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A Contemplation of Nothings (I)

1. I like when men tell me stories. As in, fiction, not the lying unprovoked kind. The kind where we are lazying around and I turn to you and ask, tell me a story, and I watch your eyes work out the details and hear your mouth flesh it out; character after character, place, scene, plot, emotion, climax, the end. I like it better when I don't have to ask. Last year, a lover told me a story of how Bonny Island was so named because it became overrun by smart rabbits. It was a good one, and hours later I told them it was impossible because locals in today's Nigeria could not have referred to rabbits as bunny in the 1800s. Not that a story needs plausibility but I went on and on about the colonial interruptions in our culture, especially our psychology and storytelling. It was a good story. I asked lots of questions like a child. It made me think for hours. I love the wordplay. I could have written a critical paper.

Last week, while sharing a liking for Lagbaja with someone else, they told me a story of how the elephant once dethroned the lion as the king of the jungle. All the animals wanted the lion back in power so the tortoise came up with a tricky plan. He invited the elephant to a special coronation ceremony and on the way distracted him with a singing and dancing entourage calling and replying — A ó m'érin jọba (The elephant is about to be crowned), Ẹ̀ wẹ̀ kú ẹwẹlẹ (We are extremely joyous). He fell to his death as a large dug-out hole filled with sharp objects had been covered with a mat. A beautiful song became even more beautiful to me, and for the first time meaningful, and now timeless because I have a memory of this person warning me of the oiliness of yes-men and praise singers.

2. Psychological thrillers rank just above the horror genre for me. I want to think, but I really don't want a mindfuck. I certainly do not want to be scared. After confirming that Shutter Island had no jump scares, I watched it 11 years late.

One big fear is getting to a place where I don't trust my head; where I'm disillusioned by reality and/or I start to forget huge chunks of it. A bigger fear is knowing deep down that I'm not crazy but the people around me insist that I am. My grandmother suffered from schizophrenia and it led to her death. Who and what do I trust? Do you know what accepting that I cannot trust myself, my mind, my instincts would mean? My world would dissolve before my eyes.

This conversation between Teddy and Rachel give me language for how I feel:

Rachel: You think I'm crazy.

Teddy: No. No, no. I never...

Rachel: And if I say I'm not crazy? Well, that hardly helps, does it? It is the Kafkaesque genius of it. People tell the world you are crazy, and all your protests to the contrary just confirm what they are saying.

Teddy: I'm not following you. I'm sorry.

Rachel: Once you are declared insane, then anything you do is called part of that insanity. Reasonable protests are denials. Valid fears, paranoia.

Teddy: Survival instincts are defense mechanisms.

The film ends with the main character being proven crazy. I refused to believe it. Y'all are trying to put a good man down and I mean, it is America. The conspiracy theories are half true. A Reddit wormhole reminded me however of Chuck struggling to remove his gun holster in the opening scenes. A real marshal would never. Maybe another time I will write about how amazing detailing can be, how they can help speak the unspeakable, write the story, how they can even be the story. But fuckkkkkk! Teddy is really Andrew Laeddis? Are you telling me that I can actually be crazy and believe that I am not? Yes, yes, that is what being crazy means but...

Farewell, psychological thrillers. You are not for me.

3. The world has placed first loves on a pedestal. And maybe rightly so. Especially when it all plays out so grandly and for a long time. It is why I struggled to believe that Kevin could be happy with anyone else that was not Sophie (re NBC's This Is Us.) But after years of shedding a second skin very painfully, after years of thinking it was impossible to do so, and now being so light and unburdened and free for the first time since I was 13, or 14; I know too well the exaggeration of fiction. Life doesn't happen in silos. It is so long. Boring. Monotonous yet so different. Ayé pọ̀. It is plenty. The world is too much with us.

Like in fiction and real life, there is a defining thing that signifies moving on after love ends. It could be big or small. It could be a kiss, an incident, a flash of hindsight, the coming of new love. It could just be time taking its toll and wearing that affection thin, and suddenly there is nothing to hold on to.

Patsy and Cicely share a weighted love. I reread the astonishing book for the third time. The hard thing in writing about a one that got away is proving to the readers that your character is really over that one. Nicole Dennis-Benn does this in many ways and many readers will recognize that the last conversation between the former lovers was closure for Patsy. As a reader, I recognize what is happening at that moment. But as a writer I am blown away by Chapter 44, something that reads like the rootedness of new love:

"PATSY SITS NAKED ON THE EDGE OF CLAUDETTE'S BATHTUB. Claudette, who is also undressed, stands between Patsy's legs, one hand rested on Patsy's bowed head as though in benediction, the other hand holding a razor. They had just showered together after a morning of lovemaking. There in the bathroom, surrounded by the glow of natural light, the two women perform another cleansing ritual, undisturbed by the sounds of the city beneath them. Patsy allows Claudette to shave off the few hairs left on her head. She told Claudette to shave everything - something she would have never considered years before. She had grown tired of the wig. Tired of feeling old with it on her head.

A waft of air grazes Patsy's neck and tickles her with a giddiness she has only experienced when the man at the embassy in Kingston stamped her passport with an American visa. Slowly, Claudette runs her fingers over Patsy's almost bald head. It feels like magic on Patsy's scalp. Patsy's head is nicely shaved like a man's, though the bald look happens to be in style for women nowadays. Very gently, Claudette rests her hand on Patsy's shoulder when she's done. Patsy stares straight at the mirror, feeling as though she's sitting by a window that suddenly has a view."

You might have to read the book to get it, but this chapter is a work of literary brilliance and Nicole Dennis-Benn is a star.

4. A rainbow, today:

I have not seen one in years.

5. Earworms.

If you like EDM and/or chant genres of music, you would like this Afro Electric Fusion album. Watch out for the Osekere, Koma Mosi & Come On Home tracks. They bite.

Also if you (grudgingly) recognize that Olamide is one of the best creatives on this side of the sphere and that he writes really great love songs, you would like Rock.

Until next time.


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