Most times, all he wanted was for things to go back to the way they were:
Nights they stayed up late to count the stars, hand in hand, hearts beating in complete unison.
Days spent teaching her to ride the bike she picked up from a garage sale for $3.
Hours that crawled past while he missed her at work, so much so that the moment it was 3.30pm he started counting the minutes till it was 4 and he could flee his cramped cubicle.
Evenings that meant coming home to the smells of her cooking, the warmth of her almost always naked body, the waves of her laughter, the syrupy sweetness that had become the taste of home.
Things had changed since those first months.
He now came home to an empty house more often than not. There were more nights spent eating take-outs than feasting on her delicious cooking. He couldn’t remember the last time they made love. One month ago? Maybe two?
Last night he had come home at 4.30pm to meet her already there. It had started out as a pleasant surprise, one he wished he had forseen and bought flowers to celebrate. He had not brought home flowers in a long time. She had kissed him long and hard until they were both breathless. There had been so much happiness in those few moments and then she had said the words:
“Makun, I got a promotion! They are offering me almost twice my salary. Can you imagine? Imagine what we could so with another $80,000. We can finally go on honeymoon. We can start putting money away for a baby. We can move out of here- get a proper place. A house, with a yard. In the suburbs. We could take out a loan for a car. Oh my God Makun, can you believe it?”
He could. It wasn’t hard to believe at all. He had always known, all that time he spent falling in love with a woman who graduated summa cum laude from an Ivy League school while he barely made the grades from a community college. He had known that it was only a while before her light eclipsed him, before his humble dreams couldn’t keep up. Yet he had chosen to love her.
Last night she had initiated the love making but he had been unable to follow through. She had fallen asleep in his arms instead while he watched the stars.
He started home from work at 3.30pm as always. He stopped by the flower shop she liked and bought her some daisies. Ahmed, the flower shop owner grabbed him in a bear hug.
“Makun! Brother! It has been too long. You must not keep flowers away from woman for too long…”
He had laughed with the brilliant salesman that was his friend and made a note in his head to write down his wise words as soon as he could.
“You take one of those roses too. No more romance in Flatbush streets. All the time, they buy stupid boring flowers. Tell the Mrs. it is from me,” Ahmed insists.
“Are you trying to steal my wife, Ahmed?” Makun asks, laughing.
“You are my brother, if not I think about this stealing. She is, how you say it in Engleesh? Gorges?”
“Gorgeous, Ahmed, gorgeous.” Makun corrected as he waved the burly Egyptian a goodbye.
It was a simple mistake, one that many who were new to the language would make innocently but it reminded him of those days when Nene was still in Cornell, getting her masters, and he had made the trip almost every weekend to Ithaca to be with her.
“Ithaca is gorges” A play on words for the town that had so many gorges and was indeed gorgeous.
She came home late but he waited.
“What is going on?” She asked as she walked into the kitchen where he sat watching the candles burn.
“Come sit by me,” He answered as he poured her a glass of what used to be her favorite wine, cheap Barefoot Moscato.
“What is going on Makun?” She asked again when she was seated and had accepted the glass he offered her.
He didn’t answer immediately. He waited till she took the first sip. Her reaction would determine what he said next.
She ran the liquid in her mouth first before swallowing. It was how she drank any and everything. Even water. Then she smiled and Makun realized then that he had been holding his breath.
“You are the sun,” He started to say as he held her hand in his, “The moon has no light of its own but it knows to position itself properly so it can shine with the light of the sun. Night and day. Day and night. I am the moon.“
“At first I was proud of your success, all the good stuff you have accomplished in such a short time. You earn much more than I do already. You secretly purchase getaways for two to places that I have always wanted to take you. You can afford the nicer things I have always wanted to provide for you. You are paying for the life I have always dreamed of giving you. And so my pride metamorphosed into the slimy green mirror of envy that colors how I love you.
I listened to you cry yesterday when you thought I was asleep. I eavesdropped last week as you asked my mother for advice on how to break the news of your promotion to me. I have followed you for two weeks since you started attending the Finances in Marriage seminar at church. I thought I was good at pretending I don’t begrudge you your success. I had no idea how easily you could see through me. “
“I don’t know how to make it right, Nene. I don’t know how to be a man like this. I don’t how to be okay with watching you make your dreams come true, all by yourself. I can’t shine any more, I have lost my place and I don’t know how to make it right. I am sorry.”
There were tears in her eyes that brought tears to his so he turned to the candles that were still burning. He smelled her before he felt her. She smelled like the $150 bottle of perfume she picked out at Sephora the other day they had gone shopping.
“There are seasons when the moon is full, in all of its glory, shining brightly upon all men, and then there are seasons when all we see is a half moon. There is also the time of the crescent moon and some days there is no moon at all. You haven’t lost your place Makun. You couldn’t if you tried. I would have dropped out of grad school if you hadn’t used up your savings and paid my fees. I would have gone hungry if every weekend you hadn’t packed a knapsack full of Garri, Banku and Palm Oil from your mother and ferried it all the way to Ithaca. I would have been homeless in Ithaca if you hadn’t paid my rent those months my parents in Ghana weren’t able to raise enough.”
“You say you don’t know how to make it right but you bring home flowers. You know how to make it right Makun. We will take it one step at a time. I might be the sun as you say but you are the sun too. My sun. My moon. My star. My earth. My everything. I shine only because, and for you. You are my dream come true.”
He let her hold him until he no longer felt like a man without a hood, a moon without a sun, a sun without a moon, life without love.
Song of the day: Savage Garden – Truly Madly Deeply