The plane held itself up. Weighed down by a hundred souls. Perhaps more. Rain was going to fall. The clouds went dark before we lifted up. From here, the white clouds resembled cotton wool stained in Gentian Violet.
…the one your mother dabs on your skin the day it breaks when you fall.
That day, you fell feet first to the ground. Then. In a rush, your feet unable to hold the ground, you doubled over. Knee on ground. Your arms slung over my shoulder, we walked all the way home. I stayed. You cried. Black liquid on open flesh. Impact. When you slept, your mother drew me to her and warned me to stop you next time from climbing the tree. She saved your beating for later. Our laughter pushed out, forced like strong shit, when you told me how she flogged you the moment you woke up that night. Your mother spared no rod, so she spoilt no child.
After laughing, you told me home is where you feel safe. Your eyes spoke messages your mouth didn’t say. Silence.
The flight attendant is a lady whose white skin was probably once as brown as the earth but now washed clean like eroded sand.
…the one we mould sandcastles with. The sandcastles we build after the first time we kiss.
The day you began to leave. The day you began to die.
She asks, “tea? Coffee?” Tea. It is what you would have chosen. She stares briefly at me. Her gaze is fleeting, registers familiarity, a familiarity the human eye notes but never gets used to seeing. The familiarity of mourning.
The tea comes in a small china cup. White with prints of little black wreaths around it. Your face was white hours ago when I saw you, before the flight went up.
Your stubble stood stiff like an excited penis. Brittle. Cold. Black on white. A wreath of little black flowers. We agreed you never grow a beard, you were incapable of growing it. You had never had it. You kept this stubble for long, avoiding clippers and shaving sticks for two years. I pulled the lean, erect strands, gently, infusing in the pull the love that gnawed at my soul. Homegoing.
“Don’t,” the man said.
“Why?” Eyes registering resignation to shock.
It struck me now that the morgue smelt of methylated spirit, cold and… puke.
He had his tag clipped to his shirt pocket. Lopsided but showing his name. DR. HANSON. A bald old man whose watery eyes had seen too much of this to register loss, the loss of a soul spread over the world like a blanket.
“Would you like to see?”
I doubled up and emptied my stomach on the floor. Half digested bread and omelette mixed in slimy tea.
I take my eyes off the retreating attendant. You’d have found her beautiful. You’d have asked for her number and fucked her immediately after we touched down. I’d have scowled and avoided you again for days.
“Relax, Kunle! She’s just a bloody woman. Bloody pussy. Don’t be petty.”
I’d have asked if you used a condom. You’d have said yes of course. Haba, Lagos girls are not to be trusted. We’d have made love. You know how to get to me, how to clutch faraway clouds to yourself.
I adjust my seatbelt. The ends of it are frayed. The letters ADIDAS pour over one end of the black fabric. I reach in and turn the side that hugs my belly. The letters continue. I pull the belt away from my stomach. It cuts off my breath. I swallow air that fills my belly. I exhale slowly. The plane would descend in minutes.
The attendant passes again. Her eyes rest on the flight of seats behind me. She smiles when she looks at me. Knowing. I smile back. I hand over my cup. She waits a while before she takes it. Our skins touch. They freeze. I freeze.
“Dad wants me to settle. He says it’s good for the family. Procreation. Shit, you know.”
I was silent. Loss is a language better expressed with the words of silence. You understood this language. You took your keys and left the room.
When the phone rang that day, one week later, the AC was turned to the fullest. It froze. The caller ID showed your mother’s name.
“Kunle, where is my son?”
The news announced it soon after. It confirmed to me why life paused minutes ago. Your car lay in a haphazard mixture of brown oil and snow. Darkness housed you.
We upturn our cars, nose on ground, back facing the sky.
Our little hands flew cars and made them fall. Nostalgia.
“You’re the only one he has there. Bring him home.” Bring him home. Reality settled.
I look down. Lagos announces itself. This picture remained in my head of this place. From the top, Lagos paints a cloud of uneven stars.
Red lights blare. The announcement will go off soon.
Please stay in your seat until landing.
The ambulance has been waiting. Orange and red lights blare, spin. I touch the coffin. The wood feels cool. The world has become silent. You’re home.