It is at Debonair Bode breaks your heart. Wrong, he had done that already. It is here he shatters it, sending its shards flying in several unknown destinations. He had only left cracks on them previously, with every slap, every abusive word, every deception. You knew, but you stayed, hoping he would change one day and that that change would somehow heal all those cracks. But now, as he speaks, you know that will never be, you know there is a probability that you will live the rest of your life with a broken heart.
He is saying something you can’t hear, because suddenly, it seems you have cotton wool stuffed in your ears. It appears everything going on in the restaurant is happening in slow motion. The moving waiters, the playing children, the steam rising up from freshly prepared pizza. Then he stretches his hands towards you, like you two just finished a business transaction. You stare at those hands, at the ridges etched in the palms, hands that had caused so much pain and so much joy at once.
He realizes you are not going to take his hands, and withdraws it. He smiles and you wonder what amuses him so, and at that moment you notice his eyes. Brown pebbles, you wonder why you never noticed it. He says something else, then stands up and walks out, and you watch him walk away from the table, away from the restaurant and away from your life.
You were not foolish, it was not that you did not see the signs; the lipstick stains, the condoms, the acts of violence, but somehow you just did not have the strength to leave. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that he was the first man to see your nakedness, the first man you allowed to see it. And even though you had been taught that sex was to be given within the confines of marriage, you still gave it to him. And somehow, those were the bars that locked you into the abusive, manipulative relationship. You thought no other man would take you anymore. Then you stopped praying, you just could not. Then you began to accept all that came with your relationship with Bode as your lot.
You do not know how long you sit there, but soon, you notice that the restaurant is empty, save for cleaners, sweeping the floors and clearing the tables. You pick up your bag and walk out the door. The most painful aspect of being sad, is the fact that the world hardly notices your sorrows; it just goes on, happily. You look at the lovers walking in each other’s arms, the bright neon light of bill boards and the happy faces on those bill boards and feel a sort of resentment for the world at large. When you finally reach home, you open the doors, remove your shoes and fall into bed with your clothes on. It seems the most appropriate way to get away from the sadness. Sleep.
You do not go to work the day after that, or the day after that, neither do you pick your phone calls. You wonder how you would start over again. People had begun to look at you funny whenever they caught no ring on your finger and although you ordinarily wouldn’t have cared, you began to. Because somewhere, somehow, it had sunk into your subconsciousness that the husband was the woman’s crowning glory, that the woman was defined by her husband and one without a husband had no identity.
The days moved by in a blur and you do not know how long you stayed indoors. You had heard some knocks on the door, and just to reassure whoever it was, you would scream
“I’m still alive, just go away.”
The knockings would become louder, and the person, who was often your best friend Nkechi, or a colleague from work, or a neighbour would shout your name, but you would simply ignore them.
You finally decide to go through your phone; you have about 40 missed calls, and 10 messages. You scroll through the messages and stop at the one from your mother.
“I would be at your house on Saturday, and except you want me to sleep outside the door, you had better open up your door.”
You look at the day and date it was sent, and it occurs to you that it is already Saturday. You rush outside, half expecting to see your mother sprawled on the floor, half frozen, in front of your door. Nobody’s there, so you heave a sigh a relief, turn back into the house and set water boiling on the gas cooker. You had not had your bath all the while. All you had done was eat, sleep, cry. A never ending cycle.
When the water is ready, you lift the kettle from the stove and walk towards the bathroom. You look at yourself in the mirror and a stranger stares back. You get into the bathtub and have your bath.
Your mother knocks at around 2:00PM, when you open the door, all she does is hold you and stroke your hair. You wonder if she knows about what happened. As you both break your embrace, her hand hits a vase on the stool beside the door. It falls and breaks. You stare at the white fragments on the floor and she reaches to pick it up, it had broken into three fragments.
“It can still be fixed” she says, turning the fragments around in her hands. She drops the pieces back on the stool.
Your adopted little brother, Femi, comes in.
“I’ve locked the car Mom”; he says looking at your mother, and he turns to you with a toothy smile “Hey Big sis, you don’t look dressed for the beach.”
You turn to your mother, shaking your head vigorously, “Maami, no. I don’t feel up to it.”
“You’re coming with me”; she says quietly, but firmly.
Thirty minutes later, you are at the back seat, with your mum and brother singing along to “living is simple” by Switchfoot. She drives into the private beach and you walk across the sandy terrain bordered by dancing palm trees, towards the shore. The water washes the shore with it white foam. Femi runs after little crabs at the shore and your mother keeps shouting at him “Be careful, O!”, while he replies that he’s a big boy. Their tirade brings a smile to your face as you and your mother sit in the sand, watching clouds float by. You heave a sigh of contentment, and for the first time since that week, thoughts of the breakup does not consume your thoughts.
“Do you know why I named you Iyanu?”; your mother asks, rocking.
Iyanu means Wonder, not exactly a spectacular name.
She continues. “When you were born, I was so filled with wonder, at your tiny feet and hands, your curly hair. The world is full of it you know? Wonder. Every sunrise and sunset, chirping birds, rainfalls, your birth. I named you that to remind me of such wonders, and when things get bad, I just remind myself that for everything awful about this world, there are a million other good things. Why let one bad moment rob you of so many good ones?”
When you return home at night, it rains. You stay under the rain, as it falls from the sky, like precious pearls. Then you do something you have not done in a while, you pray and you hope.