Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)
TITLE: Point of change
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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The scenery has hardly changed. The river still looks half asleep, curling away from view in the fetal position, telling nothing of the lives it’s changed. The same pregnant stillness still pervades the air.
Is it four years already?
“I got a raise.” Biodun barreled into the house, lifting me off my feet and laughing his delicious masculine laughter.
“A raise?” I repeated stupidly. He was overdue for promotion, and we’d told ourselves ‘maybe next year’. It was a nice way of losing hope without seeming to do so.
“Yes, a raise,” he laughed again, “we’re going to celebrate.”
River Aimet was one hour’s drive away from Lagos’ never-ending chaos. We sang silly nursery rhymes with the twins the entire way. Our destination was deserted that sunny afternoon. We played chase with the kids awhile until my legs gave way. Then we sat near the bank, our feet immersed in the water, reliving those days when we were newly in love.
“Daddee, chase me…” Taiwo demanded.
Biodun shook his head no.
“I’ll chase you.” Her twin offered. Before we knew it, they’d disappeared round the bend.
Ten minutes …and the sound of the children playing. Twenty minutes…then a heart-rending shriek. Taiwo was holding his foot up, Kehinde was rolling around precariously close to the river; both were crying. A frightened rattlesnake was sneaking away into the underbrush.
The car was parked a tortuous half mile away. On the long drive back to civilization, Taiwo was silenced forever. Kehinde dragged out his final breath as the doctors scurried to tend him.
I sank into an abyss. Biodun sank even lower.
The next year was a torment. My arms were achingly empty. The rooms were barren, bare of life. I plodded through the days, working from dawn to dusk, numbing the pain with activity.
Biodun went through four jobs in seven months. He eventually quit and turned to bourbon. He was even farther away from me than the kids were. We shared less than a dozen sentences per week.
I was hurting; he was hurting, and it hurt too much to discuss the pain. We went through the motions of life, dying a little every day, sinking further into hell’s chasm.
On the first anniversary of the twins’ death, I came home to a phone message. They’d found Biodun at River Aimet. There was a single hole in his temple, and there was a gun.
They found only his fingerprints. He didn’t even leave a note.
There were no tears this time. Drained of all emotions, I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep off the nightmare. I slept but the nightmare was even the more real. The twins were crying, Biodun was bleeding from the head, and they were all clamoring for my attention.
I woke up, drenched in sticky sweat.
The following day, I drove to the river. I sat down where we’d sat the previous year and pretended I was talking with Biodun, pretended the twins were demanding we chase them.
The carving knife sliced my right wrist nicely. My life source bubbled to the surface with a red vengeance. The sight made me laugh, then cry. I started to cut the left wrist.
I whirled around in guilt, in frustration, in terror.
The man was as startled as I was but did a good job of concealing it. “You shouldn’t do that.”
I tried to speak but couldn’t. My hand was beginning to ache now, my vision blurring.
He came closer to me. “Yesterday I found a man here. He shot himself.”
Nausea erupted in my belly. “He was my husband.”
His eyes opened wide in consternation, understanding, pity.
“Suicide has never been the best way to end life. Come, let me get you to the hospital.”
Feeling faint, I allowed him lead me back to the car, back to Lagos, back to life.
It’s been a long process.
It’s four years today that Taiwo and Kehinde died, three that Biodun did.
River Aimet remains the same.
Been three years since God found me. Frederick, the pastor who’d found me came visiting everyday. He spoke of another river – a happy one - one running through heaven. A place believers could congregate to talk. Did I want to be there? Of course.
I’ve come to say my final goodbye, here at the place they were taken.
Someday, I’ll see the twins again. So sad I can’t say the same about Biodun.
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