You Don’t Know What You Have Till it’s Gone
I did not understand what pain was until the day the love of my life closed his eyes and never opened them again. I vividly recall the sound my heart made when it broke into pieces just a few minutes after that nonchalant man in a white coat proclaimed that my love was no more. The disbelief that God could ignore every request I made to him and take away my everything anyway. The consuming rage that followed. Anger at him for daring to leave me. Anger at the audacity the world had to move on as usual as if nothing had happened. Anger that I clung onto so desperately, afraid to deal with what lay under it – the pain. The pain that I tried to run away from but it eventually caught up with me and demanded to be felt.
I Based my Confidence in Him
I still do not know how I am surviving losing him. The man who called me his beautiful girl and no matter what other kids said about my looks, I walked with my head high knowing that I was beautiful. ‘If my man said I am beautiful then I must be.’ The man who called me his intelligent girl and I moved from a medium-performing student to the best performer. The man whose existence I based my identity on, never contemplating that one day he might not be around. The man who accepted me exactly the way I was as everyone else tried to change me into something else.
Stood Up For Me
He often shut down their negative sentiments about me. I recall this day during the holidays when they all attacked me for coming home late. He had stayed silent the entire time they expressed their disapproval until one of my aunties mentioned that she would understand if my husband beat me and sent me back home. The others agreed, telling my mother that she should not use the cows that are given for my dowry because they will have to be returned. I don’t know which of these upset him more but he stood up, told them to stop sounding shallow then proceeded to remind me that I had a home. That he had worked hard so I can have a home so that whenever anyone makes my life uncomfortable, I can always have a place to come to.
The safety I felt knowing he existed; the drive I had when doing my things knowing that he was somewhere rooting for me was all gone. As a little girl, I believed he was invincible. I was scared of the dark but whenever he was around during blackouts, I sat close to him knowing that nothing could attack me as long as he was here. He would never let anything hurt me. As I grew older I realized he was only human. That realization never took away the safety his existence gave me. How could it when he made it evident that his humanity could never stop him from shielding me?
I respected him and was so proud of having him as my father. My friends were used to my constant bragging about him. How could I not respect a man who grew up in a mud thatched house and made all of this for himself? A man who went to school barefoot and got grades good enough to send him to a top higher learning institution. He was my hero. I was so proud that whenever he picked me from school, I would lower the car window on my co-driver’s side just so more people could see me with my father. I reveled in the fact that I was born to him and not anyone else. I would never have it any other way.
Imperfect but Perfect
The assurance I got whenever he trivialized something I was worried about and said it was nothing. That he would make it okay. He always did make it okay so I learnt to believe every word he said. He was so amazing as a father that I often forgot he was not the best husband to my mother. Maybe that was why he got terrified whenever I told him about boys I liked. That somebody might treat me the way he treated her. Maybe that was why he was so happy when I told him about how terrible my first kiss was. He must have imagined I would avoid men for a long time after that. I often tried to remember the type of husband he was and hold it against him but whenever he appeared, I always forgot all about it. Sometimes I demonized myself for that but what was I supposed to do? He was imperfect but he was my first love. The reason I was not alone and had somebody I could always count on.
I did not even know I had based so much of who I was on him until when he went away. I gradually realized that I had no identity without him. I did not even know how to start accepting myself because I had accepted myself because he accepted me. I had to find myself afresh and build confidence, intelligence, beauty and acceptance that was based on me. Fill up this significant part of me that was him with myself. And the world feels like such an unsafe place. It feels like somebody ripped out the ground from underneath me and left me floating. Constantly dreading the inevitable fall. How long can you escape it with all this gravity?
How could he teach me so many things and forget to teach me how to live without him? Maybe, like me, he thought the idea of our separation to be far-fetched. It amuses me how it never crossed my mind that he might leave one day. Weird, right? Even when he was lying in that hospital bed in those ugly blue robes, that thought never crossed my mind. Not even once. Maybe I believed in him too much and thought he was strong enough to beat this too and come back to me. Or maybe I had put too much confidence in the whispers I had made to the man above. They had told me the man above was kind so I could not imagine something as cruel as losing my love happening in his watch. Now I look at everything happening on earth and realise that I expected too much. No wonder my disappointment almost suffocated me.
The Unchanging Heartache of Loss
I used to be on a rollercoaster that only goes up. Assured of so much, so peaceful, so joyous, with no cares. I used to be a light sent to trail blaze witty inventions and pioneers. I used to be a daughter to a man who loved me. He did not need to say how much he loved me, I knew it and never doubted it even once. I used to have a safe space in this person. Where there was never any judgement, just understanding. I used to be held closely in warm hugs that made all my insecurities fly away. Even when people would advise that I should only be hugged from the side because I had grown up and had breasts, he hugged me normally as if I was still that little girl. I used to jump at the thought of the holidays approaching just so I could go home and spend time with him.
Now I am scared of going back to that deserted home. Scared of seeing that huge monument on the far right side of the compound that seems to be the only remainder of his existence. Now all that is left of me are these broken pieces that I am trying to piece together with the hopes of making my love proud of me someday. Pretending to be okay and smiling as if my entire world did not just crash, yet deep down I am too broken to even express in words how I feel. Struggling to fly with these broken wings. The world failed me. So did the man above. Now I smoke my cigarettes, hoping that this legal way to suicide might put me on the path to where I really want to go. Until then, I will hold onto the fact that I was unconditionally and deeply loved.