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Freedom dance

He used all his week’s pay to purchase the ticket from Miami to New York City (NYC). It was an opportunity not to be missed. He has been away from home for twenty years. He didn’t go for his dad’s funeral and couldn’t make it for his mum’s funeral due to immigration restrictions. Finally, when the national convention of his tribe’s people was convened at Marriott hotel he had saved three months wages to pay for the hotel, flight and spending money.

He has been in the US for twenty years and the only thing he knew about NYC was from newspapers, internet and the news. This was going to be his moment to explore NYC and make new connections especially with his kinsfolk.

He has been living alone for the past twenty years. The lady he married in order to secure his papers showed him hell. He  literally lived and worked for that girl- Shameen her name was.

Anytime his phone rang and it was Shameen, his heart would skip a beat. He still remembered the last awkward moment with her.

It was about 6.30am and his phone buzzed. He was on his way home from work.

“Hey”

“Hey, how are you doing?”

“Very well thanks, yourself?”

“I would have been better if you had at least replied my last call to you.”

“You know I work nights and it is crazy out here. Anyways I am sorry. How can I help?”

“I have just seen the car I would love to buy” Shameen said.

Silence.

“Are you there?” Shameen asked.

“Yep.”

“Then why ain’t you saying something?”

“What am I supposed to say?”

“Anyways I would like you to get this car for me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I am saying that I want you to get this car for me.”

“That is not part of our agreement. Where on earth am I supposed to get the money from?”

“I don’t know. You are working I guess.”

“I ain’t getting you no car. Everytime I get a call from you, it’s always to ask for one thing or the other as if I owe you. This is not even part of the agreement we had.”

“Well, I will leave you to decide when you want to make the purchase, otherwise you gonna see your black butt on the plane back to Africa.”

“You know what. I am tired. I am fed up. Call ‘em up. Tell them I am an illegal immigrant. I got my bags packed and I am ready to get back to Africa. By the way where are you from if I may ask?”

Ntokon was sick and tired of being drained by Shameen. What crime did he commit? Was he the only illegal immigrant in the United States? Was that how other people were being treated? Since he got into this arrangement, he has spent over USD40k on this project with this lady. The initial contract was for USD15k. Why was she so heartless? Why was she taking advantage of him?

Things took a nosedive when they went on a supposed family holiday and they stayed in Hampton Inn, Atlanta. After taking some photos in the room, Shameen fell on the bed and slept off. Ntokon woke her up to go to her room and sleep. She said they should get down and he refused. Things were never the same for him after that denial.

His mind flashed back to the hot exchange they had.

“Are we not supposed to be a married couple?”

“Yes we are but that was not part of the deal?”

“Why can’t it be part of the deal now?”

“No, let’s stick to the terms and conditions.”

The look on Shameen said it all. ‘I will make you pay for this. You will pay for this dearly’ her exit seemed to announce.

Since then it has always been one demand or the other.

When Ntokon finally wrangled himself free from her claws. He vowed never to get entangled with any woman from the States. He knew it was an unfair judgement to make but he preferred it that way.

It took him 10 years to get his papers and he has been studying and recuperating from the emotional and psychological torture of the bygone years.

He was ready now for a fresh start. At 43 he looked well enough to pass off for a 35 years old.

At the ballroom of Marriott hotel, New York, the drummers from the warrior tribe began to drum. Different people went to the stage to dance. People displayed their flexibility. Waists bent and shoulders stooped in a mimic of the war dance. People applauded. A particular guy, Mbueze did such a magical performance as he danced such an authentic dance.

Ntokon stood up from his chair. He felt nervous. He took a step to the stage. He shot out his chest. He arched his chests. It felt so stiff. His body was in trepidation.  His flexibility was almost nonexistent. He removed his shoes, took off his hat and began to jump. He did the circle dance. He stopped and bent down and dug it in. His body was on fire. The drummers and flautists stepped up the level, and he was seized by the spirits. He danced until he forgot his name. People joined him at the stage and some sprayed him money. He was like a lost son who has just come back home. At one stage he was the only one dancing on stage. The MC grabbed the microphone and thanked him for such a spectacular performance. However, he was clawed to the stage.

“What’s your good name sir?”

“Ntokon”

“You danced so well.”

“Thank you.”

“Where did you learn to dance like this?”

“I used to belong to the Ndaeze cultural dance troupe some twenty odd years ago. We used to dance for a living.”

“Twenty odd years ago?”

“Yes.”

“How do you still maintain such dexterity and flexibility?”

“Unfortunately, I haven’t danced for twenty five years. The last time I danced was during my last outing in Aba and since then I haven’t even moved a step, though I see myself dancing in my dream many times.”

“Wow! So this is your first dance in twenty five years?

“Yes sir. It’s my freedom dance.”

The crowd erupted into a cheer. The war dance music came back on even though it was drowned by crowd’s cheer.

Ntokon did the acrobatic dance and the crowd joined him.

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26 Comments

  • Lilian Eseme Posted May 31, 2020 10:41 pm

    This is story of Ntokon a black illegal immigrant, who got entangled with a white lady named Shameen in the name of marriage. To secure his papers.
    1 What worked out well was that Ntokon was able to get his papers after ten years. Though it’s a long time,that was the only way he could free himself from been called an illegal immigrant.
    2 What caught my attention the most was how Shameen was able to drain Ntokon of all that he has which made him vow never to entangle with any woman in the state. It really shows that some women can do and undo just to get what they want.
    3 what I like the most was the part that even when Ntokon was sick and tired of Shameen’s threats he didn’t compromise, he still remembered that there is no place like home.
    4 Actually, I think the writer could have titled the story, “NTOKON’S FREEDOM DANCE”.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:18 pm

      Thanks for your comment and the suggestion for the title. ‘Ntokon’s Freedom Dance’ sounds captivating.

  • Joel-Levi Omotayo Posted May 31, 2020 10:30 pm

    What really worked well in the story was the fact that rushing into marriage as a contract deal and not love as Ntokon did is not the proper and best of options to choose.
    Ntokons performance at the New York City convention with his kinfolks,the unexpected zeal and come back of his past dance abilities despite how long ago he had danced , showing that when something is part of you,or an experience u out have doesn’t leave you easily no matter how long.
    Shameens attitude after she had agreed in the contract marriage with Ntokon, really caught my attention,it shows that people can’t really be trusted, people change,and that marriage is not as easy as a contract deal.
    I feel the writer could have stated how Ntokon got out of his marriage with Shameen after all the threats and all the extra cost she put him through.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:21 pm

      Thanks Joel for your comment. I like your response to the story especially the part that says “…showing that when something is part of you,or an experience u out have doesn’t leave you easily no matter how long.” This is powerful. I also like the moral angle you bring to the story…keep reading and keep writing. Next time, instead of typing ‘u’, type the word in full, as this was an official contest.

  • Marcus-Philemon Omotayo Posted May 31, 2020 10:18 pm

    Ntokon being able to finally get free from his wife and his spirit as he danced at the convention of his tribes people at New York City.
    Ntokons dance was really interesting and I liked it because it made him express how he felt at that point in time,he felt free.
    I was amazed at the fact that after twenty five years of not dancing Ntokon still had his good skills and dancing abilities and was able to dance so well.
    I feel the writer should have told a little bit about Ntokons background at the beginning of the story to tell us where he was migrating from or why he was migrating.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:23 pm

      Thank you Marcus for your comment. I like the critique you brought in..yes it would have been nice to know the background of Ntokon, where he was migrating from and the reason. Keep reading and keep writing!!

  • Aimée Posted May 30, 2020 12:07 pm

    Reading this story opened my eyes to see the length people would go to achieve things in life; legally or illegally. In the case of Ntokon, marriage was his solution. Without knowing what it would bring, he entered an agreement with Shameen. Marriage is a sacred union and should only be entered into carefully and advisedly because once you enter it, there’s no going back; you’re stuck with your partner.

    Ntokon’s agreement with Shameen showed the relationship between the exploiter and the exploitee. Shameen knew that the marriage was only a means to an end for Ntokon but she took every advantage of him. What played out so well was the writer showing us the struggle that comes with being an illegal migrant but Ntokon was determined to get his papers, hence, his agreement with Shameen. Another part was Shameen’s change in the marriage agreement. This is usually bound to happen in such kind of situations because they didn’t get married for love but to achieve something and Shameen was determined to exploit the situation even if it meant, altering the agreement (reminds me of some movies I’ve watched). Ntokon’s experience with Shameen drained him emotionally which left him with the conclusion that he would never get entangled with women.

    Finally, when his freedom came, he ran towards it. What I liked the most was his freedom dance that no-one could stop, understand or even relate to. For someone who had been bound for about 10years, Ntokon greatly expressed his joy at his freedom. No one can know the cost of anyone’s praise or happiness unless you have experienced it. So, he danced to his heart’s content.

    I feel the writer should have let Ntokon know that, in life, he shouldn’t judge everything that happens by one situation. He had closed his mind to other women because of his relationship with Shameen. We should go through life with an open mind, try to see the off-setting positive in every situation but be wise in all our dealings. Also, marriage shouldn’t be the solution to anything, more so, acquiring your papers because you don’t know how things would turn out or the secret agenda of the next person. Marry for love!

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:26 pm

      Thank you for your response Aimee. In life, people’s disposition are defined by their experiences. Is it right to judge American women by Shameen’s case, probably not, but that was what Ntokon did….life eh.

  • Bamidele Mary Posted May 29, 2020 1:06 pm

    1. What worked well in the story is the writer’s ability to combine major scenarios in depicting Ntokon’s misfortune at the hands of Shameen while he was an illegal immigrant, and the liberty and redemption he experienced when he decided to end things with her and do things the right way by getting his papers, thereby earning his own freedom.
    2. I like the fact that this story addresses and exposes the ill fate of illegal immigrants using Ntokon as a case study.
    3. The climax of the story really got to me; when Ntokon earned his liberation and freedom and became his own man, then he was able to revel fully in the tradition that he had missed out on the moment he got out of his fatherland. Ntokon was able to throw his whole heart, body and soul into the freedom dance because at last he was free indeed, free from hiding as an illegal immigrant, liberated from Shameen’s claws, and back to reconnecting and embracing his roots even in a strange man’s land.
    4. Freedom dance is an educative read, however, I feel the writer should have focused more on the tribulations of Ntokon as an illegal immigrant, asides from his ordeal with Shameen.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:28 pm

      Thanks Mary for your response. I like what you said, that the writer should have focused more on the tribulations of Ntokon as an illegal immigrant…hmmn, remember also it is a short story and the focus was his ordeal with Shameen.

  • Bamidele Mary Posted May 29, 2020 1:05 pm

    1. What worked well in the story is the writer’s ability to combine major scenarios in depicting Ntokon’s misfortune at the hands of Shameen while he was an illegal immigrant, and the liberty and redemption he experienced when he decided to end things with her and do things the right way by getting his papers, thereby earning his own freedom.
    2. I like the fact that this story addresses and exposes the ill fate of illegal immigrants using Ntokon as a case study.
    3. The climax of the story really got to me; when Ntokon earned his liberation and freedom and became his own man, then he was able to revel fully in the tradition that he had missed out on the moment he got out of his fatherland. Ntokon was able to throw his whole heart, body and soul into the freedom dance because at last he was free indeed, free from hiding as an illegal immigrant, liberated from Shameen’s claws, and back to reconnecting and embracing his roots even in a strange man’s land.
    4. Freedom dance is an educative read, however, I feel the writer should have focused more on other tribulations Not suffered as an illegal immigrant, asides from his ordeal with Shameen.

  • John Asiedet Posted May 29, 2020 6:30 am

    It was indeed a freedom dance for Ntokon, he had been in the bondage of living an untrue lifestyle just to survive.
    What crime did Ntokon commit is really a question that needed an answer as the Young man opted for greener pastures by going into an agreement with Shameen but never tasted it.
    In reality this is the struggle many African youths have to deal with just to have a change of nationality since most countries in Africa does not give to it’s citizens the needed provisions for better living.
    In all nothing feels like a freedom dance when you finally have your YOU return to you and live is reality of YOU again after years of pretentious Living.
    I really love the connection of the Title all through the story, right from what crime did Ntokon commit for opting for a better life down to what crime did he commit in exhibiting such level of acrobatic skills on stage.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:29 pm

      Thanks John for your response. I like the way you emphasized when you have your YOU return to you. That was very powerful. Well done to you. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • Ziyah Posted May 28, 2020 10:24 pm

    I liked how the story explains what truly happens in reality. I have seen similar cases as this that transpired between shameen and ntokon. This is a frequent and typical situation of any young man from nigeria in the US trying to secure his papers and the lady he married in order to secure his papers showed him hell which most times, becomes a parasitic relationship.
    I liked how he was able to set himself free from shameen’s bondage, remembering the deal made between them which wasn’t going as planned.
    What caught my attention the most was that, it is not good to make such a deal like this one because it doesn’t pay. Marriage is a sacred thing not to be gambled with. There are always consequences for decisions made like this by ntokon. Also it is always best to be patient and wait to receive the right papers before traveling. Entering a country as an illegal immigrant is very inappropriate.
    b. He vowed never to get entangled with any woman from the States is not the right mindset to adopt. Not all women act like this. You do not blame everybody on a particular situation because of one person’s error. Also his ability to be disciplined towards saving financially.

    The story just made the situation between ntokon and shameen easy to get away with. I believe the writer could have properly explained how to go about such decisions when securing your papers and show the end result of shameen’s greed.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:34 pm

      Thanks for your response Ziyah. I like your moral angle to the response. It shows that you must be an upright person too. I like your views about how you view marriage as a sacred institution, sadly enough, these values have been eroded today. Your concluding part is interesting…I don’t think the writer has an answer to this. You always have greedy people in life who take advantage of vulnerable people and this is clearly one of such cases…the debate can be endless.

  • Joseph Posted May 28, 2020 7:02 pm

    Remembering home is feeling home. He got his freedom dance when he remembered home.
    Only home can give u freedom.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:36 pm

      Thank you Joseph for your comment. Yes I like your affirmation that, only home can give you freedom. Can home really offer one freedom, why was he in the States then?

  • Joseph Posted May 28, 2020 7:00 pm

    Remembering home is feeling home. He got his freedom dance when he remembered home.
    And only home gives u freedom.

    • Paul Elakhe Posted May 31, 2020 2:24 pm

      Wow!! The story is undeniably a life experience of many Africans who are trying to migrate permanently to the US for greener pastures. The validity and verity of the story is superb.

      I liked Ntokon’s resilience and endurance and the fact that he finally got his papers. To have put up with a lady like Shameen for 20 years was a symbol of strength. It shows that he can achieve anything he sets his heart to achieve no matter the obstacle. The dance was worth it. It was indeed a freedom dance.

      Shameen was practically making a living off Ntokon. Here’s what he has spent on the contractual relationship: “Since he got into this arrangement, he has spent over USD40k on this project with this lady. The initial contract was for USD15k.” To Shameen, the relationship was purely business and was out to maximise profit both in cash and in kind. Imagine asking for a new car and wanting to share a bed with Ntokon even when it wasn’t part of the agreement.

      The writer was good with dates, that’s commendable, but more details should have been given about some of the time events happened in the story. For instance 20years of Ntokon’s stay in the US at the beginning of the story, I believe was a narrative. When did Ntokon finally wrangled himself free from Shameen’s claws? I also believe it was after ten years of his relationship with her because the story says it took him 10 years to get his papers. It therefore should mean the 10years of struggle was part of the 20years of his stay in the US mentioned at the beginning of the story. So the writer should be more specific with time of events because different readers might ascribe different meaning if events are not sequential in the story hence the need to be specific.

      • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:38 pm

        Thanks Paul for your response and critique. I guess this is what makes literature beautiful, subject to different interpretations. Sometimes some meanings are implied and implicit, so it is the duty of the reader to fish this out and join the dots. This you have done well. Keep reading and keep writing.

  • Joel Kalu Posted May 28, 2020 6:25 pm

    Ntokon is a reflection of the African man, seeking a move to greener pastures. His experience just goes to show that all that glitters isn’t gold. His perseverance to get his papers is a testament to his willpower and desire to make it. A truly heartwarming end is the icing on the cake. A lovely read.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:40 pm

      Thanks Joel for your comment…very short and crispy. I like your angle of the willpower of Ntokon and it’s not all that glitters is gold. Keep reading and keep writing.

  • Yemi Adebiyi Posted May 28, 2020 4:19 pm

    It was a marriage contract between an exploiter and a vulnerable immigrant. Nkoton paid the price and much more as Shameen turned an exploitatve contractee by delaying the delivery of the project – the migrant papers to Contractor Nkoton. His calling her bluff that they were both culprit of illegal contract and readiness to go back to Africa paid off thereby stopping his imprisonment on exposure or/and ransom payments.
    Nkoton thus found himself doing a freedom dance instead of the perpetual bondage Shameeen planned for him.
    An interesting story with an unexpected ending as reader would be thinking the Lady would go to court. The belated boldness of Nkoton did the magic. A great read.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:43 pm

      Thank you Yemi for your comment. I like your use of technical terms like ‘contractee’, ‘delivery of project’, ‘contract’, thus giving the story a business and project like angle.

  • Gideon Posted May 28, 2020 1:16 pm

    Both the writer and the dancer are so passionate till it awed everyone,the reader and the crowd in the dance.
    A freedom dance for Ntokon indeed.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 17, 2020 12:44 pm

      Thanks Gideon for your response. The dancer is indeed passionate. You think the writer is also passionate? How?

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