Uloma stood by the sink in her kitchen, staring intently at the plate before her. Ten minutes earlier, that plate had housed several slender pieces of okra, the same shade of green as the second-hand blouse she got from Mile 3 market the day before.
When she washed the okra, she did not feel the tiny thistles pierce the surface of her palm, nor did she feel the need to wipe the water that had splashed all over the kitchen counter.
She was in a state of utter disarray, and many times the thin sharp knife threatened to slice through the skin of her left thumb. It had been two months since his last phone call, one that only came through because he left his favourite pair of trainers in her self-contain flat.
A few days before that, they sat crossed legged on the floor of her room, deep in conversation. His bald head was oiled to perfection, and she joked about it’s reflective ability being efficient enough to serve as a mirror whilst she drew her eyeliner – a surface so clear that it would tell her when the wings were becoming too thick, or when the black liquid touched the tip of her cheek. It was the one thing he always loved to comment on… and withholding a smile, he would tease her about how she wasn’t satisfied with her God given gifts.
“If God had put that black line on your eye now, you would have covered it with this your foundation” he said to her one evening. She had smiled then and pulled him closer to her, taking his entire scent in.
Those days now seemed like years ago to her. Uloma picked up the last piece of okra left on her plate and attempted to cut it rapidly. She was almost done cutting it when her phone rang beside her. Still in a state of relative trance, she turned her head to the right and stared at the screen.
The knife dug into her thumb at the very same moment when she processed who the caller was. What does he want?
She fought the urge not to pick up the phone, and as with all the times before, lost it.
“I’m really sorry to bother you -”
“No, please. Don’t apologise.”
“I just wanted to let you know that asking me to delete all our photos together, was both petty and unreasonable. A lot of people had seen those, including those who think very highly of me. It is one thing to want privacy, but another thing to completely hide me from your- ”
Uloma cut off the phone. It was a card she knew so well, one that had governed most of her relationships. The guilt card. “Why did I do this?”
Any friend of Uloma could have rightly predicted the next few days. She spent the days indoors and exhibited a change in temperament that was as consistent as the fuel prices in Port Harcourt, and the exchange rate between the Dollar and Naira – unpredictable. She picked up her phone to call him two evenings later, and this time the phone was answered by a woman.
“The number you are calling is not in service”.
Not. In. Service.
She subsequently pulled herself up from a self -perpetuated cocoon of misery and left for the Cybercafe close to her house. Oga Timothy smiled at her from a distance, and she managed a dry smile in return. Having paid for her internet voucher, she logged into her Yahoo mail, and typed till her fingers were wet with the sap of her eyes.
“Listen I’m actually sorry about the way things turned out between us. I wake up each day, thinking about how life would be different if you were still there to read my messages and tell me how crazy I am. I live for those genuine laughs during phone conversations with you, and also for the times when we both type the same things at the same time. I know I have hurt you, and I can’t even tell if what I feel is hurt or not. I honestly do not want to stop speaking to you, and I hope you come to that understanding. I am being governed / blinded by my fears and insecurities and they all revolve around you. I am in a state of severe ontological uncertainty, and losing you only shreds the tiny threads of my delicate selfhood to pieces.
It is fine in the mornings when I am in a haste to go to the shop. It’s also fine in the evenings when, I set aside my thoughts in order to gain beauty sleep. But I am only safe for 2 hours each day, as your brown face keeps appearing in my dreams, and beckoning me towards a land from which I’ve been exiled. I miss the way you call my name, your reckless use of emoticons, and the warmth in your voice. You are the definition of home to me, a life-support that “my pride” disconnected from me. I don’t know why there is silence, even though it may well be my fault.
I’m not asking you to forgive my wrongdoing; I’m only asking you to acknowledge it. If in all the chasmal beauty of the world, I cannot find anything else to give me pleasure, let me find comfort in the fact that you feel something towards me. Anything. Hate. Disgust. Anger. Love. I honestly don’t know what’s happening, or why every breath I take seems to inch toward a long-lasting misery that lays in wait for people like me. I’ve put up a brave face for the other ones who love me, and who do not know that music once existed where the silence now is. I haven’t cried about this because I can’t come to terms with whatever is going on. I have told no one about this because it feels like damnation to me. How have you been? How has life been treating you? I am ashamed of the silent stares that might follow in time to come. I am ashamed of the things that might happen when I see you next; we may begin to ignore ourselves a little more than we are supposed to.
A lot may define our lives, more than the words we withhold from ourselves. Clad with assumptions, we may undertake this journey of detestation of the other and purposeful scorning. I love you. I don’t know if that is the right way to express a feeling that hurts me so dearly, when I think of the past, yet makes my stomach churn in excitement when I think of what the future could hold for us. Someone once said that to gain the full dividend from the future, one has to effectively eradicate any unsettled issues from the past.
So on this day I ask you, will the subliminal gestures carried out by the both of us in order to appropriate our love, be strong enough to overcome the intrinsic virtues of morality and privacy that we have come to know? I leave you now, having said all that I desired to say. I hope you find a place in your heart to store the deteriorating fragments of my being that still exist in you. I love you, and always will”.
She sent it off.
” You do you, and let me do me. Good Life”.
She read his email over and over again until she convinced herself that a “good life” was not a bad thing to try after all.
Read my first story about Uloma here