinking water at all. "'re not perfect, you're sometimes rough around the edges."

He mumbled my words back to me in a confused way.

As I end my sentence he stood up, I almost flinched. Although my dad hasn't smacked me since I was 13, a stroke of fear passed through me. I tried to style it out as if I wanted to stretch. My dad just kept his eyes on me. My father slowly walked out of the kitchen, switching off the light as he left. He didn't say anything, but I could tell what I said really got to him; I guessed that was a good thing.
I left my bottle of water and went back up to my room I could see the dark sky start to lighten up. I got into bed and waited for sleep to carry me off.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

A Grown Child...

Message from author: I have decided to change the format/style of writing.

I left Samson’s place feeling uneasy. On the way home Peace was trying to talk to me, but I wasn’t paying attention. Her voice was like a hum in the background mixing in with the sound of noisy kids on the bus and slow moving traffic.
I casted my mind back to when me and Samson agreed to go travelling. It seemed like a good idea at the time, meeting new people, seeing new places and most of all… escaping my father; but after some thinking I came to the realisation that the main reason why I wanted to travel wasn’t a good one. I obviously had problems with my dad and running from them wasn’t going to help. So I did what I thought was wise and chose to go to uni instead. I understood Samson’s frustration though, he was very keen to go travelling.
When I and Peace arrived home mum had already served food on the dining room table. My father sat in his usual seat. Mum welcomed us with a big smile.
“Peace, guys are back. What took you so long?” my mother asked.
“Sorry, I guess I lost track of time” I responded.
“Ah ah, but Peace didn’t you have your iBerry? You could have called me.”

Me and Peace looked at each other confused? Then it hit me, she was referring to Peace’s BlackBerry. I laughed; even my father was amused.

“You mean her BLACKBeryy?”  My dad asked.
“Ehen, Blackberry. Anyway they’re back, no problem.”

For dinner we had Pounded Yam and Edikaikong Soup. My sister used a fork to eat her food; something which I always thought was weird.
“So, Obi…where did you and your sister go to?” My father asked interestedly.

His tone was calm and friendly. I guess I had no reason to feel tense like anymore. Ever since our little talk I felt more relaxed around him.

“We went to see Samson” I replied
“Oh, OK. How is he? I heard he decided not to go to university; I hope he’s faring well.”
“Yeah, he’s fine. We talked a bit, nothing much.”
“Has he found work yet?” my father asked
“Work? Err, I don’t know” I replied.

A part of me felt happy to say that….at least I won’t have my dad go on about how smart Samson is.
After dinner I went up to my room to lie down, while the rest of my family watched TV in the living room.
I started thinking of my future options when my phone rang and cut into my thoughts. I looked at the screen-display; it was Samson.

"Hi, Samson?"
"Yeah, Mikel, What's good?.. I just quickly called to you know...earlier today, I…well we…" Samson didn't finish his sentence; but he didn't need to I knew what he meant.
"Yeah, I know, Sam. It's cool." I replied.
"Anyway, there's one thing I wanna discuss with you. I recently got info about a youth group in the area; it just opened up and and they’re looking for workers, you know people like you who are academically talented.”
I laughed at the way he described me.
“So are you interested?” he asked.

I thought about it for a second and decided to go for it. I already knew how hard it was to find a job these days.

“Yeah sure, I’m interested; I need something to do anyway till I can find something in Accounting.”
“Cool bro.., I’ll holla at you again and give you the details. Bye Mikel”

After the call ended I went back to my thoughts and what I’d do with myself. Youth Work wasn’t exactly what I saw myself doing, but it was better than nothing. The only thing was how my father would take it. I decided to bring out now and get it out of the way.
Downstairs my father was reading, whilst my mum and sister were watching the news. As if my dad could sense something, he looked up at me.
“Anything the matter, Obi?” my father asked.
“No not really, I just wanted to talk to you about something. I just got off the phone with Samson. There’s some youth work going on and it sounded interesting, if I get the job I thought it’d be good, till I find work in Accounting & Finance.”
My Father just looked at me blankly, placed the book on his lap and smiled slightly. I couldn’t tell whether he thought I kidding or he was just trying to supress anger. My sister and mother’s attention was now fully on us.
“No problem.” He said. “I just hope you thought about it first.”

Although I was happy my dad approved, I still expecting a little more resistance from him, I was glad he had loosened up on me, but it felt weird…and almost too good to be true. I gave a silent sigh of relief and went back up to my room to lie down again.
As I lay on my bed, I began to think about my father. He had changed towards me slightly and I don’t know if I liked it or not. His relationship with me had a lasting effect on me; I was still weary of him. At least when he was hard on me it was predictable; now it was the opposite. I thought to myself: I'm grown but still feel like a child when in my father’s presence...a grown child. The thought scared and amused me at the same time.
As I started dozing off the last thoughts in my mind were that I should be happy. My father had loosened up on me; but why wouldn't he? after all I'm grown. I smiled a bit as my eyes got heavier; a thought came into my mind; no matter how grown you are, you're still a child in your parents’ eyes.

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"