I don't know how we started talking but we did. Our conversations were real stories. With stylistic devices used there in. Sometimes I entertained the possibility of learning to make egusi from melon seeds or to make a stew from rice and adapt to calling it tuo. Then at times I could not imagine eating so much cassava: amala, eba, garii and all the other meals made from cassava or yams.
His name used to amuse me. It’s like being called Elijah Moses. His name reminded me of how much power the names given to us by our parents have. You know how fussy I used to be about writers; he is one. He used to send me poems (sometimes a morning one and a night one), then I would get this funny feeling in my stomach.
Daily I fall into this
Warm crater of feelings
Which I can’t resist
It is like trying to avoid the rain
It is like trying to capture the wind with a bucket
It is like trying to fetch water with a net
When he told me that he’d get a name for me, I told him my name was short enough. Few men know how to disapprove me and prove their disapproval right. You might think I am vain, maybe I am.
So, every time he called me Em, I got that funny feeling in my stomach, nostalgic and exciting at the same time. I am not too sure if that is how I should have felt. Em reminded me of how Obinze used to call Ifemelu ‘Ifem’, in Chimamanda Adichie’s, Americanah ( I did not like how Ifem entirely turned out to be, in as much as I loved and related to her thoughts on race and feminism. )
You see, Em was precise, almost scary. Maybe I was not ready to juxtapose the precision of him calling me that name to the precision of him knowing me. Or maybe it’s because no one else had ever given me a nickname that stuck. I loved it though, you could write it in one letter but still pronounce it the same way. M.
I liked how he wrote ‘smiles’ instead of putting a smiling emoji when we used to chat and how manly he sounded on the phone (every girl likes how manly a manly man sounds on the phone), with an accent that failed to betray the fact that he grew up in Kenya.
But it’s not his poems that made him entirely unique, or how he called me Em. It is how random he used to get. One day he would record a video of him making garii and he would send it to me then the next he would text,
“Two days ago when you laughed over the phone, it was like Jesus changing water into wine.”