The poster is old. There are folds around its edges. I reach out to straighten them. I know it is useless but I try. Slowly, my right hand moves over the rectangular shaped paper, held by a nail driven awkwardly into the pink wall, just above my reading table. In amazement, I watch. I watch each fold straighten for a split second and fold back almost immediately. Then, I let out a sigh and close my eyes, relishing the feel of the soft, glossy paper against my hand. I think about how long I have had it. Two years, perhaps.
Or could it be more? … My phone rings for the umpteenth time this morning. I find the used hand-me-down Nokia from my mother among the sheets of paper and textbooks I had strewn on the floor minutes ago in my rush to get to the bathroom. The ringing stops, but the phone soon beeps. With it comes the short, impersonal message, “How far?” It is from Sunkanmi, as are the thirteen missed calls I now see. I hiss and throw the phone angrily across the room. It ricochets off the wall before crashing to the floor in pieces.
I start to cry, making low, muffled sounds at first. Then my sobs get louder until they become uncontrollable and I fall to the floor in a heap, sad, ashamed, and angry. When my eyes become sore, the tears cease. I crawl to the sheets of paper and textbooks on the floor and with shaky, unsteady hands, I pick them. I remember now my uncompleted essay as I look at the blank sheets in my hands. Frustrated, I throw the items back on the floor and sit with my back against the wall, hugging my knees as I fold them up to my chin. I bury my now feverishly burning head in them and start to cry again.
Then, I feel it – that soft, sticky mess – form in the pit of my stomach before gradually moving upwards. I know what it is and my hands immediately fly to my mouth. I get to the adjoining bathroom just in time. My body heaves with the force of spilling out my guts as I crouch over the toilet bowl. When I am done, I clean my mouth with the back of my right hand and stretch out on the cold, tiled bathroom floor, closing my eyes. It is only for a minute, I tell myself. But I fall asleep and when I wake, it is to find Sunkanmi’s huge 6’4 frame bent over me.
He lifts me up, placing a hand under my knees and the other around my waist, and heads for the bedroom. I want to rest my head on his shoulder and wrap my arms around his neck. Yet, I remain stiff in his arms until he places me on the bed. He returns to the bathroom and I soon hear the toilet flush. I wait, listening, first to the sound made by the soles of his shoes on the tiled floor as he moves around the bathroom, then to the sound of water gushing from the tap, and the familiar sound of the mop rubbing against the floor. Then silence.
“I was worried.” He is back in the room, standing at the foot of my bed and wiping his wet hands on his jeans trousers. “You weren’t picking my calls and suddenly your phone was switched off.”
Good. Worrying is a good sign, I say to myself. Maybe he will change his mind about it, about me, about us. Maybe there is hope. Just maybe … I say nothing to him, still reeling from the shock of seeing him.
“So …” he pauses, as if he is thinking of what next to say.
I hold my breath and look past him at the poster on the wall – the same one above my reading table. It is a film poster, one of Idris Elba and some other actors whose names I do not care to remember. He stands tall amongst them, with one of his eyebrows raised mischievously, just a notch above the other, and as if focused on me are his eyes – almond shaped, sensual, mysterious. There is something magnetic and piercing about them. I wonder if it is the extremely dark pupils contrasting deeply with spotlessly white sclera. His lips – full, perfectly shaped, lined round with well cut beard and moustache – are twitching with a grin. Today, the grin seems different; mocking, accusing, sneering. I sigh and turn my attention back to Sunkanmi. Will he admit that he made a mistake with his decision? Then maybe I can tell him that he is not too late; that I did not, could not, do it.
“Did you do it?”
My hope is crushed. I shut my eyes tight, trying to force back the tears beginning to well up in them.
“Lola, did you do it?”
I hear the desperation in his voice and shut my eyes even tighter, as if to drown it out.
“You didn’t, did you?” His grip on my arms as he forces me up to face him sends shivers up my spine. I wince in pain and open my eyes to see his face contorted in a maniacal rage that shocks me.
“Why didn’t you, Lola?” he screams, spurting some saliva on my face. He shakes me so hard, I start to feel dizzy. Then suddenly, he lets go and I have to hold the edge of the bedstead to keep from falling.
Surprisingly, I am calm. I am not angry and I do not cry. I laugh instead. The sound – loud, sad and bitter – reverberates in the room. I laugh, remembering his response that night I showed him the result of my test.
“You’re pregnant? How can that be?” he asked, his brows furrowing into a knot. I wanted to laugh then at the incredulity of his questions but I did not.
“I know a doctor …” he said, long after that, long after he had stormed out of the room angrily, long after he had returned to pace the room like a caged animal, long after he had cursed and sworn at no one in particular.
“He’s expecting you tomorrow by noon.” If he saw the shock in my eyes, he ignored it. “Let me know how it goes.”
I stared at him, stunned to silence, so that when he forced some money into my hands, I did not object. Everything that happened from then has now become a blur; going to the hospital the next day; retching all through the journey back, more from disgust at the idea of an abortion than from the discomfort of the pregnancy; and waking this morning from a fitful sleep.
And so have the past eight years. Those first couple of years Sunkanmi and I lived next door to each other and played card games, ludo or snake and ladder even though he was some six years older; that year we could finally be together as a couple because I was then eighteen years old; the next couple of years we remained inseparable and weathered whatever storm came our way; those years we spent getting to know each other’s families and taking for granted that we would eventually get married – oh, how they have become a blur!
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Paul Hakimata