My throat is dry. A familiar hotness rises in my chest. I gesture for water. I have drunk the two cups brought to me but my throat is still dry. Could it be ulcer? For I had gotten too full with many words than to care for food or drinks. What is the cause of this dryness, I ask meditatively after drinking the last cup of the cold water brought to me.
My voice is hoarse, and tears no more useful in my present state. I think of how to stop the dryness in my throat. My lips break like the cracks on the roads in my country; I lick it many times but the pain it sends to my head makes me believe that the end of the cracks on the roads is impossible.
This is the reason why this predicament has befallen me: Ten years ago, I drove to the airport with my Ugo, a week after our wedding. It was an overflow of joy. We weren’t going for honeymoon, we were going to work; he owned a business in our destination.
Ugo’s height doesn’t need him to climb a chair to change the electric bulb. His dark skin glows without spots. There is, however, one disappointing thing about him even with his chisel-fine body and six-pack. You are surprised when he speaks; his voice sounds like a bird tied on its neck – tiny and piercing. You are drawn to his physique but when he says ‘Hello’, you turn several times to find where the voice comes from.
No one is made perfect, my grandma always said; God did so to make humans depend on him. How does Ugo’s voice make him dependent, I wonder. This voice that knit us together.
We met at a business conference, and whenever he was asked to speak, he had to clear his voice several times but his voice still came out tiny. I was with my friend Kemi – together, we talked about him.
I met him after the event because I was assigned as a trainee to him. I thought he caught a cold so I told him I could get him ginger drink, which I offered to make for him if he didn’t mind. He didn’t mind. That’s how I began bringing different drinks to him, surfing the Internet for a cure for his cold, how I asked him to see a doctor. As we became close, he told me his voice was natural, not an illness. But he liked the drinks, my company and me.
We began dating as we became business partners. I was the voice he didn’t need to bother about dealing one-on-one to our clients, while he was the brainpower behind many of our plans.
* * *
We hugged our families at the airport. Inside the plane, he placed his hand on my shoulder. ‘Hey, Doowuese,’ I heard him, I think, after many times he called me.
‘Are you scared?’ he asked.
I answered I wasn’t. I waved and smiled. ‘I never imagined to stay in another country for a long time immediately after marriage, that I was going to miss friends and family,’ I said.
‘It will be fine, Love. We will stay for a while and if the business grows and we have good hands we trust to run it, we will employ them and return to Nigeria and visit only.’
I think I have skipped telling you the business we did. We made ankara shoes and bags and wonderful clothes design. Two years and we settled so much in the country because business was moving fast. I forgot about my earlier fears.
The country became our home. Babies came. Family pictures hung our walls. A family of two morphed into a family of six. Three boys and a daughter. You may think the time is short to have all my kids. My husband had so much sperm, and I many eggs. I gave birth to quadruplets and they are eight years old now.
We had a business in Ghana. One of us had to go on the trip. Ugo is many things, especially a house husband whom the children missed, when he went on trips, than they miss me. I spent two weeks in Ghana. Everything went well. I got a call from Ugo asking me to go to Nigeria for another impromptu business deal. I disagreed. We were supposed to travel to Nigeria the next month for New Yam Festival. ‘So why I am going now?’ I asked. He said I should wait for him until he met me in Nigeria.
* * *
It was two days counting. We were expecting my husband and our quadruplets the next day. I missed them so much that there was a strange feeling of fear upon me. I wanted to be close to my family. Every little sound made my skin crawl out of me, that I called my cousin to stay with me.
That morning after usual clean up, I made meal. I sat down and decided to go through my phone . . . many missed calls. I decided to check my notifications. My data was on and many news links kept sending up data. There was a knock on the door; my cousin rushed to get it. I stared at my phone. South Africa was a kettle boiling water, there was killing of Nigerians and burning of their shops. It is not true, I said, but the words could not come out.
They say I have been on admission for a week and I am only waking up today. Why did I wake? Was it another test of faith? I am not Job. I feel like screaming but my voice is lost. No word about my Ugo and my children. Why am I alive?
I have been drinking water to stop this dryness and the hotness in my throat. Maybe it is a bad dream or a prank. Ugo’s voice keeps sounding in my ear. This time, it is crying for help.
Anointing Ndidi Biachi is a poet who writes nonfiction in her leisure time. Her poetry captures the plight of the downtrodden female gender and human emotional situations. She is also an award-winning poet, of the Poets Island 2018 competition. She is a member of SEVHAGE Watch and a teammate of SEVHAGE Literary and Development Initiative. Her poems have appeared in River City Journal.