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Behind Every Dark Cloud …by Nk’iru. Njoku

Behind Every Dark Cloud …by Nk’iru. Njoku

When I was pregnant I used to cover Third Mainland Bridge in seven minutes if there was zero congestion. As soon as I would be ready to climb the bridge, I would slot in my 2Face Idibia album and belt out a couple of songs with my music idol before I would descend on the Mainland side of town. In those seven minutes I would toy with the idea of bringing down my windows and letting my hair obey the breeze as I zipped along.

I do not like the feeling of air rushing into a car. When I was a child and my father would take us from Lagos to our village in Imo state during the yearly ‘Christmas Exodus’, we would of course go via the Niger Bridge at some point on our journey. He drove a Volkswagen ‘Beetle’ in those days and I would be crammed in the back of it with my brother, sister, and our house-help whilst mum would be in the front-passenger seat with the then baby of the house.

As soon as we hit the Niger Bridge, Dad would for some reason bring down the windows some more and the wind would rush in as he raced us away from Asaba and into Anambra. I would then stick my hands out through his or mum’s window and try to catch the breeze, calling it ‘ice water!’. But it would elude me, and I would be a bit annoyed. So even though I loved the rushing wind, it also upset me for being impossible to hold. I was therefore often relieved at the end of the experience.

So when I was pregnant, no matter how tempted I was to let the breeze rush at me from both sides of Third Mainland Bridge, I always resisted the temptation. “Yeye breeze. E no go stay one place make person hol’ am.”

But this morning was different. It was a few days after Didi was born. Her father had arrived from England. I was still a ‘brand new’ mum – my legs were quite wobbly from the experience of labour, but I insisted that I would pick him up from the airport as I’d always done. Papa-Didi was going to meet Didi for the first time. He was going to feel firsthand what I’d been dealing with for days – he was going to lay eyes on his daughter who had been born with no eyes.

…………………………………………….

As I hit Third Mainland Bridge, the tears came. Hot, heavy, blinding. They fell to my lips and they tasted painful. I had no zeal for 2Face’s album that morning, I had no strength to sing. I felt myself choking despite the air conditioning and the Harmattan chill that had enveloped Lagos that time of the year.

So I slid down my window and one of the rear ones. The air came rushing in. I shook my head and freed my dreadlocks from the loose bun I had put them in. I then felt them dance with the breeze. I felt my tears being swept away too. Gratefully, I inhaled quickly, filling my lungs up with the air they desperately needed.

By the time I descended Third Mainland Bridge and was making my way to Murtala Mohammed International Airport, I was breathing well again, I was no longer crying. I had ‘arranged’ myself. If I was a mess when I picked him up, I might have added to the mess that Papa Didi already was and we would have been a hot messy pair by the time we got home. So I womanned up and put on my brave face.

……………………………………………….

My brave face is made of steel, and fortified with platinum. It has helped me through the years to mommy my daughter without having a mental episode when I remember that she has no eyes in her head. It has kept me from buckling at the feet of a society that is anti-disability. It has made me a champion of my daughter’s ’cause’.

It has saved me, this steel-and-platinum combination. I do not take it for granted even though there are days when it becomes heavy.

So this other day, sometime in 2015, we had just flown into Nigeria from the UK, Didi and I. My car papers had expired so my regular pick-up driver had to come with his own vehicle to get us. We had lots of luggage and his car was not going to suffice. He then asked his friend to join him. His friend drove an SUV.

We split the luggage between the two cars and I opted to ride with the friend because I no sabi am from Adam and heaven forbid I leave him with Didi’s prized possessions like her feeding bottles, and her blankets, etc etc. Anaghi eji ihe eji agba l’anti agba l’anya.

Unfortunately for us, this fellow had spilled petrol somewhere in the car and the smell had remained even after he got the car washed and scented. Not to worry, I told him. “We go just wind down ni”.

……………………………………………………

I had Didi facing me, strapped to my body in her baby carrier.

I cooed in her face and kissed her hair. I played with her fingers and let her drool on my phone.

And as soon as we hit Third Mainland Bridge, I got an idea! I powered our window down even further and let the breeze rush in at us violently.

My hair flew, hers shivered a little.

Then she smiled as the wind beat her face and stole some saliva from her lips.

She shot off a long and assertive string of babble.

Then she lifted both hands and leaned away from me, towards the window.

She fluttered her palms, grabbed at the wind, trying to catch some of it and making tiny fists after each grabbing motion.

She seemed shocked at first when nothing solid came away from her effort.

But she continued. And continued. Until she realised someone was scamming her here.

Thankfully she found it funny. So she shrieked in delight. She babbled some more. She tried to catch the wind again but again it slipped through her fingers. She yelled and smacked my breasts in frustration.

Then she got a brain wave.

Didi threw both hands up, leaving them right there and enjoying the breeze as it flew at her. She no longer tried to grab. She just let her palms move with the wind.

Then she laughed long and hard, very tickled by the feeling.

The driver wondered about her and I told him she was doing what I did as a kid – grabbing at the wind and catching nothing.

“Eyah”, he said. “ki l’omode mo?”

And he was right. A baby like Didi didn’t know very much at the time. But then neither did he.

He was never to know that only months before, I had been on that same bridge, on the other side, racing to the airport in tears.

I had been shattered and broken by what I thought was a calamity.

I had thought myself a failure for bringing a child into a world she would never experience with eyes.

I had hated myself. The only thing that had kept me from losing my mind or harming myself was the sheer visceral love for the same child for whom I despaired.
………………………………………..

The child that I cried about was the child that I loved through the tears.

The child I worried about then became the child that I now laugh with.

The experiences I thought she would never have, have become the wondrous little things that she has taught herself, thanks to Mother Nature.

As I look back today, I am filled with gratitude for how far we have come as parents of Didi. I am awed by the little powerhouse herself – the small madam Dirichi; the naughtiest girl with the loveliest smile.

I have been starstruck since we had her, and I am starstruck till now. Friends catch me staring at and smiling at her as if I’ve only just met her. I try to explain the feeling but words fail me.

You know how they say ‘behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining’?

Well, this cloud that I thought was a storm-cloud turned out to be a big billowing cloud of magic dust.

Sleepless nights, worries, fears, nail biting, happiness, more happiness, anxiety, panic, relief, more happiness… these are the things that make up the dust. The ‘good’, and the ‘bad’.

And through it all, we continue to let this magic take us where it will. We know that in the end there will be a big flourish. So today, we look forward to that whilst we hold on to the victories we have recorded so far.

Glossary:

“Anaghi eji ihe eji agba l’anti agba l’anya” – ear-drops aren’t for the eyes. In other words, don’t take stupid risks.

“Ki l’omode mo?” – What does a little child know?

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Posted by:- on October 12, 2018.

Categories: Literature

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