I know she’ll leave.
I see it in her the very first time I meet her. A revenant bird, slain and disembowelled, she stands irresistible, her barely beating heart cupped in her palms.
I read her entrails, sacrificed at another’s altar. I cannot resist superstition. The auguries portend disaster.
Still I plunge.
I let her into my life, nurse her. I take her broken heart and put it in my own chest.
I beat for two.
It is beautiful… at first.
There is something powerful about how wholeheartedly she falls into everything she does; her art, her pain, me. It is overwhelming.
I have never met anyone who loves like she does. She indulges me, every fantasy I have ever had. Pile driver, reverse cowgirl; with her nothing is perverse. She holds my gaze when we talk, she drinks my words. She says our love is a single broad stroke on fresh canvas, not a new layer of paint on an overwrought painting. For me, she’ll consider getting married.
We build together, she is eager to learn.
“All my life, I have loved destroyers,” she says. “They tore down, they broke, and they destroyed. The bible says, ‘it is easier to tear down than it is to build up’. So I learned to wait out the destruction and move on when there’s nothing left.”
She learns to build, or at least she pretends.
Three months, then six, then twelve. For our anniversary, we move in together. Her wounds have healed. The welts remain. There’s nothing I can do about that, still I don’t stop trying.
I catch her one night picking at the scabs, I pretend not to see.
“I don’t know how to be happy.” She says when I ask. “I always destroy it.”
She says it with so much conviction, so much weariness that I remember the auguries and the broken bird she used to be.
I laugh nervously when I say, “I won’t let you.”
She teaches me wanderlust. We live out of a suitcase and my camera becomes our prized possession. We travel for a week, my vacation. We walk for miles, pick wild flowers that grow out of the bush that hedges the highway. They’re limp in her hair as she smiles for a picture. We return to the city; I’m changed, she is reminded.
She drops her bag by the door and plops into the chair, I sit beside her. I already miss walking the road with her, shut off from the world.
“I already miss the road.” I say. “What do you miss?”
She looks up at me, the cogs in her head turning slowly. Finally, she closes her eyes and says,
“I miss having no tethers.”
This declaration of self is a punch to the gut.
I might have healed her wounds, but I haven’t cured her.
She begins to unravel.
She forgets to do the dishes after dinner, she forgets that Wednesday is date night; she forgets that she is supposed to be on the pill.
No, not that pill.
The other pill.
She is wildly, madly in love with me. She wakes me up in bed with breakfast which surprises me because she hates to cook. She has found God, and ties a scarf round her head; two knots under her chin, the ears flipped over her shoulders. God doesn’t like sex out of marriage, so she moves to the guest bedroom.
She gushes in the middle of the night.
“It weighs on me like a ton.”
She exorcises her exes, and they exit her and stand attention by our (my) bed like naughty, curious children, listening to her speak them to life with her words. Number one used to beat her, number two made her abort a child. Number nine was a rapper and she spent her nights fighting off groupies.
I hug her and beg her to get back on the pill.
“I don’t want you to leave me.” I say.
“I haven’t felt this alive, I am saved.” She says.
Salvation doesn’t stay.
She reopens the scabs, drawing the tip of a wafer of razor blade against her skin. She tries to make sense of what is inside.
She is a curled ball at the edge of the bed, rocking. A foetus swaddled in bedding. She won’t eat. She can’t stop crying. It is so sudden that it catches me by surprise. Her, it completely obliterates. I feel myself fracturing.
The tube goes down her stomach, little white tablets like orange seeds pour out. I don’t know her medical history; I blink stupidly at the nurse.
They show me her file from Yaba Left. So many leaves, it could be a novel.
“She’s getting better at this,” they say, “But don’t worry, she’ll live.”
“I’m sorry.” She says. Or croaks; her throat is still sore from being intubated.
“Come home.” I beg.
“If you love me, you’ll let me stay here.”
She is asleep in an overcrowded room, with her heart in my chest and my phone number written on prescription paper, clutched in her fist. I have promised not to change my numbers, I have promised to wait.
“She’ll leave.” I say to myself. “She’ll live.”