Her voice was that quiet confidence that spoke volumes. It echoed the graceful direction of sound by grandma; directing you, telling a story, or lovingly scolding you. I smiled in my head, the kind that only appears as a slight lift of eyelashes in an otherwise unperturbed face. I was being interviewed for a job, she my potential employer. I wasn’t sure she would appreciate being told I was thinking of her in poetic terms. Women can be unpredictable like that. Years of trying to break through the glass ceiling have made some of them sensitive to the slightest nuance. And while I wasn’t sure I wanted the job, I knew I wanted to spend some time in her company. She exuded that unmistakable cool aura of strength and confidence. Call me what you please, but I think those are the most attractive things a person can possess. For some reason, she chose to like me. Perhaps for same reason or another, she chose to tell me a little about herself. I was the interviewee; but I daresay I learnt more about her than she did about me. We spoke, ignorant of time’s passage, unwilling to track it.
“I am a widow”
I felt my jaw drop. Unconsciously my right hand rose to perch my glasses closer to my eyes; it seemed I was seeing things wrong. Some minutes and discreet up-and-down gazes after, I noticed my tongue unwilling to move, felt my eyes grow bigger. My brain was interpreting what my eyes were seeing through the ‘widow’ filter, and getting “error404 Page Not Found” response. She was exquisite: a dress that curved her body while leaving room for your imagination, a dark jacket with a bright red emblem just above the curve of her full bust, and blood red stilettos. For the love of God! Stilettos!!! I watched her gait when she walked to bridge the gap between us and could only think of a cat. Her last of three sons had just finished from college, and she looked just about 20 years older than me (and I look like I’m 16 years old). She was at the top of her career, and managing two homes; continents apart.
Today, on International Widows Day, I empathize with every woman who has ever had to bury her husband. Every woman who felt her world shift because the centre of her universe stopped breathing. Every woman who felt pain so deep she thought her heart would physically shatter. Every woman who hoped her heart would literally shatter so its pieces might fill the emptiness she felt inside. For every woman who lost her sense of identity and/or belonging in the world because her husband left it.
I also iterate the words of that amazing woman who gave me a glimpse into the world of widowhood:
It’s okay to be broken. But don’t stay broken too long. You don’t know why who might pick your pieces if you stay afloor too long.
When the world hits you down, when your world is a chaotic jumble of ill-meaning others, when pain is all your heart can feel and your spirit is a wilted flower, when you can’t breathe because memories of a happy lifetime ago suffocate you, when you’re talking but there’s no one to listen and all that’s left are sounds in your head, when you wake from dreams and the pillow is soaked with tears… remember those words. Accept your broken self and heart, then build it all back together. Piece by bleeding-tear piece.
I’ll be tweeting about widowhood @DupeKuku between 4 and 5 p.m today; Nigerian time. Dear Reader, kindly direct your network that way; let’s make today memorable for every widow on cyber space.