How We Got Here
I woke up that morning, subdued. When I looked out through the curtains, I saw a lone pigeon perched on a wire, set against a backdrop of gold and orange and blue. I sighed, relieved. Sunrises do this to me.
Next came a realisation that my rest was over. I had overslept – my alarm didn’t stand a chance. My boost was short lived. Sunrise aside, my day had still begun horribly. I opened my messages to read what he sent again. I hated that a person could affect my mind this much.
As if right on cue, he called. I deigned to answer the phone, but I did anyway. I was already so tensed up.
I sighed. When he called my name like that, it was the start of trouble.
Our argument over the phone was intense as usual. Why did he call in the first place? Was it not to make amends? Why couldn’t we get through disagreements like those perfect couples in some of those overly romantic feely movies?
I moved through the day like it was nothing. My work was only punctuated by a call from my mother who Ikechukwu had already reported me to. “Go back to your husband’s house,” she said. Then begged, and guilt tripped.
My idea of marriage was nothing like this. We had seemed so perfect for one another. How did we get it wrong? I simply didn’t have the energy to bear the responsibility of keeping my home all alone. I didn’t come into this marriage by myself, so why should I have to, as they say, be the one to keep it together? Where did this macho woman fantasy in our culture come from?
Ikechukwu was at home when I came back. I dragged my suitcase behind me, which he took off my hands. He was playing nice. We’d been through this before.
He didn’t say much except ask how I’d been. “Good,” was the simple expected reply.
I saw her again, my new neighbour. I saw her usher her two little children into their family car, and kiss her husband goodbye. Who was this woman? And why did I hate her so much?
I was running up the stairs because I couldn’t wait to get to my apartment, away from the stress of work, with the traffic far behind me.
Where did she show up from?
I turned towards my neighbour. She was holding the key to her own apartment in her hand.
“Hello.” I didn’t know her name.
“Do you need help with those?”
“I’m fine, thank you.” I turned back to open my door. Unrelenting, this woman was: she came to stand right next to me.
“You know, we’ve never properly introduced ourselves. I’m Miriam.”
She stretched out her hand to shake mine. I shook it, or rather held it briefly.
She took the opportunity of my imbalance to take the grocery bag I was carrying. I wanted to slap that smile off her face.
I pushed open my door and bid her to join me as if she needed an invitation.
“Wow. Your apartment is so beautiful. You decorate? Wow. We need help with ours. Design has never been my forte.”
I was surprised, she seemed like the kind of woman who spent all day looking into home décor magazines and giving her home a facelift every week.
“Would you like some water?”
“Oh yes please.”
She was supposed to have said no.
I found a relatively clean glass cup which I filled with water for my neighbour. She held it like she was some type of princess. It was just a glass of water.
I had many more visits from Miriam; persistent, pesky Miriam. I finally agreed to visit her one day.
Her home was clean and smelled so fresh. I wanted to stay there and not go back to our apartment. But I couldn’t let her know this of course.
The walls were decorated minimally. Not really my style. At least she knew she needed help in that area.
But she had verses from the Bible framed in many places. Who did that? It was bad enough that you had to dust out your Bible on Sundays, why would you put yourself through the stress of having to look at it every day?
Miriam saw me staring at one of such framed ones.
Miriam laughed. She was getting used to my surly attitude.
“When I get up every day, especially when my husband and kids have left the house, I linger at these verses. I linger when I’m cleaning up the house, and God knows I could never purchase the peace I experience when I let them calm my heart.”
I looked at the verses again. All I could see were words. I felt something I struggled to put in words. It was longing.
One visit after another, and she was starting to grow on me. So different she was from the women I was used to, myself included. I found myself wanting to learn everything from her. How she and her husband didn’t have loud arguments. How her children were well behaved for the most part, how her home always felt like peace itself.
Ikechukwu caught me reading a Bible one day. The shock on his face almost made me laugh. I looked at him; he said nothing, but went into the bedroom.
I heard him come out again, and felt him looking at me from behind.
At that he came out of his hiding place.
“Well, say what you’re thinking.”
He shrugged. “I dunno. It’s just you’re reading…the Bible.”
Now I laughed. He laughed too.
It was a sight to behold: us seated close together as we peeped into the book, full of curiosity.