Ikeja had only been this quiet once. The first time was eleven years ago when I cried as my father threw I and my mother out of his house because my little brother had our neighbour’s dentition and facial features. We’d lived at Surulere until she died and I had to learn how to feed myself and my brother by feeding other people. I’d do this with plates and pots in the day time and at night they’d eat (of/off) me. They were men, most times.
I’d heard them talk about love. I’d heard those empty words roll off their tongues over and over again until they held no meaning; each expression more vacuous than the former. Love could not pay my bills.
I’d heard him say it to me a couple of times too. It had even become formal. The same way you’d reply with ‘you’re welcome’ to a ‘thank you.’ I never seemed to care much for such things yet here I was, in a hospital ward, chasing his bleeding body down the hall.
The nurses tore at my blouse, asking me to calm down but I zoned out. I could only see him. I could only hear him.
Before he let go of my hand, he mouthed those once empty meaningless words and breathed out my name with all the strength he could muster.
I held his jacket close to my chest and fell to the ground as I watched them cart him away. The silence in my head was deafening.
Today was the first time I listened.
Today was the first time I felt.