Sudi’s message comes in on Friday at 8.59 p.m. Right before I switch my phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’. Right before I pour my last glass of wine. Right before I pull the fleece blanket over my body, and place my headphones over my ears. Right before I open the first page of Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood.
“I am moving out early tomorrow morning. I would like you to come over.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Why what?” They ask.
“Why are you moving out? Why am I just learning of this right now? Why would you want me to come over?”
My anxiety has started building up, because God knows the kind of deep attachment I have to Sudi’s house. I have created memories therein; the few I would love to keep with me forever. The few I would love to keep a constant in my life. Like sipping cold white wine on a Tuesday afternoon, when my soul wants nothing else apart from seeing Sudi’s face. Like my anxiety hitting peak levels, and sending me crawling on the balcony, hanging on the hope that the evening breeze brings me back to sanity.
Like crying myself to bed, because I cannot even face my own house, and waking up to the smell of fried eggs and ginger tea. Like wondering why my feet feel so cold, and them reminding me that no matter how fast, and often I run away from my fears, they will always be part of me.
“Will you come over? Please.” The message chimes, and I hate myself for knowing, deep inside me, that I can never say no. That even themselves know I will show up. That this dependency on their existence is driving me insane, yet I cannot help it.
“Where am I showing up? The old or new place?”
I do not wait for an answer. I turn my phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’, and let Buchi Emecheta give me more reasons to not ever want to give birth.
7.30 a.m. finds me at Sudi’s doorstep, the dew doing the most with my toe nails. I ring the bell; once, twice, three times, and I am almost convinced they already moved. I walk around the house and find the flower pots all gone, the metal dustbin at the edge of the flower bed gone, and the rugged door mat at the back entrance nowhere to be seen.
A lump begins to form in my throat, and the beats in my heart start racing. I gather enough strength to walk back to the main door, and ring the bell for the fourth time; nothing. I go round the house, again, until I get to the dining room window, then peep. Nothing.
It is the sweat that starts forming in my underarms and inside my palms that warns me of an impending panic attack. I slide to the ground and bury my head in my hands, biting the urge to knock it against the walls.
A car hoots at the gate, and throws me out of the reverie. Quickly, I make way across the expansive lush green lawn to find a huge truck with ‘LUXURY MOVERS’ imprinted on its sides.
“We are here for Sudi. So sorry we arrived earlier than agreed, but we can always wait for…”
I bolt towards the main door and start banging, shouting at the top of my voice. Within seconds, the door bolts open and I fly into Sudi’s open arms and shocked face, crying.
It takes minutes before I calm down, go upstairs, and sit on the balcony, letting the morning sunshine hit my face. Sudi sits beside me, afraid to speak, because they understand why this moving is going to be hard. They watch as I speak to the lone flower pot on the balcony, as I wipe the rails with my hand, soothingly, begging them to stay. Below us, the movers are having a field day; emptying drawers, cabinets, closets; boxing everything into dull brown boxes.
“I want you to have the house.” Sudi says, slipping their right hand into my left one.
I turn around, shocked, and stare in disbelief.
“Come,” they beckon, and I follow them into what used to be the master bedroom, now turned into a shell of it former self, except for a lone painting mural of a middle-aged woman.
A white envelope lies atop a lone table in the room, and Sudi hands it over to me.
A handwritten letter catches my attention:
This far I have known you, the last thing I would do is take away your memories from you. Beautiful memories you created after a lifetime of pain and trauma. Memories you shed tears and blood for them to exist. Memories that have kept you alive, thus far, I know. I am glad I have been a part of your life. I am glad our paths crossed. I am flattered that you chose me, out of all the people craving for your attention, to let into the darkest secrets of your existence.
I am glad I found you, because I have learnt a thing or two about sadness and darkness. Because I have learnt how to live with my past. I have learnt how to embrace my flaws, and wear them like a badge of honour.
I have seen how you look at the house. I have seen the contours on your face fade away every time you walk in. I have heard the vibrance in your voice every time you walk past these doors. I have seen, also, the anxiety in your existence once it was time to leave.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the one good thing I get to do in my life; to ease someone else’s burden. To put a permanent smile on their face. To go to bed in the night, knowing there is a soul somewhere on a beautiful path towards healing.
I hope you like the painting. For the years I have been here, it has always reminded me of you. And now, I hope you learn to live on your own terms, and outgrow the dependency.
I finish reading the letter just as I hear the front door banging. I descend the stairs just in time to see Sudi get into their car, flash me one of the most beautiful smiles, and drives off.