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Sleeping With Yesterday (Episode 14)

Posted by on September 10, 2016.

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In the toilet Nnafuka does not urinate. She stares at the mirror for long, for too long. She looks at her bag, opens it. She does not know what she is looking for but she ends up bringing out her manicure set. She flips it open and looks at the pieces of metal in there, the reflection from the bulb on them. She singles out the scissors and holds it as though she wants to stab something.

Of course, she wants to stab something.

Funmilayo’s baby’s voice outside distracts her.

It is said that communal grief comes with a kind of sugary bitterness. But when it is borne alone it feels like gall to taste and it feels so lonely. Nnafuka is looking at herself in the mirror holding the scissors. This grief that she bears is hers alone. She thinks within herself that people might come with their soft voices and their tempered sympathies but at the end of the day they all go home to enjoy their own joy, leaving her smoldering in the heat. Now, like an ironsmith she wants to make that heat useful. She wants to use that fire burning her to forge her own weapon against solitary grief. She wants to do it, not in the way that Funmilayo is going to suggest she does it because she already knows what counselors say and what counselors do; all Funmilayo will do, Nnafuka believes, is to wrap words the same way drugs are bottled and hand them to her to swallow whole. She will not do it. She wants to do it her own way, the way the dreams that trouble her appear, the way the words of Iya sting her, the way Helen’s spinsterhood mocks her, the way that will satisfy her. She wants to see grief in the eyes of others too. She is tired of grieving alone.

Funmilayo’s baby is now chuckling outside. The way Seun used to chuckle when she would put her mouth to her belly and make a sound, tickling her.


Fifteen minutes later Nnafuka is back in Funmilayo’s office. She comes in with a smile and Funmilayo and Helen stop talking. They look at her and wonder how she has been able to recover her stamina and let her face stand with a smile within fifteen minutes.

“Are you okay, Nnafuka?” Helen asks her with suspicion.

“I am fine. I just needed to go out.”

Funmilayo says, “That’s good,” and looks at Helen.

“So you’re ready to continue?” Helen asks her.

“I think so.”

Funmilayo starts, now from another point. “Helen here has told me about Seun, though she never met her. When you had this baby, did you still feel that there was something missing?”

“No, I didn’t. I felt that the completeness I was looking for had come as a married woman.”

Nnafuka extends her hand and holds Helen’s. Helen looks at their hands clenched together and smiles.

“I was without child for five years. Maybe you have been told that before.” Nnafuka nods. “Before I had Junior my being without child came with a realization. That was in the fourth year of my childlessness. I realized that I was trying to live my life to please the people around me. I realized that I was not hoping fiercely on God. My hope was all on man.”

Noise breaks out outside, sips into Funmilayo’s office but she continues. “It is not the same for all of us women. Some get married immediately and have a child immediately, some even get pregnant before the marriage, some have to stay for years before having a child.”

The noise outside heightens to a commotion. Funmilayo can hear voices but cannot tell exactly what is being said. She cranes her neck as though she can see through the door. “When it comes to the death of a child, more than half of the women in this country experience it. At one point in their lives they lose…”

Someone is banging on Funmilayo’s door, shouting, “Doctor! Doctor!”

“What is going on out there? Come in!”

A nurse bursts in, sweating, panting. She catches her voice to say, “Junior! Junior! Come. Your son.”

Funmilayo pops from her seat. Her lab coat gets caught in her desk. She forcefully draws it, asking, “What? What is the problem?” The coat tears in the process and she runs out with the nurse. Helen and Nnafuka follow. They hurry into a crowd in the waiting hall. Someone in the crowd is asking, “What did he eat? What is this one now?”

Funmilayo pushes herself through to see her child in his baby-walker, blood coming from his mouth, the blood occasionally allowing a faint cry from him. She scoops him up and rushes outside, heading to the emergency unit. Some people follow on her heels. Helen shudders.

Helen and Nnafuka come outside. They stand close to the car and seem to be lost in thought for a while; then Helen first opens the driver’s side and goes in. Nnafuka follows.

“Jesus!” Helen proclaims. “What was that?”

“Terrible. Terrible,” Nnafuka says. “Please let’s get going. I don’t want to remember that.”

Helen turns the key and the car coughs into life. She is about to bring her right hand back to the steering when she catches a smell, a faint one. Her nose hangs in the air for a second. Then she brings her right hand closer to her nose.

It is now that she perceives it fully. She turns to Nnafuka. “Did you touch a disinfectant?”

To Be Continue

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2 Responses


    by KEN on Sep 10, 2016 at 10:53 pm

  2. grief has turned this woman into a murderer….continue

    by nnajiofor on Sep 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm

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