The River Elbe flowing through Hamburg, joins the hanseatic city to the North Sea. The landscapes of “the Elbe” at night are resplendent. The bridges that span this glorious river are magnificent and the cities and monument that overlook its banks are nothing short of sublime. The feel at night standing on the banks of the River is as exquisite as a caress on the cheek from an angel and the “container harbor” that lies on the beach adds allure to the already beautiful sight and brings about a surreal feeling to “the Elbe.”
The banks of the River beyond is my destination. I choose her because this was where I first fell in love with him, after a boat ride that made me appreciate his gentleness, consideration and attention to details. He had presented a bunch of red roses to me after we had alighted the boat as a sign of his love and devotion. It all began here but unfortunately, this will also be where it ends. I shall finally close the chapters of our stories here, tonight.
The dark gray waters of “the Elbe” have a magical potent to it that I believe will bring relieve to my broken spirit as the song by “of Monsters and Men little talks,” “though the truth may vary this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.”
So here I am, on this freezing February night, running towards the Elbe with red roses in hand, running with the last vestige of strength in me, intent on getting to the river before the cops closes up on me. The cold night breeze on my cheeks brings back painful memories. Memories I wish laid buried in the waters beyond. They say memories are often “overrated, painful blessings incomplete” but mine is the real deal because it is who I am, what I am and where am headed.
Memories are said to be malleable and decays with age but mine are fresh out of the bud and complete with every detail accurate and can never be termed “blessings”.
If only I was more doubtful and less trusting, or wasn’t carried away by wanting to settle down with my country man, then wouldn’t I be here tonight, traveling down memory lane faster than a bullet. I remembered his smile when I walked up to him at the counter in sparkasse bank Celle, dripping wet from the rain that had just fallen and feeling quite irritated. I had handed him 120 € bills which I wanted sent via western union to my mother in Nigeria, thinking he was a teller. He had collected the money graciously and told me he wasn’t a teller but was covering up for a colleague who took ill. At my frown, He had asked me to ease up, that he would send the money. He had told me he was a brother, so therefore I should give him a smile even though he saw I was soaking wet. I wondered who the black tall guy was, asking me to ease up. He further explained he was from Nigeria, therefore we were siblings by country. I was doubtful at first because he was so black and didn’t look anything Nigerian but he insisted he was a Nigerian. I asked his state of origin and after minutes of silence from him that made me more doubtful, he came up with ‘Onitsha’.
“I hail from Onitsha but have lived the better part of my life in Germany, hamburg to be precise” he said.
“I left Nigeria when I was only fourteen,” he finished!
I was excited because I had already lived four years in Germany with no contact whatsoever from my fellow countrymen, but fortunately, i met one, standing before me. In my excitement, i forgot my drenched self and manners as I screamed in disbelief and joy only to see scores of green, brown and blue german eyes staring at me. I immediately straightened up and begged their pardon. I was elated that I had found a brother thousands of miles away from home. My newfound brother told me he was two weeks old in Celle, an accountant by profession, formerly working in hamburg but was recently transferred here.
He had white teeth and a gap tooth to boost. His smile was sparkling. When he was done making the money transfer, he gave me his business card to call him up so we could have coffee later in the city if I so wished!
Alabo, Alabo! He was every woman’s dream man. Tall, very dark but handsome with a gait that puts David Beecham’s’ to shame. He was elegant and full of suave and shortly after we met, he asked me out after a boat ride on the banks of the River ‘Elbe’ and I agreed to be his girl for he was everything and more I desired in a man. I was smitten. It was a whirlwind Romance for us. Alabo swept me off my feet and made me feel like the only girl in the world. We visited lots of beautiful places and had loads of fun together with he, footing all the bills. He treated me like a princess and I never wished for anything more other than to become his wife and he did not disappoint.
During a summer vacation we took to Mallorca, our last day found us sitting on the sand at the beach where we played like kids. We molded our feet in sand, built little sand castles and held hands while looking into each other’s eyes and uttering sweet nothing into our ears. I was head over heels in love with him and I thought he felt the same way too. His eyes whenever they rested on me were full of love and honesty. After much play and feeling drowsy, He asked me to pull my feet off the molded sand and search within the sand castle we had built for a memorabilia. I knew their was nothing there but just to oblige him, i destroyed our sand castle and searched! Lo and behold, therein laid a beautiful gold ring.
On bended knees and unabashed about the tears streaming down his face, he asked me to marry him.
“I want you to be the dawn that lightens up my dusk, and the dream catcher that chases away my nightmares” he said. “I want you to be the mother of my kids, my soul mate, the last face I see before I sleep, and the first face I see after I wake up” he concluded.
Such romantic words. I gladly accepted his proposal and we shared a long beautiful kiss. It was a happy time for us. We lived, loved and made merry and he brought me red roses everyday after work.
Sadly, everything came to an end five months after our wedding. The love that brought us together couldn’t keep us together for he had other plans. The man who was so loving, sweet and caring turned sour, hateful and impatient all of a sudden. The honestly I glimpsed behind his eyes turned coy and calculating.
Unfortunately, I realized too late that I had married a stranger. Before I could sort my feelings and get a grip of what was happening in my marriage, I got a letter from my bank that I had gone beyond my credit limit and was in -6000 €. I was dumbfounded because I had not withdrawn any amount from my bank in four months not to talk of been in debt of 6000 € for I had a chunk of over 5,000 € saved, so I was totally confused. It was a big cruel joke to me and I hoped an investigation would correct the mistakes made and my money, returned.
As if that wasn’t trouble enough, my husband began keeping late nights. He was home only on week days but weekends never met his presence. He never listened to me whenever I implored him to help trace the theft from my bank account since he worked in the bank and knew the banking system firsthand.
While trying to sort my self from my bank problems, I found out I was pregnant. That was music to my ears. I was so happy for a while that I forgot my problems until I went to my gynecologist for the results of the tests that had been previously carried out on me. There I got a shocker! “I WAS HIV POSITIVE.” My world came crashing down on me.
I called my husband on phone to relay the sad news but after hearing me out, he hung up on me. On reaching home after endless counseling with different HIV counselors on how to manage the disease, I dejectedly opened my mail box only to see a letter bearing the “city of celle’s stamp” boldly covering part of the envelop. DANGER! My heart skipped three beats. I read the letter requesting my presence in court on charges of fraud worth thousands of Euros and tax invasion. I almost fainted. Inside my house, I noticed chunks of furniture missing. My flat looked ransacked. I went straight to Alabo’s man cave only to find it empty. Alabo had already packed his belongings and disappeared into thin air.
I was in limbo. I suspected my husband had a hand in my bank fraud because he knew my bank details. As to being HIV positive, I could only contract the disease from him because he was a chronic womanizer who was never home but now, he was nowhere to be found. There was a letter lying on the floor and I picked it up. I was stunned after reading its content. It was a warrant for my husband’s arrest and Interpol were already alerted to apprehend him wherever and whenever he was seen. The will to live deserted me. I had been duped and discarded, left with an incurable disease and charges I knew nothing about. I didn’t know where to start.
I fell into deep depression that lasted for months on end. Having lost my job in an electric company in the midst of these travails, and managing my pregnancy which was already in its second semester unaided was Agony. I was all alone, going for antenatal while taking antiretroviral drugs for my baby and me, always appearing in court to vindicate myself of the charges leveled against me and at the same time, filing the papers for bankruptcy. I was finished! Life had served me lemons!
Then came the blockbuster on a wet, melancholic Tuesday, While searching the house, looking for valuables to sell, I came across a document. It was a certificate of “change of name.” On the photograph glued to the certificate rested the face of my husband. On it was a change of name from “Seedy Ousman to Alabo Akosa.” My eyes quickly scanned the rest of the document only for me to notice that the state of origin was somewhere I only heard of. Surprise of all surprises, there It was stated, “Banjul, The Gambia.” That was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. My husband was not from “Nigeria,” neither was he from “Onitsha” as he had claimed. He was from “the Gambia” and had deceived me all along.
I recalled our first meet after he had handed me his card. The name written on the card was same as the document I had just read. The date on the document bore 15th October 2014. Three weeks to our wedding did he get his name changed! I was speechless! To what ends did he go so as to deceive me, I wondered? He had wrecked my life. I was a shadow of my old self, stripped and ravaged. Enough was enough! I had been played and dribbled enough. I had reached my limit.
If only I had thrown his card in the trash after I left the bank on our first meet, if only I had noticed that the name on the card he handed me that fateful day was different from the name he told me he bore, if only I noticed he spoke “mandinka” with his friends and family and had no knowledge of the “Onitsha language,” if only I detected that the “pain killers” he took every morning weren’t painkillers but antiretroviral drugs, if only I was more vigilant, then wouldn’t I be in this dilemma!
Through the help of a private detective who took away my last euro, I tracked my husband down to Hamburg and got knowledge of his habits. He had been hiding in hamburg all this while, in plain sight even though he knew the cops were after him. The daredevil, how I hated him. I heard he liked to take rides with his bicycle by the Elbe tunnel every night, then finally walk the shores of the famous river before winding up in a particular cafe. The detective said he slept all day long and only ventured out at nights but was living the dream life at “the Elbe”.
He told me that my husband lived on a beautiful and tastefully furnished boat where he paid 300 € daily for rent. He had a cook and a maid in the package. The name of the boat was called “dream catcher” What irony! I laughed myself to tears after the detective had departed and vowed to have my revenge. I planned meticulously and took note of every detail on the piece of paper he had left behind. I was weak for I was in my last month of pregnancy. My baby was due in 12 days but I had to take my revenge before that day arrived and only then, would I “rest in peace.”
After days of meticulous planning, “the day” finally arrived with thunder storm and lightening bolts. The sky opened up its bowels and purged out its guts because it rained “cats and dogs,” in synonym to my “weeping soul.” I was undaunted for I was a woman with a purpose. I took the last train that departed Celle to hamburg, From thence I proceeded to the “River Elbe.” Along the beach of “the Elbe” leads a small path past several cafés and restaurant. I entered the last cafe on the path where the detective had told me my husband usually had late night coffees. I was not perturbed seeing the bustle of activities going on in there for I was on a vengeful mission.
Finally, I located my husband sitting at the right wing of the cafe, talking to a bimbo. I watched from a dark corner of the cafe as he kept gesticulating and talking in earnest as if convincing her about something important. My nerve almost failed me because there were lots of goings and comings and I was sure to be detected. I stood still, thinking of the best way to carry out my plan when a movement from my hubby caught my attention.
I saw Alabo on bended knees, in front of the bimbo as I overheard him asking her forgiveness for been away for too long as he handed her “red roses.” That was the cue I needed to act. I can still remember the horror and disbelief on his face seeing me before the bullets from my pistol tore open his brain, and the last shot shattered his nose, killing him instantly.
A burst of sea wind swept my winter cap off my head, bringing me back from my mangled memorial journey. It tried puling me down but I stood my ground while trying to retrieve my cap from the sandy beach. I was losing time chasing after my cap so I let it go as I continued to run. I ran towards the River banks as fast as my protruding belly could allow, hoping no one would be around by this time. My baby kicked fiercely in protest but I ran on, even as I heard the approaching wails of sirens. I had to reach the Elbe before they grabbed me, before it all ended and I was cuffed for murder.
I have no remorse for what I had done but I have one last wish of taking a swim in “the Elbe.” It’s serene beauty beckoned on me to run faster and I obliged. I wished everything were different, and my baby was healthy even as I hear the echoes from the doctor’s voice saying… “we are sorry m’am, but somehow we couldn’t prevent your baby from being HIV infected….”
My heart bled anew with jaded hope and shattered dreams. I was the loser in all these! I was already vanquished! My solace laid in the River. I wanted her benevolent spirit to sooth my weeping heart, and it’s tranquil waters feed my soul and take me to oblivion even as I hear shouts from the cops who had
already arrived, asking me to stop and running after me.
Finally, I make it to the banks of “the Elbe” that flows into the North Sea. I wade in, holding the pistol and the “red roses from the Accountant,” that I had snatched from the bimbo before running out of the cafe.
Alas, alas, the “red roses from the Accountant” and the pistol that killed him flowed down the dark, gray waters of “the Elbe,” never to be seen again. Oh, poor me, oh, my poor unborn child. I cry for “what would have been, but is not” as I close my eyes to the icy feel of the waters as she takes me yonder….
By Barbara Wams Emodi from Germany