BY UZOAMAKA NDUKA
She was barely a year old when I lost her. It seemed inconceivable that she will be snatched from me, never to be seen again but that was exactly what happened. Looking back, I knew I never planned to have her. She was an accidental gift. The first day I held her, I felt something I had not felt in a while; a bond, a trusting bond I thought would last forever. From that day, I barely let her out of my sight and my grasp. When strangers held her, I’d hold my breath in trepidation until she was handed back to me. Even in the hands of family, my fears did not ease.
Months later and she was an integral part of me. I loved hearing her cheery sounds that told me that somebody thought of me, remembered me or even needed me. Of course, there were days when she could be a nuisance; Getting in the way of my work, crying out for attention when I actually needed to focus on something else and being a distraction when I spent time with family, but I loved her still.
On that fateful day, I needed to run some errands and there was no way I could leave her behind, so I carried her along. She was such an angel; no fuss, no disturbance and I was pleased. So I thought “why not give her a treat”. Off to the vendor I went and bought tons of things, and with her firmly in my grasp, it was hard to get my wallet out to pay the bill. With sympathy written all over his face, the vendor said “Here, let me help you with her.” I gladly obliged, grateful for his help and kindness. I whipped around, set my bag down on a chair, rummaged for my wallet and turned to hand him his money but he wasn’t there.
I craned my neck in various angles but he was simply gone. I tried to shake off the sense of foreboding that was creeping in, the slight acceleration of my heartbeat, the looming hysteria. “Be calm”, I told myself, “he must be here somewhere. Don’t panic” but I searched everywhere and he was simply gone, gone with my girl. I felt faint as people gathered, drawn by my shouts of panic and hysteria, asking banal questions like “are you okay? What is the matter?” and all I could say was “my baby is gone”.
Failing to find her, I went home in a daze. How do I explain the loss of my precious one to my family? How do I make them understand that I wasn’t careless but someone was just cruel? The look on my face when I walked through the door told them there was something wrong but my hands, empty without her, spoke even louder. “Uzy, where is she?” No words came out when they asked me.
I sank into a chair and let the tears flow. “She’s gone” I muttered. I saw the accusation in their eyes. I heard them think “how could she have been so careless?” Alas, the victim becomes the guilty. The wronged party stands accused. I cried so hard I thought I’d drown in my tears. I hid from the world and slipped into depression. Her loss left me torn but what threatened to destroy me was the unshakeable thought that maybe, just maybe, it was all my fault.
PS: This story was inspired by the loss of my phone.