I do not know why I carried my phone with me on deck duty that Wednesday morning, was I planning on taking a selfie to send to Naomi? Well maybe, but I had already sent her a dozen pictures of me on the rig at sunrise and several others at midday when the sun struck the Atlantic at the angle that turned it into the golden sheen of sapphire and emerald that makes want to fall on my knees. It never gets old.
But Naomi is ambivalent about the pictures, she hates thinking that I’d get distracted by my phone and fall into the sea and she’d never even find a strand of hair to bury- sometimes, I think that would be the greater tragedy in her mind, not my death but my lack of a decent burial. Thinking of her always makes me smile, the long days with nothing but the sea and sweaty bodies and stale jokes of men are bearable because I have Naomi waiting for me, Naomi and our son Chukwuagozie who was born on my late grandfather’s birthday and bears his name too.
I was sipping coffee at the cafeteria when my phone rang, I jerked a little when I saw the name on the screen- Sweetness was calling. It was hard to move the green icon across the screen with trembling fingers but I did it anyway.
“Chu-chu is not moving, he is still. I have shaked him for an hour, he refuses to cry or move. He is not breathing. Is he dead? Did I kill him?” Her words tumbled into my ears and the earth spun faster and faster until gravity knocked me to the ground.
“Have you taken him to the doctor?” The words grated my throat like sandpaper laced with powdered ata wewe, the tiny pepper with the harshest sting that Iya Mulika rubbed in my anus the day she accused me of stealing her money. My mother got thugs to destroy her shop when I was proven innocent. I longed for my mother, could she just appear?
“Yes I did! The doctor said he was dead, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome he said. I took Chu-chu and ran out of the hospital, how can my little boy be dead? I gave him milk from my breasts at 5am, he was babbling away as I lay him beside me and caught a little sleep, how can he be dead?” She began to sob.
“Naomi, call my mother, call yours. Let them come and stay and with you and handle arrangements to bury…” Naomi’s screaming stopped the flow of my words.
“Naomi, please pull yourself together, God gives and God takes. He has taken our child, let’s be strong.” I tried to continue, to be strong, to say the words that would glue her.”
“Well, fuck you, fuck your strength and I will not say fuck your God but I sure as hell am thinking that.” She said icily.
“Let me go and bury my son, it is my duty as his mother isn’t it?” she continued, her voice like the sub-zero freezer in the rig kitchen.
“Naomi, my love…” The phone clicked in my right ear and I looked at the screen.
I hit the green redial icon and waited for her phone to ring, it didn’t. Instead I got a machine telling me that her number was switched off, I tried three more times and got the same response. I clutched the phone to my stomach, jumped over the table and ran out of the cafeteria in the direction of the helipad.
“Take me to Lagos this minute,” I thundered at Jide, the pilot.
“You dey play abi you serious?” he asked with a smirk that dissolved the second he looked at my face.
“Take me to Lagos,” I said again.
“Let me tell the rig director/head engineer where I’m going.” He stuttered
“Do I look as if I care about such trash?”
He called the director and got clearance, J don’t know what story he told him, maybe he said I had gone mad. We were airborne in ten minutes and while I tried to call everyone I knew in Lagos; I couldn’t get through to anyone. Somehow, I found myself at the front of my house, the journey had been a blur and if you offered me a billion dollars to tell you how I got from the helipad at Ikeja to my house at Jubril Martins street, I wouldn’t get the money.
“Papa bomboy, welcome o” Mama Emeka called out to me from the kiosk she sold okrika baby clothes.
I waved at her and slowed my steps a little.
“Oga, this one wey e never reach two weeks wey you commot, hope say you no dey suspect say iyawo dey carry man. She be better person oooo, no man dey find her here except that pastor wey dey come every Tuesday for fellowship and she no dey carry am enter house, na for this my shop dem dey stay.” Her body vibrated from the exertion it had taken her to talk that much, the woman needed to be on Biggest Loser before she died from too much fat.
I forced myself to smile, I hated this intrusiveness, the utter disregard for privacy that my neighbours house. I wanted something more befitting of my status as an oil company employee, somewhere on the Island or Lekki Phase 1. Or even Sam Shonibare street here in Lawanson, since she obviously has her placenta buried in this idiotic place. Naomi might be the sweetest woman on earth but her stubbornness is legendary, no one wins an argument with the woman, I have learned to respect myself.
I got the spare key from the big pebble on one of the flower beds that lined the front of our flat. The flat was in the middle of a quadrangle while the shops in the front shielded the flat from outside view, we were the only tenants there. Naomi loved the house, the communal feeling outside and the peace inside when we locked the gate- It was the only reason I agreed to stay here.
The curtains swallowed up all the light from the windows, I drew them half open to get some light in before looking for the light switch and hoping NEPA was in good mood. I am looking for the light switch in my own parlour, I winced a little at the thought as I found the switch and like God, I brought made light from nothing.
The first thing I saw on the dining table was Micheal, it was the squeaky rabbit I bought for Chu-chu at Westminster Apapa, he loved it. My baby loved to put it ear in his mouth and when you squeezed its belly and it aqueaked, he would clap his hands and laugh. I went to the table, picked it up and squeezed, the first squeak went from my ears, down my throat, into my heart and hit it like a tympanic drum. The drum beats rung in my ears and I fell on the ground and sobbed. I was on the floor when Naomi walked into the parlour.
“Look who the wind brought in” she said and began to laugh and laugh.