At midnight, my alarm goes off and I begin the daily ritual of marking off the end of the day on my calendar. Each day is for an atonement. Everything that happens to me is made better at midnight when I grab my pen and cross off ‘military time’. The days are trapped inside the squares on the calendar. Underneath each date, I have marked it Day One, Day Two to Day Sixty-One. Tonight, I am making an extra square after Sixty-One.
What is Time? Time is a vortex of a haunting past, the remnants of shattering betrayal, a stripping by some majestic imposter syndrome, a persistent appetite to repress the thoughts that pull aside warm blankets and stay with you till dawn. In the endless days that follow, rest becomes a sanctuary; a place to lay still and allow torment joggle between sweaty palms and feverish limbs.
And blurred visions.
My bags are packed and ready to go. It has been eight months and I still live out of my suitcase. Today would have been sixty-one days from the day I started checking off the dead days. The days I dreamt of home, of warm embraces and bright faces. I practice my reaction for when I will see you again. We make plans and build castles and live in them. We possess futures in our whispered conversations, we are excited for tomorrow, for a chance to say what we left unsaid. The past does not matter, we will make do when we lock in embrace.
Promises too sweet must come to a halt! A love story must be strengthened with pain. Your voice has become faint and my heartbeat has stopped. The phone is ringing and breaking my thoughts. I have my cup of coffee in one hand and I pick the phone in the other. Both hands require strength and I am willing to give. A cold voice speaks through the wires with a mechanical apology about my canceled flight. That voice can never imagine the journey of my mind’s eye. The voice is tired, burdened with the news to shatter a lover’s nest, or a longing forgone. The world is in a pandemic and love is a disaster. I accept the news with numb nods, and wrap it around the palm holding the telephone. I am still holding tight even after the static on the other end drops.
I spill coffee on my plaid granddaddy pajamas.
I have fallen apart. I pick myselfup when I hear voices approach, walk in my shadow and hear the noisy rambling inside me. But each day, checked off and dead, keeps me burning. I am guilty of leaving without warning, for being numb, frozen and tangled veined. I float away—miles and galaxies and light years away. Those who love me bury my memory in their hearts. They think about me with a lump in their chests, you know, like the lump of earth on a dug out grave, before the priest says dust to dust ashes to ashes. There. Do you know how it feels? This lump of remembrance? It is what brings the tears. Good tears. Bad tears. That lump… it is the essence of being. Being, like in, be-ing alive, continuous, staying, not leaving. Not like the human body. No. The body is unreliable.
I hear them breath out my name like a lover sedated by the sweet wine from a maiden’s jigida waist beads that move to the strokes of machete flesh. The rhythm propels me to the sky, but I am unable to see the world beneath. I am caged between bodies and voices and minds. I close my eyes and dream of coconut water bursting from ripe pods and I eat the coconut meat that tastes like sin.
Those I love do not believe that I am away. They demand my presence, unable to comprehend my absence.
I am sorry, I began to prepare for my return as soon as I got here.
I will wait until I am up in the air again, but this time, my mind and voice and body will be mine. My womb hurts. I cry for my babies. Nature rewards me. I give birth to Hope and Peace nurses me every night.
Queen Nneoma Kanu holds a B.A and M.A in English Literature from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and is currently a PhD student in Africana Literature at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA.