An empty vessel;
That’s what I’ve been feeling like since I learnt that I could never have children.
My womb was damaged, they said.
Only, it’s not just my womb. It’s me.
I’m a damaged woman.
I will never be able to do the one thing I grew up looking forward to.
I will never feel the joy of holding my own baby to my chest.
I will never look at anybody and think “I birthed that one”
That joy in calling someone mine and knowing;
That indeed, they are mine.
Growing up as an only child, I always wanted a daughter
I yearned for the days when I’d relieve my youth days to her
And make sure she learnt from my mistakes
Those days will never come now
I don’t need your pity
I’ve had enough of that.
I saw it in the doctor’s eyes as he broke the bad news to me
That rainy afternoon, five years ago.
The day I last felt any form of happiness
I see it in my mother’s eyes, she’s heartbroken too
She’ll never have a grandchild; poor woman.
But I see it most in the eyes of my husband
Though he tries to hide it from me
I see that look in his eyes each time he sees a child
Many nights he held me while I cried and begged him to leave me
I’d say to him ‘go and have children with someone else, mike,
I’m the barren one’ and he’d just hold me silently until I fell asleep.
He is my strength; I’d never have gone through this without him.
Maybe in the near future when we are emotionally balanced,
We’d consider adoption.
Let’s give a moment to those women that can never bear children…
And to the husbands that stick by their wives regardless of their inabilities to have children.
Although this is fictionally written, we cannot deny the fact that there are married women going through this same perplexity and feeling of void, who have not been able to birth children over time, after a perceived ‘okay’ number of years, who are stigmatized as the family outcast. There have been cases of the husband going ahead to take in a second wife usually with the backing of his family all in the bid to keep the family name going, at least that’s the excuse they seem to all use.
So, #QuickQuestion 1: Why are we always so quick to think it’s the woman at fault and usually never think it’s the man who can’t groom perfect swimmers? Or the one who just keep shooting blanks?
#QuickQuestion 2: What next for a couple who can’t have children on their own doing?
Please use the comment box.
A work of Fiction by @pheesayur.
It’s Monday morning where we finally go to court. His fate is to be decided. And I can make him go to jail or not. Forgive me I started losing you there. My name is not necessary now, because it’s a major reason for my story, my story is about my life, my life? One word “misery”.
I lost my mother last three years I was 18. She died of a cardiac arrest. Her will was to be read to me at the age of 20. Like her death was not bad news enough, she told aunty sola to give me the note that explained that my father, The one I have always known as my father is not my biological father. Without telling me his name? My heartbeat skipped like a 120kg woman who was trying to lose 50kg before her date that same day.
Questions start running in. Literally running, like fighting for first position to be answered. Who is my real father? Where is my real father? Does my “father” with all his wahala know this? I doubt it. Perhaps my real father is dead? Maybe? But hey. There it was. They say what you have been looking for in sokoto is inside you shokoto. Wait for it, my real father is the… I can’t even type this with still hands I feel I am lying to myself. I am convincing myself about the obvious truth. I do no not even understand.
Bode Thompson is the name of my father, erm my make-believe father. Well to do should be a way of narrowing things down, but let humility stay with my words. I am his only daughter! He has always seemed to be proud of me, says “my only omoge, sisi London. You will bring home my retirement money with your bride price” and that made me laugh so hard because I hardly dated anyone that could afford my crème de la crème lifestyle. Hehe. Our long time gateman, Mr. Jamiu will tell some guys that come to look for me that, “you better bring better car, next you are coming to see her, unless you want her father to cut off your legs” this was not an empty threat, anyway.
Dad is close to perfect, except he has this anger problem, that aunty Sola says killed mom. I never quite agreed with her. Apparently it killed my dad as well. Yes the “anger” problem. Relax let me answer your questions.
One fateful evening; aunty Sola came to pick me up. So we could go and do our hair together. The next thing, I started hearing loud arguments from the living room downstairs. Before I could place the cause. Getting to the living room, my aunt is really shouting. On the hilltop of her voice. You should be very ashamed of yourself, you are not a real man, you killed my sister and you can’t even make a woman pregnant, all the miserable days of your life. I start shouting “aunty sola calm down”.
She replies “shut up, you don’t know anything. You don’t even know your father is at the gate”. My knees are weakened. In confusion. My eyes feel like they have started hearing rather than seeing. My lips are wide opened, they are now for seeing. What does she mean, at the gate? She continues with my dad.. Bode; Sule Jamiu is a better man than you. The next thing I saw, my father stormed into the room. Picked up a gun went out, its like a dream. There I was drowning in confusion. Gunshots that’s all I can hear. Dad shot Mr. jamiu twice. The devil had come into our house in form of aunty sola.
We run outside together. Aunty sola is rolling. Tomi.. Bode has killed your father! A knife was too blunt a tool to drive in to aunty sola’s chest at the moment. Dad’s domestic workers are all out. Wailing. Aunty sola is up again jumping like she’s clueless about what she has caused. I am right there. Lost. Cold . Insane. Then I become so Numb I would not even feel a gunshot.
Without mincing more words, my name is Tomilola jamiu. The daughter of Mr. jamiu the gateman. My father just died. Tears? That’s an understatement. Sadness? Hahaha.
It’s more like insanity. I still go for lectures, it is my final year. I was supposed to have graduated last year, but I took sometime off because of the absence of my mom. I went through all the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. I am an orphan technically, right?
A court case has been birthed. I am to testify against Mr. Bode Thompson. So that “justice” will prevail. Here I am cooking a case to implicate Aunty Sola. She’s the murderer. The case is scheduled for 28th January 2013. Exactly two months after the incident.
It’s Monday morning the 28th where we finally go to court. His fate is to be decided. And my testimony is a big part of that decision. I need to hear the full story; I am not even clear about what happened to mum, how the gateman is my father. What will happen when Mr. Bode is in jail, rotting? Mr. bode is at the other side of the house. He has been instructed by the police not to speak to me in private. Thanks to aunty sola.
I have not been able to tell anyone, after all nothing has changed. I still have my fancy white range rover. A buoyant pocket. My friends just noticed the gateman is no longer there. Who cares about the gateman anyways?
Its 4:35am in the morning, court hearing is for 9:15am.
I do not have an inkling of what sanity means anymore. How I have had normal conversations Human beings is beyond me. The fake smiles, laughter born out of deep grief and pain.
What should I do?
Thanks for waiting. In case you missed the preview, find it here, so you know what to expect. If you are not sure what Beneath the Smile is about, please check the preview out.
The project aims at looking beyond the smiles of the next person, to see what’s really beneath, what’s really going on? How people really need help and won’t bother saying anything about it but would rather cover it up with a façade of strength, with a smile.
It’s time to look beneath the smile and lend a helping hand. People are going through real things, these are their stories.
We hope that you’d be kind enough to leave a comment. Your feedback is important to us.
First story, Beneath the Smile I by Anonymous Writer
Second story, Beneath the Smile, II retold by @Its_kash
Today, we have our Third story (FICTION), by @bRinEstAkeS
The ‘Beneath the Smile’ Project.
There are two kinds of people in my world. You’re either a pillar or a piece of decoration – a mover or a watcher. The crazy pace makes it hard to glance around while racing towards impossible deadlines. So, we specialize; we pick one of the two – and become the best we can at it. The watchers will tell you impeccable and articulate history; the movers will do whatever it takes to get the job done!
My name is Mark. I close big-money deals for wealthy (and usually desperate) clients. A popular business magazine says I’m “one of the best you won’t find around”. That’s an unfair representation, primarily because there’s something they often neglect to mention. I’m a stammerer – easily the worst you’d ever meet.
It’s been twelve years since I set upon this rocky path, refusing to do anything else. Last year, I botched four straight deals. That had never happened before; everyone said it was the end of me. But then, the next case I took grossed the firm more money than any of our rivals made that whole year! There are no ups without downs – but the papers won’t tell you that! They just make it all seem like magic.
I remember being on a plane to Quebec. Client’s daughter had been in a compromising picture three weeks before a take-over. He smelt foul-play and wanted me to clean it up. We were flying over New York when a lady started convulsing badly. Pretty dire situation. Pilot released the fuel for emergency landing at the usually busy JFK International. But control, failing to see the urgency, kept us circling. After twenty minutes of circling, I overcame my demons.
Walking briskly into the unusually open cockpit, I looked the nervy pilot dead in the eye. “Hi, Captain Ben. I know what this is. Let me help”. We called control again – and the pilot let me have the mic. It was a lady at the other end and she had this unmistakable southern accent. It belonged to a firm and exacting people. That was all the leverage I was afforded.
“Hi, Susan”, I started with typical slowness. “It’s Martha – but you’ll call me ‘Control’”, she snapped. Aha, Jane. “Listen, Martha. You sound like a responsible person. You probably have kids – two, maybe? And your parents are still alive? Well, I’ve got seventy mothers and eighteen kids on this plane. One of them is really sick. If you don’t land us in ten minutes, she will die. If you delay another seven minutes after that, all 281 of us will die. Our plane is out of fuel. It won’t be easy explaining our deaths to your kids”.
She landed us five minutes later and the convulsing woman survived. Everyone on board applauded as the paramedics wheeled her away. The pilot was so grateful he gave me his cap. It was a moment of true honour. As I fought to hold the tears, I remembered everything; not so long ago, the story was very different. You see, there are also two kinds of stories: there’s one they tell to amaze you – and there’s the more complete one. They call that the truth. And, of truths, there are few more startling than this!
I wasn’t always an authority in this business. My first three interviews ended badly; was actually walked out of two of them. No one could afford to hire me. The only open offer involved transcribing interviews for a TV station nobody watches. It was the safe option considering the doctor’s latest report. Apparently, I wasn’t even a stammerer. My real condition was a really complicated and rare worry that made stammering feel lovable. They called it Acute Kladentitis. Putting it simply, should I exceed a certain number of words daily, my jaw could lock while continuing to process words my brain had released. That would leave me the living equivalent of a broken record. Summary was: I wasn’t designed for conversation – at least not with humans. There was no cure – and worse, my daily number allocation was solely dependent on stress! Even the doctor advised me to take that TV job – but the silly voice at the back of my head said no. What did I do? I followed. Sometimes, it takes a monster to bring Jonah to shore.
I didn’t have more than 4 hours daily sleep over the next three months. Spent the time getting preparing for an opening two levels above my expectations. Finally, I applied and was invited for an interview. With a week to go, I underwent an unnecessary tonsil operation. Doctor wrote me a letter to say it may slow down or distort my speech – and that was the perfect cover.
Of course, the interviewers wanted to re-schedule till I was ‘better’. “I fe-eel per-fect”, I said with a wide smile. They pitifully agreed for me to say as much as the ‘surgery’ permitted and write the rest. But, that was always the plan; if I couldn’t succeed in spite of my condition, I jolly well could BECAUSE of it! I resumed a week later, a level below my target – but one above what I had interviewed for. I missed out on the Closer job. What I got was a pretty good opportunity – one I embraced firmly!
It took thirteen weeks for them to let me try my hands at a proper case. But, even then, it was a dead proxy case that had dragged on for months. Everyone had written it off – but I did it in one week. So, I got a second – and a third. By the seventh, I started pushing for a proper close-out. Obviously, it was impossible, considering my Kladento-whatever-the-doc-called-it. Still, I felt it more honourable to fall chasing dreams that to ride the horses of comfort. So, again, I pestered.
You must understand that a close-out is nothing like my proxy-briefs. Those were petty; you hardly needed more than good research and an articulate memo to win. A close-out is, however, very different. It involved intense research, memos, arguments, yelling, physical and emotional intimidation – and, sometimes, courtroom appearances. It was everything I was designed to fail at. Again, my heart said “go”. The first case required me to testify in court. I had studied so much the previous night that I slept off on the stand. The judge was so angry she fined the firm and banned us from her chambers.
I spent that night in a pool of tears. How on earth could I face my boss? The TV job was still available and I thought hard about it – but, again, NO! Went to see the boss two days later. This time, my words were fewer and slower than usual. “Good mor-ning. Let …… me …. fix ….. this”. My clenched fists and fiery eyes did the rest of the convincing. He gave me ten days to file and win an appeal. Eight days later, I was able to convince the appeal court that the other judge had a history of rash, temper-based judgments. We won – but the victory was more personal than anyone else knew. I had discovered a winning formula, one that has carried me since then. Study your opponent; study the field – but, above all, master yourself.
I spent every night before the appeal dissecting and analyzing every detail: the jury, the defendant, the (new) judge – and, of course, the case itself. The old judge first threw paper at a clerk three weeks into her divorce. Between then and now, her only son had been divorced, she had broken the hammer twice, tore up an affidavit. Rumour has it she even slapped a young lawyer during recess (no proof of that, however). There was a clear pattern of rage – but presentation, not fact, wins the case; everyone knew that. I documented and memorized 14 different lines of argument she might raise, said my prayers and went in. Of course, she mocked my condition when things heated up – calling it an “insult and deliberate waste of court time”. Eventually, though, we won; I won!
Got a dozen calls on my way back to the office that day; seven offering congratulations. The other five were firms who wanted me to be their lead-closer. The rest is, as they call it, history.
It’s truly beautiful in a stammerer’s mind; everything happens twice. Reality, however, squeezes itself in-between. Forget what you hear in the news; the glowing statistics are just one side of the story.
Truth is: I still cry myself to sleep on many nights. I often wonder how much easier life would be if my brain just made peace with my mouth, but I never stay down too long. Self-doubt, failed attempts, insecurity, and tears may line the road to success – but one should never settle for less. Everyone’s got a cross; history only remembers those who carry theirs uphill.
• • •
THANKS FOR READING.
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
N.B. The project goes on with Monday’s Beneath the Smile, III (True story, retold) by @seuntomas
You can still send in your own true stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
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The view was great especially during the evenings: the sunset was usually rosy and radiant, calming yet inviting. You could feel its friendliness as though calling upon you to come closer; it was just a sight to behold. This was where I grew up. Everything was peaceful; you could almost hear the crashing of waves and the rhythmic sound of the ocean. I had never been away from The Riverside, never seen the outside world. I felt bounded because the only thing I could see was the horizon from beyond. Most often, Traders and Sailors came around with shipments filled with Western clothing, foods, books and several other things which were foreign. They even had toys too :). I was poor, so I never really had anything given to me besides food and good clothes. It’s just exciting to see all of us children run down to shore whenever the men from the outside world came.
I loved to play with my friends. “Hide and Seek” was our favorite game. My favorite hideout was behind the bushes where no one ever checked but sometimes I would opt to hide behind the rocks when at the beach. I usually picked sea shells too. I had collected thousands of them in the hope that I would be able to exchange them for toys whenever the men came. I had two siblings we didn’t get to see much of each other but it was always fun when they were home.
One night while we were playing in the moonlight, a ship docked. We went to see if it was the usual men because I thought they were due to return the next week as usual. I immediately grabbed my basket filled with shells I had gathered and ran to the Port. My friends ordered for me to return that instant but I refused. I began seeing people being pushed into waiting ships. What was happening? I couldn’t tell. I tried to get closer as I hid behind the rocks on the shores. It was a full moon but the light didn’t seem enough, rather it was blurry. I didn’t move any closer as I saw my friends in the distance. They seemed to be shaking their heads; yeah they disapproved me being inquisitive.
As I walked towards a bunch of reproachful faces, I couldn’t stop looking back at the men being pushed into the ships. I sought an explanation and it came to me, “The New World”! On second thought, I wondered if the men were tired of staying here at the Riverside. I scowled for a moment, I hope not. My friends laughed at the idea of the men being taken to The New World, but seconds later they all rested their hands on their cheeks dreamily. I shook my head in disbelief and immediately assumed the same position as them. That was all we ever dreamed about; when we were older we made a pact to leave our poor remote Island. Soon we returned to playing our games and forgot all about what had happened.
Later that night, I eagerly told my mama about what had happened. She seemed stunned and broke down, that wasn’t the reaction I expected. She should have been happy they were taking the men to The New World. She walked towards the wall and looked at the picture of a man hanging from our mud hut in our poorly lit room. She was crying so I asked her what happened. She found it difficult to say anything, so I asked if my father was ever taken in one of the ships down at The Riverside. She nodded her head and wiped away her tears with the edge of her wrapper. I knew the answer already; I just wasn’t sure why I decided to ask. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends, I was sure Bola, Seyi, Deola, Dayo, Shola, Ife, Eze, Titi and Naomi would all be jealous by the time I told them my father had been to the New World before :). Mamma didn’t say a thing and I soon returned to playing moonlit games. Every day I would go down by The Riverside, hoping one day the men would take me away in their ship to their own world, just the thought of that made my face light up with a smile. I was going to the see the world beyond the one I grew in. I ran to shore, I could see the ship in the distance. They were soon out of sight. Until then, I intended to enjoy my childhood maybe they would take me away one day.
#MyThought –> How blissful it was to be a child, having not to worry and think about all these many things that dance all up in my head now. The innocence back then was without blemish and yes! We all were once as naive as the little girl in the story. :p
Thank you for reading! 😀 Please make use of the “Thought box” below and tell us your own naive childhood tale. Yes! You have one! #GodisWatchingYou