Empty Page – Joemario Umana.

Empty Page

“The Shattering Of A Heart When It’s Broken Is The Loudest Quiet Ever”
—Carroll Bryant

I think Adele lied when she sang “never mind I’ll find someone like you.” Do you think she ever did? Do you think there are really people like other people? Like the way the person smiled, laughed, talked, walked, listened, ate, cried, touched, fucked—do you really think so? I don’t, I thought to myself, as I watched the water gobble down the stone I had thrown into it, and the sound of it like the sound made by one’s throat when one swallows a morsel of eba larger than one’s food pipe.
The sun was turning orange, saying its goodbyes to the day as I sat on the brown earth close to the water. There was something about it, though. It looked like it was sad, like when a lover says goodbye to his loved one even though he doesn’t want to go but also can’t stay. Beside me was my journal looking deserted with a page barren of ink opened. I have been struggling to write something, anything.
I picked the journal up, placed it on my lap, and took out my pen from my back pocket and wrote on the page, loving you is not the wound, losing you is. And that was it. Was that it? Like, was the heartbreak I felt from reading the text you sent that morning, my Huawei 2019 singing upon it coming in, the reason for my writing block? I’ve been thinking, was I the problem? Part of your text read “it’s not you, it’s me,” but was that really it? What happened is a question I guess I would never know the answer.
The night before that morning, we had just returned from eating noodles and egg at mallam Musa’s stand. Outside, rain was contemplating whether to fall or not. Its tiny feet tap dancing on our rusty roof. Inside, I had lit the green mosquito coil to chase away our tiny vampire friends, as we used to call mosquitoes. NEPA didn’t bring light that night, as it was their best nature, and the ceiling fan wasn’t turning but just up there, looking dead.
You said to me when we were in bed as I tried to cuddle that you were feeling sweaty and hot. I’d run a cold bath for you. After taking your bath and coming back to bed, I’d snuggled towards you like a cat, trying to rub myself against yours, which you pushed me away, telling me I was now the one sweaty. I’d gone in to take my own bath. Coming back in and towards you, you said you were not in the mood. I had asked you what was going on. You had said nothing. And added you were sorry.
When I pulled away, you rolled and hugged me as if you were feeling guilty of something. Later on, when I slid my hand underneath my Manchester United jersey top you wore, bra less, you’d pushed away again and rolled to the floor. Feeling frustrated and angry, I didn’t follow you to the floor. I just lay on the bed listening to the ticking of the clock’s hand before sleep took me. Something inside of me wished you would come back into bed.

In the morning before you left, you asked me if we had sex that night. I was angry but answered you calmly, no. You said nothing. You didn’t even brush your teeth nor take your bath when you changed into your own clothes and left. And then, I was going through Michael Imossan’s “A Prelude to Caving” that morning as it was a ritual for me, when your message came in with the “it’s not you, it’s me,” as the highlight. I had not been the same from that morning. And as cliché as this may sound, life itself had seemed to lose its colors. Everything fell into chaos like when Doctor Strange messes with reality.
I lost appetite for food, which is unlike me, being I was the foodie between us. No girl I brought home was you, even those I had to project you when I was inside them. I’ve not even been able to write a single poem since then. Just one-liners like this, “loving you was not the wound, losing you is.” Remember that ghostwriting gig I got from Upwork to write a full-length poetry collection of at least fifty poems? I’ve not been able to write anything since that morning you left. Except from this poem which I wrote looking at you play with a twig, saying “he loves me, he loves me not,” one evening as we went out for a stroll:
“Imagine the delicate cruelty
required to step into his heart,
like tenderly pruning this twig,
questioning the wind with words,
he loves me, he loves me not.
If I conclude with “not,” I persist
until I reach he loves me. What
transgression did the twig commit,
you may wonder? Or the wind that
sighs at every word I force through it?
What I hesitate to fathom
are the solitary ears of the twig,
or the earless twigs strewn on the brown earth,
like a design on a cloth, murmuring,
I hope for your sake he does.”
It is still untitled. I am still wondering why you closed the door behind us. You still slip into our conversations when the boys come around. Like before I came to this waterside, to listen to the music of life, as Divine Inyang Titus will say in his short story, “My Palms Full of Destiny,” hoping inspiration would sneak up to me and give me a poem, the boys came to the house.

We were in between flogging each other in the FIFA PES we were playing, a game you said was my real girlfriend than you, after we drank soaked garri with sugar, salt, and kuli kuli, when Justin said, “shey if our wife bin dey here, we for no drink garri.” I am not the only one opened like a hole and chipped away by your absence. Even Mama asked about you the other time I went home to visit her,
“e don tey you bring our oyibo come house o. I hope sey she dey fine?”
Oyibo, a name she gave you because of your milky skin, your accent she used to call spri spri and because you cried when smoke from the fireplace entered your eyes as you tried to blow air into the red glowing firewood. I remember when she teased you to slice afang leaves, and because you wanted to impress her, you claimed that you can do it.
And not only did you slice the afang leaves in big chops like you’re slicing fluted pumpkin leaves, you also bled yourself in the process. I remember mama teasing you, saying that she doesn’t want your blood in her food o. That you are not Jesus Christ. And we all laughed as if that was our last laugh on earth. Yours the loudest. And I smiled even though my face ached from doing so, as I lied to her that we were alright. I am still thinking what I did wrong, to have you leave like that.
I slid back the pen into my back pocket as the words weren’t coming through for me to arrange them on the empty page of my journal, staring right back at me. We both shared the same feelings—we were both empty. As I watched the number of people around the waterside reduced, some group of teenagers hurriedly groping themselves by the side covered with shrubs, thinking they were hidden and trying to beat time, I brought out my phone and the light that came up the screen revealed the time was 6:45pm. I plugged my earpiece into my phone and plugged them into my ears as Jacob Bank’s Say That You Don’t Love Me spilled into my eardrums while I kicked the stone that laid lonely on the ground, walking into the darkness.


• “shey if our wife bin dey here, we for no drink garri.” A pidgin English line that can be translated into “If our wife was here, we wouldn’t drink garri.”
• “e don tey you bring our oyibo come house o. I hope sey she dey fine?” A pidgin English line that can be translated into “It’s been a while you brought your foreign friend to the house

Contributor’s Bio

Joemario Umana is a Nigerian creative writer and a performance poet. He’s a SprinNG fellow, and a member of The Writers Manger Network and Poetic nest. His poems are published in journals like Afrihill Press, Brittle Paper, Strange Horizons, Isele Magazine and elsewhere. He’s also an author of the poetry gazelle, “A Flower Is Not The Only Thing That’s Fragile,” published by Konya Shamsrumi. He tweets @JoemarioU38615.

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