I have always wondered what came after death.
You see, I’d just died. Nope nothing as fancy or unpredictable as an accident or sickness. I’d taken my own life using the most popular recourse; sniper.
For a brief second as my life ebbed from me, I seemed to have detached from the body twitching on the sofa and I stood aside, observing with a surprising mixture of sadness, satisfaction and weirdly, humour.
I watched them walk in, my lover and her fiancé, hand in hand, moving in that fluid, loose limbed manner of people in love. I watch her face; cheeks like red apples, flushed with the joy and excitement of whatever sweet nothings he’d been filling her skull with. I watched her eyes go still, then widen in terror as she took in my body tossed askance on the sofa, gently rising and falling as I twitched, then it ended. She wrenched her hand from his and ran to gather me in her arms.
“Ella! Oh my God! Ella!” she shook me, as though to shake the life back into me. I saw her tears wash my face and I imagined them warm and sad, tasting of salt and regret.
We met at a Christian Youths Christmas hangout. I’d just finished performing a piano version of Mariah Carey’s ‘O holy night’ and was surrounded by seemingly adoring fans, I watched her walk towards me, then hang back as though hesitant to jump into the fray. She stood, shifting from one foot to the other, her bag hung this way, then unslung to hang another way. I watched her play with the strap of her bag and in that moment, I knew I wanted to know her. She finally made up her mind and walked up to me. The words tumbled out of her mouth and stuck in my head.
She said, “I wonder if I could get your number?”
My surprise must have showed on my face because she hurried on, “I’ve always admired people who could play the piano and when I heard you, my mind was blown.”
We hung out once, twice, then the fourth time we were at her place. It was raining. We lay on her bed, waiting for it to abate so I could leave. The rain was fierce in its persistence and by 9pm, she said, “You should sleepover. It’s late.”
I hesitated, then a nod forced itself out of my head. She asked if I wanted to shower, I said yes. She handed me a fluffy towel that smelled like sunshine and a long top that smelled of vanilla, that smelled like her. As I undressed, I tried not to notice that she was pretending not to steal glances at me.
That night, as I lay beside her, my body became a strange country, nerves throbbed and tingled in unimaginable places. My nipples were taut knobs beneath the top she’d give me. My breath came in bits and spurts, as though my nose was a clogged canister. I felt her, unrest causing her to toss and turn. I knew I could never reach out and touch her, I’d never done anything like it before, I’d never even felt that way around a girl before. Instead, I concentrated on forcing my thoughts into a small cube in the farthest ends of my brain. Just then, at that point when my throbbing nerves were beginning to go to sleep, I felt her draw close to me, I felt her arms snake over to rest on my waist. My body grew rigid.
Her voice was so close to my ears, warm and satiny. “Can I touch you?”
I nodded in the dark. That night and so many times afterwards, we loved ourselves. We began to spend a lot of time together and after her rent expired, she moved in with me. We would live together through university, youth service to become working class. To everybody, we were just two best friends. We were the tongue speaking, spirit filled sisters that the Pastor and his wife won’t stop commending.
Once inside our house, we shut our doors against judgments and potential disgust, we shed off the cloak of propriety that we wore out in the world and became one.
My lovers body is a book that I’ve read page after page, over and over, trying to make sense of how something that felt this good could be a sin.
My lover is the Pastor’s daughter, and every night after we loved, I’d hear her tear stained whispers as she prayed for forgiveness. ‘Cleanse me of my iniquities,’ she’d whisper, ‘make me new again. Wash me as white as snow.”
I’d listen to her and wonder if loving me made her filthy. In the beginning, I had struggled with confusion, and the feeling that our love was going against God’s laws. I no longer felt that way, I had stopped begging for forgiveness, instead, I just lived and loved her.
My lover has a fiancé. After she turned 29 last year, her mother became a fly buzzing incessantly in her ears. For breakfast, she’d ask, “When will you marry?” For lunch, “I met Mrs Adazi’s son and I’d like you to meet him. For dinner, it was, “Time waits for no one, Ella can afford to feign indifference, she is just 26. You are 29, a few months from 30.” She, her sisters and the rest of the family relentlessly chipped away every resistance till my lover gave in and agreed to meet one of the young men they were so eager to thrust at her.
I used to date a guy; Patrick. He was that guy that loved me blindly and even when I wouldn’t get intimate with him, he still loved me. For my 23rd birthday, he’d met with my lover to plan a surprise party and had revealed he was going to propose. When she returned home, she said, “Patrick is going to ask you to marry him and if you say yes, if you leave me, I’ll kill myself.”
They say the eyes are the mirrors of the soul and when I looked into her eyes, I knew she meant it. Now, 3 years after she’d threatened to kill herself if I said yes to Patrick, she was planning a wedding.
Most nights, we’d lay awake in each other’s arms, I’d listen to her voice while she wove a perfect picture, we’d relocate to the United States, where we could get married. We’d have a dog and maybe 2 cats, I’d have our babies and we’d live happily ever after...
I watched my lover, my body stiff and unyielding she washed my face with tears and I realized I was really dead.