Mannequin Monday – Dreams Too Large to Carry
Welcome to one more Mannequin Monday. Our theme continues. We find ways to dress the blank form. To cover the mannequin, to write the words, to shape the sculpture, to create the sketch, to take the photo or make the film. Today our fiction piece – again from Narrative magazine – features a story by Ifeoma Sesiana Amobi. The interview features five up and coming Nigerian writers. And finally, another sample of my own writing.
This Week’s Story
Narrative magazine gives us a fine short story by Nigerian author Ifeoma Sesiana Amobi, titled A Small Blip on an Eternal Timeline.
“My family came to America when I was one, and in my tiny luggage bag my mother stuffed dreams too large for me to carry.”
So starts Somadina’s story. In her early twenties, an artist, she lives with boyfriend Emeka in a tiny apartment in Pittsburgh, PA. Emeka has his big dreams too, but he struggles with family expectations, a potential marriage with the “ideal” woman Amaka.
“Give me a little more time,” he pleads. He swears he will tell his parents he will not pursue a marriage with Amaka, but rather build a life with her. His family strongly disapproves of Somadina.
She struggles with her own family’s expectations. “According to my mother, I was never right with the world.” She tells Emeka, “I had a teacher once, in a continuing ed studio workshop… He told me that I would have a hard time competing with African artists who were making bold statements as a result of living in a state of existential urgency. He did not realize that my flowers were also coming from existential urgency. I asked him why my paintings had to mean something. Why they couldn’t just make me feel something. Something indescribable. Why couldn’t they just open a door for anyone to walk through and experience an existence that’s greater than they will ever be but also in this strange and relieving way, a part of them. An alternate reality that is ours. Isn’t this what we all want? To find that magical place in the midst of our tiny, broken-up lives?”
Somadina muses, “If I hadn’t lived out my life the way I felt I needed to, moment by moment, we might not have met each other. In the grand scheme of things, as ugly as life gets sometimes, I haven’t made any mistakes. Am I wrong? Am I making a mistake?”
When would I stop running? she asks herself. Running away from myself?
“I took one long, deep breath, and walked into the sun.”
Dreams too large to carry in a tiny suitcase. A metaphor for the plight of both characters. Dreams vs. expectations. A conflict between their own dreams and those of their families. A conflict within, as each struggles to find their way.
This Week’s Interview/Podcast
Electric Literature is a nonprofit digital publisher with the mission to make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive.
Electric Literature brings its readers an article from McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 56. Well-known Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie introduces five young Nigerian writers you should know. “Their stories blew us away, exhilaratingly original, brimming with heart and life. We’re confident that their names will soon be widely known.”
My Current Writing
The following is an excerpt from The Man in the Door, a short story I wrote back in 2012. Robbie Santangelo is a 14 year-old kid living with his grandfather. His mother died, his father took off. Here, Robbie comes home from school to find his grandfather home unusually early.
Pop’s car sat in the driveway. He’s home early, Robbie thought. Maybe I can talk to him about what happened this afternoon.
Robbie shoved his bike against the wall in the garage, ran in the back door to the house, and called out to Pop. Silence. He’s probably napping.
Robbie darted to the stairs. He heard a thump. Turning toward the living room, he noticed Pop’s feet sticking out from in front of the couch. Robbie ran over. Pop lay on the floor, his breathing raspy, face ashen, eyes closed.
“Pop, what’s the matter?” Robbie yelled.
Pop opened his eyes, looked at Robbie, but was unable to speak. A gagging noise came from his throat.
Robbie pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, dialed 911, and shouted at the operator that his grandfather had collapsed. After taking the address, the operator asked Robbie to describe Pop’s condition.
“Is he breathing?”
Robbie leaned in to listen for a breath. “I think so.”
She then said, “You need to start chest compressions.”
“Compressions? He needs an ambulance.”
The operator told him to calm down. She instructed him to put his cell phone on speaker, and keep talking to her until the paramedics arrived.
Robbie screamed, “What do I do?”
She told him. He placed his hands on Pop’s chest and started pressing down. The operator called out the rhythm and pace while he pushed. Pop did not open his eyes at all. His color was turning from white to blue.
Robbie tired quickly. “How long do I do this?” he yelled in the direction of the phone.
“Till the paramedics arrive. Keep going.”
Robbie started to cry. “Come on”, he said. “Don’t die, Pop. Please.”
A siren screamed in the distance.
Read the story on Amazon Books.