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There are natural places old mates
not seen in years are destined to find you;
like at concerts or airports, or red-handed
at your dead-end mediocre job.

(You hate concerts and their filthy loos,
and your job is enviable)
so for you it was in the airplane, just before take-off
you turned around and there he was…

“Hello! Jide, right?” you ask.
Fredrick? from Bishop Hughes Primary School?
“It’s Alfred”, you reply.
“Ah! I’m sorry! Yes, Alfred! I remember you,
you were in 5B, weren’t you?”
And as you play greetings like ping-pong
you notice the smiling woman by his side
you smile back, slightly bowing
and point respectfully; Your mum?

There are days you’ll want the ground
to open wide and swallow you
but there’ll be no ground, as you’re in the air;
days an old mate’s mistake will be misnaming you
and yours, will be misnaming his wife.

An awkwardness falls like a brick
as the wife makes an awkward laugh
you open your mouth, but words don’t come out
you squirm around in your awkward seat
so he stabs the awkwardness
with a knife of awkward jokes
but the awkwardness is made of bricks
so there’s silence, more silence, more bricks
till he asks you the inevitable question;

“Are you travelling to Abuja too?”
( and for no reason, to a useless inquiry)
“Yes, yes”, you reply twice
and sharply turn into your space
then silence, it’s all silence.

Except for the sound of Cynthia’s eyes
which you can clearly hear in your ears
boring burning holes, through your headrest
and through your throbbing, burning head.

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Tolu Akinyemi

Tolu' Akinyemi was born in Akure, the capital city of Ondo State, Nigeria.

His writings have appeared in a number of notable anthologies such as 'Verses From The Sun', an Association of Nigerian Authors anthology, 'A Way With Words' (2014 & 2016), a Great British Write Off Anthology and other printed and online outlets. His poetry play 'The Big Society'; written for The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, London was performed at The Greenwich-Lewisham Young People's Theatre, London. In 2017, he was named on the 'Nigerian Writers' Awards' list of '100 Most Influential Nigerian Writers under 40' and also won the 'Poetry Writer of the Year' Award. In March 2017 he obtained an 'Exceptional Talent Endorsement' as a writer, from the Arts Council England.

You can find Tolu on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (@poetolu). He believes in 'The Big Bang Theory' TV Show, Google and Jesus. Tolu currently lives in London, England.

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