“Shhh…This won’t hurt a bit”.
That’s what doctors said right before you feel the prick, the persistent pressure like pain pushing against a threshold.
“This will take the sting away”.
Like sunlight it will keep the vampires at bay but only at the moment just before nightfall will you glimpse the shadows lurking.
Nothing ever really took the pain away. Not the Tylenol, Lidocaine or the Aspirin, Hydrocodone or Codeine.
You fell into a deep slumber only to wake up thinking “It’s not there. That heaviness in my chest is gone”. Then it would hit you like a myocardial infarction. A reminder of all you’ve lost.
It had been five months and Titi waited. She waited and she waited. For everyone’s words to ring true. For the pain to dissolve into blessed numbness and maybe indifference. Her heart still contracted when she heard a voice that sounded close to his, a name like his. Lagos was full of memories of the magical years they’d spent together.
She would run too from Lagos if she knew it would give her the comfort of amnesia but no, Lagos had been home all her life. It seemed juvenile to run. She took long walks in the evenings to clear her head and strengthen her legs.
She took long walks in the evenings to clear her head and strengthen her legs.
Sister Dayo said it wasn’t safe but Titi had always been headstrong. Each walk was a test. A practice for moving on.The thought brought a bittersweet smile to her lips. In less than four months,the pain would have a face, tiny limbs and maybe her father’s smile.
Tears gathered in her eyes again. Damn hormones! She thought to herself. But stupid me. Stupid, stupid me.
Well, stupidity was a famed symptom of love. Love probably fried the limbic system or the hypothalamus or something. Titi mused. A clock chimed in the distance. The clock at St. Albert’s.
I wanted to get married at St. Augustine’s. The thought came unbidden to her. And she almost shushed herself. She scrubbed her eyes with the back of her palms to keep herself from crying and to stop herself from thinking. Her blood pressure was high enough as it was. Hypertension, Dr. Chuma called it.
Ridiculous, she’d told him, I’m only thirty-one.
Thirty-one. She’d turned thirty-one in February. Just after Lanre left. Her walk was taking her nowhere but she didn’t care. She had been on that path to nowhere with Lanre for eight years. How did she stay on that path with him for so long? Why did she stay? Stupid, stupid love. She glanced down at her stomach, a proclamation of that stupidity.
Her walk was taking her nowhere but she didn’t care. She had been on that path to nowhere with Lanre for eight years. How did she stay on that path with him for so long? Why did she stay? Stupid, stupid love. She glanced down at her stomach, a proclamation of that stupidity.
In her black dress and mournful eyes, she looked like the nickname she had earned at work. Black widow. No one knew what she mourned exactly. All they knew was that she did. Her eyes must have given her away, she thought. Titi was just glad to do her job. Working at the Paediatric wing of Bethlehem hospital was a dream, one that she would have overlooked entirely if Lanre hadn’t left. She had been content to let her dreams take a backdrop against his more daring dreams.
Titi was just glad to do her job. Working at the Paediatric wing of Bethlehem hospital was a dream, one that she would have overlooked entirely if Lanre hadn’t left. She had been content to let her dreams take a backdrop against his more daring dreams.
Children. I wanted three. She thought to herself.
Her hand came to rest on her stomach protectively and Lanre’s last words came back to haunt her. After eight years, the man she loved had said to her….
“I’m not ready, Titi”
She stared at him, the threat of tears in her eyes and a kitchen knife in her right hand.
Lanre glanced from the knife to her face and then took a deep breath. The tension in the room seemed to grip them by their throats. They had been standing at the kitchen sink together. He, draining the spaghetti while she chopped the onions. It was hard to tell why her Titi’s eyes watered, the onions or Lanre carelessly tossed words.
“I wasn’t saying ‘let’s get married now’. I was just saying ‘let’s get married soon” Titi said lifting one shoulder noncommittally.
Lanre dropped a kiss on that one shoulder as he brushed past her to grab a fork.
“How is that different Titilayo?. Now, soon..its just time”
“Lanre you’ve achieved everything in your five-year plan. You have everything you’ve always wanted. What’s left?.” She asked. “You’re thirty-four. You have a great job and me. All we need is a church. St. Augustine’s by the way”she added.
“I have you babe, I know that. But then I have student loans up to here and I still need to practice for about five more years”
They’d had this argument several times. It was like arm wrestling with the same partner. You knew who was going to win.
“I’m not getting any younger Lanre. I’m thirty years old and I’ve loved you and only you for eight years. I’ll help with the bills if I have to. What is stopping us? What is stopping you?”
Lanre rolled his eyes. ” I just can’t”
The knife clanged to the ground. “Y-you c-cant?”
He inhaled deeply and rubbed his forehead. Titi frowned up at him. Rubbing his forehead was not a good sign.
“I got the WHO job…Medical officer: HIV and STIs”
Titi blinked for several seconds. “Wow” she finally muttered. “That’s great. I, um…I..”
“I’ll be stationed in Fiji”
“I need to sit down” Titi said finally,feeling for a kitchen chair till she found one and sank into it. Her legs felt weak. It could be hypoglycemia. She shook her head. Some of Lanre’s medical lingo were rubbing off on her. She wanted to speak but the power of speech eluded her.
How did you tell someone you loved in clear terms: “don’t go and chase your dreams. Stay here with me”.
Lanre say something. She wanted to cry.
And then he did.
“I can’t turn it down and I can’t ask you to come with me. Its frigging Fiji!!!”
“I know” she replied, and her voice sounded hoarse,distant even to her ears.
She knew all the reasons why he couldn’t but why did it still hurt so damn much. She felt nauseous all of a sudden. The very thought of the dinner they had been about to sit down to revolted her.
“I need to go” she said stumbling off the chair. “I’ll call you”
“Titi…” Lanre called.
But that was it. Eight years and this was goodbye.
Tears trailed down her cheeks. Ashamed at her weakness she swiped at them with the back of her palm.
The walks aren’t helping. She wanted to yell at God.
And while at it, tell him that unconditional love was lousy.
“Madam,you no go buy torchlight”
She chuckled at the absurdity of it all. A crying, definitely depressed pregnant woman on the street and a mallam was asking “Buy torchlight”.
Only in Lagos, she thought to herself.
If the torchlight would illuminate her life, Titi would buy a carton load. She decided she had walked far enough and headed back towards the estate where she resided with her sister.
The walk back seemed shorter somehow. Lanre always used to say it was mental how the ride back always seemed shorter.
She slowed down at the estate’s entrance to wave at the gatemen.
Had she just heard her name? she wondered.
She hesitated and then pivoted on her heels.
A slender woman beckoned to her from the passenger seat of a tinted car- a Murano.
Warily Titi walked towards it, squinting so as to accommodate the view. The glasses were only partially wound down so she could only glimpse half of the woman’s face and nothing else.
“Heather! Heather Williams!!”She exclaimed on getting close to the car.
“Oh my days! Titi it is you!!”
Running into high school mates was a norm especially when you had schooled at Vivian Fowler Memorial.
Titi and Heather had never been particularly close but Titi felt good seeing someone who had known her at a time in her life before Lanre, before any of the bad things had happened.
“Where are you going so we can give you a ride?” Heather asked in her high-pitched voice.
“Into the estate” Titi replied.
“Okay. Come on in” Heather said
Titi smiled politely, relieved to be off her feet for a while and got into the car.
“Sorry, Titi, meet my fiance Lanre.” Heather said breezily, huge grin in place. ” Lanre this is my old high school senior, Titi Owolabi”.
“Lanre” she gasped.
Heather chuckled. “You two know each other?”
Everything else seemed to fade and all she could see was Lanre. Lanre. Lanre. He was real.
Wait! He was supposed to be in Fiji.
“What about Fiji?” She breathed.
“Fiji?. What’s happening in Fiji?” Heather chimed in.
“I never went”
I never went.
Eight years, five months and all he could say was…I never went to Fiji.
A/N: something from the old blog :). I really loved writing this one. In your free time please listen to ‘You won’t feel a thing’ by The Script, it’s the perfect accompaniment for this story.