Maroon by Clara jack


Let her live. Take me Reaper . Let her live”

Maroon, the poet who wrote one good poem and nine hundred and ninety nine bad poems in a collection she titled Crumbles of an eon. No one could understand why she did that nor why they kept buying the collection. That one good poem was worth it perhaps. No last name .Just Maroon. She was like none of the other poets. She didn’t hide, she didn’t live in a fancy house, she didn’t write with a fancy typewriter, nothing. She however wrote her poems only in ink and on white paper. She did not have any scandals, she didn’t have any family, she was not extraordinarily beautiful but she was brilliant. Head turning, gut wrenching, skin piercing, impressive brilliance. Many had tried to employ her to work for them but she declined them all. They offered her Heaven and Earth they said and she said the same thing every time. “I’ve seen what you offer, I don’t want it” and she walked away with a wry smile. She did the same things. She sat by the river, she went to galleries, she ate foreign food almost every night and she kept no relationships. Maroon.
And now Maroon stood in a hospital looking at a dying girl the reaper was there to collect.
“Let her live. Take me Reaper, Let her live”
What a plea the Reaper thought. But he wasn’t one to reject a soul. After all Chuck Norris was long overdue. He looked at her from his hood and simply said;
“61 days. That’s what she had left to enjoy. “
And he was gone. The writer had 61 days. What she would do with them she was not sure. But it began with her leaving the window of that hospital room and buying Greek food. Her taste buds were yearning for some of Europe’s finest.
The Greek place was as usual. Smelt in a way that made you wonder why. She ordered the same thing and went home to an empty flat and no pets. Sometimes she wondered why she wasn’t lonely. She did not once think of the trade she had just done as if she was not even the one. Well up until when she awoke the next day. The sand was pouring. The clock was mocking. It was…

It was as though Maroon should have had a bucket list for the last 61 but she really could care less. She only felt like swimming that day so she waited till her neighbours left. They always left the backdoor open and their pool was always clean, very convenient. They had never caught her doing this but being Maroon even if they did, she wouldn’t care. She might not even get out of the pool just to spite them. After all live the last 61, they were indeed her last. She sat there alone to collect her thoughts. She didn’t do that often but now she wanted to. Her knees were up to her breasts and she sat in silence. The sound of silence playing on a speaker in the far end of her mind.
She was going to write a poem. One last good poem. About love. She was going to write about men. Men like Achilles and Ulysses and all the other es’s. it was going to be good. She was smiling already. “I’m afraid you’re going to pay a fine for swimming there”
The voice came from nowhere but then there it was sounding. Saying things Maroon was supposed to respond to.
“You do know this breaks a lot of laws. Breaking and entering, indecent exposure, …”
The voice kept on talking. Ugh the lawyer type Maroon thought. All this while not turning back once to look at the owner of the voice.
“Well I’m calling the police. Since you do not want to be reasonable”
The police, God no, she thought. So she turned to face the voice and the owner. Fully nude. Her eyes not wavering with the aim to stare the voice down. The owner of the voice was a he. He had stupid hair and had a lot of melanin and well he couldn’t let things slide.
“Go on then, I do need new things to write about. I hear prison is reforming these days”
The owner of the voice looked at Maroon with her wet melanin and afro hair and he became her eus. Odysseus Perhaps. Dear reader, with all that stark nudity facing him, he obviously didn’t call the police and he ‘let this one slide’

Maroon needed to buy white and ink. Odysseus was not the best of the Greek heroes but he was one with character and she had found him. Dressed in her black sack gown with her wooden heart shaped pendant hanging lowly into her breasts, she met him at the bookshop. He was looking at her with a pang of familiarity and the air of their last encounter obviously in the atmosphere. He was probably picturing her wet and naked.
“You should take my number. For the police and what not”
“No uhm I meant it when I said I let that go. But you shouldn’t have walked away like that. Some people frown on it and call it rude”
Maroon was half thinking of a million things and half perusing books she was sure she had read. If not in this life, in the past one. What she was not doing was listening to Odysseus. He cleared his throat but she still did not look up. She barely reached into her cross body bag, a pen and a little piece of paper. A number and handed it to him.
He took it wide eyed and before he could speak again, she spoke.
“I have 60 days left. I will write, I will be weird. I will love and for some reason the voice inside me that has better judgement has chosen you to be my muse”
Maroon probably looked breath taking with her glistening collarbone, burgundy 4c hair packed in two buns and amethyst eyes. Of course the already registered image of her in his head played a massive role so he smiled a lustful lingering smile and trying to be charming, he said;
“I will call you later and yes I want all those things. My name is Osaze by the way”
Maroon tried it on her tongue a couple times and he was smiling through both times. She said one more time “Osaze” and she walked away. She walked to the aisle where she could buy the whitest paper in the whole of the city. Then she was going to mess with the cashier like she always did. Today she was going to ask him if they sold squid ink. The answer would be no but his facial expression was what she did it for. Thinking about it made her smile.
“Hi sweetie, do you guys sell squid ink?”
His expression today was one lined with irritation in conjunction with the normal confusion. He either had a bad day or was catching up on the joke. Either way, she was going to stop soon.
“No ma”
“Oh that’s too bad. That’s the only type I use but here this is all I’m buying. How much is it?”
“1250 ma”
Maroon never paid with a card. She always had every note she needed. No matter how much the universe and her ancestors whispered to her, she didn’t listen to their card or cashless conversations, she liked to hold her money.
Osaze was behind her on the line and immediately she finished paying and she took her paper, he opened his mouth.
“I didn’t get your name”
“First, there are a lot of things wrong with that sentence and I didn’t tell it to you”
He rubbed the side of his mouth. The way almost every man does after being corrected. This was the second day they had met: he still had manners, for novelty’s sake. He paid for his item, slim book: ‘The 48 laws of Power’ and gave the cashier a smile and thanks while the bag changed hands.
“So, what is your name?”
“Do you know the story of Odysseus?” she asked a question in reply to a question.
“Faintly but…”
“You should read it. Maroon. My name is Maroon”

DAY 10
Osaze was now a part of Maroon’s 61. He had a lukewarm attitude and only gave 70, not 100 but somehow she kept him around. She knew she kept him around because she wanted to write one last one for you and for me. And no matter what they said, the best pieces in the world were pieces about unrequited love. Because they are really stories about strength. People who are loved enough need not possess such strength. The best part about unrequited love stories is that you will get tired but the universe has your back.
He was really Odysseus. One blessed and destined to come back home. It was barely a week so for once, maroon listened to the people of the world and cut him some slack even though it didn’t make sense to her. There was nothing wrong with loving with the weight of the world from Day one. But many humans had forgotten that. They started reading other stories and forgot how Adam loved Lilith from the first day he saw her.
Osaze was around on day 10. He was bringing round a book he had borrowed from her. He was going to push his cause to make her see reason why she should send him nude photographs. He was asking for nude photographs yet he was giving 70 and she was still supposed to cut him some slack.
“Hey so there’s this thing on Instagram. A bunch of questions. Wanna do it?”
Maroon sat up from a slouched position on the couch with her feet on his laps and looked at his face with her rapt attention. She wouldn’t be caught dead not trying. Today her hair was tame. In two cornrows. She didn’t like it so she had a slight frown but now she smiled and said, “Sure”
“Lets start. What are you most thankful for?”
“I am thankful for the fact that even with the unscrupulous behaviours of human beings, I still manage to fall in love with songs”
“But songs are made by humans so”
“So what? They’re still terrible. They’re just doing one thing right. Nine nine nine things wrong”.
He laughed and again rubbed the side of his mouth. It was obviously not the answer he was expecting. He was probably hoping she’d be thankful for him. With his 70, he was hoping. Trying to poke in the hole more to find an answer he would like, he asked her;
“Soo what song do you love today b?”
Maroon closing her eyes and in her singing voice she does not air barely enough, started;
“ would have meant so much if you look me in the eye. Oooh but I always go for the ones who have no courage, I must see some kind of beauty in their eyes…”
This answer was not what he wanted but he liked her voice so that sufficed and he commented.
“That’s Sam Smith”
“No no that’s Maroon singing Sam Smith”
“I don’t like him much “
“Well he’s gay”
“Well it doesn’t make me love him less. It shouldn’t. The world has more problems than boys kissing boys”
“Sha, his songs are really nice”
“You see. Yet it’s who he sleeps with you are most concerned about. Casual homophobia is ridiculous Saze, get rid of it”
Osaze shook his head. A thing he did whenever he did not want to argue with Maroon. Half because he never won and half because he always lost. Maroon sensing his not wanting to lose, touched his hand, softened her eyes and asked;
“So what’s next on the list babe”
“Yeah well uhm what in the past would you do differently if you could?”

DAY 13
Friday the 13th. You know, like Bloody Mary and all that bloody messy, scary don’t open the closet Friday the 13th. It was a Friday, it was day 13 and on that day, Maroon had sex for the first time with Osaze. And for the first time in 27 years. And against what he thought, she hated it. But not for the same reason everybody hated it. She hated it because even though he did it with only 70, it was good.
It started like you would imagine. It was raining and he was around. It was the first time she went to his house. She went with a bottle of red wine, herself and all of her essence. They were meant to see a movie. Maroon already knew what would happen so nobody needed to waste any time.
The movie had ended and they were kissing. Somehow she could tell that the most important thing to him was that the kissing was going to lead to something else. Not whom he was kissing or any other thing. Maroon not to eager, not too dull was also thinking of one million other things.
He first slipped his hand into her shirt and made some snarky comment. The croak in his voice gave away the lust and she didn’t mind it. If they were going to do it, he best want her. He even made a comment about her putting the condom on him but she refused.
It was like she was on a ride in Disney Land, she wanted to be a guest. He took off her clothes rhythmically and then he did a minor job with foreplay. She reciprocated when she should have and he seemed to like it because he moaned a little too loudly.
It was sex, stop asking about it. It was about to happen, it was happening and then it happened. It was half hearted, it was good and she hated it.

DAY 20
Maroon was somewhat rude. Rude in the sense that she only ever said what she felt, only went to places where she felt alive and those places were not parties organised by people who only wanted to boast ‘politely’. She replied people in the bluntest way possible and she played her vinyl ‘a little too loudly’. However Sam didn’t think so because “These nights never seem to go to plan. I don’t want you to leave, would you hold my hand”.
That was the first song Osaze agreed to like from the whole album as proof that he was “shedding his homophobia’. Well that was one of the only ones they played on the radio. And not to brag but that was one of the least amazing songs to a trained ear and searching soul so it was an obvious choice, not proof of any roundwork. When Maroon played the rest of the album for him, she could almost swear that his eyes were wet when it got to the Whitney remake. She smiled.
About the party on day 20. It was an party in Osaze’s office. Since they were still neighbours, getting ready in both apartments was back and forth and funny. Maroon liked it. Osaze was irritated. His black sock was only a part in his house and the other was somewhere in Maroon’s house hiding. It was tragic. Petty sock.
The party began by 7 but the interpretation of that was “Ah lets go by 8, no one comes early anyway”. Back and forth and looking for one leg of sock made them arrive at the party by 9. This party was going to last well into the night and even morning. The music was going to be loud, she was going to hate it and Osaze was going to once again, pay attention to all the wrong things. Things like if her v neck was just open enough to make his co-workers jealous but not enough to make them think his woman was a whore. Things like if she smiled at his boss in a flirty way and if the alcohol they had at the party was the kind he liked. Things like if Maroon knew how to grind him on the dance floor and if she knew how to twerk. He kept asking her “Shebi you can grind. You know na. The way the girls are dancing. Shebi “. How old was this man again. She never answered but he never noticed. He only held her hand too tightly and led her to the pool of sweat and skin all meshed up.
Maroon endured it. It was day 20. One third so to say. Two more rounds of this and she would be done. Really done. She would have written the last one and she will be done. Maroon was thinking of this bliss when Osaze called her to come dance so the phrase “Baby just break your back” in the song did not irritate her as much.
The time was 1 o clock and Osaze was drunk. Too drunk to drive them home and Maroon couldn’t drive. Everybody was either leaving or about to leave. They sat in the car. Maroon waiting for him to sober up and Osaze trying to initiate sex.
“Come on. We’ve never done it in the car before”
“No. Osaze we have to go home. When we get home”
“Don’t do this b. Let’s live in the moment. Let’s be wild. Isn’t that what you said you wanted”
He was using viva la vida against her and it worked so they did it in the car. Like he wanted. Like she did not know she wanted. And again, even drunk it was good. But this time she didn’t completely hate it. She was realizing that sometimes sex was just sex and sometimes it was not and sometimes it was in between. Just put that in your head and voila.
They slept in the car that night. Osaze slumped in the back seat and Maroon curled herself in the passenger’s seat. She slept with both hands around herself and even with them breathing each other’s air, they slept off. Before she slept off, Maroon sketched the last one in her mind. She thought of clever titles, songs she would listen to while writing it. Good old Smith crossed her mind, Yebba too and Of course Ed and the kinky Canadian one.
It wasn’t hard to sleep although she wished she could poop. Osaze didn’t snore. He never did so the place was quiet.
“I’ve been burning. Yes I’ve been burning….”
Good old Sam sang her to sleep in the buds glued to her ears. She couldn’t wait to wake up the next day just to see Osaze’s face and watch him deal with his hangover. She hated how much caring for this ‘terrible person’ had creeped on her. But she also knew that love wasn’t something for the deserving.

DAY 27
She brought out the white today. Half of the 61 was three days away and shit was starting to get real. Osaze was not around today. After the party he stopped being around so much. The novelty had worn off. Somehow he always had work and other things to do. He replied her slower and stopped pressing for her to send him pictures. 70 had dropped to late 40s. It was happening.
She went to swim like the first day. She wanted to collect her thoughts and read. In the pool she decided she was going to cut her hair even though he was going to hate it. She was going to eat Chinese that day and she was not going to have sex with Osaze when he got home that night. Thinking about being stubborn made her smile. It was a vice.
In the water she looked through Twitter. The transfer window was still open. The season would start on Day 40. By then she would not care if Osaze paid her any attention. She was going to stop trying too hard. She was going to stop leaving all those messages just so he had a good day. She was going to stop showing that she cared.
She was going to be too busy anyway. Busy caring about other men in jerseys and shorts and eccentric haircuts and smiles with one too many coloured teeth. She always was when some 28 men ran around a field in shorts too tight and too short all trying to put a ball in a net. All that for a ball in a net. All the excitement, all the money spent, all the sweat, all the blood, all of that for a ball in a net and a young man failing to catch it. It was ridiculous really. But it was for the love and that was the name of the game.
She sat in the pool until her teeth started to shake. A sign she should have taken seriously but didn’t. She sat there for a while longer. And by 5:34 when she heard the horn meaning Osaze was home, she got out of the pool naked like she had done the first day. She walked into the house wet, naked, bare feet and dripping. Her hair fighting to not get wet. Her hair was not as strong as it thought. She walked into the house, his colleagues were there, about five or six, she was naked and Osaze was fuming.

DAY 40
They were still fighting. Fighting about the naked, colleagues incident. Or better put, Osaze was still talking about it and Maroon had stopped apologising after the third time. She was still waiting for the day he would have sex with her and forget all about it. His voice saying “But didn’t you hear our voices coming in” or “It was very embarrassing for me” or the one that made her want to throw up “How do you think I felt that day. Or how I feel when they talk about it at the office”. Once she had said in response; “Calm down Odysseus, it’s just nudity” but he couldn’t hear her over the loud pang of his vanity. It was honestly an accident but the more he spoke about it, the more she wished it was not.
When the game came on, she tuned him out. After all, she had cooked him dinner and tried to make it up in his language and had genuinely felt bad but not ashamed. It was a tricky thing to do. He was still bickering so for the love of God, she had earned this time out. The first game of the season. She really wanted it to go in favour of her team but then again who didn’t.
But at the end, Maroon was smiling and was getting that high you get when you suddenly turn up the music that is playing in your headphones. She even almost danced but she stopped herself. Euphoria was a funny thing.
The universe was not letting Osaze smile today. With all his nagging, his team still lost. Fuming and almost crying he stormed off. Now Maroon couldn’t decide what made her happier. The fact that her team won or the fact that his team lost. Frankly she didn’t even know which was better but she enjoyed it.
Floating in her state of Euphoria and absence of moody boyfriend, she started to write. She wrote and wrote on six sheets and then she threw them all away. Maybe she was too happy. She wrote her best when she was sad. Most writers did. Muse, muse, muse. No doubt it was Saze. But not whiny Saze. Saze in a clean white shirt, his hands in his pocket trying to conceal his lust when he looked at people in skirts. Saze who had a spark for things of the world. Saze who hid his emotions because apparently emotions and man were now antonyms. Saze who didn’t love her enough.

DAY 50
They were no longer fighting and the Saze she crowned her muse was back. He was back in his level 40 effort pretending to try but it didn’t matter anymore. The poem was done. It was a good one and she wrote it on only one sheet. She would give it to the Publishing house maybe.
Saze was around that day and he was talking about travelling. He was travelling for something.
“I would be gone for a week babe”
Maroon chewing on bread not minding her stomach protruding more each day. She’d be gone soon. If she died fat well all the fat does belong to the Lord, so Amen. With her attention more on the bread, she asked;
“Where to?”
“Oh you know, Abuja. The office is sending us on an assignment”
“That’s cool. Can I come? I’ve always wanted to see the Capital”
“You’d be bored. I wouldn’t be around all the time and you know…”
“Sure. Its fine. Have fun on the trip”
“It’s an office thing. I doubt I would but thanks. I better go pack”
“How much do I mean to you Saze. What’s my best colour. One thing about me no one knows?”
The look on his face was one of mediocrity. He did not know the answer to any of them. He did that thing where he itched the side of his mouth with his tongue. He did it a little too much and he stuttered.
“Stop Saze. Your best colour is white and you always fall asleep with half of your eyes open but its okay. I have made it through fifty, I can make it through ten”.
He made to leave and she smiled.
“Say hi to Mimi for me and yes I know you’re cheating”
He looked stunned like he actually wasn’t cheating. He made to speak but she got her voice first in a rather calm way.
“You know the thing is that we often think that if we take an ordinary thing in the name of love, we can save it and salvation is such a noble thing, isn’t it?”
“Maroon, Jesus Christ, I do not know what you are talking about. You have always made me feel small. And you can never argue like a normal person. What happened to outrage and how dare me? First what kind of a name is Maroon and second you were the one who gave me your number I didn’t ask for it. You were the one who swam naked in my pool and now you’re telling me about salvation? You went and cut your hair, you didn’t even tell me. You always talk to my colleagues like you’re better than them. I always have to beg you to send me nudes. You do all these things like you’re an old woman, I am always dragging you, shaping you up to be my kind of woman. God forgive me but why won’t I cheat? You forced yourself into my life talking about sixty days. I went along with it because why not but I think I’m done”
Maroon surprised herself by letting the tear fall. But before it dropped, she cleaned it. She had anticipated all of it. She thought she was ready but no matter how many times the heart breaks, it can still break one more time Especially when you think you are prepared and control all the variables. Your good little boyfriend can break your heart in all his mediocrity.
Seeing the damage, he tried to take back the words but he couldn’t. You can never. He tried to hold her but of course she refused.
“You know, you never love somebody limited to the way you know how to. It will never be enough. You love a person in a way they need to be loved. There was nothing you wanted I didn’t do or at least try to do. Go home Saze, safe trip and you can go on with Mimi”
He knew this was the end but even if it was what he wanted, it still hurt him because he liked her. No matter how complex she was or odd, he had fallen for her but for some reason he can’t explain he wanted to run away from someone who would have torn every part of his life.
That was the last time she saw Odysseus and she knew that when the Reaper came, she would tell him that she loved and that was what killed her. Tragic she knew, pitiful she felt but it was tear jerking, skin piercingly, head achingly, poem inspiringly true. A delusion she was hoping to find validity in. Love sometimes feels like a fever dream, the one with Tom Cruise where everyone watching from the outside has a wtf is going on face. Even you are taken with the entirety of it. Maroon loved Saze more than he did her for a reason none of them knew. And that was the story she wrote on white.

DAY 61
The reaper didn’t come that morning, he didn’t come in a robe and all of that whole black thing he has going on the movies. He came by 5:15pm and he was wearing Khaki. Maroon laughed when she saw him. She really wasn’t afraid to leave.
“I wrote one last one you know”
“Read it”
“I loved a man once. A man like Odysseus. He loved too little and expected too much…”
“That’s not the Odysseus I know but go on”
“Nah you just have to read the rest when it gets published. It’s an advice to all people if they’re smart enough, love has no bearing with worth”
He chuckled.
“Is your daughter feeling better”
“Last I checked yes”
“Noble for giving up your life for her like that. The parents are happy I presume”
“I am many things noble isn’t one young man, see the mess I made trying to use romantic salvation as my pathway to nobility. As for the parents, yes they believe they are happy”
“hmmm. Let’s go then. How’d you want to go out by the way? I never asked”
At this time, Saze was driving into his own flat and he was wearing white. The reaper smiled.
“Don’t worry, he won’t last. He loves you too so he’ll find the poem publish it, cry a little for you, a lot and sadly, is the noble one between both of you. Why’d you pick him anyways?”
“I saw the beauty in his eyes you know. I saw potential, tried to look passed what he was to what he could be before he dies. I liked to take on these experiments on this millennium vacation I’ve been on. I enjoyed it sometimes, especially the century I wasn’t trying to prove anything. Then I got sucked into this century where I was bamboozled into proving something. The worst. He has two years 15 days left by the way”
The reaper was shit shocked at her monologue and in a bid to act human while among them, he asked a silly question
“What on earth do you mean maroon?”
“Because Reaper, you took my job, sucks doesn’t it?”.

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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.