By Ndey Kumba Demba
Aja’s heart was broken into pieces, tiny mini ones. The kind you can’t see after cleaning up broken glass but pierces right through what feels like your heart, except that it’s your foot. She never thought a day like this would come. This is something she hears about, sees in movies, is a witness to, all the while thanking God for her infallible husband. This is not meant to happen to her. Her life is perfect, her husband is perfect, her family is perfect. She’s the definition of what young and married is, looks like, and should be.
It doesn’t make sense, nothing makes sense. She stood up, went up to the mirror, looked at her reflection. She was a mess, her hair was a mess; her eyes were a shade of desperate red, swollen from the ocean of tears she created. Fine dry lines work their way to her cheeks, all the way to her neck. How much tears does one person have?
She was crying, sobbing when she just stopped. It wasn’t preplanned, no warning, she just stopped. Now looking into the mirror, she doesn’t know what she feels, what she should feel, what feel is expected of her. She just stood there, looking into the mirror, her most sincere vulnerable self.
“This is what my life has come to?”
“How did I get here?”
“How did we get here?”
She needed a hug so bad. She walked to the bed, picked up sleeping Baby Bin and hugged her. In that warmth of a mother-daughter embrace, she shed a few more quiet tears.
Baby Bin didn’t wake up, if anything, the hug helped her sleep more peacefully. She put her back on the bed and lay next to her facing the roof. Her eyes alternating between the roof, which offers blank comfort, and sleeping Baby Bin, who makes her smile in appreciation, as if she just had an epiphany.
For a moment, the world was still, it was just her and Baby Bin.
“How can this one human being be your entire world?” She was looking at the blank comfort when she turned in time to catch Baby Bin smiling in her sleep.
The sight of it made her smile wider.
God is good. Speaking of God, she recalled she didn’t pray asr. She’s been working on her relationship with God. It’s a continuous process, only this time, she wants to be past the stage of inconsistent prayers; praying three times a day, four times a day, once a day. She had an ‘on again, off again’ relationship with God over the years, God never forsaking her at any point, always there, always ready to receive her, always giving even without her asking.
She got up and headed for the sink to perform ablution. Wore her all-in-one abaya and prayed. She has a lot to discuss with God, but she’ll save it for the dark of the night.
Omar Janha hugged his wife that morning before he left for work. They both agreed they’ll do hugs instead of kisses because it was more meaningful. They also agreed that none of them should ever leave the house without a ‘goodbye, good day hug’. They promised each other that they’ll not be one of ‘those’ couples.
Couples who start off calling each other very endearing names like: “Baby, Bae, Honey, Sweetheart, Sugar, Darling” but somehow, the names die a natural death three months into marriage. These couples can’t even tell you when it stopped or why it stopped.
Couples who stop trying after they are married. The man will grow a belly and his cheeks will grow fatter in a not so good way. The woman wouldn’t remember the location of the salon she used to frequent when they were dating. She’s all cornrows, dirty wrapper and smells like food, whichever one she was cooking for that day.
Couples who initiate their own death. These couples end their marriage even before it starts. Feelings are unexpressed; arguments left unresolved, anger builds up, conversations turn into passionate disagreements. And naively, they think the best way to solve it all is to stay out of each other’s space. Feelings leave gradually until they become a distant memory. One day, one of them wakes up and realises there’s more to life.
Omar Janha and his wife promised each other that they’ll not let this happen to them, that they’ll always talk about their feelings, that they’ll work through issues, that one person should back down when they’re both angry, that they’ll both keep it interesting, that they’ll both work on their physical and mental health, and that the other shouldn’t go to bed angry. Thus, they set out on the path of marriage.
There were times when their theories were put to the test. It will get heated, words will be said, one of them (mostly Aja) would withdraw, but they always fell back to it. Omar would be the one to back down, chasing Aja out of withdrawal mood. It has held their marriage together for four years. Like most couples, they have worked through all the potential threats to their marriage and are now at the stage where they completely and wholly get each other. They were at the stage where two truly became one.
They met at UTG seven years ago in a general requirement class. Those classes were usually full to the brim. Omar who dreads failure like death itself decided he needed to get in early so he can have a good spot at the front. On that Thursday, he set out at least two hours before class. He’ll use the time to watch the lineup of funny videos he had downloaded earlier.
To his surprise, someone beat him to it. The class had one occupant sitting in the front.
“Here I thought I’ll be the first one in,” he announced as he approached.
“Sorry to disappoint you,” the occupant responded without looking up from her book.
“It’s two whole hours before class. Why are you here anyway?” he asked.
“The same reason you’re here,” said the occupant.
Omar smiled. He could pretend he was mad, but that would be lying to himself. He loved what he was hearing and soon enough what he was seeing.
“My name is Omar Janha.”
“My name is Aja,” the occupant said looking up from her book for the first time.
“Well, nice meeting you.” His tone was mischievous. He sat on the seat next to her.
“What book are you reading?” He asked.
“Half Of A Yellow Sun,” she showed him the covered.
“I’m actually rereading it.”
“Is it that good?” Looking at her face, he immediately regretted the question.
“Is it that good?” She repeated hysterically.
“It’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!” “What are you talking about?”
“Oh boy!” Omar thought to himself. This is uncharted territory. This girl feels so passionately about her book, or the author. He needs to recover fast, because now he’s just sounding dumb.
“Do you love comedy?” He was unsure, all he knew was he needed a quick change of subject.
“I love comedy,” she smiled.
Finally, something they both love. He was relieved.
“I love standup comedy and romantic comedies,” she added.
“Me too, I love anything funny.” “This is the part where you type “Aww” “Lol” in the message.”
“He loves comedy and is funny too?” “Man after my own heart!”
He got up and bowed down.
“Mr Janha at your service, Ma’am.”
She laughed again. For the first time, she SAW him. He had already seen her.
“I have a couple of videos on my phone, you wanna watch?” He asked.
“Sure.” She got closer to look at his phone.
They laughed and laughed. Replayed some really funny ones and laughed some more. They left class together on that day. The rest is history.