As I lay still under the comfort of the darkness, reminding myself to blink occasionally, I wondered which one was having more effect on me; the loud noises that came from the frenzy splattering of the rain on my rooftop, or the replay of the voice of my best friend in my head, telling me that he just discovered that the two people he called parents for the last nineteen years of his life, weren’t his real parents.
You see, this is why I don’t like rain in any sense of it. It seems to intensify my emotions and leave me feeling lonely and exposed while I imagine the earth wailing because of all the evil going on in it, and the fact that over the years, rainfall has been attached to really bad news in my life isn’t pleasant at all.
It was raining when I was informed that my grandma was dead; she chocked on her food, the doctors said. It was raining when my elder brother came home with the news that he was denied visa to go study in the United Kingdom. it was raining when I witnessed my father smash the side stool unto my mother’s pregnant stomach, and afterwards run around in confusion while she bled to a miscarriage. It was raining when I walked into the room on that cursed night and found my older brother and only sibling hanging from the ceiling fan lifeless, with bloodshot eyes and a stretched out body, still in his favorite ripped jean trouser and a naked torso. It was also raining when my boyfriend of over a year told me he couldn’t deal with us any longer, because we had stopped to exist in his mind; for about a month ago. Now, this news too had come floating into my ear under the company of this rain that I so despise.
I turned around in bed for the first time in a while and stared out the window as lightning escaped the heavens, illuminated everywhere for some seconds before the darkness returned. I heard sounds coming from the sitting room, and soon I recognized my dad calling out to me in his heavy Igbo accent, but I snubbed him without remorse, and after a while he stopped calling and started complaining about what kind of lazy daughter I make.
Daberechi… what would you do if you discover that your parents aren’t your real parents?
The question replays in my head for the thousandth time.
I had initially laughed when he had asked the question, and then shrugged to myself before giving him a reply.
“I don’t think I would care enough to bother. Not like they act like my parents right now, even as they claim to be my biological parents. I have this feeling I would be relieved in a way if it turns out that they are not” I replied dry wittedly and chuckled, immediately expecting a chuckle from the other end of the phone too. When it did not come after a brief moment of waiting, I knew immediately that there was more to the question than I understood.
“Jesse? What is going on?” I asked, suddenly becoming alarmed with the unusual silence that lingered after my response. I could feel the tension emit from his end of the phone and it infected me in a short while, also coming with plenty shades of worry. I cared for this human being more than I had cared for my elder brother when he was still alive.
Jesse coughed and struggled through emotions to begin to speak, and as he did so, I heard the first drops of rain hit my rooftop.
When he told me his discovery and how pained it had left him, it wasn’t long before I started to sob silently while trying to keep it out of my voice and be strong for him as he had always been for me. He explained how mad he was that these two ‘individuals’ had kept this kind of information away from him until he was nineteen, and he narrated to me, how he had barged into their room and threw a tantrum after discovering this secret, before storming out of the house afterwards.
I had pleaded with him to tell me where he was, but he had refused to, and after a little more conversation, he had abruptly cut the call. When the line went dead, the silence in my head and the noise of the rain tormented me, and I couldn’t explain what I felt and feared.
The relationship that Jesse’s ‘parents’ had, was extremely admirable. I remember crying one time when I watched them kiss and cuddle in a rare display of beautiful affection. The glow in the woman’s eyes anytime she looked at her husband was unmistakable, and the protective instincts that radiated off the man whenever his eyes trailed his wife, was something any lady would desire to be a victim of.
I had never for once thought that there was even a chance in heaven that Jesse wasn’t the result of such attractive intimacy.
As these memories played in my head, the sting of the whole happening hit me afresh, and I could only but imagine how Jesse would be feeling wherever he was, but greatest of all, I feared that he was about to be a different person, and the uncertainty of what this incident was going to make out of him shook me to my wits.
I spent the next days trying to get in touch with him while feeling his absence in class, and with every day that ended without getting a word from him, I felt bland inside; the way someone would feel if he tried eating chicken without seasonings and spices.
I thought things couldn’t get worse until his girlfriend came to me crying one day that Jesse had ended things with her, and although I felt a slight bit of happiness that day (I had always been jealous of the two of them), I went home fearing the worst. Suicide had happened right in my home, so I was not one to underestimate the possibility, and the fact that he was also not attending classes and not caring about how it would affect his grades like he usually did, scared myself out of me.
Of course his parents had contacted me asking if I knew his whereabouts and I hated the fact that my reply was no. It was like not meeting up to the expectations of a best friend.
As time went on, I had emaciated, worrying about the only male that meant anything to me in the world, and one day when I had locked myself in my room and was dealing with my depression, my mother yelled from outside that Jesse was around to see me. I can’t remember how I got to the door and into his arms, but I remember the warm feeling I got from clinging to his body in an intimate emotional embrace, though he unusually smelt of sweat and dust. I whisked him to my room and had him take a shower and a meal before we began to talk, and that moment was sadly beautiful.
“I know I love them, they’ve been real good to me, but how selfish can they be to have kept this news from me?” he lamented, and as much as I couldn’t possibly feel what he felt, the pain that showed in his eyes and his voice was enough to break me.
“Here, look at this whatsapp message. I switched on my phone today and all of this came pouring in, but look at this one. Is this supposed to make me feel better?”
I picked the phone from him and read the message
Come back home my love. We didn’t think it would mean anything if you were aware or not, and we didn’t want you going on an endless search for your identity like I it happens in the novels and movies.
The message was from his mom, and I felt bad that I almost giggled about the ending part of her supposed persuasion message, but looking up at his face again flushed the giggle right out of my mind.
We spent more time together, and when I had succeeded in convincing him to at least go home, ease their worries and also dialogue with them, he crawled to my laps and laid his head there, while I hummed a sad song in the silence till he fell asleep. I remember gazing down at him and feeling my mind well up in emotions as I took in his sleeping face and particularly his pink lips.
He went home eventually, and was in class the next day, and we were closer than ever, although he had changed a lot. He succeeded in pushing away his large circle of friends with his new silence that was creepy, and soon it was just the both of us against the world, which I welcomed happily.
I could sense his new resentment against his family, and the topic of his parents soon became a forbidden one, and although it worried me, I couldn’t do much about it. We spent more time together in my house and did a lot of things and began to talk some more about stuffs we had never spoken of before.
He confided in me that he was addicted to pornography and masturbation and as much as it surprised me, it didn’t push me away, and then I found myself talking about the hate I had for my parents who were never at peace, and how my late brother tormented me in my dreams; I would dream where I was the one who hung him, and he would dangle there from the noose staring straight at me and smiling devilishly till his neck snapped and his head fell to the floor with a thump.
After most of our talks like this, I would cry and he would hug me, and whisper things that made my inside warm up from just remembering them.
A year later, on Valentine’s Day, he shocked me when he took me on the best outing my eighteen years old self had ever experienced, and when it was evening, he hugged and kissed me…on my forehead. The rain had begun to fall later, and we did the craziest thing when we stepped down from the taxi and began to walk under the rain, making jokes about the possibility of thunder striking us and ruining the romance. I confided in him about my bad experiences with rain, and he hugged me and whispered in my ear “Do I look like bad news?”
I went to bed that night realizing that I had fallen in love with my best friend. We were waxing stronger in whatever zone we were in, be it the lovers or friend zone, until one day he came to school scared and visibly worried. He told me that although he hated his parents now, he was worried that they were beginning to fall apart, and his conscience told him that it was because of his new behaviour.
We talked about it, and weeks later, he was broken when he heard that they were getting a divorce. Immediately, his feelings switched from anger to sadness and guilt, and he began to think of ways to get them back together. The new drama ran deeper than I expected, and soon it was eating at him more than his earlier anger had done. Guilt had more power than anger, and I was beginning to understand why this feeling was one of the most dangerous. He reclined into his shelf again and soon even when he was around, I barely knew him. He rarely spoke, and he gazed with that look that burned me with sadness. I hated to know that he was so close to me, but yet so distant and far, and at a point I wished he had just run away again.
Soon he stopped coming to classes, but spent all day in his room sulking, and when I visited, he just lay there and did nothing no matter how hard I tried. His guardians, as he now preferred to call them seemed to be going through a lot of their own problems and were indifferent to how he was faring, and he took advantage of it to rot away inside his head while I just spectated. Initially I felt sad for him and cried and worried, and then I began to feel anger. Why would he decide to go through everything on his own when I was here pleading for him to share? Wasn’t all we had been through together enough to make him know that he got me any time of the day?
When I realized he didn’t want any of me any longer, as much as it killed me, I knew I had to give him space.
My parents’ marriage was on the brink of crashing too, but I was largely unbothered, and even with the distance with Jesse, all I could think about was him. By the end of the semester he had failed most of his courses, and despite how much I prayed that he would get better, on his twenty first birthday, he got up and left again. Months later he texted me and simply told me he was going to fix his guardians’ marriage no matter what it took from him, and I was too hurt and angry to reply, even though I still cared. He had left me out of the picture again, and that was what stung me.
I had started getting by on my own when one day I got a call from a friend of his who had also stopped talking to him, and that surprised me. My surprise turned into anguish when he told me that Jesse was in the hospital, after being involved in an accident.
I was in the hospital in no time, beside a shadow of what used to be my best friend; he was in a coma, and the doctors told me he had been involved in an accident alongside his mother and father.
Later, I gathered that truly, Jesse had succeeded in getting his parents back together, and it was on their way back from a reunion picnic that calamity struck, and they rammed into an incoming trailer, creating a terrible scene of shattered metals, blood and broken bodies. The father passed away first and days later the mother followed, while my Jesse lay lifeless in a coma. All his efforts in reuniting them really had to end with them dying off and leaving him to himself.
I tried to avoid thinking of how he would feel when he got out of the coma, but these thoughts plagued at my mind while I spent day and night praying for him to actually get out of the coma, and for God to forgive me for abandoning him. It was my turn to feel guilty.
Waking up every day to the fact that Jesse was stuck in between life and death had its toll on me, and my depression was at its peak. At unguarded moments I would catch myself crying from a mixed feeling of guilt for not pushing more, and anger at him for pushing me away, and other time I would just smile from the beautiful memories he had imprinted into my memories, and at times like this I would be so sure that my Jesse would come out of this coma alive; one way or the other.
I remember the night I left the hospital a little past twelve midnight and got home, realizing that day was my birthday, but not being in any mood to celebrate it. I got down on my knees and was about to pray when my phone rang.
Jesse was out of his coma.
I rushed to the hospital and collapsed on top of him amiss tears and moans of delight, and he responded by hugging me and crying too, and apologizing. He asked the doctor about his parents and they told him they were dead, but he just blinked and sighed, and stated that they were in God’s hands.
Pushing the surprise from his unexpectedly chill reaction, and having missed him so much to care, we cuddled some more, and then he kissed me on my lips and brought out this beautiful case from his bedside drawer.
Struggling in pain, he got into a sitting position and opened it to reveal a glittering ring within.
“Daberechi, words wont express how much I love you, and how much I would always remain grateful to you for always being with me through everything that has happened. I can’t deny the fact that I’ve fallen in love with you, and I need you by my side to deal with this world. Would you marry me?”
It was then that I woke up, and amiss emotional sobs, and a smile for the first time in a long while, I felt strongly that my Jesse was going to be okay. I got up from my knees that I had fallen asleep on and picked up my phone, where there was a whatsapp message.
It was from Jesse’s friends that was spending the night at the hospital with him. While I was still in the process of opening the text, it began to rain outside, and I felt heavy panic attack as the first drops of rain hit my roof, causing the first drops of tears to slide down my face.
I wondered why my life had to be about drops of rain, tears and bad news.
I prayed that this time, the rain wouldn’t leave a scar, as I comforted myself with the memory of Valentine’s Day.
I held my breath and opened the text message, praying as I did so, and the message glared at me from the screen of my dammed phone.
Daberechi… Jesse passed on from his coma, some minutes ago.