It Was September 16th!

It was September 16th that year. The sun was prodigal and the wind, nauseating. There was nothing in the air that suggested the impending doom. It was a casual air that held no malice. Children playing with vehement passion and traders hauling their wares to your face. She had been on her selling spot that day, before her body began to itch. The kind of itching that puzzles. She was not the type to give in to illness. Somehow, her mortal spirit had infected her body. She was immune to the kind of illness that perplexes common men. And even in those seldom days when sickness caught up with her, she barely showed it. She will conceal her pain from our bare eyes. Her tears were shrouded in her dazzling smile. In times of pain, she will fight to hold up the tears, and while we look away, she will give it up, swiftly.

And so on this day, only the gods will recollect what took us away from the house. She came to meet an empty house. In the obvious itching that brought her home, she relieved the agony. We returned. From whatever venture conspired to take us out, and then she put up that cloak again. Hiding the pain she currently felt. However, this time, the pain was so grueling that she couldn’t do an exquisite job of concealing it. And then, we were beginning to sense, to feel, to decipher, that all was not well with our Jewell. She was not the same. Her beauty was extant, but there was a cankerworm eating her up. We could see by the way she placed her face, the tilting of her head, her now foisted step. Something was wrong.

Her language began to change. She spoke in pregnant words, coded gestures, and her silence became her loudest voice. And I remember, the days we will fight as kids, she will caution us, warning us to be at peace, as days will come when we will no longer have her. I remember, the times we will go wasteful on the meal her ailing body prepared, she will admonish us, on the virtues of prudence as we may not have her forever. Her silence became her default. Words began to fail her. The cankerworm was eating her up, slowly but surely.

So we were all journeyed to our hometown, in roads synonyms with death-traps and in a bus that can better be described as suicidal. On this journey, she was not with us. Word was that she had gone ahead of us for something urgent. Going to the village was a yearly ritual, but there was something unusual about this. It was too sudden, too unprepared, too hurried. The swiftness suggested trouble, but juvenile us, we couldn’t have imagined. And so we arrived. Men in black, gloomy, sullen and quiet. They welcomed us, with more precarious tenderness. Their voices were stammering. And I remember, how one of them saw me and in a despair that will rival that of judgment day, shook his head. ‘Strange old men and women,’ we thought. Perhaps, we thought too quickly. As we got in, we asked of our beauty, and as is always the case with lairs, we got a varying reply, that she travelled. We marveled! How does travelling for something urgent coincide with travelling back to Lagos? In trademark style, we bulldozed our way before these men of sorrow into the room, and there she was, beaten, fallen and defeated by the cold hands of death. We tried to cry, but we couldn’t find the tears. We tried to shout, but our voices failed us. We tried to wail, but anguish deserted us. We simply stirred at her body, wrapped in a cloth. And indeed, she was gone. We gazed at one another, and sudden maturity and realization dawn on us. This was it. We all knew that we had to chart our course in life alone. We had to fight this alone. Without her, it was us against the world.

It was September 16th. We have moved on, but we have not forgotten. Each time we remember, a part of us simply die. It was a callous departure; the type that words cannot aptly explain. And today, we wished she was around. After God, she is the first benefactor of everything we have become. The one most entitled. But alas, she cannot reap what she has sowed. But we are encouraged. Buoyed by the knowing that she sleeps well. She must have feared when she left 19 years ago on what will become of us. But today, she will be proud. Not because we have made all the riches in the world, but because we have made something with our lives. We have hoped against hope. We have survived 19 years of turmoil, of her absence. We have not broken before life’s storm. We are still standing, and we have become the proverbial stone that the builders rejected. Today, we have become the cynosure of the eyes that wished us doom. Today, under God, we have become something.

Sleep on, our queen. Certainly, we shall reconvene to depart no more. We will continue to remember you. In this journey, we will always cherish those moments, and keep living the future you always had in mind for us.
Ura na, ju afo, nyeju afo, amaka!


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