On a crisp September night, hallowed with a firm breeze, Remi’s cellphone buzzed, a new message waiting. She put away her book, folded a small corner at the 328th page. Even messages were a nuisance on reading nights. She opened the screen lock, put her thumb on the Whatsapp icon. Family groups with pictures of patio flowers, ex classmate groups with engagement pictures and new memes, (Be like Bro had another hit sarcasm play), she kept scrolling and around five groups down she saw a familiar name beeping on the screen. Her heart fluttered for a bit. It had been three weeks since she’d last seen that name. Fela had asked her to attend a concert with him, she had refused for various reasons most importantly because she was an introvert wary of crowds and moreover, she didn’t want him to think more of them than they were. He had gotten mad at her and she had gotten more mad for him thinking it was expected of her to say yes to all his invites. The message read, “I’d like to meet you.” just that, nothing more. She waited for a few minutes and replied, “Ok but why and when?”
It had been a couple of months since he had first tried to ask her out. They had been acquaintances before but she had never looked at him in any other way. And when Fela made his move, she just didn’t feel like she could move along at his pace. So she stuck up an “Im not ready,” board and he came around with, “I’ll be waiting,” sign. So they had become close, goofy friends. But Remi was always ever so afraid they would go a pace further. Not now, not yet.
While her thoughts were abuzz, her phone beeped again. Her heart skipped a beat, anxious, nervous or excited? It was hard to tell. It said,“I need to talk to you, meet me at the corner of Ramhlun South intersection, in front of the church.” And suddenly her thoughts went flying, what was he going to say? Why now? What did he have in mind this time. She texted her best friend, Christy, “Fela wants to meet, I’m worried.” Christy was quick to respond,”Just be there, hear what he has to say. it doesn’t mean you’d have to say something.”
So Remi got ready. Put on a jacket, took her keys and started the scooty engine. The purple paint had gotten a little washed out but her old gal was still strong and working. After two or three grunts, the engine roared to life. The world was ready and her Maestro was going to speed her right into it. The wind seemed to join in Remi’s confusion with its howls striking at different speeds every minute. She tried not to think. She kept repeating to herself, “Just go, you don’t have to say anything. Just listen.” When she reached the front of Ramhlun South church. He was waiting with a bag of chips and a cold drink. Remi felt a bit relieved. Okay, so maybe their meeting won’t be so intense, there’s chips involved!
Fela beckoned her to follow him. And together they went. Their motors going bippety bop in the curves and potholes. He kept going further south, and when it didn’t seem like he was stopping anytime soon. Rose shouted, “Are you trying to kidnap me?” And he started laughing with a curt, “Just keep going,”reply.
When they finally reached the place it was a quarter to 9 pm. It was a beautiful area with a riverside view, up above you could see the stars shedding their glory on the little earthlings. They shined even brighter here in contrast to the darkness of the grim trees that surrounded Remi and Fela. Just a few metres away was a brook, rippling through the curves of stones unfettered by the confusing souls that sat at its side. The earth was quiet. It seemed like the world was waiting for a final verdict. All trees and clouds and stars were silently watching, what would be the outcome of this lovely September night.
“So you know it’s been a while I’ve waited. And my family is worried. They say you’ll keep me a friend and I will be waiting for you while you are whisked off by another man. Can’t we just be together? The whole world won’t have to know now. It will just be us. You are happy with me and you know I love you. So why can’t you be with me? I have thought so much about this, and I have prayed so hard. And I keep thinking I might have done something wrong, I might have sinned somewhere in this life and that is why you are kept away from me. I don’t know how to make you understand this, I miss you all the time. All the time. And I love you. With all that I am and everything I got.”
Remi sat silent. She was looking at the stars watching how each one were positioned in perfect accord. Glittering, unfettered by the view of the ghastly earth in its sight. In her mind she was crying out, “Lord, why?”
Fela went on, “I know I’m not the best. I don’t know how to love you. I can’t really show it as well as they do it in the movies. And though I know you love words, I don’t know how to paint out my heart in words like a poet. So maybe I can’t promise forever like all those fairy tales you love. See, all I can give you is me – here, now, raw, unearthed. The only way I know to love you is with no excuses and no promises, just all of it and all at once.”
They sat like that for a few minutes. The earth listened to the beat of their hearts. How the brook kept flowing as it did while his heart was so terrified, how the stars kept on shining while she was lost for words. The silence went on. Both of them too afraid to destroy the anxiousness that lay still for the moment, a word uttered and all could be lost.
Remi started, “You have to understand, I cannot always make decisions. Together we are free and wild, like the clouds and the sky glowing in unison. But we are often too wild. There is no one to hold the reigns. Theres neither of us thats gonna say, “Hey, thats too crazy,” for any idea. Together we could just be spiraling through mountains and galaxies. And thats the best thing to be. But not always, there has to be that person who keeps limits while one gets a little crazy. Our weirdness links perfect. And its too perfect we would slip apart. My folks don’t think we’d ever last. They have someone in mind for me. You got to stop waiting.”
It felt like the brook let its flow go a little gentle against the rock but the beating in Fela’s heart slammed with every breath. “Okay, if that’s what you want,” he managed to utter.
He started humming a tune, “A rem lullo maw, nangnen a lengdun hi.” She joined in ,”Lungmawl tuaran a na ngei e, aw engan ka lo town che.” And together they belted out the last line,”Luathli nul tahna mai maw lo ni.” As soon as they finished singing, the two of them broke out in fits of laughter. It seemed so silly, thinking of their situation and all the awkwardness that awaited them and here they were singing tunes together like they were setting a backdrop for their scene.
Two weeks later. Joe received a letter by post. Who in the world posted letters nowadays? To top it off, the envelope corner had local stamps glued to it. With curiosity and a bit of amusement, he opened the envelope sealed ever so carefully, inside was a small note. As soon as he saw the handwriting, his heart skipped a beat. It had been 6 days, 144 hours in all since he’d last seen her. Malaria PF struck the brains cells, she only lasted for a week in the hospital. He walked quietly to the terrace, afraid the sound of his footsteps would disturb the writing in the letter. It was here they had spent hours talking about everything and nothing. He looked out into the city, her favourite view was from here. She’d often say the city looked like a giant Christmas tree with twinkling lights. He remembered how her eyes gleamed when she talked about things she loved, like the views of beautiful cities and spicy chicken biryani. He was filled with anxiousness and dread and excitement all at once. Because once he read through the words of the paper he had in hand, he could never unread them. Never again was he going to open an envelope and see that handwriting again, afresh. With a white paper blotted with ink traced by a hand he loved. Filled with notes for him. He didn’t care what she wrote, whether it was a lyrics of her favourite song or some last wishes she wanted fulfilled, just that she had spent time in her last moments to write his name on an envelope filled him with enough joy to last till he saw her again. He was going to see her again. He was. He had to. The universe would not let it end this way. No, it could not.
Its September 24th, four days after that lovely night we met on the brook side. I was keeping this task aside because i didn’t want to, write my last words to you, ever. On that night, i knew already, that i was too sick to be loved any longer. To be loved by such a gentle soul as you. I did not want to give you final, beautiful moments that would break your heart once I was gone. Maybe the bad memory of our last meeting would make you miss me a little less. I wanted that because you love me so much, you don’t even have to say it. I can feel it when I’m around you. When you look at me, its like you envelope me with so much love, i don’t know where to keep my eyes. Fela, i don’t know what i ever did to deserve to be loved the way you love me. when you look at me its like you chase all my shadows away and shed light to my soul, like all the evil dissipates out of the glow of your love. from day one you have refused to find a single flaw – and only found more reasons to stay. how do people like you still exist today? no matter how much i tried to push you away you refused to move from where you are. why? what reason have you to hold on when all I’ve done is caused you pain and worry. when all I’ve showed you is my every flaw. you got a crystal clear view of my weakest moments and lowest personalities, and every minute you would smile like I’m an angel, like I’m the only angel left on earth. i cannot think of any human, who would stay like you did, i not only made you see my every flaw, i asked you to leave. i asked you to stop waiting. and just when i thought you were gone for good, you came back. you pretend you never heard anything i ever said. every word that hurt you, you put it away. and you came smiling, like i was the last angel left on earth- without whom it was not possible for mans existence to persist. even in my darkest hours you chose to see me for who i could be rather than what i was becoming. while there are people who make me feel special and find reasons to love me, and also people who are thorough with my every flaw and make me wish i never existed, there has been no one like you, whose gaze washes all my darkness away. when i am with you, i feel like i have a reason to stay, here on earth. like my life could be worthwhile. like i would not be alone, ever, even if all the world wished me gone, its like you would spend your last wish so i could have one more breath. i made you wait, and i made you wait too long that the universe punished me. Just when i thought i was ready to love you back. Just when it felt like we could live out every dream we ever had. Side by side in crazy laughter and breathless talks, just then, the universe was ready for me too. To whisk me away in sand and timeless sleep. Fela, do not miss me. Remember i was rude to you. I could have never loved you well, i was a broken mess. But i had to let you know, you make me wish for one more day. One more day of fighting and laughter and talking and singing and dancing and your lovely eyes. One more day. i hope the universe will one day let us have that one more day.