All over Nigerian social media these past few weeks, there has been grief. These days I like to observe more than speak. Nigerian social media in particular gives great fodder for my stories.
This is not a tribute. I wouldn’t go that far. I never knew the man they mourn. But I want to give a face and tell the stories of the ones who mourn silently, the ones who when social media forgets, they will rather die too than not remember, the ones who have part of their hearts buried with the one they lost, the ones that have lost their voices, the silent mourners.
His phones have been switched off since the funeral three weeks ago. At first, the woman had been worried. Was he eating properly? Was he getting out of bed even? Was he alright? But as days turned into weeks her worry had taken on a new dimension. Fear. Paralyzing fear. So that she too became crippled and started to disappear.
She left countless messages on his phone and sent at least a hundred emails. She checked his Instagram and Twitter accounts religiously; every hour if possible. Their other friends mourned loudly; sharing photos and memories of the one they had lost. There were even eerie videos that kept the woman awake at night wondering how life could seep out of so easily from someone who had been so full of life. She hated the loud reminders social media brought her of the one they had lost but she hated the silence from the man that was his best friend and her lover even more.
She went to the man’s house everyday too, to see if he had chosen one of the every days to return. She had a key and let herself in; the creak of the open door, a soundtrack to her hope that he had returned, that she would find him in bed, broken but healing but everyday stayed the same. The milk in the fridge soon went bad and she threw it out. His hydrangeas died and she moved it to the living room where there was more sunlight. Aside that, every day was every day.
Fear brought with it something else too, something unfamiliar so that at first, the woman had been unable to name it. Later on, she identified it correctly as anger. For the first time since she discovered she loved the man, she found herself angry with him.
How dare he choose to mourn alone? How dare he turn away from her when she needed to be there for him? How dare he try and heal alone? How dare he make her feel like he could get through this without her? How dare he put her through losing two people she loved in one month; one to death and the other, to life?
It was almost as if he had fallen from the face of the earth. Like the one they mourned.
One time she fell asleep in the man’s bed and dreamed of the one they had lost.
‘Where have you been?” She asked. He was wearing the yellow t-shirt she and the man had got him on his last birthday. It read “Real Heroes Eat Kryptonite for Breakfast”
“Chasing waterfalls” He said smiling at her.
“What rubbish? There are no waterfalls in Lagos,” the woman answered a little angrily and then was immediately sorry because the yellow t-shirt suddenly turned black and the one they had lost started to fade.
She started drinking after the second week of not hearing from the man. She mourned the one she lost to death with her tears, and the one she seemed to have lost to life with a libation to her throat. A glass here and a glass there but mostly after work, when it didn’t matter to anyone else but herself. She stopped drinking the day she woke up to find she had passed out on the couch they had first loved on, dried vomit masking her facial features . She had thrown up for the rest of that day and rushed herself to the emergency room.
She drives home from the hospital a day later with a stern warning about the effects of alcohol on unborn fetuses, enough medication to wipe out an army and a pink schedule slip for antenatal classes that begin the very next week. She drives home slowly, searching the faces on the road for a glimpse of the man.
The moment she steps into the house, it occurs to her that she knows where to find him. She has always known. Her wounded pride had just needed a reason to go in search of him.
“Where is your favorite place in the world? ” she had asked him one day as the sun set on their naked bodies.
“Right here,” he had responded as he buried his head in her bare bosom.
She laughed and swatted at his exposed shoulder playfully.
“I am serious. Where do you go to escape? Where do you go to shut out the world? Where would you choose over me?”
He had raised himself on his elbow to look at her, his brown eyes, a trusty beacon in the darkness that was fast approaching and said:
“Ipetu-Ijesha. My mother’s family has a house there. It isn’t much but it is a 15 minute ride from the Erin Ijesha falls. No one goes there anymore since my grandfather passed. It is quiet and still, peaceful even but if you listen closely, you can hear the rush of the water as it runs to fall, as it falls to find the river below. I was born in that house and I have always felt special there. My mother tells me I am always disrupting her well laid plans; she had meant to head out to London for delivery that evening but had gone to inform my grandfather, her father first. ”
“She tells me my umbilical cord is buried somewhere in the garden. It is where I want my old, tired body buried someday too. Peter is the only friend I have taken there.”
“Will you take me there? Someday?” The woman had asked.
He had smiled then and kissed her hand.
She packs a suitcase and leaves the next day after reminding her boss of the “Work from Home” clause in her contract. She googles and prints out directions to the falls which she hands to Gbonka, her driver.
It takes longer than it should have to find the house because Gbonka is a proud man. He insists on finding their way without having to resort to the knowledge of the “common villagers” that cross their path. They drive in circles until they come across a house that could be the house.
The woman gets out and asks Gbonka to set down her bags in front of the house before sending him away to find a hotel for himself.
The house is just as the man promised; silent and peaceful and when the woman stands still she can hear the water falling. She leaves her bags where Gbonka placed them and shows herself around. She finds the man on a balcony at the back of the house.
He does not look surprised to see her.
“I am sorry” he says before she can say anything but it is of no use. The anger left the day she found out she was carrying his child and now that she has laid eyes on him, there is no more fear.
She lets him fall into pieces in her arms. She imagines what it must have been like to mourn alone and silently in this house, to try and heal alone. From the way he weeps in her arms, she figures he is better off with her here.
He makes her dinner but she declines when he starts to pour her a glass of wine.
“If it is a boy, we will call him Peter.” She tells the man as he holds the bottle of wine questioningly.
The food is swept away along with the sorrow. They will return to it when they come up for air. But now, now is the time for love, the time to drown in rivers caused from waters that have fallen, the time to heal.
Song of the day: Creed- With Arms Wide Open
Photo Credit: Simi Vijay Photograph (seriously guys, google him, he is amazing!!!)