Tenterhooks

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Don’t you write anymore?

That’s supposed to be a question.
I guess it qualifies because of that damn fish hook masquerading as punctuation. Yes. Masquerading. And yes, I have major league beef with that damn hook!

Thing is, it’s unnecessary right now. That’s not a question. I haven’t been writing much. That’s just fact.

My keyboard has seen such little action, if it were human, it would fit right in at the Sisters of Mercy Convent. You see, I’ve been rather busy cheating on my keyboard with everything else. I’ve binged on movies and books. I’ve tried several new recipes – some with ingredients I can’t even pronounce! I’ve gone zip lining. I’ve made new friends and lost a number of fakes. And the football…ayayay!

Clearly, time is not the issue!

I just haven’t been able to write. I have all the motions locked down; power my laptop (which I do a lot), launch Microsoft word (which I also do a lot), take the writing pose (which I’ve practically perfected) and I’m good to go! I’m ready for the avalanche of words – distant, heavy, light, funny, serious, intelligent words. Words revving to burst from my brain like steam fighting its way out of a pressure cooker. But my fingers hover like alien ships, waiting…waiting…waiting…

After 5 minutes of totally overusing the backspace key, I’m forced to admit that:
a) I’m like a fish on a hook – totally screwed.
b) I’m being haunted by the last fish I ate. That fish was the real deal. Salted to perfection. Crispy in all the right places. Giving and giving until there was nothing left to give.
Let me just state for the record that said fish was already dead when it got to my plate. I had nothing to do with its rather timely death. I don’t even know how it died! So why is it haunting me? Why do I see giant fish hooks every time I try to write?
c) I’ve tried everything. Kept my feet warm, sipped hot cocoa, kept a notebook by my bed for the midnight inspirations…nothing doing.

At the height of my frustration, I’m reminded of my high school History teacher. She was cross-eyed and I could not shut up in class. Dangerous combination. I thought I knew her well enough to know when she wasn’t looking where she wasn’t looking. I was almost always wrong. She’d look away, I’d open my mouth, and – Martha! I’ll throw you out of the window! 

We were on the first floor, so I’d straighten out and shut up for ten whole minutes. Then she’d look away and I’d open my mouth and miss the window by a whisker. And then the sequence would repeat. Fun times!

The thing is, I wasn’t just missing the thrill of flying through glass. My teacher was missing the cut too! I knew the threats were hot air and I got bolder with my ‘piss the teacher off challenge’.

One time, she arrived late to total pandemonium. Okay, she didn’t exactly find it, she heard it. All the way from the staff room, if we’re to believe a word she said. But when she walked in, the room was quieter than a seedling breaking soil. She walked silently to my desk, at the very back (because that’s where all the badass people sit!) and she said Martha, tell me who else was making noise, and I’ll forgive you.

That was the moment I knew I had to change.

No, I’m just kidding. That was the moment I became royalty.
I said nothing because nothing needed saying. We all got punished, but we all knew where the power rested.

Long after my final exams, two lessons stuck:
1. If you say you’ll do it, do it or don’t say it.
2. If it pisses you off, don’t just threaten to toss it out. Toss. It. Out.

Obviously, I’d suck as a teacher,  but right now, the chant is getting louder in my mind Toss it out! Toss it out! Toss it out!
What, my laptop? I ask rather timidly.
Toss it out!
You can’t be serious! I protest half-heartedly.
Toss it! Ditch it! Chuck it! Hurl it!
It’s getting frenzied now. There are somersaults and Mexican waves to boot. How can anyone resist the Mexican wave?
Okay fine, I’ll toss my laptop. 
I walk to the window of my 10th floor penthouse, I’m gasping for air because the view always takes my breath away…

Full disclosure: I don’t live on the 10th floor. And my apartment will only graduate to a penthouse the day all my pent up dreams break out of Maximum Security and make me some real money!

See? I have a plan. I just need to make a toss. I don’t want any trouble. I have no idea that 10 floors below, something else is happening. Something that’s going to make my harmless act look like a nuclear reactor’s first cousin!

The window shatters, my laptop flies and it’s all extremely liberating. I turn and walk to the kitchen for a well-deserved cup of herbal tea. Yes, that’s my thing – show my frustrations the middle finger and celebrate with a cup of herbal tea. I know it’s not champagne. I’m saving that for the timely escape of my dreams from maximum security.

As if in agreement, the clock chimes directly above my head.
Time check – 21:00hrs.

I’m scooping a spoonful of honey when the door of my penthouse flies off its hinges. I’m just standing there in my slip of a slip, with a spoon and an open jar of honey in my hand. Totally giving off a harmless vibe. But that doesn’t stop a broad-shouldered man in a dark suit and really dark glasses from yelling PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPON!
He sounds like Jack Bauer. A thought scurries across my paralyzed mind. What weapon? I manage to ask.
Next thing I know, I’m lying on the floor and broad shoulders – let’s call him BS1 – is on top of me. There’s honey everywhere. My face, my cleavage, his mouth…
He darts a quick tongue over his lips. You know how sweet and sticky honey is…
My tongue darts over mine. What? I did say there was honey everywhere, sue me! I might as well take the taste of honey with me to the after life. Outwardly, I’m the picture of nonchalance. Inside, there’s a race between my heart and my brain. It feels like they’re both racing to conk out on me. Shit!

What’s going on? A voice joins the soiree. It belongs to another broad-shouldered man, let’s call him BS2 and yes, I can see quite clearly, the magnitude of my predicament.
BS2 runs right past us to my bedroom.
BROKEN WINDOW! BROKEN WINDOW! He yells.
His screaming breaks the honey-licking spell between me and my BS.
When did he become my BS? Well…I don’t know about you, but honey-licking is special. I don’t just do it with anyone. Go ahead, ask anyone.

BS1 gets up and points his gun at me. Really? You lick honey with a woman and then you point your gun at her? Talk about mixed signals!

Time check: 21:03hrs. I can’t believe it’s only been three minutes of this, whatever this is.
BS2 is still yelling.
Me: (Plucking up the nerve to speak) Why are you screaming?
BS2: I’m not screaming! I’m shouting.
Me: Great. Let’s focus on that right now.

For a man in a dark suit and shades, this guy is way sensitive! I know men get jittery around the word scream. I remember a certain Oga telling me that people don’t scream outside the bedroom. Without warning, a cheeky smile plays on my lips.

BS2: Why are you smiling?
I smile again.
The scales have shifted. Remember the moment I became royalty in high school? Well, it’s all coming back now.
BS2 is afraid of smiles. BS1 is pretty much out of the game – there’s just too much honey on his once white shirt. They’re both looking at me like they’ve lost their mojo. Which they have.

I rise like a phoenix and take charge. In my slip of a slip, I pretty much look like Halle Berry…not as tall or as skinny or as shiny in a bikini but whatever. It’s my story. I’m writing it in thin air because I just tossed my laptop. If I want to crack an imaginary whip, I will crack an imaginary whip. Bite me.

Me: Why are you here?
BS2: Ma’am, we’ll be asking the quest-
Me: Don’t call me ma’am.
BS1: Sorry ma’am, but what were you doing before we walked in?
Me: Walked in? You broke in! Besides, you know what I was doing. (I lick my lips for good measure)
BS1 shifts uncomfortably.
BS2: Ma’am, why is there a broken window in your bedroom?
Me: (wide eyed and confused) You saw that too? I thought it was a ghost!
BS2: You thought what was a ghost?
Me: The broken window. It’s invisible. It just lets in wind and funny sounds.
BS2: What are you talking about?
Me: What are you talking about? Is a broken window illegal?
BS1: Only when it’s a direct attack on the p-

Hold up!

Let’s retrace our steps to some 5 minutes ago when I chucked my laptop. Remember that? I didn’t want any trouble. I was very clear about that.
Turns out, I have terrible timing. My laptop smashes the window at the exact moment POTUS is stepping out of The Beast 10 floors below. I don’t even know that POTUS is on my street.

I mean, my neighborhood reeks of affluence. The maize guy wears a really huge ring. The kiosk guy never has any ‘small money’. You get my point. POTUS is totally not out of place here. But they’re supposed to warn us ahead of time, so we won’t do life-threatening things like chucking laptops. This whole secret thing doesn’t work all the time, people! But maybe it is necessary? Maybe POTUS has a lady love in my building. An Olivia Pope!

So…POTUS steps out of the car, the door slams behind him.
My laptop smashes the window.
POTUS doesn’t hear it. He’s already high with anticipation. He can already see her in her slip of a slip. He hears no danger. Only the danger of not seeing her. I mean, that’s got to be worse than death, no?
BS1 hurls himself on top of POTUS. The Beast reopens. BS2 shoves POTUS back inside.
The car takes off to an undisclosed location.
POTUS is livid. He can’t believe he won’t get to see her.
BS1 runs into the building. BS2 is hot on his heels.

Fast forward to some 5 minutes later. We’re all getting cozy in my living room.

Me: Is a broken window illegal?
BS1: Only when it’s a direct attack on the President of the United States!
Me: The what?
Ultra cool voice at the door of my penthouse: He’s here?
Two guns and three pairs of eyes dart to the door.
BS1 and BS2: Shit!
Ultra cool voice: That’s right. Shit! You cannot just budge into people’s penthouses and start screaming-
BS2: I was not screaming.
BS1: How long were you standing there?
Ultra cool voice: Long enough to know that he’s stalking me across continents. Now what’s this about a broken window?
Me: I was on tenterhooks. Haunted by the death of a fish on a hook. That delicious little vicious thing has not allowed me a moment’s peace! So I snapped and chucked my laptop. Next thing I know…
Ultra cool voice: You are being attacked. She turns to the BSs. Where is he?
Silence.
Ultra cool voice (Let’s just call her UC): So, we’ve heard her side. What’s yours?
BS2: Threats must be neutralized.
UC: Okay. Go to your undisclosed location and tell him that the ‘threat’ will keep her mouth shut if he pays her one million dollars.
BS1 and BS2: One million?
UC: Too low? You’re right. Two million dollars and this goes away. A great crime was committed here. There will be retribution. You have one hour before I tell the world that POTUS is now attacking people in their houses.

The BSs shuffle out. I’m just standing there, channeling all my energies into silence. My foot and my mouth have a way of messing things up.  And right now, my pent up dreams are counting on me to be quiet so they can break out with 2 million dollars. We’re so close, I can practically smell the monies!

All because a fish and its hook were haunting me. Hey fishy, I promise to eat more of you, how’s that?  I’m buying an island as soon as the big bucks come in. A beautiful island with lots of fish and – fingers crossed – no soccer.

Okay, I’m absolutely irked by a certain soccer result, I’m just going to count to ten and look on the bright side:

With Senegal out of the World Cup, I’ve no reason to give a shit who wins. I can finally sip a Pina colada on my tropical island, and at the onset of all the remaining matches, say the words May the best team win and truly mean them.

Bliss.

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