Broken Days, Unbroken Nights – Part 1

The first time I saw Ati, she was standing straight, her chin up and her feet in first position, looking at the mailboxes next to the Jacaranda, outside my building on Brickell Avenue. The first thing that came through my mind was that she looked like a queen. The second one was that sentence I had heard in an old black and white movie with the actress Michele Morgan: “dancers are taught to dance, not to walk”. She was wearing a black top that looked like a leotard and her hair was pulled back in a tight bun. Her long flowing blue skirt could have made one think that she was standing on stage, waiting to dance. She turned towards me.

“I can’t find my mailbox,” she said. “Wait, let me start over; Hi, I am Atinuke, my friends call me Ati.”

“Hi, I’m David,” I said.

I was so fascinated by Ati, I had forgotten that I was still wearing my noise canceling headphones. She didn’t even say anything about them. My heart skipped a beat.

“I just moved in 16A.”

I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest.

“I’m in 16B,” I said. “I just got back from the Keys.”


“Well, David, I’m going to make us some tea and you are going to tell me all about the neighbors and the best place to find some yam.”

It was July, when the Poincianas are in full bloom, that I saw her again. Our schedules were opposite of each other. I worked at night at the library and she was gone to her dance studio during the day. That day, I heard something rolling outside my apartment and I opened the door to see what it was. I saw a young man, looking a bit like her, pushing her in a wheelchair. She had two casts, one on each leg. Her head was down and her hair looked undone and was covering her face.

“Hi, I’m Teju, Ati’s brother,” the young man said. “Let me make her comfortable and I’ll come back to speak with you”.

“Hi Teju, Hi Ati, “ I said.

Ati didn’t reply and didn’t make the slight move.

I heard some noise and Teju came back out.

“Listen,” he said. “She doesn’t want me to tell anyone but you are her neighbor so you need to know. She was coming out of the Dance Studio one night after rehearsals, with a friend, and some guys attacked them. The doctor said that they probably used bats.” Teju paused for a second.

“If I ever catch them, I will kill them,” he said. “The other girl is still in coma. Ati got both legs broken. She can never dance again. She can’t remember anything that happened and she doesn’t want to talk. She has to wear the casts for three weeks so I’ll stay with her for that time”.

I couldn’t talk. This was the second time Ati had made me speechless.

“Did they catch the guys?” I finally asked.

“No, nobody was around to id them,” Teju said. “Someone found the girls half an hour after it happened. Their teacher can’t forgive herself. She is a friend of our family .She usually gives them a ride but she was sick that day and didn’t go to the studio. I made her promise she wouldn’t tell my dad.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because he would send Ati back to Abuja and she doesn’t want to go back,” Teju replied. “You know what the worse part is? She cries quietly all day long but she doesn’t talk at all. I begged her to talk to me but she keeps her pain inside. She started dancing when she was three, that’s all she knows. My mother was a dancer. She used to be with her in her studio all the time. Her dream was to get into the Alvin Ailey dance company. She never talked about anything else than dance. She used to drive me crazy back in Abuja. Now I wish she would speak about anything, I don’t care what. I miss my sister, man.”

“Can you tell your mom?” I asked

“My mom passed last year,” he said.

“I’m sorry, “ I said.

“I have to go back, I just wanted to let you know”.

Three weeks after, Teju stopped by to talk to me.

“Listen man,” he said. “I have to go back to DC. They took the casts off and the doctor said that she is healing fine considering what happened. She doesn’t want to walk though and she still doesn’t talk. The doctor gave me the address of a psy but she doesn’t want to go and I don’t blame her. I was wondering if you could watch her until Christmas. I’ll be back then. If she isn’t better by then, I’ll tell my dad.”

“Don’t you think he should know?” I asked.

“No, you don’t know my dad. It is better if he doesn’t know. Here are the keys. There is money for food and the adress for the Physical Therapist in the box on top of the fridge. My dad paid the rent for a year. Thanks. I really appreciate your help man, ” he said before I could say no.

The next day, I went to knock on Ati’s door. Ati didn’t answer so I opened with the keys Teju had given me.

“Are you my new baby-sitter?” she asked as soon as I entered the place. “Are you going to spoon feed me too? And why are you always wearing those stupid headphones?”

“They are noise canceling. I don’t like noise,” I said.

“You don’t like noise and you don’t like light either,” she said referring to my sunglasses. “What kind of weirdo are you?”

“I have Asperger,” I said. “I’m sensitive to those. Now, may I sit down?”


17 thoughts on “Broken Days, Unbroken Nights – Part 1” by Jefsaraurmax (@jefsaraurmax)

  1. I feel for Ati and hope she recovers quickly in order to go back to the studio… her father needn’t know about the whole happenings…

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting @innoalifa.

  2. Nalongo (@Nalongo)

    I like the story.

  3. oxymorontalks (@oxymoron93)

    hmmmm. wat can i say..short and direct. i beginning to think ati would fall in love with david. but for a moment there,i thought their meeting was abit too “ordinary”. i am just so nigerian and getting friends like that is kind of hard here.lovely piece though

  4. @oxymoron93, thanks for your comment. Ati just got to her new apartment in Miami and she’s not familiar with the place.David seems friendly and she asks him for help.Her mother was American so she probably is used to the way of addressing people that she doesn’t know as one does here.Plus she is a very outgoing person. My oldest daughter who is an aspiring Alvin Ailey dancer, was part of my inspiration for this story.She has a very easy way to make friends and a lot of people usually like her. She will also help me write the next part as I don’t much about dancing terms.

    1. oxymorontalks (@oxymoron93)

      okay then.great piece…and uhm!i could meet your

    2. O-Money (@Omoniyi-Adeshola)

      @jefsaraurmax, spoiler alert!!!! We can wait…yes, we

  5. I would like to say that there are several reasons I wrote this story a little more than a year ago. The first one is I have a daughter who is only 12 but who knows that she wants to be an Alvin Ailey dancer and that her passion is something I truly admire. The second is that when I took a class of creating writing years ago, I met a young woman, about 20, who had a life dream of becoming a ballerina and that her dream got shattered when she broke her leg.She was told then that she could never dance again.I was always wondering how one does come to term with something like that.Last, about two months after I wrote my story, the Boston Marathon bombing happened.One of the people who lost their limb, was a young dancer, Adrianne.Her courage and faith that she would dance again inspired me to pursue the story this year. She just danced last month on the show “Dance with the stars”. Resilience against the odds in people is one of my favorite theme.

    1. O-Money (@Omoniyi-Adeshola)

      @jefsaraurmax, yeah, I read about Adrianne. She is still so raw that in the recent countdown to this year’s Boston Marathon, she insisted that the name of the surviving bomber not be mentioned in an NBC interview she was to be featured on. But they had to, so she refused to go on and left. I hope she fully recovers.

      Meanwhile, I too sit beside (invisibly) David, waiting and watching for the next installment. Good start.


  6. Inspiring But The Prompt Happenings Of Events Like The Sudden Meeting And The Sudden Accident Looks Too Prompt

  7. thanks for reading @sarahchristy21.Do you mean it is too fast for them to get together? She is new and they are neighbors.They are both young and he looks harmless.I don’t think it is something unusual here.Especially in Brickell which is a business area. Also it is a short story so things need to happen. :-)
    The first time they meet is in April.Since they are neighbors, they see each other in the hallways after that but they have a different schedule.He has Asperger so he can not be in contact with too many stimuli and he works at night at the library.Also he is shy because of his condition so he may not have initiated any other meeting.The accident happens in July.Miami is a big city and it would not be something unusual.It could be a hate crime.

  8. Distinguished (@DistinguishedAnoke)

    I like this story! Looking forward to the next part (@jefsaraurmax)

  9. I enjoyed this.
    Clear narrative, interesting dialogue and uncommon themes.
    I know a bit about asperges syndrome, so I am interested to see how you will pull it off.
    Well done.

  10. Thanks @olajumoke! I hope not to disappoint.

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