Turn The Ache Into Architecture


I have filled the space with songs. You are wondering what has taken your seat on my heart’s throne, what I have replaced you with, what lingers in the ache that crept into my chest when I pulled away from the centre we created, and it is songs. I just wanted to tell you that. I hope you believe me, that it lessens the pain of this senseless yet strangely soul-cleansing separation and that you don’t drive to an abandoned house at 3 a.m. to stare at the shadows falling on cracks and peeling paint, that you don’t ask God why some things start off as rubble, then are made beautiful, only to be hollowed out again as if they were not built with love and a vision.

We ruined it, yes. We had love and a vision, and we still ruined it. I am not God. I could not save us. But do you remember the night I wrote the words ‘Turn the ache into architecture’ on a blank page and held it up to the screen so you could see? The day I gathered my whole family to sing to you? The day I video-called you to say I had named all our unborn daughters ahead of time and then added ‘You may name our sons’ with a limp fist held out like a microphone. How you laughed and laughed. Have you stopped laughing now? Oluwa, please name our sons. Turn this ache into architecture.

Tonight, ‘Nightcall’ by London Grammar is on replay, and I absentmindedly sing-along “I’m giving you a night call to tell you how I feel…” as I give my laptop screen a tired glance and click on the blue button that says ‘Send’ at the bottom of the screen. I have been sitting here for most of the day. In simpler times, better times, different times, I would have texted you to say I submitted my application for the thing we both agreed I should try out for. You would have video-called and then grinned that silly grin that made me want to name the children my womb had no evidence of. That trap-me grin. That take-me-to-your-leader grin. You would have grinned that specific grin and then said ‘You are brilliant. A bona fide celebrity. I am proud of you. Now, we wait.’

In hindsight, I realise that you not only seduced me with words but seduced words themselves. You made words want to do things they would not normally do. It’s as if you started typing or scribbling and the words would say ‘I don’t normally do this, but since it’s you…’ Do you still do this? I mean, do you read poems into the ears of another lover now? The times we cheated the time-grid and were both free to talk and you would say ‘I wrote something, wanna hear it?’ Do you still do that? Do the words still bend for you? Does your listener gasp and say ‘mmm’ as you speak?

Songs, love. Love songs. Foolish fragile love songs that remind me of you. That’s what has kept me occupied since the parting. Do you realise that the weeks I was studying poetry forms, I was learning how to extricate myself from the thing we built? I wrote ‘pantoum for the parting’, ‘sonnet for cessation’ and ‘aubade for the love I bade farewell’ on my carpet with the phone against my ear as you mumbled ‘sorry’. Do you realise that I was putting training wheels on my heart? You made me dizzy with your apologies. Giddy and dizzy. Even now. I play a song and it all comes back. The night you said, ‘I love you so much it makes me doubt that anything else is real except my love for you.’ How you disappeared after making this bold declaration. How I woke up each morning convincing myself I dreamt you into existence, my body unable to move, my chest tight with the ache, until in your universe you remembered me and reached for the phone. How you reached for me, apology ready like freshly-picked flowers.

I always imagined I would find a photograph of your former lover in the backseat of our car as we drove off after our wedding. That we would take her with us to our honeymoon, to dissect her mistakes, to design a manual for love with her name under the ‘Things to avoid’ list. Now I have taken her seat on the throne of your past and I wonder how she eased herself into this role. If she had to rename the daughters she imagined. I want to compare notes. I want to know if she gasped at the perfection of your face when it was only a memory. And months later, I wonder if she turned her ache into architecture.

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