A SUPPOSEDLY BAD DAY
When Sope got out of bed that Tuesday morning, she didnt know this was the day she had long imagined and hope to come, so she grumbled a little at daylight and how gloomy the hours spread out before her would be. She had not gotten any sleep the night before because she was going over the procedure for a surgery she would perform and all the risk factors involved. The big white wall clock with black numbers on her bedroom wall told her she got into bed at 5:38am. She sunk into her bed and turned to her side, faced by the empty space she is reminded of her husband. Emma, her husband of six years and a few months, was away for a few days. You would think after all this time she would get used to his trips but quite the contrary, every time felt like the first time, leaving her sore and impatient for his return. You can go with me you know? He had said. He was right, she could but she also could not; she had finally found a charity hospital for children, intensive surgeries all week for ridiculously subsidized prices. She loved it. It didnt earn a fortune but she didn’t quite need to earn so much as one naira with her husband working at the UN as a socioeconomic consultant, they had enough money to move out of their middle-class bungalow and into one of the mansions down the citys edge; where all their friends lived, but they had never quite fancied the fancy life. Maybe because they both grew up in places of the sort and didnt want to raise their own kids that way—surrounded by enough money to drown in. At a point you start to think, living like that, there isnt a thing money cant buy and thats the beginning of a fall that lands you flat on your face. It had its overflowing perks, but they, Sope and Emma, both agreed there was a line and they would draw that line bold for their own family.
She was just driving into the hospitals yard when Emma called. She parked and picked up. Speakerphone.
Hey Baby. His voice filled the car like a balloon, obliterating everything in its path, including her. Her first.
Hey Mr. M.
He chuckled. Why do you sound like that like you are about to have a bad day.
Her sharply drawn brows were on the rise as he asked, then she answered, barely letting him finish. Oh but baby, you know I always have bad days when you arent here.
He was quiet.
Whats the matter?
Im sorry, I have to stay back a few more days.
She stayed quiet.
Can you not do that? He said in a rush.
Do what? What do you want me to do?
I’m sorry, okay? Ill be back there as soon as I can.
I need you here now, you’ve been gone for 4 days already, and you were supposed to be back tomorrow.
I know, I know. I’m sorry. Can we at least agree that the next time I need to leave you’ll come with me.
You know I…
Can you at least get back here and then well talk about it? How long?
I dont know, two or three days?
Im sorry love.
It’s okay. I’m a little upset but its fine. I’ll call you when I get home.
I love you. I’ll see you soon.
Out the car, black flats on brown sand, then concrete. The hospital was a two storey building by the road, painted a hot pink colour with bluish random pebbles on the walls. It looked like a giant Lego building from the outside. It had to, it was a children’s hospital. Inside though, the walls were a crystal white. They were repainted that colour every month to keep the space serene and clear perhaps. The hospital got its funds from the Federal Government and two or three NGOs that chipped in from time to time. The doctors were all volunteers and had day jobs in other places, unless they decided to work full time, like Sope, which a few others did.
She checked on all her patients, gave the nurses instructions, made funny faces when she needed to, reenacted Ben10 and Princess Fiona. By the time she retreated to her office she could feel the uneasiness well up in her abdomen. More than any other place, this was the place that reminded her of him the most. These faces. She love it here and she hate it at the same time. It was the oddest feeling. With the air conditioner humming in the background she heard herself hyperventilating. E-mails. She should check her e-mails. The distraction did calm her for some strange reason and she was on her feet again in a few minutes, ready to scrub in on her surgery.
The surgery lasted the rest of the day and she was grateful it was successful. This is why I come back here every day she said to her black sleek car as she got in. The feeling of doing something good and meaningful filled her up and she didnt notice when a smile buried itself in her face.
Traffic was in full swing by the time she curved into the main road. Traffic like this always made her go down a trail of thoughts and get lost. It was mostly of her son, but now, because she missed her husband she thought of her wedding day. It seems so far away in the past but palpable still. How unsure she was, even though every minute spent with him cemented her conviction, still when she walked down that aisle she doubted. Am I really doing this? Am I really trusting this man with the rest of my life? And how lucky she got that day. There was no man quite like the man she married. He knew her. He saw her and he loved her. When things got hard, she never feared that he would leave. She would reach and he would be there. Perhaps thats what we all need.
A little after they got married, they discovered after trying to have kids for a while that she couldnt. There was something wrong with her cycles. She wanted kids and she knew they had a chance with IVF. She had been the one to suggest it and he agreed. They got lucky. They got pregnant on the first try. They had himAdetola, the most beautiful creature she had ever laid her eyes on. She thought she had felt everything there is to love with Emma, but Tola open the portal to a whole new world.
On a sunny July afternoon, when he was four, they went to the mall. Hand in hand. They had entered a store to get a few supplies. She dropped his hand for a minute. One minute. And like lightning he was gone. It made no sense. At first she thought he ran off somewhere and she didnt want to make a scene so she went looking for him on her own and asked around. An hour passed and she hadnt found him. She told security, she called her husband. They called the police. Two years had passed now and they still had no idea where He was. People say losing a child is the worst thing that could happen to a parent, but whats even worse than that is not knowing where your child was. Not knowing what they were doing or where they were and not being able to do anything about it. That. That loss of awareness, loss of responsibility, loss of presence, knowing very well that they could be anywhere longing for you as you are for them, is pure torture.
Emma fell apart. They both did, he was better at it. Giving the police something every month so they wouldnt stop looking. He never stopped hoping. Sope didnt care. She could not understand how he was gone in the first place. Why he was gone. Why her. Emma wanted them to have other children, so they went for another procedure. And it failed. And another, and it failed. And she didnt want to do it anymore. And he let her be. She would hear him in the bathroom in the middle of the night, sobbing gently, sniffing like he couldnt breathe, then he would come to bed, lay next to her, fold her in his arms, kiss her forehead and say, Hes alive Sope, he has to be. Hes alive, barely letting the words leave the gates of his mouth like he was telling a lie. He would say it over and over and she would try to sleep believing him.
Its funny that she met him in a public bus, because they both had cars and both their cars had broken down on the same day. Whenever they told this story, wherever they told this story, no one believed them. They themselves did not believe the story was truly theirs, but it was. She had seen a book she loved in his hand, and made a move. And so, conversation erupted. Longest 15 minutes of her life. He found her on Twitter. They were private, keeping this thing to themselves for over a year, until he proposed to her, in the most unpopular way there is. It was dinner, many of which theyve had by now.
I want to marry you. He said out of nowhere
I dont think I could spend my life with any other person. He had said, as if this very fact had just urgently become apparent to him.
Are you proposing to me?
I think I am.
You think? Are you serious?
I am Sope, do you want to marry me?
Yes yes, I want to marry you. She had said, letting herself breathe.
There was no ring. No kneeling. No friends or family. Just them in a random restaurant, on a random night. She had asked him later if he had thought about it at all, or if it was as spontaneous as it seemed. No, no. I knew it was you the second time we spokewas his answer
The second time we spoke was two months after the first time, on a phone call that lasted an hour and half. She had known then too. And had hoped she was right.
She got out of her car to open the gate. Her muscles seemed to ache, she stretched and yawned. Opened the gate. Drove in. Got down again to close the metal gate, looked at her house. Home, she thought and exhaled. She could feel the warmth all the way out here, in the evening cool. She looked at her watch; 7:48pm. Exhale.
Barefoot, bag and shoes in hand, she walked toward the door. Aduke came running towards her.
Welcome ma. Tola came o. Tola came home!
Her heart jumped into her throat. Her arms grew numb so her bag and shoes fell to the floor. Wha what are you saying?
The ache in her body vanished that instant. She ran inside, entered his room and he was there, sleeping in his bed. She dropped to the floor like a globe of water falling from the tip of leaf, entirely. Aduke was saying things.
He said he walked home. He said they took him from the mall, bad men, and, and then, this morning he found himself at his former school, so he started walking home. I bath him and gave him fo
Sope couldnt speak, she didnt have words. She was devoid of weight or comprehension or whatever it was that was supposed to help her come to terms with the present. It was as though the world was spinning too fast for her. Her eyes were pouring out rivers of transparent liquid from God knows where. She did not know what to do, so she laid there on the fur rug with Mickey Mouse smiling right across. She laid there and sobbed, her heart collapsed with unbelief even though she had prayed for this every day. And to think this morning, she had grumbled. To think she had thought, in her infinestimal mind, that today would be a bad day.