Previously on SNAPSHOTS

*

I stared at the darkness that was the roof of the room you and I slept in. Your body was next to mine, chest rising and falling slowly, your low breathing the only sound I could hear.

You had returned home and we had made hasty love. I didn’t let you drop your suitcase before I dragged you by the tie to my lips, ignoring your feeble protests that you were tired and needed some rest.

It was mechanical. Your heart wasn’t in it. You were just going through the motions, I could tell. You didn’t caress my breast in the worshipful way you normally did and your kisses didn’t linger on my mouth. You feigned coming and told me you were too spent to continue. I should take care of myself. You nibbled on some of the plantain and egg I had fried for you, took a shower and went to bed, but not before checking your phone and smiling sheepishly.

I had seen you today. With him. I didn’t mean to. I had just found myself taking the keys to my car and driving to where you said you normally ate lunch during break. I had packed some sandwiches. I told myself I wanted to surprise you with something from home, but even then I hadn’t gotten out of the car to go look for you in your office. I parked the car a considerable distance away and watched the entrance to your office while nibbling on the sandwiches meant for you just to have something to do. Then you came out with him, talking and laughing very heartily. You hadn’t laughed in a very long time…Not at the things I said.

I replayed your smile in my head as I stared at the dark roof. I pretended I was under a moonless sky and your smile was a constellation of imaginary skies.

I reached out to tug the linen of your pajamas gently. You didn’t stir. Then I slid out from under the sheets and headed to the balcony, taking care not to make any noise.

There was a bench there. It was an ugly thing that some painters had brought into the house but never took out, and for some weird reason, I liked it there. I sat on the paint-splattered bench and stared at the darkness that was night. The sound of generators hummed and there were patches of security lights here and there. I turned my face upwards to the sky. The moon looked like a toenail and there were no stars.

I let my mind wander instead of letting it stay on what bothered me. The night was cold, the tiles underneath my feet were cool. I was bare-chested, and the chill tightened my nipples.

I should keep warm. I was just recovering from a cold, but I didn’t want to go back inside to the bed where the closest person to me felt like he was light years away.

I was probably overthinking it. The promotion you got must be what was stressing you out. That must be why there didn’t seem to be so much joy in your eyes when you came home. And the person I saw you with must have told a really good joke. That must be why you laughed. And maybe I should have listened when you said you were tired and didn’t want to fuck.

But even as I argued in my head, I felt the lonely despair that had been washing over me for the past few weeks resurface. Like I was losing something precious and all I could do was watch.

“Nkem, what are you doing outside?”

Your voice startled me and I quickly rubbed away the tears that had started to film my eyes.

“Nothing. I couldn’t sleep. So I was just thinking,” I said, trying to sound light.

“About what?” you asked with a sigh. You always said I think too much.

“Stuff,” I said. My constant reply for whenever I didn’t want to disclose anything.

“It’s cold out here. Do you want your cough to return? Come back to bed.”

I didn’t say anything. I just sat there staring at a dog as it rummaged through some trash by the side of the road.

You sighed again, and then shuffled forward to sit beside me. You had the duvet around you like a cloak and you draped me with it and pulled me in close.

We sat there in the silence for a few minutes. You took my hand in yours and I rested my head on your shoulder as relief washed over me. This – whatever it was – would be enough. For now. You were not totally the Richard I had gotten married to but in your arms, my fears would subside.

Written by IBK

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