Simileoluwa couldn’t place exactly when she knew it wasn’t forever. The more she thought about it the more it eluded her. The one thing she was however sure of was that she had come about this piece of important knowledge too late.
After the wedding, they had gone to Zanzibar. It had been everything honeymoons were meant to be. They made love at least once every day and on some days twice. In the past, she would have hurt from all the exertions but maybe it was the beautiful stress free surroundings, maybe it was that Dozie was a little gentler, less hurried…it all just was so beautiful. So much so that on their last day in Zanzibar Simi had woken up and burst into tears.
“Don’t cry baby…” Dozie had coaxed but even that didn’t help.
They had returned to the hustle and bustle of Lagos with no more incident and then a few months later, she had walked out on their marriage.
“I always knew it,” her mother wailed after her tears, pleadings and threats had fallen on Simileoluwa’s deaf ears. “I always knew you would be the death of me!”
Her father had been calmer, agreeing to lease her one of his two apartments at 1004 at a discount because he knew she was too ashamed to go back to the roommate living situation she had been in before marrying Dozie.
He had helped her move in the Saturday after she left Dozie. When the movers were gone and it was just the two of them, they sat on the plastic white chairs she had borrowed without asking from her mother’s garden.
“You are going to be alright aren’t you?” Papa had asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully.
She walked him to his car where his driver Mahmoud was waiting. Just before getting into the car, Papa had grabbed her in a fierce hug, whispering in her ears that he loved her. Mahmoud had driven away quickly after but not fast enough that Simileoluwa didn’t see the tears she had brought to her father’s eyes.
She avoided Dozie as much as she could in the aftermath; refusing to pick his calls or acknowledge the numerous emails he sent. She even gave strict instructions at the office that on no circumstances was he to be let in to see her.
Once upon a time, she had thought Dozie was the piece in the puzzle she was, the screw in her head that had been missing all along. All she had to do was marry him and she would be complete.
The doctors at Bellevue had diagnosed her as bipolar when she was 18, before her first year in collegein NYC was done. She still didn’t know how she made it through that first year without failing every course. She had told no one, knowing the stigma her people back home still attached to any sickness of the mind. Telling her mother for instance would have been tantamount to suicide. She would have been dragged to crusade ground after crusade ground.
If only she had spoken up. If only she had told Dozie, he would have known to leave tomorrow as an open ended question. He would have known to make provision for her leaving, that it had nothing to do with her loving and in a little while he could have her back as good as new until next time.
But Dozie didn’t know and soon he stopped calling. Soon after that he stopped waiting, stopped following after her, stopped stalking her office. Not much later after soon, he found someone else, someone whole and moved on. That last part she had gleaned from the whispers. Although she couldn’t be too sure. They went quiet whenever she came close.
“Do you think you will get married again?” Ibinabo asked one of the nights she stayed over. They had been friends since high school and if anyone knew her better than her parents and Dozie it was IB. Ibinabo was also the kind of friend that knew exactly when to show up for a sleep-over. Those were the best kind of friends, the ones that knew the nights an empty side of the bed could break you. Birthday nights, anniversary nights, nights the moon was full and so on.
“I don’t know IB. Maybe. But I don’t think I can ever find another Dozie. Besides I don’t want to ever hurt someone else the way I hurt him.
There were nights when it was everything to keep herself from picking up the phone to call him, to beg him to come back to her, to let her back in his life. But the new therapist she was seeing had warned against sudden movements.
One day, not too long after Ibinabo’s sleep over, the phone rang by itself.
“Are you home?” He asked gently, like it hadn’t been 8 months since they last spoke.
“Doz? Doz is that you?”
“Yeah. Sorry to call with a different number. I couldn’t risk you not picking.”
“It is okay.” She said gently. It had been 3 months he last tried calling.
“Are you home?”
“Home? You mean at my parents?”
He laughed then and her heart broke into a million pieces that all the king’s men could never aim to fix.
“I might not know you that well Sim but I think I know you enough to know you can’t abide spending more than 24 hours in the same house as your mother.”
She laughed too and it surprised her; that she could still laugh with such abandon.
“Yes I am home.”
“Good. I am coming over.”
It took him an hour to get there but to Simi it felt like a year.
“Papa told you?” She asked as she opened the door to him.
“Your dad is the realest.”
She offered him a seat on the couch and took the one opposite him on a white plastic chair. The fluorescent lights in the apartment showed up new lines in his face and that he had grayed a little since she the last time she saw him.
“Why now?” She asked.
“Because I don’t want to keep living like this Sim. Or maybe I should say ‘dying like this’.”
She got up to go to the kitchen then. She had always loved this apartment. Growing up here had been the best part of her childhood. If she closed her eyes, she could hear her mother singing as she cooked their dinner over the stove, see her father dance along to King Sunny Ade, smell the exhaust and dust that wafted up from the busy Ozumba Mbadiwe road the apartment building faced. They had not had much back then but the little they had been enough.
“I don’t know how to be happy all the time Doz.” She said as she started to wash plates that were clean.
“I never asked for that.”
“No, no you didn’t. But you are always happy Doz and I am not. I feel like a black hole, swallowing all your light…”
He came up to hold her from behind, burying his face in her hair and it was almost like 8 months never happened.
“Ah Simileoluwa…” He whispered, taking deep breaths as if he had been under water before.
“I don’t want you to stop shining. Even for one second.”
“Okay. That is what you want but what do you need Simi, tell me, what do you need.”
She waited a few seconds and then started to rinse: “You. Even when I don’t want you, I need you to know that I will always need you.”
“Space too, sometimes.”
“Done. Anything else?”
“I miscarried our son. That is why I left. You were away in London for work. I found out I was pregnant on Monday. By Wednesday, I had a miscarriage. You were due back the next Wednesday. I took a walk on Tuesday when I felt stronger. It was just a walk. But I kept on walking until I had walked to my parents’. There I decided I couldn’t face tomorrow, that I couldn’t face you. ”
The tears came then, for the first time since the miscarriage. Dozie wanted to cry too but he knew he couldn’t afford to, at least not now. He waited till she had had her fill of sorrow. Then he laced his fingers in her wet ones and led her to the tiny balcony where together they watched the sun set over Lagos.
From the first day he saw her almost two years ago, he had loved her, all the while knowing there was something about her, a shadow of some sorts. Everyone had one, depending on the time of day. Some people though, like Simi, were never without theirs. Dozie didn’t know how he compete with a shadow, that was why he had stayed away these eight months, that was why he had found excuses to travel for work those early days of their marriage. Today he knew the other option was to live without her totally. It was not an option he could live with.
“I am sorry.” He told her as they watched the sun give way to tomorrow.
“For not being there when it happened.”
“It wasn’t your fault. You had not even known I was pregnant.”
It was her turn to kiss away his guilt then, kisses that were a prelude, a prelude to maybe, the maybe of a tomorrow.
Song of the day: All Sons and Daughters – Poor and Powerless