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It is three years now since I saw you last. I have not written in a long while. I have not written since then. Remember the handwritten letters we used to write ourselves. We’d both say that written love letters was our love language. I lied, it wasn’t mine. Spoken words of assurances and affection were mine. You, Rufai’, you were my love language. Did you lie too? I miss those times. 

Don’t fret, I have moved on. One has to move on from these things, even if it takes three years, sleepless nights, depressed thoughts and a part of your soul. Seven years of marriage is no joke. But I have moved on in less than half of it, life; fickle!

You may wonder why I am writing to you then. You have since settled with your new wife and beautiful baby. Well, one reason is because I haven’t written in a long time. And I don’t know how to write to another person but you. But I will learn soon. But there is another reason. I want to finally tell… THE TRUTH!

Rufa’i, when the truth came out, it was not the truth, it was the truth you had to see to let go. But in reality… it is so different from what you found out, what you thought you knew. I didn’t tell you all this while because I knew your mind was made up, and I knew our marriage was not salvageable, I knew mistrust and resentment had fermented and simmered the places our love was meant to block, there was no turning back, I had to free you, so I let them finally crack us apart.

I will stop with the long introduction now and just dive right into it. I did not do it Rufa’i. How could you possibly believe that after 10 years of being together and holding each other’s hands I could hurt you and liaise with your enemies? I hate Aminu, you know I do. I know how the papers leaked and I am sorry to say that it was your brother. I remember the day he came to get them. You were not around. He just swaggered in and demanded to go to your study. I said I couldn’t let him in without your permission, he assaulted me, hit my head on the wall. I swear it. I had a bruise afterwards, remember? You asked about it and I told you I hit an open cabinet door. I ran and locked myself in my room. 11th December, 2019, three years ago today, check the CCTV footage if you think I am lying. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to cause a rift between brothers, your family already hated me as it was. Anyway, he proceeded to your study. Apparently that was where he got the documents and took some money too. Check the footage. I am only sorry I didn’t tell you this earlier, but I didn’t want to cause a problem. Your brother took those documents to Aminu and made the hostile takeover possible, I am sorry you lost most of your fortune. I really am. But I am glad you have rebuilt it back up. You are a resilient man Rufa’i.

I have always told you you trust too easily, and you had always said it was because I have trust issues, and both have been true. Last year, I launched an investigation regarding the assassination attempt. Because my spirit was never at ease knowing you will always associate that incident with me. Why? How? Come on Rufa’i, you know me better than everyone and just because the police who were actually paid to blame me said it was me, you decided to believe them? I have helped you unravel the case and you had better fire Solomon and hand him over to the authorities because it was all him and your brother working for Aminu. I know this sounds unbelievable, I am finding it hard to believe myself, Solomon was family, or so we had thought. I have attached all proof with pictures, names and transactions. Remember the man the police caught who confessed to the attempted assassination, the man who said it was me? Guess where he is now? Not in prison. It was all staged, a fake ‘suspect’, they set him free after the deception was done. I have attached his address so you can go check yourself. I swear it, I can’t lie to you Rufa’i, we have had too good a life for me to do that, the fact that you think I have done those things and that I am your enemy rips me apart every day, but I am telling you the truth now. Beware of who you call family.

Your mother doesn’t know your brother had a hand in those treacherous acts, I know they were close but she could never do that to you. So I beg you to please not tell her, it will end her. Especially since your brother is dead now. It is not worth it. She is a great woman who only wanted the best for you, even if she thought I was not on that list. Even if she believed Asiya was on that list. She had always wanted it to be Asiya. She said I had jazzed you. Lol. I? You know the love we shared, think back now and reason if it had a single element of jazz.

I know what you are thinking. What will explain the charms found in our home and the bottle with your picture, a black empty shell, a paper with words written in a foreign language, the skin of a mottled snake and some weird items in it tied by a rope which was locked with three leather padlocks. I know you are wondering how they couldn’t have been my doing when I was seen burying them. Yes, I did. I buried them but listen I was given these things in a closed plastic bag and was told not to open them by her driver Mallam Dahiru, she told me to bury them, Wallahi Rufa’i your mother did. I am so sorry, I didn’t want to tell you but I have to, she told me that it was for your protection and to strengthen our home. I didn’t even believe in all of that, but I humoured her. I have never denied I did it, I just opted not to tell you who made me. Ask Mallam Dahiru. Then go and check her phone. She sent a message to me on the 5th of August, 2019 telling me Mallam Dahiru is coming with the package and that I should call her for instructions on how to use them. Please go and check our correspondences if she still has them and tell me you didn’t see that. All our other conversations were over the phone but this one was a text, I’m glad it was. At least you will see some proof.

Why, you ask? To break us apart and get you together with Asiya obviously. Because I couldn’t give you children and her beloved goddaughter Asiya, the chosen one who could do no wrong could. I am not being bitter, I am just reminiscing about how we both were blindsided. And I daresay she has succeeded. I don’t know if Asiya has a hand in it, but well… I have asked around and charms like those could only be done by the other party to their object of affection. Your mother could not have acted without your wife. I am so sorry you are finding these things out now and this way.

One more thing, if you still doubt the charm incident, you still have a picture of it on your phone I suppose. That image you sent to me raving about how I was doing diabolical stuff to you… hmmm. I am still trying to get the words you used out of my head Rufa’i. The ache is still raw. Anyway, please zoom in a particular picture with the bottle snapped from behind, you’ll see the word Rufa’i and below it Asiya. It is faint, but zoom well and try, you’ll see it. I didn’t notice until last year too. I don’t think I need to say much after that. 

Everyone chose to blame me because I was an easy blame. But I have to move on. Just like you did. I have to create a new life too. I am sorry if this may sound selfish but I need to dispense with all these burdens for me to completely be ready for a clean slate. I hope you won’t take any drastic actions after reading this. Afterall, it is past, your brother is dead, and no one is after you now. Hopefully no one is after you, seeing that you are rising again, you can never be too sure.

I don’t know how to round this letter up. Be careful Rufa’i. I hope life treats you better than it treated me. Please don’t feel bad in my case, we had a good thing, the best thing really, but it overstretched its duration. Even though we never had any problems as a couple and you know it. You know we had a loving marriage before it all went awry, I believe not all things are meant to last till eternity. I am terribly sorry you are finding these things out now. Please take it easy. Don’t think too much of it since everything is working out fine for you. Good luck Rufa’i.

This is the last you will hear of me. 

Yours…

Maimuna.

I re-read the letter, lower my glasses and rub my temple. Well, this was a hard day’s labour. 

I really do feel for Rufa’i. No one deserves this. But then again, maybe some people do. Maybe some people do, for throwing away people that have stood by them for people that are opportunistic. The letter should have reached Rufa’i a few hours ago. He should have read it by now. I am sure he probably has. I am picturing his reaction, it is not pretty. He will come.

It is two days after the letter has been sent now, I hear the knock, I know who it is. You know who it is too, reader, afterall, we knew this would happen when we sent the letter. I don’t open the door immediately. I am composing myself. I wait for a few more frantic bangs before I rush downstairs from my room to open the door. He is here, Rufa’i is here. He has come to me. As I knew he would. And boy does he look like a mad bull has run him over. My face is full of pity and understanding when I gesture him in without uttering a word. He looks haggard, helpless, lost.

“It is all over Maimuna”. He says. Oh! how I have missed this voice. I swallow hard so he doesn’t see how his presence and words affect me. Even though he looks like a worn out, sun beaten copy of his charming, vibrant self, his presence will always make my heart sing. 

“I am so sorry” I half-whisper with a sad shake of my head. My voice is uneven, tears are pooling in my eyes. It was all your fault, I say in my mind. It was all your fault.

You shouldn’t have thrown me away when you found out about the documents and the assassination attempt and the charms Rufa’i. You should have listened to ME, your wife! But you just yelled and judged and declared me guilty. You chased me away with nothing but the house you gifted me to mark our fifth anniversary. You did not even look back at me who used my father’s connection and some other less decent methods to get you the contracts that built you. I quite literally made you! And you turned it all to dust.

Everything I did was out of love. Just like everything I do now. The documents? Yes I gave them to Aminu to sabotage you but it was only because the richer you got, the more your mother  and all those hungry girls wanted to take you away from me goddamit! You had to go down, lay low, so they could get their stinking paws off you! Yes I am screaming! 

The video of your brother in your study is a doctored one. I paid your maintenance guy to splice it in. I hope you see it and and I hope your heartbreaks for disbelieving in me. He is dead, there is no one to prove me otherwise. You can confront Aminu but he will just scoff at you and term you crazy. He is too arrogant to try to defend himself.

The assassination attempt was just that, an attempt. To scare you. I would never, ever hurt you. You should know that. I would rather hurt everyone else, all of them. But I had to stage a scare so you could come back to me, to my arms, trust in only me. It worked for a while, before that bloody sniffing policeman discovered the man I paid. But no worries, I have made sure they released the man. He will sing Solomon’s name now. He will tell you Solomon paid him to lie about me. And the proof I attached of Solomon being shady is true, yes he is shady, doing things behind your back, but not to that extent. You don’t need to know that though. He will try to explain that he was merely defrauding you, and you will not listen. Just like you did me. 

The charm? Come on. Any woman that charms a man must just love him as much. Besides, it was just reinforcement. I know you love me. I can sense it, see it. Now that I think about it, I knew the charm thing was fraud, you still married Asiya even though the names written were to keep you apart. But like I said, reinforcement.

Yes your mother sent something for me to use on you. Kayan mata, hogwash. We never needed aphrodisiacs to spice up our intimate life, we created fire in the bedroom and sizzled the sheets. We were so good together in all aspects you see. But I collected them from Mallam Dahiru anyway. And I gave them to my househelp to use. I didn’t need all that. Besides, I couldn’t trust your mother. I couldn’t trust anyone. I don’t trust anyone. All these things I am telling you with my eyes, Rufa’i. All these truths. Saying them for the last time before I close them off, erase them, throw them away, brand them hallucinations and actually believe that they never happened.

Now you are here crying to me. It is all over for the second time for you. All the things I told you have been corroborated and you believe me. But you are done fighting. You are tired. Your life starts taking shape and then it crashes. And that is why I am here. Your rock.

“I am so sorry Maimuna” You say for the hundredth time or what feels like it. I am fighting between being broken and pitying you. How do you treat a man who picked the world against you only to find out that the world was wrong?

I know I shouldn’t let you hug me. We are not married. But you seem so broken. You seem like you want to do anything to make it stop. You seem like I am the only home you know. So I let you. And I pat your back and I tell you it is alright. You are a strong man Rufa’i. You will bounce back. But listen, you can never truly stand tall without me. We both know that, and that is why I have steered you back to me. I will always look out for us, the means I use don’t matter, the end is all that is important.

My heart is filled with so much love when you say “You are the only family I have”. I smile. You don’t see it, but I smile. You are always so trusting. You didn’t read my letter well it seems, oh well, some things never change. You obviously missed the part where I wrote. “Beware of who you call family”.

How do you react to physical illnesses? Do you ignore physical pain, tell your loved one to ‘man it up’ when he has a killer headache, decide to treat yourself when you have diabetes? Or do you go to the hospital and seek professional help.

Now how do you react to psychological diseases? Are you aware that mental illness do as much harm to you and your body as the physical and many physical pain are in fact, a manifestation of the pain that is lodged up in your brain seeking a way to get noticed and treated.

Mental health awareness, in developing countries especially, is just gaining momentum after wreaking harm for years unattended.

Recently in Nigeria there is an appalling surge in the number of suicide and suicidal attempts, murder of spouses, relatives and strangers, terrorism activities and other life threatening acts. Are you aware that over 70% of these acts can be attributed directly (as in the case of suicide) or indirectly (as in the case of terrorist attacks) on mental ill health.

Psychopaths, sociopaths, people with borderline personality disorders and other personality disorders walk, work and live among us (they might even be us), but the lack of awareness on the signs to watch out for and when to get help can make the disorders worse to the point of making them dangerous in the society.

Depression spreads it’s tentacles far and wide, more so because it has found a suitable environment for growth in Nigeria fed by lack of awareness, shunning, pressure, frustration stemming from work, home, marriage life, studies or standard of living.

The lack of empathy makes it that much harder for patients to reach out and the stigma makes it worse when it comes to seeking help. But no one has ever stigmatized people for seeking help with cancer, so why is cancer of the mind any different?

What we need to understand is that mental diseases are diseases like any. What we need people to know is that having them is okay and seeking help is an act of courage. What we need from people is to research, know about the importance of mental health and what to watch out for, know the many different personalities and disorders, observe the people around them and give them a should when they need it.

Because your mental well-being means so much more than you think. It means the world.

Submitted by Aisha Hamza

  I arrived at Tara’s apartment a little past eight p.m. She enveloped me in a warm hug and led me to the lavishly set dinning area where candle lights were competing with porcelain dishes . Sitting down, I allowed my eyes roam on the body hugging sequined dress that flattered Tara’s beautiful body. I might just propose tonight.

  Tara excused herself and went into the kitchen. Suddenly something moved from the shadows and surfaced in form of Tiara. She didn’t give me time to recover from my shock as she said “long time no see Ayo”. There was no way my ex from hell was sitting across from me. Too shocked to say a word, beads of perspiration gathered on my forehead.

“Tiara, I see you’ve met Ayo already” It was Tara’s honeyed voice. What in the world was going on? I mused. Tiara flashed Tara a smile. 

    “Ayo, this is my twin sister Tiara”. The universe must be playing tricks on me. “Remember the two girls on the night of the 27th, 2008. Your boys and you. Remember the rape Ayo”?
It was Tiara speaking.
I looked up and saw Tara holding a gun. “It’s payback time Ayo”. Smiling, she pulled the trigger. 

This story was written as an entry to the Flash Fiction contest hence the theme but unfortunately, due to technical issues, it was not received.

Writers Bio

Aisha Hamza

Aisha Hamza is an ardent and growing creative writer who is passionate about stringing words together. She is a poetic soul with the pen of a word artist and hopes that some day,her name would be written in gold amongst a legion of renowned writers.

She dipped the kitchen towel in a bowl of hot water and placed it on her hand. She winced as the heat seared through her tender flesh. There was a cut and several small injuries on the back of her hand and she couldn’t let anyone see it, especially the people where she was going.

She placed a band-aid and covered the small cut around her knuckles with foundation, she was wearing a long-sleeved gown to shade her wound from prying eyes. People, always trying to establish your life is not perfect like theirs.

She wasn’t going to address the cause of her pain until she’s back. He was probably on their matrimonial bed still asleep, but she had to get up, because she had to work, because she had to feed the family while he slept like a bunch of rotten bananas.

She checked her watch, frowned at how the small hand had ticked clockwise faster than she had wanted and hissed. The lecture wouldn’t deliver itself, she said to herself. Domestic violence, it seemed was a much sought after topic. Battered women where having none of the bullshit anymore, and she was proud. She stared at her bruised hand, she was proud of them.

Iridescent flowers that have already started darkening by the edges, that was what they looked like. Their faces lighted up in understanding and agreement as they stared ardently at her, eagerly sucking up each word like a child with an insatiable appetite of milk.

She shivered slightly at the sight of the innocence painted on their faces, innocence that for some, has already started getting tainted with a dark paint. She needed to save them; from themselves and from the others be it their parents, partners or the society… or all.

And so her voice got stronger with each word, with each message, with each example stating a hundred and one reasons why a woman is the owner of her body and why no one, can take that away from her.

‘The word ‘woman’ has, for a long time been taken to be synonymous to ‘weakness’, and that is why the girl child has been conceived of weakness, birthed by weakness and brought up in weakness. It has been drummed in our brains for so long we begin to believe in that and that is why when our husbands batter us’ she cringed at the thought of that ‘it is taken for granted and blame is heaped solely on us, the weakness’ her voice dripped of passion. She needed them to understand that they needed to stand up for themselves, she needed them to understand there in the grand looking assembly hall of the school of the elite children before it was too late.

‘But not anymore’, she went on. ‘The modern woman is strength and power. She understands that she is human before woman, she understands that she is woman and therefore priceless, she understands that dowry is not a ticket to torture, she understands that she is the owner of her body and she will fight to see that every other person accepts same’. She concluded.

The thunderous applause made her jolt a bit in fright. She stood stunned as the crowd of young secondary school girls and teachers stood up and cheered.

It always happened like that and that was why they scouted lectures so much from her for whenever she was delivering a lecture on violence against women, she was never herself. She was a woman from fifteen years ago who had been dragged and man handled, slapped across the face and told to shut up or the knife glistening in the dark will be buried within her. And she had to stifle her scream and lie for hour-like minutes until the deed was done and her innocence, gone. The most painful part being she knew who it was, and she knew he was a coward as only cowards hit women.

She smiled and lowered her eyes as if shy. The rage of being a victim had subsided and she was back to herself.

The admiration in the eyes of the female students and the profusely stated appreciations were enough for her. Her job was done.

She didn’t want to go back home. She didn’t want to face him or anyone. She just wanted to drive away, far away, but she knew she couldn’t, she knew she had to face her worse nightmare who shared her bed every day for 5 years.

The moment she pushed the door open and heard the sound of feet shuffling, she knew he was home. Where else would he be? Useless man.

‘Come here’. Silence.

‘I said come here’. Now with obvious annoyance.

She felt the rage creep back in. He always had that effect on her ever since he decided it was a good idea to rape her. Little did he know, he fucked with the wrong girl.

10 years after the rape, she had bloomed into a beautiful woman,and he had thought that she had forgotten as it happened a long time ago. And so when she did everything young ladies were prone to do to get the attention of men they liked, he had succumbed and had fallen prey. Some months later, they were married, what he will come to discover was her plot for revenge all along.

She had made his life a living hell from the first year of their wedding. She had made him lose his job, distanced him from family and friends and basically made him dependent on her so that all the power were in her palms, the palms she used to batter him all day as she relieved that dark night that awakened the monster in her.

Her fists were still sore from the punch she had given him last night and she could see him visibly shake as her palms curled to fists.

‘Bloody coward. I hope you tell this story to your fellow weak men who hit women’. She spat out in disgust and landed him another punch.

The relationship between myself and I is a love-hate one. I love myself, I absolutely do but there’s this lady, her name is ‘I’, she resides somewhere- I’m not sure where but I think it’s either my brain, my mind or my body. Sometimes I think ‘I’ is my shadow but then she lingers even after I can see no visible shadow. ‘I’ is more than the physical or tangible, in fact the fact that she’s not tangible makes her more powerful.

‘I’ is annoying, she annoys me to no end because she is too dauntless and daring and adventurous and she lands me in trouble all the time. Are you looking for bad advice cookie? That’s ‘I’. And she nags so much I find it hard to ward her off so to make her keep shut and have her off my case, I just go along with it… bad decision.

I want to lose weight so I try to cut down on food portions and avoid ‘bad’ food and even when I see a super juicy and cheesy chunk of junk, I direct my mind away by myself, but not ‘I’, ‘I’ redirects me. She comes with this super therapeutic voice and goes ‘do you really want to do this to yourself Hafsah? Do you really not want to indulge in this piece of edible luxury? You only live once you know’ and she is sooo good like an expert siren, I usually end up trailing her demands.

And later when I’m drowning in the guilt of it, she sits cross-legged on a plush chair by the side of the grey cube room that’s my mind and smirks to herself. She’s usually writing on a notepad- that’s one thing myself and ‘I’ have in common- and I think she’s scoring herself. By now it will probably read: ‘myself’ 7- 10834893 ‘I’.

‘I’ doesn’t like letting go of people so even when I have a crush on a guy and I want to move on, ‘I’ pushes me to just check his Instagram page one more time for updates, ‘It helps with the healing process’ she says. But she’s lying because I end up stalking him for three more hours….unhealthily.

‘I’ is (am) a hoarder. Like when she tells me I need stuff I don’t need. She’s like ‘Hafsah we are going to need this in the future, keep it’ and the future comes, and it goes and we never need it but we’ve kept it.

And she even hoards memories, some good ones- I must give her credit- but she hoards even the unnecessary, bad ones and that makes her hold grudges like an expert in the field of grudge keeping (there’s a pun lying here somewhere).

For example there’s a family gathering yeah? And I see that cousin and I’m approaching her because I want to catch up and… ‘I’ actually stops me. She says ‘remember when you were 4 years 7 months 1 week old and this cousin flicked a lit up match at you and it burned your arm? You still want to talk to her after THAT?!!! And the memory comes back anew, I feel the pain of the matchstick sizzle on my arm and I make a 360 turn away from the cousin. ‘I’, you are here on banned from interfering with my family life ever again.

When I learn a new song (which is usually some few lines), I don’t like letting ‘I’ know. Because when she gets hold of those lines, God in Heavens! It takes the whole spirit of the Earth to make her stop endlessly chanting them like a breathing mantra. And it annoys me because it’s stuck in my head every moment! But ‘I’ enjoys it. She just loves tormenting me.

You think you have naysayers? Mine resides within! This lady is my worse critic. Everything I do is subject to judgement. I can’t try to look pretty in front of the mirror, ‘I’ will start dissing me. And if so help me God I try to dance or worse sing, ‘I’ contorts her face like she’s smelling poop and grimaces, I’ll have to shamefully stop. That’s why I don’t like taking pictures because ‘I’ calls each of them ugly save one or two. Because of that, I may take 100 pictures and two days later, I’ll delete the lot to one or two. The ones approved by ‘I’. I hate her guts.

I know you are thinking I should let go of her and I’ve thought about it but even as I’m typing this right now, she’s in here laughing her heads off (wickedly) because she knows she’s here to stay. She knows she’ll outlive me, because I know that house, my mind will breathe and exists even after my body gives up the ghost.

And I can’t mute her because in between it all, she drops the most amazing writing and story ideas. She’s my perfectly ever-engaging muse. That’s where our love relationship comes in. I love her for the endless supply of stories she provides. Ever wondered why my stories are usually sadistic? Well….

And she’s my gossip partner, who else will I laugh about my boss with? Most times when you see me laughing to myself, it’s myself and I sharing an inside joke. And she spins the most romantic stories when she’s on her monthly’s. And she can be sweet in a mean way. She comes up plenty horrible ways to get back at people many of which I thankfully forcefully dismiss.

‘I’ is (am) a creative fellow, sometimes mean but usually to me and generally, there’s not a single dull moment between ‘I’ and myself.

Some people are people’s people. They can be around people 20 hours a day and never get tired. They’d rather be with people longer than they will be with themselves. They are extroverts, social, and very confident and comfortable around people.

Some people cannot stand others. They’d rather be alone 20 hours in a day. In fact, they don’t even like people. They are very reserved and might not be confident around others. Socializing is a strenuous task for them.

Then there’s me. I can be around people, I can socialize, I can be with others 20 hours in a day but honestly, I’d rather not.

Sometimes I want people around, most times I want them away. And I know why.

It’s a different thing to chat or be on social media, I’m at home so no (much) problem. But for me to actually go out of my house! That is a mighty problem. I don’t go out except I can’t help it (Market, Hospital…. oh yes of course, work). Socializing and hanging out are major tasks even for a productive purpose.

When I share no common interests or point of view or discussion point with a person, then I can’t relate much with him. If I can’t relate much with a person, then there’s not a point being around the person. Now I might feel this way around people I can even converse with.

For me to want to be around a person then that means the person really gets me to a certain extent and I can be myself with the person at all times. I can handle otherwise (when I’m not comfortable with a person) but I’d rather not, so I’m always surprised when some people are comfortable with everyone and they can be with everyone and speak to everyone. How fam?

I don’t even like talking much except it’s about a novel or cartoon. I don’t like repeating stuff, if I say it once I’d rather not say it again.

I don’t like arguing with people’s opinions and beliefs.

I don’t like it when people think my normal conversation is a battle of intellect and so they start showing off their IQ when in fact I don’t even know if I have one.

Generally, except when I really see the need to (because of the person or topic), there’s little or no point to talking more than absolutely necessary. Ever.

I never thought I’ll send my profile to any page on Instagram in response to men looking for a wife/ soulmate/ life partner. 

I always thought it was too silly, if a person is destined for you, the person will be yours even if he resides in Mars. 

But then maybe it was the thought of turning 28 soon with no prospect of a wedding in view,  or maybe it was maturity settling in with a bam! and unsitting my firm believe in never doing anything to get a man. Whatever it was, I had a moment of epiphany. And in it,  it is okay to fast track meeting the one as long as it’s through a halal means. So the day I saw a request by a man whose words sounded earnest and whose English looked flawless enough for me, I found myself messaging Northern Hibiscus… and mumbling a prayer while at it.

She didn’t reply for a day. I was fidgety, nervous, anxious and in constant trepidation about the implication. What if I come off as desperate, what if he is an axe murderer, what if I don’t like him at all and I have to lay him off, I hate doing that- I’m a softie. I wanted to retract the message but she’d already seen it. The last what if was the one that made me the most nervous- What if the account of Northern Hibiscus is hacked and her inbox are screenshotted and my careless gesture is splayed bare to the whole world- the shame.

But she replied, the next day,  she replied with a phone number. He just saw my profile, he didn’t ask for a photo, he liked me enough to give my number. ‘Can I get his Instagram handle instead?’ I asked her. 

‘He isn’t on Instagram’ came the short reply. What?!

He sent me a message first a day later. I had already convinced myself he wouldn’t message and hang me if I message him first. I was convinced it was for the best if he doesn’t, but the inner me wasn’t delighted, she is a curious one.

So while I groaned when he messaged, she cheered and hi-fived herself. Then we started talking and I couldn’t help but cheer and hi-five myself.  He was like a gold fish in a river full of tilapia, the perfect catch, and I snagged him. 

Sadiq bought me from the word ‘hello’. His diction and play of words is so mesmerizing I’d read our chats everyday over any English text. If you know me, you know a good command of diction is my weakness. I am vain brained but whatever. The more we chatted,  the more I liked. We didn’t exchange pictures till two months later, we didn’t even request so, we weren’t interested in the physical so much as the logical… or lexical rather. But he wasn’t all English, I swear he was something of everything,  any subject, any topic, my guy knows it, a freaking walking Encarta. 

As a sucker for intellectual conversations, I was gone within the first week. He said he liked my mind. It’s special with a touch of weird,  I say the oddest things at the right time, which was perfect because I loved his.

The day we exchanged picture, It became a fact written on stone. I could marry him,  I wanted to, I had to. No better man for me out there. He was just like I had envisioned,  not better, not worse, Just. Like. 

That day, he told me he had to come see me, see if I was real, I was too good to be real ‘that brain and that beauty is a deadly combo’ his words. 

I had asked him too,  I had asked why when he could have half of the female population,  send a request on social media. He said half of the female population weren’t for him, just one woman is and he may have found her. 

Apparently the day her messaged NH, he just woke up, prayed and less than 5 minutes later, he found himself opening an Instagram account and sending a message to Northern Hibiscus ( he already knew about her). He had made up his mind to accept the first person to reply. Somehow, he knew it will be me, not me me, but me. Yes he was also a hopeless romantic like that.

We kept on chatting, this time knowing what the other looked like, but not how the other sounded like. You see, we have never had a phone conversation,  nor exchanged a voice note, nor done a video call. And it was cool with us. I had hinted on a phone call once and he had said that he wasn’t a call person. I respected that.

I began counting down. Weeks to when he takes his annual leave, days and before I knew it, hours. The days leading to when he was coming, I could barely contain my excitement.  I told everyone in my house; my husband is coming!. 

‘Habiba there’s something very important that I’d like to tell you but I’d rather do it face to face’  he said after it was established that he was coming the next month.

I had worried. What was it? He was married most likely. The good ones always were. My heart was unsettled because somehow,  I had a feeling it was big.

‘You are married? You have kids? Divorced? You don’t like potatoes? Because that’s a deal breaker for me’.

‘Lol. None of the above. Calm down’.

He typed back then wrote something that made me laugh and made my worry reduce.

We contemplated on where to meet first. Whether to meet at home or in some other public place. Sadiq is a very modest person. He wasn’t interested in anything that can lead to a ‘haram relationship’ because he said that he genuinely wanted to marry me. So he’d rather home or a public place because he couldn’t trust himself otherwise. I found that very respectful. 

I was ready by the time he said he’d left the airport and was heading to town. I had no makeup on, I was barefaced, literally trying to be transparent. I wanted to come as I am because if he appreciates that then he is a sure keeper. Our relationship was never a pretentious one.

My younger sister rushed into the room. “He’s here’. She declared and my heart slid down and lodged below my stomach.  Here we go…

I spritzed some perfume. Checked myself in the mirror. Rubbed on some lip balm. Adjusted my headtie and veil and finally went down.

The car door opened slowly as I approached,  I was to walk him in. To avoid plenty awkwardness, we decided to meet outside first and as he stepped out in his full manly glory,  I knew that my fate was sealed. I didn’t know when a giant foolish smile plastered itself on my face.

He came towards me with a giant foolish smile of his own. He was taller than he seemed. Good. How did you snag this one you…? I asked myself and my inner self offered me a high-five.

‘Hi’. I said with a little wave. His presence was so easy, it wasn’t as awkward as I thought it’d be.

He smiled and returned back my small wave in an oh-so-charmingly -boyish manner my inner self groaned and sighed. Especially when two shy dimples crept out. I didn’t notice that enticing feature in the pictures. Even better!.

‘So… how was your journey?’. I asked.

His smile grew even wider and he gave a thumbs up. 

Okay… That’s weird. 

‘So …’ I said. In my mind I was like say something. 

He brought out his phone and started going through it. The f**k! I thought. My brows were furrowing together in an ill-concealed frown.

Then he pushed the phone in my face.

‘You are so beautiful’. It read.  Even though the sincerity and emotions in that sentence was almost tangible, my frown deepened. 

‘Thank you’ I mouthed. But my voice was low. Why didn’t he say something? Why did he have to type that and not say it? It was not possible.  But… but it seemed like it. It wasn’t possible that my Sadiq, was dumb. But how?.

He was watching me intently as I struggled with the realisation. His smile had faltered and I could see a shadow of sadness settle over his face.

It was true then.

‘Sadiq’ I said tightly. He looked away. A small gasp escaped from my throat and I covered my mouth with my palms. The shock coursing through my bones made me feel faint.

‘Sadiq’ I called his name again this time, my voice pained. He shut his eyes and looked away.

Then he removed a letter from his pocket and gave it to me. On the envelope read  ‘Please Read This Habibty’.

I didn’t know why I reacted that way, but I slapped the envelope from his hands and fled back in. Why? Why me? Why him? Why didn’t he tell me?

Why now? Why this?!

I ran back as fast as my legs could go against the sting of hot, betrayed tears. But even as I ran, I knew that I’ll go back to him, I knew I felt bad for him, I knew that it wasn’t enough to keep us apart, but it hurt that I’ll never know the voice of love.

It was later, much later, after I’d taken a month to myself to think and heal.  After he and his family and mine had pursued me and tried to make me see reason, after I’d agreed and given in, that my sister told me that she saw all that happened from the balcony . And that after I had slapped the letter from his hands, it had fallen into a small puddle made of the June rains, and he had dejectedly picked it up, shaken the water away and wiped a stray tear from his eyes. She said it was the single most heartbreaking scene she had ever witnessed.

Is it yours?

When it can be taken away 

As swiftly as you came

With no notice,

This time, with no prior notice.


Is it yours?

When the only thing 

Between you and the grave

Is one last breathe

And you have no control


Is it yours? 

When you feel you have a grasp

But it spurns out of control

And all you can do is watch

Pray, it will stop


Is it yours?

Because when it’s the end

And the Angels come

You can’t tell them to wait or stop

They just take it away and it’s forever gone

This life you live the way you wish

As if created on your whim

You say it’s yout life

But it can end anytime

And you are just an audience

To the life you lived

You wish it will rewind

You have changes to make

But its a lot too late

Your deeds will pay

So again I ask

That life you slaved for

And the end of the day

If you can’t decide its fate

Is it yours?

My heart is throwing tantrums today

Telling me to make it stop

Make her stop feeling the varying dark emotions

Which cease her at random moments

Like many different cards slotted in the same money machine.

 

 

My heart is sulking today

She said I didn’t swipe away

From the photos of dead bodies that lay

Strewn everywhere on the streets of Israel.

 

My heart has gotten herself a pair of muffs 

To shut her ears to all the stories told

About pain and struggle and torment children face 

My heart looked at my lifestyle and said ‘theirs is no way to live’

What my heart fails to get is that it touches me too

It shakes my soul the stinks of this world too

But I can barely do anything to alleviate it

And that makes my heart agitated.  

She said she can’t believe I can be so heartless.

 

 

Today my heart is shedding uncontrollable tears

A small girl, barely an infant tore her life to an end

A baby who can not say Mama has been raped 

A man was told it isn’t his place to feel any pain

And try as I may

To calm her down

Tell her that I just can not scream for them stop

My heart has a mind of her own

So she cries some more

And I wonder

Who is a bigger coward

I, who’d watch sorrow play

And do nothing thinking I can’t stop it

Or my heart,  who’d shut her ears 

To the cries of the world

Believing she can do nothing to make it stop.

She was in a rush.  She was in an extreme hurry trying to unmangle the mixed up chatter of instructions in her head of what to buy and what to do and who to call and what to say and what to cook and… long what to’s.
She hardly slept the night before and had to leave home early the next day because the curtains are not in the right colour and the carpet which was purchased months ago had the wrong pattern and it could be overlooked but that was the same pattern for the custom-made sofa fabrics so… Oh and the gown for the second dinner was an inch too lose on the top and an inch too tight by the knees, bride could fall while walking. Somehow, brooms and packers for the brides house had been conveniently forgotten and oh!  Match sticks and ingniters, with coals please, you know, for incense.
Her brain was buzzing with a long list of instructions as she manuovered through the market with the expertise of one who went only once in about 4 months. She hadn’t taken her bath, she felt uncomfortably sweaty, she hadn’t even brushed and the long hijab was whooshing all over her. She cut through lanes and somehow always ended up in the vegetable place. She sighed in frustration and turned back through the same place she came from. Her sister was in full bridezilla mode. The ugly kind.
She finally located the place where the nuts and screw people where. She needed screws because some screws for the bag hanger were missing. She opened her wallet and got a wink by emptiness, no cash.
She sighed in frustration and opened her mouth to ask to transfer, but how could they, they barely have a standard wheelbarrow.  She decided to try her luck still.
“Please um!. Please do you accept transfers?”. She asked in a small voice. She felt suddenly so nervous
 and stupid.
The old man with the screws turned to his counterpart,  a young man selling shoe polish and brushes. ‘Ka gane me take nema?”. Old man had no idea what she was proposing.
‘Transfer? As in can I transfer to your bank account?’.
Young man caught the word ‘bank’ and hissed. “
You want me to keep my money in the bank so they can use it to fund Buhari’s election?” He said in Hausa. ” You people think you are wise but you are the ones being fooled”.
She left without the screws, afraid that maybe a screw in her head was loose.
She quickly hurried to the ATM ignoring 30 missed calls from her sister, mother, her Aunt and her sisters friend.
She waited on the line for ages before it was her turn. And then the card decided it was comfortable inside the ATM so it stayed in. Frustrated,  she left the card inside noting to file a complain after her self-promised 24 days of hibernation after the wedding.
She had just exited the bank gates when she caught sight of him. She had just concluded that her day could only get worse when she saw him, she couldn’t have been more wrong. Her sister had always said she’ll meet her ‘the one’ during her wedding. She was right but not in her wedding.
He was standing on the opposite side of the road looking all shades of manly gorgeousness. She knew it then, in the marrow of her bones she knew she had to look no further because if the way he reacted to the sizzle of tension that sparked for those seconds their eyes clashed was any indication, he was also suckered. Then she felt the pull.
It was an unexplainable force of attraction like a hand slowly luring her forward towards the half of her soul. She was oblivious to the world around, to the people passing and life moving- they all were mere blurred edges in her story. The light was his smile as he edged nearer to her too, the moth was she, both to each other.
And then it hit her, from nowhere. The car tried to screech to a halt but it was going too fast and the lady in long hijab was deaf to it’s honks.
She felt nothing but a sense of somethings presence.  Or someone.  She tried to pry her eyes open, she knew he was beside her where he was meant to be but caught only a glimpse of those dark intense and very familiar eyes before the pain took over racking her every sense and she could feel her soul depart.