As they bow their heads to say grace, Tunde’s gratefulness knows no bounds. He does not close his eyes, but traces the patterns on the table cloth, letting the benediction eddy around him like ripples of water, his eyes following the curves and flourishes. He is not happy; he is exultant. At the final “Amen” he lifts his head and looks at his wife. He devours her neckline, the easy sweep of her hand, the approving nod at her cousin seated beside her, the smile on her lips. Her lips are very deep red, aflame with passion. Below his waistline, Tunde feels the stirrings of desire. Even the food seems to shimmer, piping hot and steaming like a furnace. Alive with colors and bursting with nourishing goodness, the golden hue of fried plantains, lobster stew with the defiant crustacean pincers cresting the oil at the top, rice almost dazzling in its whiteness. He knows a need never before felt; more than hunger, a compulsive possessiveness. When Evelyn comes to ladle out his serving, he shakes his head.
There are no sounds for him. Vaguely, his wife makes conversation; he can only grunt or nod absently when she attempts to enlist him. He finds that he cannot eat very much; there is so much to see. The filigree lamp fittings on the walls, ethereal drapes that you could walk through if you had a mind to, shiny tiles and varnished wooden walls. He picks at his food listlessly, his fascination already lost as his attentions rove. When he excuses himself from the table, he catches a look of concern on his wife’s face, and smiles to reassure her. Out on the balcony overlooking the porch, Tunde watches the plants and flowers turn in for the night. The bright fluorescent lights bathe the perimeter in a stark glare, blaringly white. His retinas burning, he is unwilling to look away. For all beauty, there is a price to be paid to gaze upon it; Tunde is not begrudging or reluctant. His heart swells and constricts his chest, hitching breaths as tears start to flow. Not of hurt and bitterness, but of unalloyed humility. He has been graciously granted what he always wanted, and the beauty of it abases his soul. Looking upon the world, he seeks the purity of spirit to justify his blessings, rummaging through the recesses of memory, futility laying mocking bread crumbs. He could never have done enough for this, he knows that now. The curtains slowly rustle and wave with the breeze of the cool night. Tunde feels the other side of the bed lift as his wife of nine years slips out. Watching her beneath partially closed lids, never altering his breathing, he is reminded of his tremendous love for her. When he heard her voice for the first time, he had known he wanted her. The waves in the sounds carried a warmth, mesmeric and soothing, that had quieted the maelstrom raging behind his eyes. She was his oasis. He knows where she is going, and he does not begrudge her. Like a wild, exotic bird, her beauty is best captured in flight, not stasis. For all the years they have been married, he has worshipped at her feet; her essence hanging in the air whenever he walks into a room, her gay laugh teasing him in bed at night, her touch like raw electricity zipping through him. He would love her endlessly, as he always had, in a pure untainted state. “Mr Aramide, for the last time, are you certain you want to do this?” This question reverberates through Tunde’s mind as he lies in the operating theater, staring up at the bright lights. Amazingly, for such a risky enterprise, his conviction grows as the seconds count down to his surgery. All of his senses adore her, but it is only a matter of time before his eyes betray him. He cannot bear for that to happen. He would rather have them out. “All right. Put him under.” As the surgical assistant sedates him, he closes his eyes to the world for the last time. His final image of Evelyn is of the first time he ever saw her: after his retinal implant three days ago, her eyes big and beautiful, the curve of her jaw, the line of her neck. He holds the memory, full like a brimming cup. This is how he will always remember her, not as the incestuous wanton who goes to her cousin in the dead of night. Image source