Nina (Part 3)
(If you want to read part one of this story, click here. For part two, click here)
Nina’s first message finds me curled on my sofa, a cup of lemon tea in hand, and a book I have been reading for days now, on my laps mocking me; Woman at Point Zero. I have been toying with the book, because I am afraid of what lies inside, mostly because this is a true story. These things between these pages, no matter how heartbreaking they are, happened to someone. A woman. A mother. A sister. A human being.
When Nina messages me for the second time, I let the book slide down to my feet, as I place the cup on a coffee table, and make my way towards the bedroom, my phone in hand.
The memorial service begins at five o’clock this evening. It really would mean a lot if you showed up.
I lower my tiny frame onto my bed, face down, and let go of all the tugs that have been warring in my heart. I let loose the emotions that have remained bottled within me since the last time I saw Nina. Since the last time I almost fell into a river of blood. My body heaves as the tears soak my sheets, whose blue colour fades and paints my face.
When Nina messages for the third time, I am on my phone with a friend, looking for a reason not to go to the memorial:
“Why don’t you want to go?” They ask.
“Because I am too weak to go. Because my heart is still too broken from all that. Because I still cannot face Nina without breaking down.”
“So, will it heal your heart if you do not go?”
“It will give me time to forget.”
“What about Nina?”
I hang up the phone, and for the first time in a week, walk into the bathroom and run a shower. It is cold, the shower, and reminds me of Nina’s body lying on the cold floor of her house in Gachie, in a pool of drying blood. It reminds me of the blood in the cistern, and the child we were now going to bury; Nina’s second child. It reminds me of Nina’s first child, their body stashed underneath the closet, on the coldest of floors.
I let the cold water wash away my tears, and any sense of hurt that I can still feel lodged within my heart and soul. I let it run through my hair, for the first time in weeks, and allow it to touch the warmth of my scalp. I let it run to my feet, carrying with it the hardness in my heart.
At the memorial, I sit next to Nina, her left arm around my shoulder. As if I am the one mourning. As if I am the one who suffered blunt trauma at the back of my head, and it is a miracle I am still breathing. As if I am the one who married someone who brutally murdered the two kids we had. As if I am the one having to walk with a crutch, because there is a sprain on my right ankle. As if I am the one who, when trying to save my second baby from her father, a panga landed across my left cheek, and I now have to walk around with seven stitches across my face, too ugly to even look myself in the mirror. As if I am the one who has to ‘allow’ my husband to the memorial service of the children he killed.
Nina’s left arm squeezes my shoulder, as she whispers to me:
“Everything is going to be fine. This too shall pass. What is that thing they say about time? That it heals everything? Our wounds too shall heal.”
She says the words as if she does not believe them, so she pushes them to me. She says them slowly, at first, then repeats, verbatim, faster. With each word, the squeeze against my shoulder becomes tighter, until her voice begins to shake, and she gently places her head against my right shoulder.
For the next an hour and a half, I try to block the voices of the people giving tributes. Voices exonerating Nina’s husband. Voices laying blame on a devil we are no longer sure exists. Voices blaming Nina for trusting too much. For being careless with her children. For not being there when her husband needed her. Voices asking we, the bereaved, to forgive.
But what is forgiveness when all you thought you were living for, is taken away?
I spend the next hour and a half patting Nina’s hand, wishing she could let me go. That she could let me sit far away from her, so the people could stop staring, and wondering who I was. Wishing I could get up and leave, because the burden in my heart was too heavy to sit through the burial process. Wishing I had refused to pick that first call Nina ever made to me, pushing me to go to Gachie.
But when my patting doesn’t convince her to let me go, I find myself standing next to her at the graveside, as the two caskets are lowered. She does not cry; Nina. She holds my right hand tight in her left, and stares hard at the ground that slowly swallows her children, and at a husband that lies unshaken across from us, his face without emotion.
I stand next to her as the mourners disperse, in pairs, until all that is left is just us two.
“Why did you decide to bury them in the evening?” I ask.
Nina lets go of my hand, reaches for a handkerchief from her handbag, and wipes the tears at the corners of her eyes. She then hands me the handkerchief, and motions towards my eyes.
“I am sorry I dragged you into and through all this. I had no other option. I wanted to look at my life from a different pair of eyes; yours. And when you finally get to write this down, I hope you remember that there will always be a darkness inside my heart, and not even burying my children when there is light would ever drive it away. “