Take a deep breath, inhale the words you read off this paper. This letter is long overdue to you but I think it’s just in time.
I know you miss me. I don’t question that. Not only the way my body appears, you miss the way I think, the way I look at you with eyes glistening with sparkles, the way I place my thumb and index finger on both sides of your ear and gently rub on it while in the middle of a conversation, and the way, between my words, I stop to stare at your handsomeness shapened by pain. You miss the way I walk around the clustered apartment we bought in central Lagos “you walk like you’re constantly on eggshells..” you had whispered one night as we sat on the storey building balcony ‘star gazing’. You miss the way I argue pointlessly just so I could get you agitated, because I loved the way your slender face wrinkled up when upset. You miss the nights of bipolar-related insomnia that I cook native dishes (your native, sometimes mine) and we have a proper appetizer, main meal and dessert at 3a.m. You miss the way I hold you close to my bosom when you come home exasperated from work; the way I mutter French words to your ears that makes you smile, because hearing my voice speaking your native language just makes you swoon. You miss me, I don’t doubt that and I know letting a woman come between all we had and have been through may sound unreasonable, well it is, after all I was not the one that made the decision to let ‘it’ come between us. You did. And now while you’re paying for it, they think I did all this to punish you, but they don’t realise this is just a consequence of your actions and not a punishment from me.
I miss you, Basile. There is not a doubt about that either. But not the times that I have my friends-committee of single mothers- over to dinner/sleep over in my penthouse nor the times that I scribble words of appreciation upon a book that has my name written on the bottom of the cover held out by another who stands in front of the table of my seat, excited. Not the times I stand in front of a large group of young girls in uniform and speak to them about “the dangers of men”. I never miss you when I’m happy. I miss you when I have my insomniac episodes and cook an appetizer, main meal and dessert for two, only to realise I’m the only one, and can’t even finish a portion. I miss having someone to talk to when I find all my friends annoying and need to rant about some imaginary crisis situation. I miss how you look at me with eyes glistening with sparkles. I miss how you stop amid a sentence just to tell me how beautiful I look. I miss your words comforting me when I don’t find comfort in any other thing. I miss your voice making attempts to speak my language, because your voice speaking my language just makes me swoon. I miss the way you infuse French words in your English speaking tongue. I miss listening to your French accented words, words I considered lullaby, as I drifted off into Morpheus’ arms. I miss you.
Sometimes I feel ungrateful for all you’ve done for me; making the big decision of moving permanently to Nigeria when I told you I could not imagine myself away from my mother for as long as I would love you. Although when she eventually died I couldn’t only imagine it but feel it, but you couched my hard landing into grief with your love, you held me day and night, loving me. I remember the shock of our Nigerian wedding guests when the MC introduced us as “Mr and Mrs Ikenna-Baudin” they had not expected that you, the man, would dare take your wife’s name- as a compound name or not- but you took my name and added it to yours to symbolise our oneness, our unity, our equality.
But I remember all those times I had complained about Ojo’s behaviour, you said it is not his fault and that it is how his father raised him. “Men will be men” you continued and I looked at you with such bewilderment wondering what happened to my pro-feminist husband, wondering if he had melted away with the increased intake of alcohol, 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. The rest of the hours of the day are when you’re sleeping, and the last day is the Lord’s Day you decided to respect for your mother’s sake.
I remember the time I came back from the salon with my natural hair; kinky and shiny, the way you looked at me, laughed and muttered the words, “rainforest” under your breath but had denied it when you got sober. I wondered what had happened to my highbrow of a husband, the one that loved my hair natural, and smelt the freshness and felt, with loving fingers, the texture of my hair. Still, I said nothing. Still I loved you. Still I stayed.
I also remember the time I was curled up on the right side of our matrimonial bed feeling nostalgic and soaking up my pillow, you had asked me if I had taken my pills and if I hadn’t how I would end up like my father- running past a moving train in the market and getting squashed to pieces right in front of his 8 year old daughter. My father, Ikenna had lived in a world of undiagnosed severe bipolar disorder as I had told you and you chose to use that against me. But still I loved, but still I stayed.
Before we got married, I had told you all the things I could and couldn’t take and you had told me yours and I did respect it. I had told you of the series of abuses I went through in my life; intentional and non-intentional, physical, sexual and emotional, and you had assured me I’ll never have to go through such again, but there I was folded on the floor of the shower, letting the waters hide my tears and wash my blood and letting the sound drown my sobs. You said you didn’t mean to hit me and that your hand had slipped, slipped into a fist and landed on my cheekbone. But still I believed, I stayed, I loved.
I could have taken anything, Basile but not betraying my trust, not giving my love to someone else.
Breathing is easier every day without you. Breathing with my mouth, because my nose might refuse to let air in if it doesn’t smell your cologne with it.
I’ve questioned myself severally. Did I have to? Was it too severe? Could I have made my point without leaving?
3 years ago today, I left you. I resigned from work 2 weeks in advance, went to a travel agency who helped me work out my travel plans, liquidated the assets I did not need, searched for my green card and left, leaving you with a note on the coffee table. I thought of your distraught look -like one of a person nearly hit by a bus- as I boarded the plane away from you, and smiled. I had gained my sanity, without Lithium. I was happy. You had called me up, and when you realised I wasn’t going to pick, sent me messages asking if I had been taking my pills, as if I wasn’t capable of leaving you without being insane. That, for your information, did not help your situation.
The months that followed my arrival were marked by tears. I counted the hours of the day by the number of times I checked my phone. But eventually, I found my feet; from working two jobs to eventually getting a promotion in one and quitting the other. This one job was with a publishing company, I was to be assisting the editor’s assistant and was paid just enough. My love for writing had returned, being left with so many manuscripts to write a report on and submit to the assistant, my inclination grew more attractive as my love soared. I wrote day in, day out. I wrote my heart out; I wrote you out of my system, or so I thought. One and a half months after my arrival, I fainted at work. There had been so much panic, I laughed when I was told. The doctor told me I was pregnant and once again, I laughed. Your sperm had finally been able to swim up to my fallopian tube, and at this point in my life? How ironic. I resolved not to inform you, but heart took over and left you a message that read, “You’re going to be a dad. An absent dad..lol” You had replied with so much fury I guess, I peeked the exclamation marks right before deleting the message and the ones that followed.
In my pregnancy/bipolar-related state of confusion, I had sent the pdf of my manuscript to Mr Assistant who didn’t even review it before forwarding to Mrs Editor. She had liked it and was overjoyed to finally have a “best-selling” to be published by her company. Fast forward the bittersweet discovery process and skip to my book tours and your incessant emails and Skype calls.
Marie, our child, is doing great in home-school, by the way. Her teacher, Ms Renee gets along very well with our baby. Beautiful Ms Renee that got her heart shattered after being fired from her much desired job as a schoolteacher in a prestigious Catholic school because of the release of a sex tape she made with her ex-boyfriend by her ex-boyfriend (needless to say we got along really well with our common ‘lack of love’ for men). She had not reflected the ‘principles of the school and its religion’, and though she was one of the most cherished teachers with her summa cum laude from an Ivy League, she was fired and her licence, revoked; informally. No school would hire her so the government did not really need to revoke her licence for her licence to be revoked, hence, intelligent multilingual Renee had become a hopeless unemployed at 26. My heart had cried for her when I ran her name through the search engine of my web browser that I wondered why she hadn’t ventured to change her name. “it’s my name, Geraldine. It might have been dented, but it’s mine and it’s my job to nurture it back to health not abandon it” she had replied, the day I eventually summoned courage to ask her. She travels with Marie and me during my tours. Our Marie is very intelligent and has 3 languages under her finger tip, French being her favourite.
I don’t know why I write you this letter, you cheating scumbag. Maybe to gain you some closure on how your child is doing, maybe for you to know she knows what you look like and smiles at your image drawn on the ceiling of her room and the one placed on the living room/kitchen wall, and sometimes, at the one in my room though most of the time she falls asleep on my chest soon after she crawls into my bed.
Maybe I write you this letter to let you know her first word was indeed “Dada” because I talked about you a bit too often than rage suggested, either way I smiled when she said it and recognised the pang of guilt that lingered in my soul. I may also be writing this letter to you to let you know that I have forgiven you and do read the comedic emails that you send every week since you got sober. I also maybe writing this to you to let you know I appreciate your monthly 10page letters; writing to me as if I was your diary. That won you a point, just so you know. I may be writing to you for all these reasons but maybe it’s because I still love you. Who knows?
Looking forward to next month’s episode of “A Month In The Life of Basile Ikenna-Baudin” and I hope this letter; the first of many and a hope for us, meets you well.
P.S, ‘lest I forget, Ms Renee got really sad when I told her Marie and I would be visiting Nigeria… permanently. I put in a word for her at my publishing company though, and they promised to hire her. How great for Ms Renee! Talk to you soon.