This one was inspired by the beautiful Taha, a girl whose heart never ceases to amaze me with its goodness…She inspires many of my stories. That is her in the photo and no we are not taking any offers for marriage…
Love you T.
Mr Anansi came over the other day.
It was a very strange visit. The doorbell rang and I hurried to answer it with change, thinking it was the Popeyes’ delivery boy with half of my dinner. It turned out to be just Anansi.
I opened the door to my apartment and stared at him, taken aback by his sudden appearance at my door. He stared back at first and then soon turned his attention elsewhere. We stayed that way for a while before I finally gave up and broke the silence.
“Hello Anansi. Everything okay?” I asked.
“Hello Ike. Yes, yes, everything is okay,” He stuttered, as he continued to find something interesting in the worn wall paper that covered the walls of the hallway where he stood.
We stayed like that for another minute or so. He, looking everywhere but in my direction and me, wondering what on earth could have led him to my door.
Beside the usual ‘hellos’ and mulling over the weather, Anansi and I have had little to say to each other in the two years I have lived in the apartment complex. I wasn’t even sure which of the 19 other apartments in the complex belonged to him. The couple of times I and Anansi had engaged in meaningless conversations, it had been in neutral territories; the basement where everyone in the building did laundry, the elevators – on days I was too lazy to take the flight of stairs… I could not imagine what could have brought him to the door of my apartment.
“Anansi, I am in the process of making dinner. Is there anything I can help you with?” I finally said to the man when I realized he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon and had no intention of stating why he had come either.
“Oh, am sorry to bother you, Ike,” He replied. He moved a couple of steps in no particular direction before finally raising his eyes to look in my face, but not without first pushing those thick glasses into firm place, as if they could protect him from me or something else he was afraid of.
“I got promoted today and the people at the office gave me a bottle of champagne. And I was just wondering if you would like to have some with me,” Anansi said.
It took my brain a moment to adjust to the fact that Anansi had just asked me to drink with him. I smiled then because I finally understood why he was there. As we stood facing each other, I wondered if he had really gotten a bottle from his colleagues or if it was all just a ruse to be around someone or something that reminded him of you.
I opened the door wide to let him in. I needed some alcohol anyway.
“I hope you like spicy Nigerian food and chicken wings from Popeyes,” I said to the man as I showed him to the couch.
“Oh yes, your girl, Taha, she used to bring me some rice on Sundays when she cooked. She is very nice,” He said, his stutter getting worse as he blushed in embarrassment. He probably thought I had no clue about your sharing our Sunday lunches with him or about how you spent time being kind to the lonely African man who lived in our building.
I handed him the TV remote and told him to make himself comfortable while I searched for wine glasses.
I shared dinner that day with a man I had spoken less than 50 words to previously. We said little or nothing to each other during the meal. I cleared the table and waved off his attempts to help me wash dishes.
He insisted on staying with me in the kitchen as I cleaned up.
“So have you heard from her?” He asked.
I didn’t need to ask of whom he spoke.
“Yes, I spoke to her last week. She is alright.”
He nodded and sipped some more champagne.
“Do you think she will ever come back?” He asked when the wine in his glass was all gone.
“I am not sure, Anansi. She was tired of this country.”
Outside it was snowing. The kitchen window gave us a glimpse of a world that was pure and perfect; a world that had moved on without you.
“She wants to make a difference.” Anansi said to me as if in plea.
The anger I felt the first time you told me your plans to leave for Yola started to rise.
“She can make a difference here. America needs heroes too. Why does she need to go home to Nigeria to be a hero? She was making a difference here – in the lives of her patients, her friends, me… Why does she need to travel halfway across the world to a place where even angels fear to tread to make a difference?” I said barely succeeding in keeping the anger out of my voice.
The day you packed up your stuff, I watched you and not a single tear fell from my eyes. You did enough crying for us both anyway. The day I dropped you off at the airport, the tears I so wanted to cry seemed unfitting in that cold, sterile place filled with strangers so I stayed them from falling. I didn’t cry on that first sleepless night without you either. Tears also failed me the day your sister called to say you were missing after another Boko Haram attack near your hospital. My eyes stayed dry when you were found safe and sound, hiding in one of the ambulances.
It took a man whose accent I had laughed at behind his back, a man who seemed to look fearfully at the rest of the world from behind his glasses, a man who lived in the same apartment complex as I did for over 2 years and yet I had never got to know, a man whom I had always somehow felt superior to, a man whom I had never seen smile until the day I introduced you to him on the elevator and you took his hand and said ‘Mekyea wo’…. It took that man for the tears to finally fall.
They fell into the dish washing water and blended in nicely. I sniffed and gathered myself.
“Allergies,” I apologized to Anansi.
“Yes, it must be the hydrangeas.” He said pointing to the plants you left behind.
I laughed bitterly and agreed with him.
“I should leave. Thank you for dinner,” Anansi said when there was nothing more to say.
I walked him to the door but before I could shut the door on Mr Anansi and his subtle reminders of you, he got in one last word.
“When it is a woman’s absence rather than her presence that makes you cry, she is worth going after. I should know,” He said before taking my hand and shaking it.
My flight leaves for Abuja in an hour. I have taken the advice of the man with the funny accent. I stared in his eyes that day and saw wisdom that only experience can give. I watched his gray haired head bob up the stairs to his lonely apartment and saw grace.
I dropped off a recipe for spicy jollof rice and the hydrangeas for Anansi before leaving for the airport. I hope the flowers provide him with an excuse for having allergies in wintertime. I hope it helps him ease the pain of missing you. It didn’t work for me any. But maybe he will have better luck.
As for me, I am all out of goodbyes, all done with allergies; I am on my way home.
Anansi is a West African god. He often takes the shape of a spider and is considered to be the god of all knowledge of stories. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man.
Song of the day: Westlife – I wanna grow old with you