The moment I opened the door to our home, I knew. My heart lurched in my chest as I tried to dispel the foreboding feeling that had come over me. Their somber presence meant one thing. I knew this because you had mentioned it to me.
I ushered them into our home with a heaviness that was becoming almost unbearable. Dear God, I thought I had fervently prayed against this day.
How am I able to walk back into our living room with all these emotions? I watched them take off their military headgears. The older looking one sat on your favorite chair. I burst into tears. I couldn’t help myself. For without his knowledge, him sitting on your favorite chair somehow meant that I’d never see you on it anymore. It also meant something would try to replace you. But what could possibly replace my Nkem? The man after my own heart.
“Mrs. Orji, on behalf of the Nigerian Army and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we are here to sadly inform you of the demise of your husband, a very gallant soldier who died in combat serving his country—” His words faded in my ears. All I could hear was your last promise: “Babim, we’ll keep trying.”
The walls of my existence closed in on me as the oxygen felt sucked out of my lungs. My husband of ten years was gone from me. Died in service. My reality stung.
Because, for ten years, he stood by me: strong, gallant and proud. Yep! That was my Nkem. He was proud of me, proud of the woman who couldn’t give him a child for ten years. He had rebuffed all suggestions and side talks from the rest of the world and kept my demons at bay. He was my own after all.
You see, to the world he was just a number, but to me, he was my universe and a little extra. The light had been snuffed out of me and I was drowning in the myriad of memories. I remembered one of the last conversations we had: If only the Federal Government would live up to their expectations this time, you said.
I sobbed uncontrollably, wondering if it was a quick death or a slow, excruciating one. Was it a bullet or a bomb? I wondered what your last thought was. Was it me? Or your mum who we agreed should come stay with us for the holidays.
“Mrs. Orji, your husband was a very brave man. He saved the whole troop from a landmine,” The older soldier said, interrupting my thoughts.
Of course, he did! I scoffed. That was what he always did! Saving everyone but himself.
I wedged my head with my right palm. The left palm caressed my lower abdomen. I wondered how best I’d explain to our unborn child, explain a father who waited patiently and lovingly for a child he would never know.
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