The colour of my face and the invisible lines etched along the corners of my dentition and the little sunken hollow beneath my cheekbones are not my mates in this matter. It seems superfluous and weird how the travails of my mind travels through my heaving chest; sighs and wonders, small whimpers, fading dimples in smithereens, to play on the lined veins cropped up somewhere in my head. Or wasn’t it my head?
No, it happened that my heart outweighed my head and my face; eyes, nose, mouth and head. The forehead is the migraine’s home. Local headache aching my blemish sojourned in this case, The taste of nonsense on my tongue, tied up and sending signals of vain becoming on my face. The silent hiss hiss and coiled up hardcore pout stretching, spreading its tentacles of titters, litters I picked up from who knows where, disturbing my brain in a feigned countenance that bugs my face. My face is history in bones. The piercing whitish balls that tired of boring into souls can account for many sighs untold.
This visage has its way with me. Perhaps, it started when the days were young and graduated with class when the night became older. First, my teeth grinned, sandy stone colour I liked to call dull gold. Tinted with blind white scattered somewhat across the tip. This discouraged me a lot from opening a wide grin, even straining a laugh was like managing to take garri without sugar or buying boli and epa which I love, only it fell across the road in my ragged totter, such disarrayed state. Poor colour dentition.
I think Micah knew. Micah was the colour of rainbow, the wildest grin in the oddest of circumstances. Sometimes I think I saw a smirk in his laugh and wondered how he did that. For me, it was better between strained muscles.
“Pick a struggle,” the fore lines dancing in ferocious will say.
“Smirk, bone or laugh, just pick one damn it.” The tiny fine lines that ran one mile on my cheeks would conclude. So I picked one struggle; you know which. Micah knew too, he saw the uneasiness in every laugh, upward head tilts, hands over lips, he saw the strain in every smile, the pressure and tussle. So one day, he took me away.
“Where are we going?” I asked. Micah’s hand was in mine.
“It’s a surprise and don’t bother pressurizing me”
“Why not?” I replied, hesitating in his dragged movements. He knew I was stubbornly inquisitive but he wouldn’t tell. I sighted the blue board with the face of a shining teeth, I did not believe it.
“You brought me to a dentist?” I queried.
“Yes!” He said pushing me forward. He paid 2000 naira for registration and watched me slip on the faded blue cover while I went to the dentist’s office for checkup. It was awkward opening my mouth, sandy brown teeth cried out but dentist woman smiled at me and said I was fine.
“How did it go?” He asked later.
“Oh…” My teeth stuttered, flushed with red embarrassment. I never talked about this, somehow Micah read the voices between the lines.
“She said my teeth is perfect but the colour is the way I was born unless I want to do a total floss something which cost lots of money. The tiny faded white sparks on it must have been the different fluorides in tooth paste I used over the years.”
I was 20, I didn’t want any floss whatever, what I wanted was to breath in my cheeks, to erase bony lines dancing on my face and to release the pain.
Second, reality entered me soundlessly like satin sheets snuff down my throat. Boxed up, cocooned, heavy ladened switches, eyelashes, fiery flashes, venom and spittle. The swinging of people and my pot of gold. I trusted no one. Why should I? Momoh left, her stories churned my stomach that my lips will not move to tell, even my hands were scarred scared, slip ping through the hollows in my cheeks. No, I could not pretend to smile or laugh; I wished I could but pretense doesn’t look cool on me- even in papers buried my matters, it wasn’t fine. With bile of anger, buried rage. And Dada dawdled and slept, on the shores of the white sea and came home with 25000naira and an envelope with a picture of his old self saying he was sorry at a sister afar a wedding. I think I fought that reality for so long without knowing exactly why and my dentition was an ugly fineness of an excuse to cruise on this muse.
It is not that I don’t laugh, laughing may be my thing, smiling is rare on sale, not just an in-thing, blame sandy stone. Me thinks. My laugh; witty and cacophonous, highly infectious, tending towards insanity, fading in high gallops, daunting. Soft petals melted in wax leather. My laughter is a cover coat, the shield that protects me from my boned face. Who has heard me really laugh? Few in a million and scarce.
I didn’t even know I was noticeable though I was everywhere. It was always very hard for me never to leave a spot you cannot clean. Maybe I didn’t care. Just the same way my cheeks would cry out, too much- bone, bone I bone. Sometimes, I would tease my creases, rub my hands smoothly on my cheeks to ease out the tension disease. It hurt. One day, my biology said something that made me laugh, it came slowly, echoing in tiny feathers flying carelessly in the air.
“So you can laugh” he said.
“Huh?” I stopped in my tracks.
“I didn’t know you could laugh…”
Yes I could laugh, but my reality and my teeth would not help me, that’s why I stuck to runway.
“You have one of the nicest smile.” Someone said to me one day. I nodded better than an agama lizard. That was cruelty, such a blatant lie.
“Whenever I see you from afar, I am scared to talk to you, your face! I did not know you were this nice.”
The agama lizard head shaking again. Eyes on the roll, of course, I was never one that got well with being judged on the surface. I had plenty layers, why glance from one spot? In time, we would be close, time had a way of connecting people whether they liked it or not. Either ways, it went through one ear and came out from the other. My face fought a war I couldn’t comprehend every day. I was nice, my face wasn’t and my teeth was just sorry, only fond of seething a laugh, it would not even smile.
When I lost my two front teeth at a football accident as a kid, it grew back beautifully but joined its brothers in skin tone. How I thought this transition from milk teeth or baby teeth, whatever it was called would serve me better! As I grew older, I wondered how I would kiss just like in the movies but it never was an issue with the HEs, why was it an issue with me? Spare me my colour, oh that’s fine and socially acceptable to some extent but reality countered. Maybe if the incisor and his beautiful brothers had camouflaged with their sisters below or rhymed so I could flash my perfect sandy stone, my dull gold, but no they didn’t. They chose to be distinctly pretty, faded yet shiny white sparks just by their feet like lekeleke fingers, cascading beauty.
Once at school, Ama got me pissed and I bit her and she went berserk. Like oh my God! I laughed, all these ajebutter children that thought their teeth was perfect and ended up wearing braces looking like zombies. But for just my colour! Oh how i love the two front teeth.
You look better when you smile they say but my brain said I was best when I boned. Wonderful.
Brain, brain go away,
Come again another life,
Because I want to play.
Shyness was never anything when it came to business, forget the mushy stuff. Walking through a room or class full of people helped me because I was a natural boner. My bone is a crusher of stares, no one dares. It’s funny because when you dare, I soften.
I hear myself cackle, maybe one smirk.
It became an enjoyed mechanism. Noon and walking down the lecture hall one time, I passed some classes with lecturers shouting points in their usual manner and settled for the cream coloured door for my 200 level course. I heard voices of laughter, the rough bee buzz sounds of students giggling and whiling away time. The class was full. I entered, I boned. I wasn’t seeing anybody anyway but I knew they saw me. I could never be invisible no matter how hard I tried.
“Haba! Smile with that fine face na.”
A course mate shouted as I took my seat on the third roll, I preferred staying alone. That year was a year of depression, another frustration story. So I softened and smiled and promised her I would change but I didn’t. That was how I scared a family friend of mine who called and remarked,
“This girl doesn’t smile, she is just boning!” And I had a long cackle on the insides of my mind. Or was it in my head?
Talk about life, rising or standing still. Mine is about the fair share of a journey to a smiling tale. In a way, as Momoh would call me soldier because I was at war with everything else. And anyone that got in the way. I learnt to ease up with the very people that got in the way. I was rigid, I killed all the flexibility and beauty with a reality bone. I was stuck under but then I got out. Traces still abide but I learned to sail through the abyss of a crying cheek. And my dentition never felt sorry again for being such beautiful imperfection like no other. Who has known such beauty before? So I picked up the pieces I left off in peace and learnt to feel good about it too.
It even got better. At service, I met a girl at work, pretty, short, vibrant but with a deeper sandy stone. How wonderful! It was a deep sandy brown all through and she laughed. When she laughed, it’s like a wide toothpaste advert grin in place. My eyes darted in curiosity and admiration. That was courageous and I learnt to pick up courage in this matter from her, stamping out the staccato of doubtful questions piling up in my brain. Perhaps, this courage is attached to me freeing this piece. Though still under tutelage of this, they say Rome was not built in a day, I got courageous in the face of a teeth.
If you got a white teeth face, oh good for you. If you got a brown or otherwise, good for you too.
Wikipedia said the facia, latin word for face, is a highly sensitive region of the human body and its expression may change when the brain is stimulated by any of the five senses; I agree. It also said facial appearance is vital for recognition and communication. The facial muscles in humans allow expression of emotions but heck! My face went on parole and the officer in charge crowned me a sergeant.
Happy Birthday Enny Cole.
Eniola Cole. (c)
Visage : French word meaning face.
Lekeleke: In Nigeria, the lekeleke; a white coloured lining at the tip of a finger is believed to be given by a tall beak bird that fly in the sky once in a while.
Boli and epa: Roasted plantain on a grill and groundnuts.
Garri: A local Nigerian food made from dried cassava. Eaten like food or taken as a drink.
Ajebutter : “spoilt” children from rich homes.