(After Amanda Madunere)
‘My funny valentine, sweet funny valentine, you make me smile with my heart; your looks are laughable, unphotographable, yet you are my favorite work of art’
The dulcet voice floats from the car stereo into your consciousness. Only you are not conscious, and the car stereo is not on – couldn’t be on. Because, at that moment, you are splayed on the tarmac, limbs limp and twisted at awkward angles, a few kilometers from Ibadan.
Your brain fights to regain control of your body, as your eyes flutter open, and squints as the bright rays of light assaults them. A bird flies past your line of sight and you see a face smiling down at you from the sky, and when you blink and look again, the smiling face has morphed into a weeping angel.
Your brows crease, and like a Television whose volume is being turned up, the surrounding noise increases in intensity as you become aware of your surroundings. It is a blend of wailing, barked orders, sirens and chaos.
You wonder where you are, and why you are lying on your back, staring into the face of the sun, for you have by now gained a sense of orientation of your body position. The song plays in repeat in your head and you hold on to it, searching every line for a clue but finding none.
Just when you close your eyes, to tune out this surreal world, hoping to open them to the one you are familiar with – where everything is orderly and made sense – you hear a moan. Soft but unmistakable.
Your eyes fly open and you struggle to turn your head in the direction of the sound, a task which seems to you like trying to lift a bag of cement. What you see triggers a rush of emotions and your memories come back to you in a flood.
You remember waking up with an idea swirling in your head. You had slept the previous night trying to plan a perfect day for today. And the idea had come to you in your sleep.
Quickly, you had sent a text message to Chinyere:
“Pack an overnight bag, and I will pick you up by 12pm” and then added in another message “Happy Valentine’s day sweetheart”
Today is Valentine’s Day. The song had really being a clue after all. It is your first valentine with Chinyere, and in the 10 months that you had been together, you have come to believe that she might be the one.
You wanted today to be special, and you had planned a trip to Ibadan – first to Agodi gardens, and then to the cinemas for a movie marathon, and then bowling at the arcade. Then dinner at Chris Court. Then you hope that later, after retiring to your room, you would make her body sing, as Sinatra’s voice croons in the background to “Funny Valentine”. You wanted to make the song yours and hers.
Tears begin to roll down your eyes as you see her now: a bloodied and mangled mess of flesh rather than the beautiful, fair-skinned, and plump girl that you were falling in love with. It is the first time that you think this – that you allow yourself think this – you are in love, and the thought brings with it both warmth and dread. There is something about death that confers clarity and puts things in perspective.
Because that is what you are staring out now – death. Its presence is unmistakable: it is the elephant that walks past leaving no doubt as to what you saw. It looms over you too. You feel it calmly, determinedly plugging its suction into your lungs, and sucking life from your alveoli.
You don’t fear, rather, you are glad.
You have tasted the pain that loss brings, and you barely survived. You do not want to go through it again.
For two years, you were a living corpse, and an empty snail shell,
when Sade, your fiancée died in a vehicular accident while she was travelling down from Ilorin to Abeokuta, to see you, so that you could travel down together the next day to Benin and be introduced to your parents.
You thank death, as it takes you, for sparing you the agony. The last words that you remember is:
“Wow babe! This valentine will be bloody! I am so excited! See you soon!”
You chuckle – like you did when you read her reply to your text message, two minutes after you sent yours – always the dramatic one, Chinyere, one of her many attractions.
She was right; it is a bloody valentine.