Where we fell

Where we fell

I was found at the foot of the bed, dead.

It was your last wish.

I try not to think of it any more, but when I do, I see you. I see your dark curls that never stayed in place no matter how hard you tried. I see that face, the one I constantly fell in love with even when all wasn’t well, the one whose smiles made me feel I could touch the skies without reaching out, the one that watched me as I bled to death.

I still wonder, though. Why did you do it?

It was true that at times, while on the busy streets of Lagos, I caught your stray eyes watching anything that happened to fall into your line of vision. At first, it was the provocatively dressed child talking with her friends, then the ordinary banker reading the newspaper at the vendor’s stand and even the young mother coaxing her infant into the hospital. I never knew what thoughts you explored at those moments. I didn’t want to.
I just knew I had to hold on; to believe and soar. How laughable that idea must have been.

I will never forget what you said when I brought it up months later. Even though your response was nothing special, it remains perfectly carved into my being as part of my existence with you.

You had just turned your face away from the waitress at the lounge. You had made your decision already, but I just didn’t know it yet. The music was booming way over the voices of everyone talking.

I leaned into you so you could hear me. “I notice, you know?”

“What do you notice?” You said, amusement dancing in your eyes.

I couldn’t answer while looking into those black eyes, so instead I fixed my eyes on the dance moves of the hype man.

“The girls, Rotimi.”

I was happy when I saw the confusion cloud your eyes. It made me feel more secure knowing I might have been wrong.

“I still do not understand.” You sounded worried.

“I see how you look at them, even when I’m right by your side. It isn’t fair, you know?”

Surprisingly, you held out your hand for me. I took it and looked up at you. 

“Asake, you have no course to worry. I’m yours for eternity, no matter what happens.”

“No matter what happens?” I thought I had heard another meaning in your words.

“Look around, Asake! They are everywhere. You can’t tell me not to notice; I am not blind. Besides, even though honey is used by almost everyone and everything, it’s still attributed to the bee.”

Your friends, Tayo and Wale, joined us at our table and that was the end of that conversation.

At least, to you.

I wondered what you meant about the honey and the bee even as we drove home that night. It made no sense to me. But still, I held on desperately to your promise to be mine for eternity.

I believed you.

I thought of that moment, years later, when you brought in Labake to live with us. Even though you said it was Mama who complained about wanting to have a grandchild before she died, I felt that you were truly a jar of honey. Labake was only an helpless ant.

But then, as we got back home that day, you pulled me into your arms and let me place my hands on your chest. Your whistled my favorite song under your breath and watched all my fears and doubts disappear into oblivion.

In that moment, I was spellbound. My belief was strengthened. Looking back, I’m guessing that was how you wanted me to feel. Why did you end up making a mockery
of it?

While you’d held me that night, and every other night for the whole five years, you’d thought of nothing else but whether to get rid of me or not. Am I right? I was like a trophy worth keeping, one kept on the shelves to collect dust. Kept not for its beauty or splendor, but for the evidence of achievement.

You had no intention of making your plans known until the very end, but I ended up making things easier. At least you had enough reasons for doing what you did. How excited did that make you feel?

Do you remember the first time I yelled at you? That was two years after you brought Labake into our home. You had just walked in through the doors and I was too upset to wait for you to take your shower.

“I want to know why I couldn’t use my car to get to the salon today.”

You sighed and looked up at me with anger etched over your beautiful features. “Labake needed a bigger car to get the children to school and to take herself to work, okay?”

You sounded like I was being too difficult.

“But that’s my car, Rotimi. I have places to get to also.”

“You could take a cab or order a ride, Asake. This thing isn’t as hard as you make it look.”

“Why can’t your wife order a ride or something too?”

“If you had your own children, Asake, would you leave them to get to school on their own, with a rider you do not know from Adam? Answer me Asake. You do not have a place of work to get to each day, so why should this be an issue to you? You might as well give her the car for the time being, until I’m able to get one for her.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. That was when I flared up.

“Rotimi, can you listen to yourself? You asked me not to work when we got married nine years ago.”

“That was because I never had any idea you were an empty container.” 

“And how is that my fault? You know how hard I tried, you know how many doctors I visited. Rotimi, they all said nothing was wrong with me. You were there!”

You were upset I raised my voice at you, so upset that you ordered me not to ever use the car again.

I saw something blossom in your face that day. Years and years of being with you had taught me what it meant. My little protest was the opening you had been looking for.

Afterwards, I was toast. Nothing I did would have ever made a difference.

You hit me, slowly, carefully, deliberately. Funny enough, the only sound that was heard was that of your loud grunts, your whip on my skin, the insults of Labake.

You did keep your words, of course. I was yours till eternity. You never sent me out. I’m grateful you didn’t; I wouldn’t have been lasted that long without you.

When I was nine or ten, I had a doll. I’m not sure I told you this story. I couldn’t sleep nor eat without it. No matter how hard my brother tried to take it away from me, it never worked. I would fall ill right after I discover the doll was nowhere to be found, and he would just have to bring it back to me. That was how I was with you. 

I don’t know what point it all worsened. Do you? 

You came towards me very slowly but steadily, moving through the paths of my heart; paths you created. You knew your mark and went for it.

At first, it was tolerable. Maami had always told me to persevere; that marriage wasn’t a bed of roses. She said it was better to suffer in your husband’s house than to be sent away and get replaced with another woman. Maami emphasized on watching you with sealed lips, because a husband’s joy is in the patience of his wife.

I believed her also. Well, until I couldn’t take it anymore.
The girls kept on trooping in. Labake saw nothing wrong about it and you expected me to feel the same way.

I’m sorry I couldn’t.

You got angry at my displeasure and protest. You reduced me to a punching bag. I got my first slap, my first concussion, my first belt wound, my first … It was horrible.

Your mother saw nothing wrong with it. A wife should be subdued. Those were her exact words.

Annoying was the fact that you kept on saying you loved me. And stupid was the fact that I kept on believing you over and over again. I loved you to a fault, Rotimi.

The doctor said I was depressed when I wouldn’t come out of my room anymore.

I wasn’t.

I had grown too tired of the heartaches. I decided I wasn’t going to take it anymore. But walking away wasn’t an option. Maami wouldn’t receive me. To her, I hadn’t tried enough.
That night it happened, I discovered I needed more from you. So much that it wasn’t worth fighting or waiting for anymore.

That was when the plan stretched out beautifully in my head. I was ecstatic.

Labake had gone to her mother’s house for the weekend.  I had just thirty minutes before you went to see your flock of girls.

The clock chimed six and I walked out to prepare dinner. It wasn’t exactly your favorite and you made sure to nag about it. I watched as you swallowed each morsel of eba, willing you to look into my eyes and see my resolve. If you had, I might have changed my mind. Your eyes always had that effect on me.

But you never looked at me. I guess you couldn’t bear to.
I waited till you were done eating before asking you. You were dumbfounded as it was unexpected, even to me. It was a last minute addition. I wanted to know if you still really loved me enough to want me in your house.

The look in your eyes broke my already fragmented heart into several smaller pieces.

My head throbbed. I couldn’t stop the shaking that followed. I had known this would happen, but I never knew it would hurt that much.

You joined me in the room, to help gather my belongings. We worked in silence. You were so lost in thought that you didn’t notice me tuck it at the waist of my skirt.

Looking back now, I know you were not exactly excited. Your little trophy was leaving and there was nothing you were doing to stop it.

I turned to face the window and I caught you staring at me. It was almost like the first day we met. The lights played with your eyes, and I had to try to remember to breathe. I moved closer to you, wanting to feel your soft breath on my face. You moved too, pulling me even to you.
We stayed that way for a while. I missed over what could have been and tried to decipher where I went wrong. What did you think about?

Your hands moved to my waist and I lifted my face to meet yours. Somehow, I felt bad about kissing you , knowing that it was all coming to an end. But it still felt good.

You pressed my body flush against yours and tipped my head backwards. Your hands were buried deep into my hair and for a minute I was scared. Scared of letting it go on longer and in the process loosing the ability to end it all. Scared of letting you see through me, the way you had always have.
But my worries only ended up being a waste of time.

You pulled your lips away from mine and rested your chin against my head.

“I’m sorry for all the pain I caused you.” You muttered.

“I’m sorry too.”

It happened so fast.

The black handle of the knife stuck out from your stomach. I was going to go for your heart, but you had just shown me there was still something left in there, although I wasn’t sure I it was only pity.

Shock flitted through your eyes, then the pain registered.

“Screw you!” You screamed out as you fell on the bed.

I stared numbly at you.

“I …wish you… death!” You were almost inaudible.

“Of course. We will meet soon.”

Then, I put the knife through my heart, for all the pain it made me go through.

It did wrong by falling for you.

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