Halfway through the hallway, Waziri traced his steps to a stop. He can’t make it further anymore. He’d left his morale few minutes ago with the doctor who was the fifth optician to have condemned him to blindness. They’d all said he’s never going to see again. The doctors’ analysis crumbled his world, his vision, passion, dreams, aspirations, and flushed everything down a long dark tunnel.

The most painful part was his wish to marry the most beautiful woman in the world – since that’s gone too, he’s certainly going to die a sad man because no woman, even the perceived ugly ones, would marry a blind man.

Waves of agony ran through his frigid veins as his legs suddenly grew too heavy to move. The kind man who helped him to the doctor’s office in the morning had left him for his business – just a volunteer who also had his own worries anyway. Waziri was on his own except for the walking stick he was given, which could not show him the way. To mock him further, his bowels began to brawl, bringing him to a halt.

“There should be a toilet nearby,” he thought to himself. Even though he was right, he still needed to be guided.
Immediately he heard a sound, he called out with trembling,
“Excuse me! Excuse me!”
But the call met a wrong person; a young patient whose ears were blocked with a large music device as he kept nodding to a soulful tune, perhaps to soothe his pains.

If Waziri could see, he would have advised the lad to always tune down his music and listen more often to people in distress. But he couldn’t see anything, and sadly the boy couldn’t hear him either.

As another footstep advanced, Waziri yelled as though his life depended on it;
“Please help a blind man!”

He’d hoped it was loud enough to change minds. As he waited a while for a response, he could feel the surge of feces dripping from buttock down his laps. It was almost too late.

“Are you okay, sir?” a soft, feminine voice asked. Waziri froze. For a moment, he forgot about his stomach upset. “Could it be God has sent him an Angel?”
“Please, lead me to the toilet?”
“Are you alone?” the lady asked.
“Yes, please I…”
“Don’t worry sir…” and then Waziri felt a soft palm gently holding his arm.
“Just follow me sir.” And they walked.

Waziri followed the young woman silently until they arrived at the restroom.
“Okay sir, here we are. I’ll wait outside. Or do you need help?”
“Thank you, I can do it…”
Waziri really needed help, but he didn’t know how to ask a stranger for help with himself, and also considering the unpleasant warm wetness under his pant.

“Are you sure you don’t need help?”
“No I’m fine, thank you.” Waziri’s stubbornness was the only thing blindness didn’t take away from him.

Few months later, Waziri had come to accept his fate as a blind man. He had mastered his surroundings, the perimeters and major landmarks which helped him to navigate his way as he resumed living a normal life again.
One day, while waiting to cross a busy road, Waziri heard a familiar voice.

“Do you need help, sir?”
The voice chimed in a very familiar tone and he recalled the woman who helped him to the toilet few months ago at the hospital.
“Yes please, thank you. And thanks for the other time too.”
“You remember me?”
“Yes… the voice. I thought you were an Angel the other time.” He said jokingly.
“You have quite a memory sir”
“All thanks to blindness,” he joked, and they laughed as the lady helped him across the road.

“What is your name? I forgot to ask the other time.”

Waziri wished he had rehearsed this, as he felt the same strange tickle he’d felt on his first date with a woman.

“My name is Chioma. I’m your new neighbor.”
“Oh, really? My neighbor? You work at the clinic?”
“No, I went to visit a friend.”
“I thought you were a nurse. Thank you so much for the other day.”

Chioma led Waziri home that day, and also helped him other days. Soon, they became good friends afterwards, and later developed strong feelings for each other.

Neighbors began to taunt her. She was a young woman with sensually unattractive features. She had no suitors because men would not look her way twice after the first careless glance, because they found her annoyingly unattractive. At a point, Chioma was advised by her family to end the awkward relationship with a blind man. They told her that being ugly was far better than being blind, but she ignored everyone.

One day, Waziri finally asked Chioma to marry him. It was the sweetest thing anyone ever said to her, the first time a man ever proposed love to her, but then she was scared to say ‘yes’ because Waziri had no idea what she looked like. She knew that he was only in love with her voice and character.

“What would be her fate if he regains sight?” she asked herself. “Surely, he’d certainly run like everyone else,” she concluded.
Waziri and Chioma lived as man and wife until the year 2017, exactly one year after their marriage.

Months later, Waziri attended a free medical outreach at the general hospital sponsored by a foreign health agency where his eyes were examined and it was found that his type of glaucoma was redeemable by a surgical procedure. Good enough, the surgery was free, so he opted for the chance and the surgery was successful.

Chioma was home, making dinner that she’d take with her to the hospital. She had no idea Waziri was through with his surgery and was home already. He couldn’t wait to behold his wife, whom he believed was as beautiful as her character and voice. He tiptoed to the kitchen and was already smiling at Chioma, seeing her from behind. She was alerted by the sound of footsteps and she turned at once into Waziri. Immediately, Waziri’s bright smile faded but he quickly made up a fake one. Chioma froze upon finding her husband behind her.

“Can you see me?” she asked, as her legs shook, and her fingers trembled.
“Yes,” Waziri replied.

Chioma was happy that Waziri finally got his sight back, but she feared for herself. Waziri could see the fear in her eyes. He’d loved her already, at least, if not her look, he had come to love her heart and sincerity. Unfortunately he couldn’t tell between love and disappointment, the exact way he felt at the moment.

“You’re beautiful,” he said, smiled, and then walked away.

No man ever told Chioma that she’s beautiful. She doubted Waziri. From the look in his eyes, he only wanted to make her happy with an insincere compliment. Waziri neither returned home that day, nor the day after. He was disappointed with what he saw, and blamed it on blindness – if he had his sight, he wouldn’t have accepted any help from her.

Days and weeks passed, he didn’t return. Chioma was not surprised. She’d expected even worse. She was lonely, stranded, confused, and scared. Everything tasted bitter in her mouth and she didn’t stop spitting. She’d thought the soreness on her lips was some malarial symptom until she saw two lines on her pregnancy strip some days before. She was going to tell Waziri, but waited to be very sure. It would have been a memorable night breaking the good news to him.

On a very sickly and cold morning few days later, the door bell rang. Chioma braced her usual morning fever and got to the door. A man came in with an envelope addressed to her. It was strange. “who would want to send her a letter instead of a phone call?’ she’d wondered. The man looked at her with wide eyes, and then frowned.

“You’re Waziri’s wife?” he asked
“Yes I am, and you are?”
“His elder brother. Please sign these papers!”
Chioma never knew Waziri had a brother, he never mentioned any. She could see the discontent in his eyes but then must attempt a good first impression against all odds. She found the letter addressed from the state high court, and then, Waziri wanted a divorce.

“I have to take it back to the court today, you need to sign something.” The man said.
“Can’t I speak to my husband first?”
“Maybe you should call him.”
“He doesn’t take my calls.”
“Look madam, e be like sey ya juju don expire, why don’t you sign this paper and let the innocent man go in peace? You go fit let ya brother marry person like you?”

Chioma ran inside the bedroom and shut the door.
Tears flowed down her cheek as she rolled herself in bed wishing death would just come to her, but then she would die angry. She was angry at God for making her ugly, angry that Waziri’s so called brother never showed up during his trying days, angry that the world would never accept her. There was no point living, so she decided to end it all. She looked to the kitchen, there must be a way out. She thought of stabbing herself, but then felt it was too slow and painful. “There must be a quicker way to die,” she’d thought. “The ‘sniper’! Yes, the sniper.” She remembered she’d bought a very lethal pesticide called ‘sniper’ few days ago. She’d read of many suicide stories on Linda Ikeji blog and Opera news, and each of them were sniper-related.
As Chioma made her way to the kitchen, she found the man still waiting.

“Madam, stop wasting my precious time o!” he hollered.
Chioma ignored him, and kept to the kitchen.
“Okay, no wahala, go and come, I’m still waiting.” The man mocked.

Chioma looked around the kitchen searchingly. She already had the sniper in hand but perhaps needed to give her kitchen a farewell glance. She took a deep breath and then, a sip. Few minutes past, yet she didn’t feel a thing. Her eyes glistened with dry tears and her stomach was as silent as a graveyard.

“Woman! I don’t have all day. Come and sign this thing!” the man yelled from the living room.

Chioma ignored the man and sat on a kitchen stool, but he kept ranting. Slowly, his voice began to fade away from her hearing and her breathing began to fluctuate. She gasped like a fish out of water, grasped her throat in a bid to spit out the sniper, but spat out blood instead. The kitchen became dark all of a sudden, and she felt as though her intestines were being stirred in a cooking pot. She’d wanted an easier and quicker death than this one, but it was too late to reverse. Her eyes blinked for a last time, letting out one last tear drop, and then shut down, slowly.

Waziri was on his way to meet his new bride when his elder brother called him to come to the hospital where Chioma was receiving treatment. He wasn’t interested in the details, but only said he’ll come after his traditional marriage. Chioma was discharged few days later. She never returned to Waziri’s house, but instead moved to a new town. Not like anyone cared to know though, but then she never disclosed her destination to anyone.

Waziri later visited the hospital, hoping to introduce his new bride, a very beautiful woman (just as he’d wanted), to Chioma, but was told that Chioma had long been discharged.

Waziri moved in with his new wife hoping to live his dream married life, but few months into the new marriage, things were already lumpy beyond his expectations. Waziri wanted to satisfy his beautiful wife at all cost and so didn’t mind doing all the cleaning, cooking, and serving to the extent that he had to wake as early as 5 a.m. to make breakfast for his wife before going to work. One day on his way back from work, he got hit by a drunk driver.

Few months later, he got discharged from the hospital, but then was told he may have to live out the rest of his days on crutches. As a result, he was relieved from his job on the grounds of incapacity. Waziri looked himself in a mirror but saw emptiness and misery. He lowered his face and then shook his head, slowly. Everything colorful had vanished. All the bliss and luxury, everything they were used to, and she had withdrawn her loyalty as a result. He never expected things to turnout this way for him, at all.

One day, his wife left for an undisclosed destination. He waited for her return all day, until late in the night. A car drove into the compound. He looked through the window and saw his beautiful wife kissing another man on the lips. He raved, but waited for her to come right in.

“Who was that man!?” Waziri yelled.
“What about him!?” she snapped, and then walked inside.
“Get back here, I’m talking to you!” Waziri commanded, but she kept walking, then he followed her in.
Waziri found his wife packing her belongings, and halted.
“What… where are you going?” he stuttered.
“To be with a real man. A man who can take care of me!”

With a smug face, she weighed Waziri from up to down and added, “uncle if I stay here with you, I will surely starve to death. Please get out of my way!” she concluded, and then pushed Waziri into the bed.
“Please don’t go. I need you,” Waziri begged but the woman was already gone.
Waziri followed to the living room, tried pulling her back, but she pushed him again, slapped his face, and then said added, “Go and find your size, leave good food for those who can afford it!” then she slammed the door behind her.

Waziri watched through the window as his wife threw her luggage into the waiting car. The man already had the trunk open for her. They got into the car, shared another kiss, and then drove off.

Chioma had grown into a stronger woman, all thanks to Waziri’s behavior and of course the unsuccessful suicide attempt which almost cost her life and that of her fetus three years ago. Life had become fairer to her now, thanks to her beautiful daughter Portia who attracted overwhelming attention and favor from everyone they had contact with, even to the extent that she landed her dream job all because Portia mysteriously wondered into the directors office, formed a bond with him, and when it was time for her to get interviewed, her wonder kid was already sitting among the interviewers.

One day, she had a strange dream. In that dream, Waziri was laid in state. She woke with the guilt of not having let Portia meet her father before he died.

Waziri heard an unexpected knock on the door. He hardly had visitors ever since his wife eloped and so was surprised. The knock persisted, he reached for the door, and then froze. Chioma let out a shy smile and then almost choked on her breath—she could swear something died in there.

“Can we come in?” Chioma managed to ask, wishing she could just turn back and save her lungs from exploding.
As Waziri’s face brightens with recognition , Chioma ran a quick scan on him
“Please, come in,” Waziri stuttered while pushing the door farther apart.

Portia sat next to her mother innocently. She’d only been told they were going to meet her cousins and she couldn’t wait to meet her new play mates. Chioma was surprised to see the injured leg, but was more surprised to see how haggard Waziri looked. She looked over his shoulders at intervals, hoping to see his wife.

“She’s not around?” Chioma asked.
Waziri bowed his head and took a deep breath. Chioma knew what that meant. He always did that whenever he didn’t have answers to a serious question. She knew at once something was wrong, and what ever it was, she didn’t want it for her daughter.

“She left, she left me for another man,” Wiziri could neither conceal his teary eyes nor stop them from from dripping.

Chioma too was becoming emotional. But then everything that happened in the past began to replay in her head. Waziri looked at Portia, and smiled, Portia smiled back.
“Your husband is a very lucky man,” Waziri said still smiling at Portia.

“Yes, he is a lucky man, indeed.”
“All I wanted was a beautiful woman. I didn’t see it coming. I had to go blind to find true beauty. I never really needed my eyes to see true beauty.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Chioma grunted as she took Portia’s hand and then stood up from the coach.
“I hope men like you out there can learn from your mistakes.”
“Please forgive me! I was foolish.”
“I did, a long time ago. Everything I am today is all thanks to you. You owe me no apologies.”
“Please!” Waziri said, on his knees. Let’s just be good friend. I’m sure your husband would understand?”
Chioma froze for a moment, but then shook it off. She wasn’t going to let the cat out of the bag.
“I forgave you, but we can’t be friends”.

Chioma took a final glance at Waziri, and then shut the door slowly. She knew she may not hold back the tears any further, so she walked as fast as Portia’s legs could carry. One good lesson life had taught her was never to go back to her vomit. Portia deserved a fresh start, and she was willing to go all the way. As for when to let her know her father, she left that for time to tell.

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