Sunday, October 4, 2009

Changing Shapes: Uche Umez

Here's something very interesting to start your week. We hope that you enjoy 'Changing Shapes' by Uche Peter Umez and respond with your comments!
Something is wrong. Emeka isn’t sure when and how it started. But it is obvious something is just not right with her body; it seems to have evolved. Maybe it has something to do with his sight. His eyes sometimes water, other times an ache pulses behind his temples. The optician did suggest bifocal lens. It’s unnecessary, he thought – at the time. He puts away his files in the cabinet and cracks his knuckles. Soon he will be leaving for home.

Certainly. Something is happening to him, too. Maybe he’s growing less religious, more open-minded. Of late, he has begun to size Ogechi up. Cast sly glances at her when she moves through the sitting room. She puffs easily these days. He is familiar with her strained breath, every time she busies herself with some chores: she never pants before. Emeka doesn’t want to think of home at the moment, but –

She used to walk in silence, as though she had cat’s feet. Not anymore. He rests a hand on his forehead. This is why he wants to believe some shape-shifting thing has sneaked into her body, so he set about to deconstruct or precisely reconstruct her shape. Mentally, though.

Always. The sight of Ogechi sprawled out on the couch shocks him: a Barney hunched up in a tiny chair. His two boys love Barney. They rock with laughter, but that thing stuffed in that seat is no joke. This is not the woman who was a spring in his bed – before the nuptials, before the babies started coming. She’s no longer his woman. She is somebody else’s – his children’s, perhaps.

There are times Emeka fears the seams would burst when her hippo-size butt sinks into the plaid-patterned fabric. Puffing, she’ll heave herself off the floor, but he wouldn’t lend her a hand. Instead, he sees himself turning away. She will feel no pain, of course: she’s well cushioned for slips, what with all that flesh.

It is wrong, he knows. He can’t help it. Whenever he holds Ogechi in bed, his mind races to that girl in the beer joint. They both have large boobs, but the girl’s looked tight and firm; a clenched fist, without veins. Makes him wonder...

He once caught a man drooling over her. He thought the man was drunk, then pondered if he was single or married, if the man’s wife’s breasts were like his own wife’s: pendulous globes that remind you that a politician’s potbelly is even more tolerable than a woman’s. How can Ogechi, in a short space of time, barely six years, evolve into a lumbering mass of tissue?

She was (still is?) unlike the girls he once dated: sofa-cradling, spur-of-the-moment, and breezy. They can’t carry on a conversation that is removed from fashion and cars. He was pleased when he discovered during those heady years that she wasn’t crazy about make-up; not that she was godly. Cosmetics are vain, a poor screen for beauty, she said.

Thus, she adores the simple look, low cuts and neat plaits; no mascara or rouge – and never obsesses about perms, bangs and wigs. Horsehair and wool, she called them. A waste of money and time, Emeka quite agreed. He knew how much he spent on some of his ex-lovers.

The last girl was addicted to Mary Kay. He’d found it juvenile and vexing – though not as vexing as her weakness for chicken or her ignorance of whom the Liberian president is. Yet she was a graduate of political science.

If there is one thing he can’t stand in a girl, it is stark ignorance especially when she speaks fluid English. So he ditched her. He married Ogechi instead – she can mesmerize you with her viewpoint. A storm of wits, when engaged in a conversation. He likes that in a woman. I like being different from the sheep, she once mentioned. He had smiled.

Those qualities had drawn Emeka to her. Bring up any subject, and she would go on without fail. She likes Animal Planet, National Geographic; she watches CNN as though there is something therapeutic about it. His friends complained about their wives. Africa Magic has possessed their minds; not his wife’s. She wrote off that channel as ‘Superficial, ethnic and indolent,’ as if nothing good will ever come out of Africa.

A couple of times he had tried to change the channel so the both of them could get amused by the buffoonery and antics of Nkem Owoh or Sam Loco, and she was like, ‘Honey, please don’t.’

‘Aren’t you bored with all this whitewashed things?’ he said.

‘Better than the stupid things they call home videos,’ she hissed.

One of these days he would throw out that chair or smash it to pieces. Imagine her slouching and glued to the screen, adding so much flab that was unbefitting for a twenty-eight-year old woman. He doesn’t want to imagine what Ogechi would look like when she has two more kids.

As the clock chimes six, he wonders if being thickset and matronly is her idea of being unique. He fears he might someday just pull out a suitcase from the top of the wardrobe, cram it with some clothing, and speed off to Jos. There, he will start a new life. Or pick up his old philandering life. Instead of driving straight home, Emeka makes a detour. He glances in his side mirror and heads in the direction of the bar on Douglas Road. The bar with the poster of the big-breasted movie actress.


  1. I said I had not read Uche Umez and this is a great intro. He writes well and what a theme he chose to tackle. Well done.

  2. First off, i did enjoy it

    Second...Both Emeka and Ogechi break my heart..this seems to be a real issue among couples these days, but who said you cant carry her along on some form of weight loss programme, or that because he's put a ring on your finger, he doesn't deserve your best?

  3. I want the rest of the story.

    Uche Umez knows what to write.

  4. Nice piece. Sadly, this is the tale of a thousand and one Emekas. A woman should have some interest in the Mary Kays, horsewhips and all of those things Ogechi dislikes because they add to our feminity. Besides, there is no harm in being "Barbie-like" so long as the intellectual prowess outweighs the vain side of us.

    I would like to read the rest of the story. Well done.

  5. hi Eghosa...i enjoyed ur reading at the Farafina Literary evening.That story is so real...

  6. Well done, Uche! This was really quite good and engaging.


  7. Beautifully written. Well done Uche!

  8. thanks,thanks, thanks, i am glad you liked the rambling vignette!