It is not that I don’t think about you…
Problems after all have their advantages, keeps me occupied. But that moment sprawled on the bed, staring at the ceiling, I allow my mind to wander…what could have been.
A sob heaves my body. Desperate, I conjure up sleep; the goddess of oblivion.
Mercifully, she emerges to claim me. I shudder, surrendering with a tear on my lids and your name on my lips.
I do not sleep to rest my body, I sleep to forget you…
My muscles flexed, my eyes were blood-shot. For that split-second, I matched the assailant’s power –Jango the street thug. But like a match flare in a storm he overpowered me. And there I was, sprawled on the ground with heavy boots coming down wickedly on my back. But I left a mark, I made sure. So that when I got home and Uche sees me staggering at the gate, a victorious smile hibernating on my face –just then I would make a determined face “I showed him pepper! If you see his face, marks everywhere” I would exaggerate. He would smile, his big sister came to his rescue. Uche is my little brother the fourth of the family of five. A frail five-year old and black –the deep kind, just like me. I am the first-born. The Ada…
As the first-born, you don’t have the right to make mistakes in life. I mean what example would you leave your younger siblings? Boy or girl it didn’t matter, you had to turn out perfect. And if you’re a girl, worse, you have limited time to make something for yourself. And the only “something” you can make for yourself is to get married off quickly. Your parents would breathe easy thereafter –you made it in life without disgracing them. That was my breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mum packaged it in neat folds of warning and most times incisive slaps. That’s why, Dear Nedu, I grew cold. I had to protect my future.
Dear Nedu, ours was a love fresh out of a Bollywood movie. The rain coming down gently –gently enough we could talk in it. Well I was talking to myself, typically me. I have lived alone with myself so long I don’t have anyone to talk to nor who is good a listener like I am. But the rain brought your voice to me. It splattered it on my earlobe. “Are you talking to yourself?” You asked, your eyes dancing wildly like it hit a jackpot. But the rain tore it up so, that what I heard was; “Are you alone by yourself?” And then I waited for you to come closer…
How do people say I love you and not feel they are giving the key to their world to that person? How can one say I love you to one person and in the next hour with the same sober voice, say it to another. We only have one life, one world. You can’t give it to more than one person at a time. How do they do it? I wondered about this. It scared me doing this; handing my future to anyone but me, I can’t make a mistake in this life.
Do you now understand why I was dumb that night? When you called and your voice was low and you talked about everything but us –about dinner and how you preferred plantain with egg sauce to sardine stew, and how the latter would always make you nauseous. Then from nowhere, you threw your keys at me –your future, you bundled it up and laid it bare on my laps. I could sense a tear drop as you begged for a reply. If it didn’t drop, then it was mine, I loved you. I was numb, silent because you had given your future to me. I had mine and didn’t know what to do with it yet. You thought I was cold… yes I was, frightened. But I got tired of being scared, I got tired of the seizures; the desire that would wreck my body whenever I see you. My future begging to be placed under your care… And I did, I gave you my keys. But you broke the key while trying to unlock the door.
I had agreed to meet you at your hostel. Before then, I usually picked the place and time of all our meetings. I made an exception, I wanted to see my future with you in it. Your hostel had a blue wall halved by a white line running round it with fishes sewing the blue and white. It had a dreamy smell and I wanted to just dream –I on a stage, you with the audience clapping vigorously for me, blowing occasional kisses to my way, shouting to all who cared to listen that; I was yours. I had just given a speech, I don’t know what the occasion was, but it was big, I felt big, I was the sky. But you wouldn’t let me just dream. Your body grew hot, they fishes felt the heat too and dried up and rigid like I did. Like I would be when I took back my keys and told you to take back yours –you did. But you kept a spare and left.
You should know, I took back my keys not because your body was on fire –this made me proud, but because you didn’t think I could dream.