At first I wasn’t sure of whether to share this with you or not. It’s a very personal story, you see. It’s the story of a very important part of my life. A turning-point of sorts..
The call was a surprise.. a shock. A pleasant one, I want to believe. It had been many years and we hadn’t seen or spoken since our break-up. I have to admit, in reality I was much more nervous than I appeared over the phone. He, on the other hand, did not bother concealing his excitement. The greatest shock must have been me asking if it was OK to come visit him. A journey 7-hours north of where I now lived. A trip, however, I was now very willing to take.
I did not tell him what flight I would get on. I knew he would wait.. all day if he needed to. And he did. There were only three planes coming from my city that day and I was on the last. I was last to come out too. My body’s movements significantly restricted by a multitude of emotions and thoughts. I was anxious.
There was a great number of people scattered about the arrival hall; so I struggled to find him.
“Holiday-season”, it came from behind. My heart skipped a beat. I had to compose myself. Joe still sounded the same. My stomach ached terribly; was it my uterus again? Must be my nerves. I turned around..
He had always appreciated my level of self-control. Not now. He smiled softly, kissed my cheeks, took my hand, and led me away. It wasn’t until we had reached the exit to the parking lot and he looked around to remember where he had parked, that I caught his eyes.. my Joe. There and then it dawned on me: nothing would remain the same after today.
We drove in silence for about an hour. We passed a tiny square he mockingly called the “city centre”, the cemetery in which barely a few dozen people had been laid to rest, another small town, a beautiful stream, a large river, a stretch of farmed land; and finally reached a park with a small cafe in its center. He slowed down, stopped, parked. I followed him to the spot he must have claimed as his a long time ago. He was in his comfort zone, so it seemed. The rate at which my heart beat increased by the second. I nervously played with my hair. We would finally talk.
You look different.
Good different or bad different?
Awesome different. Your hair really suits you. You never wore it like that.
Still the same. Just say thanks!
You look different too.
(a smirk) You’ve always liked older men.
No.. Not really.
I’ve missed you, you know..
(a deep sigh on both sides)
Life, I guess. I had to move..
Move out of town
Town’s not the only thing you moved away from.
(a guilty look)
I know I did.
I loved you.
I know you did.
So why did you do it?
Do we really have to talk about this now?
I want to.
I need to.
It’s been three years!
That’s precisely why. I still think about you..
I don’t want to.
Why did you do it?
Do what? Cheat?
No. It was easier to deal with that, than..
Yes, you leaving. We could have..
It would not have made a difference.
I doubt. I decided to leave long ago.
I needed to.
What were you running from? The guilt?
Guilt? No.. it wasn’t that. (pause) Not at all..
Then what was it?
By the way, who was it? You never told me.
I didn’t think it would matter..
No, I think I deserve to know.
Why can’t we just drop this issue?
Pls, I really need to know. What really happened? You disappeared without a warning, a note. You were gone from one day to the next. I couldn’t sleep, I did not eat for days. You knew I was sick, terribly so. Yet you ran. You were my life, my joy. But you left me. Just like that. My family was worried.. yours too. They accused you of all sorts. But I stood there defending you with my last strength. Defending what I did not understand. Could not grasp. There were stretches I just wished the Lord would take my soul. Imagining life without you was unbearable. If only you knew how..
Joe, stop! Please, just stop..
No. I deserve to know. All these years.. I need to know why you decided to do this to me.. to us!
I was hurt.
I found out.
Found out what?
You betrayed me.
I don’t understand.
You were after Kay! All this while.. it was her you wanted. It was easier for me to count my losses and leave.. Especially after you and her..
Stop. Stop right there! Oyin, are you serious? Please tell me you are joking. Please tell me you did not throw our lives, our future, our love away because of some.. unfounded fantasy?
‘Unfounded fantasy’ you call it? Are you kidding me?!
He was the only one who ever called me by my pet-name; so his calling me ‘Oyin’ unnerved me a bit. I felt my stomach churn again. I knew I sounded ridiculous. However, I was not shaken. I too refused to budge. I naturally did not expect him to confess to having slept with her without having first put on a show, so I let him. I let him explain himself, defend himself. I allowed him go ahead, denying all allegations of having ever been intimate with my sister. I laughed. I scoffed. At some point I even got up and walked away, only to give in to his desperate cries and pleading eyes to hear him out. I felt powerful, in control, in charge. I would stick to my story. I did not play with my hair anymore. Not until he turned silent, and asked me..
It was Pepe, right?
I froze. My body did not move. Could not. Did he know? Oh no! But how? And just how much did he really know? No, I can’t.. I can’t do this. I can’t tell him.
I felt a mantle of terror and fear, anxiety and despair overshadow me. I was helpless. And then, as though a million and one spirits possessed me, I ran. I ran for a minute, two..thirty. Trying to get away. As far as possible. By-standers must have thought there was someone chasing me. Someone after my life. I had to get away. I just had to get away. And so I ran.. for my life. Away.. from myself.
He found me. I don’t know where or how. But he found me. I woke up in his arms. Exhausted, wet, sweating.
“Thank God you’re awake!” he cried. He looked like he too could do with some rest. I struggled to speak. His voice sounded too soft, I feared. I knew something had to be terribly wrong. Something had happened. My sentences weren’t coherent. My thoughts non-linear.
“Let’s not talk now. Not now. Just relax. You need to gain some strength. It’s been two nights..”
I struggled to breath, to sit up, to tilt my head. I couldn’t move.
“Shhhh.. just relax. You’ll be alright.” it came. In an even softer tone. What was wrong?
A man in white appeared. The doctor?
I fell asleep, again. This time, for more than just 2 night. Not once did he leave my side. I could feel his presence, hear his voice, feel his touch, smell his breath. He needed a shower, he needed to wash. He needed to look after himself. He needed to go. But above all that, I knew he still needed me. And it gave me the strength I needed.. to open my eyes. To continue. To live. To want to live.
And so, I woke up. This time in a room, and I felt safe. I did not fear telling him the truth. He was strong enough to bear it. He said he was OK. OK with never knowing, never asking questions again. He blamed himself, for my insanity, my hysteria, my instability. I let him.. at least for as long as I could. For years I blamed him too. But now, now I needed to tell him the truth.
Yes it was. It was Pepe.
You slept with my brother..
I didn’t want to hurt you..
I had to..
He said he..
Go on, Oyin. He said what?
He said you.. said that..
And so I told him what Pepe had done. I told him how his sickness had given his brother power.. over me. You see, we had been looking for a blood-donor for over a year. Joe was suffering. I was desperate. His brother had the key- I was to be the lock. He said Joe would not walk through the door of life without this sacrifice.. mine.
I refused.. at first. But Joe got worse, his condition deteriorating day after day. I simply couldn’t bear to see him in so much pain anymore. And so I did it. Pepe hated him- for many reasons (reasons that did not interest me then and should be of no importance to you now), he wanted to get paid for saving his life. I had offered him my car, offered him money, all my savings… But no, he wanted a sacrifice higher. A price he knew was worth the deed. He wanted Joe’s happiness. Not his life but his reason for living.
If Pepe didn’t like you before, he loathed you now. And so I granted him access.
You gave away your virginity.
For your life..
A high price.
No, not for love.
(a deep sigh)
And yet you ran..
No, it wasn’t quite like that. Remember, you got sicker. Much sicker. You needed another blood transfusion. This time, he didn’t want..
..to sleep with you.
Yes. He hated you soar. He asked me to leave.
Did you know he was involved in a fatal accident soon after?
I didn’t, but it made no difference anyway. I was never going to forgive him.
It was all too much for Joe. Still, I went on to tell him about my panic attacks that started soon after. About my insomnia. My depression. My eating disorder. I told him about the pain that had gotten worse in my lower abdomen. The cancer the doctor had found. The diagnosis of my cancer being malignant. The news that I only had a few more months to live. My desperate need to spend those last weeks with him..
And while he cried bitterly, it began to dawn on me..
I began to understand what Joe had tried to make me understand.
The things he had always said about love conquering all. Pure, perfect, unconditional love.
I began to see Who he had been holding on to.
The lamb. Its sacrifice of life.. for love.
It was beginning to make sense. Perfect sense.
At the end of the day, I guess we are all- in our own little way- going to have to pay a price.
And with that realization I finally found peace.