For those of you who haven’t read the Fish Brain series, it is out for download on Okadabooks. Follow the Facebook link below to download them (Like my page in the process :)). The first book is free while the other two cost just N375 each. Really cheap for the length and the experience. 😉
Please leave a review and tell your friends and family.
As for Boys With Toys, I’ll give you some info on Saturday.
This episode is dedicated to people like me who suffer from depression. Nobody really wants to talk about it but a lot of people go through it. You will find your healing and all the love you need. If you want to talk to someone, you know how to reach me. Hang in there!
“So I have a toaster,” Peace whispers into my ear.
My eyes pop out. “Already?”
“What do you mean by already? In fact I have like three toasters.”
She swipes chicken bones off a dish into a garbage bag and places the dish in the kitchen sink. I wash the dish while listening to her tell me about the guy in her church who has the hots for her.
“He’s a widower, no kids, not so rich but very dapper. However…” She stands beside me, backing the sink. “I’m not ready to go into any relationship now. I need to get a job, rebuild my life from scratch and concentrate on Sammy before I start thinking about men again.”
“But you like this guy?” I turn off the tap.
“Naa. Not really. I’m just basking in my newly-found spinsterhood. It feels great to be wanted again.”
I wipe my hands on a kitchen napkin. “But you know you can actually date someone, right? God will not punish you for it.”
“I know but…I don’t think I’m ready yet. I’ll give myself at least a year…”
“A year? P, cobwebs will grow on you o.”
“What will people say if I start seeing somebody so soon?”
“Who cares what people will say? You owe no one nothing.”
“Mary, it’s not as if anyone is saying anything at church but they judge me with their eyes. You know how we Christians can be sometimes. Nobody wants to know what happened in the marriage, the woman is always to blame.”
“Abeg, ignore them jor. Where were they when you were suffering?”
“Do what makes you happy, my dear.”
“I will.” She hooks an arm around my neck. “But only when you also decide to start dating again.”
“If I recall, you were very open to meeting someone new until that Reno incident occurred.”
“Abeg, P leave that thing.”
She faces me. “No, Mary. We can’t let one idiot ruin our chances of happiness.”
Her fingers pick something off my face.
“I’ll find love when you do,” she adds.
“You go old be dat.”
“But seriously, how are you coping?”
I lean back a bit. “It’s hard sometimes. My room still gives me nightmares. I’ve changed my perfume, thrown away my pillows and the sheets that were on the bed that day and basically everything that reminds me of what happened but I still have moments. Therapy helps sha, thanks to Jide who paid for it because God knows I can’t afford that doctor. But I basically find my solace in the Bible. Verdict is, I’ll be fine. I have since moved on.”
I pick out the guilt on Peace’s face and I spare her the unease of having to say something appropriate.
“I think you should dump these garbage bags outside.”
She picks two huge bags and hurries out.
I check the time. It’s past eleven and all our friends are gone. Peace thinks I’m spending the night but I feel it would be rude to Honey if I sleep elsewhere. I wonder if I’ll find a cab in this neighborhood at this odd hour.
A jug of freezing apple juice resting on the kitchen counter beckons to me and I go for a glass as I mentally plan for an event I’m catering to next week. I am almost down to my last gulp when Peace returns to the kitchen.
“Mary, there’s a fair guy outside asking after you and Honey. He said he’s been calling Honey’s line and it’s been ringing with no answer.”
“Oh, that’s Ekene. Her ex…em, I mean her neighbor.”
“Ex? Neighbor? Which one?”
Peace places a pot of some nice-smelling stuff on the cooker for her usual night cap concoction. Only Lord knows what’s inside.
“I do hope the guy is not a threat to Jide o,” she says.
“Threat keh? How now? You didn’t ask where Jide carried Honey off to?”
“They left together?”
I laugh. “Lastma! They’re probably in cloud twenty by now. The way his eyes were on her the whole time ehn. And the yeye girl didn’t even notice.”
“Ehya. I’m glad they’re back together.”
“Let me be going, P.”
“Going? But I’m making something for us to eat. All we did was drink all night.”
“Eat what this night, Peace? Abeg, I dey go. Eat your concoction alone.”
She laughs. “Okay, luv. Thank you.”
“Kiss Sammy for me.”
We hug and she walks me to the front door. It’s a bit chilly when I stroll out to the gate. I’m hoping that by some miracle Ekene would be gone by now but I catch him waiting outside his car. I grunt. It’s best to pretend I don’t see him.
I take the opposite route and stick close to the shadows.
“Mary!” he calls out. I frown. He’s so anyhow! “Mary!”
I stop out of annoyance and turn.
“Where are you going?”
“Where is Honey?”
“With her boyfriend.”
He pulls back. “Boyfriend?”
“Yes, her boyfriend. Jideofor. They left together. To his place.”
I roll my eyes.
“I saw that.”
“You saw what?”
“The eye-rolling. I saw it.”
“Where are you going?”
“Your house or…?”
“Why do you always ask questions? That was how you were bombarding me all the way here until you missed road.”
“Okay. So, your house or Honey’s?”
“I said I’m going home. That’s all you need to know.”
“Come and enter the car let me drop you.”
I continue walking. I have vowed not to be alone in the same space with any man. Cars are as unsafe as bedrooms and not even a luxurious beast on wheels can make me change my mind. If I am lucky I might get a cab. This part of town is notorious for bad transportation once it gets dark.
I hear a car honk at me. I don’t turn. I know it is Ekene.
“So you’d rather walk in those ridiculously-high stilettos than let me take you home?”
I stride on. He drives beside me.
“It’s unsafe for you to walk all alone by this time of the night.”
I keep walking. He keeps driving.
“Am I irritating or something? Or…you just don’t like Igbo guys? Or is my accent that bad? Or is it my complexion? I know women go for tall, dark and handsome but come on, I’m not that bad. Even Honey thinks I’m cute.”
“You think so too.”
My annoyance starts to wane.
“I’ll be fine, Ekene. Just go home.”
“So that Honey will come and skin me alive for not dropping you at her doorstep safe and sound? Biko, just spare both of us the drama and enter the blasted car.”
I hasten my steps, leaving him behind. I don’t move three or four feet ahead when his car speeds up beside me and screeches right in front of me, almost making me bump into it.
“Jesus!” I put my hand to my chest and try to catch a racing heart.
He comes out of the car.
“What is wrong with you?!” I scream at him. “Are you crazy?! You almost hit me!”
“I’m sorry. Please, enter the car. I am asking like a gentleman. Please.”
I hurriedly cross the street and luckily for me an empty cab slows beside me. Before I get into it, I catch Ekene’s eyes on me. He seems pissed. Like I care.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
I open my eyes and find I am alone. The sun is fiercely making a statement in the sky. I wonder why it’s so hot these days. The weather is just screwed up this year. I pick a remote control from the bedside and change the temperature of the room.
I sit up. Hanging off a chair beside the bed is a jersey with the inscription #Jiney at the back.
Jide plays football with his friends on certain weekends. They always compete against each other – the married guys versus the bachelors. On his blog he had asked his followers what they thought the best combo name of he and I would be to inscribe on his jersey. People gave numerous suggestions, a vote was made and the name ‘Jiney’ won.
The week we broke up, there was a huge game planned. Jide did badly and the bachelors lost for the first time.
I pick the jersey and inhale. The scent of fresh laundry cannot mask Jide’s fragrance. I slip into the jersey as my feet touch the floor. I wonder where Jide is.
I can hear my phone ringing from the sitting room. I go for it. Dele’s wife is calling.
“Honey, na wa o!” She shouts into my ear once I take the call.
I dump my weight into the couch Jide and I violated last night.
“How can you just go off radar like this nau? What is going on with you?”
“I’m fine, babe. I was just having some issues, is all.”
“Ha! You made me fear o!”
“But didn’t Saratu pass across my message? I told her to tell you that I needed to be alone for a while.”
“So that’s why you didn’t want to see me abi? Honey, we live in the same town…”
“That can be debated, madam. It’s almost a day’s travel to your side.”
“Shut up, abeg. I was talking. We live in the same town and you didn’t want me to come see you. Why am I your friend, though?”
I play with the tacked edges of the jersey as I listen to her scold me.
“And I feel slighted that Sara has access to you and I don’t.”
“O ga o! Me I’ve just decided to forgive you ni; if not, we won’t be speaking to each other now.”
“I’m sorry nau.”
“I’ve heard. Anyways, I was calling concerning our business. Everything is set. Sara and I have done our own part. In fact, the running around we did these past weeks ehn, even Dele is complaining. To set up business for Naija no be beans.”
“You girls, well done.”
“Anyway, sha. We’re waiting for your go-ahead. You are our oga at the top.”
I shake my head. Ever since the Oga at the Top incidence occurred, Dele’s wife has not let it be.
“Just do and let’s start before the spirit dies, abeg.”
I sigh. I had literally stopped my whole life for an entire month. Now, it’s hard to get back. I still don’t have the desire to begin again.
“We’ll have to sit and talk about a grand opening,” she adds. I smile. Dele’s wife can’t do without partying.
“How are you doing? Are you and Jide back together?”
“Honey, why nau? That guy loves you. He called me like up to five times this past month. How can you just break a grown man’s heart like that? It’s not fair. Whatever is worrying you, please do away with it and let him back in, abeg.”
She tells me she loves me and hangs up.
I let my phone down for a second and take in the sitting room as it brings back beautiful memories of Jide and I. I stretch out on the couch, lazy to get up and have a shower. After a while, I go online. I have some Facebook and Instagram notifications waiting which I respond to. Done with them, I go through a couple of fresh emails and discover I have one from my doctor in South Africa which I don’t recall opening. I hiss before I proceed. He’s an unserious man, going off grid when I needed him direly.
I start to read the email and every word I take in stabs me in the heart. Tears veil my sight. I put my phone away and pull my knees together. It is at this moment that Jide comes in.
The front door slams and I hurriedly try to wipe my tears but Jide spots me in the act. He cocks his head to get a good look. I plant a fake smile on my lips.
He walks to me, looking sexy in scrubs. Despite my tears, I notice.
“Are you crying?”
With my hands still trying to wipe my tears, I shake my head in a lie. He stoops before me and pulls my legs down.
“I can’t let you keep killing yourself like this, Honey. I’m here, my ears wide open and my heart ready to accept whatever it is you have to tell me. Please, talk.”
“I shouldn’t have had an abortion,” I utter, the words stumbling over each other really fast.
“I shouldn’t have. I was scared that my meds would cause some birth defect for the baby and since I had been on medication way before I got pregnant, I was worried that the damage was already done. But that was no excuse. I should have gone for a scan first or waited to hear from my doctor but I was just so mad at you that day. And now, my doctor is saying I shouldn’t abort the baby, that the pregnancy would be fine even with the meds. But it’s too late, Jide. And it’s all my fault.”
Jide holds my hands to comfort me even though he doesn’t understand half of what I have just spilled. He lets me cry for a while.
“Sit down,” I say to him eventually. He takes the space beside me.
My fingers go into a nervous twisting contest with each other until he places a warm hand over them.
“I have bipolar disorder,” I confess to him. I can’t look into his eyes.
“I was diagnosed six years ago. I remember my doctor breaking the news and me staring back at him in total confusion. I was like, ‘isn’t that a mental illness?’ and he said, ‘yes. You can also call it manic depression.’ I remember not being able to process anything in the days that followed. The diagnosis was way worse than what I was feeling. I had always known, from my teenage years, that my level of depression was not normal. And when the doctor listed out the symptoms for me, a lot of stuff started to make sense. He said it could likely be linked to family history; maybe someone in my family had suffered or was suffering from it.”
“Was there anyone?” Jide asks, lifting a leg to rest on the couch so he can face me better. His sudden question and movement jarred me out of my narrative, making me realize I was sharing for the first time, my darkest secret. Before this, only Ekene knew. And I didn’t have to tell him. After a terrible spell of depression six years ago, he had dragged me to the psychiatrist who studied and pronounced me mentally disabled.
I had felt like dying that day. Questions that had no answers plied my mind for weeks and even today, I am still left in the dark. For this reason, I have kept this part of me hidden, hoping that somehow I would wake up one morning and it would disappear. Being with Jide freed me for a while. In fact, I believed I had been cured until the abortion, which plunged me into darkness, my worst ever. Since I left Jide, I have been locked in, shades drawn, eating myself to stupor and not being able to find my way out.
“I wouldn’t have known then if someone in my family had it. Bipolar is hard to diagnose because apart from the depression, it comes with highs. You have moments when you feel really happy and have lots of energy. But when I think of it now, I think my mom suffered from it. The pain I felt the day Jane shared with us the details of my mom’s death still lingers. It opened up a can of worms that explained a whole lot about what my mom suffered while she was alive. She did not only have to deal with enemies on the outside, she had her own mind working against her just as I do. And I believe that was the reason she readily accepted death when it came. I do not want to end up like her.”
“Are you taking your meds right now?”
“No. I stopped after the abortion and I’ve been on a terrible low.”
“You think medication is bad for you?”
“I think it’s good but too much of a good thing can turn bad too. I don’t know who I am anymore without the meds.”
“Is this why you broke up with me, Hon? You thought I would leave you if I knew?”
“You don’t know me, Jide. The real me. Before I was diagnosed, I could go for months on a constant high with little sleep, always up and running. Sometimes when I’d get off flights, I’d go clubbing and because we were not allowed to drink, I’d compensate with sex. I was in a constantly-spinning wheel. That was how I was able to manage my job competently. My bosses loved my efficiency but I was dying inside. And then I had my lows too. I remember locking myself in the lavatory during flights and just crying for no reason until a colleague would knock and tell me a passenger was waiting to use the place.
“Or at stopovers, I’d do the exact opposite of clubbing and stay locked in my hotel room until the next flight. And this had basically been the story of my life before the meds. I suffered it in the university and also in secondary school but I hid it really well then. Imagine you feeling like just dying but you have to wake up every day, smile, hang with friends and just live a life you don’t really want to live.”
“Do you think the way your siblings treated you could also be a contributing factor?”
“My doctor believes so.”
“Me too. It was painful to watch your elder brother abuse you the way he did.”
“My doctor says the abuse made me isolated and since I didn’t share it with my parents, it became part of my existence and left roots deep inside me. He thinks I should speak to my siblings, tell them how much they hurt me. He says it would help heal me. But I don’t want to.”
“Maybe you need someone to be there beside you. Can you do it if I’m there?”
His request baffles me.
“Why would you want to be there, Jide?”
“What sort of question is that, Honey? I am your friend.”
“You don’t know me, Jide. I am not the Honey you fell in love with. That one you love behaves herself, she is nice, polite, well-mannered, acts moderately…”
“And this one sitting here with me is who?”
“You don’t know me. And it would be best if we stayed away from each other.”
“Honey, you met me and fell in love, and your whole world stopped and you created space for me. You did that. Not the medication. You. And just like that you want to erase everything?”
“Jide, smashing your phone was me just playing with you. I can get worse. You don’t know me.”
“You keep saying that. Give me a chance to know you!”
“It would be a disaster, Jide! I know! I stopped my meds because I want to start my life afresh…”
“Start it with me.”
“No, Jide! I need to be able to, on my own, build myself, and learn how to manage my emotions and my moods before…”
Jide dashes up. “You can’t, Honey! You can’t do it alone! That’s what I’m trying to tell you! I have been there! When I lost Ezinne, I fell into depression and had mindless sex with strangers. I couldn’t sleep alone at night because I’d have nightmares; there must be a girl in my bed every damn night! And yet I couldn’t commit. I went for the ones that were already in committed relationships because I didn’t want strings attached or any type of drama. But in the end, I was lonely, angry and depressed. I’m not saying I’ve felt exactly how you feel but I have been there in the pits and I thought I could heal myself on my own but I couldn’t. And that was when I decided to come back home, to family, to friends…”
He bends his tall frame over me, resting his hands on the couch.
“And then I found you and my life found light. Being with you is my healing process, Erhinyuse. If you go, Honey…you’ll take me back into the dark. Please, allow me be the same for you. The one place you can go whenever you feel too weak to face your day. And of course, we’ll both be taking it one day at a time. Mmh?”
I bury my face in my hands. God! I love this man insanely and he sounds so convincing and I just want to throw my hands in the air and say take me but he doesn’t know the half of it.
“I do. I know more than the half of it,” he says and I look up into his eyes, baffled. “Yes, sugar lips, you just spoke out loud.”
I cover my face in embarrassment. He pushes my hands down.
“And it’s something you have done several times in the past. And I love it. You do other weird things too but I never complained because I have my own crazy.”
He shifts my weave off my face and lets it rest on my shoulder. He does so with so much concentration and tenderness that gets me smiling.
“You have a loving family, you know? And I don’t mean those assholes in Warri. I mean, Nne and her husband. And you have brothers and sisters too.”
He kisses my nose.
“You want to talk about the baby?”
“You want to have another baby?”
I giggle but I see he’s serious.
“Be honest, Honey.”
“Funny enough,” I reply reservedly, “I want to be given another chance. I know it’s not a cure but yeah, I want to be a mom.”
“That can be arranged, starting from…last night.”
We both laugh.
“So, I think you’re reeeally beautiful and I think you have an awesome mind that I would want to know. So, you think you could maybe be my girlfriend – again?”
I put my arms around his neck and he lifts me up. I wrap my legs around him.
“Is this a yes?”
He knots his eyebrows. “Have we tried this style before?”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
I’m apprehensive about speaking to Yazmin about this claudia thing. How do I go to her and say ‘hey, Yaz you could have claudia’? She would just flip.
I should have paid more attention in my biology classes because I vaguely recall my sexy biology teacher saying something about the penis being the host of certain infections. I wasn’t concentrating, of course. I was staring at her boobs and thinking of the many things I could do with it.
Now, this claudia stuff, I’m wondering for how long I’ve had it and went about not knowing it was there. I dare not Google it, not after Tola’s scary questions about my balls. Yeah, that’s one of the perks of marrying a doctor. They scare you with medical stuff. Maybe the infection is not even that bad; I suspect it’s one of those things women have that comes and goes.
“Papi, what’s wrong?”
I stare at my son and look up at Yazmin.
“Does he have big ears?”
Yazmin gazes at Tobe like he’s a hunk. “No. He’s just so cute.”
“Well, for a baby he has big ears.”
“Papi, you want some syrup with your waffles?”
“Waffles kwa?” I frown at Yazmin. “Bia, when will you learn how to start cooking ogbono and egusi or learn how to say ‘Emeka’?”
She hisses, Nigerian style, and walks back into the kitchen where she emerged from.
“At least, you learnt something.”
“Syrup or plain?” She shouts from the kitchen.
“Plain, abeg. Which one is syrup?” I stare at my son. “Toby, your mother wants to turn us to white men and give us jedi-jedi and we say no to that. You are full-blooded Igbo. Your name is Tobechi Onuora. You’ll speak Igbo before you speak Spanish and when you see me, you say ndewo or I’ll daze your jaw.”
The tot bursts into a cry.
“You don’t like what I’m saying? Screw you.”
Yazmin returns with a breakfast tray and wrinkled brows. “Why do you always make the boy cry?”
“Because I can.”
She carries Tobe with one hand and sets the tray on my lap with the other. She picks a chair facing me to nurse Tobe. I stare at the breakfast. I want to scold her for the joke of a meal but I don’t want a fight this morning. This is basically all she knows how to cook.
“Thank you, mi vida.”
“De nada.” She smiles.
“So um… Tola has claudia and she thinks we might all be infected. It would be good if we run tests and…”
“Wait, back up. Tola’s got what?”
“Yeah. It’s an infection.”
Yazmin blasts into laughter and gets Tobe terrified. He shrieks out in an annoying voice.
“I’m so sorry, baby.” She places him back on her nipple. “Your daddy just cracks me up. What the hell is claudia?”
I ignore her and dig into my waffles.
“I’m guessing you mean Chlamydia.”
“Whatever. Tola has it. She swears it’s not from a dirty swimming pool in Mauritius and God knows I’ve been faithful to you girls, so I don’t know where else it came from. My best bet would be a public toilet.”
“So you want us to get tested?”
“Yeah. And also get treated.”
I pause. “Okay? That’s your answer to all I just told you?”
“You’re not worried that you have a nasty claudia infection? That it is going to affect our sex life? You’re not upset about it?”
“No. I guess shit like this happens in polygamous families.”
“Oh. I see.”
“You see what?”
I slant my head in the direction of the kitchen.
“Erm…what’s the name of this girl again?”
“It’s Bose, Yaz. Bo-se.”
“Whatever. I don’t like her.”
“Bose!” I call the housemaid. She answers and appears before me in seconds.
“Take my son from his mother.”
She stares at Yazmin and back at me.
“Take the boy and give him formula.”
“Why?” Yazmin questions.
“Take the boy, my friend!”
Bose approaches Yazmin hesitantly and Yazmin, slightly scared by my sudden change of mood, passes the baby to her. I wait until we’re out of earshot before I speak.
“Who did you fuck, Yaz?”
“Who did you fucking fuck to give me and Tola claudia?!”
“Yaz, it’s nine in the morning and I have to be at the office before ten. I ain’t got time. You better start talking before I walk out that door.”
She does a silent and slightly insolent sigh. “Some guy I met at a party back home.”
I am instantly traumatized. I zap into a coma for a few and come back to life. I’m not sure how long I stayed in oblivion but clearly it wasn’t long enough because I return to find the two-timing bitch’s face glaring back at me with a do-your-worst look.
I mentally take a drink of icy water to cool me down. She must not see my heart cracking.
“My cousin, not the fat one, the one with the big boobs…”
I recall the cousin in question.
“It was her birthday and she threw a party at her house and I was there. I got drunk, met some guy from my high school and stuff happened. It meant nothing, really. Just sex.”
Ah! I don die! Wetin I go marry?
“Just sex,” I mumble.
“And this happened when?”
“I think a week before I came here.”
“Just sex,” I repeat.
“Papi, you’re mad?”
At this point, I can’t form again. My mouth hangs open and I glare at her as she continues speaking out of turn.
“I mean, I didn’t know our marriage is supposed to be that serious. We said we were only doing it to get my dad off our backs and so that I can have my life, away from him. Not like I’m Tola that you’re openly crazy over. I’m just the baby mama.”
“And that’s why you feel you can fuck around like a cheap ass puta.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“That is what you are!” My rage comes full force as I spring up. “How can a married woman, a mother who is breastfeeding go partying, get drunk and fuck around?!”
“It was just the one guy.”
“And without a condom?!”
“It was a mistake.”
“Mistake?! Bitch, his dick accidentally fell into your pussy?!”
“Don’t shout on me!” She starts to cry as my phone decides it is the best time to ring. I check the Caller ID; it’s a call from work. I reject it and face her.
“I don’t know how you do it in Mexico but here, a married woman who does what you did is sent packing. And that’s what’s gonna happen to you.”
It’s her turn to be shocked.
“Yes, I’ll call your dad and your mom and tell them what a slut you are after I send you back home!”
I grab my car key and head for the door.
“And yes, Tobe is not going with you,” I add.
She hurries to me before I leave.
“I’m sorry, papi. It meant nothing. I was just horny.”
“I bought you a fucking vibrator last Christmas! You even have those huge ass candles in your room you could have used! Why fuck a stinking dick that is infected with Mexican claudia and pass it to me and my wife?! Why would you do me like this, Yaz?! I defended you before Tola!”
“And you weren’t going to tell me?”
She blurts out series of excuses and apologies that make no sense and sends me into a rage again. To keep my lid on, I storm out. Once in the car, I dial her number and tell her to get dressed. We have to run tests at the hospital. I swear to God, if there is one more STD apart from this claudia, she is going back home. I won’t kill myself because of woman.
Image credits: huffingtonpost.com, www.lepainquotidien.nl