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A Time to Fall

I know I said I was retired…God had other ideas.

I wrote this story at around 2-3 pm EST today. I saw Philomena at around 6 pm EST today too. I just started laughing as I got half-way through the movie. Y’all best believe God has an amazing sense of humor. Of all stories for me to write today, it had to be this… 

Happy February Ladies and Gentlemen! Here is to Spring in a few weeks. God knows I am done with winter.

Photo credit belongs to an old classmate. And this beautiful place was my home for two years…. 🙂

She doesn’t know the exact moment Autumn found its way from outside, into her heart. One day they were stealing kisses every chance they got, in every impossible corner of life; the next, they were strangers, unable to navigate the tributaries of each other’s feelings.

She watches him pack up the rest of his things in a box and feels nothing. No sadness, no sinking feeling at having failed, no hatred, no anger, no nothing.

Actually she does feel something. Disgust. At herself.  Just like the nuns at the orphanage in Calabar had told her she was supposed to feel, almost fifteen years back.

He is done packing and reaches for the scotch tape to seal away memories of his time in this place. She turns her eyes away quickly so as not to give away the fact that she cannot take her eyes off him.

She directs her attention to the yellow and red leaves outside her window that have already begun to lose the battle to gravity. Autumn is a good season, especially in New York city with its cold, unfeeling streets.  October brings with it the assurance that falling is not such a bad thing.

It is the best time to fall apart because she knows she won’t be alone in falling. The leaves of summer will sympathize with her as they make their way to earth. The autumn rains will drench her with their tears and remind her that she falls not alone. It is called Fall for a reason.

‘I am leaving now,’ He says, startling her.

She turns from the leaves and immediately wishes she hadn’t. He is so beautiful, this man that has held her heart for all of eight months. Back when they first met, she used to tease him about having all the good looks. He is perfect and yet she is letting him go. She has the sudden urge to tell him she has changed her mind and beg him to stay but she ignores it.

‘Okay,’ she replies.

He shifts his weight to one foot, uncertainly as if waiting for her to say more but she said all that needed to be said two weeks ago.

‘I think you should find another apartment,’ She said to him over dinner of the kebabs he had bought from some food truck on his way back from work.

He had put his knife and fork down and started to cry.  She had continued eating so as to push back the thing in her throat that would have eventually made its way to her eyes as tears.

‘Was it something I did?’ He finally managed to get in, in between sobs and snorts.

Yes, she wanted to say. Yes, it is the way you love me so effortlessly when even I can’t love myself that way. Yes, it is the way you forgive me when I cannot forgive myself. Yes, it is how when you look at me, it is so easy to forget my past and look forward to the future. Yes, it is the way you remind me of summer even in the cold of winter. Yes, it is because autumn is here, my season to fall apart and I will not take you down with me. I will be damned if I take you down with me.

‘Chinwe, it isn’t you. You are perfect. I just need to sort stuff in my head out,’ she said instead.

 

He continued to cry and in the end she left him there at the dinner table; taking Zoe, their dog out for a walk so that Chinwe would have enough room in their tiny apartment to mourn.

By the time she and Zoe got back, he was asleep on the couch, looking like a fallen soldier who never even got the chance to try out his favorite weapon.

‘You have my address and number,’ He says now.

‘Yes I do.’ She says.

‘So call me if you need anything, okay?’

‘Yes,’ She says and they both know the ‘Yes’ is for his sake, to make him feel better, to help him walk out the door a little lighter.

Still he lingers.

‘Can I come see Zoe once in a while?’ He asks, delaying the moment before he walks through that door for the last time as an owner of this space.

‘Of course Chinwe, she is still yours as much as mine. Just call me first.’

He is frustrated by her coolness and she wants to kiss the worry off his brow.

He makes for the door finally and then halfway there, he changes his mind. His long strides catch her by surprise so that before she can blink, he is in front of her and there is nowhere to escape to. She knows what is about to happen and she wants to stop it but her feet refuse to move. She forgot to unfold her arms when he started for the door and now it is too late to use them in her defense.

He grabs her in an embrace and steals a kiss. He tastes like raspberries and joy.

The dam breaks and soon he is kissing the tears that flow freely down her face. With each kiss, he says her name like a prayer; ‘Imoadewo’, ‘Imoadewo’, ‘Imo…’.

‘You should have left while you still had the chance,’ she tells him later as they eat Afang soup leftovers.

He kisses her in response. He no longer tastes like raspberries; the Afang took care of that but she can still taste the joy so she kisses him back harder.

‘I have always had to steal my kisses from you,’ He tells her when they come up for air. ‘I just had to try one last time.’

Later that night, when their bodies are sated and she discovers that she can feel more than disgust for herself, she gets out of bed, finds the only picture she has of the child and hands it over to the man.

‘I was raped at fifteen but no one believed me. They said I seduced him. He was a married man, a good man and I was the girl who loved make up and used swear words. I got pregnant and had a child. I don’t know what his adoptive parents call him but I named him ‘Malaika’; for the angels. He was born in October. He will be fifteen next week Friday. Every October, I mourn the death of a living child, every October, I mourn the death of that girl…’

He holds her while she tells the rest of the story. When the tale ends, he steals another kiss and whispers,

‘Will you marry me?’

Outside, yellow and red leaves dance in the wind, lonely in their descent, but content that at least, they fall not alone.

 

Photo credits: Alok Kinikar

Song of the day: Indescribable – Kierra Sheard

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8 Comments

  1. moyoor February 9, 2014 Reply

    What can I say? She is back! Good one missy.

  2. @eloxie February 9, 2014 Reply

    Welcome back! This was lovely. Retirement ba wo?

  3. DA KING February 10, 2014 Reply

    WONDERFUL!!!!!!

  4. JytE February 11, 2014 Reply

    This, here, is what storytelling is about. Beautiful.

  5. Vickii February 11, 2014 Reply

    A friend sent this to me and I really love it! It is really beautifully told and such a touching idea. It was reminiscent of Chimamanda’s writing to me and I’ve never thought that about another Nigerian writer so it’s not just because you’re Nigerian and a writer 🙂 You are very talented.

  6. Vickii February 11, 2014 Reply

    This is beautiful and the idea is very touching! It was reminiscent of Chimamanda’s writing to me, and I’ve never thought that about another Nigerian writer so it’s not just because you are a female Nigerian writer 🙂 You are very talented!

  7. Imoadeowo Esu April 4, 2014 Reply

    OMG! This is my story Dami. It’s all mine. I should print this out and save it.

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