Photo Credit: UNICEF
Remission – Noun
- The act of remitting.
- Pardon; forgiveness, as of sins or offenses.
- Abatement or diminution, as of diligence, labor, intensity, etc.
- The relinquishment of a payment, obligation, etc.
- Medicine/Medical: A temporary or permanent decrease or subsidence of manifestations of a disease; A period during which such a decrease or subsidence occurs
The day after she finds out about Ene and Anayo, Jola packs a bag and buys a one way ticket home. There is nothing left for her in Lagos.
The sun is shining when they land at Pearson. Everything looks brighter than she remembers so much so that she has to unpack her luggage and filch out her Ray-Bans right there in the airport.
After that, she walks around the airport, trying to figure out where next. Ademidun, her old roommate was now living with her boyfriend. She couldn’t just show up at her door like she would have done in the past. There were friends here and there she could go be with but this was Toronto not Lagos-you didn’t show up at people’s without invitations.
Then there was the house she had grown up in with her parents in Brampton but she had outgrown those walls a long time ago.
That left Kelechi.
She takes out her phone and types the address in the Uber app. It doesn’t take long for a car to show up.
There is no one there when she arrives at his apartment. She doesn’t notice she is holding her breath until she lets it out as her hands find the rusted key, still buried in their secret place. He had not gotten rid of it. In this moment, that means everything to Jola.
Nothing has changed inside the apartment either and she wonders if he has been waiting.
There is no need to unpack, not when she doesn’t know if Kelechi wanted to see her, let alone have her stay with him till she got her act together.
She doesn’t realize how tired she was until she sits on the queen sized bed they had bought together at Goodwill because his twin sized bed had caved in one day as they made love. She runs her hand over the sheets; she remembers them easily. 800 count Egyptian thread, from Macys’. She had given them to him as a housewarming gift and they had immediately christened it with love. She remembers everything clearly, like nothing had ever happened. Like Anayo never walked into her office on Harbor road that fateful day in January, like she had never made the foolish decision to follow after a man she barely knew because he promised her marriage, children, all the things KK couldn’t give her yet.
“That KK boy, he is gold.” Her father had said after meeting him at her 33rd birthday dinner. Her usual taciturn father, stingy with praise and compliments had not been able to help himself around Kelechi. When she introduced Anayo to him, he had been silent.
She lies on the bed and shortly falls into a dreamless sleep. She doesn’t awaken until she hears the front door more than 5 hours later.
He looks the same, Jola thinks as she stares back at him. He is leaning against the wall like someone punched him in the stomach. She wishes he would say something instead of just staring at her but all he does. After what seems like forever, he walks out of the bedroom. She washes her face before following.
He is cutting vegetables on the tiny kitchen island and Jola goes to stand beside him.
“Have you had anything to eat?” He asks, finally breaking a silence of more than seven months.
“No.” she says quietly, suddenly ashamed at her hunger.
He nods as if he had been expecting nothing less and continues cutting.
They eat dinner without incident or words but when he starts to clear the plates, she can’t hold it any longer.
“Please say something.”
“There is nothing to say Jola. “
“I am sorry.”
“I know. If you weren’t you won’t be here. Here, help me with the plates. I will wash while you dry.”
It isn’t much but it is enough to make her feel better about being there. He doesn’t touch her that night or any other night that follows. He doesn’t ask any questions either. He gives her a ride to her parents two days later so she can get clothes for the approaching winter.
“So are you guys going to work it out?” Jola’s father asks as he unearths a box labeled ‘Jola, Winter.’ from the basement where her things where.
“I don’t know Papa. I have messed things up really bad.”
“Yes Jola, yes you have.” He says before kissing her hair in a way Jola doesn’t remember him ever doing.
Her former company is hiring so she applies. A few days later, she gets hired. She breaks the news to KK excitedly and he congratulates her with a hug but when she tries to kiss him, he rebuffs her gently.
“Why?” She asks quietly as she sits on the bed, all of the excitement of getting a job suddenly gone.
“I don’t think you know this yet but I decided for Oncology in March. The classes are tough but I love it. I have learned so much about the cells in the body since then.’ He says.
“Oh…” she says, her selfishness staring her in the face all over again
“When a cancer patient has gone through all possible treatments, most come to a place known as remission. It is a place where the disease begins to subside, where the cells stop growing abnormally. The cancer isn’t gone but it is retreating from the onslaught of chemicals the doctors have salvoed against it. It is very tempting for both the doctor and the patient to think they have won at this time but remissions are when if anything you should be fighting harder than ever. “
“Jola, you are in remission. He left you for another woman just like you left me for him and so you retraced your steps. If he never left you, would you be here? How do I know if the next charming money bucks comes around you won’t leave again? You are almost 35, in a hurry to settle down. I am 31, broke and on my second career. I can’t give you what you want but I can give you what you need. When I decided to leave banking for medicine, I wasn’t sure if things would work out. What if I wasn’t smart enough to do what I loved? But one thing I did was determine there was no going back, that there was nothing else for me.”
“Remissions are a good time for patients to develop healthy habits known to prevent cancer, habits they didn’t have before. I love you like I have never loved anyone else, like I will never love anyone else but if you don’t love me, I don’t want you. “
“Do you remember that time we took a trip to Taiwan? Do you remember the village by the road we stopped at to buy water?”
“The place to wait for blessing. After remission, if things go well, the patient moves on to a Rinari of sorts. Your blessing awaits you Jola. But you must win the remission first. You must win the battle in your heart. Or lose me.”
He walks away then leaving her to pick up the broken pieces of his heart. She weeps until she can weep no more. When she is done, the house is silent and she realizes he must have gone back to the hospital. She finds his dictionary in the book case next to his bed. The word and its definitions are underlined.
She stays up until he returns.
“Remission can also be defined as pardon, the forgiveness of sins.” She says to him as he shuts the front door.
“I know.” He tells her.
“Okay” She says, getting up to walk towards him. “Forgive me Kelechi. Forgive me so I can move on from here to my Rinari.”
There are tears in his eyes but he lets her kiss him. She starts with his fingers and then moves up to his hair, kissing him the way her father kissed her only a few days ago. Outside, snow is falling. It is the first snow either of them have seen since she left in March. It covers a multitude of sins.
Song of the day: Housefires- Build my Life