Get into your car on Saturday morning, wearing the slim Gap jeans and a plainwhite tee shirt. Slide on the gold bracelet she got you last year that you keep in your glove compartment. Discard your reservations about it being too feminine. Its glint in the sunlight will come in handy.
Take a deep breath then turn the key. Head towards Ojodu. Don’t pass Alausa, there is a protest causing slow traffic. Something about librarians’ not being appreciated by the government. Do not remember her love for books. Do not remember the pile of books she has bought you that stand on your shelf, propped up against each other as if seeking warmth to get over your lack of attention.
Take the other road opposite Zenith Bank. Slow down at the junction- there is a woman selling puff-puff whose stand juts into the road. The locals’ are under her spell, you could get stoned if you disrupt the solemn proceedings. Do not remember that she is a small chops aficionado, because buying her a few morsels of the oily goodness will earn your white tee, premium stains when she flings them at you.
Stop for the couple at the Zebra’s Crossing. Even when they giggle and cuddle and make googly faces at each other instead of walking smartly across, keep your foot on that brake pedal. You are working at being a more sensitive man. Remember the speech she gave you that day at the hospital. When she walked away.
When she called you an irresponsible, kamikaze, reckless man. When she called you an insensitive agbaya who put his hedonistic pursuits before any humane considerations.
When she had pressed the base of her hand, where it meets the pulse of her wrist into her bleeding eyes, smudging eyeliner and turning her into a hurting Panda.
You had stared at her because the drugs turned you into a zombie: an unfeeling catatonic zombie who watched the black tears make tyre tracks on her powdered face but didn’t- couldn’t- move a hand to wipe them. Or raise an eyebrow to acknowledge them.
That was the only thing that wasn’t your fault.
- Shake your head to dispel your thoughts. - Turn into her street. - Don’t park in front of the white edifice that is her father’s house. - Drive past it. Keep going. - Keep going down her street till you get to the abandoned incinerator piled with rubbish that reminds you of the state of your relationship, your heart. File this away to say to her. It sounds like an analogy she would appreciate. - There, you wait.
- While you wait, practice a speech while staring at your reflection.
“I’m so sorry. I was young and stupid…” Toss that. You are neither young nor stupid.
“Things just got overwhelming. I know now that I want to be better.” You ditch the first sentence and keep the latter.
It is now she will show up, before you are ready. She will head toward you, hands laden with the house’s trash to be dumped. You notice that she is wearing your Arctic Monkeys shirt, you are pleased. Then you reconsider, because she is wearing your favourite shirt to dump trash.
You will notice the droop in her shoulders, seemingly from the weight of the shiny bin bags; but you know why they are achieving such an angle. It is you.
Watch as she approaches; the possibility of a second? third? fourth? ..another chance making yourheart beat double-time.
You will notice when she notices you. Her steps will falter and she will raise one of the bags higher to restore equilibrium.
By the time it occurs to you to help her out, she will be by your side, ignoring you and deftly flexing her arms to send the bags swinging.
A whiff gets to you when you open the door. It smells like a bad omen.
- Block her path. Hold her arms. All while repeating, “I’m so sorry.” She will try to get past you. You must not let her. Follow her left, then right. Then right, then left- as she tries to escape your words. Left. Right. Right. Right. Left. Like an awkward dance you saw on TV, all arms and knees and angles.
- When she stands still in exasperation, launch into your speech. Forget the one you have just semi-prepared. You won’t be able to help the speech deteriorating into gibberish.
Tell her it’s the devil. Tell her it’s the devil’s demons. Tell her you will start going to church with her. Stop smoking weed. Stop hanging out with Gbenga and Osi. Stop masturbating.
Promise her the sun, the stars and Obasanjo’s farm.
- Raise your hand to frame her face. Make sure the sun glints off the bracelet. To catch her attention. To tell her you mean business.
But you will not be ready for her recoiling instead of unfurling. You will stand, confused, as she takes a step back from your reaching hands. You will feel bereft. You will shrink inside as she goes around you – silent as you were the night she said goodbye.
- Turn to watch her walk away. Steadily, now. One foot in front of the other, going farther and farther away.
- Remember a silly song she always sang during karaoke. Those karaoke nights where she competed with your phone and bottles of Guinness and friends for your attention, for your smile, for your acknowledgment.