Cloak of Despair


I’m amazed by the volume of sadness I carry, and convinced it will one day spill from my pores for everyone to see. Many times when I’m alone, I travel back in time to the moment life lost its meaning, and it felt like I couldn’t continue. My despair covers me like a tarp; it follows me everywhere. How do I move on when it refuses to let go?

I lie down with my eyes closed; sleep has long fled my bed. My heart sits dead in my chest, hands wrap around my belly, and my legs wrestle with the sheet. I cry out in my sleep, my dreams are filled with ephemeral forms that twirl and dance. They mock me whenever my fingers pass through them, a reminder that I can’t have what I desire. I’m wandering in the corridors of the past and the exit eludes me.

What amount of grieving is required when loss cannot be quantified? If all the variables are right and nothing else can replace it, like a hollow, you are left with a hole in your chest. We are told to move on, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and that grieving isn’t forever. But I’m trapped. I’m a bruise with no band aid, my loss is a parasite that feeds off my existence. Living has become for me a dirge to all the things that ever mattered.

I cannot scrub my mind clean, and condition my heart to forget the stabbing pains. My anguish is made from the finest threads. Things can never be as it was before.

People try to give me guidance. They tell me of their loss as if we are comparing notes. They say, “We understand how you feel. You are not alone.” How peculiar is this show of camaraderie we display when tragedy strikes? We shake hands as we introduce ourselves in the fellowship of pain_ ‘Hi! I’m new. Nice to meet you; Hey! Welcome back; You mean that one sitting morose in the corner? He’s a veteran, poor guy!

Living has become for me a dirge to all the things that ever mattered.

I hurt, but the wound festers unseen. Some people wear smiles to hide their pain. It says, ‘I feel dreadful of course, but if I let it show you’d be uncomfortable around me. Let’s play pretend until I’m okay.’ How about me? I don’t want to get over it. I won’t pretend to be okay so that other people would not be offended that I’m broken.

I guess this is when I’m supposed to tell you that I eventually met someone, they said all the right things, and I had the courage to rip to shreds my sheet of sorrow. I found a way out and now I’m better. Bless you! However, I’ve only just pinned my badge of grief, and I’m a long stretch from the release that comes with time and healing. I’m aware that each passing day chips away the pain, still I also bear the risk of plunging into despair when my memories are triggered by sight, sound, smell or touch. I carry my cloak of despair everywhere I go; this is only the beginning.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Healing (part two)

Like the turn of seasons;

All men are born to die.

The pain was the first thing Ade remembered. He felt like he was stabbed by a thousand needles. Cold and wet, he didn’t know where he was or how he got there.

Ade’s eyes were closed and the darkness terrified him. He tried to move, and pain exploded all over his body. His head hurt something fierce. What the hell! Another boom of thunder shook the heavens and caused his head to hurt the more.

He forced his eyes open. Stretched out on his back; a face hovered over his and told him to stay still. The sky above was inky black and devoid of stars. Sirens wailed loudly and people scuttled around in the rain like ants.

The storm will pass, he weakly reassured himself.

The rain got into his eyes where he lay by the side of the road. Vaguely, he saw the outline of a car wreck, and watched as several hands pulled out a body from the mangled metal. Shattered glass like diamonds covered the ground and the rain pooled red. What happened? Again, a lance was shoved into Ade’s head. Arrgh! My head! An accident? I was in an accident!

Ade recalled Mojisola had screamed that he should watch out. It had rained heavily that night. Too late. He saw the truck barreling towards them with only a moment to spare. Everything happened so fast. Mo’ leaned over, grabbed hold of the wheel, and swerved left. The truck clipped the right side of the car and sent it spinning out of control. The road was slick. The car spun around for what felt like ages before coming to a stop.

Save her, Ade tried to call out to the people around him but his body was wracked with pain, and it took everything in him to keep his eyes open. Please, I beg you, Save them! Take me instead.

“Congratulations on your promotion, Mr. Usman” The Chairman, Mr. Hong, said as he shook Ade’s hand vigorously.

“Thank you so much, Sir, but I must confess that this is unexpected. I didn’t apply.” Ade protested.

“No! No mistake. You did very well and the directors are impressed. As the agency’s brightest and promising star, you deserve it. Keep up the good work.” Mr. Hong enthused.

Mo’ was the first person he called after he got the promotion. It was only his first year with the agency. No junior associate had ever done it. She’s dancing all over the place, Ade supposed. Mojisola had made a lot of sacrifices for Ade over the years. She had put up with extended work trips, late nights at the office, awkward social gatherings, and so much more. She was no saint, but she gave as good as she got.

I promise to make it up to you Mo’, Ade vowed. They laughed and teased as they squabbled over which restaurant to go to.

Tobi called immediately after to inform Ade that their mother was in the hospital and her condition was critical. Kemi and Seun were already on their way to Shagamu.

“The tumor spread faster than the doctors had expected and treatment is out of the question. She has less than a month, Ade. Maami is dying.” Tobi choked out. Ade didn’t get the chance to mention his promotion.

Ade got to Mo’s office in a daze. She threw herself at him and planted several kisses on his face. “Congratulations, Oko mi! My husband is brilliant and our children will be amazing. We have a lot of things to celebrate babe.” Mo’ teased.

“My mother got worse.” Ade blurted out.

“Let’s get out of here.” Mo’ pulled him out the door.

They barely talked as they ate their food, each lost in thought. There was a weather forecast showing on television. A thunderstorm tonight. How fitting! I’ll let Maami know that I don’t fear the storm anymore.

On the drive back home, Mo’ reached for him.

“It’s not your fault,” She said. The silence continued.

“We will have to postpone the wedding,” Ade announced. The rain picked up and Ade kept his eyes on the road. He didn’t want to look at her anyway. I should have told her back at the restaurant, at least there were witnesses, He thought.

“Rara!” Mo’ deadpanned. Through clenched teeth, she added “We will not. I will not let you postpone our wedding for the second time. I will not be made a laughing stock for our friends and families again.”

“What do you care about what other people say? My mother needs everyone she loves around her. I just got promoted and I cannot afford to take an extended leave. I won’t be able to do these things and still prepare for the wedding” Ade argued. “The only way is to postpone it. Maami may surprise us and recover quickly. We must keep the faith. The storm will pass.”

He stole a glance at her but couldn’t see her face.

“That is what you want, and I know you, babe, you’ll do all you can to have your way. You’ll give all the logic and break everything down to ones and zeros.” Mo’ took a deep breath. “At the restaurant, I got a message from Kemi. You lied to me, Ade. Just now you said Maami may recover. The truth is there’s no chance of recovery. The tumor has spread and she is dying, that’s what Kemi sent to me. She has less than a month. Our wedding is fixed in two months.” She turned towards him “Ifemi, my love, I know how much you adore your mother but you have to know when to let her go. Her time has come.”

Her eyes were burning holes at the side of his head. Ade’s hand tightened on the wheel.

“Ade don’t be delusional. You cannot save her. Are you making excuses not to be with me? You don’t want me anymore?” She whispered the last part.

Thunder rumbled overhead and the rain danced on the roof urging Ade on. “Stop talking nonsense. Maami will get better, she must…no matter how long it takes.”

“If you postpone the wedding Ade, then the engagement is off”, Mo’ threatened.

“Mojisola jowo! My mother may be dying as you said se o ti gbagbe? Have you forgotten? This is not the time for expensive jokes.” Ade pleaded.

“The joke is on me”, Mo’ countered. “I have faithfully waited by your side all these years, even though they all warned that you were playing me, but I refused to listen. Olohun! I won’t wait for you anymore.”

Ade shook his head, “Where is this coming from? When did it happen? Talk to me. You didn’t tell me your family was pressuring you.” He tentatively reached for her. “Babe don’t be like this now, ehn. I want us to spend the rest of our lives together, this is only a minor setback, my love.”

Mo’ moved away from his touch. Her face flushed with anger. She shouted, “I took the test. I am pregnant. In two months I’ll be lucky if it doesn’t start to show. You are the person talking nonsense. Do you wish for me to have our child outside wedlock?” Her eyes were full of hurt and tears flowed down her face.

Ade’s shock was palpable and he twisted in his seat to stare at Mo’. That was when it all went to shit.

The truck driver sailed through the windscreen when the truck rammed into a street lamp and he broke his neck. Mo’s side of the car was badly damaged and it took a while to pull her out. She died from internal bleeding before the paramedics even got to her. Her mother fainted when the autopsy revealed that she was pregnant. Ade went into surgery and flatlined on the operating table for about seven minutes before he was revived by the harried doctors. He slipped into a coma for a month, and in that time his mother passed away. When he woke up it took several nurses and doctors to restrain him. He wanted to see Mo’ and their baby. He wanted Maami to tell him that everthing would be alright.

“Mr. Ade, you haven’t answered the question. Why were you unemployed for the past two years?”

Ade cleared his throat. He still had the headaches, and he could feel a nasty one rearing its ugly head. “I was in an accident with my fiancée. She died, I survived. I suffered from a head injury, broken ribs, a punctured liver, and I was covered with scrapes and cuts. I went into surgery several times, was in a coma for a month, and was under observation for six months. I attempted suicide twice.” His body may have healed, but he was broken in many ways.

He watched the expression on the faces of his interviewers move like a game of ping-pong. There was a healthy dose of horror, amazement, and pity. Ade was certain, they wonder why I’m here, still living. I wonder why too.

In the first year, he suffered chronic headaches and sometimes felt phantom pains all over his body, even though he had recovered from the worst injuries. Ade developed post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) soon after the accident. He became a recluse and had dark moods frequently. The agency offered him his job back, but Ade refused them. His siblings rallied around him, even though it was hard for them with Maami gone, and him in the hospital. Friends supported him and tried to help, but Ade would have none of it. I should have died with them.

He dreamt of Maami or the accident every other night. Ade tried to prevent it from happening like it did. But Mo’ died anyway, sometimes in his arms, and Ade would cry and scream for help until his throat was raw. Sometimes the car caught fire and they burned, Mo’ and their daughter. He couldn’t stop blaming himself and told only his therapist that he saw them outside his dreams. His baby was a girl that looked a lot like Mojisola but had his eyes. She was so beautiful and now she was with Mo’ and Maami, and maybe his father was with them too but he didn’t see him.

Do you hate me? he asked Mo’ repeatedly. Maami’s face was lined with wrinkles and a smile was always planted on her face. Iya mi, you said you would always be with me.

In his darkest times, they had led him into the light. The Mother, the Queen, and the Lady. Triple goddesses. Let her go, Mo’ had told him before. Let them go, His therapist told him now. That was the hardest thing for him to do. It’s the only way for you to move on. They also must move on. But how can he forget? How can he accept that they were gone and deal with his guilt? Everywhere he went, something or someone represented all that he’d lost.

Ade came for the interview because he wanted to start his journey towards healing. Even here their presence bolstered him. I don’t think I want to move on. If only I can master time, I’d go back and do things differently, He remembered the grand clock holding court at the reception.

The Fates offered their condolences and wrapped up the interview. “You will get a call from us after the decision has been made”, they shook hands and smiled at him, and for a split second Ade glimpsed the faces of his loved ones.

He smiled all the way home, and there, Ade attempted his third and successful suicide.