TURN TO DUST
It is raining.
I walk down this street, my hands in the pockets of my hoodie, hood over my head. I don’t remember how I got here, and even the name of the street eludes me, just as understanding, and peace, eludes me. In my right pocket, I softly stroke the piece of metal I’d picked on that day, not too far from the crash site.
The day the sky fell down.
The day life decided that it…that it…
“Hey Mum! Come quickly! You don’t want to be late!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” she answers, laughing as she runs to the car. “This boy, you want me to fall? See how you are making me run!”
“Mummy, you sabi waste time oh!” I say as I reach across to open the door for her. We both laugh as she gets in and shuts the door while I start the car.
“Sorry my son. Thank you for waiting. If it were your father now, he would have left me to find my way on my own.”
“Haba!” We laugh as I drive off, the gateman closing the gate behind us. The sun is out, and the skies are clear.
“But come oh, Chike, who will…”
…rain. It’s been raining since that day, both outside, and within me. I have no idea if I am still crying or not; I don’t know where my tears cease and the rain begins. I stop, bring out the piece of metal, and look at it. I have no idea regarding the part of the plane it had come from; the fuselage? Nose? Tail? Had she sat close to this particular part of the plane? I stroke this metal piece; it is cold. I close my eyes and raise my face to the skies and into the rain, my hood falling back.
God, it hurts. It hurts so bad.
Please let this rain stop, at least for a little while.
I want to see the sun again.
He is haunted by her life…their life. He sees her face everywhere, in everything. How many times has he answered her call, turning to smile at her only to see nothing behind him, or the surprised face of a stranger? How many times has he reached out to pull her close as he slept, only to clutch nothing but sheets and emptiness? How many times has he gone to sleep with a hole in his heart? He traces his thumb on her favourite T-shirt, his black Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt that she’d always loved to wear, sleeping in it sometimes. It is practically hers now, and in about two months, he would have been hers. Now all he is left with is nothing but a whole lot of yesterdays.
He closes his eyes. He can even see her right now. She is smiling. She is…
She smiles at him, and then straddles him. Her skin is smooth and cool. Her hair tickles his face as she kisses him deeply, her hands on either side of his face, her nipples grazing his chest. He can taste her smile, her happiness…her love. She breaks the kiss and pulls back a bit to look at him as he wraps her in his arms. This close her eyes are a whirlpool, drawing him in to depths both achingly sweet and familiarly unknown. She rolls her hips, rubbing herself on him, and he gasps as his heart rate jumps. She giggles and kisses him again, her palm flat on his chest, over his heart. He covers her own hand with his, holding it there.
“This heart beats for you, Amaka,” he says as they break the kiss. He means every word.
“Say you’ll love me,” she says, her eyes speaking to his heart.
“I’ll always love you,” he says.
“Say you’ll haunt me, Henry,” she says, smiling mischievously. She kisses his forehead, his eyes, his nose, his lips, holding it for as long as she can, savouring it, not wanting to let go of him, of this moment. “ Say you’ll haunt me.”
“…unt you,” he says, opening his eyes. He stares unseeing through his window, a cold wind blowing through his heart. He brings her T-shirt to his nose and inhales. His mind, a maelstrom of images; he can taste her, hear her.
Memory, she used to say, is one of the keys to the future.
“Then tell me,” he says to the cold, lonely house, tears rolling down his cheeks, “what sort of key is this?”
Say you’ll haunt me…
The cool afternoon breeze blowing off the Jabi Lake ruffles his collar, filling his nostrils with the smell of evening in Abuja. The sky is still clear, but the blue is tinged with orange as the sun sets. He looks down at four-year-old Elizabeth as she holds the guardrail and peers out at the lake, mimicking his silent gaze.
Now, his daughter.
How quickly things change in life. They said ‘Time heals all wounds.’ What about when you had a part of you amputated without warning, without an anaesthetic; what will Time do to you, or leave you with then? A phantom itch, or something worse?
He’d spoken with her again last night. Bisola. He’d lain in the darkness of their-his-bedroom, unable to sleep, staring at the ceiling. He’d smelled her first, her scent filling his nostrils.
Vanilla. She’d always loved the scent of vanilla.
He’d felt her weight settle down on the bed beside him.
“Hey,” he’d said.
“Hey,” she’d replied. He’d felt her hand in his, their fingers entwined. He’d ignored the urge to look at her face; he already knew her face well enough. They’d been married for five years.
“I miss you,” he’d said.
“I miss you too.”
“I think Liz will be okay,” he’d reassured her. “She is a tough kid, you know.”
“Yes, I know.”
“I hope I raise her right. I hope I do alright by you.”
“You’ll be fine.”
The tears, threatening to break the dam. “She misses you though.”
“I miss her too,” Bisola had said. “I love you both, so much.” Then she’d kissed his forehead, and he’d cried silently into the night. One more long-
Elizabeth tugs at his trouser, and he looks down at her. She points at the bag containing the bouquet of flowers that they’d bought. White roses. Bisola had always loved white roses.
Mr Gani squats beside his daughter, and together they take out the bouquet and unwrap it. They hold it together, his hand covering Elizabeth’s smaller hand.
I’ll do my best to protect her Bi, he thinks, his vision clouding with tears. I’ll love her for the both of us.
They let the flowers fall into the lake. Then he sits down on the ground and holds his daughter close, their tears glistening in the setting sun.
“Rest in peace, Bi,” he says. “We will always miss you.”
For those who left us all on the 3rd of June, 2012, aboard the ill-fated DANA Flight 9J-992 Abuja-Lagos, we’ll sing a lullaby as you all sleep.
To those who lost a loved one, smile, for they sail the safest seas…in your hearts.