Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Very Short Story: Samson and Delilah Remixed

Image: www.pauline.org
Zorah looks at her son disappointedly. She isn’t exactly thrilled with the news he has just announced.

“So you are serious? Zorah asks with mild irritation.

“Yes, I am. I wasn’t joking the last few times we spoke either,” replies Samson matter-of-factly.

“Do you have to marry Delilah? She’s an Osu. Can’t you find another girl among our own people?” She inquires sadly.

“She’s the one I love, and I want to marry her,” says Samson stubbornly. “There is no one who loves and compliments me like Delilah does.”

Zorah sighs as she was wont to whenever she couldn’t convince her son to see her point of view.

“There’s no way your father would have given his blessings if he were still with us. Marrying an Osu was the last thing he’d envisioned for you.”

“But why does it matter if I marry an Osu? Love can be found anywhere regardless of caste, gender, religious inclination or class. Aren’t Igbos unabashedly getting married to African-Americans, who, technically, are Osus? Yet the so-called Guardians of tradition turn a blind eye. I refuse to believe the fallacy that people from a particular tribe or social stratum are endowed with special capabilities to love better. Look at how content Kelechi and Adaeze are? You even admitted it yourself.”

“I guess my words have come back to haunt me,” Zorah answers with a weak smile. Then she walks towards Samson and holds him in a warm embrace. “The dream of any parent is for their child to be happy. And if Delilah is going to bring you happiness, then so be it.”

“Thanks Mom. I felt your resistance melt after you spent the weekend with us, and knew you’d come round,” Samson replies, squeezing her briefly before disengaging from her embrace.

“I’d have to break the news to your uncles and grandparents,” Zorah admits wryly. “By the way, will you be cutting those dreadlocks for the wedding?”

Zorah has never been fond of her son’s locks, not since he started growing them in university. At first she complained bitterly and threatened to cut them, saying he looked like a homeless man. Then she begrudgingly accepted them, telling herself it was a phase. Now, she was indifferently accepting of his hair.

“Nope, if I do I'll lose my mojo - you know how it is,” jokes Samson. 

Samson grabs his keys from the table and kisses his mom goodbye. “I know you can convince them. That’s what you’re good at.”

Watching her son walk into the sunlight, Zorah mutters regrettably to herself, “Yes, but I haven’t been able to influence your choice in marriage, or anything else since your dad died.”

***

A year earlier.

“You what?!” Delilah cries incredulously.

Samson, in a bid to calm her, takes a step in her direction and attempts touching her hands.

She flinches.

“Don’t touch me!” yells Delilah, voice trembling.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have touched the alcohol,” Samson replies, desperately seeking a sign of concurrence from her. “But you’ve got to believe I’m over her.”

“That’s right, blame it on the alcohol – as if you didn’t know prior to your getting drunk that it was your weakness. You promised you were going to be on your best behavior at Dan’s bachelor party, after I’d discouraged your going, Delilah adds, now wearing a sarcastic smile on her face. “I suppose you’ve given the phrase ‘on my best behavior’ a whole new meaning.”

Samson stands quietly, unsure of what to say to calm her nerves.

“Look, I’m going out,” Delilah pronounces, storming out of the house.

***

“Isn’t that Chigozie?” Shola motions with her head in his direction.

Delilah turns around to look, and then waves to get his attention.

“Hey ladies, long time, no see,” Chigozie says, greeting them each with a peck on the cheek. “How are things going with you two?”

The trio chats, catching up on the past and talking about future plans, until Shola, on spotting someone across the room, excuses herself, and was never to be seen again for the rest of the evening.

“You’re doing pretty well for yourself, Delilah,” compliments Chigozie. “You’ve always had a drive.”

“Thank you. You’re not doing shabbily for yourself either. Your club is ritzy,” Delilah replies, slurring her words.

“Thank you. Did you drive here?” Chigozie asks, concerned.

Delilah nods her head, I need to head back home.

“Ok, but you know you won’t be driving back home. Where’s Shola?” Chigozie glances around the club for Shola. “Seems she’s left you to your devices.”

“Yep, it’s just me and you, buddy,” Delilah answers flirtatiously.

Chigozie rises, pulling Delilah up, “I'll drive you home.”

They find her car after much ado. “Where do live?” He asks Delilah as he pulls out her car.

“Maryland. Same place as you,” Delilah replies naughtily. 

Chigozie chuckles, “Oh, come on, be serious.”

“I’m serious,” Delilah replies matter-of-factly.

They arrive in Maryland. 

Chigozie nudges Delilah who’s now fast asleep. “Wake up. Which street is it?”

After three attempts at extracting a sensible reply from her, Chigozie gives up and drives them to his home. 

The next morning, Delilah awakes with a head-splitting headache and a leaden tongue. At first, the unfamiliarity of the bedroom stuns her, shortly before the event of last night crept up on her like a repressed memory.

Ugh,” she lets out, disgusted at her antics. She finds her shoes, slips them on and steps out of the room, where she finds Chigozie drinking a cup of tea.

Good morning, he chimes exuberantly, as if it was the norm to host drunken ex-girlfriends in his home.

“Hey,” was all Delilah could manage, before thanking him. “I shouldn’t have done what I did - getting drunk and all.

“It’s alright. That’s what friends are for, right? Listen, there’s cereal and orange juice in the kitchen, if you want to eat before leaving.”

“Nah, Im good, but thanks. I should be heading out.”

 ***

“Where have you been?” Samson inquires worrisomely.

“At Chigozie’s,” Delilah responds nonchalantly, without deigning to look at him.

“Which Chigozie?” asks Samson darkly.

Delilah stops at the kitchen door, turning around to face him. “Which other Chigozie do you know?” she replies irreverently, daring him to pursue his next line of question.

Samson, realizing her tactic, decides not to ask any further questions. Reposing on the couch, Boys II Men’s Bended Knees begins playing in his head.

***

A year later.

“There was a time I thought I was going to lose you,” Samson says, locking hands with Delilah over dinner.

“Yes, I know. I thought of leaving you. You really hurt me,” Delilah confesses with a tinge of sadness. “But I’m glad we got over it.”

“Yes, I am. And I hope we can work through our future differences with even more patience, because I want you to be mine forever.”

Delilah looks at him with a look of anticipation and uncertainty.

“What are you saying?” she says calmly.

“I’m saying I want you to be my wife,” Samson replies, kneeling at the same time with ring in his hand.

“Will you marry me, Delilah?”

She doesn’t reply, but kneels and kisses him passionately.

“I guess that’s a yes,” Samson remarks breathlessly.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Life As I Know It

Imagine if there were no bees for pollination, or no flowers to be pollinated.
Photo: Pexels
I recall having a conversation with a friend about her friend’s sibling who wanted to return to Nigeria to lecture in a university.

“I can’t believe he wants to that. He has no ambition,” she said.

I replied to the effect that there was nothing wrong with his lecturing at a Nigerian university. If anything, he’d transfer his knowledge to people who may never get the chance to attend an American university.”

Similarly, another friend of mine couldn’t understand why a classmate had turned down a seemingly good offer from a multinational company, opting for a job as a teacher.

In both instances, I understand why they chose ‘less glamourous’ career paths. They were looking for something other than a huge pay check. They sought what could bring fulfilment and meaning to their life.

And maybe that’s the problem with us – accepting other people’s definition of ambition or success, and trying to meet their expectations.

My philosophy is this: If people can support themselves with a job that provides them with a raison detre, then that’s a very good start. The ability to buy a dozen houses and diamond rings doesn’t signify happiness, success, and ambition or a wonderful life, though it may appear so on the outside.

Personally, one car, a 2 bed-room apartment, a holiday trip abroad every year and a career that allows me to follow my passions, make a difference and use my talents, are what I’d consider a successful life. Opulence has never been my cup of tea, however, that’s not to say I can’t or don’t appreciate wealth aesthetically. Given the choice of owning the Mona Lisa and admiring it, I’d rather visit the Louvre to feast my eyes.

My last job was mentally exhausting, offering little or no challenges. The ennui crept in six months of my starting the job, and I felt my brain cells dying every minute I spent on the job.

Did I try seek new challenges? Yes. Did they improve my plight? No.

What was even more disheartening was that there was no going up or the down the ladder in the company, you could only stay put and stagnate - and stagnate is not something I do well. My aversion to it is partly the reason I worked very hard in school to pass courses I didn’t really care for, just so I wouldn’t have to repeat the exams.

Despite the soul-destroying drudgery, I rediscovered my talent for creative writing, which provided a sorely needed outlet. Reading and writing are the reasons I could survive my job of almost 3 years with my mind intact; and now I look forward to media job where I can put my talent to use and pursue my passion.

Discovering one’s passions, finding one’s purpose in life and making a meaningful impact are what most want in life. Which is why my next job is going to have to go beyond what it can for my bank account. It has to fill me up in a way that I can wake up every morning with a smile on my face, even when I know I won’t be paid.

Recently, I watched Oprah’s Master class with Bon Jovi, where he explained the meaning of the line, “Like Frankie said, ‘I did it my way’” in his hit song, It’s My Life. He said Sinatra lived his life as he desired. He sang when he wanted to, and when he caught the acting bug, he acted in movies. In other words, that line means dictate your life. Do the things you want to do; don’t conform to the expectations of anyone. Don’t apologize for standing in your truth.

This, in my opinion, is the key to happiness. If we can just accept that we’ve all been entrusted with a unique purpose, and that we as actors are performing different actions in different acts, then we wouldn’t covet the lives of other actors. Everyone deserves the chance to interpret life as they see it, to go through various stages, and evolve into the humans they were born to be.


…As for me, I’m still evolving.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Beware the 'I am' Hashtag

The New Year has barely begun and news of deaths, deaths and more deaths have taken center stage.

The first week of January saw thousands of people in Baga, a village in North-Eastern Nigeria, slaughtered by Boko Haram militants, while in Paris 12 people were massacred at the offices of Charlie Hebdo by terrorists.

In the aftermath of the murders in Paris, several media outlets beamed images to the rest of the world, showing French society marching in support of free speech.

Some marchers carried signs with the words ‘Je Suis Charlie’, while social media profile pictures mirrored the same words. But what does the sentence ‘Je Suis Charlie’ mean? And is it really a by-word for freedom of speech?

The problem with ‘hashtag I am’ activism is that they are largely ineffective and carry with them an air of insincerity, vanity and frivolity. Assuming hashtags were employed in the civil rights movements in the 60s, would they have had any impact on American society? What’s certain is that it would have been easier to lend one’s support for the cause behind a computer than to march down the ferocious streets of Selma. Plus anyone, millions of miles away, could conveniently associate themselves with #IamMLK or #IamRosaParks, without ever having to experience the hostility and deadly threats they and others like them faced on a daily basis.

Incidentally, when Malala Yousafzai was shot in the face, the hashtag ‘IamMalala’ trended ubiquitously. But how can you be Malala if you’ve never had your neck on the line for seeking an education. You’re not Malala if you’ve never had acid thrown in your face while walking to school, or hospitalized after inhaling toxic chemicals at a school targeted by the Taliban. You certainly cannot be Malala if you live in a country where even the thought of educating a girl child is the norm, and not an anomaly.

When we use these ‘I am’ hashtags, there’s a danger of trivializing the issue and diminishing the gravitas it warrants. Instead, it would be more sensible to hashtag the idea underlying the incident. For instance, #JeSuisCharlie would be #IStandforFreeSpeech or #FreeSpeechLives.

Furthermore, a certain level of cautiousness has to be exercised when ‘metonymising’ organisations or people, since we may not know all that they stand for. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical publication that specialized in lampooning politicians, religion and religious figures, for whatever reason wasn’t a widely read magazine prior to the massacre, and so for a throng of people to proclaim they are them now is questionable.

Secondly, Charlie Hebdo, which is now touted as the poster child for freedom of speech, fired Maurice Sinet, a cartoonist, in 2009 for the same idea it claims to espouse. Sinet had written a column suggesting Sarkozy’s son will go far in life for marrying to a Jew and was sacked after he refused to apologize.

Now, Charlie’s decision wouldn’t seem hypocritical if it had deemed the depiction of France’s black female Justice Minister as a monkey equally as offensive.

There’s no doubt some view Charlie Hebdo as bullies for mocking the religion of a perceived marginalized minority in France, with the sole aim of evoking anger. If there was a loftier underlying reason for drawing Mohammed in their cartoons, other than seeking cheap thrills, then said cartoons may have acted as a bridge for discussion rather than a bag of insult on a disaffected community.  

While there’s no denying that the killing of the cartoonists was an egregious and inexcusable act of violence on the part of the terrorists, we should understand that in a civil and free society, a degree of discretion and temperance in speech ought to be exercised for peace to thrive and wounds to heal. We don’t have to agree with or understand the reasoning behind the prohibition of the Prophet Mohammed’s likeness in Islam, or why it’s taboo to present a watch as a gift in Chinese culture, but we can, for the sake of harmony, respect those opinions (as long as no one is oppressed by them).

Much of the world is in discord today largely because people are ignored and disaffected. However, the moment we stop being overly individualistic and narcissistic, and say to one another, “I see you. I hear you. You matter,” that will be the beginning of the end of most, if not all, conflicts.

Lastly, in the face of provocation, let’s remember the words of Aristotle: Anybody can become angry – that’s easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.