Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "It's No Use Crying over Spilt Milk" (without using the actual phrase or literal exampl (02/07/08)
TITLE: The shrine
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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Dark and musty, the room is stacked with memories. German roaches have laid eggs on the blue blanket and there is a perpetual smell of dampness. And split milk and unwashed clothes.
I stumble into a maze of cobwebs and flail at my face. Itís been only two years. How can a room deteriorate so much in so little a time? How can smells keep for two years? And how can I still remember that day in vivid colors, as if it were but yesterday?
Six months old and already plump beyond plumpness itself, a smile radiant like an angelís, a rambunctious spirit that could only have been his dadís, Brian was the kind of baby women oohed at, the kind men wanted as sons, the kind sisters wanted as brothers, and the kind baby girls hoped would one day be theirs. And he was my baby.
He was my baby boy, a welcome relief after three girls. Iíd thought my life would never take a break from pink gowns, Barbie dolls and hair combs. Until Brian. It was a surprise pregnancy, and even more of a surprise when the scan showed it was a boy. I ran amuck, literarily shopping till I dropped. Blue booties, blue flannel wrappers, blue jumpsuits, blue everywhere. Blue, blue, blue. And then my dark-eyed baby arrived with a natural grin and easy charm.
For six months, I lived in a blue heaven. Brian was an easy baby, he virtually never cried, never fussed, and was never sick. Until that cold November night.
Iíd already tucked in Tessie, Georgina and Barbara. Brian had been sleeping for close to two hours already. I didnít want to flip on the light, didnít want to disturb him. All I wanted to do was kiss him and remind myself of Godís goodness. He was tangled into his sheets, arms splayed, eyes vacant, skin cold and blue. For a crazy moment, I thought I was sleeping and dreaming, would soon wake up. But it was no dream. Hyperventilating, I switched on the light, checked for a pulse and found a weak one.
Dave drove to the hospital; I held Brian in my arms, my emotions in check, and my face unwashed by tears. Hope was the only thing I held to, the only thing I dared to believe in.
The graveyard shift at the hospital took Brian from my hands. Dave led me to a seat. And we waited. Not for long. Less than thirty minutes later, a somber-faced doctor pronounced my son dead. He mumbled something about oxygen deficiency.
Shaking my head as if to clear it of unwanted memories, I take a step farther into Brianís room. His clothes are in the dirty basket and for the millionth time in two years, I unfold and refold them.
ďNot again.Ē The words startle me into dropping a pair of socks and I spin around. Tessie is brushing her long dark hair, looking at me as if Iíve gone nuts. Sheís just turned ten and thinks itís a license to be cheeky. ďDonít tell me youíre going through his things again. Heíd been dead how long?Ē She holds up two fingers as if I donít know, shakes her head and leaves as quietly as she came.
A chill runs through me. I donít know why, but Iím slowly becoming estranged from my family. Dave comes home later and later and the little time heís home, he holes up in the girlsí room. Just yesterday, I overheard him promising Tessie theyíd go catch a movie this weekend. And Georgy and Barbie would rather he read them their bedtime stories. Theyíd rather he dress them up for school. Theyíd rather I donít exist.
Tears rise to my eyes as I pat my sonís clothes, the very last one he wore before he went to be with the angels. Then I step out of the room, into the remaining part of my life.
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