INVISIBLE WIDOW

Today, my worst nightmare came true! We begun a romance quite unlike any we had known in our individual pasts. Sure, we each shared one that was somewhat similar, but there was something different about what we had this time around. Perhaps it was because we were older and wiser this time around. Perhaps it was because of the circumstances under which we met. Perhaps it was because of the environment in which we lived and interacted. Perhaps we were just destined to change each other’s lives. “Hello my name is David. I thought I heard an American accent…” he said with a broad smile that I would later come to identify as his signature confident look. He leaned his long frame over the back of the seat and extended his hand. My friend and I received his gesture of friendship. What ensued after this handshake will remain forever etched on my memory walls. Conversation starters flew here and there as we attempted to capture this other American on the bus. My friend and I had both missed home; we craved any contact, especially with like-minded individuals. From what we were discovering he too wanted to make a difference in Ghana. Make his mark. Make some money while doing so. He was a farmer. We were writers. We labeled him an activist. We would dream big together. We exchanged our virtual identities. We’d stay in touch! Halfway through the four-hour journey back to Accra, my friend and I resumed our individual comfortable silences and left David to his I-pad and headphones. I glanced over a few times; he looked content. My friend asked if I thought him cute. I responded in the affirmative, but added that he was much too young to be worth the chase. End of discussion. We stayed in touch. Friended each other. Emailed. Stored phone numbers. Followed tweets. Commented on blogs. We each had a network the other could benefit from. For two weeks, it was just a friendly interaction. Another U.S. friend came to town. She insisted on visiting his farm. I connected with David through texts and we made our way to the farm. He hugged me. I hugged him back. Even though I didn’t expect a hug, I responded as I usually do with all hugs: I squeeze tight. I hate lukewarm, back-patting hugs. Apparently he did too. Later, he’d tell me that no matter how gorgeous a woman looked, if she gave him a back-patting hug, he’d lose all interest immediately. So I squeezed away and something happened. My heart rate quickened. I turned shy almost instantly. I giggled. I couldn’t concentrate as he showed us around the farm, pointing out equipment. I followed half-listening, attempting to catch a whiff of that musky smell…Axe? Sniff… Whenever we would lock eyes, he’d grin widely. Somehow I knew that transformation was taking place in him as well. We left the farm. I got a text almost immediately: “you give good hugs.” I sent one back: “I love to receive good hugs.” In the next hour, what could easily have numbered fifty texts went flying across the ether. Somehow we both knew our fates were sealed and our stars had been aligned. What we weren’t sure of was whether we ought to follow the new path laid out. 25 texts a day until our next meeting. The tension built until our skins crackled with the fire and desire that was burning inside. We met up. Suspended kissing until we were both sure we wanted to follow this path. When we finally decided, we spent a glorious, blissful holiday with each other. I was fast latching on to the idea that this was someone who loved whole-heartedly and with arms open wider than was possible. To say David paid attention and took note was to tell a half-truth. He was present. Available. Willing to love me into existence. Always there when my own fears and doubts chased me into hiding. Always there when I returned. Always there when I played peek-a-boo with my emotions. David made me write poems I didn’t think I had in me. Made me strut like he strutted, confident that I looked good if I felt good. Made me feel like the hottest woman alive. He saw all of me and loved her into being. He refused to take my shyness as an excuse. Knew when to be speechless and when to be articulate and convincing. He encouraged me to live life fully day after day. We lived at least forty-five minutes apart. Was this sustainable? “Is he worth it?” Mom asked. I was due to leave Ghana in a couple of weeks. Was it worth the eventual break-up pain? I didn’t have the capacity to do long distance especially with something this new. We sent such massive numbers of texts in the weeks that followed, we gave MTN and Vodafone a reason to stay in business. We were online daily, sometimes for hours at a time, when we ran out of phone credit. I read his work. He provided input on mine. We met up at all times. We have our flexible schedules to thank for this. We were so open with our PDA. More open than I had ever dared to be with anyone, especially here on the continent. We defied the odds of a short-lived romance. I changed my ticket un-coerced but with him as a catalyst. I wanted to try this new thing on for size. Day after day, text after text, one bliss-filled night after another, the ticket date kept moving backwards until I had found a reason to consider really living in Ghana. Conversations about ideal lovers, equal partnerships, babies (anyone who knows me probably has their mouth in a big ‘O’), dreams that were bigger than both of us combined, we had them barely a week ago. Reality stole the scene for a couple of days. My aunt was fast losing her battle with stomach cancer. My mother had a bad case of malaria that had us all scared. First text: “Baby, let me know what you need from me.” Second text: “Babe, I’ll be in town for a meeting later, can I come give you a hug then?” Skins tingling, eyes glowed bigger than our cheeks, we hugged and squeezed soon as he hopped off the bike. Same intensity as that first day on the farm. Not much had changed. Two hours later, reluctant to leave for the meeting, more squeezes and French kisses outside, next to the bike, I chastised: “Babe, you really ought to try stopping this smoking again.” Helmet on, he pulled away. I blew him a kiss. He caught it, winked and sped off. An hour later, Me: “Babe how is your meeting going?” David: “Great! Still working away!” Another hour later, Me: “Babe, you make me smile.” David: “*smiley face* I’m glad.” Ninety minutes later: “Madam, do you know the man who owns this phone? He has been hurt very badly. Only God can revive him.” Caller ID stated: David. More hurried words later. I was on my way to 37 military hospital. Change your course the voice said. Another hospital. No bed at the first one. Three incompetent ER gate-keepers later, and ninety minutes from the time of the crash, my David left this world. I was catatonic by his side whispering to Yemaya to bring him back. “Let there be a flicker somewhere,” I muttered as I rubbed his lean legs. “I love you,” spilling out of every pore. “Forgive me for not saying it early on,” countering those “I Love Yous”. I took some of the items of clothing moving like a zombie. Lips trembling, yet silent. Hands unstable as I removed shoe laces then shoes then argyle socks. I smiled. Ever my flamboyant man. The lean-structured, high-cheek-boned face, now unrecognizable. I watched them wheel him into the ER. Now I want to scrub that sight out from behind my eyelids. I heard Yemaya say, “I’m sorry my child, this one’s mine.” Unable to speak I nod. “I mutter, “please don’t leave me.” I hope you both hear me. My biggest regret? Not saying I love you until the end. Toying around with the idea that it was not time to say it yet. I fell for you so calmly, I forgot to say something. My second biggest regret waiting to go public with the beautiful thing we shared. Discussing a perfect time to tell family. Not naming what we had. Not claiming our good fortune. Few know of the details of what we shared. Few can pick you out in a lineup: “yep! That’s Kuukua’s lover!” Few will smile at me or squeeze my hands. Few will hold me tight imagining my grief, my pain. Few will know we dreamed big together everywhere we went. Today, I silently give thanks for having you in my life. Today, I grieve you and quietly praise Yemaya for you being intimately mine for a time. Today, I became the invisible widow.

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16 comments

  1. My heart is breaking for you, my dear sis. I think you have it right. We must give thanks for the time granted us with the ones we love no matter how short. We are better for having known them. I’m grieving with you from afar and holding you tight.

    • Thank you for sharing your story, as painful as it is. My heart goes out for you. Having become an orphan not long ago, your pain ignited mine, which I thought was on the verge of healing. But can there be any “true” healing after such loss? Perhaps, time will tell. Perhaps, another well-deserving man will come into your life to fill the void you already feel, but not to replace David. Take heart, taking comfort in knowing death is the way, even if it is unexpected and unwelcome in its unjust knocking. Best wishes my sister!

      • Dr. Abala! It’s always a pleasant surprise to see that you read my blog.
        Thank you for commenting. I’m sorry for your loss. I’ve been told the dead never leave, they blend into us.
        We live their dreams for us. David inspires me to write more than I’ve done. To continue and to finish that book.
        I hope all is well in cold Ohio.

    • Thanks sis. Thank you for continuing to call so often. I hate that we are so far apart in this painful time.
      I’m considering returning, but I need a week or so to think clearly.
      Thanks for being available this week.

  2. Ow KK, I’m deeply sorry to hear of this. My deepest condolences, my sister. To have found love only for it to be snatched in a most tragic way like that. My heart bleeds for you, my dear. Take consolation that in the brief time you knew him he brought great joy to your heart. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. Do take care, KK. If there is anything at all I can do, let me know.

    • Celestine
      As always, thanks for finding time to comment. You continue to amaze me with how quickly you read our blogs. I appreciate it and of course you note to help me feel better. I’ll reach out when the dust settles. Take care my sis.

  3. Wow, this brings tears to my eyes, what a beautiful love but I know he is watching over you and smiling wishing he can still give you those tight hugs. Take heart sis, my heart breaks for you but it is well. Love u Rachel

  4. “Thank you” seems so trite, yet I do not have better words. You are a gift to us all. May your love stay real and somehow ease the pain……..

  5. Kuukua, my heart is hurting for you. It has been quite some time since we last talked, but occasionally I read your musings on here and am so inspired by your work. I am so unbelievably sorry for your loss and am sending you hugs, love and strength.

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