His voice was not what one should listen to, at least not when he was singing. But as he traced her sides with his fingers and picked words from Asa’s songs, he sounded less horrible.
They had found this place by chance; a spot in the community park that no one knew. They had since colonized the scenery and turned it to their getaway. The grass was greener and a big dogonyaro tree sat majestically with its branches forming a canopy to shield them. They had found each other by chance too, on too many occasions. Their first encounter was some ten years ago. She was fifteen and he was thirty. She had known at that age that he would be hers. The way around that was what she hadn’t figured then. She had walked into his office with her mother and he had smiled at her.
“Hello, I like your teeth,” she had said to him.
He had laughed. And she fell hard, but he didn’t. Then she went to India and from there, they changed location. She didn’t see him again.
But he was here, now, and all was in place. She snuggled closer into his embrace with the poor imitation of Asa’s ‘Tomorrow’ coming from somewhere in his throat, into her ears. He was perfect; except for the singing, he was perfect. Around them, the meadow stretched into the horizon. Except for a few birds chirping and his persistent singing, all was quiet. There was their rhythmic breathing and the gentle beating from the rise and fall of their hearts; but all was quiet.
He felt her move in closer yet. His wandering hands decided to form a cocoon around her. He stopped singing, “Cold?”
She shook her head but clung to him like a baby at a nipple. He took one palm in his and rubbed gently, sending soothing waves down her spine. He felt her relax in his arms. Then he cleared his throat, preparing to resume singing.
“We should leave. It’s late.”
“Just a little longer,” he urged, disappointed at the interruption. He buried his head in her clean, scanty hair.
“They would start to worry.” She disentangled herself from him and began to pick the empty plates into the basket lying in the corner. “And it might rain.”
He glanced at the sky, “Not for a while.”
“… a while. How have you been, Kyakkyawa?”
“I have been alive.”
“You look well, are you staying a while?”
“I can’t stay.”
“Only a while. Please.”
At that time, he had a conference in Lagos. She was heading to Awka. They had met at the airport in Abuja and they spent five days together in Lagos. Then she ran away; again.
Thunder clapped in jealousy above them. He looked up to the changed skies and sighed, then smiled.
“Have you ever danced in the rain?” She shook her head and he continued in the same breath: “Is it not one of those things that you always dreamed of?”
“… more than you can even dream of. All you need do is heal and you would have new ones. We would raise the money.”
“What if I don’t want new ones? Can I just heal and live?”
“Well yes, but so that you would look….”
She was sixteen then and had lost both breasts to cancer. She had shown bravery even in her frail state. He had visited her in India. He didn’t have to but he did. Not many doctors followed their patients abroad. He had started to fall and she was to return to him in Kano.
She had convinced her mother she wanted a new environment. She escaped to Awka. He was supposed to forget her. He didn’t.
She shivered from the sudden pick of the wind. He knelt beside her to help fasten the process, his scent assaulting her again and she thought of how wrong she was for him. She closed her eyes briefly, then opened it and smiled sweetly at him.
“I love you.”
“If you change your mind about marrying this old man, we could have a wedding in a month.”
She thought about his beautiful wife at home, his three children and their smiles and laughter. She felt guilty for taking him from them.
“That’s if you don’t mind being a second wife.”
When she was twenty, he had asked her the same question. They had spent some days at a guest inn. His wife thought he was away at a conference. They spent days reading novels, eating and singing. He didn’t touch her; she liked him for it. She felt she had to preserve all they stood for. She left when he stepped out in the evening. They met again only after a year.
“Let me sleep on it.”
They stood at the same time. He walked her to her car.
“Would I see you tomorrow?”
“Yes,” she nodded and started the car.
“Good bye dear. See you tomorrow.”
The car began its slow journey home. She turned up the stereo; Asa’s Tomorrow was closing.
No one knows
No one knows
No one knows tomorrow
“See you tomorrow.”
And she had run away to Egypt for a year; something about being a cancer ambassador. She pledged not to return but she did.
So when I die someday
Will I be in heavenly places
“See you soon.”
And she had hid in Paris; learning French, or so she convinced herself in an effort to stay away from him. But she came back, didn’t she?
As tomorrow slowly passes
No one knows
But now she had to go. Nothing was more convincing than the confirmation of her brain tumor. She pictured the test result on her desk, in her room. It was decided then, she could not bear to see him see her forget him. She would go somewhere and probably die someplace. She stepped out of her car and looked up to the sight of the moon hanging in the sky, peeping through the branches of a tree.
This story talks about cancer and the anguish of love. It’s style is slightly different as memory and thoughts of the heroine are fused into the progressive narrative of the tale in addition to the infusion of the song, ‘Tomorrow’ by Asa. It is the kind of story that makes more meaning on a second reading. There are a lot of things we take for granted in life. Maybe, we should take time out today and smile at the sun. Really, no one knows tomorrow. Su’eddie