Her note lies on the palm of my hand. I read, and imagine her voice speaking from the grave.
The world hurts. So much pain.
It’s a myth – this belief that life gives you what you deserve. It’s not true. Life gives you even those things that you do not deserve – both the good and the ugly. My pain clings to me; I try to shake it off, but it’s heavy and relentless.
Yet you handle my pain, my distress, but you too are part of the myth. My myth. And I am the empty cloud that ushers you in.
Let go. Don’t stop. Wait a minute. It’s the pain.
Are you still there?
You call me mad? Well, the world has gone mad, and you and I, we’ve gone mad with it.
I shake my head.
We lost the baby whilst she slept in her crib; an expensive crib that we’d not hesitated to purchase even with a tight budget. We took it hard. Efosa recovered from the loss faster than I did. God will do it again, she’d said. Those days, I drowned myself in melancholy, enjoying its presence like a best friend. I loved that child. Even now, I cannot mention her name without crying. So I will not mention her name, because a man is supposed to be strong and not let these things shake him up. That’s what my father said to me. You are a man. You’ll get another child. A boy. Mark my words.
My bride got me through the dark cloud – with words of encouragement and all the love only a woman like her could have shown. We got pregnant again. It was a promise that wasn’t meant to be. But this time there was no time to get lost in another fog, because I was confronted by an adversary so vague, I had no name for it until it had shaken me to its core.
I got the sense that I was not, could not, understand my bride. She was always there, but never really there. Like a floating boat. One never sees the river. It’s always the boat. And that was Efosa. It started with this buoyant emotion, almost seemed like joy. But it was different. It was a chaotic cheerfulness like nothing I had ever seen or known. Infectious. And no matter how hard I tried to remember that no one could ever be this childishly happy, I always got lost in her huge smile whenever she called my name, her head brimming with ideas. My rational thoughts would fly out the window in those moments. It somehow calmed me down, and made me forget my own pain. Her philosophies – most were strange. But then they had always been strange. It was one of her quirks that I had loved so much I had asked her to marry me. But now, her behavior seemed odder; not bizarre. Just odd. As in, silly-odd. Like when she would speak conversational French to herself while making breakfast- and she doesn’t speak French. Or when she would put on an earpiece and sing at the top of her lungs. The earpiece was not connected to any playing device.
On the surface, I didn’t really care. She sang with passion and spoke French-that-was-not-French with eloquence. And who in their right minds could hate passion and eloquence, especially when it spilled from the lips of a woman whose mouth tasted so sweet if one could only get her to stop sing-speaking for one minute. In that one minute, her eyes would burn through me with the heat of unbridled energy. Like a child. Only if you looked closer, you’d see it held a hint of pain, and perhaps some anger directed at a life force bigger than either of us. I was lost in her. She was never lost in me, but I was lost in her. And every disappointment I harbored regarding life died when I held her in my arms.
And then, like the flip of the switch, the gloom – dark, tunneling, incomprehensible, visited and draped her like an ill-fitting cloak. It was so unexpected. Like an evil spirit. And it was unruly. Unpredictable. Unrestrainable. I remember the fits. The rage. Always aimed at some poor object lying innocently in its place, sometimes in the living room. Sometimes in the bedroom. Ever so inanimate. It always met its end whenever the flip switched far enough. Then came the hush-hush from well-meaning friends and neighbors, which turned bolder in time as they spewed words of counsel. In time, I agreed. In time, I stated “Perhaps we should see someone.”
“Look at me Dike,” she screamed when I broached it to her. “I am fine. I am not mad. Madness does not run in our family. Maybe in yours.”
One day, she listened. We had a name for this demon we battled. The well-meaning doctor wrote her a prescription. His diagnosis: Clinical depression. But no one warned us about the side effects- and God, were they awful. So we got another pill. “To manage her side effects” said Doc. That was just the beginning. So many pills. The final straw was learning that one of the medicines could be toxic to a fetus. My bride gave up. “No more” she screamed at me. She didn’t need them, she said. Believed the docs were out to make a buck.
She spiraled out of control afterwards. Her darkness broke my barrier of self preservation and mingled with the secret grief I hid in my heart. I was the man flailing in a mire of frustration.
Our last interaction wasn’t meant to have been a fight. I’d just wanted her to take her goddamned pills.
“Take your pills.” because you are a better person when you take your pills – gloomy, but at least docile. Because I love you, but I can’t handle the fit of rage, and the tears, and the gloominess that isolates you from me.
And she’d fought back, the remote control in one hand, aimed for my head.
I lost it. Months of frustration. I lost it. I flew at her. Held her neck. I’d just wanted her to stop screaming. But somehow…somehow…I did more. I snuffed the life in her. Yes. Killed her. With these bare hands. Killed her.
I realized what I did… hauled her into our truck. In the darkness of the night. Drove for a very long time. Wept as I drove. I buried her far, far away from here.
But in the dead, my bride knows no rest. She haunts me now. Her disappearance: front page news. Three days… she has been missing. I have been called in for questioning. What? Two…three times? They say foul play isn’t suspected on my part. But I know all too well how that opinion can change in an instant. I too do watch movies. See, the police have found a note. A note which I now hold in my hand. I’m not sure when she wrote this note, but they say it’s a riddle they hope I can solve.
I shake my head again as a dry laugh now escapes me.
Efosa. My bride. My riddle.