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“There are different shades of grey; all there seem is not always all there is.” She repeated the words to herself again. She had been submerged in her thoughts for the better part of an hour. Standing in front of the kitchen sink, jug in one hand while the other rested on the faucet about to turn it on but still stiff like a dried stem from a dying tree in the summer it remained.  On the kitchen table lay the coffee she was to prepare.  Hidden safe from moisture in a glass bottle with the label “coffee” boldly pasted on it. Beside it was another labelled “Sucre,” half filled with brown sugar and a little spatula lying inside of it. To her left lay the electric kitchen kettle with the lid uncovered, plugged to the socket outlet but turned off.  The fine aroma of her neighbour’s pork adobo filtered into the room. Usually it caused her tongue to water, but on a day such as this, food was the least of her problems. Not even the exotic adobo.

“There are different shades of grey; all there seem is not always all there is,” she repeated again still deep in thought. She leaned a little on the sink as her legs now ache; she had been standing for more than an hour. Feet glued to this same spot, too deep in her thought that she had forgotten her initial desire to gulp a cup of coffee. She needed to think and coffee was the right stimulant for her. It ticks a box and seem to trigger a switch in her, making the words “Thinking mode activated” to be flashed in the imaginary score board of her mind. But on this moment she needed no stimulant to plunge her into an abyss of thought. She already had more than enough drive to but still just mechanically had to have her coffee. She needed the extra fuel it provides. “Sometimes…” as her boss always say, “it’s the extra inch that makes the difference.”

“… All there seem is not always all there is…” she said to herself and gasped in fright when she heard some metallic clattering coming from outside. Her hand which rested on the faucet had pulled to her chest involuntarily only returning back to its initial resting point as she connected the dots linking the cause of her unnecessary fright. It was her cat Libby; it must have tumbled the stainless dish used in serving its food.

Then she remembered why she had been standing there all along and turned on the faucet, filled up her jug with water, turned it off and poured a sufficient amount on the kettle. She switched on the power from the wall socket and pulled out a long stool from under the table, sat down and returned to her thoughts only to be called back to reality. This time not by her cat but the whistling of the kettle signalling boiling water and its subsequent snap as it turned itself off.

She stood up, walked to the kitchen cabinet, took a coffee mug she had gotten as a souvenir from Starbucks and served two teaspoon of coffee on it. She looked at the content on the mug and added another spoonful and poured the hot water on it. The aroma of the coffee drowned the air of the kitchen as she added sugar and poured a generous quantity of milk on it. She mixed the content together with a teaspoon brought it to her nose and sniffed it, taking in the smell with eyes closed and almost involuntarily she took a little sip and then another. She dropped the cup carefully on the table and reached for the glass bottle labelled “Sucre,” measured a teaspoon of sugar, poured on her cup of coffee. Mixed, smelled, took a sip and then another. Smelling her coffee and taking two sips was a normal ritual for her. She had picked it up from an elderly French friend of hers.
She reached for her handbag which also lay on the table. Brought out her Ipad Air, pulled it from its brown leather pouch and cleaned the screen with a little napkin she always kept inside. She has always been excessively clean, neat to a fault. Another habit she picked up from that French friend of hers. She just cannot afford to be around a speck of dust, she could always find dirt from a seemingly spotless place. She entered her password, opened her mailbox, clicked inbox and opened the mail that had knocked her off balance. She needed to read it again to convince herself what she had read in the office wasn’t true. She needed to be convinced that her mind played tricks on her, that she had interpreted wrongly. That she had hastily read the mail and thus skipped something. She needed to be convinced that for once she had made a mistake. That she wasn’t the perfectionist she thought she was. That the toils and rigours of her structured life have had caught up with her.  Thus affecting her alertness dampened her reason. She just had to be sure what she had seen wasn’t here so she needed to read the mail again. In the comfort of her cosy kitchen, with a cup of coffee set before her. Where she can plunge freely into the greatest depth of her mind and decipher in details every word. Analyse every phrase, read between each line and see the hidden message conveyed in the mail. Munch it and see it in its naked form. She just needed something to tell her she had been wrong. She needed a lift, like a patient misdiagnosis of terminal cancer only to find out it was a horrible mix up. She needed it so much. She just had to be wrong. She needed something to confirm what she had seen was a scene from a poorly written Nollywood script.

 She read the subject, and scrolled down. She saw she was part of several recipient of the mail. Who sends mail these days except it was official? Couldn’t this mail be sent via whatsapp, BBM, viber, line or several other instant messaging app?  Why mail it?

“There are different shades of grey, all there seem is not always all there is,” she said again to herself. She just couldn’t have enough of that quote. That has been just about the only straight thoughts on her mind since this mail arrived earlier in the day to whisk her out of the utopic world she thought she had found.

She reached for her mug, took a sip from it, then another and then dropped the cup. She reached for a cookie jar on the table few metres from her and knocked the coffee mug over mistakenly, spilling some coffee on her Ipad. She cursed as she quickly reached for the napkin she had used before, wiped the coffee off it. Took it in her hands, raised it to her face and studied it critically. Checking if there was a spot she had missed. She picked up the napkin again and cleaned, then reached for her bag, brought out another napkin. White in colour, cotton in fabric and wiped the Ipad and placed aside. Save from the pool of coffee on the table. She took the first napkin, dabbed the puddle and discovered a rivulet had flowed down to the edge of the table. She cursed as she felt drops of coffee on her laps. It left a noticeable stain on the white silk pants she had on and trickled to the tiled floor underneath her stiletto.

 She cursed again as she scrambled from the chair and knelt down to clean the tiny puddle formed on the floor. She wiped it clean and knocked the back of her head on the table as she made to her feet almost tumbling it over.

“Ouch! Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse,” she said amidst gnashing of teeth.

She reached for the back of her head and discovered it was a bit swollen. She went for the fridge on the far side of the kitchen, took out a pack of ice and placed it on the swollen spot. Her head ache and she heard a buzz like sound like flies cycling around her head. She heaved heavily as she took in the coolness of the ice on her head and sat down on the stool.  Her cat Libby came into the kitchen and rubbed its fur against her legs, seeking she take it in her arm and stroke its back. She looked at Libby and almost as if it saw the pain in her eyes, the cat squeaked and ran out of the Kitchen.

She reached again for her Ipad, entered her password and began reading the mail slowly, she didn’t want to miss a thing, so slow had to be speed now. She followed the link and silently watched the video.  The shooting was poor and it was obvious it was shot at a safe distance with a poor camera. She muted the audio and subsequently turned it off after sometime as the cries and sights of slashed throat and roasting bodies became unbearable.

Tears dripped down her cheek as she looked into the dimmed screen of her Ipad and saw her reflection stared back at her. She just couldn’t help it. She shivered from deep within her stomach. She felt the shrilling pain in its linings; it churned but not just with rage. It was a mixture of emotions. Like a painter pouring colours on a canvass without thought all the emotions came at a single rush. She felt rage as to why such inhumane actions were allowed to flare into a bush fire. She felt shame been labelled as a part of a country hell bent on being a failed state, where the lives of people are politicised. She felt pain as she wore the shoes of broken hearted parents whose young ones had been plucked even before they fully blossom. She felt despair as she took it in the realities of the current situation, that the citizenry of her beloved country cannot be protected by its government. She felt a whole range of contrasting emotions. Soon her tears turned into light sobbing and she cried loudly.

“How can this menace continue?” she asked herself.

“When will these senseless killings become history?  It seems always the sporadic attacks get worse than their predecessors.” She continued weeping. Her heart ached beyond measure and even though she was miles away from her beloved country she still felt the pain. To her the heart ache of her countrymen was still hers and even though she had resolved time without number to distance herself from anything Nigerian, her African spirit won’t let her.  She had fled the shackles of her home for greener pastures but her African roots still remained deep. She wasn’t just African, she was Nigerian; the supposed Giant of Africa.

But her heart aches even more as she shared in the unquantifiable grief of forty three families whose next generation had been slaughtered in a most gruesome manner.  The words of MI’s tribute to the Aluu Four echoed in her heart. Triggering another tirade of pain and increasing the propensity of her weeping. She wept for her nation who is at war with nobody but herself.

(Feels like I stood there watching, the pain and the brutal torture

And added my silence to the violent screams                    

Of: Burn and torch em.

How do you earn misfortune?

Or does it come unbidden?

If life’s a painted portrait,

Who puts dark colours in them?

If there’s a God in heaven, surely he’s weeping now.

As all the blood is shedding as all His people drown.

God help us all.

“There are different shades of grey; all there seem is not all there is. Indeed all there seems is not all there is to this social menace called Boko Haram. There must be something else. There must be,” she wept on and soon fell asleep in her misery, sleeping like the sleeping giant of Africa, whose roar has become endless wailings and constant gnashing of teeth. Oh ye Strong Man, when shall you rise from your slumber?