The winged termites kept creeping in through the tiny hole in the window. Their buzzing added to the night’s orchestra, the frogs and the crickets joined in the rainy season melody, perhaps a reminder that they were far from their studio apartment in New York.
In the dark room in Ogun, you might have walked in and only noticed him, she was hidden in darkness, his pale milky skin, wrapped around her dark thighs and their fingers intertwined as if in prayer.
She was breathing softly, her mind walking down the dark street in Ota in her blue pinafore, catching termites in large pails of water, the other children dancing around without a care in the world, capturing insects in the palm of their hands. Somehow the Ogun damp air had always followed her around, she could taste her home while she was away, hear mama’s voice weighing every decision.
What would Mama think of this? Her only daughter wanting to marry an oyinbo, Mother had told many tales (hints) about Nigerian girls who married foreigners and neglected their mothers, about mothers who were sick with loneliness. It didn’t make any sense mother declared.
Life still made sense when she arrived in Manhattan, even when she breathed the air of a different continent. That was 2 years ago, before his blue eyes quietly followed her around the Bobst Library, before his long hands stretched for her book on the higher shelf and his pink lips quoted David Foster Wallace.
“That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” His fingers slightly pink on the knuckles touched his mouth in mock concentration “That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness.” He finished handing her the book.
She smiled courteously.
He could tell she wasn’t asleep, she never slept quietly, dragging him closer then rolling away. Today she stayed still, holding his fingers too tight. He hoped she would say something, anything in her cheery Yoruba drawl.
Anything was better than silence, he thought of the way she carried words inside her chest when they first met. She told him it was an internalized trait from her mother and her mother, women were supposed to carry their voices in their belly, swelling as the years went by.
He thought of home too, surrounded by mountains, the steep, rocky, jagged, instill-fear-of-heights kind of mountains he dared to climb and yet she was his greatest feat. How she at first avoided his eyes, speaking only in monosyllables, he had waited patiently through the summer until the words start to spill out and she could keep nothing in.
“I love you” he said out loud
She lifted her head, pressing her lips on his.