The Captive

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The Captive

As gift of darkness, I’ll give you light. The words jumble all into me. And crowd the spaces and fill the holes. There is nothing left here but the beautiful poetry of silence and pages, rustling pages lit by candles, me cornered and reading and wishing the world away. I hold the books dear because they connect me to the rest. Source of my thoughts, experiences and words. Entire landscapes, lifetimes boiled down. To pages. To pages I read. In the dark. Where they cannot find me.

It’s easier to hide here. Easier to stay here. From the buses and the trains and the sun and the world. And the hard cold ingredients of reality. Jobs and salaries and bank accounts. In this darkness is solace. In this darkness my light.

On Tuesday in Brooklyn I sat in the chair and listened. And Dayo told me, gave me the punch list, the day’s summary of tasks and tricks. Which things to do, who I should call before I closed for the day. Assignments handed to me.

But I looked into the window, the glass and beyond, and saw the snow fluttering white like damaged feathers falling on a weary world. And boys and men and women and girls moved about in dark coats through slushy streets, heads bowed beaten by the snow. And fog rose from their mouths like dragons exhaling in hell. And the snow fell and cars slowed and I saw how I did not, could not, belong there anymore. At Dayo’s office, with Funlola’s nagging, in this world, letting time bleed away, thrashing away in the fog like another dragon in hell.

So I stopped and left and went to the Duane Reade on Flatbush to buy twenty-four candles. Two dozen for four-ninety-nine and I paid with a ten dollar bill and told the pretty Haitian clerk, Nadege to hold on to the change, that she might need it, and if she didn’t she could buy flowers with it and put one in her hair for me. Nadege smiled indulgently, pityingly and I took my candles home. Locked the door on Tuesday, 3.45pm and have been here since with my books. And I have lived the world over and over again in these pages. Have been places. Have made friends, have seen no reason to leave, to stop.

On Thursday I finally ate to quiet the noises from my belly. It helped with the ache in my bones and the heaviness over my eyes. And because the bottle of juice by the couch was empty, because of that I got up to go to the refrigerator and drink what was left in there. Kept the candle with me but opening the fridge door, the light startled my eyes so I broke the fridge bulb and let the glass fall and settle at the bottom of the fridge. I picked out each shard and placed them in a bowl. The light from the candle danced off the broken glass, a kaleidoscope of broken colors.

For days the phone has been ringing, has been ringing and will not stop. Insistent, clanging and angry. I have learnt to ignore it. But the knocking is different. This Friday the knocking is loud like angry demons. No book, no pages silence the intrusion. I have tried every book and yet the knocking continues. Each word from my pages is punctuated, knocked out mid-stream by this loud banging. It is not as it was before. To restore my quiet I drag myself to the door. I pull myself up by the door knob and place my ear close to listen.

“Tanwa, I know you’re there.”

“I’m not here,” I explained.

“Tanwa, stop this. Open the door.”

Dayo kept pounding till I gave in and unbolted the door. The light came in like a flood. So I crouched there confused by all the brightness. He took me away. That is why I am here now. Dragged here this Friday. They say I have had a relapse. That talking this through with you will help me heal. But all I need is for you to release me. And let me go back. To the pages in my books. To the flickering flames. To the darkness away from the dragons. Free me. Let me be.

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14 responses »

  1. Mr. Owoo, I. Adore. This. To tell the truth, the absolute truth, I’ve been waiting for your piece since we started on Monday. Wanted to see what you’d dish out, and man, you did not disappoint. After Elbow Fishing and The Right Honourable, I’ve really become a big fan oh!!! This was great!

    Love the MC’s isolation, his not being able to cope with the ‘noisiness’ of the world, his escaping into books, very nice stuff. Loved the sentence ‘And fog rose from their mouths like dragons exhaling in hell’…beautiful.

    Great work man. Well done!

    p.S: To my fellow LPers, something powerful is going down here oh… talent…day after day after day…

    • Chief… get a grip… all this love…. you’re ruining our reputation… we’re supposed to be surly starving writers back biting and pulling each other down… but seriously, I really appreciate your comment, and the admiration is mutual (I just prefer expressing mine in envious messages to other LP members 🙂 )….. and I agree totally…. people have been bringing some serious game here, was very intimidating for me to even post……”something powerful is going down here”.

    • Ah, Uche, I think I know which part you’re talking about. The part where he drops out of university and locks himself up in a room to just smoke and read. That book is pure genius. I actually wrote this in Lagos, for the “Kitchen” workshop exercise we did, but most of it does not happen in the kitchen so I junked it, and then turned back to it today in desperation….

  2. True, friends made in books neva disappoint u. Nice write up. I’m beginning to enjoy dis LP. Osemhen tanks for making me subscribe

  3. Hey, Mr. Owoo 🙂 as usual, I loved your story. I’m not quite venomous, but close!

    Tola, you’re welcome! You’re on the edge of history, I tell you. Someday, you’re going to be able to smirk and say you knew us when we were a struggling blog 😀

  4. Beautifully written. I have just one complaint. I don’t care about the characters. I know this is a short piece, but still. I am yet to read any character-driven story on this blog. This story is primarily driven by language and while it is evocative, haunting, descriptive and poetic, I still wish I knew more about the characters.

  5. Pingback: Are the lights on? « Ralphie´s Portal

  6. Pingback: Prose that reads like poetry! « Ralphie´s Portal

  7. Hey Olumide, please just take out the “Free me. Let me be.” And dassall. Well done. You like refrigerators too much sha.

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