It will be winter soon but for this one day in October, it is warm enough for him to wear her favorite t-shirt.
He can still remember the way her face shone with excitement as she handed him the t-shirt at Easter. He can still remember the way she smelled like spring when he pulled her close to say thank you, the way her hair felt like cotton wool in his hands later as he took off the ankara dress she had been wearing, the way her smile eclipsed the stars as they made love on the balcony.
Kwame remembers a lot about Sayo. In fact he remembers everything, and if there are things about her that might have somehow slipped his consciousness, they do not make the same error with his dreams.
If it were just the memories, he wouldn’t mind so much. But he dreams of her and so he knows to find his way home. Because she is his dream and what are dreams if not portents of the future?
He wears the t-shirt and takes a walk through their favorite haunts. The walk assails him with memories of her; the way she laughed and even dreary old Harlem seemed brighter, the way the curve of her hip danced along the pavements… He doesn’t remember why she left though. He doesn’t remember why he didn’t run after the yellow NYC taxi that ferried her away from his life. He doesn’t know why his pride was more important to him than the plea in her eyes, the one that said ‘don’t let me go Kwame!’
The last he heard, she was back home in Lagos.
‘Harlem no longer felt like home for Sayo after you guys…’ Her friend, Ugomma told him when he bumped into her at Duane Reade.
They had made small talk as they walked the aisles of the store, like people who had nothing in common except the same favorite person.
At the check-out, he had seen the pregnancy test kit in Ugomma’s basket and turned his eyes away quickly because they betrayed him by filling up with the water of broken promises.
It is his final walk through Harlem until God knows when next. The t-shirt is perfect for the weather but he knows he will no longer be able to wear it soon. Kwame doesn’t know if he will ever come back to this place. He doesn’t think he will miss it much. He doesn’t think there will much to remember except the memories he made with her.
Kwame has never been to Lagos. He lived in Accra for the first 10 years of his life before moving to New York. The only thing he remembers about the city of his birth is the starchy, bland smell of Kenke. This is how he knows Accra is not home.
He lands in Lagos on a rainy evening. There is water everywhere and he has a sudden longing for Manhattan. The t-shirt is packed safely away in his hand luggage. The hotel room he booked on Jovago is not the four stars the website promised but he does not notice. There are no phone books in which to look up her number but he remembers every word she used to describe the street that mapped her childhood.
He unpacks the t-shirt the next day. He gives the taxi driver directions to a place he has never been, a place that could be home, and sits in the back of the cab to watch the sun set over the island.
The house is same with the one in his dreams. The bougainvillea are in full bloom and summer looks like it will never turn its back on Kwame in this place.
He pays the taxi driver the agreed amount. He is thinking about leaving him a tip-the man was thankfully unlike his garrulous counterparts in NYC- when he hears her voice.
It is not a question. It is a statement. Like she knew he was coming.
He turns away from the taxi cab to look at her, the woman of his dreams.
She is wearing the roomy dress his mother had made for her from Ghana. It is made out of rich Kente fabric.
‘Only the best for the women that love kings, the women that birth kings…’ his mother had said handing the dress to Sayo with a knowing smile.
Her hair is done in corn rows and he wonders if he can convince her to loosen them so he can bury his face in the soft cotton woolness of her mane.
‘I saw you in my dream.’ she says.
‘And I saw you in mine.’ He answers
‘You are wearing my favorite t-shirt’ she notices.
‘Yeah, New York was getting too cold for it.’ He tells her.
‘But Lagos is just perfect, isn’t it?’
‘Yes’ he starts to say as he takes the last few steps that separates them.
‘It is perfect wherever you are.’ He finishes, breathing in her scent.
She takes his hand then and places it on her belly so he can feel what they have made. He can’t believe he once thought he was not ready for this. He can’t believe what a fool he was.
They stay that way for a long time, not because they want to but because the child takes his time with forgiveness. He has been rejected once before and wants them to know he won’t let himself be hurt easily this time around. They are patient and wait, saying nothing till the stars under which he was conceived last Easter appear. Finally he kicks his acceptance and Kwame knows he has finally made it to a place called home.
Song of the day: The Calling – Wherever You Will Go