Ugonwa strongly believed that nobody could help her pains,such pains were never meant to go away.
They ate into your bone marrow and you wore them around like a badge of honour. One needn’t ask her, because she wore her pains from head to toe.
Lost in Pain
She wanted to make it very early to the market. As soon as the she heard the morning cry, she made her way to the bathroom, dressed up, and patiently waited for early morning sunlight to sprout. Brown sands of Coal city swept around her, like kids that ran around in circles, while she slowly made her way to the bus stop.
She knew it was a long walk, but she wanted to feel the early morning sun on her body, after a long while. Ugonwa placed one foot in front of the other, like the ogazi bird, always not too in a haste. Some loose dusts fell on her like the world did on that faithful day, and others stuck to the ends of her white wrapper and blouse.
People were already up, and everyone went about their business; children walked to school; those that went for morning mass and night vigil, slowly made their way to paths that led to their homes. She knew the parish priest would be right behind them with a mass servant, but she walked on, and didn’t look back.
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She wanted to avoid him by all means. The parish priest often came around after mass; he gave communion or held confession for the old and bedridden. After his rounds, he made it a point of duty to knock on her door, ever ready with words of consolation that didn’t do her any good. The different groups in church were tired of coming, because she never opened her door.
She knew all eyes were on her, but she was not in the mood of greeting anyone or having them wear her off with their consolations. Dead men don’t come back to life. No. Nnamdi was gone and buried, and she needed no one to remind her of him. Walking to the bus stop, she felt nothing but a well of bitterness deep down her stomach. She still shook from everything that, it was impossible to drive around town. People that watched seldom saw them together and knew that something must have happened.
In the Bus
The conductors didn’t care that their loud calls deafened her, but how could they, when all they saw was commuters whom they could not wait to drag into their buses. She patiently waited till the bus for Holy Ghost came to a screeching stop, right in front of her. She looked up, as though everyone one on the bus turned to look at her. She need not announce that her pearl was gone; she wore his loss all over her body like a scar. Ugonwa came closer, lifted a foot, and the driver got up from his seat and helped her out. The conductor looked around for a seat, and a voice shouted from behind:
“Bia nwere oche ebe a! Come and sit here.”
Everyone wanted to help her ease off her loss, but the more they tried, the less at peace she felt. She gradually made her way to the back of the long bus, too aware of their roving eyes. Ugonwa placed her shaky hands on her laps and looked out through the glass to meet moving humans of Enugu. She was lucky she got a seat by the window; looking out through the window helped her forget. Those sitting around her suddenly came at her with words like:
“Ndo. Sorry for your loss.”
Some handed out encouraging smiles, while some, in an attempt to make her feel better; they murmured things like, ‘Omalicha nwa. omalicha nwanyi. Beautiful woman.’
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The bus swung forward along with everyone in it, and it came to a sudden stop. It was usually the nature of most buses that made their way through Garikki, Edozie and Ogbete main market; they are reckless when it came to stopping at any point to pick up commuters. They stopped abruptly at the sharp bend at Osondu, to pick a commuter.
Suddenly, something hit them from behind. Their bus shook violently and almost tumbled. People fell on one another; some almost flew to the front of the bus while others held on tight to where they were. Ugonwa froze out of shock. She could see their Lexus tumbling without control, she heard her voice scream at the minute they were hit, and Nnamdi flew out through the windscreen of their car.
Everything happened so fast that, she didn’t get the chance to kiss him goodbye. She woke in the hospital, shouting and screaming at the top of her voice; her relatives gathered around her with the nurses and doctors who tried to sedate her.
Someone tapped her shoulder so hard that the pain brought her back to another reality. She looked up and found out that the bus was almost at Ogbete market. The man told her that they were hit by a big lorry.
“Ka anyi kene chukwu! Let us thank God!”
Ugonwa looked at the man; she was reminded of the day the pastor told her to thank God, that the accident did not eat both their heads. It also reminded her of the people who came to console her. They all said the same thing, but she knew she was blind and dead-deafened to their words. They won’t stay with her all alone; neither would they comfort her like Nnamdi did. It was not difficult to see the lies that lay under their words like bedbugs.
A Life to Live
The market buzzed with people like a honey nest. She saddled her white bag, tight under her armpit. She walked along with others who came very early. The shops were already open, and marketers called on customers like the conductors, but nobody touched or dragged her like they did the rest. It was as though she was invincible. Someone called her name:
Ugonwa stopped. She was too shocked. She could not believe that anyone could recorgnise her. She turned back and their eyes locked. Her friend repeated her name again:
Ugonwa kept mute. It was as though someone opened up a painful sour or a well of sorrows deep inside her. It was difficult. How could she answer when the only person that called her by that name was gone and too far from reach?
Her friend took one look at her, and frowned.
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“Diamond! You have changed! What happened?”
She looked at her friend as though she was blind; didn’t she see that she wore white? The tears were fast coming, and she could not help it anymore. Ugonwa broke down in tears, and said:
“Uju, can’t you see, I lost Nnamdi? Nna m is no more!”
People didn’t take note of the two women who faced each other. Her friend shook her head in disagreement; she looked passed the once young plump face that was then shriveled, her pale body, the white mourning cloth and everything. Her friend came closer, held Ugonwa’s shoulders, looked into her empty eyes, and said:
“No. You didn’t lose Nnamdi. He is gone. You lost yourself.”
At that point, Ugonwa knew that her friend was right. She knew it was time to live again.
Written by Oluoma Udemezue.