They sat in silence. They’d dreaded this moment. She more than he.
“Do you really have to do this? Isn’t there anything I can say to stop you?”
“Honey, please, let’s not go over that again. The arrangements have been made. The bus will be here in an hour.”
“But why Dan? Have I been such a bad wife to you? Is there anything I haven’t given you? How can you just throw your life away like this? Like rotten fish?”
Her words slapped him, and something in him shifted.
“Like rotten fish ehn? Thank you for the compliment. I better walk up the road. Take care of Ade and Wana. Bye Shade.”
He left with the sound of her sobs drumming on his ears. Wana and Ade were asleep. He hated to imagine how it would have looked if they weren’t.
He loved Shade. She was the only other woman he had ever cared about enough to change. To sacrifice. For her he had stopped smoking. He had learnt cooking. He had even started going to church twice a month. No other woman had been able to keep his attention for this long. Six years and she still stirred him as much as she had on their first date.
Except at moments like this…
The sky was aglow with the colours of the setting sun. A gentle breeze played with the dry leaves, scattering them on the street like confetti. The evening was so beautiful, he was so miserable.
He remembered something he heard the pastor say last month.
“Anger lies in the bosom of fools.”
It was true. He wasn’t being reasonable right now. Any woman would be worried under the circumstances. Shade was just worried. Worried and scared. Why wouldn’t she be? People were giving their souls to run away from Liberia and here he was leaving for the same place as a volunteer. She probably thought he was mad.
The worse thing was that he hadn’t found words to tell her everything. He couldn’t express how excited he felt when he was offered the opportunity. He couldn’t tell her how the moment he read the email, life suddenly seemed ten times nicer, livelier.
The past two weeks had been like reliving his childhood. He was the toughest police chief on the playground, eliminating the thieves. He was him.
Now he had a chance to do it again. In real life, with a real thief called Ebola. He had a chance to do work that really mattered. Not the dead brain routines of Malaria, Typhoid and Diabetes. A real time Emerging Disease Epidemic Response, a real war. He couldn’t stay away for the world.
He could go gently. He could hold Shade and rock her till the bus came. He could remind her of how much he loved her and the kids. He could go over the instructions for his memorial( there would be no burial, just ash in an urn). He could kiss her brows one more time.
So he went home and did so.
It would be 8 months before he returned, not in a stainless steel urn, but in the flesh.
Shade wouldn’t be at the airport to welcome him, neither would the kids.
He would spend the next two years looking for them and failing to find them.
He would discover that she had sold the house and the cars and the land he bought at Lekki.
He would fall into a bottomless depression. And pick up smoking again. And try weed, and like it. And over do it.
He would want to die and pray to do so before morning.
One day, he would get a call from Wana. She was fine, her mother had placed her in a Catholic boarding school in Kenya, she even spent holidays there. Ade was with mother somewhere in Europe. She missed him. She had tried to reach him but mom said she shouldn’t dare. Was he OK?
“Yes, I am fine.” Dan said. And for the first time in three years, he almost believed it.
He travelled to Kenya to see her. As he stood beneath the pine trees waiting, he remembered another place, another evening. Then she was running into his arms, quick as a bullet, and he felt the broken things inside him melding.
It would be a long fight. A long wait. But six years later Wana would be back home in Makurdi with him. He would not marry again. Stop smoking again. Start jogging again.
He would travel the world lecturing on Emerging Disease Response. He would receive more honours than the four walls of his study could hold.
He would forgive Shade (but they would never be friends again).
He would live to eighty-nine. And from time to time he would think over things. He would imagine how things would have been if he stayed. Then he would laugh and mutter to himself.
“There’s no way I was going to let that Bastard get away.”
* * * * *
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