His voice is like ice cubes on my sun drenched skin on a hot summer day. It has caught me by surprise. I didn’t think I would be hearing that voice anytime soon. But here he is, here he is…
I want to ask him what the words he has just spoken mean but my heart is too full of gratitude for me to utter a word.
The last time I saw him, he had been lugging his stuff out of the back door of the place we had called home for 8 months. There were no goodbyes, just the quiet slam of the back door and the loudness of the silence he left behind.
Every day since, I have stared at that back door and asked it questions; if thieves are those who come in through back doors, what do we call the men that have loved us and chose to leave our lives silently and unobtrusively through the back door?
It was an arrangement; something we did to combat the real estate cost of New York City. That was what we told ourselves when we first moved in together. We had been friends for so long and were so sure love would always be out of the equation of our relationship. How was I to know that waking up to his singing on sunny Saturday mornings would turn the plus sign to a multiplication? How was I to know my laughter would become his favorite sound and the smell of his skin my favorite scent?
The doctor said to take walks as often as I can to help with the blood pressure. I left the front door open when I left the house for this walk. I always leave the front door open these days. Everyone tells me I am crazy and will be burgled but I tell them, thieves take the back door in but saviors, saviors need to know the front doors are always open.
I say nothing now as he takes his seat beside me, as he takes back his place in my heart like he never left. We have sat on this very park bench one too many times.
The last time was when I broke the news to him:
“I am pregnant” I said.
He nodded his head as if it was a confirmation of what he already knew. As if he had seen the future that morning I returned home with the smell of another man on my skin and a hangover the size of Olumo rock.
“Okay.” He said, “I guess I should find somewhere else to live then” He stood up to walk away but I caught the sleeve of is coat first.
“You don’t need to move out. I don’t want you to move out. It is not like anyone else is moving in. It is just the baby and that is 8 months away.” I stuttered blindly.
He gently prised my fingers away from his sleeve and returned my hand to the lap where it had been before saying.
“I get that I and you are not dating or even sleeping together. I get that I have never told you the words “I love you”. I get that I deserve to have what I have always wanted taken from me because I have been such a coward. That is my excuse, Nma, cowardice. But what is yours? What is your excuse for giving one man your heart and another, a man that could never love you the way you need to be loved, your body? What is your excuse for burning this bridge I been slowly trying to build to get across to you? What is your excuse Nma? Can you live with it for the rest of your life?”
He had said the words so quietly and so finally that only the silence of the park had helped me hear them. I didn’t need to hear the pain in his heart though-it echoed, even after he had walked away, leaving me sitting on the lonely bench.
It has been 4 months since. He looks the same and I am relieved. I have left no irreparable damage on the outside. The insides are another matter.
“How is he?” He asks when the pigeons lose their interest in the bird seed he had brought them and go in search of home.
‘He’ is the mass of cells in my womb, my second chance…
“Growing faster than I can keep up with,” I answer. I do not ask how he knows it is a ‘he’.
He smiles that smile that floored me the first time I saw it and I start to cry.
He takes my hand and hands me tissues at the same time. My Kasope, dexterous and adept in all things.
‘It’s the hormones ” I tell him and he nods his head in understanding.
He knows better of course. He knows that I never cry and that these tears are penance for sins only divinity can forgive.
“Nma, it’s okay,” Divinity tells me when my eyes won’t stop leaking.
“I missed you” I tell him. I take his hand and place it on my belly, “we missed you.”
The child kicks to reinforce what I have said.
We are rewarded with a smile even more beautiful than that which I fell in love with.
“I have been thinking about names”. He tells me as he walks me home. “Aremu, because he is first and will always be first in that place in our hearts that belongs to our children.”
“Our children…” I say, testing the words in my mouth, not to see if they fit but to make sure I am saying it right.
“I love it!” I tell him, my heart suffused with hope of second chances.
We are almost home when he stops to take both my hands in his. My heart is beating a mile a minute and we both know it has nothing to do with hormones and everything to do with whether he will walk through the front door with me tonight or if my redemption will be delayed another day.
“His last name…” He starts to say.
“Igbin,” I answer with no hesitation, “His last name will be Igbin, yours…Aremu Ifeyinwa Kasope Igbin” I tell the man I betrayed, the man I have made a father, not by blood but by love. He loves me and so it is that he loves the child that I carry even if it is a testament to my incomplete and vulnerable love for him, even if it is another man’s child.
“Aremu Ifeyinwa Kasope Igbin” He agrees, smiling the smile I hope nurture will inflict upon the child within my loins.
He kisses my hands then and this time when my tears flow I do not need hormones as an excuse to explain them away.
He takes my hand and leads me through the front door.
Aremu – First Male Child
Kasopefunoluwa-Let us give thanks to God
Ifeyinwa – There is nothing like a child
“Bi Igbin ba fa, ikarahun a telé e.” – When a snail moves, its shell follows.
Song of the day: One Republic – Come Home