I’m so sorry, Ai.
They say, ‘To live in the hearts of those you love is not to die’. I have never really liked that saying. I still don’t. I don’t know why. I don’t want to lose anyone. I don’t want them to live in my heart. I want them to live in the physical world where I can touch them, love them, argue with them and hold them. But again they say, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride’. I would not give up the memories of my loved ones for anything in the world.
I remember the first day I met Aisha Suleiman. She had breezed into Bundle of Joy Pre-School like she owned it. I say breezed because that was how she rolled. Her confidence was out of this world. For such a slim woman, it seemed like she could power the entire Southern part of Nigeria which is notorious for its epileptic/non-existent power supply. She wanted to enroll her son, Ayomide in my daycare facility. From the first moment I met her, I was fascinated by the strength and self assuredness that oozed from her. She spoke with the ‘britico’ accent of someone who had spent years abroad. I wanted her son in my facility but I wasn’t exactly sure of his seemingly ‘Stone-cold, Steve Austin’ mother. She looked like trouble.
The next time I saw Patricia, my gist partner, I told her about the ‘troublemaker londoner lady with her nonsense british or whatever accent she dey form’. How would I have known that she would become such a huge impact in my life? She did enroll her son and also basically enrolled me into her life. I remember how she used to come spend hours with me in the office, taking care of the kids, complaining about our family, bitching about life and browsing boohoo.com. She would browse and select what she wanted, pay her brother and ask him to send it to Nigeria for her. I remember when her customers would not pay her, she would complain to me and I would think of some ‘egbe-wager’ way to get the money back, most of it theoretical. Most of it I concocted so outlandishly just to make her smile and laugh. She had the greatest laugh in the world. She laughed without holding anything back, with her whole heart. Unlike me, I have mastered the art of laughing while thinking a dozen worrying and unpleasant thoughts. I loved her laugh. I loved her. I love her.
I remember her teasing that I might as well employ her as she basically came to the office everyday and spent hours there. All the kids knew her and loved her. The Parents got used to her as well and basically regarded her as a member of staff and were always shocked when She was introduced as a parent. Parents loved to come to the office to unwind and relax and gist with other parents. She started that.
I remember the day I visited her at the Hospital when she had a crisis. She had yelled on me for not coming to visit her earlier but quickly quieted down when I told her I was spending the entire day with her. That was the day I wrote ‘Taking back my Spiritual Leadership’. Aisha was a handful. She was like a steam roller, whatever that is. But her heart was so big! She was the perfect definition of ‘tough as nails on the outside, soft as a jelly on the inside’. My number one supporter and fan! My personal cheerleader!
Ayo was everything to her. Her pride and joy. Together, we made choices for him. What school he would attend, how she would raise money for his fees, and the best form of discipline for a first child. That was Aisha. She shared her life and could so easily include herself in your pain and trouble.
When I had to change cities, all she asked was, ‘what’s the plan’? She did not offer unsolicited advice, all she did was give me a shoulder to lean on, to support me and to remind me of what I wanted whenever I forgot. She was the one person who did not judge me or my choices.
Lagos! Now this thought has got me smiling ruefully. ‘Eseosa! Na so you be? Na Lagos make you change like this? If na abroad you come go nko? Person no ever see or hear from you again. My friend, you better change!’ I would yell right back and burst into laughter, promising that I would change and would keep in touch more. It happened once, twice, thrice,……..and it went on like this for 2 years.
2014. I knew she hadn’t called me in a while. It hit me one day at work. Aisha hadn’t called me in a while to yell at me for not keeping in touch. I made a mental note to call her before she called me. That was it. I made a mental note. A mental note.
2 days ago, I checked my bbm messages after a week. My boyfriend and I were fighting again for the gazillionth time and going through a phase that I had promised myself that I would not go through again. I had just moved into a new house and I was still trying to adjust and get ready for the life of traffic that it seemed was now my portion. I was broke. Water had stopped running and I was thinking of how to put a banana peel on the ground for my miserly new landlord and his bighead. My colleagues would not stop calling me that I made them come to work on a public holiday. Water poured on my laptop. I was tired of it all. As if these truly mattered! So I checked my bbm messages which I remember to do maybe once a week. As usual, there was a lot of broadcast messages which is what you get when you have about 500 contacts. I don’t even know what I am doing with 500 contacts. I started ending chats when I saw Hassan’s broadcast message from a while ago ‘We are now live at the wedding reception of Kate and Hussein…’ and a personal message that stated the website of the couple. Hassan was her younger brother and Hussein’s twin.
Curious and elated, I opened his dp. Aisha’s picture was his dp with the inscription, ‘RIP Sis’. Immediately I was irritated at people who would put people’s pic up with funny messages that they had forgotten to change form the last pic they put up. Immediately I pinged her to discuss the wedding. It bounced back. I called and her numbers were switched off. I started feeling a little afraid. I checked on Facebook but there was nothing. I heaved a sigh of relief but the little shadow of fear would not go away. I managed to ignore it for about 20 minutes but I couldn’t anymore and so pinged Hassan. It took a little while to respond but when he did, it wasn’t with good news. Aisha had died on April 1.
After the tears and sobs have dried off, all I feel is guilt. What is the meaning of a mental note? Why didn’t I just pick up the phone to call? Why? Would it have taken anything away from me? What was I so busy doing? She constantly checked up on me; made sure I was okay. Why couldn’t I have been a better friend? Why couldn’t I just call? I remember other friends who have blessed my life in so many ways that I do not keep in touch with. I am friendly enough to meet new people but keeping in touch seems like such a big deal to me and I don’t get it.
Chigozie and Joseph Efienokwu and their entire family have known me all my life and been there for me through it all. Heck, I literally planned Bundle of Joy with them. Adesuwa Dinyo, I have known since primary School and I would not be the dubious ‘fashion-conscious’ girl I am now, if not for her. Osayi Edosomwan loves me though I really don’t know why and constantly defends me and is one of the most loyal friends I have and I missed her wedding and the birth of her first child. What is wrong with me? No man has ever shown me the kind of love that IK Elaiho has showed me since I was in Js 1. Joy Akpomeza who taught me how to love giving. They are so many. Sandra Ikuli, Eyitemi, Deborah, Jessie, Imade Owie, Omosigho Ogbebor, Blessing, Eseosa, Timi Febabor, Patricia and the list goes on. I cannot remember the last day that I talked to any of these wonderful people. I am just too busy. And I was too busy to call Aisha.
I haven’t felt this much pain in a long while. I prayed I wouldn’t feel it for a long time. I thought I had seen it all but somehow I feel so small and so humble. I don’t want memories or want her in my heart. I just want her back.
Ai, I’m so sorry.