Nina (Final Part)
I stand next to the white casket, and stare at her face. It is calm, and generous; as if she is sleeping. As if she is resting after a fruitful day. As if she is just closing her eyes, awaiting the makeup artist to do her thing. Except there is an ugly incision that has been carelessly sewn across her chest; the finality that she is really gone.
I stare at her face, oblivious of the multitude of people who come by, stare at her, say a little prayer and move away. Oblivious of the sea of mourners all staring at me, and wondering why I am not moving away. Oblivious of all the whispers about me; who does she think she is? Why doesn’t she move away? Kwani is she the only one who is bereaved? Abeg, she is not even related to the deceased. Why is she drawing attention to herself?
But my heart has wandered back to my first encounter with Nina, back at the hotel where all this started. I am staring at the blood on her white top, and blaming myself for not asking why she had scratch marks on her left cheek. Her voice fills every corner of my head; I found my child inside my closet. My dead child. Killed by my husband, and hidden inside my closet.
I am back at my first visit to her house. My first visit to Gachie, that saw me wade through a river of blood. I still see the cistern full of blood, and a dangling little body at the side. I am blaming myself for not asking the naked child where the perpetrator had dashed to, and how often this happens; this violence.
I am back at the children’s funeral, Nina squeezing my left hand. I am fighting tears and screams. I am battling a lump of anger lodged in my throat. I am blaming myself for not confronting the killer there and then. For not telling people that he was dangerous. I am blaming Nina for letting Nina go back to the same house, even though I could still feel the devil lurking in the shadows.
I am back in Nina’s house, clutching desperately at her cold body. I am staring at her lifeless eyes; filled with darkness and pain. I am screaming orders at my phone, and wondering why Pau, the conductor, is taking too long to find me a vehicle to hospital. I am burying my face in Nina’s bosom, and crying for all the years we have lost. For all the dreams that have now been washed down the drain. For all the pain that is engulfing my body. I am crying for the trauma that is already settling in, with a smile, because it knows just how long it will stay with me; forcing me to my knees, and squeezing me to the point of death.
I am back at the morgue, answering to questions I have no answers; when did it happen? Where were you? Full name? Occupation? Relation to the deceased? And finally; start making funeral arrangements. Post mortem reveals blunt trauma at the back of her head.
And then, I am wailing. I am rolling on the ground. I am ripping off my clothes. I am trying to pull out my hair. I am digging the ground with my nails. I am screaming at no one in particular. My eyes are stinging, and my now muddy hands begin to scratch them. Then the tears that never want to stop.
I am back next to the casket, and a strong pair of hands is trying to lift me from the ground, begging me to keep it cool. But they do not know how impossible it is to remain cool during a storm. A storm that carries away the roof of your house, leaving you at the mercies of cold nights. A storm that shatters your heart into pieces, and still forces you to walk, barefoot, on the pieces. A storm that breaks down your front door, and still sends letters to confirm whether you made it through the night.
A storm, like death, that does not warn you of its coming. That does not let you choose whom it takes. That does not even give you time to say goodbye to its victims. That does not care when it leaves you empty, and torn, and lost.
A storm, like death, which takes, and takes, and takes, until you start begging it to take you too.
A storm, like death, whose aftermath is permanent. Because the wounds are permanent. The heartache never goes away. The memories never fade. The pictures and faces of its victims remain in your dreams, forever. And just when you think you have started finding a way around it, it descends again, with more wrath.
I stare into space the whole time the funeral service goes on. I see Nina’s face everywhere; even through the blur of my teary eyes. I see her arms outstretched to me, but when I lift mine, she suddenly disappears. I do not hear them when they call my name to speak. I do not feel it when someone nudges me, passing the microphone to me. I do not hear when someone says, “I do not think she will be able to talk after this.”
When they begin lowering her casket into the ground, I lower myself to the muddy ground; my heart heavy with sadness, and my feet wobbly with regret. I watch as the sand, slowly, fills up the space, and I almost suffocate on her behalf. Then, there is a sharp pain against my back, and then darkness.
When I come to, I am lying in Nina’s bed, a brown fleece blanket covering most parts of me. From a distance, I hear approaching footsteps, and my heart begins to race. My heart sinks into my stomach when they push the door open and enter.
“I didn’t know anywhere else to take you. Bringing you here was the only option.” Nina’s husband says, handing me a cup of tea.