BISI – THE OTHER WOMAN EPISODE 20
By Jon Doe
Within that office Namdi lingered. Outside the windows the lights disappeared, the city plunged into darkness. It now mirrored what lay within Namdi’s office and heart. Still he saw not the path to which he should tread. In that dimly lit office he remained, staring out into the darkened city looking for answers.
Above, the universe shined brighter hovering over the blackened city, remaining silent to Namdi’s prodding questions; finding them insignificant. It did not take long for much of the city to come back to life, alternate sources of power kicking in. A rare occurrence this was not, barely bringing a pause to the night. His phone buzzed. It was the uber he ordered passing along its impatience.
Standing in front of the elevator, he changed his mind upon hearing the ding, heading for the stairs. A single bulb hung at each floor, the doors requiring a key card to access. Having never taken the effort to ask why the elevator required no key card but the stair entrances did, Namdi did not give it a second thought today. Looking down he could see the steps winding their way to the hard ground. “There are two ways down”, he thought. A thin film of dust coated the railing, dirtying his palm as he made his way from floor to floor.
With a hum, the door swung open to the swipe of his ID card. The cool night air was brisk and fresh; in stark contrast to the recycled artificially controlled climate he had been in for the better part of the day. In front of the building was a black Camry, the engine still running. Reaching the front passenger door, Namdi looked once more at the Shagari name on top the building before setting foot into the car.
Settling himself in the padded seat, Namdi hoped this would not be one of those talkative Uber drivers. He was far from the mood required for conversation, only hoping to take the chance to brood. With a single knuckle he began to tap a slow rhythm against the car window.
“It’s okay, you can laugh, I can see you need it.”
Namdi’s eyes closed, hoping his lack of a response would deter the driver from pursuing further conversation.
“I won’t be angry, all my other passengers have laughed.”
At this point Namdi couldn’t hide a puzzled expression creeping unto his features. Giving in he critically appraised his driver but nothing came to mind.
“Do you have any cigarettes?”
“You can check the glove box.”
Opening the glove box Namdi found an unopened pack of White London. Turning to the center console he primed the cigarette lighter.
“You don’t look like a smoker.”
“Neither do you.”
“Why then the pack of smokes?”
“Just in case… Do you feel free enough to laugh now?”
“Pray tell, why should I laugh?”
“You don’t recognize me?”
“Should I? You don’t look handsome enough to be a movie star.”
The driver laughed.
“Maybe that’s why she said no. You really haven’t seen the video?”
“Tired of going in circles. What video?”
“I proposed to my girlfriend at the mall a few days ago.”
His words struck a chord with Namdi.
“Wait, did she walk away?”
“So you have seen the video.”
“Aren’t you rich? What are you doing driving Uber?”
“I know it might seem strange but it’s to meet people.”
“There are easier ways to meet people; normal ways.”
“Maybe, but it is not quite the same.”
“Does that mean you won’t be charging me for this ride.”
He took his eyes off the road to look at Namdi and laughed. It was infectious, sending Namdi into a light chortle. The burden he carried lightened a little.
“How are you able to laugh like this when your life was turned upside down only a few days ago?”
“Wish I could say it was easy. A little piece of me died that day as I watched her back get farther and farther away…”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to relive it.”
“I use to think like that. Forget it ever happen, block it from my mind, forget her. It was all my friends knew to say.”
It grew quiet in the car. Namdi turned back to the window, tapping out a soft rhythm. The cigarette lighter popped out.
“I can’t forget her… Even now I see her, hear the tinkle of her voice, feel the heat of her touch… Have you ever loved someone so deeply you would…?”
The question hung still in the air unanswered, the world outside moving on regardless. With a nail Namdi tore into the cigarette pack, freeing a stick from its cage. Pressing the lighter against the end he took a deep drag, the nicotine coating his lungs. Out came the smoke, tumbling and swirling in the artificially maintained air. His hand reached out, his eyes seeing Zainab within the tendrils of smoke.
Gone was the moon, hidden behind pregnant clouds rolling in from the deep. Lightning streaked through the air, thin branches shooting out, searching, seeking for what mortals cannot fathom. Its brilliance lit up the city, among which was a man standing in front of a wrought iron gate watching the red lights of a car fade into the night as he crushed a cigarette beneath his heel.
The gate swung open, recognizing it’s master, wishing to please. In the distance Namdi saw home blending with the night, the gravel driveway unlit. Through the gate he took a heavy step, the first of many, a firm understanding the end of this path would change everything.
In his heart Namdi was not an evil man, or so he told himself, his head unable to lift high enough to search the skies. Trudging along the path, the gravel crunching beneath his shoe, he thought of how similar this walk was to the hallway of the hospital on that fateful day.
Slipping past the gossiping nurses had not been difficult, few truly see a child. All he had to do was make it through a dark hallway containing odors of disinfectant sickness and death. The power had gone out in the hospital, the backup generator taking its time. He had never been one of those kids who feared the dark but there was something about that stretch of tiled floor and the red glow of emergency lights which forced him to take a step back while entertaining thoughts of turning tail. Something stronger held him, dousing the fear, replacing it with a courage born of the unfathomable love between mother and child.
Each step he took was heavier than the last, his body hugging the wall, his chattering teeth betraying a cold not born of the weather. At the end of the hallway he could see his goal. Double doors leading to the ward he knew she would be. Though his mind urged to go faster, his feet refused to listen. It was already a small miracle he didn’t just cower on the spot. Closer and closer the double doors came, till he was only a few steps away. Thoughts of lying in bed with her, arms smelling of cocoa butter wrapping around him further dimmed the fear he still harbored as warmth took over. The double doors swung open, not by his hands.
A gurney swept out, a doctor and team of nurses guiding its path, their passenger covered completely with a white sheet. Not a word was said about Namdi who currently hugged the wall. Few truly see a child. Not wishing to spend another minute in the hallway, Namdi walked through those double doors to find his mom, not realizing they had just missed each other.
“If only I had been braver.”
A grown up Namdi thought, unable to forgive himself for missing the chance to see his mother one last time. He looked up for the first time since this gravel filled walk. His heart steeled, his mind preparing for what was to come. Firm were his footsteps, though still heavy, lifting with a once missing strength. Lightning flashed once again and thunder hammered in the distance; as if in approval of his path. He could now see the car park. It was not empty.
A Mercedes sat there where his used to be, identical in every way, illuminated for a split second by natures power. Approaching the car park, a light came on, his eyes had not been misguided. “Her father” he thought, memories of their time on the balcony forcing his heart into a faster rhythm. The strength he had gained began to bleed away, fear replacing it once again. All thoughts of the truth died a pitiful death his mind racing for another path to take. Unknown to Namdi time had run out.
The door to their home quietly opened with Namdi a few lengths away. Gone was the metal that once stood in stark contrast to the elegance around it. Its replacement mahogany possessing history. A door graceful, refined, melding with the home but still somehow possessing a certain unintended je ne sais quoi. Leaning against it was Zainab, her 5ft5 frame looking larger than life. Across the space of a few lengths they gazed at each other, each waiting for who would make the first move.
To be continued