As the weeks roll along, I settle back into my old pattern, at least whatever that pattern was before Dili came into my life four years ago. I redecorate my apartment, rediscover my love for good food and fine dining, and throw myself into social activities with my friends. My new job could simply not be better and I am amazed about the fact that I am able to get so much fulfillment from it, and still have time for a life as well. The cherry on the cake is that I am also able to remotely complete the certificate program I was undergoing at Duke University, so at least the time I spent there wasn’t in vain.
I am grateful that, after being on the brink of death, I am blessed to have my life…my very good life…back again. I am no longer so skinny that I draw curious stares from passers by, but have instead filled out pretty nicely and am almost back to my pre-sickness size 4. My hair has regrown and my skin has lost the horrible discolouration it suffered from all the medication. I have treated my already rich wardrobe to some eye-popping new additions, and I am back to feeling like my normal fashionista self. I am back to my old self.
So why then do I still feel this painful hollowness inside? Despite anything I do to fill the ache in my heart…arrange girly dates with Mia and my other girlfriends, shop till I drop, immerse myself in Client briefs…the emptiness remains. And it is worse when I lie all alone in my bed at night. No matter how long I try to delay this by staying up late writing my article, or watching reruns of Sex & The City, the very moment I shut out the noise, I am overwhelmed by a deep and intense sadness.
A sadness similar to only one thing I have felt before…the heartbreak I suffered after Dili left with Onyeka. It is ironic, because this is the same feeling I was trying to avoid when I let him go…let our relationship go…last year. But here I am, feeling just as broken as if I was experiencing that heartbreak all over again.
It is one Sunday morning as I sit alone in the Starbucks near my apartment, that I realize that despite everything I have done to prevent it from happening, my heart is broken…but this time not by Dili…but by my own stupidity and insecurity.
That day, I recall to the words I said to Dili that horrible November morning, and I feel sick to my stomach with regret. I remember the beautiful four months we’d had prior to that day, and I can finally see that everything Dili did for me was out of love…and nothing else. My eyes water as I remember how tenderly he would carry me, bathe me, clean me, feed me, and even whisper sweet nothings in my ear. Not for one day, not for one single day did he ever show anger, impatience or disgust over my condition…which is not something even I can boast of when I was my sister’s caregiver.
I realize that what I have desired for the better part of my life was handed to me on a platter of gold… only for me to throw it away.
The realization of my mistake sends me into a deeper depression, one that doesn’t even go away when I try to do things to distract myself from it. It is with me from the very moment I open my eyes in the morning, to when I pass the café we’d frequented as a couple, to when I think I can smell his perfume waft past me, or when I think I see someone like him walking down the streets of Manhattan. I see him every morning as I make my breakfast of either organic oatmeal or Greek yoghurt with fruits. I see him everywhere. But where I see him the clearest is in my heart, anytime I close my eyes.
That is when I realize that the love I have for Dili will never go away…no matter what I do, it will never go away.
And then on the first Saturday of May, sitting at my kitchen window and basking in first warm hint of summer sunshine, I decide to do what I should have done ages ago.
Before noon, armed with his favourite pineapple upside-down cake, I am on the Number 2 train headed to Brooklyn…to pour my heart to Dili…to try to get back the only man I have ever loved. I got his address from the divorce documents which are still lying on my kitchen table five months after my return home. It took a lot from me to finally open them, and as I flip through the pages trying to find an address, I can’t help but notice what the document does contain…irreconcilable differences as the grounds for divorce, November 03 2018 as our date of separation, and zero spousal support for either party.
But through the 45 minute train ride, I choose not to fixate on the document and instead fantasise about us both tearing the papers up when we are reunited…hopefully tonight. I close my eyes and daydream about being sexually reunited with him…the love of my life. While we were in Friday Harbor, apart from the fact that I was too sick for either of us to even think about sex…I didn’t think he would even find me sexually attractive…not with the way I was looking…bone thin, bald and breast-less. But while I had been so fixated on the fact that we weren’t having sex, it is only now it occurs to me that his love for me transcended anything physical or carnal. Even without getting sexual fulfillment from me, he still showered me with so much love and affection. He showed me the very true meaning of true, pure love. And I was just too blind to see it.
I walk from the station to the Park Slope area of Brooklyn. A few former colleagues from Goldman moved to this neighbourhood after getting married, and it is always easy to see why. With the trendy Brownstones and town houses lining its street, it is almost as upscale as living in Manhattan…but with the added benefit of a quieter neighborhood and more space.
As I approach Dili’s townhouse, my heart is racing so fast and beating so loudly, I can literally hear it in my ear. It almost feels like I’m going to pass out. Wish shaking hands, I press his doorbell and I stand and hope and pray that he will answer the door.
Just when I start to wonder if he’s at home, the door opens and surprise flashes on his face when he sees me.
“Hi Dili!” I exclaim, trying to sound extra cheerful. I toy with the idea of lying that I was just ‘in his neighborhood’, but realise he will see through that immediately. “Long time no see.”
“Hi Ezioma.” he says tentatively. “What are you doing here?”
“Happy belated birthday!” I say, raising the cake like a trophy.
But he is not impressed. “My birthday was five months ago.”
“I just thought I’d stop by to say hello, why all the frowning of face?!” I laugh nervously, getting unnerved by his coldness. “And I know you love Franco’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake!”
He doesn’t look convinced. “Thanks.” he says, taking the cake from me.
“Is that all you’re going to say?” I exclaim. “Won’t you even let me in after I came all this way?”
He hesitates for a moment, before allowing me into the house.
“Wow!” I exclaim. “Very nice place. The décor is so lovely. Did Onyeka decorate it?”
“I bought this place last February, long after she’d left.” he answers stiffly.
“Oh really? I thought you said you two moved to Brooklyn almost immediately…”
“We rented an apartment.” he answers impatiently. “Why are you really here, Ezioma?”
“Why? Do you have a hot date?” I respond, with a sly wiggle of my brow.
He doesn’t even smile.
“How have you been though? What do you think about this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race? Those queens are on another level this year!” I say, with a nervous laugh.
“I don’t watch it anymore.” he answers coldly.
“Really?” I exclaim, genuinely surprised considering how much he loved the show. “It’s really quite good. I even ran into Sharon Needles at a bar in Manhattan a few months back! Remember how happy we were when she won Season 4?!”
He shrugs, and I can see that his patience is fast dissipating.
“And how did it go with Bain? Was the job still waiting?” I ask, desperate to keep our conversation flowing.
“It was. But I got an even better one with Verizon. I started with them in February.”
I clap my hands happily. “That is amazing! Wow! Up you, Okwudili! You’ve really done good for yourself.”
He shrugs again, and I know I am minutes away from being thrown out of the house.
“Meanwhile…surprise!” I exclaim, pointing at my breasts. “I got the implants in the end!”
“Yes, I know. I spoke with Ebere the day of your surgery.” he answers.
I look at him, surprised that my sister didn’t even mention it. “That was your birthday.”
He smiles sarcastically. “Gee. I’m so honoured you remembered.”
“When did you speak with her?” I ask. “She never said anything to me.”
“I spoke with her almost daily while you were still at Friday Harbor. The day of your surgery, we spoke every hour.” he answers.
I am filled with both anger that my sister could have kept this information from me…and a deep regret over the way I cast away a love so beautiful. “Thank you. I really do appreciate the concern.”
He shrugs non-committaly. “It’s no big deal. I was just trying to finish what I started…which is making sure you left Friday Harbor healed and healthy.”
I nod, understanding the hidden meaning of his statement…that he didn’t do it out of any romantic emotions…but out of duty.
“I hope you had a great day though!” I say, forcing a smile. “Welcome to the land of 40! You’re officially an old man now. What did you do? Did your friends take you out?”
“I was actually in Nigeria.” he answers. “I spent the whole of December there, with my Mom. She and my siblings threw me a small party.”
“Oh that’s nice.” I say. “Did you tell her about me…about us?”
He shrugs again. “There was nothing to tell.”
His words stab me in the heart like a knife piercing through.
“I’m sure all those Naija babes were just rushing you anyhow!” I tease. “Fine American boy!”
“Ezioma, what exactly are you here for? Is it the divorce papers? Did you bring them?” he asks, clearly eager for me to leave his home.
That is when I know I either have to come clean or risk losing him forever.
“I acted really badly in Friday Harbor.” I finally say. “I allowed my insecurities and fears cloud my thinking, and I did and said things I didn’t mean.”
He crosses his arms without saying anything, clearly waiting for me to continue talking.
“You know that I have been in love with you almost as long as I have been alive.” I say, my eyes starting to water. “I loved you back when we were kids, I loved you the very moment I set eyes on you here in New York City, I loved you all the while you were still all over Onyeka…” my voice breaks with my rising emotion. “I loved you even when you left me. I loved you when you came to Friday Harbor like my knight in shining armor. And I love you now. I love you, Okwudili. You are the only man I have ever wanted. The only man I have ever loved.”
He just looks at me, his face expressionless. “You didn’t seem to remember this ‘love’, when you replaced me with Seth…or when you kicked me out of the house after I’d served my purpose.”
“It’s not like that, Dili.” I say desperately. “I was just reacting after hearing about my implants.”
He sighs deeply. “Look, Ezioma. You got what you wanted. You got your revenge. For months after I left you, I was broken in a way I have never been before. Even while I was in Nigeria, I was dying inside. It has taken me months to get over you. I have only just started picking up the pieces of my life. You made me feel what you must have felt when I left with Onyeka. So I guess we’re even now.”
The tears are now pouring fast down my face, but from the set expression on his face, I know that our conversation is clearly over. There is nothing more to say. I have lost the love I had hoped and longed for all my life. Just like that.
“Thank you for everything you did for me.” I say, through my tears. “Thank you for being there for me…for taking care of me…I will never be able to truly thank you enough.”
He shrugs and looks away.
“And thank you so much for clearing out my apartment and stocking my fridge before I got back. That was very kind of you.”
“It was no big deal.” is his curt answer.
I nod sadly. “Well, thanks anyway.” I reach to touch his arm. “Bye, Dili. I’ll miss you.”
He steps away from my touch, like it is hot coal. “Please send the divorce papers whenever you can. I don’t want to rush you as I’m sure you haven’t regained your strength 100%. But try anytime you feel able to.”
I nod again and even manage a small smile. “Sure. I’ll do that.”
He politely sees me out of the house, and I walk like someone in a trance back to the train station. The tears start anew and continue non-stop through the 45-minute ride, the reality of my loss hitting me hard. This time it is even worse, as I am the architect of my pain…my heartbreak.
As I emerge from the 57 Street Subway station and make the short walk to my apartment, I feel like I am bleeding from every orifice…when in actual fact, it is only my heart that is haemorraging. For the first time since I moved into that building, I do not acknowledge the door men’s greetings and instead just breeze through them like a ghost…a zombie. When I get to my apartment, I find my way to the living room and sit in silence on the sofa. By this time, my tears are spent…but I am still weeping sorrowfully on the inside.
Taking position before my laptop, my broken heart is unable to think up a banal topic to write about. Not only is my heart broken…but so is my spirit…my soul.
I cue on Al Green’s How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, and as the melancholic song plays, tears start to pour from my eyes anew. That is when I know that I can’t give up. I just can’t.
How can you mend a broken heart (Al Green) – May 05, 2018
I can think of younger days when living for my life
Was everything a man could want to do
I could never see tomorrow
But I was never told about the sorrow
And how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again…
Di’m. Obi’m. Last year, in Friday Harbor, you told me you read every single one of my old articles, both here and on my private blog. I wonder if you still do read it…my column. You probably don’t. You probably gave it up at the same time you gave up on loving me…
But here I am, writing you this letter still. Hoping against all hope that you’ll read this…and that your heart will long for mine again.
Do you remember this song, obi’m? It’s the song from our favourite scene in the Sex & the City movie, when Miranda and Steve reconcile. As I sit here, my keyboard wet from my tears and my heart aching with love for you, that is what I long for with my whole heart. Remember how Miranda thought she could never forgive Steve for what he did to her? Remember how all the anger and pain disappeared like a mere vapour when they saw each other on that bridge? That is what I am here, sitting and praying for…that all the pain, heartbreak and sadness from the last 2 years will disappear…allowing us to love each other…forever.
The way we are meant to.
You are the love of my life, di’m. Nobody else. You are the only one my heart knows…the only one my heart wants. And that is why I am here…giving you my heart anew, here on my Manhattan Buzz column…wishing…hoping…praying that you open yours to me again.
Give us another chance, my love. Give our love another chance. Remember how good we were together…how good we are together. Let’s not throw that away. Please.
And so, just like in the movie, I’m going to wait on the Brooklyn Bridge for you tomorrow. I’m going to wait for you, and just like Miranda hoped that Steve would show up, I’m going to hope that you do too. And I’ll be there by noon every Sunday …until you finally do.
I will wait for you forever, my Okwudili. I will wait for you forever if I have to.
I stare at my screen in exasperation, feeling bare and naked for writing such a personal article. But before I can change my mind, I edit it and publish it…sending it into the public domain before I can do anything to stop it.
As I retire to bed, I know that I am just grasping at straws. Dili won’t even read my article, talkless of come to meet me on the Brooklyn Bridge. But as hopeless a situation as it is…it is the only choice I have.
The next day, I leave my apartment in good enough time to get to the pedestrian side of the Brooklyn Bridge before noon. I stand awkwardly, facing on-comers from Brooklyn, staring eagerly at the faces. I realize that quite a number of the people walking by would have read my article, and might be wondering if the black girl in the knit shirt and blue jeans is Ezi, the writer of the column…waiting for her man.
I start to lose hope after standing for 45 minutes. I lean on the banister as I realize that he won’t show up. Not today. Maybe not ever. I wonder how long my broken heart will allow me endure the humiliation of coming here to wait in vain…for a man who has probably already moved on.
On the dot of 1pm, I pull myself off the banister, my hopes and dreams completely dashed. I start to walk away and I cast another look behind me at people walking from Brooklyn.
And then I see him.
I turn around, my heart pounding, wondering if it is just my eyes…my senses…my heart playing tricks on me. But it is really him. He approaches me, his steps also tentative and as his eyes meet mine…I recognize in them the same fear and apprehension in mine.
We are soon standing before each other, two wounded souls broken by love…broken by each other.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d come.” I croak. “I didn’t even know if you’d read my article.”
“I almost didn’t.” he answers.
“Read the article or come?”
“Both.” he answers. “But you really messed with my head after you came to my house yesterday. I thought I’d been able to get over you, but seeing you again…” he shakes his head. “Seeing you again made me realize that I still love you. I don’t think I was ever even able to stop. Before I went to bed, for the first time in months, I decided to read your article…and then I read your note.”
“But you almost didn’t come?”
“I’m just scared, Ezi. I’m scared of losing myself to you again, only to be hurt all over. I’m scared of loving you.” he says, his eyes holding mine.
“That makes the two of us. I’m also scared.” I admit.
“But I’ve realised the emptiness and loneliness I feel without you is far worse than the fear.” he says, his eyes damp with unshed tears. “I love you, Ezioma. And I want to make us work.”
Then he takes a step forward…which is all the prompt I need to leap into his arms, finally reunited with the love of my life.
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
- A Love of Convenience! 23: Live to tell