18 days. It’s been 18 days exactly since she left, and this time she didn’t tell me when she’d be back. I wish I could laugh; I wish I could find it funny how the number 18 is also symbolic for the number of years that I’ve been breathing.
To breathe doesn’t mean to live. For the last two years my heart has been beating, my lungs have worked in the way they are commanded to, but I feel dead to the world. Every morning I wake, look in the mirror and touch its smooth surface. Cold. Just the way I feel – unable to smile, and numb to emotion.
It began on a crumpled sheet of lined paper that she’d torn from one of my college notebooks; scrawny thick handwriting that she probably thought would comfort me, but did nothing but chew on my heart one muscular fibre at a time. I love you, she’d said; I don’t want to hurt you, she’d declared; I just need to sort herself out was her attempt at an excuse. I’d found the note stuck on the inside of my bedroom door, she hadn’t even given me the chance to discover that she’d walked out, but threw it right in my face.
I suppose I should have cried – that would probably have been the most natural thing to do, but ever since she threw Dad out my view of her has catapulted to an extreme low.
Dad. With his smooth olive skin and wide almond eyes that boast an almost emerald shade; eyes that caused my friends to giggle and comment on how ‘gorgeous’ they are. Dad. The man who had no shame in scooping me into his arms when I was least prepared to run away; who’d spin me until my lungs shrieked that they couldn’t keep up with the laughter. Dad. The pillar I always leaned on for solace, advice, and best of all, knowledge. Dad – a synonym for gone.
That night two years ago when she threw his clothes onto the porch was when I learned how many tears my eyes have the capacity to produce. She was hysterical, shouting that he’d done enough damage, had caused enough scandal in the family, and that she never wanted to see his face again. But I did. I tried so hard to reject the accusations she hurled his way, yet the way he stood there, with the bottom of his eyes lined with a pool of tears – unblinking – I knew there must have been a degree of truth thrown in somewhere. And when he turned away and she slammed the door, walking straight up the stairs past me, the dagger was pulled from my heart and I’ve been bleeding ever since.
Seeing the note on my door didn’t shake me nor did it alarm me; I just felt sad. She had ejected Dad from my life and then chose to eject herself, yet she still expected me to carry on as normal, playing out as though life was in the perfect state it should be. It doesn’t even work like that on-screen, how then could it work in reality? I pulled the note from the door and found no reassurance within it.
Habiba, it’s just you and your Lord now – I said that when she returned three days later, and I’m saying the same thing today.
© LaYinka Sanni, November 2011.