To Love Again; to Live Again


By Kayode Taiwo Olla

When she waved back at me—how she waved back, I knew it meant something.

The clouds were heavy now. And black. A bright terrifying lightning split through one end of the cloudy sky and cut across to the other. We looked up, Tutu and me. But everything was silent. We had stopped our ears with our fingers, expecting to hear a scary crack of thunder.

Nothing came.

The skyline brightened for one moment at the spark of the lightning bolt. And in that moment it dimly illuminated Tutu’s face. Her expressionless face. She looked back at me and smiled wanly. Like she would miss me. Like she would lose me.

Just one moment, and everything was dark again.

And then a dull, mournful rumble of thunder followed quietly. Like the strained moan of a girl shedding her virginity blood.

Tutu would be travelling to Ile-Ife the following morning and would be coming back to town in three days. We were both members of the youth service corps posted to Abeokuta. Abeokuta was our own place of primary assignment. We were not done yet and so she would, of course, be coming back. But now that I was seeing her off after she had come to greet me this evening, I wondered why I was beginning to feel I would miss her. That I would really miss her.

I did not know why I was less bright, that evening, too. Why I was gloomy; why I was mysteriously gloomy. Did I know; did I foresee? Maybe my spirit read into the supernatural, somehow. Maybe our spirits read into the mysterious. Maybe.

But a darkling cloud hung over us in that moment. That moment I would last see her.

I wanted her to stay a bit longer. At least, a bit. I didn’t know why, but I felt I was losing my closest friend ever. My very soul mate. I felt she sensed that agony in me. I felt she read into my thoughts.

I wanted her to stay with me a bit longer. So I called her, ‘Tutu…’ and then I glanced up at the clouds and swallowed the rest of my words.

‘You know I have to go by the morning bus tomorrow,’ she said, and then grinned.

‘Ok-ay,’ I stuttered foolishly.
A howling wind raced towards us at the side of the road where we stood. Loose dusts rose and fell, like dusts thrown on dust at a graveside.

Her pleated white skirt fluttered blithely in the moisture-laden wind. One moment I stood and gazed at her beauty and her ebullient white wings fluttering like a spirit’s. Another moment she was in my arms, in the protective shield of my embrace.

This was the girl, the girl I had ever loved most. The girl I had seen as myself. I had asked her out about a few months earlier. But she hadn’t given me her answer up till then. I had seen a girl, the only girl I could marry. She was more than just a girl. She was just precious.

She was beautiful, and she did win my heart. She was mild, kind and dove-like. Many times I’d just gaze at her, maybe while she plugged her earpiece into her ears. While she plugged her earpiece and listened to music on her phone. Many times I’d just gaze and she’d chuckle, ‘What?’ This was the girl I’d ever loved!

I hoped—no, I knew, that before my youth service ends she would give me a yes answer for a serious relationship. I hoped that I would soon take her home to see my mama.

Now, I held her close, the wind making a ghostly, hollow sound round us. I held her close, and in the distant darkness I could see looming shadows. They appear and disappear again. A tear rolled down my eyes. I could tell they were dark tears.

I released her off my arms immediately. The winds were ceased now.

‘C’mon,’ I said, ‘why are we so moody? Why are you so moody? Come on, you’re just travelling for your uncle’s birthday celebrations tomorrow Friday, and then you’ll be back Sunday! Isn’t it?’

She shot a look at me and said, ‘Henry, let me be going now.’

‘Okay…’ I said. This time, the word came more forced and agonizing.

The rain began to drop, pelting rhythmically on the rusty corrugated iron roofs of Abeokuta Township. I waved Tutu bye for one last time as she got into the taxi cab we’d just waved down. She did not wave back. But she smiled. She only smiled.

I moved my eyes from Tutu to the cab’s windscreen for one moment and I was lost in thoughts. I didn’t know what arrested my eyes in the windscreen; but soon I find myself thinking of my waving at Tutu just now.

I began to hear sounds now. They were rhythmic dull thuds. Like one-two, one-two, one-two: doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo…

Doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo…

No, whoever was producing that sound must sure be ghostly. It was gloomy, and scary. The sound was coming up clearer, and more distinct, and more frightening. I could tell it was death sound. Like the angel of death was drumming a beat.

Doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, m…

The car started and I jolted out of the nightmarish thoughts. My breath was racing now. And now I knew what had produced the thoughts and the sound! It was the cab’s wipers! I had been thinking, staring at the wipers. And they waved—back-forth, back-forth, back-forth.

And then the car zoomed off and disappeared into the midst of the darkling shadows in the distance.

* * *

‘What happened to you, Henry?’ It was Benson, fellow corps-member architect speaking.

It was his voice that jolted me back to life, as it were.

I did not know when I had withdrawn to one corner of an uncompleted building on our project site and had been shedding a tear for no apparent reason that Friday morning. I had been lively earlier that morning, but for no apparent I was feeling all gloomy and sad.

‘You don’t know why you’re sitting here and shedding tears, Henry? Man, you’re shedding tears!’ Benson said.

I laughed quietly at myself.

‘Really, what’s wrong?’ I asked myself. ‘I can’t pinpoint why exactly I’m shedding tears now, really! But man, this is serious; shedding tears without any cause!’ I chuckled.

Benson explained that it is called ‘mood swing,’ and that people with melancholy temperament usually experience mood swings, and that it was normal.

‘I am melancholy,’ I said.

‘So, that is it,’ he said.

It was on Saturday evening that I heard. I heard and then I knew why I was crying on Friday morning.

Tutu died in a ghastly motor accident on Friday morning. Reports said their bus had run into a felled electric pole from the rainstorm of the day before, and the bus had somersaulted many times. Reports said she had a head injury. She had hit her head many times, which is—and died.
I could not cry; I could not scream. I did not believe what I heard.

I did not believe; it was a nightmare to me all day. Please God, let it not be true! (I cried.)
Do they mean the Tutu we talked together on Thursday; the Tutu I know, that I know so well? Please God, let this be dream!

But still, I did not shed tears. I did not believe.

Ah, it was when we stood by the graveside in Abeokuta on her burial that I knew death had come for her. She was buried in Abeokuta where she served her fatherland. It was when we sang the National Anthem that I cried. And just as the raised NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) flag billowing in the wind was lowered into the black grave, I fell on my knees and cried hard. I scoop the earth beneath me with bare hands and cried black tears. They were black tears.

I did not look into Tutu’s face in the coffin before she was buried. No, I could not look. It was my safe-guard precaution to restrain myself from crying. But at last I did cry. I did cry; for death crept in and stole my dearest friend!

I said I cannot find anybody like her again. I said I cannot love like that again.

Friends told me I should let this pass. That I shouldn’t hold onto her in my mind. ‘God knows best,’ they said. ‘And life goes on,’ they added.

They told me that I can love again, and love better even! I said they don’t know; they don’t know how much I loved Tutu. They told me it was not the end of the world; that I could still meet people that would mean more to me than Tutu was. I said they don’t know Tutu; they don’t know her.

And times upon times I would want to call her mobile number and hope to hear her voice at the other end. What if she is not dead? What if it was all a dream? I only hoped it really was! How I hoped it was!

And times upon times I would want to call her mobile number and hope to hear her voice at the other end. What if she is not dead? What if it was all a dream? I only hoped it really was! How I hoped it was!

I could not remove her as friend on Facebook. I could not stop gazing at her pictures in my album. I asked, ‘Is that the end? Does it mean she is gone? I mean, gone?’

Then she resurfaced. Tutu resurfaced.

I saw her. Yes, I saw her. I did not believe it; I didn’t have to.

She came to me; it was almost a whole year after my youth service. I said to her, ‘So it was a rumour that we heard; it was a rumour that you were dead.’ ‘Didn’t you know?’ she replied.

‘Bless my soul!’ I sighed.

She came to me. But her appearance! No, she looked quite unearthly!
She somewhat looked like a mummy quite scary. I asked her what had happened to her body that she looked like a ghost? She was blacker and walked stiffly like a zombie. I was almost sure it was not Tutu. It was not my Tutu!

I asked her why she was so black and gory. I asked her if she was Tutu for real. And when she would answer me, her voice echoed like a loud sound in a large empty hall that I had to stop my ears. I couldn’t take it anymore.

That was the Tutu I saw! Such mysterious presence. Such inhuman voices. Such ghostly sight. Such nightmare!

I woke up to discover it was a dream. It was all a dream; thank God! Ah, thank God!

But then, for a few months I was still seeing Tutu! I was seeing her in my dream. She came; once and again, she came. But now she came in her natural form that I was refreshed to know that she had not died; that it was all rumour—in the dream. And I would wake up only to discover it was a dream; and that Tutu was still dead.

Tutu was the firstborn of her parents. They were three kids. All girls. It was a real tragedy that she died during her national youth service—the one year in which graduates serve the nation as paid corps members. Now, it was more shocking when I heard only recently, that her immediate younger sister just died too, and mysteriously.

And then, I woke up one memorable morning, after seeing Tutu again in my night’s dream. I owned up I had a problem, a terrible problem. I sank down on my knees in my room and held the ground with bare hands. And I cried, I cried; I cried in a desperate prayers to God, and had holy people pray for me. And finally I broke from that soul-tie. Finally.

I let go; I let go! I want to love again! God, I want to live again!

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