There are no second chances at life, literally. Making a huge mistake or failing and learning from it isn’t a second chance to do it better, that’s just life; it is a roller-coaster. It doesn’t move at steady pace in one particular direction, it changes. One moment it’s too fast for you to handle whilst moving in the right direction and another, it’s too slow and you are hurrying for it to pick itself up. In as much as you want to believe you are in control of it, you are not. There are too many forces at play. You just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. Your destiny was already written when you were conceived and sadly this is yours.
I sat in my car frozen, trembling with fear, staring ahead but seeing nothing. My feet were ice cold and the core of my chest heated up with pain, while my lungs expanded to take in the rush of air entering it. I was absolutely terrified and was about to shit my pants. I pushed the car door ajar, and time froze when my left foot touched the ground. I took in a deep breath as I stepped out of the car slowly. I felt the pressure. I walked to the front of my car to see who I had hit. I covered my mouth with my hands and burst out crying. It was a little girl, definitely not older than eight.
The concept of life had always been tricky to me. When does the self awareness that you exist kick in? When do you realize you can… feel…think? When do you realize you are alive? When do you realize you are dead?
I stared down at the girl with anguish, unsure if she was dead or alive. The pain in my chest only got worse and the realization that I might have become a murderer fueled my burning pain. All I had to do was check if she was alive, but I was terrified to death; I couldn’t think.
I was hoping she would wake up, move, do something at least. My eyes never left her and as I began to think, I panicked, returned my car and sped off. What have you done, Tayo? It isn’t your fault. She crossed the road abruptly. I hit the gas pedal as hard as I could to put enough distance between me and the accident scene. All I could picture was the helpless girl in tattered clothes lying in front of my car. The rage, shame, and disgust within me almost drove me to my death till my eyes opened up and I hit the breaks on time preventing another accident. The pedestrian completed crossing the road not without blessing me with curses. I heaved a sigh of relief. No way would have I recovered if had knocked down another person. The guilt I already bore weighed down my soul that my aura was so depressing. In that moment, I heard a faint whisper, aggressively shouting my name. I jumped. She had began to haunt me, or so I believed. I looked in the direction of the voice and found my phone on the passenger’s seat. I had forgotten I was on a call with my brother before I hit down the little girl and then it hit me, it came flooding back; It was my fault and before I could notice the little girl, it was too late for her, for me.
“Tayo!” Seun repeatedly called me.
A moment after I answered him. “I’ll call you back,” and I cut the call.
I hadn’t moved the car yet, still on the service lane of the express. The image of the girl couldn’t leave my mind. As other drivers hurled curses and insults at me, I woke up from my daunting pain and began to drive home. I opened the door wide open and my kids screamed excitedly, especially my daughter, Bidemi. She ran at full speed at me, abandoning her dinner, hugging my legs then raising up her arms to be lifted. It was our thing every night I returned from work. I burst into tears because my girl wasn’t older than the girl I had hit, most likely the same age. My heart was burdened with guilt as my fingers trembled with pain. Unconsciously, I shoved her aside and walked to my room without reciprocating the love my family had shown me. Upon reaching my room, I cried harder and fell on my bed. A moment after and my pregnant wife walked into the bedroom. I didn’t turn back upon her arrival, but I tried to curb my tears.
“Baby,” She called with a worried tone. “What’s wrong.”
The words wouldn’t come out, only more tears and pain. I had to always man up and mask my pain because men don’t cry. When I was at my lowest, I would toughen up and wear a faux smile. It was what we were trained to do; be tough, to be a man. Being a man meant hiding your emotions and pretending you don’t get hurt, and taking all the brunt without shaking. It was the first time she had seen me like that. The theories going through her mind would have been a lot, I guessed. I was vulnerable and on the brink of doing something drastic. By my own hands, a girl died, a girl who could easily have been my own daughter. There was a rip in my heart that was beyond repair.
I felt her baby bump on my back, with her hands on the shoulders of my cheap suit.
“Baby,” the distress in her voice more evident now. “Talk to me. What happened?”
That was a trigger and I was in my car all over again, on the phone with Seun. I could hear the loud thud all over again which made me shudder. My cries became loud shrieks. Jamila began stroking my hair gently, with her other arm around my neck.
“Talk to me, baby,” She whispered in my ear.
“I….” I began, the first thing that could come out of my mouth since. “J-J-Ja… Jamila…”
“I … I am a monster,” I cried.
“No, you’re not. Why would you think so?”
I was silent and didn’t move. She waited for my response but I still wasn’t forthcoming.
“Talk, Tayo,” She screamed violently. “You are scaring me, you scared the kids.”
“I killed her alright!” I shouted back. “I left her there to die.”
“Are you happy now?” I continued shouting. “I am a monster!”
I broke out crying again. I was too vulnerable and weak. Everything came pouring out, all the pain I had endured sipped out my pores. I was beyond recovery. Her silence was welcomed. I nudged her off my back and sat upright on the bed.
Death is never welcomed and although it is inevitable, it is dreaded and brings teary eyes with agony along with it. Seeing obituaries of strangers is disconcerting, acquaintances, friends and family leaves you shattered, and then to take a life takes away a long part of you, a bit of your essence, your soul. It is hard to recover from such and as my thoughts lingered, it was then I began to think of her family. It had only occurred to me the pain her mother must have been going through.
“What would you do if Bidemi was murdered?” I asked my wife.
“Are you mad? What sort of question is that?” She roared.
The anger in her voice said it all. I could only imagine the pain her mother was going through and that wasn’t helping my case. I wanted to rush back and do something, anything.
“Help me, Jamila,” I cried.
She asked for what happened and I recanted the story. All the emotions ran through her face: disgust, shame, fear, embarrassment. Yes, I could see it all, I could feel it all. That was the same way I felt with myself, along with self hate. Jamila blasted me for leaving the girl on the road. It was a vile thing to do but I knew I acted irrationally.
I took off my jacket and tossed it aside. The waterfalls soon began and I allowed them.
“I am a monster, Jami,” I repeated, sobbing.
Her fingers ran through my hair which provided a soothing effect.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” She assured me.
I stared at her with disbelief.
A mistake? I thought, pushing my head back to get her hand off it. I wanted to scream at her. What the hell did she mean by “everyone makes mistakes.” A mistake is forgetting to put off the iron during morning rush; a mistake is packing an incomplete lunch for the kids, but… murder? Death isn’t a mistake. It’s… a life, you can’t recreate it.”
I said nothing to her because there was no energy to reply such a foolish statement. Eventually I shrugged her off completely and laid on my side of the bed, curled into a ball. I closed my eyes and woke up in the car again, completely frozen and trembling with fear, staring ahead of me but seeing nothing.
I was in hell reliving my worst memory.