“You have to own your ‘shit’ to be able to flush it.”

So, as we approach the end of 2015 before you start making the resolutions, think about all your bad choices you refused to take ownership of. Stop blaming the other person, take ownership of your choices. Meditate on the process that led to where you are…..,then move on.

 

BROKEN PHALLUS

Preload 15I grew up in an asylum. My mother was a cowering, slip of a woman who always spoke in a whisper. I think, I must have been almost ten before I heard her speak properly. She was always afraid. The fear was palpable. We, my brothers and I were raised in fear. My father was the originator of our fears. We never knew what could lead to an explosion. He was quick with his fist…..on my mother, mostly. She always walked with a stoop. I hated him as a child. But as I grew older, my hatred for him extended to her. Her weakness and doleful brown eyes, which were usually surrounded by a bruise; her inability to protect herself and us from him.

I have no memory of being happy as a child. Rather, a feeling of constant despondency.No one ever visited us. We were the outsiders in the community. Our house was located at the end of town. Perhaps he chose the location, so no one could hear our screams.As a teenager, I remember being a loner. I was a good looking kid but sullen,a sullenness mostly misunderstood as arrogance. My father had a thriving business and so we appeared to have all money could buy, our family on the outside looking in, was picturesque.

Eventually, my mother died, a victim of an aneurysm. I was fifteen, the oldest and the only one that did not shed a tear. I spent my days taking care of my brothers, especially Luke, the youngest.

My father cried most days after her passing.He would make to start conversations with me,then stop mid sentence and walk away. He cried for a long time, which I frankly found preposterous because of the abuse she suffered. She always seemed to be trying so hard to get some kind of approval from him and he always responded in cruelty. How they made three children was a mystery. I was never going to be like him, or her I had decided long before her demise. I was never going to let another victimize me.

The days after her passing I barely remember.I felt like I was holding on to a precipice….I would have dreams of climbing a steep hill and then my grip would slip and I would fall into a dark abyss. I would wake up always around midnight, shaking, cold and covered with sweat.My father  stopped hitting us. I wondered why. He seemed to slump within himself. He did his bit: made sure we always had clothing, paid our fees, put food on the table but was emotionally and most of the time physically absent…which was fine. My mother was gone, having him lurking around was a reminder he was responsible. My brothers and I seemed to find ourselves in ourselves after Mama passed. They flourished under my tutelage. I tried hard to play both roles. And I guess to a large extent within all the murk and madness, some good had transcended into me. They did well in school and all left home, one after the other. But I stayed behind. Which is laughable because of the three of us, I was the one who hated the house most.My grades were good and I went on to college and became a doctor.

Ministering to the physically broken; listening to their problems; albeit distantly. It was as if I was frozen in time. I had physically grown up but somewhere deep inside, I was stunted. I knew people wondered about me. The lack of interest in the growing female admirers did not help my reputation much. Oh, I dated from time to time. I satisfied my sexual curiosities. In fact, I was sure the stories my conquests shared among their peers contributed to the crowd of fawning female admirers. They found varying reasons to visit the doctor. I did not mind. They paid for my time and I knew right off the bat those who needed a physical exam genuinely from those who just wanted to show off their goods for appraisal.

My only friend was my vocation. I had a social group that claimed me as theirs but beyond our sharing a monthly comradeship, they had no hold over me. I was the epitome of small-town success….yet defective. I knew something was wrong with me. Something was broken and for the life of me, I did not know how to fix it.

I seemed to survive in this limbo of existence. An old girlfriend once said I worked like a dog. She said I spent so much time with my patients; I didn’t have anything left to offer her…..well apart from the few moments of intimacy during the weekends when my partners were on call. It was convenient for me to have a slew of girlfriends anyway, than to have a constant fixture. I was not ready for that kind of commitment. In fact, I didn’t think I was built to offer any kind of emotional succor to the opposite sex. And honestly, women were a tad irritating. With their constant demands for emotional connection; their inability to just enjoy snatches of intimacy without attaching meanings to everything a man does. My recreational bliss playing golf with my erstwhile social group of yuppies in the country club was always interrupted listening to a friend’s marital woes: “I don’t know what’s wrong with Phyllis.She always used to enjoy………now she says I don’t respond to her emotionally. You don’t know how lucky you are”. I hid a smile and made a mental note to tell his wife at our next rendezvous I needed space.

I was seated in my office that day, waiting for my next patient to be called in when I heard a bit of a raucous outside my door, at the reception. I opened the door to see what was going on. She had two little children with her. The youngest must have been about four. A beautiful looking lad, whose face was all grubby from tears and snot. She was an unusually beautiful woman. Her short afro was a dark mass of curly ringlets. A stark contrast to her chocolate complexion. The little boy refused to let his mother leave. She was my next appointment. The older child sat quietly obviously engrossed with the mother’s cell phone, playing a game.
But the youngest refused to let go of her jacket. She looked thoroughly embarrassed. My office assistant continued to insist “Children are not allowed in the consultation room”.

I ushered them in. And with the curl of my lower lip stilled my staff’s protest. The mother thanked me profusely. My office was big enough. I helped settle her children in one corner. I had a supply of coloring books, crayons and candies I kept handy. Experience had taught me children suffered from separation anxieties at times when in unfamiliar environments with their primary care givers.

I asked her routine questions while peering at her history. I tried very hard not to stare…peering at her through my gold rimmed glasses as I routinely typed on my computer. She was of African descent,recently relocated here with her family. I felt my stomach churn when she smiled. I eyed the golden band that circled her left finger. Her eyes sparkled when she mentioned her husband and from time to time looked over to where her children played in the corner.
I washed my hands and did her examination. The professional kicked in and I tried very hard to keep my eyes and ears on the job and not my swollen phallus. My hands were sweaty and my throat was dry.I couldn’t remember when last I felt such a need for another. She said her name was Ameze.

Long after she had left my office and long after I had closed for the day; I declined drinks with my friends and ignored several calls and voice messages left by my current “girlfriend”, I still thought about her. I remembered the way she smiled when she spoke of her husband. For the first time in my life…I wanted that. I wanted someone to make me smile like that. I wanted to have someone hold onto me the way her youngest held on to her. I wanted that light I saw in her eyes. I deliberately avoided her after that. She continued to be a patient in my clinic but I was never her GP.

I started to take a deeper look at my life, my choices and the ache I had in my heart. The ache I tried hard to dull with alcohol and sex. The ache that refused to go away for twenty six long years…after my Mama died. I had tried to cover my pain for so long,I didn’t realize I wore it like a toga. And then the nightmares started again, the same night mares I had when I lost my mother. These time, I would wake up covered in sweat and I would scream out for my Mama. I couldn’t function any more, I couldn’t eat and was loosing weight…..I knew I had to do something. I was after all a practical man. I made an appointment to meet with a colleague whose specialty was psychiatry. After listening to me, he encouraged me to join his grief counseling support group.

For the first time in almost twenty six years I grieved for my mother. I cried and cried till I was hoarse.I grieved for the past, for the boy I was and the boy that was lost. I grieved for the life my mother never had because of her choices. I thought about the pain we experienced through a kaleidoscope of regret. I pulled the stops on hating my father. I realized if I was going to be whole, I had to let go of his throat.

I stopped sleeping with married women and having casual liaisons . I stopped playing golf and started riding a bicycle. I avoided the familiar watering holes and started treating my body with dignity and took time to really get to know my patients.
From time to time, I would see her when she came for appointments….at times with her husband. I saw the gentle way he looked at her. The light in his eyes when she wasn’t looking. Its amazing how meeting a person albeit briefly can change one’s direction, one’s desire to do better, to want more. I found myself after I met her.

 

 

Abeke

tupis

I remember her like yesterday. The soft curve of her cheek, her quirky smile. Her resilient spirit. The strange way she used to feel our minds for our thoughts on a matter and then  take a decision in the opposite direction. Her sweet musky deodorizer. Her gentle disposition and quick wit.

All my feelings came rushing out like the genie from the bottle because I spent the weekend with you. I saw her in your smile. I heard her in your voice. I closed my eyes when you folded me in your arms and I swear it was her.

I bit my lip to silence the tears when I curled up to sleep last night. I felt a plethora of emotions. I had finally come home after running a marathon, and yet I felt a little lost. Thinking about her keeps hurting, when will I have respite? The pain snuck up on me again when I came back from my visit with you. I wanted to stay. I wanted to leave. I couldn’t handle the way I felt. I felt haunted and yet happy I saw her, happy I saw you.

Felix and Hope

We shared the same lobby but did not have the same employer. They both worked for the same employer and all three of us shared the same commute. The first time we got on the train together I sat between them. He had his eyes fixed on her face through out the thirty minutes journey.His eyes brazen in their desire. She was beautiful and I could see why he could not take his eyes off her.He would say something I didn’t think was funny and she would throw her dark head back, ringlets flying in every direction and laugh, a deep throat melodious sound.

I met them at lunch a couple of weeks later….both sitting so close together. They whispered, shared secret smiles and I saw the joy of a new, budding relationship.They waved me over. He tells me they have started dating, I feign surprise.Remember that day on the train…we had dinner and have been together ever since.She tells me:he is wonderful. He says :she is beautiful. They speak in codes but I am able to understand their meaning.

Fast forward a couple of months,I sit beside him alone on the train. He tells me they are having issues. He wants her to move in with him, she wants to keep her apartment.He wants the benefits of a commitment without making the commitment. I tell him I am old fashioned and do not encourage co-habitation. He tells me he loves her. I tell him to be patient.In my heart I feel a certain pride she is not making things easy for him. The following week I share my commute with her. She echoes his frustrations. I ask why she refuses to live with him. She throws her head back and laughs, that familiar laugh. “Been there, done that, bought a t-shirt. It always ends badly, or awkwardly.” She told me how she was stuck living in an apartment with an ex boyfriend who moved on long before she did. The financial mess she found herself because she had prematurely yoked herself into the relationship too soon. She told me, she had been transferred to another location of the same company. She was grateful for the change, things were getting “weird” working in the same place as her boyfriend.

A few weeks later, I sit across him during our commute. He is on his phone,face grim, shoulders tense:texting, calling…he looks miserable. After several minutes, he throws his phone in his rucksack and runs his hand through his blond curls. Whats wrong? I ask him. He tells me she isn’t returning his calls. She wants to take a job in another state. He feels desperate. He tells me he loves her.I feel sorry for him.

I listen to him go on and on. His eyes crinkle at the corners and become teary. Poor man. I think to myself. I tell him to hang in there as he gets off at his stop.I read the familiar thread of events clearly. She wants to leave him. After that exchange, he seemed to have changed his schedule because I didn’t see him for a while.She had taken the job I assumed because I didn’t see her either. One day, forced to work late due to an impending dead line I get on the train with him. His hair has grown longer, he appeared to have gained a bit of weight and he looked happy. I am genuinely happy to see him. He tells me he had changed his schedule to enable him speak with her on the phone. Her state was a couple of hours behind our central time zone. He tells me they are getting married. I am delightfully surprised. He asked her on his birthday. The best birthday gift he ever had.

I receive my invite via mail. They got the spelling of my name right. They include a small note: To Bola, who was there from the beginning.

 

My muffin top

Preload 05

I always took my pre-babies body for granted. My slim body never gave away my sweet tooth.My skin remained clear through out puberty. I assumed my body will stay the same after the babies started coming, I was wrong.

After my first baby was born, my body went back to its original size six after almost six months. Like butter melts under heat, the fat slipped away,effortlessly. I made minimal effort,still ate the same. It seemed keeping up with my maternal responsibilities sped up my metabolism. After my daughter was born, it took my body a shorter time to return to its original size. I didn’t even notice as the weight slipped off, I was that busy.

And then, my beloved Chunky was born…and I grew the ‘muffin top”. My favorite jeans refused to fit. I lingered longer in front of the mirror, doing that familiar dance we women do:sucking in my breath, trying to take a few inches off my waist, swinging left and right, looking for more flattering angles…finding none and feeling frustrated. Each morsel of food seemed to travel down my esophagus and stop at my waist.

I shopped more carefully for clothes, looking for those that could hide the bump that refused to be wished away. I spent a small fortune on body shapers that promised to give the illusion my flat stomach had returned. For the first time in my life, I join a gym. I do crunches, sit ups,run, lift weights….I do everything my instructor tells me like my life depended on it. Everything firms up, muscles I was not originally targeting become sculpted. I lost a few inches in the middle, the muffin top seemed to shrink but my original stomach still eluded me. After several months of “jumpology”I asked my gym instructor for a special course of exercises that would target the muffin top.

He asked me if I had any children. I eyed him and asked him what that had to do with anything. He patiently explained to me the effect childbirth could have on the stomach muscles. No matter how many sit ups, crunches and laps I ran, my middle may never return to its original shape. When he saw how stricken I looked, he advised I may want to consider reconstructive surgery. Surgery? I muttered a couple of very colorful expletives under my breath. I start to ask myself some very hard questions.Why am I so desperate to have the body I had in my twenties? Why am I less accepting of its flaws?What makes me see each bump,wrinkle and wart under a microscope?

And so, after a few weeks I had the talk with my gym instructor I am on the phone with an old friend. He tells me how his stomach has ballooned after marriage, how he couldn’t fit into a very expensive suit his wife had bought him last Christmas.I tell him about the stubborn muffin top. He sounded so laid back and comfortable with his premature pregnancy. I advised him to buy a girdle to take a few inches off his middle, or a crash ‘insanity course”in boot camp. As usual,he is kinder:Buy bigger jeans, he says with a laugh when I whine about not fitting into my favorite jeans.

I do my research. I improve on my diet. I learn to walk away when enticed by my palate. I stopped exercising as if my life depended on it. My body is no longer the one I had in my teens and twenties. It has been through the wringer: three babies, a few surgeries(none for aesthetic reasons),health challenges that have not defeated it and never will by God’s grace. So what if my bulge refuses to go away? I have grown to love every crease, wrinkle and bump. And to all my fellow sisters out there: eat,pray, love and buy bigger jeans.

 

White Crystals

SDC11495I’m sitting at the Istanbul Int’l airport, waiting for my connecting flight back home to Nigeria. I had been on a ten-day course in the Galilee College Israel. I was fortunate to have a little peek to what the capital city looked like…through the window.

I had five hours to kill (or so I thought, turned out to be almost seven hours. My flight was delayed due to bad weather). I sat there wishing I had bothered to get a transit visa, and then I would have been able to tour the city a little before boarding for my final destination, home.

Anyway, I’ve managed to kill some three hours so far: took a shower, made multiple trips to the buffet table, and made good conversation with a friend I had made during the course at the Galilee College who was also travelling on the same route and plane as yours truly.

I’m deep in thought as I watch the crowd of people come and go. I’m thinking to myself:The world is like an airport. Everyone rushing to their final destinations, arriving at different time…everyone in a mad rush. As my eyes wonder back to the big windows, I gasp with wonder. My friend looks at me sharply, a question on his face.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s snowing” I respond with a big grin on my face. He glances towards the direction of my gaze.

“Oh yes, so it is”. He responds before promptly turning towards his book. I remember he is well travelled and not unfamiliar with what presently held me spell bound.

I had read about it, watched it fall in movies and international news, but to see it, coming from a climate that I had never experienced. For me, it was truly amazing. Realizing, I may be the only person in the room that felt excitement for seeing snow flakes, I decided to curb my enthusiasm.

However, I couldn’t help myself. My eyes kept on straying to the window. My companion would look up from his book and try to hide a bemused smile. I didn’t care. I was like a child, experiencing something absolutely beautiful. The pure white flakes rained and fogged the atmosphere. I felt giddy and hoped it was still snowing when my flight was called.

Lady luck was in my corner that day, as I made my way into the cold wintry air, I looked forward to feel the snowy flakes fall on my face and watch it melt away on my coat sleeve. I watched it slide and smiled to myself. Finally, I decided to taste it.

Right there, in the full glare of some of the other passengers (I got some stares but didn’t care); I stuck out my tongue and let some flakes settle on my tongue. It melted in my mouth and was just like the crusty ice that embedded itself in my freezer back home, whenever NEPA allowed it to form.

I settled myself in my seat on the plane and close my eyes briefly in prayer before staring out the window, again. I loved window seats. It gives you the opportunity to experience your journey from take-off to landing…something many people don’t particularly think or care about. Everyone always seems to be in a mad rush….” We don’t take time to take deep breathes, look into each others eyes…and really see the other person. We don’t savor meals, just want to stop being hungry. We don’t take the time to look into the heart of whoever we’ve been blessed to meet, we just want them to meet our needs and then dispose of them, hurting them and cheating ourselves. We don’t take the time to unravel our issues, we just stick them down our loved ones throat and expect them to deal with things we selfishly wouldn’t take from others……”

Someone clears his throat beside me. I reluctantly pull my eyes away from the window and look up towards the gangway. It’s a middle aged man I had noticed was on the queue behind me on entering the plane. He flashed a smile, exposing a gapped tooth which reminded me of my mother. “I stuck out my tongue the first time too”. He whispered conspiratorially and winked before moving away.

I felt a warm glow encircle me and then turned back to watch the beautiful, white blanket encircle the plane.

Motherhood Tales

Preload 09Her beautiful, dark, almond shaped eyes give away her Asian descent. They brightened with joy as her daughter flew into her arms. The little girl wrapped her slender arms around her mother’s painfully thin frame and for moments, they seemed oblivious to the world around them.

The little girl’s cherubic face was awash with joy. Her eyes were clamped shut and her mouth open in silent laughter, head partially hid in the crook of her mother’s shoulder. The young mother whispered words of endearment I guessed into her daughter’s ears. Swinging her round, and around and around.

Watching them from where I stood in the shadow of the hallway, I felt like an intruder watching something almost intimate, something I had no business witnessing. Something beautiful, something pristine. Blind, unadulterated, all-consuming love between a mother and her much –missed child. Yet, still, I couldn’t pull myself away. Not yet.

The mother had not seen her daughter in a year I had overheard a teacher say, as I waited for my children to join me from their respective classes.

One year?! I gradually took it in and then imagined walking in her shoes. One year of not seeing their grubby, smiling faces. One year of not picking up after them. One year of not doing chores I complain insistently about. One year of not being constantly interrupted when speaking with their Dad, or of not making sign language to each other for some “quality time”. One year of not screaming at their obtrusiveness, “can’t you see I’m on the phone?” One year of no car pools, drop-offs and showing up half asleep for little league practice. One year of silence….. Waiting, not knowing where they were, what they were doing, what or who made them cry. One year of not having the things I take for granted.

Finally, I tear my eyes away and go back into the school with a big grin on my face. My noisy, unruly musketeers had finally finished their classes. They run towards me making so much noise. Three grubby little children laughing and chatting excitedly about their day.  Today, I’m more receptive. I’m really listening and not answering mechanically, halfheartedly. I’m really happy to listen and not pretending to care. I match their enthusiasm and really see them clearly.

As I walk away with my children, I pass the young mother and her child still clasped in each other’s arms and then, I thank my God for my “noisy” little blessings.

The Lie

Preload 05The lie was not deliberate. It started with her name and just developed a life of its own. A life she resented but lacked the strength or resolve to destroy. Initially, she found it amusing, then just shrugged it off whenever there was reference to it. Her coworkers took her nonchalance attitude as humility.

When she was first interviewed as an administrative assistant in Ascension, a multi million dollar publicity corporation with shoots springing up all over the globe, Adetutu’s name caught the attention of the HR manager. After she had been employed and started the mandatory one month long orientation exercise, the manager, an African American, middle aged man Horatio Clitard did his best to acquaint her with her schedule.

He was closer to retirement than most of the management staff. He had spent almost forty years in Ascension and knew all the upper echelon staff and referred to them by their first names. It was hard to guess his age. A tall, dark skinned man with beautiful pearly teeth and a rumbustious  laughter. The Clit, as he was called behind his back had become something of a legend in the corporation. It was he, who decided who was shortlisted for any top position in management, who went on course to Yale, who was chosen to strengthen the companies ties to Asia. He may have seen unlikely as the voice the CEO listened to but those who had served long enough in the corridors of power knew he was the one who decided which square peg was best suited for any square hole. And so, when Horatio peppered her with questions of her heritage, all within earshot paid close attention.

He had read about the Yoruba tribe of Africa and so inferred from the root of her name “Ade”she was royalty. “Adetutu Adebimpe”. He said her name with the right notations…which was unusual for Tutu. She had gone through school hearing her name called different things but what it really was. Only at home was it called properly by her family and so she knew, Horatio had taken the time to practice saying it long before he said it out loud. Tutu shot to her feet. We have a real princess in our midst people. Horatio addressed the whole class, all one hundred new intakes with his eyes firmly on Adetutu. He lectured them on the root of her name, or atleast what he thought was the root of her name. He said her genealogy could be traced back to the Ooni of Ife, who was to the Yoruba Kingdom what David was to the Israelites. She was a true African princess, the real McCoy.

Tutu failed to correct him,her great grandfather had migrated from Benin Republic to Nigeria in the early 1800s. He had started a small but prosperous village along with his brothers and their respective families. Back in those days, polygamy guaranteed a man a slew of women and plenty of children to help cultivate a vast farmland.Her great grandfather being the oldest had been named the Ba’ale,something of a mayor and not a king. Her grandfather had fled from Benin Republic in his teens to escape the family pressures and sporadic violence that had broken out in the village due to the claims to the property acquired by the brothers.

Her grandfather had kept his father’s first name has his surname,a ploy he hoped would keep him hidden in plain sight. It worked. the name was a throwback to the past…when her ancestor was the Ba’ale of his village.

She didn’t correct Horatio.She reasoned, it didn’t matter what they thought. What mattered was her job and her need to stand apart from the rest. She did not do well at her job however,she excelled at it. And so, the African princess became Admin Officer and by the time a decade had rolled by, several promotions and courses at Ascensions’ expense later,she had risen to the upper management position she had coveted from day one: Executive Vice President, North America,Ascension. Horatio Clitard had retired. She had given the toast at his retirement party and never neglected to send him two presents each year: one for his birthday, another for Christmas. The lie seemed to have been retired too, it seemed until the Ooni of Ife passed on to be with his ancestors, and all hell let loose.

Her phone rang incessantly from colleageus all over the world. All wanting to offer their condolences on the death of her “uncle”. Ascension colleagues across the globe reached out to her, her office was awash with flowers, and cards. Some sent her expensive chocolates.She was a princess,afterall, they remembered and should be treated as such.She was stunned. Adetutu kept her eyes downcast whenever someone approached her to offer their condolences. She didn’t even know where Ife was, not to talk of the king. She felt like a fraud everytime someone asked her when her “uncle”was to be buried.

She stayed in her office and avoided contact with coworkers, when she declined the routine TGIF night outing, her friends at work made excuses on her behalf: she’s still grieving. She knew the night would be riddled with questions on the burial rites of her uncle. Every time she took a bite from her stash of chocolates and felt the molten wonder of caramel melt on her tongue she asked God’s forgiveness.With her annual leave looming in the horizon, she diligently planned a trip home, to her parents, home to Chicago and not Ife, Nigeria like her friends assumed.

After Dark

Frustration at their financial hardship had caused her to lash out at her husband. In a fit of anger she had stormed out of their apartment. She needed to take a walk, anyway. She trudged down the street, recoiling, initially from the frigid cold.She was so tired of modifying her grocery lists. She was so tired of covering her hair with a woolen cap, not because it was cold but because she couldn’t afford to go to a salon. She was sick and tired of managing, of understanding. She hissed under her breath.

Managing a household of four on a single income was becoming stressful. They had both decided she stay home with the children. Day care for the two little ones would have cost more than an arm and a leg. At two and four years respectively, they were too young to be enrolled in a full time program school. She had lofty dreams when they moved to the north west from the south, that, his income would suffice. Though the increment in his salary was substantial, the spike in their rent and general living expenses had swallowed whatever gain they had both anticipated. She knew he was doing the best he could but she was still frustrated and tired.

Being the primary care givers of two very active toddlers was exhausting to say the least. By the time she was done with their breakfast and doing her chores, it was time for their nap. By the time they awoke from their naps, she would be putting together their lunch. Her days were full of cleaning, laundry, cooking. It was a grind. She was at her wits end.   Her husband started to worry about her state of mind. He encouraged her to take walks in the evenings while he watched the children.

Leaving their apartment alone, while exhilarating for her due to the unfamiliar terrain, was a little scary. The years of violence-sex ridden American movies intake had begun to take their toll on her senses. Her vulnerable mind seemed to unravel at the seams, playing back the movies to torment her. Her mind made vulnerable by the change in weather…one extreme to the other. Texas climate was definitely the oven, in comparison to the cold of Montana.

Her chest constricted with sudden fear as she passed a man in a black slick. She started to bind imagined demons has she quickened her pace and starts to chastise herself. “What possessed her to listen to that man?” she thinks to herself. “If someone attacks and kills me, I am sure he won’t mourn me longer than a month before he finds a younger woman to cuddle with”.

She glanced furtively over her shoulder and notice the man in the raincoat had doubled up his pace into a jog and was fast approaching.

Images of torn body parts assail her thoughts. Her poor husband and children. She imagined…”Breaking News: African Immigrant found stabbed, gagged, God forbid…defiled, thrown from a car…..! She tripped over a nuisance stone and fell into a crumpled heap on the side walk. She lay there momentarily stunned and for a few seconds forgot why she was running in the first place.

“Ma’am…are you okay” A surprisingly soft faced young man bent over her.She grit her teeth expecting to be hit, and then cautiously opened her eyes.

Ma’am? He repeated as he helped her to her feet. It’s the young man in the black slick she had been running away from.

Feeling slightly peevish she mumbled “I’m fine”

He flashed her  a warm smile as he trudged off. She wondered how he would have felt if he knew he was the one she had been running away from, the result of an imagined sense of danger. Not everyone is a serial killer or mugger…or both she reasoned with herself.

She hunched her shoulders against the cold winter wind and approached her building. She stifled a smile as she fished for her keys and what seemed like a couple arguing some doors away.

The Stranger

Preload 14I followed her off the train. I was supposed to get off two stops before her, but I stayed because I saw her. She looked just like Anika. I knew it wasn’t my old friend. How could it be her anyway? Anika had gone into continuum.
Then, why did I follow a total stranger off the train? Why did I trail behind her? I watched her enter a coffee shop. She ordered a latte and sat by the window. Her phone rang, she reached in her jacket, answered her phone with a smile. That smile. My friend’s smile. The smile that exposed her lower gap.And because of that smile, I decided to go into the coffee shop.
I introduced myself to her. She listened to me,a total stranger talk about you,Anika. I told her how we met. How you were a gift who kept on giving….even now….over a decade after your passing.
She told me she was Jamaican. A doctorate student of Psychology. I guess that was why she was more receptive to my intrusion. Most likely thinking: maybe this woman is suffering from a late onset psychosis brought on by grief. She told me, she had recently lost her mother, the culprit: cancer. I listened to her, a total stranger upheaval her precious thoughts on the emotional roller-coaster she couldn’t get off. The effect her loss was having on her relationships: the tensions between herself and her boyfriend, the loneliness she felt because her family was so far away. She started to cry…I didn’t feel awkward handing her my tissues and buying her more coffee. That was the least I could do after helping her come undone with the imposition of my person.
Finally, I stood to leave. What possessed me to follow a stranger….I thought to myself. She wanted to exchange phone numbers. I politely declined. “You will be fine”. I assured her.
As I caught my train to continue my commute, I felt so much better.
Grief makes us do crazy things. Grief helps us appreciate our relationships more. It helps us love more deeply. It builds a ladder to forgiveness. It throws a light on what you would otherwise have kept hidden. Words spoken by your departed loved one carries more weight. It gives us wings to fly.
And hopefully helps you adjust your lenses to focus on what really matters.