It’s 2.12 a.m.
I’m staring at the blinking red light of the clock beside the bed as the undulating music plays in the background. I say ‘undulating’ because the record player broke yesterday, leaving it in a state that reminds me of ocean fronts. Tidal waves rising and falling in restless melody; this is what Enya sounds like in the dim light of the room.
Undulating. Like my life.
Khalid is snoring beside me. It is strange I did not reckon this with the music but really that is what his deep, nocturnal melodies are. Music. It is like the bass, the background hum to the rhythm rising from the broken record player.
But Khalid never snores.
I will know. I have spent every night since our sixth date in his apartment. Except the night I killed our baby because he did not want her. Or it. I had been ridden with guilt and irrational anger at him (it was irrational because I was stupid to be mad at him. He only wanted our best at heart). Why did you make me do it? I feel like a murderer. I keep seeing crying babies.
But he had sent me flowers at work – yellow roses, with a note that read simply:
Your side of the bed is cold.
P.S: I Love you.
I love yellow.
So I came back.
Then, there was also that time I saw him with that old woman from his work. They had been together at a diner looking mighty cozy (or did they? I don’t know anymore). He hadn’t expected me there because I never go out on Friday nights except with him. But I got bored when he didn’t come home so I decided to just go somewhere nice and sit by myself sipping martini and watching couples yell at each other. But then, voila, there was Khalid laughing with his hand on our lady’s thigh. Oh baby, we are working on a project. It’s nothing really.
I packed my small duffel bag and left without a word. My cousin – Idara – lives ten minutes away so I stayed with her since I had given up my apartment when I started staying with Khalid. It will even help you save more money, he had told me.
My cousin didn’t ask any questions. She never did, bless her unassuming soul. We stayed up late drinking her last bottle of wine and venting about men.
The next morning, he sent red roses and a note.
She’s an old lady, Mimi
What could I possibly be doing with her when you’re there?
P.S: I Love you.
I hate red.
But somehow the fact that he preferred me to the old lady was flattering. I am 23 and the woman was probably in her early forties but it still made me tingle. She looked good for an old lady.
So I went back.
Also, that time he got drunk and [mistakenly] hit me on the face because I yelled at him for coming back late. It was past 11pm but I immediately picked my bag and headed to Idara’s. She took one look at my swelling face and let me in.
“He beat you didn’t he?” she asked as she handed me an ice pack. So much for the unassuming cousin.
“No, he just hit my face. It was a mistake.”
“Was that what he told you?” she sounded disgusted.
“No, he didn’t tell me anything. I know. He was just drunk”
“Wow. You’re doing it again – making excuses for him.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Then why did you leave the house?”
“I…I didn’t feel safe. He is still drunk.”
“Oh wow. This is worse than I thought,” my cousin said, almost to herself.
The next day, he sent me a teddy bear and a note. The receptionist at the office just handed me the package without looking at the name tag. The note read:
Didn’t go to work today. I had a terrible hangover this morning.
I need you baby.
P.S: I Love you
I liked the idea of being needed. The idea of a hurting prince in need of my help.
So I came back.
Other times I stayed away included: mum’s funeral, dad’s hospital admission when his wife travelled to the village with their kids – my half siblings – and that time when I was absolutely sure the garage housed a ghost.
As I sit in the dark staring at the red, blinking light and listening to undulating Enya and the bass of Khalid’s snore, I am aware that I should go to sleep. But I can’t.
Khalid is drunk and that’s why he is snoring. My face is bruised and my arms feel like lead as I raise them to feel the scars.
We had gotten into a horrible fight earlier on. He had seen me with Gideon – the tech guy from my office – and had insisted I was sleeping with him. I told him I wasn’t and if I was what was that to him? Since he had taken to sleeping with older women. I had been as surprised as he was when I brought it up, we both thought I had let that go. But apparently I hadn’t. That had irked him so bad.
“God, Mimi. You can be so childish. Is there any wonder I would prefer an older woman? You’re so immature, so ungrateful.”
“Oh, so it’s true. Well, excuse me for being mad at you for sleeping around. We wouldn’t want you to think I’m childish now, would we? And what should I be grateful for, Mr-Big-Jerk? You’re utterly useless to me.”
He snorted. “At least I’m more useful than your father.”
I saw red then. If there was anything I couldn’t stand, it was spite to my parents. It wasn’t daddy’s fault his business partner had hightailed with all his life’s investments and Khalid knew it.
“You fool! How dare you?” I was hitting him, blindly sending blows anywhere my small fists could find. He hit my face so hard I could swear I saw stars. He shoved me and I tumbled over the table where the record player stood…and it broke.
He left the house then and didn’t come back till past midnight; drunk.
And as I sit listening to his snores that still sound like music to me despite everything, I realize with mild alarm that this is my life. I couldn’t get rid of Khalid even though he hurt me sometimes: he needs my help to get better and how was I going survive if I left? I love him too much.
I should go to sleep.
But I can’t.
* * * *
“Babe, you look terrible!” Rolake says to me. It’s morning and I am at work. I had rolled out of bed around 7am to a mild headache and an empty bed.
I didn’t bother to call him.
Rolake is my colleague at work. A bird of a woman with a nasal voice and a small frame. She is one of those people who says things the way they were and smells like chocolate. I like her.
“I couldn’t sleep last night.”
“He beat you again?”
I sigh and close my eyes. I am tired of this conversation already. Why did everyone feel the need to examine my personal life? Yes, I and Khalid had a few bumps so what? Who didn’t?
“No, we had a fight. And yes, I still love him.”
“That’s not love, Mimi. That’s abuse. And you’re not even married yet.”
“What do you know about love, madam holier-than-thou? “
Oh and did I mention Rolake is a Jesus freak?
“Probably better than you do,” she paused and said. “Come with me to church this Sunday.”
I give her a look that says; Are you kidding? She has been pestering me about this church business for long and indeed about Jesus. I’m not sure I have the strength for religion just yet but I turn to the computer screen and say like I always do. “I’ll think about it.”
* * * *
I got a call this morning that made me very scared. Dad told me he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I had been shocked to the boot. I cannot stand the thought of losing another parent. Have I not had enough grief?
So, I picked my bag and went to church. Even now, as I’m standing awkwardly in the pew with the music swirling around me, I’m not sure what I’m doing here. Maybe I just needed to feel something or maybe deep down I just wanted answers. I don’t know.
And I must admit, the music is good. Even though I don’t share their sentiments for wanting to praise God, but the music feels good. Rolake had been overjoyed to see me.
The preacher started to speak and I was about to plug my ears and prepare for boredom till I heard him say, “Jesus said, come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden…” I pause and listen.
“There is no one who longs to take your burdens like Jesus; burdens of sin, abuse, depression and so on. And no one who can ever love you like he does. And ooh, yes, he loves you and His love is true and pure. It is sure and sacred. It is patient and kind. It is unconditional and whole. He loved you so much he literally came and died for you. Amen?”
I just stare.
“Alright, let’s move on to today’s topic. I just felt someone needed to hear that.”
* * * *
Dad called and told me what his doctor said. He had two months to live. I nod my head and try to control my voice as tears stream down my face. I had to be strong for him.
He sounded so scared.
Khalid asked me and I told him about my dad. He just grunted and said nothing. Who is this man?
We have taken to talking in laconic words since that day we had a fight. Did you buy the bread I asked? Have you seen my keys? There’s a mail for you.
He has even stopped touching me and I am bothered but only mildly. Who is he sleeping with? He hasn’t even sent me any notes.
I have been speaking with Rolake a lot and she told me about Jesus and my need for him. But I’m not really sure about that. How can I leave Khalid? I’ve never loved anyone the way I love him. And how am I supposed to cope without him? Without sex? Yes, the whole Jesus offer sounded really good but I have my own struggles. And since Rolake had said I had to leave all to follow Jesus, I knew I couldn’t stay with Khalid if I wanted Jesus. She had insisted only Jesus can satisfy me and I just needed to take the leap and see. But I’m too broken. I’m too far gone. Everytime I look at Khalid’s sleeping face – so beautiful – or caught a whiff of that smell that was only him, I realize I’m not ready.
I can’t do it.
* * * *
The sun kisses my skin as I walk out this morning. It is like a gentle caress that seems to soothe my battered body.
I squint as I look into the horizon and breathe deeply. My bag is heavy behind me as I drag my pink suitcase but I don’t mind. The load in my heart had been infinitely heavier but it is gone now.
I’m leaving Khalid.
I realize that I cannot help him or love him more than when I leave him. I am tired of settling for peanuts when I can have more. I am finally taking that leap and have decided to just follow the sun and watch the shadows fall behind me.
I’m not sure where I’m going. Maybe to Rolake’s or to Dad’s but I’m sure I’m leaving.
I know Khalid would send me another gift and a note when he comes back and sees my letter lying on the bed. But I don’t want that anymore. I don’t want post script love. I don’t want love that was an afterthought. I want a love that is whole and true. I want a love that is a person. And I’m leaving all to claim it. To claim him.
The early morning traffic is building as I get to the bus stop. I smile at a random stranger and bop my head to some faint rythmn in my heart.
It is a good day for redemption.
Image source: unknown
So there’s my special Christmas gift to you as promised. Straight from my heart, I say ‘Merry Christmas!’ May you live everyday understanding the love that made Christmas possible – namely Christ.
And don’t forget to share the love (and the post 🙂 . Someone may need it.
Oh and ‘Forgiving God’ continues.