Friday, September 20, 2019

The Retro Journals: The Far Side of Midnight

160714



Sometimes I try to look across this space
Sometimes all I see is the nothingness
This vast expanse that says I'm still not good enough, never will be,
That no matter what I do or don't do, I can't ever win (that whether I do or do not, I still lose)
And it's not the long, rocky road ahead that stops me taking the first step
It's the fear of failing, finding myself yet again in this place
Finding me yet again the prodigal, not even worthy of the crumbs off Your table

But then Your grace carries me...

Sometimes I stand here, on the outside looking in and longing
For the warmth and comfort of home
It seems the more I crave, the harder it gets
I try so hard to catch Your attention, strive to get You to love me,
 I cover up my flaws, paint on a face, raise my hands
Deep down, I still think mercy and grace ain't for the likes of me
I cry and I beg and I scream and I rage, turn away and do my own thing, say You couldn't care less
Still just this lost child desperate for the Father's touch, searching for love in all the wrong places


Sometimes I find myself sitting on that thin line again
teetering, free falling into nothing, wondering how it is I'm doing this dance again
Wondering how I'll step away from the line, wondering which side of it I'll find myself on; straight across or right down the middle
Afraid of how long it'll be, a day, a year, a moment before I'm right back here, toeing the line for the millionth time
Because there's that voice telling me it's just a matter of time, be it even a life time...

Sunday, December 9, 2018

My Un-Prodigal Brother



I hate travelling by mule. Grumpy, onerous creatures that I suspect want more than anything to tip you over at the first opportunity. And that waddling up and down motion that makes me feel sick, urrgh! Well, I am at least grateful to be travelling atop said mule, rather than trudging alongside it. There was just enough room for me to perch alongside the load it was carrying.
Dawn was still at least an hour away when our mule train reached the outskirts of the Galilean town of Sepphoris. My brother, Yaʿqob was waiting for me like he’d promised. It was on account of him that I’d had the long ride on the querulous mule. In fact, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t even have any business in Galilee, not to talk of making my way there on foot with my meager possessions on my back. He had found some work for me with one of the merchants he did business with and had arranged for my transportation down to Galilee as well. I would have been able to afford to ride in a proper waggon if I hadn’t had to use some of the money to buy the threadbare cloak I was now presently wearing, as well as my shearing knife.

How did I come to this? How did I become this man?

Better not to think about that. At least, I have a cloak and some decent work. Just two sabbaths ago, I was not only tending swine, I was stealing their feed. Somethings are best left unthought of.
Yaʿqob embraced me as always, despite the unmistakable stench of swine on me.
          “How are you, Brother?” he asked, kissing my cheeks.
          “I’m well.” I replied, returning his kisses. “And yourself?”
          “God be praised. Hadassah sends her love and raisin cakes. She has not stopped weeping for you, Brother.”
My heart ached for our little sister and how she was still too young to understand my leaving.  Her innocent heart still could not fathom how complicated things had gotten between Father and I. She had been unable to bear our frequent disagreements and it had broken her heart to see our family torn apart.

I was never good enough and could never hope to be. Me leaving was best for everyone.

Despite all of that, my empty stomach growled at the thought of Hadassah’s cakes. It had been more than a full day since my last stolen pig-feed.
          “Tell her I long for her too.” I said to Yaʿqob, and he sighed in resignation. We’d had this conversation countless times before and we both knew how it would go.
          “Eliyahu….” He started, laying a gentle hand on my shoulder.
          “Brother, please don’t.” I said wearily. I was suddenly bone-tired, and not from the long journey and starvation. My heart felt hollowed out.
          “Just come back home to Nazareth.”
          “But how can I? after all that has happened?”
          “None of that matters!”
          “But it does!”

There are just somethings you don’t come back from. There are some things you can’t undo or un-say.

          “Father…”
          “…hates me! That is why he turned his back on me!”
Yaʿqob recoiled from me like I’d raised a fist to him.
“How can you even think that?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.
“He was never there in the times that I needed him!”
“That's not true!”
“Well, that's how it looked from where I was standing!”
“He would never shut you out, not even now...”

Yes, he shut me out of his heart, long before I did the unthinkable.

Yaʿqob had always been the better son. Older, wiser, more grounded, the responsible one, the loved one. There was no doubt that he was the very apple of Father’s eye, his pride and joy. As a little boy, all I ever wanted was to be like my golden older Brother whom I loved with my whole heart. I longed for his excellent spirit, and I hoped to win Father’s love like he had. Instead, it seemed like the older I got and the harder I tried, the more I messed up and the farther apart Father and I grew. I started to realize I could never get it right with him. I came to realize there was something wrong with us and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I started to wonder if he would ever love me like he loved Yaʿqob, if he even loved me at all. I felt the distance between us grow, and I could feel him judging me every time he looked at me, measuring me up against Yaʿqob, and finding me lacking.

All I ever wanted was to earn his love, be good enough.

I turned away from him, not wanting him to see how deeply it still hurt. Not even the months and months of partying and wild living had been able to dull that pain.

Leaving had been the only option. I couldn’t bear to stay another day knowing I was a failure. Shaming Father had been my payback for the anger and hurt.

          “We should go. The shearing will begin soon.” I said, grabbing my tiny pack from the ground. I thought Yaʿqob would protest and try to reason with me some more, but he didn’t.
We mounted the fresh mules my brother had acquired from his inn keeper, and rode through the empty streets in silence, each one lost in his own thoughts. Soon, we saw the flickering lights of the shearing shed in the distance. I hoped that Yaʿqob’s friend had at least half as many sheep as Father did. That would mean I would earn about two days’ wages, three if I was lucky. Hopefully, enough to tide me over until I could find some more work. Maybe I would strike gold, and other shepherds would bring their sheep to be sheared and I would have work for up to a fortnight.
At the gates, we embraced, Yaʿqob holding on to me one moment longer.
          “I will see you again soon, Brother.” He said.
          “Thank you Yaʿqob. For everything.”
          “Phineas knows to expect you. He will treat you fairly.”
          “God’s blessings, Brother.” I kissed his hand, and he rode on towards Ginosar.
I tethered my mule to a post, and then made my way into the shed. A few other shearers had arrived before me, and I was approaching one of them to ask about Phineas when I saw him. Even in the dim light, there was no way I could have missed that distinct plane of his shoulders, the graceful way he moved among the men. My heart leapt in my chest and then froze.

Dear God, what is he doing here! How can he be here?

I turned around and stumbled out of the shed. How can this be? What was Father doing all the way in Galilee, so far from our pasture lands? He was wealthy enough to hire the best shearers in all of Israel, yet he decides to come to a small town in Galilee? And he didn’t even send the shepherds, he came himself!

You meddling fool, Ya’qob, what have you done?

I should have known he would do something like this! I should have known. Did Father put him up to it? Did he want me to come begging for mercy?

I’d do it in a heartbeat if it would mean he would love me just a tiny bit. I would grovel just to get his acceptance.  But how do I ever face him again?

Blindly, I groped at the knots on the rope tethering my mule.

The things I said, the horrible, hateful things I said to him. How do I ever look him in the face again?

My pack slipped from my trembling fingers as I struggle with the knots and crumpled to the ground. At the back of my mind was the thought that Hadassah’s raisin cakes would be crushed.

It’s too late for us. The damage is irreparable.

I gave up on the knots and grabbed my pack from the ground. I stumbled away from the shed, not caring which direction I was going in. I desperately needed to run, to hide, to get as far away as I could.

I’m sorry Father. I’ve failed you yet again. I’m doing what I do best, I’m running away.

I heard the gate creak open behind me. I kept walking, breathing fast and hard.

I’ve sinned against heaven and against you. I’m not worthy to be your son. I never was.

The tears came hard and fast, and I didn’t bother to wipe them away.
          Eliyahu?
Even from the distance, I could hear the tremble in the voice. I froze for a moment. I was probably imagining things. For starters, why would he come after me? And then, what was that emotion I thought I heard in the voice?
          “Eliyahu!”
His voice was stronger, and I dared to entertain the thought that that was hope I heard in it. And love. And desperation. And a myriad of emotions I never thought anyone would ever show towards me. I stopped my rambling walk, still breathing hard.

I can’t do this. I’m not ready to face him. Oh, the shame!

          “My son!”
Was that a sob I heard?

Take a chance on him, he loves you… Ya’qob’s voice floated through my mind.
Shaking uncontrollably, I turned towards the voice of my Father, and what I saw nearly brought me to my knees. My Father was running towards me…




*

I have sometimes wondered about the un-prodigal son. I wonder if, just if, instead of being the pissed-off brother, he’d been the one to go after his brother to bring him home because he saw just how much his absence was killing their father. I wondered how that story would have panned out if he’d been the instrument of reconciliation.

In a round-about way, you were that version of the un-prodigal son. Even though I doubt you ever realized it, you helped bring me back home at a time that I was so desperately lost, and you forced me into a place of confrontation with my Father. Thank you! Thank you for being an important part of my story. I’m so sorry I never told you that. I can’t possibly say how bloody much I’m going to miss you.




Monday, April 16, 2018

Justice According to Vengeance Book Launch

Join me for an evening of literature, stimulating conversations, and of course good food! 
I will be doing a reading from the Book, as well as doing a sneak peek into my new project!
Please RSVP here.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Justice According To Vengeance: The Unravelling

The Toyota Corolla stood out like a sore thumb, or more like a shiny Schauss pink one. It was way past 2 a.m. and Apóngbòn Under Bridge isn’t the usual hanging out spot for blinging Toyotas, especially not at foolish-o’clock.
The driver brought the car to a stop just at the ascent to Èkó Bridge by a cluster of makeshift sheds that looked deserted. In the dark, two forms peeled themselves from the shadows and approached the car. The thugs wondered at the audacity of the person who had dared wander onto their territory without invitation.
One of the thugs went over to the driver’s side and grabbed the door handle, trying to force it open. When he couldn’t, he slammed the tire iron he had with him into the window in anger and it shattered. 
        “Ògbeni, cooperate, àbí you wan chop bullet!” the thug said to the driver, his voice hoarse like stones scraping over slate.
One by one, like moths drawn to a flame, more thugs slunk out of the shadows, surrounding the car and before long, there was more than a dozen of them.
The first thug thrust his gun in the driver’s face, ready to start spewing more threats. His gun stopped a hair’s breadth from the driver’s nose and they stared at each other for a few moments, one face registering a mixture of shock and fear, the other deadly calm and unflinching.
        “Kílónselè? What’s happening now?” one of the other thugs demanded, already impatient.
        “Ask him to bring out all his money.” another said.
        “Abeg give am bullet if he no wan cooperate jàre!” someone else said, slamming the metal rod he had in his hand on the side of the car and denting it.
        “Shey he get powder àbí booze?”
        “How much we fit get for the car? Na tear rubber!”
        “Commot am for the car before you shoot am oh, make him no dirty the seat.”
The gunman didn’t reply his cronies. He simply slid slowly to the ground with his free hand clutching his shirt over the bullet hole in his chest and his lifeless eyes forever frozen in their shocked mask.
It took a moment for the others to register what had just happened. Blame it on the rounds of weed they’d had earlier. Blame it on the excess Apeteshi they’d already consumed. Blame it on the fact that the script had never gone that way before. But that tiny bitty moment saw another three thugs hit the ground in quick succession. The others scattered then, scrambling for safety but not quite fast enough. Another one took a shot to the head and one in his kneecap. He dragged himself over a low barbed wire fence, screaming for his mates to help him. Of course, no one waited to offer any help.
The driver sat calmly in the car and watched them scamper away. With the same unhurried movements with which he’d shot at the thugs, he disconnected the silencer and put it and the Glock into the glove compartment. The whole thing had taken less than five minutes. He got out of the car and surveyed his handiwork. He took one disinterested look at the body lying about three feet in front of his car and blocking his path down the road.

As if nothing had happened at all, the night remained dark and quiet and not a soul stirred. Absently, he took out a pack of Mentos gum from his breast pocket and popped a couple into his mouth. He got back in the car and started up the engine, Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze starting to pour out of the speakers. He hummed under his breath as he cut the wheel all the way to the left. He drove on towards Ìgànmú, his front right tire narrowly missing the sprawled body in his path.


Now available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format, OkadaBooks, Book Depository, and other online stores.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Justice According To Vengeance: Simon's Story

Simon Bólárìnwá seems to have it all; wholesome good looks, a thriving business, his pick of Lagos’ most beautiful and intelligent women, and a luck that seems far from running out. Best of all, he has the love and adoration of Rèmí, his 10-year-old daughter, who is the nucleus of his entire world.
His perfect life is turned wrong-side-down when one chance encounter leaves him living his worst nightmares and embarking on a quest that is nothing short of crazy. It’s left to Ese, his best friend, to put a stop to the madness that ensues before it’s too late.

As the final showdown begins between Simon and the man who took everything from him, Ese is faced with some terrifying demons of her own. Will she be in time to save Simon before his crazy brand of justice destroys him?

Now available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format, OkadaBooks, Book Depository, and other online stores.