I remember the first time I met her. She was an intern at the office. From the first day I saw her, I knew. I just knew. I can’t still explain it. Five weeks later, her programme came to an end, but she had come to my department to ask some questions. And my mind didn’t just let her go.
She read me, like a book, and heard me even when I wasn’t saying anything. I remember the first time I had dropped the hint, she had given me her trademark tired smile and said, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ And she would later tell me, ‘you are an honourable man, you know? How you waited after my internship to talk to me about this. But I am not sure I am interested.’ But she didn’t know, then, how tenacious I could be.
I remember the first time she told me that she missed me. I had an erratic heartbeat each time I recalled her words. I was finally making progress. For a very long time, I did all the calling, all the texting, all the talking. She would merely say, ‘I was just thinking about you sef. Thank you for calling. I appreciate this.’ Or she would reply my text like decades after and say, ’I really apologise for late reply. I got caught up with the application and interview process.’ Or she would just listen while I say everything on my mind and say, ‘I really don’t how to reply that. You worry too much.’ The really really annoying times, she would just say ‘okay’. You may be thinking she was probably not interested. She was, she just needed to be convinced. It was in how she would counter all my negative thoughts with her positive ones. How she was quick to say, ‘No o. I reject that for you in Jesus’ name.’ How she would tell me to talk to God about my problems. How she just always had the right thing to say. How she saw the good in me, and encouraged me to be better. How she really would get upset if I wasn’t taking care of myself. How she would hang her head to the side when I wasn’t feeling too good. How she would silently pester me to cheer me up when I was gloomy.
She knew me. She understood me. And I understood her. I understood what was really important to her was loving God with her heart and might and soul, and she would encourage me to think about it because, ‘God is really important.’ And over the years I could tell that she was all about pleasing God. And I was there trying to catch up. Honestly, I am still trying to catch up. And I would later see her diary where she had been praying for me for years. She prayed for me even when we were still friends – I liked to tell her she was deceiving herself then.
And when I asked her to marry me. She had told me, ‘you better have a dream wedding, because I don’t know what my dream wedding is supposed to look like.’ And we had to settle for a solemn court wedding because sincerely there was no cash. I wanted to make sure that at least for the first year of our marriage we had all our basic necessities covered. I thought she could put her share of the upkeep in some saving or some fund for our kids, she didn’t disagree. And so on our wedding night she cried because she felt that the ceremony was so dreary, and our pictures looked like we were being forced to get married. I felt like a prickly porcupine the next day.
I remember her hidden disappointment when she saw my dinghy apartment. I mean she knew that my bachelor pad was no Buckingham palace, but I had told her I was working on something better. She had given me a tired smile one night when she had brought the topic up and I had told her I didn’t want to discuss it. She had said, ‘Well, it is out there. I just couldn’t hold it anymore. It was killing me.’
And then one Saturday, I had woken up to find her staring at me. She told me not to make a fuss about, ‘a love-struck wife admiring an awesome view being her husband’s face when she wakes up in the morning.’ That’s the closest she had come to telling me she loved me.
Until she got pregnant and had Ladun. Labour was difficult. I was scared I was going to lose her. She had held tightly to my hand the first day after she was taken to the ward. She didn’t need intensive care anymore but she still needed to be observed. She had told me, ‘I love you so much. I didn’t think I could feel something this intense. I would die for you in a heart beat. And that’s why I am afraid. That you will take the place of God in my life. That I would always want to please you when the focus should be God.’ She then gave me her trademark tired smile and said, ‘you have to let me sleep. Go away.’
She survived until that evening when we brought Ladun back to the hospital for routine medical check up. I was carrying Ladun in my arms, and my wife was at the hospital door waiting for us to join her before she came in. There was a bank opposite the hospital. The robbery was successful and the trigger happy robbers released bullets to scare the onlookers. One went straight through my wife’s temple. And that was it.
So now I am here trying to put Ladun to sleep, shaking this rattle to lull her to sleep. But she won’t. She stares at me with her mother’s knowing eyes. Her eyes ask me, ‘Where is your resolve?’