One…Two… Three… And he was gone. Dead like the silence. Gone like the day. It was a scary dark that clothed the earth when the cry rose like a warrior’s wail from the depths of the middle-aged woman’s womb. The very womb that had carried her children. The same children who were gripping unto their father praying that that last whiff of air he’d breathed wasn’t really his last.
No one ever believed that death would come to visit them someday. People died in their numbers daily, but, the reason it was easy to turn back and sigh and look straight ahead again and resume the smile was because it just never could be them or someone dear to them in that state. Maybe this unconscious belief was instilled by God so man wouldn’t be so conscious of death’s proximity until it was undeniably there. Maybe it was a foolish obstinacy of man to continue to live in a fantasy world belligerently refusing to acknowledge the Great Day always lounging near.
In this modern day family house, death had fallen in love. It had wooed and courted and when the day had gone asleep, had stolen its first kiss from the luscious lips of Ebere.
“What am I going to do, please tell me. What will I do without you?” was Monica’s continuous cry.
Heavens knew she’d loved that man, her man. They hadn’t been like those who married for money or for mere companionship or just so they could tick that off their list of achievements or maybe for regeneration. They had had love from the very start. It had burned like a volcano replacing the blood running through their veins with fuel.
She stretched her two open palms towards the lifeless body of a once handsome man, still handsome in his few minutes of death.
“How am I supposed to live without you?” she asked again, maybe, hoping to strike a guilty conscience in the now useless mortal body, or maybe, because that was the only thought that enslaved her mind at that moment.
She closed her eyes rocking herself determinedly front and back, side to side as the liquid flowed freely on its path down her eyes and nose sneaking into her parted mouth and then finding a route further down.
Down down it kept going, until her hand ached and she’d to leave it half weaved.
“Should I come and help you?” Ebere teased, sauntering into the open compound.
The sweat on his temples sheened with the aid of the shea butter he’d masagged into his skin so that, even as he smiled, he eagerly dabbed at those beads of sweat that had made friends with him on that raging day.
“Yes oo,” Monica laughed thinking the young man that so stole her breath away just by a simple flash of teeth couldn’t actually be skillful in the feminine art of hair weaving.
She was still thinking that when the 6ft and ‘jara’ man took her rich, African hair in his hands, dividing it into rows and weaving it neatly to the back where it fell at her shoulders. It didn’t exactly fall, it just stood rigidly in defiance.
All the while, as he made the cornrows, he told her how he had learnt to braid hairs practicing on his younger sister’s willing and available hair. Then he’d told her how soft and full and long her hair was.
“And it’s very dark,” he was saying. “You have the most beautiful hair,” he nearly whispered as he finished the last cornrow.
He robbed her shining and braided hair back and forth tenderly in a caressing manner. Monica sat so still as the pressure of his hand somehow, for whatever reason, made her weak. If not for that, she’d have loved to take those large hands of his and kiss them thoroughly, hoping that that alone could erase all images of other girls permanently from his mind. She had this most selfish urge to have him all to herself and she couldn’t possibly say how she come about it.
Ebere had come to crouch before her taking her both hands in his—like he had read her mind—hoping no one would come upon them at that moment.
“Monica, to me, you are the most beautiful person in the whole world,” he began, “if I were a poet, God knows I’ll spend all day writing about your beauty and how much you mean to me. But, I’m lacking in words. But if you’ll let me, instead of writing them down, I’ll spend the time showing you what a rare gem you are. I’ll kiss your hair everyday so that it will be a long time before the grey finds its way there. I’ll treasure your heart so that the starlights will never leave your eyes. I’ll write my love lyrics in the hearts of the morning birds, let them sing them as your everyday wakeup call and I’ll plant a beautiful garden and you’ll be the only flower in it.”
And as Ebere who claimed to not be a poet went on and on about his poetic declarations, love became poetry and poetry, love. And in between the hair braiding and love rhythm, in between the seconds before a heartbeat and before the brain could match a name to that tickling reaction in the blood that was chemistry, in between all that time, Monica’s young heart was stolen forever.
Now, sorrow clutched dearly to the walls like the new wallpaper. Genny, Monica’s first daughter, leaned against that same wall staring so focusedly ahead, seeing something there that no one else was seeing. Entranced and lost in a world of her own, was she. Her younger sister, with her night dress enveloping her wispy frame seemed like a magical creature of the night, all alone in that dark world as she held her only companion—now gone too—to her sighing, undeveloped breasts. She lay quietly beside him, tucking him properly into her arms. And because she was so young, it was strange that she only held him like that stroking his chin with the hands of a lover and a look of wistfulness in her eyes. No such expected tear fell. The little one tenderly caressed, seemingly oblivious to every other happening around her.
The newly widowed wife rocked even harder with her hands folded beneath her breasts, even the same one that not so long ago fed the little one that fervently tugged at the hem of her wrapper with tears twinkling in her eyes. She wasn’t crying for the dead, of course. She was still too young to know of death. But, her mother was weeping as never before so, her little mouth opened as she screeched for attention. Still, her mother was dead to this world and only alive in the world of dirges and apostrophes. Even when she finally opened her bloodshot eyes, the lying figure in front of her held her attention alone. He was beautiful even in his sleep, death’s cold kiss lingering on his lips.