It's my instinct to make love, art, whatever; not war. Does everyone share this instinct? Not these city people. I guess chickens in a coop behave nothing like free-range chicken too. Crazy Lagos.
I have a short story from earlier this year: hope you like it. Wrote it in the middle of the night in Yola (after listening to Rufus' Natasha a lot I guess) Yowz, I miss Yola.
Natasha - A short play / picture book
January 24, 2009
By Tosin Otitoju
Natasha is a friend of ours. She has lived in the United States of America for 15 years now, since she was 16 and starting her first week in the University of Indiana. She went from there, summa cum laude, to advanced engineering research in California, and now with her PhD, she is a professor living in Beverly Hills.
Natasha is not only very good in mathematics and engineering; she is also very beautiful with a good sense of fashion. She likes to spend money on clothes, which she collects like pieces of art. Do you think she has it all? Let’s ask her boyfriend.
Hans: Men, I love her. She doesn’t have “it all.” For example, she is so skinny because she hates to eat. I spend an hour everyday trying to make her eat.
But she looks lovely, we protest, so thin.
Hans: She is getting smaller and smaller. I worry for her. Nowadays – she doesn’t know that I know – she goes away after every meal. To the ladies room. To vomit everything.
Really? You should have her see a psychologist.
Hans: Tasha? You know she’s from a different culture. Psychologists are not in her culture. But yes, I agree, she has an eating disorder. I wish I could help her. Ah, there she is.
Natasha: Hey love. Sorry I’m late. (Smiling) I’m always late.
Hans: Darling! It’s OK. We were just about to order. What will you like?
Natasha: Er, not really hungry.
Natasha: Maybe ice cream. Strawberry.
Hans: And a sandwich? Some rice? (After a minute of haggling, they decided Natasha would get a salad with her ice cream. Hans got a chicken and potato casserole, and we got our usual, fish and chips. )
Hans: Natasha has been unusually sad.
Natasha: I am always sad.
Hans: You are sadder now…
Natasha: The bombings. They are running my life. I wish I never came to this country.
We didn’t even know that was her country. She never struck us as Moslem – no veil, no Muslim name…
Natasha: You didn’t know? I’ve been watching the thing on TV. My own village, where I grew up – it has been leveled by the shelling. My life – I wish I was there.
Hans: But here you are safe.
Natasha: Safe for what? Alive for what? I am not alive, Hans.
Hans: (aside to us) My girlfriend can be overly dramatic sometimes. But Honey, next year you can go back home and help them rebuild.
Natasha: You don’t understand. For ten years, I’ve been plotting to go back (she slurps some of her ice cream) and still – what?
Hans: And she was supposed to finally go to her country this weekend. A one-year visiting professorship.
Natasha: And suddenly, poof. God, my life. If they would only open one airport. Let me go home and die. I can’t live like this anymore – worrying if my parents are alive.
Hans: She misses her home. The thing is very strange, since she’s very much an American girl now.
Natasha: But it’s very modern in the Capital. The difference is that people there – they know how to feel, feel life. I died already, living in America. Hans loves me: right, Honey? But nobody here can help me.
Hans: I know but I still try. I wish I could get her home. I go to my country every year, sometimes twice. My brother’s wife and kids join my parents and me for Christmas. Just like when we were kids; there’s a tree, plenty of soup and warm drinks, presents…So I can’t imagine, Natasha hasn’t been home in eight years.
Natasha: Was too busy. Grad school, then the Postdoc – ah, I wasted my life. A wasted life. There is nothing now to do but cry for a wasted life.
Hans: I love you. Your life is not a waste. Look, you are beautiful, accomplished, kind, rich, even. Only thirty-one.
Natasha: Excuse me. (She leaves for the ladies’ room)
Hans: I have never known a person so sad. You know, nobody in her family died, fortunately. Her grief is as if somebody died.
We agree that she is sad. We think she has a life here and that she should be patient until she can honour the visiting professorship back home. Of course not now, it’s too dangerous now, with hundreds dying every day in the bombings.
Two years later
Natasha! Look at her on the sidewalk in Beverly Hills, looking glamorous as ever. Granted, she’s a little too skinny. Let’s go over to say hi.
Natasha: I remember you. How have things been?
Alright. You know? And you? How is Hans?
Natasha: My ex? He never understood me. He’s very nice and he saved my life, but for me – I mean, these people don’t know how to feel their life. But he saved my life. I was really miserable those years.
Natasha: I can’t be miserable. I have a daughter.
Wow. That was – wow. Congrats.
Natasha: It’s not a big deal. Everybody has a child, a few children, at my age. Not around here, but –
I take it you went home then.
Natasha: Yes. The war ended at the end of August. One month later I was in the Capital. My mother kept crying because she said I looked so ill.
Did Hans visit you there?
Natasha: I got pregnant, so he couldn’t – it got awkward. I got very sick after I got to my parents’ home so I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. I couldn’t even teach for the first three months.
So you were pregnant?
Natasha: But not for Hans, obviously. I got pregnant after the illness. The father doesn’t know. It was someone I met in hospital. I can take care of the baby, and my mother is here to help me. She’s been here for a year.
That’s such an interesting life.
Natasha: Don’t use the word ‘interesting,’ like I’m an object. I wish I had Hans now. But he could never return to my life.
Have you talked to him?
Natasha: I had a baby. Can’t possibly ask him for anything now. Men have their pride.
I would call him. Just see what happens. He really cared about you.
Natasha: Yes. And I started going to see a shrink now. It’s a nice activity, outside work and home.
Glad you see it that way. You weren’t interested last time we met.
Natasha: But now I think it’s a good help. I mean, if we still had religions, or tight-knit families and elders, but in the modern world I say a shrink is a nice way to confess, clear your head.
How old is your girl?
Natasha: She’s one. Let’s go inside and see her.
Aw, you’re sure you’re not too busy?
Natasha: This is life, for living, I’m not too busy. (she leads us in through a small gate.)
Natasha’s mother: Ahlan bikum. Ahlan.
Natasha’s daughter: Eeek!
Natasha: There she is – Farah.
Summa cum laude – graduating with highest honors.
Ahlan – greeting, welcome, in Arabic.
Farah – name, meaning happiness.