When you started lying about business meetings And slipping into the toilet You’d spend close to an hour and come out to complain of tummy ache
When you’d go into the kitchen for a glass of water at midnight and stay there for hours. When you’d stare at me hard to know if I’d blink before going out to the sitting room to make calls
I was steeped in denial but my body knew. I really tried to keep us together but you were busy keeping secrets. I went to a catering school for you so I could prepare those kind of food you love. I took out my locks because you said it irritated you despite the fact that it was neat. I starved to make sure I remained a size six.
Your appetizer was between my legs. Your desert was between my legs. Your brunch was between my legs. I swallowed pills to keep babies away because you said you weren’t ready for them.
White became my favourite colour because it was your favourite colour. I look different without artificial lashes because I’ve always had it on for the five years of my life with you as you won’t look at me without it.
You really weren’t in love with me. You just loved the way I always made you feel. You were really the center of my world because I would have done anything for you.
You didn’t just cheat on me. You cheated on us. You didn’t break my heart. You broke our future. I hope you realize that.
Imagine this with me for a moment: what if human beings were created without emotions, especially love? Can you envisage the kind of freedom we would have? No worries about loving someone, no fear of heartbreaks, and certainly no pains! The pains that accompany heartbreaks are the worst of it all. Now, stop imagining and come back to the real world, for what you imagined can never be possible. Emotions are the bane of humanity, quote me anywhere.
Please, don’t mind me, I like ranting whenever I’m in a bad mood—which is like every time these days. About what I said earlier, forget it; you can continue loving and being in love. As for me, I’m done with that bullshit, for good. Want to know why? There’s no other reason than the oldest reason of all: I’ve been heartbroken. Again. After all her promises, she still acted like the rest; well, she acted a little bit differently, but you get the point, right?
Let me cut to the chase and stop this mindless chatter. My name is Celestine Nwoye, and this is the third time I’ve been jilted by a girl. And their reasons were fairly similar—“I thought I could cope with it, but I couldn’t”—that’s their closing line. Third time! I’ve gotten to the perfect score of heartbreaks.
A round of applause for me, please.
Let’s continue, shall we? I’m forty-one years old, and still unmarried. The reason has always been my medical condition, and nothing else. You see, I suffer from a condition known as cerebral palsy. Pretty fancy name, right? The condition is one that affects the brain, impairing muscular coordination. In summary, I can’t walk well, neither can I control things with my hands properly. Hell, I can’t even sit well. It’s that bad. You see why I haven’t found favour with the girls? None of them wants a vegetable for a husband, and sometimes when I’m in a sarcastic mood, I tend to see reasons with them.
But there’s something about me that’s been the only consolation in this whole world; something that has set me apart and has made me to be in the limelight ever since I was a young child. I’m talking about my brains—I’m very intelligent and I possess a quick mind. Say what you want, I’m not bragging. It has been this incredible brain of mine that has helped me to reach the peak of my academic career. I’m currently the only Professor of Aeronautics in Nigeria. Yet, my stellar career hasn’t bagged me a constant life companion. Such a shame.
As I thought about all this, I recalled how I met her, my last girlfriend, Emilia. It was at a state dinner organised by the governor to mark his third year in office. Immediately I saw her, I was stunned by her arresting beauty. She had the grace of a tiger, and the face of an angel. She was talking animatedly with her friends when I wheeled my chair towards her. When her eyes met mine, I signaled her to come. She did come, and we spent the rest of the night chatting, laughing and getting to know ourselves. For the next four months, we were inseparable; she never seemed to notice my disability (or so I thought). And then, I asked her out, half-hoping that she would say no.
“I was beginning to wonder if you would ever ask me to be your girlfriend. And yes, I want to be your woman.” That was how she replied me. It was indeed a blissful time for me, so why would she then turn around again to tell me that she wasn’t interested anymore? That I was a burden she could bear no longer? I guess I would never find out.
The shrill ring of my iPhone brought me out of the dungeons of the past. I looked at the screen and sighed in exasperation. It was Ndidi, my church member, who had been on my neck for a long time now. She wanted me to accompany her to visit a centre for disabled children. According to her, seeing someone who is disabled and was able to be a great man was the greatest gift she could give to those children. A part of me agreed with her, and the other part didn’t. I mean, let’s be frank, what kind of role model would I be to those children? The kind that can never get married? Or the kind that was probably the most embittered man on the planet? But all these I kept to myself.
“Hi Ndidi, how’re you?” I said into the receiver.
“Hello Celestine. I hope you are ready?” Could I have told her otherwise? Within the next couple of minutes, she was driving me to the centre. I just hope this expedition comes out well, at least for the children.
We were warmly received by the staff of the centre, and we were shown to the children. Now, you might laugh at me when I say this, but no problem, I deserve the laughter. You remember what I said about not being able to love again? I was dead wrong. When I sighted those children, with all manner of deformity laughing and playing as best as they could, I couldn’t hold the trickle of tears that escaped from my eyes (the same eyes that couldn’t produce tears when Emilia left). I edged closer to them, not wanting to encroach on their happiness. But they noticed us first and their chatter quieted down. Their matron introduced us to them, letting them know that I was like them in another form, and that I wanted to talk to them. Then she gave me the room to talk.
Up until that moment, I didn’t know what I wanted to say to them, but as I stared into their eyes, I saw the beginnings of what had become an integral part of me. And so I sought to crush those things before they grew in them.
“My dear friends,” I began, smiling brightly at them, “do you know that you’re different from the rest of the world?” Most of them nodded, and a few just kept on staring at me. I continued, “The thing about that difference is that it is what makes you unique, it is what sets you apart. Embrace it, flaunt it, revel in it. Make it to be your logo. I believe that all of you want to be one thing or the other in the future, imagine what impact you would have when you are, say a blind music composer, or a dwarf gynaecologist. Sounds good, right? It increases your fame, believe me. I’m a living witness.
“Another thing, how many of you have been insulted by people because of the way you look?” This time, all of them raised their hands, and I continued, “that hurts, I know. But know this: people only insult or deride what they cannot understand. It’s okay to feel hurt when you’re insulted, it’s okay to even cry about it. But don’t let the sun catch you crying. Don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you hurt. After you’ve cried, wipe your tears and make sure you succeed. When you do, no one can insult you to your face; they can only do that at your back. And it doesn’t matter there.
“Finally, always know that the world is waiting for people that are different from the rest to make it better.” When I was done, they all looked teary-eyed at me. I had struck the right chord and was happy about it. I spent the next three hours with them, laughing and making new friends; I saw then that there was more to love than I ever thought. This was also love. And for now, it would be enough for me.
When I got home that day, I sent Emilia a message, telling her that I would be honoured to attend her wedding ceremony. Didn’t I tell you that? I’m very sorry. Yes, she would be getting married in three week’s time. I’d forgiven her, and as I thought about it, maybe I would even give love another chance.
Before you say I didn’t warn you, let me give you a piece of advice—don’t get married; or if you must, make sure that you know everything about your partner. Now, I know you might ask if it’s possible to know everything about anyone, but believe me, it’s either you do that, or you are better off unmarried. To prevent being like me. Yes, me. Before you think I’m some unmarried bitch who is up against the holy institution of marriage, let me give you a piece of information about me: this is the seventh year of my marriage to my husband, Daniel Okeke. And in about thirty minutes, that marriage would be over.
You might ask what happened. Well, this story isn’t one you come across everyday. Except for the beginnings of it. We had a whirlwind romance—barely three months—and before I knew it, he was kneeling in front of me at my friend’s engagement party, and popping the millionaire-dollar question at me.
“Will you marry me Chisom?” he had asked, while looking so utterly handsome and vulnerable at the same time.
During short time we’d been together, he had proven to be the exact antithesis of why I dreaded men; he was kind and old fashioned, sweet, very observant, and his most endearing quality was his amazing discipline. When we had started dating, I’d told him that I won’t have sex with him till I was sure of him (probably till our wedding night, as I hinted). He hadn’t complained or raised objections; he just continued loving me. There were times when we would be making out, and it seemed that the throes of romance would overwhelm us, he was always the one to put a stop to them, reminding me that we had to wait till our wedding night. In the end, we didn’t really make it to our wedding night, I had seduced him two weeks before he proposed to me. Yet I’d never seen such sexual discipline in a man.
I had stared into his deep, dark-brown eyes, and saw the infinite amount of love he had for me, and had uttered the very words that caged me. “Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you.” Two months after that, I was officially Mrs. Chisom Udeh-Okeke. Our early years together had been very blissful, making me wonder why people saw marriage as a horrific thing. At that time, we were so busy with our respective works, and so we decided to postpone giving birth till our third year in marriage. Well, let me rephrase this statement: he decided to postpone giving birth, and had convinced me that it was best for us.
But then, he had other clandestine reasons for deciding against kids. When I was now ready to give birth, to carry my own children, he changed entirely. He rarely touched me, and whenever he did, he made sure I was in my safe period. I never understood why he was so much against the idea of having children, and when I eventually confronted him, he was as evasive as before.
“Dan, why is it that you don’t want us to have our own children?”
“Who gave you that idea?” He looked so genuinely shocked at the question that I became unsure of myself. Was I being paranoid and insecure about him? On a second thought, I decided to press him further.
“No one gave me the idea Dan,” I replied, “but doesn’t it bother you that it’s been four years of married without children?”
“Sugar, listen to me. I understand your concerns. But we’re still young, we can still have kids. Moreover, we are both too busy at work. How will we have time for the perfect children we want to have?”
He sounded so honest, so believable that I let the issue go. Soon, I got caught up with immense workload and it seemed like he was right all along. Supposing I was heavy with child, how could I have coped?
Why didn’t I read the handwriting on the wall?
Another year passed, and yet no changes. Instead, he had almost totally forgotten that there was anything like sex in marriage. He was always there for me in all ways except making love to me. That was a problem for me because I have always been one with a big sexual appetite. I confided in my friend Bukky, who explicitly told me that the reason my husband was acting weird was because he was having an affair with another woman. The idea of that had crossed my mind but I chose not to entertain such thoughts because of the sanctity of our marriage. But hearing another person voice it out was totally unnerving. That was the height of it.
Bukky advised me to find a way to quell my sexual urges before I ended up being frustrated. She told me that she could hook me up with a man friend of hers who would “make my sexual life sparkle”, but I had another, less extreme idea in mind. Two days after talking to her, I bought a vibrator. It served me well, making me to almost forget that Daniel hadn’t made love to me in over a year. Sadly, with all inanimate things, it got to a point where I needed more than a robotic satisfaction of my needs. And so I got involved with Bukky’s man friend Johnson. Johnson was magnificently built, with a towering height of six feet six inches, a ruggedly handsome face, with a body girls would die for. And he was there to please me.
Soon, I found excuses to either come home late or go away for the weekend. My romance with Johnson gave me what had been lacking in my life for almost three years now—romance. We made love uncountable times, and truth be told, when it comes to to making love, Johnson beat Daniel my husband hands down. Then something so unexpected happened; something that was very awkward, but was also an answered prayer happened. I got pregnant for Johnson. By then, I had known that my marriage to Daniel was all but over. I had also fallen in love with Johnson, as he had with me. Why else would he want me to keep his baby?
The time I finally realized why Daniel didn’t want to have kids was when I told him that I wanted a divorce.
“I’m sorry Daniel, but I’m in love with another person. I want a divorce.”
“I knew this day would come. By the way, Johnson is a catch.”
“How-how did you—” I couldn’t find the words.
“Know? Have you forgotten that I work in a security firm? Moreover, I knew that your late nights and weekend trips weren’t in vain.”
“B-but why didn’t you say anything?”
“What could I have said? And mind you, I still love you. I didn’t want anything to come between us.”
“But this has.”
“Yes, it has.”
“I’m so sorry—”
“Don’t be, please. I can understand why you sought comfort outside. I haven’t been the best of husbands. And I know you’ve always yearned for a child.” At that his statement, my hand automatically went to my stomach. He saw the movement, and his eyes widened in shock.
“Finally, he gave you what I was unable to give you.”
“What exactly do you mean Daniel?”
“I had never wanted to tell you about this… but I guess no harm can be done again.” He took a deep breath, sighed, and continued, “I had a broken home while growing up. My parents were always fighting, and I never could remember a time when they were happy together. My father drank excessively, after which he would come home and use my mother as a punching bag. When I was twelve, they divorced, and I was separated from my only sibling, my elder sister. I went to live with my dad’s parents and my sister stayed with my mom’s family. Thankfully, my dad never remarried, but living with him was hell. He never cared about me, always doing whatever he deemed best for himself.
“After, my university education, which was sponsored by my uncles, I left home and had never returned. I went in search of my sister, and later found her. By then, she was married to a hotshot lawyer. She was also a lawyer. That was when I thought about how my life had panned out; I resolved not to give birth to any child so as not to subject the child to any family trauma. I got a vasectomy to ensure that I would never be able to father any child. Never did I imagine that I would meet and fall in love with you.”
When he was done, I couldn’t find any words to say. What could I have even said? I had been living for seven years with a total stranger, and had never gotten a whiff of who he was exactly. Thank God I was leaving him. How could I have lived with him for the rest of my life without children? Thank you Bukky.
So, that’s it. Within the next couple of weeks, I filed for a divorce, as I would marry Johnson shortly after the divorce. I moved out of the house, and lived with Johnson. Through it all, the only thing Daniel did was to always say that he loved me, and that I should do what made me happy. He had remained a true gentleman to the end.
Now, we are to go into the courtroom to start the process of getting a divorce. But Johnson isn’t anywhere in sight, he’s always so late. Well, he’d better hurry up, he has to be here to help with my argument. Just before I go into the courtroom, Bukky sidled up to me, and handed me a piece of paper. I read it, and felt the world turning about, and I nearly fainted out of shock. It was a letter from Johnson. In it, he said that he was sorry, and that he could not continue with the whole thing.
“I can’t marry you, Chisom,” he wrote, “you’re not the woman for me.”
What do I do now? Life has really thrown me a huge curveball, and there’s no way of getting back. I would get divorced today, and be a single mother, leaving the man who loved me… for… for nothing. Bukky noticed my demeanour and I informed her of the developments. She advised me keep calm and go through with the process first.
“I’m sure Johnson is just scared of marriage. He would come around, he has to,” she commented.
Then the judge came in, and the proceedings began. Normally, my lawyer would have started with his opening statement, but Daniel’s lawyer took permission from the judge; he had something to say.
“Forgive me Your Honour. This is an unusual request, but my client, Mr. Daniel Okeke has something he wishes to say to his wife before the court proceeds.”
“Why hasn’t he said it to her before now?” the Judge asked.
“He hasn’t had the chance ever since she moved out of his house.”
“Very well then, he has one minute.”
And the next minute showed me exactly who I was married to, and why he was the best. Daniel stood up, and he was looking like a shadow of himself. His eyes were bloodshot and sad. He looked gaunt, and unkempt. But it was his words that got to me the most.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Your Honour, thanks for this opportunity,” he started, “Chisom, never in a million years did I ever see myself worthy of you. Yet, fate gave you to me. I had thought myself incapable of love, yet this heart will forever beat for you. I lied to you because I thought I would lose you, but funny enough, that’s what I’m doing right now—loosing you. And that’s is what I cannot bear. I can’t bear to lose you my wife. When we took our marital vows, we never said that there was a condition for divorce, and I don’t see any condition for it now. I’m ready to start afresh with you. On the grounds of love, honesty and loyalty, but only if you would accept me back.”
Then he produced the ring he had slotted into my finger on the day of our wedding, and which I had given back to him the day I moved out. Holding the ring, and in the presence of the whole courthouse, he knelt down and said.
“Will you continue to be my wife, Chisom?”
Then there was a pindrop silence; everyone had their eyes riveted on me as Bukky nudged me up. I took a tentative step towards him, and then a couple more steps until I stood facing him. Seeing him kneeling with the ring brought back memories of when he had proposed to me before. There was a stark contrast between the faces of the man who proposed then, and this one who was proposing now. But there was also something that was constant in both men—the eyes, they were filled with endless love for me.
I asked, “Even with the baby?”
He nodded, “Especially with the baby.”
What kind of man was he? And why did he love me so? I felt hot tears burning my eyes. I felt so lucky, so blessed. And what kind of woman would reject such kind of a man?
“Yes, Daniel. Yes, I’ll continue to be your wife.”
There was a great applause in the courthouse that the judge had a hard time bringing everyone to other. When everyone was quiet, the judge said, “This case is closed before it even got started.” He then rapped the gavel and dismissed the court. I left the courthouse hands entwined with my husband.
Have you ever texted “I’m doing great!” with tears running down your face? Have you seen the world point at you as a role model for your mates whilst you cry yourself to sleep every night? Have you felt like your heart is shattering into bits but you smile so hard, you might actually loose a few tears?
Have you seen the worst cases happen right before your eyes and have to play witness over and time again? Have you watched someone slip away escorted by death?
Have you held someone’s hand(s) knowing it might be the last time you may get the chance to?
Have you told a lie to save a life and still lost that life?
Have you gotten scarred for a person and you’re left just with the scars? Have you given life so much to one person only to have yours taken by that same person?
Have you sat down and cried so heavily, willing yourself to eat?
Have you just sat down, eating and crying?
Have you looked into the eyes of someone you loved and said “It’s over”?
Have you stared at pain straight in the eye and not flinched?
Have you seen pain? If you have, say hi to her.
Do you want to live free, live happy?
Do you want to wake up each day not feeling like your shoulders carried weights all though the night? Do you want to not cry in your sleep nor wake up to a wet pillow?
Do you need to be free?
It’s all in your heart and your mind. Your subconscious will to build a positive escape, a place where only your peace of mind and heart matters. A safe haven. A place called home.
I might have little trouble believing that you'd actually want my heart and not my body. Don't blame me. I have been through a lot when it comes to matters of the heart.
I can be very complicated sometimes. Like pushing you to work hard and then complain that you work too hard.
I don't remember how to have a boyfriend. I don't remember how to be a girlfriend. I don't remember how to love without being clingy. So I'll need a lot of help. I'd also be needing attention, good conversations, naughty conversations too, late night calls and to be shown off once in a while.
Meanwhile, thank you in advance.
Thank you for reminding me what butterflies feel like again. Thank you for making me smile again without trying. Thank you for loving an annoying and stubborn me.
Wherever you are in the world, just know that I have loved you before I will get to meet you.
Mother nature in her ever glistening ingenuity has crafted mankind, block by block, bit by bit, in an intriguing hierarchy which biologists would love to call 'levels of organization’. The building blocks are what we would call cells, cells which beget tissues, and tissues which stack up into organs, and organs which affix in different forms and shapes to become systems, and thus, biologists will love to coin another line called ‘Complexity of Living Things’. A phrase that has given birth to division of labour and specialization. Thus, every facet spins along with its role but just like the ozone with the bad gases, and the sun by the moon in eclipse, this natural phenomenon is offset many times in a frame of 'immortality' and we begin the gist about cancer.
Thus, today I have chosen to be the voice reaching out to the billions afflicted by this dreaded disease. I want to bring a message of hope, to steer it in our hearts that henceforth, this is our fight. You, I must stand up against this ruthless parasite wherever it chooses to pitch its tent (breast, cervix, brain, bone etc) because it is not just a cohabiting parasite, it is highly promiscuous, it ruthlessly attacks one structure and afterwards, it goes after the other.
I raise my voice to all the chubby that has become limb, to all those ladies with a strange mass on their breast, to all those men who suddenly begins to experience difficulties urinating, to all the chronic alcoholics and cigarette smokers coughing up blood, with swollen abdomen and legs, begin your run now in search for your doctor and don’t stop until you find him..Early detection is the key. It is so devastating because for some of us a particular kind runs in our bloodline, but early detection saves.
I speak to you who fear chemotherapy and radiotherapy ‘that is the weapon of demise for these immortal cells’. Your hair will fall, your nails too, you will be beaten down and weak, resources drained but your life saved.
Hear me the world at large, today and at this date every year we have declared cancer a foe to what is precious 'life'. Let us stand with ourselves whether with our resources, our voice, and our knowledge. Cancer is unacceptable. I have chosen this war, and this will be my fight now, it should be yours too, it should be ours always.
It is dawn again in the small resourceful village in Ikeduru Local Government area, poor Mrs. Ekemma who has been a victim of spite and neglect in her very large family comprising three other wives, gives birth to her fifth daughter in a Local home in their village. Thetears of this girl child that should stimulate joy in her mother rather gave birth to more tears, as her other four daughters have faced the discrimination and inhumanity culture metes out to the girl child: no formal education, early marriage, teenage pregnancy etc. But the most grueling of all is what they called 'ibi nwaanyi ugwu'(female circumcision) otherwise called 'Female Genital Tract Mutilation.
This practiced has long been hinged on mythical and cultural beliefs of various tropical countries such as: it aids to reduce/prevent fornication or promiscuity in the girl child. Female genital mutilation entails cutting off part of or the entire external female genitalia called the vulva(vaginal orifice, urethral orifice, labia major and minor, mons pubis). For Ekemma's first four daughters this was performed as part of their famous yearly cultural practice where the female children are lined up in the village square and are mutilated one after another, locally, and with the same blade, there are no pain relievers, and members of the community gather like clouds to witness this August event.
Ekemma's first daughter Urimma felt so much pain as it will be for her other three daughters, many years past puberty she never saw her menses are adhesion tissues have covered up the external genitalia, she got married to the apple of her eye but sex was an uphill task, she has been tagged to be possessed by an even spirit and has been sent to the ‘eye of the gods ‘for examination. The second daughter Eririmma in addition to the pain this barbaric event is marked with also after some weeks began to lose weight, with intense fever, diarrhoea, and many respiratory diseases this will later be diagnosed by Doctor Thompson as HIV/AIDs as it lingered and now Eririmma was dead. Dr Thompson said that this is as a result of the sharing of blades and the unhygienic way the event is done, he named so many other diseases that can be transmitted this way: hepatitis, viral haemorrhagic fevers, syphilis, viruses such as (CMV).Then the third child at the course of event lost a lot of blood, she developed fever, chills, and rigors shortly afterwards (infection), and died few days later (septic shock) her name is Olamma..
So, Dr. Thompson began to hold a campaign against local FGM, claiming he can do it with lesser complications and more hygienically, but the female genitals is a tract and should never be bridged. There has still been continuous complaint of painful sexual intercourse, obstructed labour, prolonged layout, even infertility, and this is the fate Ekemma's last daughter Mmirimma is bound to face...
Thus, today the WHO has launched this campaign to save Mmirimma and the many of her kind. This has been fostered through rallies, different forms of public awareness programs, laws have been enacted against this act whether modernized or the ancient form.Female education has been an effective tool.
We must say No to FGM in all its forms and kind, we must say no to violence and sexual discrimination, we must protect the rights of our female child, ‘It is a tract and should never be compromised'.
Have you ever lifted a bag of rice? My eyes felt like two bags of it were rested on them. I tried lifting my impossibly heavy eyelids, but my that was tough. At the same time, I felt weightless and suspended in nothingness. Was this how death felt like? I didn't even know what to call it.... if I was dead, definitely I should be going to hell. So where are the demons that are supposed to torture me? Or was hell a bullshit talk?
Before I could answer that, a painful glare of light assaulted me, and despite my closed eyelids, I had to mentally shut them again. The annoying light didn't slacken in its brilliance, and somewhere, outside the world of my senses and the irksome light, I heard my name. Was that an angel calling me to the throne of judgment?
Then, a rough, masculine hand held mine, and I heard the soft whisper of my name. I tried to reply, but my mouth was also glued together. What kind of existence was this? Without warning, the light was mercifully removed, and for the umpteenth time, I tried lifting my eyelids. This time, they responded, and through the tiny opening of my eyes, I could see a man seated beside me. He was looking at my mangled body, and his forehead was creased in worry.
“Am-am I d-dea-ad?” I managed to stutter after two minutes of trying to speak.
He turned sharply, and with a glorious smile that lightened up his glorious face, answered,
“Oh, thank heavens. You're finally awake. And no, you're not dead. Just in a hospital room.”
“Oh.... Ow! My head hurts,” I complained.
“I can understand dear; you were involved in an accident. Let me fetch the doctor.”
He left the room to get the doctor, and I too left the room. To the land of painlessness, to the land of unconsciousness.
I woke up again to the sound of another voice calling my name, someone much older. I blinked my eyes open and looked at the kindest face I've ever seen. He was obviously the doctor; he was clad in the normal hospital garb, with stethoscope slung over his neck. He wore nicely looking silver-rimmed spectacles, and smiled at me.
“Hello Ugochi. I'm Dr. Collins. How're you feeling?” he asked, feeling my brows.
“I feel like I'm dead.”
“But you aren't dead; I'm too old to be an angel.”
That drew a weak chuckle from me. He then proceeded to check my vitals after which he told me that a nurse would come in to wash me up. Fifteen minutes later, the nurse, an elderly woman in blue hospital clothes quietly came in. She walked silently to where I was, and stared at me for some time. I guess she didn't know I was awake, and peeping at her through the tiny slits of my eyes. Then she promptly went to the business of undressing me as delicate as she could. I would have remained quiet throughout the whole process, but I needed to get some information about the length of time I've been out.
“He-e-ll-oo,” I said, startling her. She quickly recovered and returned the greeting.
“Do you know how long I've been here?”
“I wasn't here when you were brought in, but I overhead the other nurses saying that you've been here for a week.”
A week of unconsciousness! That was creepy. I thought back to what had happened that night; someone had wanted me dead. And with a sickening certainty, I knew who the person was. What kind of man decides to kill the very person that wanted to save his marriage?
“My dear...” the woman began but stopped. She seemed to be battling with whatever she wanted to say.
“Don't be offended if I mistook you for someone else. The thing is... you look exactly like my friend’s daughter.”
“I'm sure that's unlikely.”
“Maybe... But are you the daughter of Agatha Okafor?”
That's my mother’s name. Without meaning to, I sucked in a sharp breath, praying that she wouldn't notice. Thankfully, she didn't. “I'm sorry, I don't know her,” I lied glibly.
After that, she focused on dressing me up, and few minutes later, she left. Then I was left to wonder what my life had become. I guess I had to thank God that I was alive, but at the same time, I had a terrible fear of Chief Gabriel. What else was he capable of? He had wanted to kill me simply because I had informed him that I was done having sex with him; who knows what he would do if I confronted him about this? First of all, you have to get well, I thought.
Then the door opened, and in came three people—the chief, his wife, and another man, much younger than the both of them, but having the splitting image of Chief Gabriel.
“Hello, Ugochi,” Mrs. Uchenwa greeted, as she took my flaccid hand. “We heard what happened.” Before I could reply, the chief came to my side, and asked,
“Do you have any idea who might be behind this accident of yours?”
“Oh Gabe. Can't you be sensitive?” his wife chided, “She doesn't need to be reminded of this now.”
Then something that only happens in movies occurred. The door was flung open, and my mother raced in, shouting , asking about her daughter. When she saw me sprawled on the bed, she ran to me, oblivious of the people around, and cupped my face in her hands. Her first words to me after two years was,
“I forgive you my daughter.”
I was on the verge of asking her how she knew I was in the hospital when Chief Gabriel, with surprise on his face, said,
“Agatha Okafor, we finally meet again.”
Then my mother stared in disbelief at him. She swayed, and before my sister, who came with her, could catch her, she passed out.
The scene at the hospital after my mother woke up, and was telling her story—the story of her and Chief Gabriel. It was the stuff of movies; we all—my sister, Charity, the boy who came in with them—stared at them as they told the most unbelievable of tales.
As it turned out, my mother had dated Chief Gabriel during her university days. He had been madly in love with her, and had provided her with everything she wanted, as his parents were well-to-do. Their romance had lasted for almost three years before tragedy struck. My mother got pregnant for him.
Wait, what? Does that mean that I'm related to Chief Gabriel... like, is he my father? My mind was reeling; I alternately focused my gaze on the both of them, as the reality on ground hit me—I've been sleeping with—I didn't even want to think about it.
My mother was still speaking, “... when I found out that I was pregnant, I knew it was high time I told you that I wasn't in love with you any longer. And also the truth about the baby. But I couldn't bring myself to do it; so I had to leave you, to escape from you, to tell the real father of the child about his baby.”
That brought out a collective gasp from everyone in the room. Gabriel found it hard to take in, and he landed on his buttocks on the bare floor. He was sweating, and later exploded. “You were cheating on me?”
By then, my mother had started crying profusely. She looked so innocent, so alone, that I signaled my sister to hold her. But trust Nneka, she gave me stern stare and just shot hateful stares at our mother. Once again, the sanctimonious girl shows that she doesn't tolerate evil of any kind, certainly not from anybody.
When my mother had composed herself to an extent, she replied him. “I'm sorry I did that, but I had fallen in love with another man.”
“That's not an excuse,” Chief Gabriel fired back, “you should have told me. I loved you.” He said that as if it was the answer to all their problems.
“Truly, I'm sorry Gabe.”
“Who's the father then?”
“Anthony, your brother,” she confessed, with her eyes hardly meeting anybody's.
It was as if she hit us with new, and shocking news every time we were getting used to the one she served most recently. All through the time they were talking, Charity had been recluse and quiet, wanting them to get it all out in the open. I felt for her; meeting the very person your husband had loved more than you could be really heart wrenching. As for the Chief, he couldn't bring himself to say anything anymore. He looked like a wraith, with his eyes bloodshot and focused somewhere beyond us all. It was Charity that eventually asked the next question we all wanted to ask.
“Where's the child now?”
A look of pure dread passed between Nneka and I. Should the child be her, it would mean that I'd been having sex with my step-uncle all this while. But as before, she gave us another bombshell.
“I never got to deliver the child. One month into the pregnancy, I had a miscarriage. By then, Anthony had died in that plane crash. I think the trauma of his death triggered the miscarriage. After that, I avoided Gabriel till I graduated one year later; I then left disappeared forever, or so I thought.”
While everyone was trying to get their minds around the impossible story she just told, I was silently thanking the heavens for giving me a reprieve—as it turned out, I wasn't related to the Chief. Not that it excused anything I've done so far.
I don't know if I had to be grateful that I got involved in an accident, or not. If I hadn't, definitely, this story wouldn't have come out. And what a story it was. When the storytelling episode had ended, there was an uncomfortable silence which threatened to swallow us all. Until the boy Charity had come in with broke it.
“Hey Ugochi. I'm Andrew, the son of these wonderful people,” he said, waving to Chief Gabriel and his wife. “I was the one who got you out of the car and brought you to this hospital.”
This was the same person I'd seen holding my hands when I first woke up. In my confusion, I'd thought he was older, but looking at him now, I could see that he was just a boy. And he was the splitting image of his mother.
“Well, thank you.” I smiled at him.
It's been five months since my accident, and I'm now perfectly fine. After the drama at the hospital, a lot of changes had happened in my life, and in the lives of the people around me. Firstly, I had quit my business of being a pleasure girl; I had finally decided to go into the fashion business. I now own a men's clothing line. Pretty good, huh?
Charity and her husband are now finally living happily. They are currently on a vacation in Hawaii. The last time I'd spoken to her, she was ecstatic about their sex life. Chief Gabriel now enjoys making love to her, and with effort, she too had started feeling something pleasurable during sex. That's great, if you ask me.
To answer your question, the Chief wasn't behind my accident. After investigations, it turned out that it had been a random accident. The car that slammed into mine had faulty brakes; I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'd been wrong about him on that. Thankfully, I never confronted him about the accident. Can you imagine the embarrassment had I done so and it happened not to be him?
Finally, I was now on the same page with my family, even though my sister still is a pain in the ass. For weeks, my mother rarely talked to us, probably because she thought we would judge her. Maybe my sister would, but I never would have—I am no better myself.
So there you have it! What a story you might say; but life is like that. I've found out that there are things that really matter at the end of the day. And these things are worth more than all the money in the world.
By 7.30pm, we were done for the day; I got home, and before I could freshen up, I'd gotten a credit alert of fifty thousand naira. She had kept to her words; that was a sign that we would have a good working relationship.
We developed a routine that seemed to work well for us; we met three times a week, and over the next two months, we became close friends. She was so calm, so understanding, that one day I decided to end an ungodly part of our friendship.
“Charity,” I said, looking intently at her, “I'm not going to take money again for our chats. It's not right.”
“Why? How else would you make the money you would have gotten from my husband?”
That statement pierced my heart like a hundred needles would; I opened my mouth to reply, but no words came out. She saw my countenance change, and apologized profusely.
“I'm-I'm so sorry dear. I didn't mean it that way. Please forgive me.”
And that was what I did; I forgave her. Then we moved over to how she could pleasure her husband. During the time I was with the Chief, I'd noticed that he had very peculiar tastes when it comes to the art of lovemaking. Unlike most men, he liked relinquishing control, allowing his partner to run the show. Also, he loved talking and joking during the act.
“There's one more thing,” I added, as I looked at the woman, “Your husband likes making love with the lights on. I'd asked him about it, and he had replied that he loves looking into the eyes of the person he was with.”
She creased her forehead as if to remember something. After some seconds, she announced, “Of course it's totally true! I remember now of a time we were watching a TV show where couples were asked about the odd sexual habits of their spouses. One man had said that his wife liked keeping the lights on, and my husband had commented that that was his kind of woman.”
“It's very nice that you remember something about his sex life. It shows that we are getting somewhere,” I commented, genuinely happy.
“I have you to thank for that.”
I left the hotel later that evening happier than I'd been in months. It's so nice to help people out, don't you think? I was about five minutes from my apartment when my phone rang. I looked at it, and the number wasn't one I recognized. I should not have picked it up, because when I did, the person on the other end was the last person I wanted to talk to. It was the chief.
“I presume my wife now pays you more than I do,” he growled. From the background noise, I surmised that he was in bar. He had found out, I wasn't surprised. He had a network of contacts spread all over the state.
“Hello Chief. It's not what you think.”
“You can tell what I'm thinking from over there?”
“Not exactly. But my meetings with your wife are entirely for your own good.”
“ ‘For my own good’. You're now my late mother, right?”
“You know what? I don't really care what you're discussing with my wife. Right now, I'm very horny and I want to make love to you.”
I knew it would come to this, and so I was resolute as I said, “I'm sorry Chief, I'm done having sex with you.”
“I was afraid you would say that. But it's all right,” he said in a dark voice before clicking off. The way he sounded made me feel chills down my spine; nothing was ‘all right' with what he said. And in the next moment, I found out exactly why.
I was still driving when I felt something otherworldly slam into my car; the car flew into the dark city sky, turned a couple of times and slammed onto the hard tarmac. My body felt like it had been pulverized with a sledgehammer, and my head was woozy and heavy. The car was upturned, and I sluggishly tried to extricate myself from the car; I'd watched American movies where cars in this position suddenly caught fire and exploded. Remembering that seemed to give me extra energy to fight; this wouldn't be the way I would die. But just before I could pry myself out, my eyes were filled with blood, and I had a hard time breathing. I left the seatbelt I was working on, and tried cleaning my eyes. It didn't work, as I could see nothing. At the same time, my breathing came out in short, raspy gasps. I could feel my senses slipping off. My last thought was... so this was how I was going to die—alone in an upturned car that would probably explode any second.