The hammock is pretty comfortable. Covered in fragrant flowers, carried by six able bodied men; I’m treated like a princess; except that I’m tied to the hammock. I can’t see them, but the crowd chants along with the high priest; his staff rattling as it hits the ground with every step he takes.
I stare up at the sky which is tinted red with dusk. Red, like blood. I sigh.
I’ve always hated this annual virgin sacrifice business, never thinking I would one day be the sacrifice. I’d tried to get rid of it too(the virginity); but I couldn’t give it up to just anyone. I smile, oddly unafraid.
The wind gets colder as we get to higher altitude; it’s almost time. The crowd chants get louder as we go higher until they are yelling as we get to the lip of the volcano.
It all happens very fast then; the ropes that were used to tie me are loosened, the flowers are thrown into the volcano, turning to ash as they hit the bubbling lava. The high priest chants his incantations, his staff rattling madly in his trembling hands. The wind whips my hair around my face as the heat from the volcano rises up towards us. Terror rises up inside me the same way; sudden, filling me with heat. My heart starts to pound; the tempo echoing in my head and throughout my body.
The high priest is silent, the crowd is silent and the wind too; strangely quiet.
It is time.
The men carry me to the very edge and before I get a chance to scream, or beg for my life for even a second, I’m heaved into the bubbling heat.
I’m falling and unbelievable heat is rushing up to meet me. It gets too hot too soon. I close my eyes, waiting for the unbearable burn, for the searing heat to boil me alive. But as I hit the lava, I sink to the bottom before floating up again. The consistency of the liquid is slightly thicker than water. It’s hot, but it doesn’t burn me. It’s hot in the way a warm bath would be, the way a cup of coffee would feel on a cold day.
Dazed, I cup my palm into the bubbling liquid and scoop some out. I stare in amazement as I open my hands and allow it flow through my fingers.
I smile as I do this again and again. The village would never be the same again.
I was ten when I first heard mother scream like that. I remember the feeling of shock and terror that ran through me, I remember racing through the house trying to find out why my beloved mother was howling. It was the day her father, my grandfather died. I understood her agony though, my grandfather had been a great man. He had fought in the civil war, and always had stories to tell. He always had bittercola hidden in his pocket and used to give me to eat saying,
‘A man has to take bitterness and swallow it without flinching.”
I hated the taste but I used to eat it anyway. Grandfather was not a man you could say no to or refuse something from.
The next time I heard my mother’s blood curdling scream, it was because of me. When I arrived home in a wheelchair; both legs sacrificed on a landmine in Maiduguri; in the continuous fight against Boko Haram.
“Father has killed my son!” She wailed in Igbo. I wanted to be a great soldier like my grandfather; so I joined the military troops because of his stories, which I eventually learnt were just that. Spun from books he had read and documentaries he had seen on the Nigerian- Biafran war. For grandfather had never fought in the war.
A tale of words woven like the strands of a mat; or a woman’s braid.
My mother’s father.
So full of tales.
Tales of horror, of hope,
of the suffering of a people.
He had fought in the civil war,
a hero who fought for the extinguished nation of Biafra.
He was a brave man.
who believed in his people and fought for their plight.
I wanted to be like grandfather.
I wanted to be like him.
I joined the troops in fighting against Boko Haram.
I come back home in a wheelchair,
both legs sacrificed on a landmine in the North.
Mother weeps bitterly at the sight of me.
She mourns; her son’s legs have been sacrificed on the altar of lies.
For grand father had never fought in the war.
She looks like home.
Home looks like her.
Her, in her white lace and red gele.
She smells like home too.
Not just like perfume but also like clothes that haven’t been worn in a while,
forgotten at the back of the wardrobe; brought out and ironed to be worn once again.
Like home cooked meals and lukewarm yet satisfying water.
She’s not beautiful; or maybe the word beautiful just isn’t enough to describe her.
Her grace, that regal neck carrying the head full of wisdom; the head full of wisdom carrying the gele with folds like hands reaching for the skies as if to scoop the clouds.
Her skin the colour of ripe agbalumo, reminding me of the bittersweet memories.
Her cheeks plump and dusted with powder that isn’t worthy enough to be that close to her.
She isn’t perfect; yet she is.
She is my mother.
Art by Obi Chigozie.
I was sure I’d locked the front door as I rushed in while hurrying to the bathroom. I was certain of this because growing up, Mother had ways hammered it into our heads (sometimes with physical blows) the importance of safety, locks and security and so I never forgot.
So I was perplexed when I walked into my sitting room and found a man sitting on my couch looking very relaxed. He was well dressed; in a suit that probably cost more than my whole apartment and was smoking a long cigarette, its smoke wafting lazily to tango with the dreamcatcher that hung there before dissipating. I couldn’t see his features clearly, his face was in shadow; partly because of my drawn curtains. Even though I couldn’t see his eyes,I knew he was watching me and frigid fear washed over me and I had a gut feeling he could see everything going on in my mind.
“Who are you and how did you get in here?” My voice shook slightly as I regarded him warily. My eyes scanned my surroundings briefly; looking for something to use as a weapon.
I jumped as he chuckled slowly, my eyes flying back to him in terror. Something about that laugh increased my fear and stress levels. Every instinct I possessed was screaming at me to run. To get out of there. My body knew something was wrong but my mind was yet to catch up.
With a lazy flick of his hand, the cigarette disappeared in a haze smoke.
“Don’t bother looking for something to hit me with. You’re not fast enough and it definitely would not do any good.”
His deep voice permeated the air and the hairs at the back of my neck stood at attention and felt like they were trying to escape their roots.
My mind which was still trying to make sense of the disappearing cigarette and the fact that he said I; an Olympic level sprinter wasn’t fast enough; scrabbled when I realized he knew what I was thinking. HE KNEW.
I opened my mouth to scream and he in the same instant he held a finger up.
“Ah ah ah” he chastised, shaking his head. No sound came from my mouth no matter how hard I tried and I found I couldn’t move either. My heart rate was soaring through the roof and I was sure I’d broken the world record for most terrified at the moment. Who was this guy? And what did he want? Growing up in a Nigerian home, I had always heard about beliefs in the supernatural and unseen world around us but I’d never believed in anything I couldn’t see. I dealt in facts and logic. There was nothing logical about this situation though and my mind was working frantically trying to understand and still explain it scientifically.
The stranger stood from the couch and all the lights in my apartment came on. I would have gasped, but he’d taken my voice.
He had to be at least 7 feet tall and was ridiculously handsome. His features were perfect. Thick eyebrows covered his deep set eyes which were a honey colored brown. He chuckled again and my eyes were drawn to his lips which was surrounded by a full beard. He was so gorgeous that I forgot my fear for a moment; until his forehead brushed my dreamcatcher and it burst into flames.
As i watched the white dream catcher go up in flames and become ashes, I heard my mother’s voice say with her Igbo accent,
” Nne, I got this for you. It is supposed to help catch bad dreams and only let the good ones through. At least that is what the oyinbo that sold it to me said. It’ll keep the demons of bad dreams away.”
I’d acepted it so as to not offend my very Nigerian mother, who believed that anything and everything was spiritual or had spiritual powers. And also because it was pretty and went well with my decor.
As I stared at the tall, gorgeous stranger standing in my apartment in downtown LA, I started to believe in the existence of the supernatural and I knew my first encounter wasn’t with the good side. This man, demon, whatever he was; was evil. I could feel it. His voice jolted through me once again and destroyed everything I thought I knew about the world around me.
“You’re right. I’m one of the bad ones. From down under. Some call my home Hades, others know it as hell. And I’m here to take you home, Ngozi.”
I’m not an artist
Yes, I can connect lines, create shapes and make you exclaim.
But that is not what draws the art out of me.
I used to feel out of place in a room full of painters and sculptors;
My sense of creativity felt stifled; unable to find an outlet
Drawing felt like a chore.
And then I wrote my first poem.
My words spun out unheeded; like yarn used to knit a warm scarf for a cold day.
My words are fragrant as freshly brewed coffee and as original as the wings on a butterfly.
Who says I’m not an artist?
Paper is my canvas.
and the pen; my paint.
I am an artist.
Hi!! So, i finally started a blog…I know it’s been a long time coming but I had to weigh it a lot in my mind because I hardly ever read blogs and I somehow projected that personal flaw onto others. That being said, now that you have visited for the first time, I hope you come back (and keep coming back)!!
Now, I’m sure you’re pondering the name.. why Tobi’s teaspoon? Quick question: have you ever read something so profound and relatable that you close the book(or lock your phone) and stare at the wall for a bit? Well, that was how I felt when I came across a post on Pinterest where a Tumblr user (emeraldincandescent) described writing as (I paraphrase) having this huge lake in your head; you want to get it out so other people can go swimming or jet skiing and have fun but all you have is a teaspoon! And you’re just there flinging out lake water with your teaspoon and promising people: “You guys! this lake will be so awesome when it’s done.” but it will never be done; there’s so much lake. So, guys this is my proverbial teaspoon; my attempt at sharing the giant lake of stories, characters and places in my head. I hope you keep coming back to swim!