Proposal By Proxy

Kasara didn’t feel betrothed. It was like a film, something happening to someone else while she watched and laughed. Her mother was showing her new wrappers to a crowd of cooing friends while her father was puffing on his pipe. Her fiance was an enlarged photograph showing a rotund man with small wrinkled eyes.

It was settled, she would go to Lisbon to join him next week. Some of her classmats came to say goodbye, but they didn’t stay long. Kasara wanted to cling to them, to shout and scream and make a big scene, but she sat still instead and received their cold congratulations with a frozen smile.

News came. He couldn’t receive her immeadiately, a minor matter no doubt. She had to stay with her parents a little longer. Kasara didn’t mind. It was still hard for her to see herself married to the man in the picture.

News came again. A change of plans, he no longer wished to marry her. Would she mind marrying his cousin instead? Of course they could keep the bridal gifts. No one mentioned that his cousin was fatter and older than he was, or that he already had two wives and eight children.

Her brothers were incensed. They smashed the framed potrait and wanted to burn the wedding gifts. A family meeting was called and the elders tried to talk sense into them.

Kasara raided her mothers box and found enough money to travel south. She ran away to her Aunt Jemima’s place. Years passed but no one else asked her to marry them. And when she closed her eyes she could still see the round face in the enlarged photogragh and its small, wrinked eyes.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

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CUT! Changing The Stories That Limit You.

Stories can build us. Stories can also break us. No stories are as strong as the ones we tell ourselves. Coming in second are the ones we heard from our guardians growing up: a mother who said you’ll never cook well, a teacher who said you were dumb, a father who just didn’t care….

I have found that we can change the stories we tell ourselves. We can arise like the mythical lion and tell the story of how the hunter wet his pants the first time he heard us roar. We can reclaim the narratives and tell stories that build us up and challenge us to be better and do better.

One of the stories that limited me growing up was the family tale of my carelessness. My mother said it, my father said it. Everyone believed it. Truth be told, I did misplace my fair share of items, but that was something I did, not who I was.

I began to take better care of my things as I grew up but the story wouldn’t change. It got to the point where each time I asked for anything, my Mom or Dad would say, “Here, I know you’ll loose it.”

I would take the said item and guard it with my life. But alas, the story would come to pass and soon the item would vanish into thin air. This kept happening, then one day I had enough.

I asked for a ring boiler and my Mom said the usual words, “Here, I know you’ll loose it.”

I replied,”No Mom, I won’t loose it. I will take good care of it and use it for as long as I want to.”

I had that ring boiler for six years.
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Another story that tied me in knots as a writer was the story of rejection. Every one gets rejected, the story said. You will have to get used to getting rejected over and over again. Hey, look, Marlon James, the Man Booker 2015 Prize Winner, his first novel got rejected 78 times, by 78 publishers before it finally got a home.
So-and-So (insert name of big shot) got rejected 66 times.

The more I listened to the rejection story, the more my belly turned to stone. The thing is, I can’t stand rejection. It is bad enough that writing doesn’t pay much and is so darned hard to do, but the least I want at the end of the day is a little applause.

I want a clap on the back and a handshake. I can stomach some nicely worded affirmation padded constructive critique, but to think of someone thrashing my hard work is unthinkable.

So for months, I didn’t submit anything. I self published on my blog. I got pieces accepted through recommendations. I stayed away from the rejection story and it stayed way from me.

Until I realized it wasn’t helping my writing.

Like it or not, writing is a highly subjective business. If you don’t “put your self out there,” you’ll miss many opportunities to be seen. You have to risk the fire to get the gold.

But how do you do that without being rejected?

You change the story. This is the story I tell myself now:

Rejection in writing doesn’t exist.

Simple.

There could be a match, meaning, well written story meets right publisher/audience at right time. Or a non-match, meaning either the story isn’t well written or the audience/publisher is wrong or the timing is wrong or all three.

Writing a good story is my duty, but the rest is out of my hands.

It is like donating blood. You don’t weep and wail if a patient’s blood type doesn’t match yours. You are the donor, they need you, they are the ones to wail. You just keep giving and some patient somewhere, thanks God above, and lives another day because you did.

So I am going to start working on my stories, polishing them and making them the best they can be. Then I will send them out knowing they are can’t be rejected, they are already accepted; by me and by many other people. All they need is a place to call home. I won’t worry about those non-matches, I won’t wail if it is something out of my hands. I will just keep going because to someone out there, they’ll be the sun and the sea.

Those are some of the stories that limited me and how I changed them. How about you? What stories do/did you need to change?

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How Papa Left

We were having dinner when the lights went out. Ma put on candles and our gaunt shadows seemed like gargoyles on the wall. Pa put his fork down and stomped away from the table. Soon we saw him by the door.
“Marcus, where are you going?” Ma asked.
“Out,” he replied. And before anyone could say more he was gone.

Days turned to weeks but there was no word of my father. Ma made calls, attended prayer vigils, asked everyone but Pa had disappeared.

“Let’s tell the police,” Uncle Makkel said. And so they went to the station the next day. When they were told how much they had to pay in bribes for the investigation to start. They came back sad.

Ma began to sell her wrappers and earrings. Uncle Makkel mortgaged one of his farms. We tried to raise money from our friends but all we got were excuses and had-I-knowns.

In a month, the money was ready and Ma wrapped it in an old newspaper and took it to the station. The police promised Pa would be back soon. Soon dragged on for weeks.

People told us stories of seeing Pa: on a canoe seventy kilometers away, in the market, at the bank, in a church. Ma began to check mortuaries for abandoned bodies.

Then Pa was brought home. He had been hit by a truck and was unconcious for weeks. He couldn’t remember my name and he often forgot what he wanted to say. We didn’t mind . It was just good to know the wait was over.

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Shameless Lover

It has been a year, or longer.
Your feet have not ceased to grace my door,
Your hands have not ceased to knock,
Your lips have not ceased to say my name.

I have been a bad one yes,
but my heart bore always your weight,
my nose always sought your scent,
my eyes saw always your face, on the curtain of my eyelids.

I return, unsure, afraid,
Will you meet me with an embrace or submerge me in slaps?
Will your lips kiss, or pucker to spit on me? Will your nails scratch?

On my fear, I don my strength
this is no time for trembling,
what must be done
must be done

So here I am
Before you,
Stone me or
Else
Bid me welcome.

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