The Mercedes was standing on its nose. Staring back at me through the windshield was the freshly resurfaced asphalt of the 3rd mainland bridge. Somewhere at the back of my mind, the thought registered, that normally, if I looked to my right I should be able to catch a glimpse of the only swimming pool at the University of Lagos.
I felt the equivalent of a mountain slamming into my butt, thighs and lower legs all at once, and my upper body swinging back into a vertical position. The highway was again spread out before me, and there was this blue sedan careening drunkenly right in front of the Mercedes. It’s tail end was right beneath the front bumper, as if it had shot out from beneath….
My hands were ripped off the steering wheel by the impact of the heavy Mercedes E-Class Sedan slamming into the road on its rear wheels first. At this point I realised I wasn’t hearing any sounds. A black Xterra flew into the blue sedan. My front wheels touched down and that sent the airbag slamming into my face and chest which were traveling just as fast in the opposite direction. The Mercedes was in motion again, its swing interrupted by blow after blow, like soft punches planted in quick succession by the fists of a heavyweight prize-fighter. Each impact jarred me into further senselessness, still I remained conscious and my sight did not fail.
I could see the calm waters of the lagoon beneath the bridge rushing towards me through the spider web of cracks on my windshield. Something flared inside my skull, and then for the first time since the nightmare began, I screamed.
I bolted upright in bed, still screaming. My attempt to jump out of bed was foiled by my legs simply refusing to obey. It was always like this when I managed to awaken from the dream. It took a while for my legs to realize that it wasn’t the actual experience all over again.
Both my hands were clutching the wet bedding. Heavy beads of sweat coursed along every inch of my skin and my scalp felt like I’d dipped my head in cold water.
Through the darkness I could feel her eyes on me; felt more than saw her figure approach the bed. A soft towel mopped away the perspiration while her other hand ran errands along my back. Her caresses served to ground me in the present moment; and they always did. My legs began to comply and I brought my feet to rest upon the floor – further grounding.
She was sitting beside me now. I could feel her breath on my neck, and then the softness of her lips. Her tongue sent liquid fire rippling down my spine. I didn’t move my head from my hands in which it was now cradled, but a part of me moved.
The soaked towel brushed against my thigh on its way to the ground. Both her hands became really restless; communicating a passion which my body quickly began to mirror even while my soul still mired in two memories of the same event.
Also remembered clearly the look of horror on her face the first time she’d witnessed my having this nightmare. It’d been I who’d had to reassure her upon my awakening; that was after my legs agreed to move me to the corner of the room where the walls had prevented her from moving further away. A year and a half later and she still sought refuge in the wall’s embrace. Initiating sex just after I regained command of my senses was a very recent development, and while I much preferred the concept of it to just her maternal catering alone, the first and last three episodes had been pretty awful performances on my part. Not being able to help thinking about them didn’t help the present one either.
A short while later we both lay on the wooden floorboards like tousled pieces of one whole. My fingers traced lazy lines upon her scalp along the valleys between the thick cornrows into which her hair was woven. Her breath fanned the hair upon my chest in intermittent caresses of its own sort.
The voice which had pierced the silent darkness was pregnant with apology. It was mine.
“You really shouldn’t be. I understand. Things like this take some time.”
She must have felt my lungs strain to push forth the sigh which was my response. I didn’t know whether to be relieved by this professed understanding of my latest failure to satisfy her sexually, or to give in to my suspicions that it was my therapist at the agency who had sold her the idea of using sex as a means of mitigating the immediate aftereffects of my recurring nightmare. Neither option was pleasant.
My fingers distractedly strayed from the valleys amidst her hair, down the nape of her neck and unto the smooth fields of her shoulders and lower back.
“If you keep doing that….” She paused, as if the thickness in her own voice shocked her.
“If you keep doing that, I’m going to have to find a way…”
“I’ll help you find a way.”
Some hours later, we rolled into the students’ car lot of her faculty at the University of Lagos in my black Prado. I still had trouble riding in sedans. During the accident, I had experienced a surreal sense of safety for that little while the Mercedes had been suspended in midair. The Toyota Prado somehow provided something reminiscent of that sense of being safely elevated from the road.
She noticed me staring longingly at her body while she stretched to pull her backpack from the back seats. A shy smile flirted across her lips. There was this shocking suppleness to her form, despite its fullness. I believed it to be a direct derivative of the combination of hours of intense physical training, consistent work outs and her blossoming youth. The latter bothered me; she was too young to be drawn into the antics of the agency.
She was smiling now, the backpack sitting on her thighs. She leaned towards me and I responded by kissing her full on the lips. At first lightly, and then deeply. Our kiss ended, she made to climb out of the vehicle, but almost halfway out, she paused, looked back at me and whispered “I love you”. Then she bounded out, slamming the door behind her and broke into a light run as her feet hit the ground.
I so wanted to believe those words, but I couldn’t. Not until I was sure she wasn’t also with the agency.