(Click HERE to read about the literary quarrel that inspired this brilliant parody.)
I know what you are thinking. Just another story! Of the millions of stories floating around in mailboxes the world over, why should you read me? After all, I’m only on Brittle Paper, not Boston Review or all those other Americanah magazines and I haven’t even won a prize yet. Well, you may think what you want; I am here to set the record straight. On blogs, Facebook and twitter, people have doubted the existence of all the great African stories that I live with in Adichie’s mailbox. I do not care so much for myself but I will not stand back and see my fellow stories insulted and ridiculed by people who have no idea about the great sacrifices most of us have had to make to get here.
I have a bone to pick with you human beings, creators of beauty, filth and junk.
You think you can create us and then send us here and there as you please, handed from one person to another, from one mailbox to another. No stability, no security, passed on, used, edited, words that were once companions brutally deleted , written, re written…you know what I mean, you all know what you do.
Some of us never make it to the promised land, to be finally committed to paper and ink, in a proper book, with a proper title. We dwell in your inbox, some of us forgotten, while you begin creating new stories, forgetting that you once loved us as much as you love your new creations. Yeah, you love them until you put your absurd expectations on them.
Oh the expectations! Whole lives eager and yearning to make it to just one famous literary magazine, or perhaps win an award or the holy Mecca…forwarded to the Macbook Pro of an agent. Do you realize the great burden of expectation on us? We have to make you famous, make you rich. I wish you human beings will stop saying that nonsense “I just want to write”, you know that is not what you want. Remember, I was in your mind when you wrote me. I went on all those journeys of you shaking hands with Oprah and giving long speeches in countries where translators struggled to decipher your African accent, you patiently smiling. I went along with you on your dreams where you dined at the Ivy with JK Rowling, so please, spare me the crap. “You just want to write” indeed!
When I was created, I was written by a humble man called Goodluck, or at least that’s what he wants the world to see him as, “humble”. Goodluck used to sit everyday at 4’oclock before he would go to that miserable job of his at the newspapers and work hard at me. For two hours each morning he would sit and write. I will not tell you my name (the “title of the story”, that bullshit obsession of publishers the world over) because I never liked it. Goodluck even though he was gifted, if I may say so myself, was not quite of the right mind when he gave me my name. In fact, he was intoxicated with ogogoro when he decided to give me a name that I am sure has been the cause of my failure…and his failure (I’ve never seen another story by Goodluck in all my wanderings in other mailboxes and other stories have never seen any other of his creations either. At this point, I am beginning to suspect that Goodluck might be dead, he was prone to suicidal thoughts).
When Goodluck felt he was done, he sent me after his moonshine drinking spree to his Uncle Ebuka’s mailbox. This I think must be one of the most disgusting mailboxes I have ever been in. Ebuka’s mailbox was filled with what he called “erotic stories”. I’ll never forget a particularly disgusting story called “Sweet potato and sugar banana”. I still shudder when I remember all the nasty words in that story. Even though I was created by a young man in the prime of his life I can proudly tell you that I was never in the company of such nasty words. My creator Goodluck had a sensitive soul, he was a true romantic. Why, I remember a letter he wrote to his girlfriend Bimbo then. It was filled with poetry. Never mind that Bimbo could not appreciate it. You know what she sent back as a reply? “I have heard”.
After I spent a week or two in the filthy world of Ebuka, I was sent to Aunty Rachel, a school teacher. There, I mingled with the innocent stories of school children and reports. It might have been boring but Aunty Rachel ruled her mail box with an iron fist. Everything was well organized and I had enough space for myself in a folder called “Stories”. It was while I was in this folder that I heard a rumour from the other stories in there about my final destination. Aunty Rachel they said sent stories to competitions and it was said that I might be headed to a competition that might get Goodluck to a workshop run by the world renowned author Adichie.
There I dwelled for more than six months before I got forwarded to a mailbox that said “workshop stories”. This mail box was managed by a young man who it seemed had writing dreams of his own. I mixed with his stories and found them to be terribly mediocre, compared to me of course. All that village poco stuff “Mama said” “Pappa said”. Anyway, after this young man read me twice, each time with serious concentration and note making, he sent me off with a mail full of his opinions to another mailbox.
There, I thought would be my final destination but alas! I have since lost count of the number of mail boxes I dwelt in and the stories I mingled with, all this while longing for the mailbox of Goodluck. Goodluck who loved me so and put me in a folder all by myself that said “dreams”. Goodluck and his innocent mind, full of magic and wonder. Just when I had become used to the life of a mailbox wanderer, all of a sudden, in the dead of the night, I was forwarded to my final destination. The mailbox of L’adichie.
This is where I live now. I have been here for three years now. This place is crammed. Full of stories poured out from all the world’s corners. I have no space or time of my own. I hang out mostly with the quiet ones, the stories who carry themselves with quiet dignity, waiting with pride for our fate, whatever that may be. Yesterday, a story – we’d all thought she would make it – was sent off to the trash, and the trash was duly emptied. Finish!
The noisy stories here are full of delusions…delusions of grandeur. They all think they are on the way to go somewhere. Every day, they sit and gossip for hours about who will be forwarded next to some Grand Central destination.
I don’t know if I will ever be read, I don’t know if I will be sent to an agent or publishing firm. I don’t know if I will ever see the mailbox of Goodluck again. Yesterday, thirty new stories arrived, all perky and full of hope.
I think of my beloved Goodluck, will he ever know how truly gifted he was? Will he ever see me somewhere (anywhere!) Or am I destined to be forgotten in the mailbox of Adichie? If I am to spend my life here, I can only hope that more stories find their way to the trash so I can have better living conditions and if it be my destiny to be sent off to the trash, then I send my love to Goodluck and wish him all that his heart desires, fame and fortune.
Sylvia Ofili is a returning Brittle Paper champion. We love her very unorthodox perspective on things. She is a Nigerian blogger and columnist.