• The Only Space

Love On A Birthday

“Healing  comes in waves, and maybe today the wave hits the rocks. and that’s okay, that’s okay, darling you are still healing you are still healing. ” – Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Its 3 days before my birthday.

I’ve spoken to you twice already. My feelings dance between nerves and excitement but mostly nerves. I can’t quite focus. I can’t decide whether I want to throw up or sing. My body is engulfed in a strong sense of feeling for you.  I could have loved you. In that space of emotional limbo I ran through all the possibilities. You would love me, I would love you, we would get married. I thought of everything. The only thing separating us was distance. But love always transcends time and space right?

I wonder if its a woman thing? How quickly we become attached to people who really aren’t attached to us. Have you ever felt like that before? So filled with thoughts of what could be with someone, that you have already mapped out the ending and the stories in between.

In the story I had written I never planned an ending. Especially not this ending. We were supposed to be forever. It sounds cliche, but the heaviness I felt at the end of what seemed like an era made it clear to me that I never expected an ending, just a lifetime of stories.

It’s  been 10 years since I’ve seen you.  I still remember the smell of your cologne when you walked into my aunts house two summers ago. I remember your outfit. It was a royal blue traditional that made you look like a gift. You seemed to embody the man I had imagined for my future, a suave Nigerian man with the type of taste that  could make anyone weak. You listened to every word I ever said and took the time to get to know me. As you walked out of the car into the house, I peeked at you from the balcony; It seemed like the busy Mushin neighborhood had suddenly become still. The only movements that existed were the shuffle of my feet as they hit the concrete stairs. Just before I reached the bottom of the staircase my friend Odinaka came to get me. She had  spotted you from her house and decided she had to meet you. She leaned in and whispered, “Onyinye this one is a fine bobo”. Immediately a smile spread across my face. My eyes glistened, and my cheeks became hot. I was so certain I had chosen the right one this time.

Its my birthday and I’m sick.

Probably one of the worst days of my life. Everything I wanted to do got canceled. I remember walking into my uncles empty house just as the sun was setting and falling to the ground in tears. I was in Lagos alone. My closest friends and family  weren’t around to celebrate with me. The extended family I was living with couldn’t even really be bothered. The one thing I had was your calls. I needed to talk to you more than ever before and you were there; grounding me, letting me know there would be better days.

You asked for my pictures because you claimed you wanted to surprise me. Naturally I guessed you would post those pictures on social media, but you didn’t. I remember watching and waiting trying to see what you would do but nothing came. Every time the phone buzzed or I got a notification I thought it was you. But it never came. Maybe you wrote it out but then forgot to press send. Can I have it now? To be honest, I couldn’t even really be bothered. I cared but I didn’t care, care.  My mind was still focused on your kiss. The softness of your lips. The way your hand held the lower part of my back. Held me close. But now i’m sick, and we have plans. It was probably the street Suya I bought a few days before. Let’s just say my mind never considered the fact that the meat being sold wasn’t preserved in the thick Nigerian heat. It was just there hanging raw on a cart that doubled as a makeshift grill. Who knows how many flies had tasted the Suya I bought that day. I risked it all that night just for the sweet taste of grilled meat. So, yes I’m sick. I find myself hastily looking for a cure because we have plans. So I take your advice, and buy a  bottle of over the counter medicine for my upset stomach. That night between you and me, I took more than the recommended dosage then I prayed and went to sleep.

It’s the day after my birthday.

And it feels like i’m cured, but weirdly I can’t seem to take a shit. I ignore it. I’m going to see you today. While I can feel my body wanting to scream for help, i’m focused on seeing you. So that morning,  I begin the ritual preparation women go through when they plan on seeing someone special. I do everything from shaving, to my make up. On the car ride over to the Island, I think about how beautiful today will be. We were supposed to do dinner and movie but somehow we end up at your place. I wonder how you convinced me. Or was this the plan all along? We talk for a little bit. You ask me about my research and we talk about the future. I felt so comfortable around you, so secure. Your hands glide underneath my tan skirt. Your movements are soft and tentative. Almost like you are waiting for me to say no. but I don’t. Your lips move to my neck. The softest kisses I have ever experienced. So I open up. I allow the both of us to experience this moment. Our bodies, our movements feel so eager and magically connected. I could have loved you.

My birthday is long gone.

The day we spent together has ended.

And I am here sick because the drugs I took simply prolonged the inevitable, I can’t move my body. I’m too weak to eat,

and I can barely sleep because the toilette and I see each other every 20 min. I haven’t heard from you for the first time in years. When I gather the courage to ask you if everything is okay you text back saying “I don’t think this will work”. My heart sinks. I think I knew before I even received your message.  I didn’t read any of the messages that came after that. I lay on my bed staring at the fan, listening to the sounds of okadas, and street sellers. My room smells a little like sweat and death or maybe I made that up in my head. I tried to pay attention to the voices outside, so I could drown out the intense sadness that had come over me. My body was almost lifeless mostly because I was sick but partially because I was hurt. Two days later still frozen in the same position a tear races down my face and then another. This was the ending I never considered. That night my eyes drained and I hoped for the day that I would forget you and our history.

2 years later, months after my birthday, our memories still dangle in the distance, like a backdrop. I fear that birthday will always be with me……

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