On Love 

I love to love

I love to be loved 

I’ll lay myself out for love 

This doesn’t make me weak

Because I love myself with the same intensity

And that self love is what protects me ultimately 

I’ll love you but I’ll demand my due 

And walk away if you will not pay 

Stand Your Ground

Cameroonian Girl

Stand your ground. There’s no man born who can take you out unless you allow it. And you’ve been taught to allow so much, anything else feels wrong.

Stand your ground.

You’re not crazy. You’re not asking too much. You’re not being unreasonable. You’re not being selfish. You’re not arrogant or full of pride. You don’t even think as high enough of your self as they accuse you of. Think higher.

Stand your ground.

Even if it means you’ll stand alone. Even when it hurts and you want to die . When it feels wrong, when it feels right. When it feels good, when it hurts. When you win and when you lose (and yes you will).

Stand your ground.

You’re not weak. You’re not defective.  You’re only human. You’re not perfect. You’re a seed which grew where it fell from the Universe’s hand. Fate will storm on you. You will break and be broken.  Branches, leaves and fruit will be lost. And the waters will wash these pieces downstream.

Stand your ground.

When that’s over, when that rain stops as rains is known to do, stand up. You’re stronger than you realize and you carry the DNA of women who’ve carried the world on their shoulders. Trust the soil you were planted in. Reach deeper. You grew there didn’t you?

Stand your ground.

You will win. Or your daughters will.

But you have to stand your ground.

Things they left behind

A fondness for Future

A better relationship with  beer

Interest in middle eastern art

Tape deck for the car

Otterbox for the phone

An enduring love for Led Zeppelin

Mostaccioli, beef stroganoff

Umberto Eco

Coldplay  (I know. IDGAF IDGAF )

A deep appreciation for great cunnilingus

Great book recommendations

A love for chocolate  with tea

An out of control love for cinnamon rolls

More interest in comics than I care to admit to

Coronas in margaritas

A better understanding of self

A weed addiction

Courage

The beauty that is sleeping pills

Clothes I pilfered

That one pajama bottom

ACDC jokes

A bad ass LinkedIn Profile

Kitty cats!

Red velvet cake

Tolkien

They leave so much behind, don’t they?

 

 

Learning to live with scars

The thing I learned early about scars is that some never fade.

I’m one of those people with scar prone skin. I also have sensitive skin and a tendency to not leave things well alone, so my whole body is covered in scars. I’m not even kidding. If you counted every single blemish, they’d likely number in the hundreds.

If I was waxing poetic I would say they are a road map to my life, each spot a monument to some time when the figurative hard knocks of life crossed into the realm of the literal, leaving a reminder that shit will happen and there’s not a fucking thing I can do about it.

But really they’re just scars. Black, brown or white and shiny blemishes on my skin which remind me of every mosquito bite, every fall, every beating, every  iron burn, knife cut, boarding school trunk  accident, hot water spill, scratch, surgery, bite, fight, adult acne break out, skin infection  that I have ever had, with the promise of more to come, a morbid documentation of my fragility. After all anyone of those wounds could have been fatal.

I did, after all, grow up in Cameroon.

And they never fade.

They never fade.

I’ve tried it all. Creams, pomades, treatments, vitamins, scrubs. Serums, oils, peels, washes. The appearance of some diminished somewhat but I can still see the line formed by the hot coals that fell on my lap from the iron. I should have known better than try to iron my birthday dress myself. My mother made me wear a horrendous track suit to school. The one day I got to not wear the school uniform, I wore a track suit. I was crushed. I was 5 years old.

I remember the taunts. Form 2 and 3 in Saker were hard times.

“Nice legs…”

The gasps.

The girls  at the tailoring shop. The one who couldn’t contain her dismay.

“Mamamiye, na weti chop me this pikin e foot them so?”

Blurted out in that genuinely harmless but still tactless way us Cameroonians have about us.

The guy friend who apologized to me after loudly complimenting some random girl’s legs.

Bless your heart.

 

I’ve learned to live with them. Make peace with them as best as I can. I don’t find always beauty in them although some days I trace the lines and jagged edges and chuckle, wishing I had that minimum of fucks to give that would let me just forget they’re there or do something radical like turn them into tattoos, a random pattern unique to me. I’m still self conscious about them. I still wince when I wear a mini skirt (but I will wear the hell out of that mini skirt). I still wish I had smooth blemish free skin. I still wonder what my partners think. I still linger in skin care sections longer than I need to and  will read up on the latest skin care fads.

And I tell myself it’s ok. I’ve made it this far with them. And the show must go on, I guess.

 

Glass Beads

Glass beads around her waist

Rhythmic rattles

Whisper soft

Beat soft

Skin soft

Skin bare

Skin brown

Back arched

Head back

Eyes shut

Thighs wide

Booty primed

Bass lines

Strong as a beating heart

Stronger than a beating heart

Rhythmic rattles

Whisper soft

Beat soft

Glass beads around her waist

Bush Faller Lament

It’s not supposed to be like this, is it?
“Bush” is supposed to be safe.
“Bush” is supposed to be comfortable.
Predictable even.
You clean enough shit and “put your head for book,”
Play your cards right and don’t be too much of a crook,
And one day, you too can be a bushfaller,
With a fast car and money to blow in Limbe at Christmas.

It’s not supposed to be like this.
Your mother couldn’t have warned you about the quiet white boy who kept to himself.
Or the police officer who thinks you inferior to himself.
Or the Pakistani boy who’s not been himself, since the day he held his fathers lifeless hand and cursed the people who would kill a poor farmer and not the pashas.

It’s not supposed to be like this, is it?
The rising tide of fear.
The question niggling the back of your brain.
The one you push down, as you try to assure yourself it will all be alright.
That you and yours are too small, to be of any consequence in this fight.

It’s not supposed to be like this.
And yet here we are.
Crying more than the bereaved.
And what do we really mourn?
The lives lost?
Or the death of the illusion of safety we’d allowed ourselves to buy into?

When You Say “Akata”

When you say “Akata”
Remember
You are speaking of a brother
A sister, a child
Mother, father
Kidnapped from home
Raised on far off shores
Chained and beaten
Until hope became a faint glimmer
Until home became a weak whisper
Until humanity tasted bitter.

When you say “Akata”
Remember
You are not speaking of yourself
Because you had Africa’s forests
Her mountains, deserts and hills
Her rivers and other waters
To hide in when snow fell in the tropics
You had ancestral breasts to suckle on
Food for that long winter
And grand parents who remembered to teach you
The language of your people.

When you say “Akata”
Remember
That the white man used porters
Your own uncles
Willing servants, joyful warders
Who helped them draw the borders
That split your fathers compound into two countries
And made your cousin a stranger
And started the wars that have left you an orphan
And started the quarrels that have driven you from home
To the place where the “Akatas”
Have labored and fought
So you have a place to come to
After your father’s house burned to the ground.

When you say “Akata”
Remember.

Bye Bye Boys, It’s Been Real

A recent interaction with a fellow Cameroonian of the male species left me feeling really salty. The pomposity of this guy, the way he tried to patronize me (one of my biggest pet peeves), the pretense of superiority which left him looking desperately silly… it rankled.  Of course, I applied the philosophy of #JeTeBloque to his ass. Why argue with a fool who will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience?

I thought about it and wondered why quite a few of my interactions with the males of my country ended like this. Maybe I’m just the arrogant, trouble making bitch some folks seem to think I am. Or maybe the fact that I clash with them is symptomatic of a bigger problem: the inability of our men to deal with  girl who is not particularly trying to impress them. I laughed and shrugged it off in the end.

And then this morning three of my friends disclosed recent conversations they have had with males of the same species, which got me pissed off all over again. You see folks, it’s not just me. I mean I am abrasive and irritable and I don’t suffer fools. But these ladies are some of the most level headed  women I know. The way these guys talked to them… belittled them, patronized them and insulted their intelligence… Let’s just say somebody would have been burying a son if that was me.

Quite a few of you menfolk have told me you’d be more willing to listen to me if I changed my approach and I still say kiss my ass. Because the truth, if you are willing to listen to it, is that you don’t have a problem with my approach. You have a problem with the fact that I am even daring to talk at all and openly criticizing your kind, because that is not what women from our part of the world do. The African women you are used to are mostly submissive and docile. Too focused on surviving in a world rigged by male dominance to truly challenge you beyond the acceptable levels of what is considered a “strong woman.” You know, that girl who will speak her mind and all but ultimately will allow herself to be silenced because there are ways in which a woman should express herself and whatever she does she must remain respectable. You have a problem with the fact that I am not toeing the line. That I have stopped trying to reason with you (as if you even have the least interest in hearing what I am saying, as drunk as you are on your notions of male superiority). Why do I say this? Because even when we try to reason with you, you dismiss us like what we have to say doesn’t matter and if we get angry… Oooooh we’re being emotional, as if we don’t have the right to be angry.

Fuck that and fuck you.

You, a christian man, try to force yourself on a woman. When she fights you off, you say it was God protecting his child (i.e you) from temptation? What in the entire hell? I hope you are sterile or have low sperm motility. You shouldn’t breed and perpetuate that fuckery. And now it is all OK and you and her are cool because you have asked God for forgiveness? What about her? Have you asked her for forgiveness? And then you have the nerve to lecture her on the evil that is the feminist movement? A movement which exists to protect women from hypocritical, morally corrupt predators like you? I hope your penis shrivels up and falls off. Bastard.

Oh let’s not forget about this other one who has the unmitigated bile to tell my girl  not to question the story the guy she’s been dating has been telling her about a girl in his past, who really isn’t in his past. His reason? “If you rock the boat too much he might start wondering why you are still single at your age.”  Na who di born these mugu them? Who models manhood for you cretins? Seriously?

Or the one who I asked to not grind his erection on me while were out dancing because it made me uncomfortable, who then asked me how it was his problem that I feel uncomfortable.

And then this…

You ask her to go to the movies with you. She says she doesn’t like going to the movies really. You ask what she likes. She says reading.

IMG_1756

Really?

Conversation moves on… you’re trying to chat this girl up and she points out that you have different belief systems which might makes things difficult. You then insist that she couldn’t possibly have arrived at her current way of seeing things by herself.

IMG_1750  IMG_1751

You act innocent…. or maybe you’re really just clueless. She’s gracious and patient enough to keep talking to you and her work comes up… She explains what she does to you.

idiot     IMG_1757

How is it some of you do not know when to quit? When to back the fuck off and leave a woman alone when she has made it clear she really doesn’t want to interact with you? What did you eat today? Are you talking to someone in nursery school?

The problem is many of you will read this and get offended because I am “generalizing” but excuse me, when crap like this keeps happening over and over, YOU maybe different (or think you are) but there are enough of your brothers out there who simply are ruining it for you. Go and get them.

By the way, she’s going to be a doctor. Asshole.

/end rant

Choosing Me: Part 2

Read Part 1 here

One Year Earlier…

She watched him from across the crowded room, the food in her plate forgotten. Around her, loud conversations swirled against a backdrop of afro beats music and laughter. The sounds were typical of any Cameroonian party. The baby shower was in full swing now that all the cutesy games and gift giving was over. It was time to eat, drink and talk, the three things Cameroonians excelled at.  She might as well not have been there, however, so engrossed was she in watching him. Not that she would have had anything to say to anyone. The hosts were friends of Jude’s, francophones he grew up with in Yaounde. The majority of the guests were people she didn’t know. There were a couple of familiar faces, but no one she knew beyond the acquaintance level. Attending a baby shower had not been part of her plan when she’d impulsively bought a plane ticket to go visit him in Virginia, but he had insisted on going, stating matter-of-factly that he  made the plans before she told him she was coming.  After introducing her to Amandine the mother-to-be and her husband Yves, he  escorted her to the food table where she made plates for both of them. He’d then proceeded to grab a drink for himself and migrate over to where his friends were, leaving her to her own devices. So here she sat, watching him and thinking.

It was a common occurrence these days, this habit of mulling thoughts over in her head completely oblivious to her surroundings. The thoughts were usually about him… or them. About what was happening to them. About what was going to happen to them. They annoyed her, these thoughts, drained her of energy. Her friends said she was fretting over nothing but her gut had never failed her. She knew she had reason to worry. The challenge was figuring out what was triggering her warning system. On the surface things were as good as they could be at this point. They talked often – or as often as his work schedule would allow.  Not as much as she would prefer but they were both working adults living in different states. They couldn’t constantly be in touch, could they? Each time they talked, she felt she got to know the kind of person he was a little better. Or did she? Her mind threw the question back at her almost immediately and she paused. How well did she know him? And more importantly how well did he know her? Was he even paying attention? Or was he seeing just what he wanted to see? He had been distant recently and a lot of the effort to drive their communication seemed to be coming from her end.

A passerby ran into her leg almost upending her plate. A ball of puff-puff rolled off and thumped to the floor.

“Oh, I am so sorry!” The girl’s distinctly francophone Cameroonian accent seeped through her Americanized English. “Would you like me to get you another one?”

“No… That’s OK.” Nadia bent over and picked up the pastry, absentmindedly putting it back into her plate of barely touched food. The girl gave her a weird look, clearly thinking she still intended to eat the sullied food. “I’m done eating anyway” Nadia said quickly. It didn’t help. The girl’s eyes drifted to her still packed plate, and her brows furrowed with disapproval.

“Is there something wrong with the food?”

Nadia looked up at the girl, taken aback by her confrontational attitude. Her face was familiar. Smooth dark skin, high forehead and full lips with a pink tinge. Why did she seem familiar? And then it dawned on her. She was related to the mother-to-be. A sister perhaps. They looked alike enough  for that to be true. She had more than likely participated in the cooking.

“Uuuhh… No. No. The food is fine. I just lost my appetite. I’m sorry. My eyes were bigger than my stomach, I suppose.”

The girl narrowed her eyes at Nadia, obviously still not pleased with the answer. She looked like she might say something else but instead walked away, muttering something in French. Nadia heaved a sigh of relief. It was bad enough being at a party where she didn’t really know anyone, surrounded by Jude’s friends. The last thing she wanted was to get into a confrontation of any sort. Speaking of Jude, her eyes shifted to where he last was standing. He was still there and he was looking in her direction. The moment their eyes met, his slid away, barely acknowledging her. A frisson of discomfort ran through Nadia.

Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

“Oh my god, Vanessa! You made it, girl! I’m so happy to see you!”

A lull in the buzz of conversation and a pause between two songs made the mother-to-be’s exclamation louder and more noticeable than it would have been over the party’s din. All eyes shifted to the door where a group of girls had just walked in, among them, a strikingly pretty dark-haired white girl holding a brightly colored gift bag.  She exchanged hugs with the mother-to-be, a happy smile on her face. They obviously were good friends. Talking animatedly, they walked to the decorated table where all the gifts were so Vanessa could set down her bag and then turned to survey the party which had returned to normal with music and conversation. For some reason, Nadia watched Vanessa with great curiosity. She lacked the self-consciousness that most white people had when surrounded by black people. She was relaxed, even reaching over to pluck a piece of dodo from Amandine’s plate to eat, joy spreading over her face as she chewed. She leaned close to Amandine and asked a question. Amandine’s brow furrowed as she looked around the room. Her eyes settled on a spot and she gestured with her chin. Vanessa’s gaze followed the direction of the gesture and then softened as she found who she’d obviously been asking about. She smiled warmly, intimately and waved.

Nadia looked in the direction of their attention and felt a jolt when she saw whose gaze Vanessa’s was locked with. Jude looked ecstatic, his handsome face suffused with the glow which comes with the pleasure of getting a much desired wish.  It was a far cry from the annoyed almost hostile look he had given her when he picked her up from the airport the night before. Nadia’s eyes shifted back to Vanessa but it wasn’t Vanessa who caught her attention. It was Amandine. Amandine who was staring at her. Amandine, who looked away guiltily when their eyes met.

Nadia’s heart sank.