I remember when I was eight years old; my friend Ezi and I found a puppy on our way back from school.
We picked him up and spent the remainder of our walk home trying to decide if we should keep him or not.
Ezi and I lived in the same cul-de-sac, so as we stood between our homes, she tried to convince me to let her take him home.
I was in love with him already. I even came up with the name we gave him – Rex.
Ezi’s family is super religious and at the time, her Gambian mom would have seen a stray pup as an evil spirit being brought into the house.
I finally convinced her to let me keep him and we would alternate every two days.
She came over with me as we converted the old empty microwave box in my garage into a dog bed. Our grand plan was to keep Rex in my room during the day and then move him to the garage at night.
Things worked well for Thursday and Friday but on Saturday when I followed my mother to the women’s fellowship at church, I couldn’t wait to get home.
I was incredibly annoyed by the fact that she wouldn’t just leave and take me home. I know many of you can relate to our parents lingering back in church for hours.
Rex needed to eat!
By the time we got home, my father was in the living room watching TV and drinking a beer.
My older brothers had not returned from their soccer games with my uncle who coached them.
As the door opened, I thought I was going to die. Right next to my dad was Rex’s cage.
I almost choked.
My dad barely even looked up as he greeted my mom. His eyes never left the game he was watching.
I wasn’t sure what to do or say about the obvious dog sitting next to my dad. I was trying to figure out what to say but before I could jump in, my mom jumped in and said
“Where did you get a dog?”
My dad glanced down at Rex who was cutely trying to get out of the box. Without even looking at my mom, he said
“I got it from a coworker moving out of town.”
“Oh, who is moving? Jim or Dorian?”
My mom followed up.
He didn’t even flinch. He said
“Not them. You don’t know Chris.”
It almost seemed as if my mom did not want to get into it with my dad.
Most of his projects ended up with her cleaning up after him or him abandoning it halfway.
I am confident that she believed he would get rid of Rex within weeks. My brothers would also fall in love with Rex instantly once they got back home.
That afternoon though, as my mother left the room, my father turned to me sitting on the couch nervously next to him, looked me dead in the eye and said
“Never hide anything from me ever again.”
I nodded as he let me play with Rex. He must have gone into my room and noticed Rex or maybe he had heard him moan.
It was the first time I ever saw my dad lie. That incident made us so close, he became my best friend and my hero.
A lie brought us close and allowed me to always live my truth with him.
Years later, I would see him lie for the second time in my life – the day they told us about my mom’s lung cancer.
Rex would be in our family for 11 years till he and my mother would pass away within a month of each other. I used to always think that Rex kept her alive.
One month after she passed, he left us too.
I remember the day being cold, really cold.
Somewhat like today.
My surgery was a few hours away and I was nervous. The only time I cried as much as I had in the last two days was that month I just described. Between Rex and my mom, I couldn’t breathe.
In many ways, I felt like both deaths were telegraphed. I knew they would happen but I did not plan for the pain I would feel after.
My dad initially hid my mom’s diagnosis from us until he couldn’t anymore and frankly, it was easier for him because they had been divorced for a bit.
Well, and my mom had been cheating on him.
It was as if she knew her time was up, so she decided to go back to her high-school/college sweetheart. They would live out the rest of her time together.
I cried more when she moved out of the house than when she died. And when Rex was put down, I lost it.
The surgery weighed heavy on me.
I was scared. All I could think of was my mother for some weird reason.
I felt like it was a curse. How medical conditions would come in and snatch happiness, hope and potential away from unassuming people.
I couldn’t stop crying.
Denzel was right there with me.
When I would stop crying and knock out, I would hear him whip out his laptop and try to catch up on work.
The man was trying.
I was two hours away from surgery when my father walked into my hotel room with his new wife.
Okay newish wife.
He tried to marry this Ghanaian lady a few years after my mom passed and that was a bust.
After my siblings and I moved out, he just stuck to teaching around the world and frankly, racking up international partners.
A few years ago, he decided to settle down with Estelle and she is an angel.
She rushed to my side and gave me a big hug, tears welled up in her eyes.
“Baby geh, are you okay?”
she said. You gotta say it in a Liberian accent to get the full effect.
I chuckled a bit as my face lit up.
Before I could respond, my dad and best friend spoke
“We got the first available flight down.”
I smiled like a kid and said
“Where are you coming from now?”
He fixed his coat as he came to give me a kiss on my forehead and said
“Kuwait… I’ve been co-directing a US exchange program there.”
I was so proud.
He channeled everything into work after mom and he really took his career to the next level.
He continued and said
“So, who can fill me in here, what’s the status and who is this gentleman?”
as he made his way towards Denzel, hand outstretched.
Denzel responded and said
“Hello sir, I’m Denzel, a friend of Leila”
My dad firmly shook his hand and looked over to me.
It was as if his eyes said
“Is this him?”
A few seconds later, my dad said
I nodded. Denzel kept smiling, clearly embarrassed but confused about what was happening.
My dad added
“I’ve heard a lot about you Denzel. Don’t worry, just enough, not too much.”
With Denzel’s help, we quickly brought my father up to speed.
We were only a few minutes away when he asked if he could have the room.
Everyone left us.
He pulled out the chair close to me, sat down and held my hand to pray with me.
Once he finished praying, he just looked me dead in the eye and said
“I’ll be right here when you get out and we’ll figure this out together.”
There are moments that define you and moments you choose to define.
They are not the same but operate with the general concept.
You deciding what you are willing to take and what you let take you.
I don’t really know what I expected to be the case post surgery but I just prayed that I woke up.
As I woke up, my mouth tasted bitter and it felt stiff. I wasn’t really plugged in.
I sort of opened my eyes and tried to find my bearings. Stumbling into consciousness, I felt a warm hand envelope my left hand.
He smiled at me and said
“Hey beautiful, welcome back.”
I rolled my eyes as I swallowed hard and replied
“I am pretty sure there is nothing beautiful about how I look right now”
He kept smiling and said
“You are always beautiful to me”
“Aren’t you so sweet?”
I gently replied.
I followed up by asking
“How long have I been out for?”
He paused as if he didn’t want to answer and then he said
I replied in shock. He nodded and said
“Yes, they had to keep you in an induced coma to make sure your body healed properly from the surgery”
I was still in shock and he said
“But you have been recovering really well though. They said your body is reacting very well to treatment and the meds.”
“Your dad and Estelle just left about an hour ago to visit a friend.
I think someone just had a baby or something”
My mind flashed to my cousin Leah, we were born a few weeks apart. She was having her first child.
I was so caught up in everything happening that I completely forgot about it.
“Did they tell you what she had?”
I said as I smiled.
“We’ve been on a girl streak in our family for a long time. I hoped that I would break….”
I could not finish the sentence as I almost broke down.
It felt unfair to get stuck on the negatives when I was just glad that I made it out alive.
Denzel picked up on it and quickly jumped saying
“Soooooo now that you are awake? What do you want to eat?”
I held back the tears and I said
“Is it weird that I want okra with goat meat?”
He smiled and said
“Okay I gotchu. I’m gonna make you some.”
I fixed my head to the right and said
“Hold up, you can cook COOK?”
He nodded and said
“Uhhhh yeah. You thought I was joking when I told you I could cook?”
I smiled and said
“Wait a minuteeee. I didn’t think you were lying. I just thought you meant you could cook basic shit like noodles and the occasional pasta. Since we know how much you Nigerian men love adding that to your Chef kit.”
He burst out laughing and said
“Nah booboo. I cook cook and I do it well. I just don’t do it enough because I travel so much.
So I never want things to go bad.”
I was actually impressed because he clearly looked like he was telling the truth
He got up and said
“I’m gonna head back to mines and be back soon. Luckily okra doesn’t take too long to make. I’ll make it, shower and be back before you know it.”
I quickly chimed in and said
“What’s gonna be in it? Cos I love my goat meat”
He smiled and said
“Don’t worry bout it sweetheart. Don’t worry bout it. That’s that spla, that’s that spla right there.”
He kissed my forehead and grabbed his things and walked out.
I took a deep sigh.
All the emotions were about to hit me. I was out of surgery, alive and somehow I had managed to keep this awesome man around. What in the world!
As I was sorting through the emotions, the door opened and my nurse walked in.
She checked my vitals, asked how much pain I was in and how I was feeling overall.
I asked her about the details of my surgery and she said
“Overall things went well. The doctor is going to be coming around a little later though to go over all the details with you.
In the meantime, do you need anything else?”
I shook my head and she began to leave. She got to the door, stopped, turned around and said
“It’s not really my business but I think you should know that man has not left your side since the first night you got here. He has slept in that chair every night.
He’s a keeper.”
I couldn’t believe it.
I started to cry.
She walked over to me and said
“Oh no baby, don’t cry. What’s wrong? Its a good thing.”
Amidst the sniffling and sobbing, I stopped and said
“It’s not that. It just sucks to know that I finally found a good man and I’m basically about to die and he has to see me like this.”
She leaned in and gave me a hug.
As she pulled away she said
“I hear you sweetie but look at the bright side. He’s still here.
He is not obligated to and he could have run but he’s here. Focus on that.”
She was right. But all my mind could think of was, how much longer till he wouldn’t show up anymore.
Enjoying Part 2? Great! Please leave a comment when you are done. It keeps me going. Thanks!
“You made this?”
“Denzel, you actually made this???”
He nodded again and said
“I told you to stop doubting meeeee”
I was shocked. Y’all won’t believe me when I say this but it was fire.
Like even better than mine.
He cooked it perfectly. The seasoning, the sliminess and the meat was soooo tender.
I was truly impressed.
He admitted buying the poundo yam from the Nigerian restaurant downtown, I wasn’t mad at it.
I had just washed my hand off when the doctor walked into the room.
Frankly, I appreciated the fact that he wasn’t trying to make small talk because I did not even want it.
He asked how I was and if the nurses had come to check on me which I told him they had.
Denzel went to sit down as the doctor began talking.
“So Leila as the surgery progressed, we noticed that it would have been more damaging to make the cut that we had initially discussed. So based on the recommendation of the chief of surgery, we aborted the surgery and took some tissue graft and sewed your uterus. There is no guarantee how durable it will be in the long run but I wanted to let you know that with the right diet and medication, you should be fine.”
Have you ever really had a moment where your head was spinning and all you could hear was a ringing sound?
Like the sound was distant but also right there?
That was where I went. I left the room.
It wasn’t until I heard.
“Leila, Leila, can you hear me?”
I slowly came back into reality. My first words were
“So does that mean I can have children?”
The doctor straightened himself, glad he finally got through to me and said
“The possibility is there; although, I would advise against it because it could potentially be dangerous for you and or the child. Let’s start with getting you back to full health and then the journey of the rest of your life will continue.”
The doctor excused himself.
Denzel just sat down. I think he was trying to give me space.
He asked from his seat
“Are you okay?”
I quietly mumbled
“Don’t worry we’ll figure this out.”
I am not sure why but I snapped
“Figure this out? I am 28 years old.
Single. Unmarried and now I may not be able to have children and everyone keeps telling me it will be okay?
How is it going to be okay Denzel?
I want to have a family. A home.
With kids running all around it.”
My voice peaked higher as I yelled to hold back the tears
“I want to be a better mother than my mom was!
I want my own kids. I want mine!
Don’t you want kids?”
At the exact moment he stood up to answer, the door opened, it was one of the nurses coming to check on what was going on.
Denzel stood up and from his coat, a pill bottle fell and perfectly rolled towards the door.
The nurse noticed it and stopped it with her foot while bending down to pick it up.
Denzel’s words sailed into the room. He said
“No Leila. No I don’t want to have kids.”
My eyes turned to Denzel. Denzel was looking at the nurse.
The nurse held up the pill bottle and read it.
Then said out loud
“Are you giving these to her?”
Denzel shook his head. Walked up to her with his hand outstretched to collect his pills.
“What pills are those Denzel?”
He turned around and said
“Don’t worry about them. You don’t need the stress.”
I persisted as the nurse stood glued in place.
“Tell me Denzel”
He looked at me with sadness in his eyes and said
“I struggle with bipolar disorder and anxiety. These are my pills that I take everyday.”
The nurse’s face said it all.
What The Heck Man!
~We didn’t quite get 20 comments last week, let’s see if we can do that this week and drop Part 3 early!~
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