This is a work in progress, too. Many “Works in progress”. It’s part of the perfectionist thingy. It bothers me. It’s never enough. But, I try to remind myself, “You can strive for excellence, not perfection”. If These Walls Could Talk 2 wasn’t my muse.
“One day the river will overflow.
And there’d be no where for us to go.
And we would run wishing we had put out the fire.”
- Asa’s Fire on the Mountain.
In her final days, Nelo used to tease me saying I would have her close by if I poured her ashes to serve as manure for the mango tree we had planted earlier this year. That fantasy never materialised into reality; her family members crushed my dreams to dust when they thumbed through the pages of Holy Scripture to say cremation was sinful.
“She lived a sinful life,” her brother seethed at me through clenched teeth and eyes filled with disdain. “At least let us help her do something right.”
Dipo, our last guest, left as twilight came, leaving Diana and I alone in the house that had been home to us for thirty-one years. The bags under her eyes intimated me on how Nelo’s passing dealt a cruel punch to her. The past two weeks were a rollercoaster of many contrasting emotions.
“Ma,” she placed her head on my breasts as we stood in the sitting room. “Will you be fine?”
“Yes, baby,” I muttered into the locks of her hair and pressed my lips lightly against her temple. Time paused to stare at us as we clung on to each other. In that moment, we were only two women seeking solace in each other.
After a while, she broke the hug and held me at arm’s length to gaze lovingly at me, “I miss her so much.” The tears were moistening her dark eyes. She was trying so hard to get it together.
Gingerly, I stroked her cheek with my knuckles and impulsively, a contrived smile formed on my lips, “We miss her.” Seconds of pregnant silence ticked by and I increased my grip on her arm. “You should sleep,” I whispered. Without another word, she let go of me.
All week, I built a dam that held back my tears. I wanted to be strong for Diana. But, in doing this, my tears gathered to form a river. Seeing her walk away from me reminded me of Nelo and my tears threatened to burst the dam.
Trudging to the mantelpiece, I picked the frame with Nelo’s picture. She was thirty-four at the time I took the picture of her. With the frame clutched to my chest, I lumbered into our bedroom. Looking at her side of the bed, sadness made my heart swell. So heavy was its weight on my chest that I staggered and I collapsed on her side of the bed in a heap. Unable to help it, I screamed into the pillow. In doing that, I inhaled her scent- it was sweat mingled with lavender.
The mall was noisy that Friday afternoon and there I was taking a picture of her as she walked ahead of me. Despite being breathtakingly beautiful, Nelo had an aversion for pictures.
Turning on the balls of her feet, she saw me holding my phone and with a certain look in her eyes, she walked to close the distance between us. “Are you snapping me?”
In reply, she shook her head with a smile, “You can’t even lie.” Taking my hand, she steered us towards a shop, “I want you to pick a scent for me from this perfume people.” Leaning into me, she whispered, “It’s your girlfriend-y duty.”
She loved the perfume I picked so much that it became her scent until she passed on.
Two weeks after my 26th birthday in October 2014, my boss insisted that I followed her for an interview she had at a radio station somewhere in Ikeja.
On getting there …
(To be continued)