My husband is coming home tonight. I’ve waited for him all day and when the short hand on the clock hits twelve he’ll sit right beside me. I always wonder what he gets up to during the times he’s not with me, whenever I ask him his jaw tightens and there’s something in his eyes which are usually so guileless. Like he’s hiding something even when he says everything is fine with his extra charming smile. My mother doesn’t like him and she makes no secret of it. “I don’t trust that Jide boy, with his charming looks….will he stay, even if he wanted to will these Lagos girls let him.”. All through her rants and tantrums I said nothing; I didn’t need to because Jide always proved her and her baseless suspicions wrong.
I sit on the bed and look up at the clock placed intently above the door, it’s exactly 12am. I almost scream as I feel Jide’s ice- cold hands on my thigh. After all this time he’s still the same not even a beard or moustache. The same short curly hair in varied colors of brown, light honey-brown eyes that turns golden in the sunlight, his hooked nose and pink plum lips. He’s so perfect he looks almost surreal, like a dream. In that instant I understand why my mother is so skeptical. I run my fingers through his hair and he pulls me in for a kiss.
“How was work?”
“Let’s not talk about work, I have a better idea.”
He steps out for a minute and comes in with some DVD’s and two spoons. I give him a puzzled look before his ‘idea’ sinks in.
“We are taking a trip down memory lane.” It comes out as a statement rather than a question.
While he puts in our wedding DVD’s, I take out a tub of ice-cream from the mini-fridge next to my side of the bed. Minutes later I’m in his arms, ice-cream in hand laughing at the TV screen. I’m freezing; his arms are comfortable but so so cold-almost as cold as the plate in my hand. But I feel like the luckiest woman in the world and I sleep with a content smile on my face.
I wake up knowing. Knowing my husband is not by my side and immediate wish I was still asleep. He didn’t even stay for breakfast. I grudgingly tear myself off the bed and make my way to the kitchen.
“Mummy, good morning.” I call out from over my shoulder, she already made breakfast and served some for me.
“Mummy you didn’t have to, I’ve told you. You’re a guest here–”
“Ehn?! Guest where? In my daughter’s house, Biko. Stop that joke.”
I smile and take a bite of the food, boiled yam and eggs fried with beef and vegetables.
“Yes,” I mumble from a stuffed mouth.
“Ego.” she says slowly for dramatic effect. One look at her serious face and I drop the fork and take a gulp of water.
“Mum, what is it?” I ask while recalling the last time I saw this look on her face.
I remember with startling clarity that it was last year; I came home from the doctor’s with the news. I was pregnant! Before I could say anything she sat me down and with this same look she told me Jide had died in a Car accident at the Benin/Ore road on his way home. There were no survivors.
“Wait, what? But I’m pregnant.” At that revelation she broke down and started crying. My mum, crying – blubbering- like a little girl in my arms. This had to be a dream. A terrible sick twisted nightmare that played on for months. I pinched myself, it went on, I slapped myself; it went on, I cut my wrists it still wouldn’t end. The same faces at our wedding were now at my husband’s funeral barely six month’ s later and my unborn baby might have sensed the grief and opted out, I had a miscarriage and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I went to the backyard to the heap of red mud; they said they kept my husband in. I came with a planned speech, a declaration of my love for him; if I had done anything he should forgive me and come back so things can be okay. Let everything go back to the way it was. But as always I lost focus and broke down on his grave. My tears and saliva and sweat fell copiously on the red soil just as they same soil clung to my clothes, in-between my toes, and every other open random location on my body.
I would go and visit Jide in his new house and we would talk as usual. The only difference was that he was under the pile of dust that I spoke to and his voice was in my head. Mother saw everything but said nothing. To her that was my way of coping, her way was burying her head in her bible and hanging crosses and rosaries on every doorway in the house.
My nightmare was now my reality I thought to myself as I headed to Jide’s grave for an evening session. There was a huge load of guilt that lay on my shoulders that day, maybe I let him die? That Friday night; before he left, He stood by the door of our bedroom, briefcase in hand. With a torn look on his face as if leaving me would literally kill him. “Are you sure you’ll be fine? It’ll be just you and mama in the house.” He said for the umpteenth time.
“Yes, I’ll be fine,” I said somewhat irritated.
“Are you sure you’ll cope without me.” his voice forlorn.
“Yes baby, I’ll be fine. Now get going before you miss your flight,” I said shoving him out the door. He held me in place and looked deep into my eyes. Like he could see right through me, I looked away because I felt naked and vulnerable under his gaze but he brought his lips to mine. The kiss ended with an audible smack and a slightly dizzy me.
“I really, really don’t want to go.” He finally said before he left.
“Ego! ahn ahn are you not going to answer my question?!”
“Sorry mum, you were saying?”
She lets out a deep breath and looks at me through squinted eyes, searching for something.
“I heard voices in your room last night.”
“Voices?” I reply a little unsure of where the conversion is going.
“Yes, giggling and laughing, anyway when are you going to start dating?”
“Mummy! Not again… is that why you made me breakfast? Ehn? So you can cajole me to cheat on my husband?”
“Ego, my dear child…Jide is dead!”
“Stop it! Stop It! Stop telling lies. I know you don’t like him… you’ve never liked him. So just stop.”
“Ego I worry about you, it’s been fifteen months now. You have to move on. Let him go. Please.”
She waits for an answer and even though she gives me all the time in the world I say nothing. I know she’s right, I know Jide is gone but I can’t let him go. I won’t let him go. I spent all my life searching for Mr. Perfect and here he is, just not the way I planned.