Ebere almost makes me not feel Dili’s absence, as she takes care of me almost as delicately and intimately as he did. Almost. Nothing is quite like the magical time I spent with Dili as he nursed me back to health. And nothing will ever be.
“Won’t you go back to London to take care of your children?” I tease my sister, after she has been with me a week.
“They have a father, abeg!” is her tart reply. “I told Chinedu that, unlike him and his polygamous family, I only have 2 of you. I can’t play when it comes to either one of you. So I will be here with you for as long as I need to, biko. So you better get used to seeing this my face!”
Later that week, I finally return to the clinic for my follow-up appointment with Dr. Chambers. It’s not something I have been looking forward to, considering his last offer for me to speak with a Counsellor. I neither want to speak with any Shrink nor do I want to discuss these flaps he wants to give me in place of breasts. But I can not afford not to be monitored my doctor, so I mentally prepare myself for all of it.
Walking into the clinic, the first person we see is Penny, who embraces me like a long lost daughter.
“Oh, Ezeeeoma! Just look at you. You look so good! I’m so happy for you!” she beams happily. “Where is your husband?”
Ebere and I exchange a glance.
“He had to go back to New York.” I answer politely. “This is my sister, Ebere.”
“Nice to meet you.” Penny beams at Ebere. “And please give your husband my best regards. In all my years of being an Oncology Nurse, I have never seen your kind of love before. I have never seen a spouse as committed to making the process bearable for their partner as he was. In fact, that first day he was here playing you all that music, I cried like a baby when I got home. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my whole life! I haven’t been able to stop talking about it. Even my husband knows all about my patient, Ezeeeoma, and her wonderful husband!”
I nod and smile politely and quickly make my way out of the room. I also take care to avoid eye contact with Ebere. The last thing I need is seeing the judgment in her eyes after hearing from a third party just how wonderful Dili was. What’s done is done, and the sooner we can all move on with our lives, the better!
Dr. Chambers is very happy to see me and commends me on my improved appearance. I introduce him to Ebere, and he too spends the next few minutes asking about my wonderful husband.
“I’m glad you’re here today, Ezioma.” Dr. Chambers finally says. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet. Remember I mentioned my Plastic Surgeon friend from California? Well, he’s here and we’ve had some very interesting conversations about you. Would you mind if I invited him in for this consult?”
I shrug, not sure what another doctor would have to say about my dire case.
I am soon introduced to Dr. Harrison, a much younger doctor than I’d imagined, an African American man who looks no older than 45 years old. He examines me briefly, all the while asking me questions about how my wounds are healing.
“It’s just like I thought.” he says, after the examination. “When Matt and I were talking and he told me about you, I didn’t think it would be possible for there to be no chance of giving you a proper breast reconstruction. Feeling your breast cavities, yes, they have been made pretty shallow, but we could deepen them by an inch or two, and they should be able to carry up to 300cc saline implants.”
Ebere gasps but I am only able to stare at both doctors with an expressionless face, not quite able to assimilate what he is saying.
“It means you can get your implants, Ezioma!” Dr. Chambers exclaims. “You might even be able to get the C-cup you wanted!”
I still sit there, not knowing what to say. On the one hand, I am overjoyed by the fact that I won’t be left a freakshow for the rest of my life, and will be able to feel like a woman again. But on the other hand, it saddens me because that was the main reason I ended my relationship with Dili…and it all just feels like an anti-climax now.
I am finally able to muster the required excitement and enthusiasm, and Ebere and I throw plenty of questions Dr. Harrison’s way. By the time we leave the clinic, I have been scheduled for surgery on the 5thof December…which is ironically Dili’s 40th birthday.
In the days leading to the day of my surgery, I am filled with both excitement…and sadness. I am excited about being able to get breasts again…but sad about not being able to share the experience with him. And when the day arrives, as I am wheeled into the theatre, all I can think of is Dili, and what he is up to on his milestone birthday. A part of wants desperately to call him, but another part of me has no idea what to say to him. I still love and miss him with all my heart…but I know that my actions were unforgivable and he won’t be blamed for never wanting to hear my voice ever again.
By the time I regain consciousness after surgery, the overwhelming pain temporarily relocates my desire to reach out to Dili to the back of my mind, but as I begin to feel relief from the painkillers, it crosses my mind again. But that is when I realize that, even though it is 10pm here in Friday Harbor, it is 1am in New York…and no longer Dili’s birthday.
I take that as a sign from God and decide to focus on my healing instead.
I am discharged in a few days, and Ebere continues to take care of me. The week before Christmas, her husband and kids arrive to spend the holidays with us, and on Christmas Eve, so does Enyinna and his fiancé, a lovely South African girl called Iminathi. Even though I have to endure the same scolding from Enyinna, of keeping my illness a secret, we all eventually settle down to have a beautiful family Christmas celebration.
Being with my family reminds me of how blessed I am to be alive. A few short months ago, the thought of dying was appealing to me. Maybe because deep down, I thought I had nothing to live for. But looking at my lovely sister, who has given up almost 2 months of her life just to be with me, her husband who worships her, and their three beautiful sons…and my dear kid brother, who is my father’s spitting image not only in looks but character, and now about to get married to the love of his life…I realize I have so much to live for…so, so much. The fact that I am loved by all these people is enough proof to me that life is beautiful, with or without romance. I might not have a man…but I do have a wonderful and loving family. And that is all that really matters.
I am discharged by Dr. Chambers on January 8th, and it is an emotional farewell at the clinic, with these people who have been like family to me for the better part of a year. By the end of that week, I finally return the keys to my cottage to the Caretaker, and Ebere and I make our way back to New York. As our plane lands at JFK airport, my heart soars and it feels like the homecoming it is. As our cab rides to my Manhattan apartment, I almost feel like kissing the ground. Having been gone for over a year, I really had no idea how much I have missed the place. And when we get to my apartment building, I almost feel like kissing my doorman, Tomas, on his lips. Such is my joy over seeing him again.
But the sad look on his face reminds me that I am not the same Ezi he bade farewell to two Augusts ago.
“Welcome back, Miss Ezi!” he says, hugging me gently. “I’m so glad you’re back. How are you feeling now?”
The smile on my face wanes as I wonder how he knows I have been ill. Yes, I might be leaner, but I am very far away from how skeletal I was at my worst. I also have considerable regrowth on my scalp for it to pass as an intentional haircut.
Ebere and I make our way to my apartment, and walking inside, I am surprised that it doesn’t smell as musky as I’d feared it would. I look around and see that the place is as clean as a whistle. No dust anywhere. I see that my vast collection of scented candles have all been removed and even my pot pourri bowls have been emptied. Walking to the fridge, I find it not smelling as stale as it should have after so long of inactivity, but instead stocked to the brim with healthy food items. Even my pantry has been stocked with organic cereals and snacks.
I look at Ebere. “Was Dili here?”
She shrugs. “I told him we were coming back this week and he said something about coming to get your apartment ready for you. I didn’t know he’d do all this. But hey, good for us abi? At least, we don’t have to go looking for a supermarket today.”
“I didn’t know you were still talking with him.” I say, surprised.
“Why won’t I talk to him? Why on earth would you think that?” Ebere retorts.
Before I can answer, there is a soft knock on my door. I open it to see Tomas.
“I’m so sorry to disturb you, Miss Ezi, but Mr. Dili asked me to give you these.” he says tentatively, as he hands me a bunch of keys and an envelope.
I recognize Dili’s house keys, but when I open the envelope, my heart sinks to my feet.
Seeing them saddens me and I have to pinch my nose to stop myself from crying. But really, what else did I think would happen after my horrible behavior? Of course divorce is the only logical next step for us. Logical, yes…but it doesn’t stop it from breaking my heart.
“What was that?” Ebere asks, when I return to the kitchen.
I shake my head and force a smile. “Nothing. Just a neighbour saying hello.” I lie. “When you speak with Dili, tell him thanks for cleaning up and for the groceries.”
Ebere stays with me for another couple of days, before she finally returns home to her family in London. Finally being alone in my apartment, I start to feel more like my old self again. I get my old clothes out of storage, and allow myself to bask in the luxury of my designer clothes. As the new week dawns, I tidy up my hair into a trendy, albeit short, hair cut and I go to my old office to see everyone.
Mia is emotional when she sees me. “Oh my God, Ezi!” she exclaims. “Dili told me. I ran into him a few weeks ago, and he told me all about it. I asked for your number but he said something about you wanting to be alone.”
I embrace my old friend, and give her a detailed account of all that has transpired since I left New York. We are both emotional, she more so, as she realises just how close I’d been to losing my life.
Seeing the rest of my team, my former boss happily reminds me that my job is waiting for me anytime I’m ready, but as I leave their expansive West Street office, I realise that going back is the last thing I want. That evening, I get into touch with another former boss of mine, who left Goldman a few years ago to oversee a small private equity fund, and who has been wooing me to join him ever since. Two years ago, leaving Goldman for such a small fund was unheard of for me, but today, I am more than willing to explore that possibility.
We meet up the next day, and after a brief chat, he makes m a firm offer…which I happily accept. I am surprised that it is just as well paying as Goldman, but with considerably less stress and agro. By the end of January, I am fully settled back into my old life, and even have my old column with the Manhattan Buzz revived. It is almost like I never left.
Except I did.
I feel Dili’s presence everywhere. In March, when the 10th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race starts, I can’t help but remember the times we would watch it back in Friday Harbor, squealing and laughing over RuPaul’s many phrases. Watching this new season alone, and not having him to giggle with over the very many ‘The time has come for you to lip sync for your liiiiiife!’ or ‘We’re all born naked and the rest is drag’ makes me miss him all the more. Even the mundane task of making my breakfast of almond cereal reminds me of him. Four months after our final separation, I still feel him as keenly as if we were together just yesterday.
But I know I have to find a way to release him…forever. The divorce papers still sit pretty in their envelope, which lies on my kitchen table. I will get to them, but not now. Definitely not now. I need to be stronger before I can go along with the process of severing our relationship for good.
Live To Tell (Madonna) – April 04, 2018
I have a tale to tell
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well
I was not ready for the fall
Too blind to see the writing on the wall
A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned
Till then, it will burn inside of me…
…If I ran away, I’d never have the strength to go very far
How would they hear the beating of my heart?
Will it grow cold, the secret that I hide? Will I grow old?
How will they hear? When will they learn? How will they know?
A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned
Till then, it will burn inside of me
In this beautiful city of Manhattan, we all walk around looking happy, content, satisfied, and whole. But the truth is almost all of us has a secret…a common secret…the secret that we are broken on the inside. Beneath all the Louis Vuittons and Manolo Blahnics, we are often little more than patched up dolls…doing the best we can to look like we have it all.
When the truth is that we have nothing at all.
Catch up on Ezioma’s story here:
- A Love of Convenience! 1: Handbags & Gladrags
- A Love of Convenience! 2: There she goes
- A Love of Convenience! 3: The day will surely come
- A Love of Convenience! 4: Russian Farmer’s Song
- A Love of Convenience! 5: Moonlighting Strangers
- A Love of Convenience! 6: Knocks me off my feet
- A Love of Convenience! 7: A simple kind of life
- A Love of Convenience! 8: I can’t help it
- A Love of Convenience! 9: Edge of desire
- A Love of Convenience! 10: The Fear
- A Love of Convenience! 11: Ordinary People
- A Love of Convenience! 12: Me and Mrs. Jones
- A Love of Convenience! 13: You could be happy
- A Love of Convenience! 14: Linger
- A Love of Convenience! 15: Sunday Morning
- A Love of Convenience! 16: Drive
- A Love of Convenience! 17: Bohemian Rhapsody
- A Love of Convenience! 18: Sailing
- A Love of Convenience! 19: One Last Breath
- A Love of Convenience! 20: Love is stronger than Pride
- A Love of Convenience! 21: Gravity
- A Love of Convenience! 22: In My Place