Before the Storm is Over.
We’d always been Imade and Adanma, the two girls in Hope Comprehensive Secondary School who almost always giggled in class together and yet topped it together. It was like the same blood flowed in our veins but God had forgotten to make it legal, our sisterhood. Adanma was me and I, Imade was she. We were one and the same. Physically, our bodies told a different story though. Ada was lanky while I had a body like the hourglass; supple, womanly. She was slightly more assertive than I was. Adanma always seemed to talk a little louder, sound a little surer, walk a tad prouder and I was content to hide in the crook I had made for myself in her shadow.
I liked to do everything the way she would. In just a year after I’d met her, I’d begun to talk like her, never letting my tongue leave the roof of my mouth when I pronounced the letters “S” and “T” and saying things like “chai” every now and again. It was fair, I decided, to pick up habits and mannerisms of people we cared about, after all it did show that we admired them. Adanma was a free spirit who held no grudges and forgave as soon as she’d let you know that you had hurt her. She also assumed that no one else had any right to be sensitive and if they chose to be, then, they were being immensely dramatic. Adanma made all the rules and I realize now that if I’d only rebelled a little, worn my sensitiveness proudly on my sleeve instead of saying “it’s no big deal” every time she told me she didn’t see the sense in books or poetry or reading anything that wasn’t educational and let my voice be heard, I would have never come to resent her.
But resent her I did. The resentment crept up on me and I collapsed into it like a schoolgirl weak in the knees.
People always expected us to fight about the things other girls our age did like boys for example but the tides against us were of waters running deeper than things like boys. I was starting to hate being simply an appendage. I hated that I didn’t have anyone to do the things I liked doing the most with. I resented her for having opinions so strong and overpowering while I was afraid to even utter words that bore any form of strength, much less strength and opinion. I resented myself and I resented her for making me turn against myself at a time when I was my only ally.
Glass starts to crack under pressure. At first the cracks are barely visible, the sounds of which are barely audible, I was cracking. We were cracking. If Imade noticed anything, she didn’t say. I honestly think she did not notice because that is the only way to explain her reaction to my outburst when it finally happened. It was our last year at Hope Comprehensive. It’s funny how the proverbial last straw is almost weightless compared to all the previous load borne.
“Mads, have you decided what to wear to prom?” Ada was saying. And then before I answered, she was answering herself as was the norm. “I think we should both wear like the same color!” And then she’d started to plan where we could buy the said dresses from. I thought my chest would explode from anger.
I should have just said I didn’t want to wear the same color but I wanted to hurt her as I felt she’d hurt me. I wanted her to feel small and unheard and insignificant but I’d have to settle for hurt. I would feel vile and ugly every time I remembered the way I felt during this storm. But right now I could hear myself screaming and it both delighted and frightened me.
“You always do this! You think you’re the best thing since sliced bread! Always telling me ‘Mads, we should do this, we should do that’, like I’m your puppet! I have opinions too. I like doing things that you don’t like to do, but you always think my ideas are stupid”. I then proceeded to tell her everything that she had ever done that had hurt me and the more I spat my words at her, the more liberated I felt and her dropping jaw and the hurt in her eyes fueled my zest. I was speaking up finally and it was an almost out of body experience.
I saw my best friend cry for the first time and it was my fault.
Some things never leave you. They’re like a clock ticking in the background, taunting you, haunting you. And everything you do is significantly related to memories. I thought of Ada when I got into the University of Nsukka where we were supposed to go together and when I wrote poetry, I saw her yellow face and heard her voice, ever excited. When I read news about the US, I thought about her and whether she was going to finally study medicine like she’d always wanted. When I added powdered milk to my Milo, I was reminded of myself, disintegrating in the sea of our friendship and instead of enhancing it, destroying it like the stubborn milk clumps that I hated. I started to use only evaporated milk.
I would see her again in a hospital in Lagos where she would diagnose my mother with rheumatoid arthritis. She would not be cold to me like I’d expected. She wouldn’t spit in my face. She would invite me to her wedding and ask where she could buy a copy of my debut novel. She would be happy and healthy. She would tell me when my mother was out of earshot
“You should have told me you were unhappy earlier”
“I didn’t think you’d get it”
“I would have died trying”
She would be Adanma, ever forgiving. I would be me, inadequate, as always.
But we’d have each other anyway.