Decades II – very much like the original Decade project – explores the wholesomeness of womanhood as lived in ten-year intervals; Girls; Ladies; Women; Mothers; grand and great-grand mothers all. They live the same life we live, experience the same joys and pains unique to their decades and maybe we can learn a thing or two from them. Find the subtle connections that link their lives together and get lost in stories told. Decades II.
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I sit on my bed, facing the mirror, looking intently at the carefully made-up woman staring back at me. Amanda’s make-up artist did a wonderful job. I look beautiful, everything looks alright; my wrinkles are almost completely concealed, my eyes are alert as always, my skin is radiant, and my hands are steady. Nothing gives away the wave of sadness that threatens to swallow me. The dress is lovely, purple has always suited me. Amanda gently places my special pearls around my neck, and when the clasp is done, she helps me up and gives me a once-over. “Your hair is fabulous, your make-up is flawless, and that dress! The dress brings out your curves”. I look at my visible love handles and laugh; that is probably the only real laugh I’ll have today. I turn and place my hand on Amanda’s cheek, and she holds it in place. She looks into my eyes, and says:
“I love you, Mom and I’m proud of you. You deserve today and every good thing that comes your way”
“Thank you, I love you too, darling” I say, holding back the tears at the back of my throat.
She smiles and says: “It’s time, are you ready?” I turn to take a final look in the mirror, take a deep, steadying breath and say: “I was born for this”.
Amanda walks me into the hall, from a back door, I take my seat on a beautiful, golden chair at the head of the room and take a look around; my! So many people! Didn’t Amanda say that just a few people had been invited? I smile at them all anyway, as my eyes slowly move around the room in silent appreciation. I catch my son-in-law staring at me with an approving smile; He whispered in my ears earlier how radiant I look; he doesn’t know, he can’t tell. But how can he? My eyes find my daughter, Amanda Davids-Cole, my precious Mandy. She’s one of a kind, that girl. Something moves in my heart every time I set eyes on her; she doesn’t know either. My eyes move past Mandy and continue their round of acknowledgment and thanks, and they finally come to rest on him… Tomiwa understands, he knows. As the event begins, I fix a smile on my face, and let my mind wander, I let it think of the things that were, the things that should have been, and the things that are…
My name is Eniye Davids, I am an only child and I am adopted. I was raised by mostly my adoptive father; my adoptive mother died when I was very little. I have always loved to write; it has been my only obsession for as long as I can remember. I dreamt night and day of writing novels and owning my own magazine, and everything I did was geared towards that goal. I met Tunji Davids when I was 27 years old, at a black and white ball organized by the magazine I was working with at the time. He was 6 ft of pure chocolatey goodness. We didn’t fall in love immediately, at least that’s what I had him believe; we were friends first, and three years later, we got married. We loved each other very much and he was the only person who understood my obsession. Even when I didn’t want to have kids for a while because it would interfere with my career plans, it was alright with T.J and his mom. When we finally had Mandy, she was a bundle of joy, with eyes exactly like her father’s. And like me, Mandy has no siblings, but she grew to be a fine woman, even if I say so myself.
My sixty-second birthday was a double celebration; after working for other people for so many years, I was finally launching my own lifestyle magazine: Belle. The launch was a huge success, in fact, so much more than I expected. I first met Tomiwa Coker at the after party. He greeted me warmly although I had no clue who he was. I remember him from the party; the memory stands out because of the slight limp in his walk. He was very young, maybe just a few years older than my Mandy, and he was good looking. He introduced himself as a great fan of my work and we started talking about my pieces. Suddenly, he said: “Mrs Davids, I would love to work with you.” I was taken aback by his “straight to the point” manner but really, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Nothing less should be expected of one with a mind as brilliant as his. I told him to see me later in the week in my office. He did show up, and he walked out that day being so much more than the Senoir Editor of Belle; from then on, we formed a bond so strong that he was like the son I never had.
Three years later, Belle was on the fly, family was great, life was generally good, until I started having severe abdominal pain. I went to the hospital, some tests were run and I was diagnosed of pancreatic cancer, with a life expectancy of six months. Of course my world was rocked; no one likes to hear the date of their own demise. There were so many things I still had to do, I couldn’t die, I wasn’t ready to die. I shared the news with only T.J. And Tomiwa. I couldn’t bring myself to tell Mandy; not just yet. T.J didn’t take the news well though; He changed remarkably, he didn’t eat much, didn’t talk much either, and it was as though he couldn’t stand to look at me for too long. I did my best to re-assure him that somehow, we would be alright, but he wasn’t assured. One afternoon, I was talking to T.J about some things that I wanted done if I died. If, yes. My tenacity has seen me through a lot. And even if I was going to die, I didn’t want to die hopeless; I wanted to die believing.
“Babe,” T.J still called me that after all these years
“There’s something I need to tell you.” “Ok, I’m listening”
“First, I want to apologize for not telling you until now, there really is no excuse for what happened, or how I handled it, but I have to tell you, so that if, if you..”
He couldn’t get himself to say “die”. I was getting apprehensive now, but I sat still
“I have a son. And his name is Tomiwa Coker, yes, the same one. He wasn’t aware until today; I spoke to him earlier”, he rushed on. He finally stopped talking, and it felt like the wind just got knocked out of me. So I got up, stood for some seconds to make sure I was steady, and I walked into my room. That was the last time we would speak, for two years. Tomiwa sent in a letter at work, asking for some time off work, he took time off, and resigned soon after. At first, I didn’t get it, it just didn’t seem real. The more I thought about it, the more furious I became. I just couldn’t fathom how it happened; did he have the child before we got married or after? How could he lie to me for so long?
Five weeks after the big reveal, our Doctor called to tell me that I didn’t have cancer, only pancreatitis – a non-life- threatening inflammation of the pancreas. Apparently there had been a mix-up with the tests. I was thankful that I wasn’t going to die, but I didn’t tell T.J. I felt betrayed and wounded beyond words.
At sixty seven, my magazine was the top in the country and a great favorite outside, business was going good, but my family was in shambles. I didn’t give T.J the chance to tell me more than he did; I didn’t want to hear it. One evening, I got a call from Tomiwa; he wanted us to meet someplace. He brought a woman with him. Even before we were introduced, I knew she was his mother and just out of courtesy, I decided to listen to what she had to say. It was a bachelor eve gone wrong, and T.J hadn’t known about Tomiwa until two weeks before my cancer scare. I didn’t have anything to say to the woman, I just thanked her and left. I decided I would let T.J tell me his side of the story, when I got home, but it was Tunji’s turn not to speak to me. I found him on the floor in the room, dead.
Today, I turn 70, and my publishing house has just been commissioned. I would give anything to turn back time, to speak to him again. I wish I forgave him sooner, I wish I had listened. He always believed in me and it would have meant the world if he was here with me now. I blame myself for holding on to anger for so long. All that happened doesn’t seem so important now. The program comes to an end, and I smile gratefully as Mandy and Tomiwa come to link their arms with mine and walk me away from the applauding crowd; they can’t tell. At least I got my dream, and I have people to share it with; that much I’m thankful for. As I step out of the room, I let the tears fall.
I wear a mask
To cover the pain
I wear a smile
To hide my tears
I speak the words
But its just too late
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