death

Back and Forth and Back and Forth

We had breakfast together like we always did but I couldn’t eat, hadn’t eaten much since she died a month ago. I watched him swallow mouthful after mouthful of boiled yam and corned beef stew, with the occasional sip of water to help pave the way. The temptation to pray he choked was overwhelming; I envied his ability to satisfy his hunger. The fist of grief that had made its home in my throat, making it impossible for anything to get past it, had obviously not paid him a visit.
I wanted to ask how he did it, how me managed to make it from one day to the next with such ease, but I didn’t know how. We didn’t talk much, we never had, and we certainly didn’t trade confidences or dabble in emotions. I wanted to ask if he also lay awake at night, the sound of her voice gliding gracefully in his head until he was convinced she was lying next to him, whispering softly in his ear. Did he see her when he closed his eyes? Did her scent dance under his nose too? Did he stand in front of his bedroom mirror watching his snot and tears collide, feeling sorry for himself, and intermittently bursting into laughter at the idiocy of it all?
Nothing seemed to faze him, not once in the last month had he deviated from normality. Her journey to death was sudden, we didn’t see it coming. One Tuesday morning she woke up with a headache, by night fall she’d died of a brain haemorrhage. Three days later, she was buried. Screams and sobs, wails and paranormal expressions of pain, echoed throughout the grave yard as her body was lowered into the ground. Yet, not a sound did he make, not even a dignified sniff. Not as much as a lone tear fought its way past his eye lids. Hadn’t he loved her, didn’t he care enough for the barest tinge of sadness to cast a shadow over his expressionless face?
“Your father is not the emotional type,” she always said when I complained about his matter-of-fact approach to life, “but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, he just doesn’t show it.”
My heart was getting crushed under the weight of my unspoken grief. I wanted to talk about her, share my memories with him. I wanted to tell him I wasn’t coping, couldn’t cope. I’d woken up a few days before to find my underwear and bed sheet soaked in blood. I’d started to panic before realisation hit me; I’d become a woman. Who was I supposed to tell? I’d been walking around for three days with my underwear lined with my old tank tops.
The tears I’d been struggling to keep hidden from public view began to slide down my cheeks. I tried to stop them, to make them retrace their steps, but the harder I fought them, the faster they flowed. I gave in to the grief and wept so hard, my chest felt like it would burst open. Eyes blinded by tears, I didn’t realise he had moved to sit beside me till his arms embraced me. I lashed out in anger, pounding my fists against his chest. How could he be so quietly calm when my whole world was falling apart?!
Gently, he lifted me off my seat and settled me in his laps, cradling my head against his chest. Slowly, he began to rock me back and forth. Back and forth, back and forth, till my fists stilled. Still he continued to rock me, back and forth, back and forth. My breathing evened out. Back and forth, back and forth, till the tears subsided. Eventually, I looked up. It was then I saw the stream of tears flowing steadily, silently, down his face. I wrapped my arms around him and squeezed as tightly as I could. My heart felt lighter. I knew I was not alone.

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A Time To Die: The One With No Title

I feel the moisture crawling down my neck, slowly making its way towards my spine. The air is still, the heat hovering, suffocating. A violent kick sends the duvet flying off the bed. Even before my brain is fully alert, I know she’s been in my room.  Why won’t the woman mind her damn business?! Reaching above my head, I flick the switch on the air conditioner. The low hum as it comes to life soothes my irritation. Eyes still shut, I rehearse the speech I’ll be giving that woman come the morning.

“Mum, I’ve told you to stop turning off my air conditioner. You may not like the cold but I do so please, for the zillionth time, leave it alone!”

“Your air conditioner, did you buy it with your money?”

“Whatever mum, it’s in my room so please, just leave it alone.”

“You can’t tell me what to do in my own house. If you’re tired of me, pack your load and go to your husband’s house. “

Here we go again.

“You are so unbelievably predictable! What does your turning off my a/c have to do with me getting married? Is the fact that I’m not married your only problem in life?”

“Yes, it is! How many of your mates are still living in their parents’ houses?”

“Do you think I like living here? Believe me, the minute my man appears I’m out of here.”

“That’s your problem, is it by magic he will appear? Instead of you to ask your friends how they found husbands you’re there waiting for him to appear.”

“Am I God?! Or am I supposed to parole the streets of Lagos begging men to marry me?”

“Has God not already created men?  If you like don’t pick one, be waiting for heaven to deliver him to you. “

“ I’m sick of this nonsense mummy, when he comes, he comes and if he doesn’t, he doesn’t  I’m not about to kill myself because I’m 35 and single. You are my mother for goodness sake, show some support!”

“Support your manlessness? Aren’t you ashamed? Your younger sister is married and you’re there chasing a career.”

“Well excuse me for wanting to make something of myself. It’s my fault for living in this house. It’s about time I got a place of my own where I don’t have to deal with this crap.”

“Over my dead body! You want to bring disgrace to this family? You will not turn into one of those wayward girl that are proud of being single. What kind of woman moves out of her father’s house before marriage?!”

“In that case feel free to drop dead. I’m getting a place of my own. I’m done tolerating your insults!”

“I should feel free to drop dead?! You are a stupid girl, that’s why you won’t find a husband. I blame your father, he is the one that sent you to England where they talk to their parents anyhow. Idiot…”

I’d had enough. Picking up my car keys I stormed out of the house, her insults trailing after me, hot tears burning my eyes.

Does she think I don’t want a husband and children? Does she think it doesn’t hurt knowing she’s ashamed of me?

I drove to the nearest estate agents to find myself a place to live and three hours and two viewings later, realised I was kidding myself. I couldn’t afford the extortionate rent on the Island, not comfortably anyway. Anger deflated, I made the journey back home and headed straight for her room. Annoying though she was, she didn’t deserve to be spoken to the way I’d done.  I could just lock my bedroom door before going to bed to keep her out of my room and give us one less thing to argue about.

“Mum, are you there?”

Knocking gently, I let myself into her room. She was there, slumped against the wardrobe, inhaler lying next to her lifeless body.

REQUIESCAT IN PACE (RIP)

Death, a rude reminder of man’s mortality. 

It sucks but die, we must.

I lost someone, it knocked me for six.

We had our issues, the source of my grief.

Life is short.

Too short not to be open and honest with the people around us.

Too short not to iron out disputes, settle misunderstandings.

To short not to paint our visions, live out our dreams.

Too short to sit around twiddling our thumbs.

Too short to live in the past, neglecting the present.

Too short to live each day in fear and despair.

Too short not to laugh and enjoy living.

Too short to lose faith, give up on giving.

Too short not to embrace the things that matter most.

Too short to turn your back on blood; your flesh, your bone.

Life is short.

What do you die leaving?

What memories, for the hearts, here still beating?

Sleep in peace, we’re no longer at war.

I’ll remember you, without your scabbard and sword.