The first time we lose someone we care about, either to the cold hands of death or to the warm embrace of another, is usually the hardest. So are the first few minutes, hours or days. For some, it extends to the first month or a year after this reality hits us unaware like a thunderstorm and the debris of such ill fate settles slowly on our skin. At first, it doesn’t make sense, but as seconds become minutes, we question our perception of reality and wish things weren’t what they were. The first night is the longest. Pillow-soaked, we go to bed wondering what it was we did or didn’t do. Then, we wake up quite early wondering if ever our lives could go on without them in it. The first time changes everything, everything!

But then “time and repetition numb pain,” they say. 

One day I was driving to the store to get some house supplies. I was happy sitting in my car, smiling as I nodded to the song playing on the car radio. I was in traffic so I took time to admire myself in the rear-view mirror. I zeroed in on the strand of grey hair I saw and plucked it out. I began to laugh at myself; I was too young to have grey hair. I ordered gala and LaCasera and smiled at the young man that sold them to me. It was quite unusual, but for reasons I could not explain, I was excited.

It has been months, maybe years since the first time. I don’t feel drained anymore and the panic attacks had stopped. The pimple on my cheek doesn’t bother me anymore, I glow regardless. The sleeping disorder had faded and I no longer zone out in the middle of a discussion as my heart is shrouded in thoughts I can’t seem to control. Most of all, my alone time no longer feels like loneliness. I now enjoy spending time with myself. 

But then as I stepped into the mall with my shoulders high, a smell hits me. I knew that scent, it brought back memories and right there I was broken again! The sudden rush of emotions made it feel like I was living in the past again. A cesspool of trauma – my tummy ached and my eyes began to shutter uncontrollably. I couldn’t remember why I was at the mall. 

I ran out of the mall. With jittery hands, I started the engine and drove home. I couldn’t make it to my room so I sank on my chair. After all this time, I thought I was over it. One scent was all it took to bring it all back again. Minutes later, I felt a cold metal touch my skin. I reluctantly looked up to see five armed and angry-looking guys. I didn’t shout or fidget, I was emotionally exhausted. I remembered I didn’t lock the gate and front door when I came in. 

I simply pointed to my wallet on the table and said, “There’s ten thousand naira in it, take it. There’s no money in this house.” I went back to brooding after telling them that. I do not want to be disturbed. The men stared blankly at me for a minute. They could see the panic in my eyes, but it was obvious that your trouble wasn’t with them, it was more than that. They decided to leave without taking anything.

Later that evening when everyone came back home, I tried to act normal and couldn’t wait for the day to be over. Lying on my bed, I recounted how the day went. It had started on a positive note until the scent of lavender I perceived at the mall shattered my mood. Then I realized I fought off the men that came to rob me with depression. I laughed hysterically for a moment, remembering what one of them did. He looked pitifully at me and said, “ma fo, omo Iya mi, Iyanuashele.”

I didn’t tell anyone at dinner, I feared they wouldn’t believe it. I probably would not if I were in their shoes. I began to laugh and feel excited again, and this time I said aloud, “las las, we go dey alright.”

I turned off the lights as I rolled to one side of the bed, hoping that it gets cosy and that the night does not go like the first night.


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