When Boyo died, she did not weep, despite the sheer surprise of it: one moment, the Regional Manager was sitting down to his dinner of roast yam and sauced chicken, the next moment, he was sprawling on their granite-coloured rug, and she was trialing the new number for Lagos’ emergency services.
‘That’s why we call it “The Silent Killer”’, said the doctor on call grimly, ‘he looked a fit young man, but there you are!’
She was standing there in the emergency room when the medical team gave up and wheeled away their machines, rolling up leads as they went.
‘It’s finished madam,’ they said, ‘we are very, very sorry.’ But she stood there, holding his hand, wondering how he could possibly be dead when he was still so warm. The registrar was humourless under pressure and snapped the medical facts. She stood her ground, without hysterics. He’s alive, she insisted, until the matron led her away gently.
She could have wept then, but she didn’t.
They were five years a couple but she was not quite the widow. If I was a widow I’d weep, she thought, but he had not put a ring on her finger. So she stood behind his mother as they lowered him into his grave. She had bags of baby things hidden in their basement, but she was not yet a mother. If I was a mother, I’d weep, she thought, but he had not put a baby in her womb. He had loved his condoms too much. It was not the perfect relationship, but she had taken what he had to offer, and… God, she had loved that man. They had thought they’d live for ever, they and their distant dreams of vows and sons and daughters… their interrupted love was a twisting knife, but she did not weep.
Those continent weeks were washed by rain. It either poured or rained grey slanting tears from sodden skies. She did not take the hint. Knowing what lay behind her dam, she did not weep a tear. Instead, she carried herself carefully through the evocative minefield of her life, walking their lonely rooms, gray-clad and reticent.
Saturday morning, and the green danshiki he had planned to wear to the Shylon’s house-warming arrived. She opened the door and the tailor stood there, sweating and proud, unaware that his client was gone. He had been promised a bonus for timely delivery and here he was on time. She paid up the bonus, rather than confess that though the danshiki was early, its owner was late. As she hung up the outfit that he would never wear, she bit her lower lip, but did not weep.
Sunday night, and she came home late. Hungry and tired, she paused on the threshold, torn by the dilemma of kitchen or bed. Running on autopilot, she set the table, ran a little water and brought the pot to the boil. She moved a bowl of affang soup from freezer to microwave and compounded eba from a sprinkling of gari. Nine minutes, and the meal was ready. She had done this hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times before, she could do it in her sleep. Then she sat down to dinner and found that she had – from force of habit – set two places. His side plate and the burgundy mug he favoured for his water was there before her, with his special bone china cutlery, wrapped in serviette. She swallowed a morsel of affanged eba, and paused, blinking rapidly at the knowing ceiling fan that waved his white, consolatory palms at her.
Then Erete broke down and wept.