“My body is choking me”
That was the first thing he said to me the night after Keffi.
I wrapped the sheets tighter around myself and thought how different he looked from before Keffi Nick. His once chiselled cheekbones and jaw now looked too bony, his eyes were constantly flitting from one thing to the next. And he never looked at me anymore, at least not directly.
So when he looked me directly in the eyes and said those words I couldn’t help but feel a little happy. It wasn’t a good thing that he felt the way he did, but I was happy that he was sharing it with me. “I understand” I said “it’ll get better.” I could hear the uncertainty in my own voice, we both knew that I didn’t really believe any part of it would get better, but we both needed to hear those words, and I was willing to lie to us both if it meant we would survive through another day.
I took his hands in mine and ran my fingers over his “Your nails are too short again, didn’t I tell you to stop biting them? You this man ehn, you never listen.”
His eyes lit up briefly and then filled with tears “I can’t laugh right now Bola” he said, his voice thick with unshed tears “I want to, but I just can’t”
I could feel my own tears gathering in answer to his, I put my head in my hands and tried to breathe through the pain. ‘Go to your happy place, remember the music, become it’ I could hear the music like it was playing in the room and could feel my muscles straining to follow when Nick’s voice cut into my thoughts.
“Do you think we should’ve….” he was saying
“I said no Nick, there’s no use thinking about what we should’ve done, what matters is what we did do, and how we’re going to deal with it”
He ran his hands over his face “I guess you’re right”
I wished we could go back to that night and change everything, but I was scared that even if I got the chance to change how we reacted, I would do the same thing all over again. I didn’t know what that said about me as a person.
“I would do it the same way again” he was staring at a specific spot on the wall as he spoke.
“Me too” I said “me too”
He looked over at me and I could see all the gratitude I felt towards him reflected in his eyes. We both weren’t good people, but at least we had each other.
“Let’s sleep” he said.
I tucked myself into his arms and let myself relax and drift off to sleep.
I opened my eyes to an empty road bordered by dense forest on both sides. I was lying in the grass beside the road with my hair fanned out around my head. I sat up, confused, wondering how I got there.
I looked down at my body, I was wearing a torn T-shirt and stained trousers, my bare feet were crisscrossed with scars and fresh cuts.
You should go stand in the middle of the road, it’s cooler.
I blinked and when I opened my eyes I was standing in the middle of the road. Somehow, it had gotten darker, I looked up at the sky, the full moon shone brightly but it’s light seemed contained to the space around it. A car horn forced me to look back at the road in front of me. Two headlights were coming towards me.
I tried to move but I was rooted to the road, the asphalt was crawling up my legs, I was stuck. I tried to scream but there was a rag stuck in my mouth, I tugged on it and part of it unravelled, the car horn got louder and I tried to pull the rag out faster, I pulled and pulled but it didn’t end. The noise stopped for a moment and the rag disappeared, I looked at the approaching car and said one word.
Then the horn rung out one more time and I felt the impact. At first I felt nothing, just air rushing past me and then the pain came.
I lay on the side of the road for minutes before I heard the footsteps.
There were two people standing above me. Their faces kept going in and out of focus, like I was looking at them through smoke.
The man bent over me and put his ear on my chest. “Is he breathing?” The woman asked. Immediately I heard her voice their faces came sharply into focus. The woman was me, and the man my husband, Nicholas.
Nick looked up at her and shook his head.
She gasped and stumbled back “what do we do now?”
“I don’t know”
She looked around as if the trees would reply her, but the forest had gone silent. She collapsed to her knees and started sobbing.
Nick crawled over to her and wrapped his arms around her “it’s going to be ok, we’ll be ok”
“How?” she said, wiping tears off with mud stained fingers “we just killed someone”
“We can’t be entirely sure that he’s dead yet” Nick said.
“You told me yourself, he’s not breathing. Oh God” she covered her face with her hands “he doesn’t look like he’s more than 12 years old, what have we done?”
At that point Nick was crying too “it’s not our fault, we didn’t do it on purpose” he got up and started dragging her “we should go, we should leave”
Their voices started getting harder to hear over the roar of the water, I strained to hear what they were saying.
She was shouting “We can’t just leave him here, someone will find him!”
“There’s nothing we can do, let’s go, please, before anyone comes”
She tore out of his grip and ran to me, with every step she took the water roared louder she knelt beside me and started talking in a hurry “Nick….. beggar….. find….. waterfall”
I strained to hear more but the water kept getting louder. I felt myself being lifted, they were taking me somewhere. I stared at the treetops bobbing above me to the rhythm of the water and then they suddenly disappeared and I was staring at a crescent moon. The water had gotten louder and I could feel the mist in the air around me. Someone was whispering in my ear “I’m so sorry, I have to do this”
And then I heard my voice over the noise “Throw him! Do it now!”
I turned and my eyes locked with those of the other me.
No! I screamed I’m alive, don’t kill me!
And I felt weightless once again and then cool water embraced me.
I woke up gasping for air, my lungs were filled with fluid, I was drowning and cold, so cold.
Someone was shouting very far away “Bola breathe! Breathe! You’re safe, you’re home”
I opened my eyes.