He went missing on a cold Sunday morning; as if to remind the world that he was warmth itself.
I did not need reminding.
He left, and no matter the many layers of clothing that shield me against the cold harmattan wind that blows from the North, warmth has failed to return to the part of my heart that was his.
The night before that cold Sunday morning, he called me on the shiny new cellphone he had bought me on his last business trip. I had not needed a new phone. My old one was barely a year old, another souvenir from one of the many far away lands my lover often visited. Odinaka loved giving presents and I loved seeing his face light up in anticipation as I opened the numerous parcels he always brought back.
‘Ezinne.’ He said that night.
‘Odinaka.’ I had answered with a smile on my face.
‘How many more hours till I get to see your beautiful face? How many more minutes till I can hold you in my arms, eh? Time spent away from you always seems so much longer that it really is. You have really bewitched me, Ifunanya. It is about time I made you my wife and carried you along on all these trips.’
I giggled and let him sweet talk me to a place where we were together, where time and space meant nothing.
‘Good night, Ifunanya.’ He had said at the end, bringing us back to the real world.
‘Ijeoma tomorrow.’ I answered wishing him safe travels on his journey home from another business trip.
My people say a dead person is better than a missing one.
My mother tells me my heart will heal and I will love again.
My father will hear none of this talk of love for a man who never brought him kolanut or palm wine.
His mother stares blankly into the world that has swallowed her son.
His father grinds his teeth and mutters about how the gods have played him false. They have taken away his child in all entirety. They didn’t even leave a body behind that he could bury, a grave he could tend and point out to people, to show them a resting place for his son.
Papa Odinaka has always had wrinkles; ‘laugh lines’ Odinaka called them because his father was a man of mirth. His laughter always ran long and loud. But the lines that crisscross Papa Odinaka’s face these days tell a story of guilt and shame rather than of laughter. He has failed to dig his son a grave.
I am alone in this outpost where I stand on the lookout for my Odinaka. Those that knew him have lost hope of ever beholding him alive again, but not me. My love will return. My heart assures me, my soul is confident; and my body begins to show the early signs.
His name will be Nnamdi; and he will restore laugh lines to his grandfather’s face.
For the 153 and counting, some of whom we will never have graves for…Chukwugozie….
Nnamdi-my father lives
Chukwugozie-God bless you