“How did I get here?” The man asked himself. He was in the middle of nowhere, a very busy market. One which he was sure he had never been before. All he could remember was that he blinked his eyes and he was right here. A few moments ago he was in his car on the highway, driving home.
What could have happened? One moment he was on the highway with nothing but cars and now here he was with humans milling about him. Was he dreaming? Was his mind playing tricks on him?
He tried to get his mind off the illusory image and return to where he was before, he blinked again but he still remained in the market.
He called out to the person nearest to him, “hey, could you please tell me where this is”? He could as well have been invisible. The person he called out to did not as much as look his way, neither did anyone else. Everybody went about their business, avoiding and ignoring him.
He felt alone and cold, despite that the sun was shining ferociously.
What was happening to him was incomprehensible, he’d never been ignored in his life, people always warmed up to him but this was strange. All he wanted was to ask where he was and make his way back home. He felt unusually lonely and didn’t quite fit in with the environment, what with his Armani.
He was still wondering where he was when he saw a bike racing dangerously towards him, it was by instinct that he jumped to avoid being crushed by the bike. He dived and almost landed in a puddle of mud, he missed the puddle by just an inch.
The rider didn’t even stop, neither did he look the man’s way, he continued his ride like nothing had happened. The people around also didn’t sympathise with him, it was like he was in a land where strangers were treated as nobodies.
He got to his feet, his ruined Armani wasn’t of much importance, all he wanted was an answer.
“Don’t you people have any form of sympathy”? He shouted angrily at the top of his voice. Anger laden or not, his outburst didn’t get him any form of attention. He was still unnoticed.
The environment looked unreal yet it was real. Men walked like a man should and the birds flew like they ought to, the only thing unreal was him bring there.
He shook his head and walked away from the market, he noticed a signboard as he was getting out. The address said, Lafenwa, Abeokuta. Abeokuta was in Ogun state, his hometown and he hadn’t been there in over a year. What was he doing here now? How did he even get here?
He’d been on his way to Lagos before coming to find himself here, he was surely dreaming. This couldn’t be real.
I have to wake up, he thought. This is a bad dream, I have to wake up.
He closed his eyes and when he opened them again he was on his bed, in his home.
He smiled as he rose from the bed. Gone was the ruined suit he wore in his dream , he liked to sleep in nothing but his boxer shorts and that was what he had on, a touch of reality. The dream had been scary and he was glad it was over. All he needed for comfort was to wrap his arms around his wife’s body.
He got out of the room and walked into his wife’s, she was alone in the room, sitting on the edge of her bed. Her eyes were misty when he saw her, she obviously had been crying for a long time. He hadn’t seen his wife cry in a long time and he was alarmed. She looked at him as he walked into the room but her eyes were not to him, they went farther than were he stood, it was like she was seeing through him.
He called out to her but she didn’t hear him. His bad dream was returning, the feeling that he was invincible to all was returning once more. Was he in another bad dream, waking up from one dream to continue another? There was something unusual happening here and the sooner he figured it out the better.
He tried touching her but he could not because she moved away from him before he could do so. He called her name as she walked away from him, she did not as much as acknowledge it. Whether she heard his voice or not, he could not say. She walked into the bathroom and slammed the door, he heard her crying from behind the door.
Everything that had happened since he’d found himself at the market has been nothing short of weird. It had all been like a dream yet it wasn’t because he could think and smell. Could one have thoughts while dreaming? Have emotions? Because he was feeling exasperated about the whole thing, confused and lost.
He walked out of the room and out of the house, his dog raced over to him as it saw him walk out of the door and wag its tail wanting to be stroked. That act by his Alsatian compounded his confusion, the dog had obviously seen him, why hadn’t his wife? Why hadn’t all those people at the market?
He stroked the dog and walked with it towards the main gate, what he saw pasted on the gate knocked the breath out of him. Pasted on the gate was his obituary. He stared at it for a long time, not moving, too surprised to think.
Now was the time to really wake up from the bad dream.
Here he was standing and staring at his own obituary while still very much alive, he certainly didn’t remember being dead. If so, then why was his obituary pasted in his own house?
The gate opened and his wife’s best friend walked in, she expectedly didn’t notice he was standing there despite that he had to make way for her. She walked towards the house and he followed her in.
His wife was waiting for her friend at the door and they hugged as they met.
“For how long are you going to cry”? The friend asked. “It’s been two weeks and all you do is cry, will your tears bring him back”?
“You won’t understand what I am going through, I really miss him. My life will never be the same without him”.
“I know that, but you’ve been crying for too long and you have been indoor since, do you want to kill yourself? Think about your kids, do you want to make them orphans”?
Orphans? He thought, isn’t that what they called kids without both parents? Am I really dead? He asked himself.
When did he die? He couldn’t remember, and they talked about two weeks. What had happened in two weeks? He needed answers but none was forthcoming.
“I could swear I felt his presence in the room just moments ago, I could almost smell him”.
“It’s all in your head babe; Tunde is dead and has been for two weeks. Nothing is ever going to change that. You have to be strong for your kids”.
‘Tunde is dead’, as in never coming back? When did I die, aren’t dead people supposed to be in heaven? If he was truly dead then what is he doing wandering about the earth?
“Be strong you say”? She snickered. “What did he do to deserve such a fate? Tunde wouldn’t hurt a fly, yet he was taken from us in such a brutal way.”
“Stop saying that, ok? You just have to forget about the whole thing”.
“I cant, I wouldn’t”. She spoke mildly, “He was a good man, a good husband. Tell me if he deserved to die”.
“There is no right time to die, we can’t be the architect of our own fate. There is a greater force that determines that, all we have to do is just deal with it when it comes.”
His wife stood up and glared at a picture that was hung on the wall, their wedding picture from ten years ago. She imagined him being back with her, that all these were just dreams. He had travelled for a business deal which he said would change their lives totally, he was to spend five days but had called later that he’d only be spending four.
He called her from the road and told her he’d be with her in an hour, little did she know that that would be the last time they’d ever speak. That she’d never hold him again.
She got a call two hours later from his cell, the voice at the other end said the owner of the phone was dead. Her life had crashed since then.
The world as it presently is seemed useless to her, the only reason she wanted to be in it was because of her kids, her seven year old twins. They were her world now, her hope and pillar on which she leans. She had to stay strong for them but each time she saw them her heart breaks, they look so much like their father, both of them and they missed him too.
She breaks down so many times in front of them that they had to be the one placating her, her little boys being men.
She couldn’t believe that all she had of Tunde were memories, abstract and concrete. The millions in her head and the pictures she had of him. Was that all a man would be reduced to? Memories? Thoughts of the deeds he did while alive, both the good and the bad.
Tunde walked up beside her and looked up to the same picture she was looking at. That moment was one of the best in his life. The day he got married to his wife, it was still fresh in his memory, it was one of those moments he holds dearly to his heart.
Was this what happens after one dies? Wandering and lost, lonely and confused, dejected and exasperated? If he truly was dead, then how? The last thing in his head was the drive home on the highway, everything after then had been wiped off of his memory.
He tried remembering but all he could see was blank, blank thoughts hidden in the dark. Nothing could be seen, not even a faint sliver of light. There were questions to be answered but no one to ask, there were people around but none was kindred. None knew he walks the earth, to them he was now dead and a dweller in the great beyond.
“A greater force you say, but why? Why us, why me?”
“We can’t question God, to do that is to blaspheme”.
She walked back to her seat and started crying again, hard as she tried not to, the tears won’t stop coming. She couldn’t stop it from streaming down her eyes, her heart bled. She longed for him, his touch, his soothing words and companionship.
Tunde stood next to her, his heart broken, shattered into a million shards. He wish he could touch her but he didn’t know how she would feel if he tried doing so, he couldn’t afford to see her hurt more then she presently was. And there is this restraint he feels when he moves close to her, a barrier of sort. Something, a strong force from within stops him from touching her.
Is this where it ends, the life he had? All what he strived for his entire life, the business travels, the all night meetings? Is this what will become of it all?
What could have happened, why was he even here and not somewhere else? Is this how he’d continue to live the rest of his existence, if ghosts were meant to wander the earth why hadn’t he seen another?
There was nothing as frustrating as having questions without answers, questions without pointers. It was like being locked alone in a dark room without a window, he was in the dark looking for light, one with the faintest glow would do.
“I have to go pick the kids from school”, his wife told her friend.
“Why don’t you send the driver”?
“I prefer doing it myself, I can’t seem to trust them with anyone these days. They are all I’ve got left”.
She picked up her car keys from the table and walked out of the house towards her soccer mom Honda. She opened the back door for the dog to enter and Tunde quickly slipped in, he wanted to see his twins as much as he needed answers. Maybe seeing them would trigger his memory to remember what he had lost in two weeks.
The drive to the school was in silence. Silent humans sat in the front of the car while a silent ghost sat in the back.
The car stopped in front of a supermarket where the friend got down and his wife continued the drive towards the school. Alone in the car and in her world, she drove on wishing the past two weeks had never occurred in her life.
The children were already waiting for their mother at the school gate and they ran towards the car as they saw her approaching.
Taiwo the first of the twin sat in the front of the car while Kenny slipped into the back seat beside the dog and his father’s ghost. His boys, he longed to hold them in his arms again. He remembered the day they were born, the joy he felt at seeing them for the first time and the vow to protect them at all cost. Taiwo wants to become a doctor while Kenny wants to play for Arsenal FC, those were their dreams and he’d promised to make sure they achieved their respective dreams.
Now that he’d no longer be there for them, what would become of them? Innocent children who are now without a father, how would they cope? How would they wade through the hostilities life was going to throw onto their paths?
He regretted bringing them into the world as he saw them coming into the car.
“How was school today”? Their mother asked as they returned home.
“It was fine”. They both chorused, “I scored a goal”. Kenny answered triumphantly.
“And what did you learned today”? She turned to Taiwo, the more reserved of the two.
He didn’t answer his mother, rather he was looking towards the back seat and wondering why the dog was not at its usual place by the window. It was sitting in the middle of the car between Kenny and an empty space.
It sat like there was someone else by the window.