There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. That was what Abiola Ajirebi concluded as he gently applied the Ketoprofen ointment on the bunions blighting his left foot that stood out, red and hard like the tip of budding carrots. He looked outside through the dusty window and saw how perfect the evening was set up: the large orange bowl dancing coolly in and out of the clouds like a proud Bata dancer feigning indifference at the hallowed gazes of a hungry throng, the gentle breeze hovering in consonance with the chirping birds perched on the palm trees that were mainstays in a very green community and that smell, the overly diligent digger of nostalgia, the wafting scent of familiarity that refuses to be ascribed with a definite name, the same one that had welcomed him home when he had alighted the lorry six months ago after a decade plundering for his nation.
He picked up the notepad and stared at his scribbling. It was yet another random at poetry, an exercise he dived into for safety when the mallets of a bloody past in the military attempted to bend him to shape. The first three lines had surged out his trembling fingers with force:
A lost vessel and burning scars,
loneliness and its many shards,
redemption came in form of her,
small and bright like a shining star.
He had tried to will his mind to whisk his fingers for it to yield more lines, all to no avail. He was dried up, bereft of muse, and left with an aching heart and a burning left foot.
He fell into his bed backwards and shut his eyes to sleep, hoping it would quicken the steps of time and the dusk would give way to a new dawn- one hopefully, less generous with pain; one that would allow him take his walk and enjoy the freedom that comes with the priceless additive of the evening air. And there was also the girl he yearned to see, the one he had seen on the balcony of a white duplex about three months ago. Her face was small and shiny like a golden coin and her teeth, when she laughed, reminded him of the delicious pap he had eaten during the war, the one served in ugly sooty bowls that somehow stayed white despite the obvious smell and taste of groundnut. She was tall, slim and abundantly curved. Their eyes had met and in that moment, a squeeze had threatened to detach his heart. He had whirled and ambled away, fighting a great deal not to look back. All the way to the fern-colonized pond that was usually the apogee of his walk, he had felt the burn of her intense gaze boring painful holes in his back.
It continued that way for days until she called out in a shrill voice one typical evening: “Shy man! I don’t eat people you know.”
Ajirebi stopped walking. He turned his stiffened neck in her direction and flashed a weak smile.
“Anyways, you have a great evening.” She said smiling, her left hand hoisted, waving slowly. Ajirebi waved back, his hand so heavy and foreign, like it was a strange growth. The shadow of his wave spread before him and he saw that his hand was clenched in a tight fist and that it resembled a huge phallus. He quickly freed his fingers to wave properly. He caught the naughty glint in her eyes; she was thinking his thoughts.
“You can stop waving now.” She said shaking her head.
A friendship quickly developed, not because he was handsome— war wasn’t so generous to spare regular looks. It had to leave a mark, or several in his case, neither was he chatty— she did most of the talking, her voice infused with the excitement of a child while he stared and nodded, his mind beneath her clothes. The only time he initiated a discussion was when he had tried to appreciate her beautiful red gown that exposed a signified portion of her chestnut thighs. Her gaze had shifted to his pants and words immediately deserted his mouth. He sighed and shook his head; his body had failed him.
He planned to take things up a notch the day the bunions struck. Their friendship had left the confines of the balcony into her lavender-imbued bedroom. He had seen the possibility of a relationship. It was palpable in how she let her body brush against his repeatedly, how she kept on talking for hours, her face holding his, refusing it respite, how she was always eager to show off dance moves, teasing him mercilessly, his entire soul mired in a sticky pool of pain tinted with pleasure.
Ajierbi’s eyes were still shut when he felt the temperature hike suddenly. The darkness he was in exploded into a conflagration. There was fire everywhere, red dancing tongues high like riverine reeds. The ground was littered with bloodied bodies, some lifeless, some convulsing, others crawling and rolling in the sand, wailing in pain, struggling to escape the fire. He saw a baby crying beside a headless female body, its voice strained and on the brink of collapse. He inched closer to the baby, his arms stretching to pick it up. The baby looked up at him and a strange frown fell upon its face.
“You killed her.” It said with a voice violently deep.
Ajirebi opened his eyes and sat up. The indentation of his frame on the bed was drenched and stained a dull brown. This wouldn’t have happened if he had taken that walk. The walk was the counter to the reminders of his dreadful past. Avoiding his past was the reason he started the walks in the first place. Relief had come in the form of breeze, the blue sky, the pond and the refreshing smell of green nature. The lady simply capped it up. He picked up his notepad and made for the exit, his left foot vibrating and protesting in pain. He grated his teeth as he pulled the door open and limped out of the room.
Upon arriving at the balcony, he saw from the distance, to his utter surprise, the lady kissing another man, their lips interlocked in a hodgepodge of redness and moisture. He expected, desired even, to be broken, to wail or weep or break something but he didn’t feel a thing. He felt stony, unable to feel. More lines dropped in his head at that moment:
but stars die with the morning
for redemption is only running
running from pain
till you’re too fast and wild to tame.
Ajirebi turned back and headed towards the pond, his mind already decided on what portion of the ceramic bench he was going to sit to finish his poem, and perhaps, if he felt like it, a swim in the pond wouldn’t be such a bad idea.