On First Impressions and Seconds

First-impression

Do first impressions matter?

A week ago I was walking home from work, down a busy Lagos street, exhausted and barely keeping the adrenaline pumping when I stopped to buy bread. Bread because I don’t know how I’ll survive in my house without it for a whole weekend.

The woman was rude. That was my first impression. She spoke like I was interrupting something and shot daggers when I tried inspecting the bread. I asked if they were fresh. Yes. They all say yes, but you ask anyway hoping someone will say it’s a day old. Or two. Or maybe a week. But asking buys you time to block out the rest of your senses and use just the nose. If you’re lucky the pleasant aroma of freshly baked bread will fill them in no time.

She looked irritated by my presence and I regretted stopping in the first place. Naturally I’d walk away, but I didn’t. I stayed, allowing our mutual irritations overlap. For a moment I wondered how she managed to keep any customers at all.

Three days later I walked past the same stall and heard someone call out. When I turned it was the bread seller, waving and asking if I wanted to buy more bread. I’m not sure if I succeeded in hiding my surprise, but even before thinking I could feel my lips returning the smile. This thing betrays my emotions.

The next day I stopped over to buy bread. She called me her friend or something like that. I don’t mind, I’ve been called many things by women ranging from darling to sweetheart to love and my baby. It’s all the same to me.

Everyday I walk past my eyes do a quick search for her. We lock gaze. Smile. And communicate a silent good night. Yesterday I stopped to buy bread. Two? Yes, two. She remembers I bought two loaves the first time. She remembers the brand I like. I don’t even inspect it. Don’t take too long to eat this one. I nod.

I’m surprised she recalled my face since we met on a dark road illuminated by candles from other traders. Maybe I have one of those faces you don’t forget; maybe I look like one of those customers you know will always come back.

Should first impressions matter?

I don’t know. I met a bread seller who was rude the first time, I was sure I never wanted to do business with her again. A week later and we’re exchanging secret smiles. There are many things that could have been wrong that day. She could have had a bad day, and yet all I could think of was how I deserved a nice, cheerful person serving me… even when I wasn’t feeling so cheerful myself.

What does that make me?

I don’t know. But I hope that someone out there will be more generous with a second impression of me.

Shadows

candle

It was a starless night. The wind howled like a lone wolf outside and the little filtered by the mosquito net barring the window carried the promise of a heavy downpour. We gathered inside the tiny room housing two of us as was our ritual, were we would talk about everything and nothing in particular. A candle stood regally upon the study table, casting its warm glow upon the room and beside it sat a Bible in its divine glory, one of the most show-cased and least opened books.

They said I never say much. I smiled. As always there was little to say. We were but different people brought together by providence. They talked about study, boys, family, religion, food, sex, love. I smiled and laughed on cue, all the time thinking of how much we had changed.

Yes, there was always so much to talk about. The conversation went on around me, one minute building into a crescendo, followed by a barrage of laughter and the next, a sound no louder than a whisper.

I looked to my right and sniffed the air again, rain. Then a muffled sound snapped me out of my reverie. I held my breath as my heart raced and adrenaline pumped into my muscles numbed from sitting Buddha style. Something was out there. The conversation went on, and into fear grappled mind words finally began to filter through: slut…not so beautiful…poorly dressed…likes men…sleeps…lecturers…

I shook my head to clear my mind and turned back to my companions. Lightening flashed and from the corner of my eyes I caught a glimpse of a silhouette huddled behind the door.

Few minutes after the door opened and she strutted into the room. A quick glance at her downcast eyes confirmed my already budding suspicion. She’d been listening. I glanced at my companions who moments ago struck by dumbness, so artfully recovered and now launched into new horizons like they weren’t moments ago gossiping about our once absent friend. She flopped on the mattress and joined in the conversation, her sentences so often punctuated by childlike laughter.

I wondered at humans– the length we would go to make ourselves feel better. How easy it was to misunderstand others simply because they lived different lives from ours, or at least what we are used to having around us. Why it was so easy to forgive a child for being too trusting, looking at the world like a playground, and choosing to see only the inherent good in others; while with adults we brand them honorary titles like slut. But do we really grow out of our childish nature or does our shell just grow bigger? Do we don new clothes, fresh masks every day, live like society dictates and find a drug for our unhappiness and frustration? We carry bibles; hide behind religion or whatever else makes us feel good, pretending to be upright, but inside we are simply a bitter lot, people very much unsatisfied with life, hoping for redemption.

Behind each girl was a story– experiences, mistakes, choices, life. I saw dreams that could best be likened to fairy tales woven in the web of time and left to gather dust because of fear– fear of society, and fear of the unknown. But she was different, brave. So much had changed around her but she seemed untouched. She’d wrapped her past around her but was never deterred by it. She was life. She was like the candle: tall, regal, warm and full of light.

The flame flickered, casting a shadow. Its light shifting, changing, and then it was back to normal.

From across the room our eyes met and held. She regarded me briefly and I read the unspoken questions in them. I burned in shame. Then slowly her lips curved into a smile and I knew all was forgiven.

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I wrote this a year ago (June 2014) and since my brain is slightly short-circuited right now, I figured it worth digging up stuff from my archive. This was one of my earlier attempts writing something that looked like a story, 🙂 I can’t tell if I succeeded or not so you can be the judge.

See you around.

A Tale Of Bobby

He was virginal white, full of life and every bit active. I fell utterly in love the first day we met.

Aunt had just come home from a very busy day at work and we went out to welcome her and bring in the bags. I usually didn’t take part in the boot-clearing-bag-carrying ritual because the parents were the only ones older than I was. It was family tradition to leave work like this for the younger kids.

After a few minutes I came out to loud exclamations from the younger kids. They all stood gathered round an object, and were  obviously fascinated by what they saw. Curious, I took a few steps closer to see what had put the spark in their eyes… that was when I met him. Adorable, ginormous, probably obese creature. I named him Bobby.

Bobby like I mentioned earlier was full of life. He made himself quite comfortable at home. He knew all the entrances to the house, and would on certain occasions find his way into the store in the kitchen. I assumed he was pecking away at crumbs left by my feisty little cousin. Sometimes Bobby would strut into the living room clucking like he paid the rent and we were mere visitors. I remember fondly one such occasion.

PHCN had struck again in the early hours of the night and the living room was without a light source. Being quite comfortable in darkness and knowing like the back of my palm every nook of the house, I didn’t bother walking with one. I made my way to sit at the dinning table (which is my favourite spot) when I felt this cool rush of  breeze on my bare legs. I smiled in contentment thanking God for such small wonders (having the wind blow on your bare legs is an awesome feeling). This went on for a few minutes with only a brief intermittent pause before the next rush came, when suddenly something stabbed me on the foot. I yelled an ouch and jumped up from my very comfortable sit, when I heard what was unmistakably Bobby’s cluck. All these while he had been busy having the time of his life under the dinning table and apparently I was interrupting and crowding him. It would seem my brief cooling sensation was actually a ‘back off I got here first’ warning which I failed  to decode and so being what he was, he went violent. I flung open the door, and poked him with a cane till he found his way back out in the cold– after making me chase him round the sitting room.

That’s how comfortable Bobby made himself. He didn’t mind at all that he was actually an early Easter gift from a family friend, and that we were someday going to have to eat him. No, he didn’t mind at all. He just took control of his environment and the house. In fact he almost became a Dog. Whenever we left the gate carelessly open, he’d take a walk down the Close and still find his way back home for a drink of water and feed. We all loved Bobby.

Then came the day Aunty had to kill him. I begged and pleaded that Bobby’s life be spared. I forgot that he annoyed me consistently every morning when he would deliberately choose to make his morning cry below my window. I forgot that he would walk into the living room and leave his mark with that horrid stench. I forgot that I had the duty of feeding him every morning. I forgot all that, I just wanted Bobby to live. But Aunt wouldn’t hear of it. She chased him down– and he did try to escape, my obese friend– and caught him. She held him down with a foot on his wings, and the other on his bond feet. She pulled out the pristine white feathers on his long bulging neck with a knife she had carefully sharpened. Then she cut him. Bobby jerked, trying to suck in as much air as his severed wind pipe could hold. His blood spilled out on the pavement, rich in color and thick. The spot beneath his throat rose and fell as slowly life seeped out of him. Then it was over. Bobby was dead.

Aunt dipped him into a basin of steaming hot water and peeled off his feathers. Then she made me hold each piece of him as she cut off huge chunks of meat from that obese body. I stared in wonder. I had never seen such amount of meat come out of one creature. It was a good thing she didn’t make me cook him. I was feeling guilty enough that I let her kill him, and she made me hold his flesh for mutilatation.

In a few hours Bobby was ready. I wasn’t going to partake– No. I wasn’t going to betray what we had by joining in that unholy feast. I was going to stay true and mourn dear Bobby. But I was weak. The aroma from the  pot was too tempting. I resisted the urge for as long as I could, but my body and rumbling belly would have none of that. An hour later, I was cracking bones and sucking out marrows. Bobby was absolutely delicious.

We’ve had many come and go after Bobby. There was Hansel and Gretel– the twins, Rose– who ran away, Peter, Paul, Maryann and a lot more that I took no particular interest in. But none of them could ever match up to Bobby. Not in beauty, perfection, size, nor brains… and yes, let’s not forget taste.

In loving memory of Bobby– pal extraordinaire. Entertainer. Irritant. Pest. Food.

chicken image and tales.jpg
This is an old photo of Bobby from 2010 when all the skill I had in photography was the combined effort of a 2MP mobile camera and bad lighting 😀 Goes without saying eh. Forgive the poor quality; had to dig into facebook archive to find it.

Romantic relationships: Understanding the opposite sex.

Loving couple holdind on the hands and sunset
A couple of weeks ago I lost touch with a friend…a male friend. Of all the problems we had, one seemed to stand out: somehow we (or one of us did) let emotions take centre stage. That single unconscious act alone became the seed that eventually germinated to reproduce many issues that led to our eventual estrangement.

Our ‘break up’ hurt like nothing I had felt before—at first though—not because I was romantically inclined towards him, but because I had come to value our friendship a lot and acted as such. On hindsight I think the ‘act’ bit of my attitude confused the hell out of him.

Men and women it would seem have different ‘processors’, and don’t actually understand each other as well as we love to think– I mean if I had a penny every time I heard a guy say, “You took advantage of my feelings for you”, I’d be a frigging billionaire today.
So in a bid to clear the air and preserve future friendships WITHOUT that tiny organ getting in the way, I’ll attempt to explain why we keep getting our signals all muddled up and royally screwing up every good thing that happens in the form of the opposite sex. Perhaps we’ll reach a compromise eventually and hopefully everyone—men and women—can go home happy.

What does a man see when he approaches a woman?
It’s pretty much straight forward. Our one-track-mind better halves have a lot of difficulty seeing beyond their immediate desires…obviously. To them it’s either what they want or nothing at all. You are either friend material at first glance, or girl friend material. Anything suggestion to the contrary is not welcome, thank you.
Briefly summarized:
Brains+Ass+Boobs+(personality)=Girl friend material.
Brains+Ass+(Boobs)+(personality)=Friend material.
ABSOLUTELY NO MIDDLE GROUND.

What does a woman see when she meets a guy?
Women are unarguably the most complex creatures in God’s green Earth. So how do you figure out what she thinks about you? You can’t. Unless she tells you, reading her body language and speech pattern is absolutely useless (please do not make the mistake of trying this unless you have psychic powers).

There are three reasons a woman will be attracted (not necessarily romantically) to you:
You’re drop dead gorgeous. You’re stinking rich. You’re Einstein smart. OK, maybe not to the extreme like I just suggested, but I believe you get the point (you could however fall in the category of triple threat extraordinaire).

Women unlike men as a general rule don’t start off relationships ‘heart first, head later’. We like to take our time getting to know more about you. More importantly is that you may not ever be lucky enough to grace our ‘potential boyfriend’ list…EVER. But when we like you, well we’ll want to keep you.
Even so, the wait can be tiring seeing as men aren’t the most patient beings around, and women will take twice as much time picking a beau as she would choosing the perfect nail polish.

So while waiting in limbo here are a couple of things you could chew on:
1. You aren’t the only guy who wants her. A girl is allowed to be confused if there are many eligible bachelors seeking out her awesomeness. You observed and found her ‘worthy’ of you, give her time to decide where and how you fit into her life too. Be considerate.

2. While you’re hoping she sees something more special than friendship in you, do remember she will treat you like everybody else she likes. She’ll flirt, place her head on your shoulder, laugh at your jokes, call your mobile phone and spend long hours talking with you, maintain eye contact and smile from across the room. She’ll use phrases like, “you abandoned me” and it still wouldn’t be giving the green light to her. Why? Because that’s how she is with her friends, and right now that’s exactly what you are. Women are more mentally flexible than their male counterpart, which means we can crisscross the line between friend and lover flawlessly while keeping to heart who plays what role to us. Don’t over think things.

3. You may never have her. But really isn’t that what life is all about: chances, risks, frigging probabilities? You may never become anything more than the Bradley Cooper-Mark Zuckerberg-Einstein-like guy who she just likes…as a friend.
So decide if she’s worth having around at all(come on there must be something that made her worth having around in the first place) and if you can stand the impending heart break you just might receive always bearing in mind that to her you are friends first. Be realistic.

That said, since I promised a compromise I’ll deliver. The men are pretty much covered, so ladies:
Men have delicate sensibilities, handle them with kid gloves. Decide if he is worth falling in your boyfriend list(you can achieve this speedily by keeping a checklist of potential boify attributes, unless love happens and you chuck it out the window). If his performance is not satisfactory , let him know. Being friend zoned by a girl you’re literally dying for is as bad as being raped(it is emotional rape). If you think he has a chance with you then let him know, but be sure to tell him he’s got major competition(s) too and could possibly lose(just in case he loves to build sand castles). No matter how difficult it will be, try not to flirt with him. Men can’t always differentiate between green lights and no lights(they aren’t wired that way).

There, case solved.

Love, Friendship, Happiness

“I want someone who will love me for who I am, not someone who is trying to change me”

Love requires that every man accepts you just the way you are. It does not try to visibly change you; it doesn’t ask that you become less of yourself. It sees you for what and who you are, and chooses to accept you good and bad.

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