I belonged to the Press Society in University. It was fun times, I’ll be honest. I concerned myself with writing fun fiction pieces and I miss it terribly. Our Magazine was called ‘The Lex Observer’. Today, I was looking through my files and I stumbled on the final article I wrote for the magazine. I called it ‘To The Next Observer’. It was my own way of leaving a gift for the next writer(s) who would contribute to the magazine. I love this piece SO MUCH because of its dual character – it is both a story and writing advice piece. Enjoy! 🙂
P.S. check out what the large letters form together!
Pay close attention to the words that follow this paragraph for these words will reveal 5 Don’ts and 1 absolute Do in this art called writing.
‘Before your wear your own, let me wear my own and remove it first’, my younger sister said. I shook my head and held my tiny version of her Ankara dress in my hand as I watched her struggle to take off her jeans. My younger sister, Grace, has always been big. I remember when she was brought home from the hospital, I was only 5 years old and I was so excited to finally have a ‘baby’. My mom walked in through the door first and I ran to her and buried my face in her laps as she bent down and covered my head with kisses. Laughing, I looked up to suddenly see a giant baby being rocked by my aunty. I have told my mom to stop telling Grace the other part of the story because it always gets her down (even though she laughs every time she hears it), but my mom never listens. She would say, ‘Ah Grace, immediately your sister saw you bayi, she screamed and started running away like sopona was pursing her with chicken pox’ or she would say, ‘I even thought Lola had thrown you on the floor the way your sister screamed and started running in the opposite direction. Abami omo’ And then Grace and my mom would laugh. I used to join them to laugh until the day I found Grace’s diary, filled with the bitterest words about her weight, about me, about our mom, and about God. I would tell my mom about it but she has a record of severely punishing ‘iranu behavior’, as she calls it. ‘I knew this tailor was nonsense. I told her to sew it so that all these folds would not show. Look at this’ Grace said bringing me back to reality. I blinked and looked at her dress. It was beautiful the way she filled it. She looked like a woman, in the voluptuous sense of the word. I started telling her how much I loved the dress on her but she stopped me and said, ‘Abeg jare. You that you’ll come and wear your own and look like a model with your flat tummy. I just don’t know why all these things cannot fit me. All you thin people are so lucky, you guys…’ I just stopped her mid-sentence and said, ‘Grace, how many times do you need me to tell you that your body is art. And it’s silly to compare your art to another person’s. Absolutely silly.’
Every morning, I do a couple of exercises. It’s not a lot but it keeps me fit and gets my blood pumping before I start my day. Realizing both that my sister needs to exercise and that selling exercise to her requires wisdom, I devised a couple of strategies to get her interested; they never worked. I would wake up in the morning and yawn on our bed and say, ‘God! I want to work out but I need a partner mehn.’ She would turn and say ‘Eeyah’ or ‘Hmm…’ Then I’ll say ‘Come and join me na. I’ll pay, walahi. I just need help’. She’ll say, ‘I’m tired. Ask me tomorrow’. Tomorrow has not come till today… and it won’t. Sometimes I wish I had a sharper tongue, so I’d just tell Grace to quit procrastinating. ‘Let me tell you’, I’d say, ‘Procrastination is the best way to get nothing done, or to get stuff done shabbily. You’re never better than your ability to follow the Nike slogan’
Yesterday, I got slightly angry. Grace and I were seated in the sitting room. I was making beads and she was chatting. She kept hissing and sighing so I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘Nothing’. I raised a brow and said, ‘So you just developed snake traits now now? Abeg tell me what’s wrong joor.’ She chuckled and said, ‘Don’t judge me o’. ‘How now? What happened?’ I replied, trying to subdue my ‘worried mother’ instincts. Then she sighed and said, ‘I’ve been telling this boy to leave me alone o. But it’s as if his mother did not teach him how to clean his ears when he was small because he’s not hearing me. I don’t want to be wicked and tell him to just leave me alone. I’m not a mean person.’ I took a deep breath and asked, ‘How have you now told him?’ She said, ‘I used body language to warn him. I ignore most of his chats. I tell his friends that I don’t like him hoping they’ll tell him for me. I tell him about one fictitious boy that I like and describe the boy as everything that he isn’t. But he still cannot take the hints and leave me alone’ I frowned, stared for long at my little sister and wondered why people don’t understand the essence of communication. Finally I said, ‘That’s good enough. But let me tell you, if you’re trying to get across to someone with words, it’s advisable to be as straight-forward as possible. Do away with complex facts, descriptions, explanations and grammar. Just say what you want to say plainly. That’s the best way to communicate.’
Of all the people in the world, I love Grace the most. I’m sure it’s obvious from this article. But as much as I love her and I want(ed) to see her grow into a strong confident woman, I have also never intended for her to be oblivious to her inadequacies and weaknesses. She showed me a page in her diary some days back where she wrote, ‘My big sister is super and she says the smartest things. In fact, she says too many smart things that I cannot remember most of them. But today, she said one of the most profound things to me and it was ‘Fall in love with yourself but don’t let your love be blind.’ She gave the example of writers who edit their work themselves. She said, that a good writer must learn to be thoroughly honest with himself when editing his own work no matter how much he has fallen in love with his words, paragraphs, chapters and even characters’
‘…undergo an operation’ I heard the doctor say again. This morning went from my sister arguing about her folds to being rushed to the family hospital. She just slumped in the bathroom as she was taking a bath. I have been hearing things in halves. Like when my mom said, ‘Ah God! You cannot take Grace like this. Satan, you cannot take her’. I had heard, ‘Grace like this Satan’ and I had stopped crying for a while and turned to squint at my mom. For the 7th time I asked the doctor to repeat what she said about undergoing the operation. She adjusted her stethoscope a little impatiently and a little sympathetically and said, ‘There would be no need to undergo an operation for Grace.’ I looked back at my mom as she slept in the waiting room. ‘Oh? Why not? It was just a scare, nothing serious?’ I asked. ‘No ma. Grace is… gone, dead’. I willed her to say something longer because both halves of that sentence were bad. But she didn’t. She simply began to apologize and tell me scientific nonsense and encourage me to ease the news to my mother and ask where my father is… I blanked out and just stared behind her, at a group of medical students following another doctor. They passed beside me and I heard the doctor say to them, ‘Make sure you’re ready to have your work criticized. And also learn to do good research. You can’t be successful at this job without having sufficient information about the subject of your analysis. You can do research by simply asking or by studying. Just be abreast of important information. Okay?’
I blinked and thought to myself: that would have been a nice lesson to teach Grace.