pages Levels Have Changed

by Jill Okpalugo-Nwajiaku

Published in Issue No. 155 ~ April, 2010

There is something you must know my dearest cousin Ego.  These days I am not only a big idol, but I think and go for stuff that moves me beyond boundaries.  Up I have gone till I soar like the pound sterling against the naira.

Three years ago, you cruelly dismissed me at your sister’s wedding gala because it was at a fancy restaurant along Allen Avenue in Lagos city.  I smiled my pity; you could not see that levels will change.  In my thinking, the past is your fall, and now it colors me delicate amber.  You hate me for being chauffeur driven, valued and envied by our peers.

I love boasting now and again.  I have blended chance with work to create canary-colored gains beyond your vision; a compendium of triumphs that humiliate and color you like the cheap redness of your sun-bleached suit.  Don’t let my life bias yours, for it is not as rosy as it seems.  The ceiling is slanting and I am not as tolerant and forgiving as I used to be.  I have not told anyone but you this: when I chanced upon success, the contract was commonsensical- show the poor mercy, love and forgive your enemies.  But over the years, the vow has lost its simplicity and is now a second language too complex to master.

Judge me if you wish for letting fear shade my thinking. But having tasted of poverty for almost a century, I can’t stand anyone who might link me with it.  So as cruel as it seems, I had to ignore you four days ago when you waved at me in the banking hall.

I must confess that I am always dogged by doubt these days.  I question tomorrow too much.  Will chance return me to the days I lurked in penury or will I carry on above the average man?  Every day I pray to Chukwu our God Almighty- the One who has given me everything the people mock- to straighten the slanted ceiling in me till it rolls out like the River Niger and flows in the South Atlantic.

Today your mother said that I can boast of a behavior wrapped in celestial foils.  I have reserved my sins and repented of them so please forgive me.  In the past, I had opened my Bible to stop Chukwu from taking away His grace and peace, but now I have decided to reach out to Him and man in a warmer cuddle.  Our mothers laid the portals of change on which I apologize.  They gave us birth, fostered and taught us to have hearts of gold.  I have a middle-aged mother.  At sixty, she still advocates kindness.  Yesterday, as I painted my bedroom walls the soft pink of carnations, she said defiant children are often trailed by a curse that stretches beyond their own children.  I refuse to magnetize such doom even in the face of provocation.  So my dearest Ego, truly accept that I have changed.  Regardless of the rumors you hear them whisper in warm tones, I am a little saint now.  Christ knows I am.

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Jill Okpalugo-Nwajiaku studied Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband. She is extremely interested in any African creative writing that focuses on gender issues. She has been published in online literary magazines like Snap! All Things Girls, Identity Theory, Poetry and Writing, Word Catalyst, St. Something, Splash of Red and Ragazine. Presently, she is working on attaining an MFA in creative writing and her first novel.