I remember her from standing over my shoulder and talking about her former work, her colleagues – the ones she liked and the ones she didn’t. Usually, for the people she didn’t like, her reason was simple. They were inauthentic. That, to her, was unforgiveable. That was the first time I saw her – so beautiful, this petite lawyer-turn-advertising agent, standing in the archway between my kitchen and balcony, and talking a mile a minute.
Ogo. That was her name. She took me to dinner and the movies (we saw Ironman3 and Oblivion together, nearly did Olympus Has Fallen and i still havent), bought me Sharwama. Just so sweet and unassuming. I reciprocated by taking her to artsy places – Victor Ehikhamenor’s “Amusing the muse” opening ceremony, and Chimamanda Adichie’s last book launch. We were at Freedom Park afterwards. Do you remember, Lola, when she looked up at Kongi’s Harvest Gallery, and pronounced Kongi as Konji and we all laughed? She planned to come to Ake festival, kept asking me to keep her posted. Wanted to volunteer and I said I’d check. She loved my friends. Met Sidi A, Eghosa I, Victor E, Toni K, spoke on the phone with Richard A. And with Oje too. She just wanted to soak everything and everyone in.
She commissioned this massive strawberry and chocolate cake for Kollins on his last birthday, that we ate till we thought we’d puke.
I remember her liking Kollins ‘too much.’ I remember telling her. I remember her denying it. I remember her admitting it a few days later to my ‘told ya so.’ I remember commiserating. I remember her struggling with a love that was unreciprocated, I remember her determination to move on. She had an iron will beneath her fragile looks and near-translucent skin.
I remember her self-consciousness about the fibroids, those monstrous growths that ate at her in bite-sized pieces until there was not much left of her. I remember her determination to prevail, to do what it took, to subdue them – the first surgery, orthodox medicine, herbal therapy, abstinence from all as per doctors’ orders. I remember her orders for clothes “please Pearl, let them be loose to hide the growth. But very short.” A wink. I remember her hopes that one day it will be over, she would be normal again. I told her it would be okay. Note to self; never make such bullshit promises again. You don’t know that it will be alright.
I remember her laughter ringing with truth within these walls. She said things as they were. Her desperate love for Kollins and all the tears that followed, my feeble attempts to comfort her, my ineffectual words. My momentary flashes of irritation perfectly concealed. Her affection for me, her fiery temper (last job ended with her saying something that sounded like “you can keep your fucking job, I quit”), her immediate and child-like rapprochement – she didn’t bear grudges. Her frustration when she lost her job, her delight, and mine, when she got another. Her praise of her new colleagues. Her plans. Her excitement. Going through our chat, it appears we chatted about everything, from big brother house, to the weather, to boys, to work, to movies, to… everything.
Then we danced around each other for weeks; when she could come for her clothes, I was out. When I was in, she was busy. We finally, after weeks of this, settled on last weekend. Then I jumped in the car and followed Kollins to market on a whim. We returned too late and again, I rescheduled for next Saturday. Meanwhile, she added a dress to her order, so as at Thursday evening, I was still working on her dress. Excited about seeing her today, Saturday, or tomorrow. She had been dead since Tuesday.
She went into surgery on Tuesday, taking all that was beautiful and special and hopeful and thoughtful and annoying and human with her. And gave back to the world a shell.
She fought so hard. I have never seen anyone as fragile possess such strength. She was beautiful, in and out. I think of her now with that open-mouthed expression of hers when something cut her to the quick. But she always, always rallied, trusting in the basic goodness of people. She couldn’t stay angry if she tried. I would tease her, say she had lived too sheltered a life. At 34, she was innocent beyond belief. She always feared I would talk about her on my blog. I told her I would. But not like this, Ogo. Not like this. The fury rises again, impotent, directed at the skies, at the unending vastness that is the universe. At everything, and at nothing. It is what it is. We tamp down on the rage, and we trudge on.
“Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave;”
(Culled from “A Psalm of life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Ogo, you know how you said “you guys are cool people, I love you?” We thought you were cool too. We loved you. And this, this is how we will remember you.
May the friends and family, and all those you left behind to mourn you have the strength to bear this unspeakable loss.