Me, Honestly, by Zachary Ekpe

I am early productive mornings, but I am also the longest, laziest lie in. I am two pairs of socks in all seasons except summer – I do not trust the cold. I am a black tea, no sugar; however I am not a sugarless coffee just yet. I am the red and black fruit pastilles in the tube, sometimes orange, sometimes green too, but never yellow. I am every last animal on earth, especially Charlie and Whoopi – two Dobermans from my childhood that will be forever in my heart. I am every blade of grass I have travelled across, every breath of fresh air I have vacuumed into my lungs. I am the world and all its inhabitants. I am the church I was raised in and its community of believers. I am every last one of my friends and my family; my mother Fola, my sister Gabrielle, my uncles, aunties cousins, family friends: I am them all.

I am a bright, sunny day but I am also a cloudy one. I am a snowy day spent tucked up warm inside, and I am a snowy day spent outdoors, sledging on neighbours’ bin lids. I am the spring days that prepare you for summer and the autumns leaves that fall after – I am the colours that autumn produces. I am not a foggy day; nor am I a windy one or a day pestered by a constant sharp breeze. I have grown to learn that I am not a boiling hot one either. I am a night sky featuring the moon and its gang of stars and I am a multi-pastel-coloured sunset sky.

I am every customer I have ever served and every French kid that I have toured around the streets of London. I am every language that I have attempted to learn and every accent that the UK has to offer. I am every charity shop that I have walked into and every car boot sale I’ve attended. I am every story I have been told and every city I have travelled to, every dancefloor I have boogied on and every peaceful train journey I have endured. I am every sunny day that I have spent in an English beer garden. I am Thursdays spent dreaming of that weekend capped off by a 10pm episode of Question Time, and I am that eagerly anticipated Friday payday at the end of the month. I am Saturdays spent resting and watching the football, and I am Sunday evenings spent dining and playing scrabble with my mother and sister to tune of CSI, Law and Order or Criminal Minds rolling in the background. And of course, I am Mondays spent feeling sorry for myself because, hey, that’s what everyone else does.

I am a movie. I’m about one and half hours long, give or take 10 minutes. I am usually filled with twists and never anti-climatic. I am not a 3-hour picture. I am a psychological thriller, a suspense film, an outrageous comedy, a feel-good family movie, a film based on a real life story and ones based on books. I am most Disney films, especially Hercules. I am not sci-fi, though Lord knows I have tried. I’m not a gory cult horror and I am not a book or movie about witchcraft or wizardry (despite my childhood obsession with Harry Potter) – the combination of both a religious and African upbringing instilled a phobia of such things in me.

I am every item of clothing I have ever purchased and every book that I have read. I am every CD I have ever listened to. I am every last VCR and DVD I have watched and every wristwatch that has ever lasted me. I am my first pair of Nike football boots and the first Liverpool FC kit I owned sponsored by Reebok and Carlsberg. I am Liverpool FC, their home ground ‘Anfield’ and their 600 million or so fans who do not leave me alone in supporting the club. I am every weekly copy of Match Magazine that my mother bought me as child and every daily radio show that would act as the soundtrack to my mornings.

I am my passion for other people, and I am my genuine interest in the world and cultures that surround me. I am the stories people tell me, and I am the history that precedes them. I am every person I observe from my London bus window seat: from the businesswoman to the homeless man; I am them all. I am the couple on the escalator opposite who just can’t hide their desire for each other from other commuters – I am Public Displays of Affection (PDA).

I am my favourite Nigerian meal; pounded yam with okro ogbono soup made fresh and preferably by my mother, and I am the kitchen it is prepared in. Inside that kitchen, there is a fridge and inside that fridge, there is a pepperoni pizza – you guessed it:  I am that pizza. In fact, I am my entire Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire home and my former homes in Mill Hill and Brent Cross, North London, not forgetting my family homes back in Lagos on my mother’s side and Calabar on my father’s. I am my Lagosian nursery ‘Pampers’, my two primary schools, Fairway and Pixies Hill, and I am my secondary school, John. F. Kennedy, and I am the fondest memories in it. I am the Bow, East London home in which I currently reside in and after five years of sporting an ‘E’ at the beginning of my postcode it is pretty safe to say that I, now, am East London.

However, I am not perfection. I am chain-smoking even though I can’t stand the taste or cost of the cigarettes, and I am a song that contains far too many swear words and that is far too repetitive. I am the pain of a fan who has just witnessed his or her team lose to the mighty Reds and which I misguidedly revel in. I am authority’s victim – always looking to defy it. I am social archaeology, constantly digging, on an endless pursuit for loopholes.

At times, I am laziness – the easiest option or way out. I am that endless pursuit for an escape when the pressure is on and I am developing unhealthy relationships with material things. I am gaming till the eyes feel gritty and raving until reaching a point of self-pity. I can be selfishness: this world and all its inhabitants do, once in a while, revolve around yours truly. I am looking out for number one in all the wrong ways and I am calling all women by the names ‘darling’ or ‘dear’ even though I’m sure it’s not socially acceptable anymore. I am the judgement that I cast unto others.

I am vanity, which guides my eyes to every reflective surface in search of one more glimpse of myself, and I am that indecision when deciding what the hell to wear. I am every toxic experience I have had and every toxic substance I have consumed. I am those cold, long nights spent trying to sleep on the beaches of Ibiza and I am every insult I have ever dished out. I am my own ability to adapt to situations quickly, but I am also my inability to simply say ‘no’. I am also slowness to change, and I am centre stage because I cannot get enough it, and I am the class clown.

I am a banana that’s slightly too green and a few days from ripe and I am the fatty bits that decorate the sides of a bacon slice. I am that double cheeseburger that helps wash down a long, drunken evening and those extra few glasses I maybe shouldn’t have had. I am the final song that the DJ sends you home with. I am that taxi home that I should not have spent money on.

I am a man. I’m approaching thirty and I am fully aware of it. I am under the pressures of society, yet I am free as a bird. I am an Englishman and I am a Nigerian. I am wise beyond my years and clueless for someone my age. I am terrified of change while eagerly anticipating and expecting it. I am both a freshly made smoothie containing my favourite fruit and that bottle of Coke that stands to melt your insides. I am a human being: only temporary in the grander picture. I am a walking contradiction.

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