Monday, July 15, 2013

Nkiru entered with the flowers. She set them down on the kitchen counter. They were young roses, petals on the verge of blooming, but suddenly it seemed to her that they smelled rank, like old stems in stale water.

Had it already been a year since she and Uchendu were married? In some ways, she could believe it. Time had flown by, and had not flown by at all. She remembered how hopeful she had been back then—hopeful that life would grow easier after the marriage. Surprisingly, it only grew harder. Well, today was nevertheless a celebration.

Earlier in the day, she had taken care to make herself up: she visited the hair salon and requested that her hair be freshly relaxed and done up in curls that fell down the sides of her face. It was the same hairstyle that she had worn on her wedding day.

When she returned home from the salon, she dabbed on some red lipstick and accentuated her eyes with black liner. The last time that she took this much care with her appearance was, again, on her wedding day. Her cheeks were far more sunken by now, but no matter, a little blush did the trick of making them appear plump again. The same with her lips. She looked vaguely like her old self.

As for the flowers, they did not in any way match those of her wedding day, but, well, here they were anyway. Rank or not, she would use them to decorate the place for him. She had bought only one bouquet, but it was large enough that she would divide it into three or so separate vases, which she would then arrange neatly around the room.

Even now, she acknowledged that she felt a deep sadness within her. It must have begun just like any ordinary sadness, she reasoned, her eyes still fixed on the flowers. Had she been lucky, it might have been a little like the harmattan: The dust would puff up, and would appear to multiply, and the air and sky would grow increasingly dim until even the brightest afternoon sun was fully obscured—a harmattan storm. But then, after some time, the dust would settle, and the haze would clear away so that the sun could shine again. Had she been lucky, this would have been the pattern for her, too. But she knew better than to rely on luck now.

She had been managing fine, living in Lagos, until just after she finished her first degree at UniLag. It was then that things took a turn for the worse, and for a while it was easy to justify: she had just been placed for Youth Service up North in Kaduna State, quite a distance from Lagos—quite a distance from friends and family, especially from Obianuju, whom she visited at least once a day. Often she marveled at the sheer serendipity of it—the accidental good fortune of being given her best friend in her sister. Other siblings she knew were prone to arguments. She and Obianuju were oddly exempt from those incidental spats of anger.

Well, circumstances in Kaduna were less than ideal. Nkiru had unpacked into her tiny flat with walls of peeling paint. There were holes: in the windows, where the walls met the floor, in the ceiling. The rain leaked in. The lizards crawled in. The mice crawled in, too. At night, the flies, lured by the light of her kerosene lantern, entered the flat.

This was when she stopped cooking. She was too disgusted by her surroundings to cook or eat anything in that kitchen, disgusted by the lizards and mice, by the cockroaches. Who knew where they all left their droppings? In her pots and pans, yes—she had found some of them there. Of course she rinsed the pots and pans before use, but who was to say that they didn’t leave some invisible toxin behind? And what about her food items? How could she feel safe enough ever to eat them? Even if she wrapped them in polythene bags, surely the mice would eat through the bags. She felt anything but safe, and so she refrained from ever bringing any more food items into the place. As for the old items, she simply let them be.

On the calendar that hung on her bedroom wall, she crossed the days off, counting down to the day she would receive her certificate. It didn’t matter to her that the allowance was good. N25,000 was like gold for most people in her batch, more money than they’d ever expected to earn in the service, and with the economy far worse than sluggish, to have the certainty of receiving that amount every month was the approximation of a miracle. It was that way for most of her batch members. It should have been for her.

But every night, she cried herself to sleep.

Midway through the year was when she met Uchendu at the bank. It was not exactly that she “met” him at that time. She had already made his acquaintance by then. It was, rather, that by the time half the year had gone by, she found herself becoming more receptive to his advances, out of a sort of fatigue, out of a sort of surrender. He had been relentless, after all, and, eventually she sensed the futility of her efforts to ignore him.

He was from Lagos too, near Surulere. Not too far from Lekki, where her family lived. He was one of the senior accountants. He dressed in pin-striped suits and neckties, the way he still dressed now. All the accountants dressed that way. Sometimes, on days when work was rough—especially on conference days, when all the investment and accounting managers met—his tie hung loosely around his neck. Other times it was completely unraveled from his neck. She imagined tying it back neatly in place.

It wasn’t that she surrendered to him at once. She did so in stages. First, she made fun of him. She teased him about his wide, flat nose. She mimicked the nasal way in which he talked, mimicked the way his s’s came out almost in a lisp. Almost. His hair was thinning in the front, and she teased him too about that. She cautioned him against rubbing the front of his head with both hands, they way he did when he was worried or upset. It would hasten his balding, she said. (This comment was only partially intended to mock. But each time she said it to him, he chuckled disbelievingly, strangely with a look of admiration in his eyes. Perhaps he admired her boldness, and so she continued with it.)

In the end, it was she who proposed to him. It was a sunny day, but if you looked carefully in the direction of the sky, it appeared that the clouds were growing dark. They had just wrapped things up at the bank and were strolling out together. They’d made supper plans at a small restaurant not too far from the bank.

That evening, on their way to the restaurant, she said, “What a lucky man you’d be if you had me for a wife.”

He blinked out of surprise at her, the kind of look he had in his face when she teased him about his thinning hairline. He chuckled as well. “Are you sure?” he asked.

She nodded excitedly, because she liked him enough, and the idea of marriage seemed pleasant enough. She added one small caveat: “Don’t expect me to make you meals.” Even if she were to be placed in a new kitchen, she knew she would carry the fears of her old kitchen with her. The thought of preparing any sort of food would awaken that terror of potential contamination in her mind. She would grow delirious with the fear.

“I can’t bear to cook anymore,” she told Uchendu that evening. “You’ll have to be the one to do the cooking.”

He smiled and nodded. It was that simple.

Back in Lagos, they sought their parents’ blessings. “What do you do for a living?” Nkiru’s mother had asked Uchendu, as if she did not trust Nkiru’s word on the matter, or perhaps she simply wanted to confirm that it had not changed in the months that had passed since Nkiru’s telling of it.

They were all four sitting in the parlor, and a tray of garden eggs and groundnut paste had been placed in the center of the coffee table. Their chairs surrounded the table. Above them the ceiling fan turned and hummed.

“I want for my daughter a man who can support her and her children,” her mama said.

Uchendu nodded and said he was sure he was the man for the job.

Her mama looked unimpressed. She continued: “You have a solid education? Where did you say you completed your studies?”

“UniLag,” Uchendu said.

Nkiru’s mother nodded approvingly. “And your parents, where are they?”

“Here in Lagos,” he said.

“What do they do for a living?”

“My father was professor of mathematics, my mother secondary school teacher of home economics. They’re both retired now.”

“They are still married to each other? None of this nonsense divorce that people do so often these days?”

“No, madam,” said Uchendu. “None of that nonsense divorce.”

“Good, good,” Nkiru’s mother said, then all at once she was calling the housegirls to serve the beer and soft drinks. And then they were moving into the dining room, where supper would commence. It was almost the same way at Uchendu’s parents’ home. There were differences, naturally: Uchendu’s mother had asked about Nkiru’s health, because of course she wanted a daughter in-law who could bear offspring for her son. She had asked also about Nkiru’s abilities as a homemaker, because of course she wanted a woman who could take care of her son’s home. Nkiru simply nodded and smiled at these questions, not wanting to acknowledge publicly that she was already falling short of the perfect wife.

They married just a few months later, in Lagos. Obianuju served as the maid of honor, and her two little girls served as the flower girls. Uchendu’s brother served as the best man. It was an intimate affair—immediate families only. The congregation consisted of their mamas and papas clad in their gold-and-silver-trimmed aso oke outfits, all presided over by the pastor from Uchendu’s family’s church.

Well, after the wedding they settled back in Kaduna, in a new place that Uchendu had secured for them: a nice two-bedroom bungalow in a gated estate with a garage and a large backyard. She would have rather they moved back to Lagos, but there was the matter of both their jobs (the bank had offered her a permanent post, which was lucky, she knew, with so few jobs out there. She felt obligated to accept, and even more obligated to be grateful for the post.)

“We can begin our family now,” Uchendu said, their first night at the place. Nkiru cringed. She was cringing a lot more these days.

The wiping began one day when she returned home to see a large cockroach climbing in the pantry—the place where she stored her bag of garri, her sugar, her beans and tubers of yams. The thought of her food items being raided by the cockroach angered her even if she was no longer the one who took care of the food, even if she was not the one who did any of the cooking. She felt intruded upon, on behalf of Uchendu. On behalf of the food. 

By the end of their first month at the new place, her need to wipe had become something of an epidemic. It had flourished, had taken on a life of its own. She found herself wiping not just the pantry walls but all the walls of the kitchen as well. Sometimes the wiping led her into the parlor area and she wiped those walls as well. And then suddenly she was wiping down the light switches and the doorknobs, and she wiped them all fervently, as if her mind refused to believe that the first wipe had done the job.

Soon it was no longer enough to wipe the light switches and doorknobs. She altogether stopped touching them with her bare hands. She made sure to carry a tissue with her, with which she touched these items. If a situation presented itself where she was forced to touch them in order to save face, in order to play the part of a normal person (the presence of a guest, for instance), she washed her hands promptly afterward. She wasn’t worried that the germs would cause her to be sick. What she was worried about she couldn’t exactly say, only that she felt a deep sense of contamination by those parts of the house, and she could not then go on to touch herself or her clothes or any such personal items directly after touching those parts of the house.

She began to count things, too. She counted the number of times she wiped things. She preferred to end on an even number. If not, she found herself agitated for the remainder of the day. She counted the number of fruits she bought from the market. If it was prepackaged and there was one more so as to make the number odd, she tore open the package and removed that extra one before she set to pay. If she poured herself a bowl of groundnuts to eat, she counted the nuts, not daring to eat a single one until she was certain that they were an even number. When she walked, she measured her steps, and she counted fastidiously to make sure that she ended on an even number.

She began to feel the exhaustion of existing as herself. She began to dread the idea that she would have to live this way for the remainder of her life. It could be forty or fifty, or, God forbid, even sixty more years. Sixty more years of rituals, the feeling of being trapped in a fruitless cycle. Sixty years of living but not really living. Sixty years of feeling suffocated by her body, suffocated by her mind, by her life. Life was a gift, Uchendu had taken to saying by then, but she had begun to feel that some gifts were better not given at all.

He caught her. She was wiping off the surface of the table. She was counting too. She had lost herself in the counting. She had grown numb with it. That was how she was growing these days. Counting but never reaching the right number. Wiping but never feeling satisfied. Numb.

She’d been careful to keep it all from him, but that evening she had gotten stuck. The wiping was more than a force of its own. She could tell when it became absurd; she could always tell. It wasn’t that she didn’t know. That evening, it was nothing short of absurd. It was as if there were a larger version of her brain governing the smaller one, telling the smaller brain when it was enough. But the smaller brain refused to obey. And so she continued to wipe.

“It’s already clean,” Uchendu said, standing at the doorway between the kitchen and the parlor. He startled her and she cringed. There was no telling how long he had been standing there, watching her.

She sighed wearily. He urged her to take a seat at the kitchen table. They both sat.

How long had it been going on? Uchendu asked.

“A long time,” she said.

“How long?”

There was a silence. She could not really have said. Perhaps it only felt long. After all, this aspect of wiping had only begun after they returned from their wedding.

Did she wipe like that before she married him?

“No, not exactly,” Nkiru replied. Perhaps things were getting worse, she said.

It was not new, when you took it as a whole. She remembered clenching her fists as a child, as if to fend off the dirt from her palms that way. Her mama must have known something was wrong then. She would scold her: “Nkiru, loosen up your hands. Why all the clenching? Relax!” She must have been eight years old at the time, still in primary school, and the fist-clenching had just made its appearance. She was a tall girl, and lean too, with cheeks only a little less sunken than now. The fist-clenching would go on for several more years before it would appear to disappear. It was the earliest indication she could think of now. And later, the sadness. But, really, the sadness must have been there all along.

She did not tell Uchendu any of this. Instead she told him that she could no longer bear to be herself. She told him that she noticed every speck on the floors, and she was compelled to wipe them. She noticed every splash of water or tea, every crumb. She could not turn her mind off offrom noticing. Worse than noticing, she remembered. And even if she forced herself to resist the temptation to wipe, she would continue to remember the exact spot where the crumb had fallen, the exact area where the tea had splashed. And finally she would give in to the temptation to clean them off. 

But what exactly was so dirty about crumbs or tea? Uchendu asked, when she told him this. Surely she realized that water was not dirty?

She only shook her head at him in response. How could she explain to him that she saw things that he did not see, that she knew things that he did not know? There would be an aspect of condescension to it, no matter how she said it. How could she tell him that those things he believed were clean were not in fact so; that even clean water, when splashed on dirty surfaces, became dirty itself?

It was evening. Just a couple of hours before, they had returned from work, and Uchendu had heated up some leftover rice and stew, which they had eaten. The sun was setting now, and the kitchen light had not yet been turned on, but there was a candle burning between them. Uchendu seemed to think for a while. And then he said, “Would it help if you went back and stayed with your sister for some time? It might help you feel more of your former self. Like the self you were before all the wiping began.”

It was a nice idea, and Nkiru said so herself, this return to a better self. But then she felt the obligation to resist his suggestion, for his benefit. She was his wife, after all. She insisted that she wanted to stay with him. In the end she conceded that she would go.

Back in Lagos, Nkiru spent her days alone while Obianuju and her husband Chizorom were away at work and the girls away at school. She had taken a leave of absence from the bank, and so during the days she had no place to be but at Obianuju’s home.

Well, even without her job, she had plenty to occupy her. During the days, she swept the floors as soon as everyone was gone for the day. She mopped the floors, too. She had found a bucket, which she filled with soapy water during these cleaning hours. She had also found a washcloth, which she dipped in and out of the soapy water, which she used to wipe down the knobs of doors, of cupboards, which she used to wipe down light switches and the walls. Over and over again. Obianuju and Chizorom had a leather couch in the parlor. Nkiru wiped that too, over and over again, and then she refilled her bucket with plain cold water, no soap, and she repeated the cycle of wiping once more, this time in order to wipe away the soap. Her back ached and the skin of her hands became more and more like an old dress, worn and tearing at the seams. It bled, but that was just as well. Only after such diligent cleaning could she relax in the place, satisfied that she had decontaminated it all. 

The second week at Obianuju’s, she began to do the search. It was a little after noontime, and earlier Uchendu had called, as he always did, to check up on her.

“Any improvement?” he asked, feigning cheerfulness. She could tell it was feigned. There was something forceful about it. It was as if in doing so he was hoping that some of his cheer would rub off on her, by force. Well she could not bear to disappoint him, so she chuckled softly, bit her lip, and told him that things were just fine.

It was after that conversation that Nkiru thought to do the search. There was Chizorom’s personal computer, which sat on a desk in the small nook between the parlor and the dining room. Nkiru planted herself there, first just staring at the blank screen. Perhaps the answer to her problem lay in that screen, if she could only use it to conduct a search. Why had she not thought of this until now?

She took a deep breath, and then she turned it on. Then came the prompt to enter the password. She scowled at the false hope of it all.

Still, that evening she was able to get the password from Obianuju, and she was able to try again.

The office was about five miles away from where Obianuju and Chizorom lived in Lekki. She would go and see if something could be done to get her to revert to being the way she used to be—a relatively happier person. Or maybe they would even be able to get her to be like the rest of them—like Uchendu and Obianuju and Chizorom, who were not aware of the world enough to see the contaminants and dangers that it held. They were ignorant, but they were happier for it. She wanted to be happy too.

He was an old Igbo man, with a full head of gray hair. He had studied in England and America, and perhaps owing to this fact, he instructed her to call him by his first name rather than his last. “Chuks,” he said. “That’s what everyone calls me.”

His accent was only a little like the accent of a white man. Whether America or England, he had for the most part retained his Nigerian way of speech. He was soft-spoken, and his eyes were kind.

It must have been just fifteen minutes into the session that she began to cry. It was sudden, this urge to cry, perhaps because she really did believe in his ability to help her. Perhaps also because there was shame in what she had become, all those rituals, which even she herself knew to be relatively absurd. Things would, after all, only get dirty again. It was an endless cycle. 

She explained it to him, the tears streaming down her face. She told him how tired she was. That she sometimes felt as if she was losing her mind. That she did not want to lose her mind. She wanted to live more freely, the way it seemed to her those around her were living. She brought her hands to her face, to shield herself from his view. She had tried not to look his way during the confession, embarrassed by her revelation, by her tears. But suddenly she heard a very faint sobbing, coming from somewhere other than from her. She looked up then to see his face. She saw as he raised a white handkerchief to wipe away his tears.

It shocked her. That she should look up to find him crying over her. Was she that much of a lost cause? Was she that much of a failure at being a human being? Could he already tell that he could do her no good?

He shook his head, and he muttered how sorry he was for all that she was going through. Such a young woman like herself, it was a shame that she was finding life so unbearable. He seemed to choke on his words.

She said, “Well, it’s okay. I’m sure I’ll be fine.” She dried up her tears, hoping that he would dry his up as well. “It’s really not as bad as maybe I made it out to be,” she said. “Don’t worry over me. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

He nodded. He apologized for his sudden display of emotion. Old age, he said, was bringing out more emotions than he ever knew existed in him.

She told him not to worry. It was all right to have emotions. She was sorry for upsetting him so much. He waved his hand in front of his face as if to say, “Let’s forget this whole thing.”

That was the way they ended it that day, mutual apologies and mutual absolutions, and she knew she’d not be going back to him. 

On her way back from the appointment, she crossed a park. She saw a family there in the park. The little boy and girl were seated on the grass, shoeless, their toes barely visible in all that green. Nkiru remembered a time long ago when she was able to do just that. To sit on the grass of her parents’ backyard, or in the fields of her schoolyard, without worry of stains of grass and mud. Now, looking at the children, she felt as if she had somehow wound up behind the bars of a prison gate. How had she wound up there? It broke her heart that she could no longer be the way these children were.

The following week she tried a different one, a psychiatrist this time rather than a psychologist. She was a thin woman with very prominent cheekbones. She had a serious air about her, and her office had the same serious air—sparsely furnished and all in white and black.

It was she who recommended the medicine, just one a day, she said, and the results were sure to follow.

Were there any side effects? Nkiru asked.

The woman ran through the list, from feelings of nausea to general unease, decrease in libido to thoughts of suicide. She was not concerned that Nkiru would experience those last two. People very rarely did.

It was after her return from the psychiatrist, another week later, that she and Obianuju had their first real fight. Obianuju was outside with the girls. The girls were jumping rope. First, they jumped singly with the ropes, each girl jumping into and out of her own, twirling and untwirling it around her little body, making crosses in front, crosses behind. One of the ropes was knotty—at least three of four large nubs spread variably from one handle to the next. This should have made for difficult jumping, tricky at best, Nkiru thought. Her first instinct was to warn the girls of the knots. But then she realized that they must have already known. The knots simply did not bother them. They jumped forward. They jumped backward. Sometimes they put their ropes together and called out to their mama to join them. With Obianuju there to help swing both ropes at once, the girls took turns jumping double dutch. Nkiru sat by the front steps of the house, just watching.

They did not sing as they jumped, but if they were to have done so, Nkiru imagined that they would have sung that little childhood song as they jumped into and out of the ropes: Cinderella, dressed in yellow. How many doctors did she meet?

The sun was setting, and soon Obianuju was ushering the girls inside for supper. Nkiru interrupted her in the middle of the ushering, asked to speak privately with her.

“Now?” Obianuju asked, not really hiding her irritation at having been disrupted.

Nkiru nodded.

“Okay. Make it quick.”

“They have medicine for these things,” Nkiru blurted out. “Maybe I should take medicine.”

“Medicine for what things?” Obianuju asked.

 “You know, sadness. Depression.”

Obianuju’s face turned serious. The girls had by then gone inside the house. Obianuju said scoldingly, “Now, you’ve gone and decided that you’re depressed? Who told you that? How do you figure you’re depressed?”

There was a silence. Nkiru was not sure how to respond. Finally Obianuju spoke: “What are you now, an American? Wanting to take medicine just because you are sad? Chineke! My God! What next? Soon you will want to take medicine for you to feel smarter, and another one for you to feel beautiful? Never mind that you’re already beautiful and smart!”

“That’s not how it works,” Nkiru said.

“What’s not how it works?” Obianuju asked derisively. “Taking medicine for something you can solve on your own! Just change the way you think! Tell yourself to be happy and you’ll be happy. You see ugly women walking around all the time who are convinced of their beauty. It’s all about how you deal with life. You need to learn to deal better.”

The older girl Izu had returned by now and was calling her mother. “It’s not medicine you need,” Obianuju said finally. She took the girl’s hand and allowed the girl to lead her into the house.

What Nkiru had not told Obianuju was that she was already on the medicine, for a full week now. They were big white pills, and although she was not yet seeing any results, she was hopeful that she would. The doctor had, after all, told her that it could be a few weeks.

A month after that, Obianuju caught her. Nkiru had returned from her appointment to see Obianuju in the front of the house, holding the medicine bottle in her hand. “What is this?” Obianuju asked.

Nkiru, shocked, remained silent.

Over a month, and not much improvement. She was cleaning less and less these days, but only because she was more exhausted than ever. She was exhausted, she reasoned, because the medicine was affecting her sleep. She was no longer sleeping through the night; rather, she was getting up in the middle of the night in a panic, sweat drenching her skin. Some nights she was able to return to sleep after drying herself off, but most nights all she could do was pace around the room until daybreak. She had become strangely afraid, too. Afraid that she would somehow harm herself. Perhaps Obianuju was right, she thought as she watched Obianuju, the medicine bottle in her hand. 

That night, Nkiru did not take the medicine. Nor did she take it the night after, or the next. But then the next week, she was back to the psychiatrist and she somehow found herself back on the medicine after that.

It continued like this for some time, the back and forth, because there was after all Obianuju’s insistence that she quit and the psychiatrist’s insistence that she continued.

Well, here she was, back in Kaduna. They were arguing nonstop nowadays, she and Uchendu. He had begun talking seriously of having children. More seriously than the way he talked about it just after they were married. Perhaps having children would be a distraction for her, he told her. Perhaps having children would cheer her up.

It was a scary thought, bringing children into a contaminated world. She had no idea how Obianuju could do it. She was overwhelmed at the thought of it. How would she ever keep up cleaning after children when she was already exhausted just cleaning after herself and Uchendu? This reasoning made perfect sense to her, but she could not bring herself to tell it to Uchendu. Surely it would not make sense to him, and they’d argue over it as well.

A week earlier her mind had gone back to that conversation about medicine with Obianuju. It was not the medicine aspect that she thought of now though, rather the ropes the girls held as they jumped. There was the one with knots throughout, more knots than any of the other ropes had. It was the same rope Nkiru was holding now. She had managed to leave Lagos with it. She had managed to take out all the knots.

She thought of that little childhood song, too, the one she had imagined they would have sung, had they sung at all. Cinderella, dressed in yellow. How many doctors did she meet? Where had the song come from? What was its origin? Was it American or British? It certainly wasn’t a Nigerian song. Well, no matter now.

Just a few days ago, she had been sitting in front of her own computer doing the research when Uchendu returned from work nearly two hours early. (She was not yet back to work, and so she stayed at home while he went to work.)

Uchendu made his way swiftly to where she sat at her desk. He appeared so quickly that she had no time to hide the screen. He glared at it, shocked. He glared at Nkiru, too. Nkiru laughed. “You don’t really think I’ll do it, do you?” she said. “I’m just doing research,” she said. “Psychological research. These things come up.” 

Uchendu continued to look at her, and so she suddenly rose up to distract him. She said, “So what are we having for supper today? What will you make me? I think I want some garri and ogbono soup. How does garri and ogbono sound to you?”

It worked. He responded that he was too tired to make soup this evening, but that there was some leftover beans and yams in the fridge that he could heat up for them.

“Sounds good,” she said, slipping her hand into his. They walked together into the kitchen that way.

Now, she stood in their bedroom, the flowers arranged neatly and set in vases on stools in three corners of the room. She had dragged the chair from her computer desk into the room. She had set it at a distance from where their armoire stood. Today would mark one year. One year since she and Uchendu were married. Many months since she began the medicine. And in between, all those stops and starts. She had long begun to feel herself a burden for him. Uchendu was rather short, sturdy, like a well-built couch. Cushiony, Nkiru thought now. His mere presence in her life should have been enough. But somehow it was not.

This was the gift she would give him, then. This was the gift she would also give herself. With this gift, she would forever clear the air and sky of its dusts. With this gift, there would be no more harmattan storms.

She climbed onto the chair, stood carefully on it. She had already taken care to set up the rope. She took in a breath. Uchendu was still at work now and would not be returning for another couple of hours. She hoped there was not anything that would cause him to return from work early, something that would cause him to interrupt her the way he had interrupted her back when she was doing the research for today.

He would be sad, of course, but then he’d soon realize it was all for the best. They’d all soon realize that—Obianuju, Chizorom, her mama, her papa, even the girls. She knew she would continue to live in their hearts. And confined to their hearts, she would be far less of a burden than in flesh.

She reached up with her hands, gingerly took hold of the rope. Yes, she would continue to live in their hearts. She consoled herself this way.

Monday, July 1, 2013