Love

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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The Man I Met

20131028-155827.jpgI met a man, the perfect man. Gentle, yet a tower of strength when I lost my mother. I sat and watched as he calmly but firmly took charge of the funeral arrangements when I didn’t have the energy to deal with it all. Patient, he sat with me in silence for days on end, when the words wreaking havoc in my mind wouldn’t escape through my lips. Caring, he held me when I sobbed uncontrollably as her body was lowered into the ground, his arms, the only things stopping me from plunging six feet under the ground. Funny, his unlimited selection of rib crackers teased the first smile from my lips, proving his emphatic declaration that he’d make me smile again.

When we are together, he makes me feel like the single most important thing in his world, the world. Some nights he stays over and I dream of what marriage to him would be like;

I dream of the moment our eyes would meet as I walk down the aisle, towards him. I imagine his, bright with tears, staring deep into my soul, making promises that transcended words. I imagine stirring every morning with the certainty that he’d be right there, lying next to me, when I open my eyes. I’d be home waiting when he got in from work; table set, dinner ready with a glass of wine waiting to take the edge off his day. I’d be showered and wrapped in satin and lace, a parcel for him to unravel. I imagine myself gently stroking my stomach, swollen with his child. I imagine my feet swollen, waist thickened, neck blackened and nose doubled in size; none of which would matter as he gazes adoringly into my eyes.

Would our daughter inherit the lone dimple in his left check? Would she be collectedly confident like her father or a boisterous scatterbrain like me? Would our son be his father’s copy or a spitting image of me?

The nights he goes home, I try not to think about it, try not to picture his boys running into his arms as he walks through the door, screaming, “Daddy!” I try not to wonder if she wonders where he is when he isn’t with her. I try not to picture her lying in bed with him, touching him, kissing him. I know how much he loves a good cuddle and I try not to picture his arms wrapped tightly around her, as he snores gently through the night.

Does he love her, really love her? Do his eyes light up when she walks in the room? When they are together, does he make her feel like the single most important thing in his world, the world?

We share a home; his clothes hang next to mine in the wardrobe, his toiletries sit next to mine in the bathroom. The smell of his cigar permeates the entire flat and the fridge is full of his favourite things. I could have his babies, permanent reminders of him left behind when he’s not around and I know he’d be there for us, look after us, come what may. But I hate that the thing I want the most, his name; a public declaration that I belong to him and he, to me, he’s already given to someone else.

Waila Reads: Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie

americanahA few years ago I heard Chimamanda Adichie speak and something about the way she came across didn’t appeal to me. Over the years I’ve watched interviews she has given and heard her speak at literary events. While I respected her success, there was something about her demeanour I wasn’t a fan of. I concluded we weren’t destined to be friends…until I watched her Channel 4 interview with Jon Snow. Chimamanda, we can now grab a coffee when you’ve got a minute. Now that’s we’re friends, I am of course allowed to call her Chimamanda, just Chimamanda. Experience, training or perhaps both have awarded her a degree of charm and grace that in my probably irrelevant opinion, she previously hadn’t mastered. I like her new aura and I like it a lot.

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the Orange Prize but despite several attempts, I haven’t managed to read the entire book. Hard though I’ve tried, I can’t connect with the writing and characters and that makes it a tedious read. I’m in a minority though because it’s a best seller and most people I know who have read the book, sing its praises. I much preferred her initial offering, Purple Hibiscus. It’s not a Waila favourite but it is worth a read.

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that my copy of her latest publication, Americanah, landed in my hands six days ago.

Americanah is without doubt, her best work yet. And I say that like I’ve read every word she’s ever written, which of course I haven’t but I quite like how it sound so I’ll say it again. Americanah is without doubt, her best work yet.

I was hooked from the first page and she had me reeled in till the very end. The central character Ifemelu is witty, sassy and charming in equal parts and on occasion, a little annoying. Obinze her love interest, sounds like a man I’d quite like to date. I know next to nothing about Chimamanda personally but I can’t help but think that Ifemelu’s character is a type and shadow of her creator. Americanah bravely attempts to tackle issues of race, identity, migration, prejudice, stereotypes, and love (and that’s not the half of it) and in my opinion, she did a brilliant job of it.

As always I won’t say too much because I’d quite like you to make up your own minds but what I will say is if you don’t own a copy, I suggest you get yourself one… it’s a Waila likes a lot. If you’d like to read a review before you commit your pennies, here’s a link to a brilliant one in The Guardian online.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/apr/15/americanah-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-review

And no MrsOhgee, you can’t borrow mine.

xxx

Waila

Fighting For Forever: Part III

As I stormed out of the house trying not to slam doors, I could scarce contain my anger.
Where does the man get off thinking he can get away with trying to feel me up when he knows I’m mad at him?!
A voice in my head tried to tell me that perhaps I was being a little harsh but I silenced it. I know I’ve been mean to him lately but there’s nothing like tough love to cure a lazy man. I’ll drop dead before I turn into my mother!
Desperate to vent I called my best friend Nneka.
“Alex needs to get his act together because I have no intention of financing his lazy ass for much longer. This is not the life I signed up for. Who wants a man that can’t look after his family?!”
“Good morning to you too.”
“Whatever Nneka, I’m serious! I’m sick of Alex’s crap!”
“Calm down Karen, you know Alex isn’t that kind of man. He is just going through a difficult patch. He’ll be back on his feet soon enough.”
“Yeah, that’s what my mother said for 20 years while my father sat on his ass getting drunk and fat off her hard work.”
“Haba! How can you say that?! Alex is nothing like your father! He will find a job soon enough, be patient with him. You’re his wife, you should be supporting him. Cut the guy some slack. He has been good to you and deserves the same from you now that he is in a difficult place.”
“And I haven’t I been good to him too? In the last six months I’ve paid every bill that needed paying, fed him and fuelled his car so he could attend the many meetings he claimed would help get him a job. I’m done doing it. If he really wanted a job he’d have found one by now. He knows people, surely it’s not that difficult?! ”
“Wow Karen, when did you become so unfeeling? And since when is finding a job in Lagos or anywhere in the world for that matter, not that difficult?”
“You know what, you’re getting on my nerves. I will speak to you later.”
I hung up without waiting for a response. I forget how annoying Nneka can be. It’s why she gets on so well with my mum, association of door mats. I can’t stand weak women. I love Alex but I’m no fool.
Karen, don’t you think you’re being too hard on the man? You know he has been trying.
I remembered how my mum would rush home from work night after night to cook dinner for a man who had done nothing but sit in front of the TV all day. One day, she came home late and he was so mad that he wasn’t served dinner at the usual time, he beat her till she ran out of the house screaming for help. I will never forget the sight of her kneeling in the driveway begging for his forgiveness, after he locked her out of the house. The house her salary paid for. It was the moment I lost all respect for her. She is a weakling but I, Karen, am made of sterner stuff.
If Alex thought he was marrying my mother’s daughter, he thought wrong.

What Would You Do If…Your Partner Was Unfaithful

Infidelity is not a new phenomenon. It existed in biblical times and it’s done a pretty good job of staying relevant.  Every day I open a newspaper, there’s one more politician that’s been caught cheating on their partner and one more pop star caught frolicking with their backing dancer. I speak to people I know and someone’s uncle’s been cheating on his wife while someone else’s mother’s been cheating on her husband. Someone is always cheating on someone and I pray fervently to God that my name will never be someone.

The women I’ve asked about infidelity are more likely to be analytical about it, conjuring different scenarios and factors that would affect their decisions. I’ve met some women who have accepted that men will always cheat and as a result have resigned themselves to the inevitability of marrying a cheating man.  The average man on the other hand, is much less forgiving about the prospect of his woman cheating. Every time I’ve consulted a man on the issue, the speed and passion with which they’ve declared the hypothetical marriage over, has been consistent.  

My heart literally (and I mean that) aches when I imagine my partner cheating and I beg heaven every day, that it will never be my reality.  I wouldn’t know what to do. If he was my boyfriend I would most likely end the relationship in a heartbeat but if he was my husband would I divorce him? Would I forgive him? How would I know he wouldn’t do it again? What if he wasn’t even sorry he did it in the first place, would I fight for my marriage for the sake of any children we might have?

The scenarios are plenty and questions even more so.

So tell me, what would you do if you discovered your partner/boyfriend/husband was cheating on you? Would there be any factors that would make you more tolerant of his/her action?

I’d really like to know.

xxx

Waila Caan

Love, Waila

Dear Friends,

Given my impeccable manners, it would be rude of me not to acknowledge that today is the 14th of February. Only one who is bitter would begrudge lovers openly loving themselves whilst the rest of us gaze longingly on. I am not one of such. I bear no grudge against Saint Valentine, after all, he is not to blame for my current state of ‘manlessness’. 

I woke up this morning with a false sense of hope.  Sometime during the night, while my brain was off duty, the powers of the night hijacked it and filled it with nonsensical notions. How else would you explain the urge to robe myself in fine garments this morning should a gentleman friend want to wine and dine me after work? How else would you explain my turning up to work this morning expecting to find my desk crumbling under the weight of the flowers resting on it? Wicked powers they are, wicked! They almost succeeded in their mission to send me into depression but the forces of good intervened.  Just as I began to wonder if anyone loves me, I got a text message that read ‘Happy Valentines Mother!’ How my heart leapt with joy!  Oh to be loved by someone besides my mother who is obliged to do so lest the traumatic hours she spent in labour be in vain.

Yes, my son remembered me on this day! Such a simple message but so unexpected and sweet.  It pleased me so much that I have decided he ought to be rewarded for his impeccable timing and intuition.  He will be the recipient of the jacket his heart has long desired. ‘She has a son?!’ you wonder.  I do indeed.  I did not conceive him though, I would not dream of ruining my fine figure. He is the product of the union between my Uncle Tee and his wife. Some would call him my cousin but that is their business.

This year, Valentine’s Day took me by surprise.  Apparently, love (along with dust, germs and bacteria) has been in the air but I hadn’t noticed. Mayhap it is because I have been otherwise occupied and have not visited the malls or high streets recently. Yester night it suddenly dawned on me that the day was aye upon me and I found myself rating my memories of the day set aside for love.

Last year my dear friend Stinkus and her gentleman friend T-Baby turned up at my flat with a heart shaped mug filled with little chocolates and a packet of cocoa. I was deeply gratified by their thoughtfulness although I suspected foul play. Perhaps they were trying to motivate me to enter into a union of my own? I suspect their patience with my aloneness is wearing thin.

My second favourite memory was the year my mother gave me a silver necklace with a heart shaped locket. The locket held a picture of her cradling my infant self in her arms. It’s the sort of gift one treasures and passes on to one’s offspring. Alas, I lost it!

My favourite memory features my brother G, who when he chooses, can be delightfully saccharine. I forget how old we were but we were in primary school at the time. We were trying to decide on whom to bestow our titles of Valentine.  We concluded it ought to be people we loved. He said he loved me and asked if I loved him. I said I did. We saved our pocket monies and went together to Park n Shop to pick out presents. I remember not what he bought me but when he handed over the gift bag, he leaned in and gave me a peck on the cheek. Romantic or what?!

It is with these memories I warm myself on this cold and rainy day.

A Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

Love,

Waila