NIMI PETERS by Grace Ochigbo
“I arrived at your door for the first time almost two years ago. I was incredibly scared but I tried to pretend I was fine as I usually do.” She smiled quickly. “I had worked up myself days before by trying to answer the questions I expected you to ask about why I had come to see you. I hadn’t been sleeping well and had been struggling. Nights crying were standard fare. I’m used to telling everyone, I am fine. I had to be. I didn’t actually have any word to explain how I felt. I see now I had been quite skilled at hiding in busy-ness, in work, in extreme physical exercise and in being needed by others.” She sipped her coffee and stayed aloof for a little while before continuing…
“I want to say thank you. I can now sit up straighter and look at you rather more often than I did the first day; still uncomfortable though but much more aware of myself. It’s good to realise that for the first time in my life, I can begin to talk about my shame, my sadness, my loneliness and, most of all, my confusion about myself. You see, some sessions I try to digress and talk about work when really I wanted to talk about something else. Thank you again for bearing with me.”
She glanced with smiles at the man on the opposite side of the table. He was grinning too broadly if you asked her. She knew she was talking rather too slow but she knew much more that he wasn’t going to interrupt her. He never interrupts her.
“I’m glad I muttered the courage to come in the first place, even though I feel often exhausted, emotionally drained and frequently want to rush home and curl up under a rug after a session.” She smiled at him again. “So you know I always look forward to our sessions… really.”
The white man heaved a sigh of relief as he smiled broader. “I was nervous during the speech, Lauren!”
“Well, it’s the same way people start off whenever they feel good and done with sessions. My last two clients made a long speech as well the day they were going to tell me they wouldn’t be visiting again.”
Lauren smiled. “You see now it’s a different case here.”
He nodded in the affirmative and continued almost immediately, “Considered taking the option yet?”
Lauren’s countenance fell.
“It’s harder than you make it appear, Mark. It is truly on the high side.”
“But it’s a good transaction for your complete healing. You get the burden off you once and for all and that way you live freer again.”
Lauren sat with legs crossed. She was sipping the coffee in her hand like someone at gun point. She would sip once in many minutes and stay quiet as though her mind was running over things she couldn’t bear but worry about.
“Remember you brought up this idea in the first place. Considering it critically, I have come to realise it’s the best option for us. Why are you now hesitating to take it?” Mark asked and waited for Lauren to respond. He was one of the few chubby Caucasians Lauren had met ever since. His curly dark brown hair and the almost empty jaw added to his patient and calm entity.
She was startled and immediately came back from where her thoughts had meandered to.
“I’ll still give it deeper thoughts. I got to be online in forty-five minutes, Mark!” She dropped the cup of coffee, picked her handbag as she got up.
“Have a nice time today, as always!” Mark said and hugged her lightly before she dashed out of his office in a hurry.
Fiyin held tightly to her hair. It was as though her brain was tied up in knots and it’s spinning her wheels. She let off and bunched her hands into fists, feeling the fingernails bite into her palm. Her heart beat more quickly, breath coming more quickly, hands shaking tremendously.
How more stupid can you be, Fiyinfoluwa? she questioned herself within. She looked at the heap of dirty clothes in a sack at the left corner of the sitting room. There’s been no time for laundry ever since the hustle and struggle to raise money for the family and more particularly her sick mum. Moving her eyes slowly from there she noticed the broom. It was on top of one of the two old chairs. Whoever left a broom there, she couldn’t even understand. She suddenly noticed light in the tiny yellow bulb. That was supposed to be a relief for her as she intended switching on the television; seeing a movie, watching a channel, listening to news, anything would be better than having her head run in sequence over the events that ensued earlier.
She bent to pick the remote and suddenly felt like falling onto the floor. Her ankles felt weak and the entirety of her body numb. Tears of despondency slowly cascaded down her cheeks, leaving her weaker and frailer. Once that first tear broke free, the rest followed in an unbroken stream. She then remembered that the television had developed a fault for over five months now and as if that was a trigger to something painful, she threw the remote onto the chair and fell on the bare ground like a sack of potatoes. She bent forward where she sat on the floor and pressing her palms together, she began to cry with the force of a person vomiting on all fours. The flesh under her ribcage throbbed, her cheeks burned, and her mind created memories and scenarios that made the tears continue. If only she had listened better when Zainab cautioned her about this day.
She ran out of Nimi’s office, out of the company’s building and took a bus straight home. She couldn’t really explain why she was hurting so much and the more she remembered the face of the lady who introduced herself as Nimi’s fiancée and how she had been warned not to go near him again, more tears poured freely.
She thought she heard her phone ring. She hissed and ignored.
Then the ring came again.
She stretched to pick it from where she had left it off on the old fashioned wooden piece that served as the centre table. The number looked strange and she didn’t know whether she should pick it up on not.
“Hello…” she dragged the word, after reluctantly picking up the phone, till it sounded like a question ‘hello?’.
She waited as the person on the other end of the phone spoke. Suddenly, she jerked and sat up. Her body shook and trembled the more alongside her popping eyeballs that were threatening to pull out of their sockets. There was something she could literally taste in her mouth and that was fear.
“Let her come in.” Edward said into the receiver of the intercom and replaced it. He didn’t know why his secretary sounded that urgent. Whatever it was had better be fast because his main reason for rushing back to the company in the first place was to see Nimi. Nimi’s office was on two floors above his and he just planned to take a ‘something’ from his table before heading upstairs.
The door opened and he could barely recognise the person that walked in. Even though she still tried to have a strong grip on herself, she really looked like a shadow of the version of her he was used to.
“Jo! Jo, are you alright?” he gasped his few words.
Joelyn walked quietly towards him till she took her seat.
“Have you seen Nimi? Why are you here? Why are you looking like this? Where did you escape to? What happened? Are you OK?” One could feel the fear and anxiety in Edward’s voice as he poured out these questions without waiting for any reply.
Joelyn’s rather unusual silence and distant stare got him even more worried. He thought of many things he could do. He only hoped for his own sake that nothing had happened to his friend.
“Nimi wasn’t the owner of the baby!”
Edward thought an alarm sounded through his ears as he heard these words. He vividly remembered the afternoon Joelyn chatted him up on BBM, confiding her pregnancy status in him. She told him very certainly that she was pregnant for his friend and didn’t know how to relate it. It was so serious that Joelyn asked to meet with him while Nimi was away and she was all tears that afternoon as she explained to him that she got pregnant for Nimi. He remembered being the one that even advised her to mutter courage and tell Nimi whenever he returned. That was why he raised her subject at the café that very day of Nimi’s return, until ‘the voice’ interrupted. Even though he didn’t expect Joelyn to do the announcement at the office, he was already taken by her explanation and whatever Nimi tried to explain about not being responsible for the pregnancy came across as his friend just being cynical as usual. Here was the same girl saying two differently similar things from the same mouth within few weeks?
He heard her voice. He didn’t know he had become lost looking away for long.
“Ehn! Yes!” he stammered, clearing his throat. Truth was that his head hurt so badly from trying to link lines together to make a sensible meaning. “So you were never pregnant?”
Joelyn thought his mouth shook as he asked. She swallowed deeply.
“I was pregnant.”
“Oh! C’mon, you don’t come here to confuse me, young woman.” Edward said with an angry tone as he went to pick up a paper from his table. “I have something urgent to attend to if you don’t mind.”
Joelyn quickly ran over and grabbed the edge of his jacket.
“I’m sorry Eddy but you have to hear me out. Please?” A thin line of tear rolled down her tired face and that melted Edward’s heart. He, like Nimi, hated to see anyone at all cry, let alone a woman.
“I… I lied about being pregnant for Nimi. It’s true I have set traps for him over and over again. I have tried to seduce him a lot of times during our photo-shoots in my studio and all. I have done everything I could to get his attention, but he doesn’t seem to be in the very least interested in me.” She sniffed
“Ehhen! So you agree that his modelling for you was a set trap, huh?” Edward knew better than to make things funny right now, so he just continued. “What you said didn’t show who got you pregnant.”
“Tolu!” she screamed, holding his jacket tighter.
Edward was at this point more shocked and confused than the other time. He wanted to ask who the person was but Joelyn probably read his mind as she answered in a hurry.
“He is my boyfriend… we got close from when he helped me out with something and since then I owe it to him to date him. It’s just out of compassion and pity for him. I think my heart actually goes out to Nimi. My father also wants Nimi and I to be together. He hates Tolu with passion.”
“Then pull out of the relationship first and let’s know you are even single. Forcing yourself down Nimi’s throat is never going to help you.” Edward admonished, still standing face to face in front of her.
She pulled a heavy breath in.
“I can’t. It’s complicated. I can’t back down. I can’t leave Tolu.”
Edward didn’t understand why Joelyn sounded so helpless. Is there anyone one cannot leave?
“And why is that Jo? Blood covenant?”
She shook her head from left to right as tears poured freely now.
“Blood covenant? It’s deeper than that. It’s a huge secret, a deep one. Forget that part. All I need you to do is to help me. Tolu thinks I am playing with his head – the aborted pregnancy. I escaped from the hospital so as to go explain things to him before he learns of it by himself. He pulled out a knife and attempted to kill me. I narrowly escaped out of the building and rushed down here. He must be looking around for me now. Please help me. The guy is very harmful, I don’t want to die. Please!” She dragged her body closer to Edward as though she would, if possible, enter into and wear his skin.
“You have to calm down Jo. I’m sure you haven’t told Nimi anything about this?” He glanced at her for confirmation.
She hissed dryly. “I met a girl in his office. I saw full emotions in Nimi’s eyes for the first time today. I thought he never had feelings for anybody. He ordered me out of his office too immediately the girl ran away as a result of my threats.”
Edward felt the impulse to laugh at Joelyn’s gesticulations but strongly refrained himself from it. His mind was set at rest first on learning that Nimi was actually too fine to have ‘love in his eyes’.
“You shouldn’t have made a show of shame there, you know?” Edward said simply.
“Eddy, what would you have me do? My life is ruined. Daddy warned me.” She sounded pathetic altogether and Edward would normally pull her close for a hug if she were his wife.
“I must tell you Joelyn that you need help. You need serious help.” He paused to look at the lady who was concentrating all her gazing energy on his mouth like therein lay something she wanted to pick. He shrugged and continued, “you are not going to get help by running away from you.”
Joelyn looked obviously baffled. “Running away from me? How do you mean?” She raised an eyebrow.
“I’ll ask you one question and demand sincere answers from you.” Edward said, staring at her straight in the face. He noticed pangs of sweat dripping down her face in the heavily air-conditioned room and right then he realised that the poor lady was really in some deep mess.
“What secret do you have with this Tolu guy?” he asked firmly.
Nimi increased the volume of the DVD player to the highest. He would normally drive in a completely silent car as he often used driving as a time to reflect and ponder over things, but he couldn’t afford that right now. It was as if his mind was playing a fast one on him and he may get so drowned and drive off the roads if he doesn’t take enough precautions. He was at first trying to understand how everything had fallen this out of place in the past fading weeks. Perhaps, he should have stayed back at Houston. Fiyin hadn’t picked up calls since she stormed out of his office. He actually only called twice though. He didn’t have that much patience and pampering skills after all. It’s bad enough that the girl was making his head go mad, she can go if she so wish, he concluded in his mind as he stopped the second call before it rang out. Walking Joelyn out of his office was the nicest option at the time, even though he couldn’t tell if it’s so anymore. The poor lady looked like she had something urgent to talk to him about. Like something was pursuing her. He could care less right anyway. Making a public show of shame in front of Fiyinfoluwa was the height of it for him.
His boss was still recovering. Going over to his house scares him to his bones, as if the house stopped being his. He had thought of the best escape out of this chain of depression he was about to get into. So he picked his car keys and practically sneaked out of the office through the back door. He needed his head sane. He needed to receive fresh air.
He blew the honk angrily at a car that was quite sluggish in front of him.
Some people would be on the road just for the fun of it. They are not driving, neither are they parking. He hissed as he finally overtook the car. He was driving into that part of Abuja he wasn’t familiar with and he knew he mostly need to remain on the straight road. Any attempt at cornering may make him miss his way back. He stared at the old Northern men; aboki, as they are often referred) and women as they sat scattered around the roadside. Majority of them were begging for arms and he noticed each one of them had some form of deformity or the other – ranging from blindness, to lameness, to all sort of things. Looking at the ghetto streets and patterns of building, he wouldn’t have believed such places still exist in the federal capital territory of Nigeria. He saw chains of old storey buildings with rusted roofs some few kilometres away from that crowded and dirty part.
People really live in these places?, he murmured unbelievably underneath his breath. It appeared like a dunghill to him.
He quickly reduced the speed of the car and looked down to see through his right side mirror. He thought he saw someone he knew.
‘C’mon Nimi, no one you know would live here’, he tried to convince himself but somehow he knew his eye condition was still perfect the last time he saw his optician. He quickly swerved the car to reverse and moved till he was sure of who he saw. His heart began to beat faster as he dragged the car to park just some distance away from the person who didn’t seem to be seeing anyone. She looked so absorbed in looking out for a bus on the road than she was with her immediate environment. Nimi took a deep breath. The highest he would get would be a slap and hopefully, there would be no pressman around this kind of place. So he gathered some courage, removed his seat belt and stepped out of the car.
“I can take you there…” that was the only statement that came to his mind after Fiyin noticed him standing before her.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
To Nimi’s amazement, she didn’t sound anyway near angry or mad at him as he expected. Can he say that sort of calmed his nerves? It did, because in no time, Fiyin was sited beside him in the car while they drove to Kubwa. They didn’t really have much conversation except when she told him that she received a call about her father being involved in a ghastly accident, was rescued into a hospital in Kubwa and she was asked to come over as soon as possible. She particularly mentioned that she had saved her number as ‘ICE’ on her father’s phone as directed by the Nigerian Police force some time ago. “ICE” means “In Case of Emergency” and it’s advisable for everyone. That was how they got to call her first and immediately.
Fiyin practically jumped out of the car before it would park. Nimi quickly did the needful and hurried after her. A nurse directed them upstairs and they both hurried. Another nurse asked them to wait as the doctors were busy in the theatre room they saw just in front of them. That was the greatest wait of her life as it felt as though she lost breath by the passing minute. She consciously avoided eye contact with Nimi who just sat with hands clamped in between his laps. Many things to talk about but her father was most important right now.
The doctor’s approach shadowed over Fiyin, who was more than ready to shake him for answers. She had waited an hour of silence and growing dread for anything on her father. But when the man hesitated and the lines on his face deepened, she froze in her tracks. Yet, she heard herself ask, “Is he…” Then the words sunk down into her chest as the painful shake of his head.
The “I’m sorry” that followed choked her breath from her lungs, and suddenly Nimi towered over her.
“What did he say?”
Nimi quickly placed a hand on her shoulders as she clutched at the gold pleated cross hanging from her neck chain. It pressed against her skin. Each gasp tore down her throat and her mind raced even as she lost herself in the storm. But Baami was just fine when he left here! Didn’t we all see it? Didn’t maami even see him eager to get up and go? They laid and spoke into the thick darkness of the night.
No. He couldn’t be gone. Not when he promised maami he would fight for her, dammit. Fiyin pounded the hard wall beside them. Nimi held tightly onto her, hands wrapping round her slim waist this time. She hissed a breath through clenched teeth. But the strength left her, even as she attempted to stand. Her throat held back something between a sob and a shout. She had to see him. She had to see her father. Nimi tried to hold onto her but she wriggled herself from his firm grip. Through the blur of motion and colour she followed the doctor. She would see him. Even if it’s for the last time. She would see him and say goodbye.
Happy independence celebration friends. Nigeria is indeed a blessed nation.
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