You brace yourself as you walk towards the beach. Today, you will conquer your fear of the ocean.
The evening is humid, almost airless and you are sweating. You undo your shirt buttons as you walk. The sand is warm and gritty on your soles. You get to the beach and extend an uncertain foot forward. The white foam from the crashing waves laps at your toes. The water is cold, a noticeable contrast to the warm sand.
Then the punishing contrast forms in your head. It was warm and cosy with her, your wife before her death.
Before you pushed her to her death, that still small voice reminds you. Now the water lapping at your toes is just as cold as the sorrow that accompanies you at all times, like your shadow.
Another wave crashes on the beach and the water rises higher, covering your feet up to the ankles. The water seems to open that floodgate of cold, not so fond memories you always want to run away from…
You met your wife at the advertising firm where you worked. You were an associate partner, and she was one of the junior executives just employed. At first, your relationship with her was formal. She was just a colleague, nothing more. You didn’t flirt with her like you did with the other female staff. She did not have the physical attributes that made you give a woman a second glance.
It was not until the monthly board meeting that you began to pay her more attention. From the way she spoke, she was a very intelligent woman. She gave strategies for breaking into the market for a new product of one of the top brands your company was representing. You and your partners had been brainstorming on this for several weeks and there she was providing the breakthrough almost effortlessly.
Your wife was not beautiful in the literal sense of the word. She would not pass in a crowd, like your friends used to jokingly say in the university. Her low haircut did not do much to soften her sharp, angular facial features. Her thick rimmed glasses always hung on the bridge of her nose in a nerdy kind of way. Her choice of clothes did not help matters too. They always sat loosely around her body. Not that they was any curves to cling on to anyway. But for every one thing she lacked in beauty, she had ten in intelligence and humility. And you couldn’t miss the shine in her eyes on the few occasions she took off her glasses. Those large round eyes seemed to have a life of their own, especially when she was discussing marketing and advertising.
You were soon drawn to her. Or rather, you lusted after her intelligence. You have always been handsome, no doubt. Tall, with bulging well toned muscles which often gave people the impression that you were a sportsman. You had very dark skin, a shade of dark that had a burnish. When you smiled and exposed your row of perfect white teeth, it seemed like a streak of lightening against dark clouds.
You asked her to lunch, flashing your trademark smile. She accepted, how could she not have? If only you could see how your smile alone plucks her heartstrings, she said to herself. You were the quintessential man and her green mind was soon enraptured by your ‘Prince Charming’ moves.
You started to date her. You discovered that your persons are different, like two parallel lines without a common centre. You got to know that she could stay at home all weekend, listening endlessly to her jazz and soulful tunes. You spent your Friday nights at the clubs, and Saturday evenings drinking with your friends. She devoured books with a passion you had never seen in anybody. You preferred watching movies (she did not know that you have a preference for x-rated ones) and playing football games on your Playstation2. She was a devout Catholic; you struggled to give God five minutes of your time when you wake up in the mornings. And that was on the few mornings that you remembered. You tagged along with her, and most times you were bored to the death in her company. The only times you were alive with her was when you talked about work. Then her large round eyes took on an extra shine kind of life as she talked. Her ideas were unconventional, but they always worked.
You sometimes caught her stealing glances at you. You wondered at such moments if she did not see through the front you were putting up. You would be worried for a while but you always relaxed. In your many experiences with women, you knew that in their battles between emotion and reason, emotion always wins.
You convinced her to marry you, even when you knew company policy did not allow for staff marrying one another. She would resign and pursue a master’s degree, you planned with her. Your scheming mind was elated. This was a good way of advancing your career. You could always bring home official assignments and use her up her novel ideas.
You knew you liked well endowed women. Looking at a bare cleavage made you weak at the knees, and the sensuous sway of a full hip always beclouded your senses. Your wife was not endowed. She had small raised elevations on her chest that passed for breasts. Her small brown nipples looked like tiny dots. You were sure you had more of buttocks than she did. Yet you relegated this knowledge to the dark recesses of your mind. You would cross that bridge somehow, you said to yourself.
And indeed, you tried to cross that bridge; you could swear to the high heavens that you did. You would come home from work, excited about the new pop tune you heard on the radio and wanting to talk about it. She would want to discuss a new guitar arrangement she just discovered on an Earl Klugh track instead. Or how the protagonist in the last novel she read shouldn’t have died at the end. You didn’t care about jazz music, boring authors and thir books. Couldn’t she see that from the blank tone of your voice when you answered her? You would want to discuss politics, or a new fashion trend. You would be discouraged, almost annoyed by her disinterest which was obvious when she replied you in monosyllables. You would try to raise conversation and you only got lucky if it were a topic that interested her. And it was only a few things that caught her interest outside of jazz and books.
You wanted kids now. Maybe the crying of a child, the tiny patter of his little feet would liven up the desolation that hung thick in your home. She wanted kids later, after her Master’s degree. She wanted you to herself before the arrival of any tiny intruder, she told you.
You tried to find a place in your heart to like her more. You saw that she gave her all. You wanted her to give more, to like the things that you like and you tried to do same. But you just couldn’t. Your interests were too varied. So you gradually became strangers in your own home. You would eat your meal in silence, sometimes punctuated by some dialogue in the evenings. Except on those evenings when there was work issues to talk about. You would head out to the office early in the morning to avoid the traffic jam.
She loved to swim in the ocean. She told you that it was the best form of exercise for her. She said she always had a clear head after a long swim and new ideas sprouted in her mind. You told her that you had always been scared of the ocean’s immensity. You always felt it would swallow you up if you went near. She laughed at this, not derisively but full of understanding.
You would follow her to the beach sometimes on a weekend. You watched her swim as you enjoyed a cold beer. You marvelled at how her slender limbs worked in perfect timing to propel her in the water.
It was on one such day that you met her. The other woman.
She was a new attendant at the bar where you drank. It was her impeccable spoken English that you first noticed. She greeted you, asked if your week had gone well and if you were enjoying the weekend. And God, she was endowed. Your heart raced as she leaned over the table to open your beer bottle. You could swear that if she were to jump up five times, her breasts would spill out of the low necked blouse that struggled to contain them. Your loins stirred as you mentally tore off her clothes. You imagined yourself sucking one hard nipple hungrily. Your free hand was caressing the other one. The spirit of adventure in you sprang up. You exchanged numbers and set up a meeting. A little ‘one time run’ would not hurt anybody, you thought. It may just be the spice needed for the blandness that your life has become.
How ‘one time run’ turned to ‘weekend runs’ you couldn’t really explain. The other woman turned out to be a demon sex goddess, and you were her slave. You could think of nothing else but the times you would be with her to fulfil your teeming fantasies.
Then the lies began. You always had an official assignment every weekend now, or something else that kept you out of your home. You would come home late and your wife was always up, waiting for you. She would embrace you, even when you knew she could smell the scent of the other woman on you. You wanted her to accuse you of your wrongdoings, to pull at your shirt and start a fight. But she never did. You knew she suspected something and her silence killed you. You could see the hurt in her eyes. Those large round eyes had lost their shine, even when you discussed work related issues. You would feel a momentary guilt which you always managed to erase from your mind.
Like a chick in the firm grasp of a hawk’s talons, the other woman had you in her hands now. You stopped her from working at the bar; you didn’t want other men sharing in her endowments. You got her an apartment and a small car. You gave her money for upkeep that always had a reason to be increased every month. The allowance to your in-laws stopped. You had agreed with your wife to send them money every month, since you had stopped her from working. You told your wife to share the allowance for housekeeping into two and give half to her parents. After all, you ate once at home, and you hardly had guests. You began to rationalise it; you got work ideas from your wife and sexual gratification from the other woman and you were happy and contented. You were getting the best of both worlds.
You wife became more withdrawn, spending more time with her books and drawing comfort for her loneliness from jazz music. She spent a lot of time in church now. She had joined the Sisters of Charity and was always involved in the group’s activities on those days she didn’t have lectures at the state university where she had started her Master’s programme. She knew there was another woman. A woman always knew such things. But she wasn’t one to raise an accusation without proof. She prayed hard. She prayed that the other woman, whom she saw as a fad should soon fizzle out. She prayed that her husband should return to his rightful place, by her side.
You had not come home all weekend. Your wife was bored and decided to go for a swim that Sunday evening. She did not know it was high tide and the currents were very strong. She was swept away.
You had come home on Monday morning, your eyes puffy and red from the binge drinking and raunchy sex you had at the other woman’s all night. You had met your door locked which was strange. You had gone back to your car to take your keys from the pigeon hole. You had wanted to call her on your mobile phone when you saw that you had missed her calls from the evening before. You called her number and was surprised when you heard a gruffly male voice at the other end. “Oga, water don carry the personwey get this phone go o,” you were told in Pidgin English. “Na the last number wey the person call be dis. Dem still dey find her inside water for Eleko beach.” You remembered that you had put your phone in silent mode yesterday evening.
You made it to the beach just in time to see her bloated, eyeless corpse being taken out of the water. A pang of guilt enveloped you; you pushed this woman to her death was the refrain that began to play in your head. You made funeral arrangements. As she was lowered into her grave and the last sod of earth landed on her coffin, you knew a part of you was gone, forever.
You sought solace in the bottle and in the company of the other woman. You became disorderly at work, getting late to meetings and talking nonsense at the few ones you made it to. There was a permanent stench of alcohol on your breath now. You were soon relieved of your job when you couldn’t offer creative ideas any longer. You then realized that the ideas were never yours. They had died with the owner.
A few months after you had lost your job and frittered all you had on booze, you had come to the apartment you rented for the other woman. You wanted gratification as usual. You were surprised when a man in shorts opened the door and asked who you were looking for. From the look of contempt on his face, it was obvious that you had interrupted something. He asked you to stay by the door while he called who you were looking for. You were surprised when the other woman came to the door and denied knowing you. She was wearing the blue negligee you bought her on her birthday. You started shouting and the man made to push you away. The other woman said no, she had a better idea in mind. She went inside, fetched a bucket of water and emptied it on you. The cold water shook you out of your half drunken state. She announced to you that her offerings were for the highest bidder, and you are a broke ass now.
You walked away, head bent, drenched in your shame like a chicken caught in a storm with no shelter around.
So you come to the beach. You decide to step into the water and conquer your fear. It will be symbolic. You are going to let the water wash you clean of your guilt. It will purge you of your sorrows. You are going to come out of the water a changed man. You are going to do right by other women that come your way now. Yes, you are going to honour the memory of your late wife.
The water continues lapping around your feet. But it doesn’t comfort you at all. You step back on the sand. At least that will be warm still, offering some respite. But it has gone cold too. A fresh wave of sorrow, with a vice like steely grip hugs at your heart.
You realize it’s not that easy…