BN Prose: Happy New Year by Arit OkpoPosted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 at 9:48 AM
By Arit Okpo
All you imagine is possible if you’ll only take the steps to make it happen. Look at me, my life is a testimony to the truth that everything is possible, as long as you keep believing, keep trying. I…
The screen blurred as tears filled her eyes. Who was she kidding? What was she playing at? The life she imagined? The life she imagined indeed! Was the life she imagined finding out that Segun, her husband had been having an affair with her best friend Sarah for the last 3 years? The same Sarah who she’d helped to get a job after she got retrenched? The one who she’d taken shopping when the letter came in, just so that her friend would have nice clothes for her new job. So it was Segun that Sarah had gone to Spain with…this mystery lover whom she could not name…so it was her husband, her Segun, that was responsible for the twinkle in her friend’s eye and the even bigger sparkle on her wrist from the new diamond bracelet she’d been rocking. Her Segun! 20 years of marriage!
Funke picked up a tissue as the tears began to flow again. Where was she going to start from? 20 years of marriage down the drain just like that! She had slaved, worked her fingers to the bone, given up everything to build this life, to create this life that she had dreamed of as a child as she lay awake, night after night, listening to her mother as she prayed and wept and begged God for her husband to come home in one piece. Even at that age, Funke knew where her father was; in the bar down the road, drinking away his salary. So at night, as her mother prayed, she planned. No one would keep her at his mercy. No one would plan her path for her. Prayer was for the weak, for people who were either unable or unwilling to get to work and make things right. Heaven helped those who helped themselves, and she Funke, would make sure that she gave herself all the help she could get, so help her God.
So she worked hard, passed her exams, fried groundnuts at night which she bottled and sold to supermarkets. She moved on to snacks and then cakes till everyone in her school knew that Funky Cakes were the best you could get.
The day she set her eyes on Segun she knew he would be her husband; fairly good looking, well bred but not wealthy, good grades, not a party boy. He had potential, kind of man who would consider her an asset.
Funke thought of nights spent baking cakes for pick up the next day, weeks after weeks with barely any sleep. She’d sweated while Segun travelled for his Masters, sweated as he tried to find a job, set him up with an old school mate who needed a manager in his company.
The day the doctor had told her that natural conception was impossible, she’d comforted her weeping husband, gone home and written a little piece she’d named “It’s never as hard as you think”. She’d sent it to her friend who worked at Life magazine, before she knew it, her work was in print and she’d been asked to write a weekly motivational column. Before she knew it, she was ‘Nigeria’s realest motivational speaker”. She had speaking engagements everywhere around the country, sharing her DIY gospel and becoming a fairly well known face.
Fast forward to 3 years ago when she’d become pregnant. Her joy had known no bounds, they’d flown to the UK immediately and the doctor’s news had brought them to earth with a crash. Funke had sat in a daze and listened as the doctor spoke in what seemed to be fits and starts “genetic abnormalities…quality of life…severely disabled…advise termination…termination”. She’d put her foot down then, this was her baby. Her child. She would keep it, her child would be fine, they would see.
Derek was born autistic. He was non-responsive, silent, locked in a world of his own. She’d soldiered on, he would snap out of it. She would show everyone. 3 months later, Segun had come home from a dinner party unusually withdrawn. He’d gone to Derek’s crib and stood there for a while, watching the child as he slept. Without a word to her, he’d gone to his study. She didn’t see him again till morning.
Perhaps she should have noticed that things had changed. That he didn’t come home as early as he used to. That he was travelling more than usual. That he didn’t seem to want to touch her, or even touch their son. Was it her fault that she did not see? Work had been crazy, and she had a child to bring up, she could not afford to fail. Derek would speak, he would talk and laugh, he had to! She’d done therapy and doctor’s trips and more therapy…Derek turned 2, he had never said one word.
She had not noticed. Not until the day she dashed into the hospital to shift Derek’s appointment and almost walked into her husband and her friend Sarah, cooing over a gorgeous babbling little boy. She had stood at the door in shock as her husband kissed the little boy’s head and then kissed the woman beside him, her friend Sarah…her husband was sleeping with her friend…how terribly cliché, how terribly devastating.
Funke looked at the little boy sitting on the play mat beside her…”Derek, won’t you speak for Mama? Smile for Mama Derek? Smile for Mama baby boy. Just a little smile Derek” Her son, her beautiful angelic boy didn’t even blink, he had gone on arranging his plastic cubes. When he was done, he would start on another pattern, over and over again, she knew the drill.
Funke collapsed on the floor beside him. She was a fraud. Her life was a fraud. Who was she to tell people how to live. 2 days to the New Year, the most important speech of her life, a breakfast meeting chaired by the First Lady…she was to go and tell young women how to build the life of their dreams in 2013…what dreams?
She was tired. Tired of pretending. Tired of being perfect. Tired of this perfect face. “God!” she gasped “I can’t, not anymore, I’m tired. I can’t go into 2013 like this…I can’t go on like this’. It was like a dam had broken, she had never wept like this before.
The hand on her face didn’t register immediately…she was too lost in her pain to notice…it was the quiet mumbling that finally caught her attention ‘m…m…m…ma…m…ma…” . Funke looked up with a gasp, Derek had placed his hand on her face, was awkwardly patting her face, trying to comfort her.
She clutched him to her as her heart broke anew. Gratitude overwhelmed her, for this sign,for this reminder that even though life was not perfect, it was still good. She still had a lot to live for, she could go on, would go on. If not for her sake, for her Derek.
Derek struggled out of her hands, and she let him go, a smile on her face as she watched him totter back to his corner. She wiped the page and started again:
In 2013, life will throw you curveballs that you do not expect. A sudden loss, a betrayal, an ailing child…you will be tempted to blame yourself, to ask what you’ve done wrong…if I can teach you only one thing in this brief meeting, it is this…do your best, try your hardest, but know that there are things that you will never be able to control. When these things happen, I hope the tips I’m about to share will help you ride the hard times. First…
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