As you eat your eggs, you remember you will never get to see your wife again. This is not the first time you remember. You remember it every day when you buff your shoes and when you start your car. You remember it even more when you lay your head on your pillow and when you wake up. Nobody told you this was how it was going to feel. Nobody could have. There were no classes on how grief was supposed to feel. In matters like this, no one sat you down and told you that the day your wife died, your limbs would feel heavy and every breath would feel like a shotgun blast to your chest. No one told you that the following day, you would wake up to an empty house and an emptier life. Certainly, no one could have told you that after three years, your eyelids would still burn with the memory of her slumping to the floor of your kitchen, the life fleeing from her body. She went out of your life and took your unborn baby with her. She thought it was a girl you both would have. You lightheartedly disputed it and chose not to know the baby’s sex even when your doctor offered to tell you. No, you both preferred life’s surprises. However, you got the cruelest surprise. You never asked your doctor about your baby’s sex. It would have been needless and agonizing, like asking of the flavour of an ice-cream cone after it dropped and splattered in countless directions in the dust. Your imagination doesn’t spare you though. You mourn for two faces – one, familiar, the other, oddly so, conjured from a mind that betrays you wickedly. In your mind’s eye, you see her cradling the baby, who has slightly blurred features. It’s a consolation. At the same time, it kills you. Grief is such a terrible bed partner. No one told you it was going to hit you in the face at unexpected times like this. They said it would feel better after a while. They lied. Three years later, it still pierces you when you least expect it, like a hidden, yet skilled archer firing unerringly precise arrows at you out of nowhere.

Omo, it hurts. It hurts badly.

No one told you this was how it felt like.

You push your plate of burnt eggs aside and look at the calendar. Today’s February fourteenth. You sigh. You remember how much you both liked Valentine’s Day. You will never forget it. Her birthday was February thirteen. You both celebrated it like it was Christmas. You gave her customized birthday cards, because no card could express your love for her the way you could. Later on at the spa, you sat in the lounge while sipping Fayrouz and casually flipping through GQ magazine, waiting for her to walk out looking dazzling, her hair a waterfall of beauty framing her face, her eyes brimming with love, and flashing the smile she reserved for you alone. At night, you went to Sheraton Hotel, where she would sample so many wines that her mouth would be a cocktail of sweet and sour tastes when you kissed her.

Now, you celebrate her birthday alone. Every February thirteenth, you cry and stare at her picture and remember all you used to do together. You watch a video her younger sister made of you both on Oniru Beach. In it, your wife wears a lime green t-shirt, black shorts, and a colourful babushka, from which the tips of her hair peek to caress her shoulders. In the video, you’re carrying her and running into the ocean, your eyes twinkling and glee brightening your face, while she yells and laughs. Ever since she had watched a particularly gory episode of Shark Attack on Nat Geo Wild, she swore off swimming in the ocean. Your laughter rumbles like the waves, infinite, rising and crashing, while hers sounds airy, light, like a fluffy shawl. You know watching the video leaves you crying on the couch, but you watch it anyway. You cry because she’s not with you anymore, lost to you forever. February fourteen is not any different. You only cry some more. On the thirteenth, you cry because you can’t celebrate her birthday together. On the fourteenth, you cry because you remember both she and your baby were gone. She’d told you she was pregnant on the fourteenth.

You’ve learnt to live with the pain. It’s the only choice you have. You feel your heart rotting within you. Every morning when you open your wardrobe to dress for work, you see her clothes, untouched, undisturbed on the other side. You sometimes run your hands over them, especially the wine-coloured, pinstriped pant suit. You bought it as a surprise because she liked things like that. It would have looked lovely on her willowy build. However, she never got to wear it, let alone see it. It arrived six days after you put her in the lifeless, dreary depths of the ground. When you signed the delivery form, you felt it was the most traumatic injustice since Andy Dufresne found himself in Shawshank’s hope-sapping walls.

You kept your gift of gab for the courtroom and kept your penmanship for your wife. On February fourteenth, on your back from work, you’d buy her a box of glazed cupcakes from Shoprite and write little love notes on the back of the receipt. What tunes of affection your mouth was incapable of playing; your hands were more than capable of writing. She liked it when you did that. Every February fourteenth since she died, you remember how you met. You were a dreamy law student in Obafemi Awolowo University, adept at quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes and Atticus Finching your way past every argument. You had lofty ideals about strengthening the weakened arm of justice in Nigeria, weighed down with corruption and political power, while she was a medical student – studying medicine only for its promise of a more profitable future – uninterested in making a change, or whatever the hell that meant. She wasn’t prepared for the lanky guy who banged on her door at midday, huffing and dripping sweat, seeking respite from Mopol officers who, with koboko, descended on protesters during their demonstration against the incessant water shortages in the campus dormitories. She often teased you with that memory. You went out protesting to make a change. Upon realising the chances of Holmes and Finch saving you were even slimmer than you marrying Tiwa Savage, you took your palm sandals in your hand and fled barefooted, scurrying away like a spooked rabbit, hiding away in a girls’ hostel. You were too agitated to rest, so she brought out a scrabble set on its last legs. Between a carton of Cabin Biscuit and sweet mugs of Cadbury Bournvita, she thrashed you while laughing at your befuddled expressions every time she got the better of you. This smart girl who knew words like defenestration and callipygian simply blew you away. You exchanged numbers that evening.

You still have the scrabble set. It’s even more worn out now. She told you it was a reminder of the bond she shared with her late aunt. Every time you later went to her room, you always played – and lost – scrabble. You’ve not played it since you lost her. Not once in three years. It was a hallowed tradition, one you grew to treasure. You both wanted to play it with your child. You never got the chance to. You’ll never have that bond. That’s all it is now, a dream that will never come true.

Her death was such a mystery. She was in the kitchen, leaning back on the counter and talking to you, while you sat at the dining table, looking up tourist destinations. You playfully bickered over where to go, teased her when you corrected her pronunciation of Ibiza. Eye-bee-tha, not Ebeeza, you said. She laughed and flung a napkin at you. Your laughter caught in your throat when her eyes rolled back in her head till only the whites showed, her shoulders sagged, and she slumped to the ground. You knocked your chair over in a haste to get to her. But there was nothing you could do. You cry. Your mouthful of eggs becomes even heavier in your mouth and harder to swallow. Till today, you wonder how a few seconds could have such a profound influence on you. It seemed that no matter how fast your soles pounded the ground, you didn’t get to her quickly enough. Huge sobs wrack your chest and you lay your head on the table. No matter how loudly you called her name, you got no response. Thirty-three year-old women didn’t just collapse, not when they had no diagnosed condition. Your wails of desperation had brought your neighbor running in. On the way to the hospital, you cradled her in your arms, pressing your cheek to her forehead, feeling her body gradually lose its warmth. Pain coils in your chest and constricts where your heart used to be. You wonder if you would have said something differently to her had you known those would be her last moments. You wonder what you would have said, what you could have said. It wouldn’t have changed the inevitable; it would have been a mocking comfort, like a prisoner set free at the apocalypse.

What hits you the most is the little things about her you miss. You remember the way her hair always looked like when she just woke, the way her heels clacked on the tiles when she came home after work, bearing her cheery smile patented just for you. You’re surprised you even remember the tiny strings of drool she often left on her pillow when she slept. You would give anything to see her do it again. If ever there was a reference, it reminds you of the poem, For Want of a Nail. Grief couldn’t stain the purity of your love. You would always love her, even if she walked a different world now. Grief couldn’t weaken your bond. But what it can do – and still does – is hang in front of you like mist, giving you transitory views of what was, what is no longer, and cruelly, what could have been. You still watch Shark Attack. Her death reminds you of a shark attack – brutally swift, sudden, and oh-so painful. Unfortunately, you couldn’t get a skin graft to replace the pieces of your heart bitten off and locked away in a white-coloured box, forever beneath the ground. White was her favourite colour. It only made sense to bury her in it. Her family grumbled but you didn’t care. That would be the last wish you could grant for her. You promised to look after her and your unborn child. You’d failed. So, a white box it was.

You’ll never love another woman. It doesn’t even cross your mind. Your heart is dying within you, beating irregularly and plodding along, terribly out of rhythm with the melodious jingles of love, like a wasted old man swaying drunkenly on his feet. Friends have tried to set you up with several women in many ways, ranging from heart-rending, to annoying, to stupid. You gave it a try. But your heart wasn’t in it. Even your body still burned for your wife. You thought you needed the fiery passion of a younger woman to stir you up. But your body didn’t respond to her. After you said goodnight to the unfortunate lady, you struggled to remember what she looked like a few days later. You keep hearing you should move on. But you have discovered that moving on is the biggest pile of nonsense humans invented. There is no moving on for you. Your love can’t return your love anymore. You’re like a kid fishing in empty waters, sinking bait for fish that aren’t there. No one told you this was how it felt. And certainly, they can’t tell you how it will still feel. Grief’s daggers sink deeper than any hurt you’ve known. It neither ebbs like the throb of a stubbed toe, nor the nick of a razor on your chin. You’ve not felt it wane. Rather, it has been like the waves you saw at Oniru Beach, coming right at you without pause, with some waves bigger than the previous one. Who could have known it would drown you as you held your toothbrush in the morning, or when you opened the fridge for a drink. Your grief never took a day off.

Your eyes will never view February fourteen the same way. Or it’ll be the same, just in the way you never imagined it. When you’re done eating your eggs, however long it takes you, you’ll watch your wedding video again. You’ll mouth your vows. She vowed to never leave you. If she had the choice, you both knew she wouldn’t. Her memory comforts you while her absence guts you. You’ve tried to steel yourself against it, but it laughs shrilly in your ears. You wished it were that simple. When you opened your heart to love, she’d spun in and weaved her way in deep. Her passing cruelly ripped out your insides, leaving nothing but a hideous tangle of emotions. You find it hard reflecting on your life before you got married. It feels hollow, like it was all for one purpose – meeting her. Now that she’s gone, it feels like wasted times, all for nothing. You’ll forever view those memories through a windscreen of hurt. You’ve learnt that loving someone threads them all over your insides, and when they leave, yanking out those tightly-woven stitches of love rips you apart. You still wear your wedding ring. Not once have you taken it off.

In six months, it’ll be four years. Your friends and family say you’re still young. That’s all they say. Enough time to find a new woman and blot out the past. But it’s not easy. It’s not as easy as carrying out an old painting to make space for a new one. What’s left of you is unyielding to the ashy, smoking embers of your bond. It keeps you alive, yet it kills you softly. It coils around you, whispering softly in your ears, so tender, like a peacock’s wings, yet fugitive and fleeting, like wisps of smoke.

You push your eggs aside and play your wedding video. This time, you look at yourself. Your eyes, once so alive with happiness, now look like dull pieces of charcoal in your head. It’s getting late. When you sleep, just like every February fourteenth in the last three years, you’ll hear her shrieking happily on a beach. However, unlike your video together, she’s the one running, the muscles in her legs taut as she sprints away from you. She doesn’t come back. She keeps running till you can’t see her anymore. She lopes out of sight, and somewhere in your mind, she’s still running; her form lithe and graceful.

Like a gazelle.