Another Christmas alone.
I had hoped that this year would be different. I had prayed that this would be Christmas she would come home; just like i had prayed for the same thing last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. Fate mocks me. God despises my pleas and relegates my desires to the bottom of His priorities.
The househelp left for home yesterday; the cook, the day before that. All that remains of the retinue of people i surround myself with is Sanusi, my mai-guard. For him, the journey to Niger, the country he calls home is better dreamed of than realized. Yet even he has retired early tonight. He failed to show up for our nightly chat in the garden. I do not blame him. My heaviness weighs everyone around me down.
Ibidun, we had named her for her birth was sweet and an answer to prayer. We had loved her and done our best as parents. Somewhere along the line, she had decided all our love was not enough and she had gone in search for more. She left when she was 22 and has since returned only once, to her mother’s death bed and to say goodbye to the woman that gave her life.
“‘Brooding again, I see”
I look up to find the ghost of my wife adjusting her head tie as she makes for the seat beside me.
I smile and the ghost smiled back. She only visits at Christmas. She looks exactly like the day we met.
“You look lovely as usual” I tell her. “Did you tie the gele all by yourself” I ask knowing fully well that the woman I married couldn’t tie a gele to save her life.
“Flattery will get you nowhere and neither will mocking my head tying skills! Don’t change the subject. We are talking about you” She answers.
My wife’s ghost is no ordinary one. It is the very essence of her, witty, smart and beautiful. I have asked her on previous visits what exactly she is; spirit, ghost, lost soul??? She always shrugs and changes the subject.
I look at the half filled glass of cognac sitting on the table, untouched since I poured it and I ask the ghost, ”Do you ever wonder, Fadeke, if we somehow failed Ibidun? Do you think it is possible we didn’t try hard enough or maybe we tried too hard?”
“This is getting old Bamtefa. You ask me the same thing every year. Can’t you make these encounters a little more interesting? I am the dead one here meaning i am the only one allowed to be boring.” The ghost of my wife pouts.
She sighs and continues “For a long time, I wondered too. If Ibidun turning out the way she did was because I didn’t love her enough or in the right way but I never wondered, not even for a second, if it had anything to do with your love for her. Any fool could see you meant business when it came to loving that child. We didn’t fail Ibidun. She failed us. Stop torturing yourself, Bamtefa. Some children need to go wrong to find the right in their lives.”
She adjusts her headtie again. It is all I can do not to reach for her but I know from past experience that i will only be grasping for air. I have often wondered if this seasonal apparition is nothing but a figment of my imagination. It would only be fitting that my mind conjures the person I love most in world when memories are all that attend me.
“And no, I am not your imagination” She says reading my mind. “Just to prove it, I will drink your cognac.” She says mischievously. She gulps it all down in one drink and I laugh as she grimaces from the taste.
“A ghost that can drink” I say. “You are definitely not a figment of my imagination.”
“Remember how we both loved Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and how we read it to Ibidun every Christmas?” The ghost asks and I nod in reply.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s our preoccupation with this season that brings me back here every holiday. Think of how the things that gave us the most joy happened around this time. Our wedding, Ibidun’s birth…I have become one of my best loved characters in a book-The Ghost of Christmas Past and you are Ebenezer Scrooge.”
“Hahaha! Very funny, Fadeke. I am not a scrooge and you know it” I say in defense.
“At the rate you are going it’s just a matter of time.” She snickers in reply “Sitting here and grieving for a past you can’t do anything about will turn you into an old sour man in the nearest future. I had a good life and your grieving for me for so long is so unfair. I remember how your laughter used to resound through the house and make me feel safe. It makes me so sad to think it was my leaving that took away your laughter.”
She is right, I know but it is so hard.
“You have got to try, Bamtefa. There is so much to live for and to look forward to than errant children coming home for the holidays. Come to think of it, you have new neighbors. Have you been over to say hello?” The ghost asks with a wink.
“I was waiting for you to get to that” I say smiling. ‘I am too old to go knocking on neighbors’ doors especially when they are widowed and pretty”
“Ah ha! I knew it! You still have a good eye for pretty women!” Fadeke’s ghost exclaims.
This time, I laugh the resounding laughter and the ghost laughs with me. I wonder what Sanusi will think of his boss laughing aloud in an empty house.
I wipe off the tears that accompanied the laughter and I tell the ghost how much i miss her.
“I miss you too. Oh look at the time! It’s time for the carols and the angels will not find it funny if i am late. Merry Christmas, Bamtefa. Hopefully we won’t have to do this next Christmas.”
I smile again and watch her disappear. I wonder what the angels will say to a heavenly chorister with alcohol on her breath. I look at my watch and it is almost 12am, Christmas day.
I drink my half-filled cup of Cognac and make a note to myself to take my new neighbor some of the spiced chicken my cook made for Christmas.
I wrap my daughter’s gift and place it under the Christmas tree, next to the unopened gifts for two Christmasespast. Who knows, maybe this will be the gift that has its day in the sun. For now, it’s time to dwell a little more on ghosts and their recommendations.