Dante stood up from his desk and wandered to the window. He hated days like this. Days when he was so choked up by his work that he couldn’t take his daily walk through the city. He knew that the others cited his walks as proof of his un-Nigerian nature. But he did consider himself wholly Nigerian. His fluent and beautiful pidgin was a thing of pride for him after the many years he’d spent outside the country. Nobody walked in Nigeria, except you really had to. Especially not when you had a fleet of cars at your disposal. In Nigeria, even public transport was regarded as something for the poor and not-so-wealthy.
In the beginning, his walks had been an issue between him and his father. Chief Vincent Omenuko, Dante’s father, was the founder and CEO of a multi-million naira pharmaceutical company in Nigeria and in his opinion, Dante, as the heir to this empire had to be protected from the crime and insecurity prevalent on the streets of Lagos. And this meant keeping off the streets. But Dante would not hear of this and only agreed to limit his walks to 7p.m daily for peace to reign.
These walks were more than just a form of exercise to Dante, although, he had them to thank for his sinewy form. They meant so much more than a time-out from his busy schedule. These walks afforded him time to think of Ibinabo and reminisce their time together. During the day, in the midst of all the work he had to do, he found that he could barely remember what she sounded or smelled like. But he always remembered during his walks. He remembered her rich alto voice and the peculiar way in which she formed her words. He had always told her that her voice was meant to be heard on the radio or on television. She’d laugh then and say that she was meant to be a lawyer and nothing else. And then he’d say that was good enough. At least, her voice would be heard in court. Sometimes, during his walks, he’d pass by someone and marvel at how much she smelled like his Ibinabo.
Everyone thought he was over her but he wasn’t. He was just a good actor. He had to act happy so others around him could be happy. How could he be over her so quickly? He loved her like he had loved no one else. Ibinabo had been his source of joy and hope during his darkest days. Days when he had longed to abandon everything and catch the next available flight back home. She had been his pillar. It was just impossible to forget her.
He walked back to his desk and picked up his laptop and some important files. Except for the office cleaners and the night watchmen, he was the only one around. As he walked down to where his car was parked, he thought of how his life would have been if she was still around. And like the dozens of times he’d done so before, he felt sad for the beautiful family they’d have had by now. And just like before, he found himself praying, despite the fact that he didn’t really believe in God, that she’d return to him. He wasn’t sure what he believed in. His was a family of churchgoers and apart from his mother, he didn’t really think that the others had a genuine faith in God.
Surprisingly, Ibinabo had been a born-again Christian. In the early days of their relationship, she had tried her hardest to convert him. And he, in his bid to please her, had made an effort by attending church services with her regularly. But eventually, they both had to admit that he wasn’t a man of faith. Ibinabo had let him off the hook saying that she was sure that he’d turn to God soon.
Now, he wishes he had tried harder. Maybe his faith would have stopped the cancer that ravaged her and eventually took her away from him. Maybe his prayers would have kept her alive. But it was all wishful thinking. His love was gone.
There was light traffic and he got home in good time. Before going up to his room, he stopped by to see his mum whom he was sure was waiting up for him.
“Mummy”. He said as he entered her room. “You’re still up. Good evening.”
“Evening, my dear. How was work today?”
“It was okay”. He replied. “I finally concluded that deal I told you about.”
” Ah!”. His mother exclaimed. “That’s good news. My son can finally rest.”
He smiled and kissed her on her cheek.
“Good night, ma. I have a busy day tomorrow.”
“Good night. I know you haven’t had dinner. It’s been sent to your room. Try and eat before you turn in.”
As he prepared to go to sleep, he thought of how the day had been for him. He always dreaded going to sleep and waking up to a new day. Another lonely day without Ibinabo. Another day bereft of sunshine. But this was his life now. And even though death seemed like a better alternative, he had to keep living.
By Nten Mpama
Nten is a young woman who loves to put her thoughts to paper. Writing to her is like food to a hungry man. When she’s not writing, she’s organising events or compering these events.
Nten is a student at the University of Calabar.