A HEADLONG FALL

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SHE WAS LONGING for the deep. A headlong fall into the dark abyss. There was something at the bottom, the sightless depths, that pulled her with irresistible power, like a magnet. She stood perched on the edge of the precipice and stared longingly, anxiously, searchingly into the waiting bowels of the darkness and felt the pull, the call. If a hand had reached out from the deep, a giant hand, she would have clutched on to it with hers and gone down with it, down to the source of the great pull.

But she could not. The precipice in its precarious noncrossability, the abyss in its treacherously easy availability, were also a wall. A non-permeable wall that divided her from her longing, bound her to her state.

There was a sunlit meadow behind her and to her ears arrived the twittering of a hundred birds. That was her life. The life of which she had tired. Yet the strings of that life bound her fast. She could not go beyond the boundary of the precipice. The call of the deep would remain unanswered. Her longing would stay unfulfilled. But how could she bear it? How could she go on like this day after day with this pull in her soul without being able to resolve it?

She longed for the deep.

The deep was mirrored in his eyes. His look was the reflection of the deep that was sunk into his soul. In him were the deep and the call of the mysterious magnet down at the sightless bottom of the deep. It was in his voice, in the turn of his head, in his hands and the way they first held her. It was in his slow measured walk and accurate mental deliberations. It was on his lips, it was the low-cut hair on his head, it was around him, within him. It was he.

He drew her with such an intensity, such a passion, that she was perpetually on the verge of crying out, loud, sharp, desperate, wired out of control… yet she did not. Because, most of all, he made her calm.

She first met him one day at the beach. It was a public holiday. May 29th, 2000. Democracy Day in Nigeria. It was the first time this day was being celebrated, amidst controversy of course. The labour union bore down heavily on the president for having unilaterally declared, of all days, May 29th henceforth as Democracy Day, a public holiday. The Upper and Lower Houses had a field day president-bashing. But in the end the day stayed.

Uninterested in political matters, she had gone to the beach on this day with her friend, Hadiza, happy to spend time with the roaring, in the sight and nearness, of the ocean. Born and bred in Lagos, the sea had all her life been her secret lover.

The beach was full. She liked the noise that pressed in on the great hall of silence in her centre. The contrast gave her a kick. Here deep within her the silence. Outside, beyond the silence and hall of silence, the noise, not only of the crowded beach, the overcrowded world, but also of her thoughts which had to think extra loud – or was it extra quietly – extra clearly today in order for her to hear them.

And everything was centred on the waves. They crashed, cracked and thundered… yet the sea of silence remain unruffled, for in the heart of the roaring waves too was the silence.

The silence of the eternal sea of life. Deep space bordered by horizon.

She stood on the sand dune and looked beyond the rising shoulders of the waves and out into the Atlantic. Creamy pale blue and watching you.

What was in there? And beyond it, what?

Stirred by this question, her soul was, like a sensitive gland, activated, perceptive, ready.Before she saw him, she sensed him. The deep was coming closer. The deep!

At first she thought it must be the ocean.

That far place. Horizon.

She looked at it… longingly. But her longing met no response from there. It was not the ocean. It was… it was…

Her heart leaped and she looked around wildly. Never before had the deep exercised such a physical presence. So she was prepared for him when their eyes met. The longing and the yearning. By and by.

A shock wave arose from the deep, the earth at the precipice trembled.
Later he found an excuse to saunter up to them.

He spoke about the beach, the water, the public holiday. He spoke intelligently. He spoke to her. His name was Anosike, he worked in an oil company, he said, played the guitar in his spare time. She got up and they went on a stroll. Patiently they sought out the quietest, most secluded area of the rainforest beach. She put her hand in his. It was large and enclosed hers completely. The sun was high and bright beyond the fronds. Then. Everything has a boundary, if not an end. It was clear right from the very first that he had come to get her. She did not think of resisting. Unhesitatingly, unafraid, she stepped forward and fell into the deep.

And all the while, his voice. It was an unending process.

The ties that had hitherto pulled her back, they were no more. Nothing stopped her. Nothing inhibited her.

Only once, for a wisp of a microsecond, did she remember the sunlit meadow. Then the momentum tilted her gently forward and, headlong, the blood rushed up and she fell…

A desperate cry floated up… and that was the last that was heard of her.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

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