#LoveLiteratiContest – ‘Heaven Can Wait’ by Ama Udofa

Love Literati contest - shortlisted submission - elsieisy blog

The dust winds have become more frequent when Nonyelum starts spending weekends at Ayo’s self-con in Gusau. On one of those hazy mornings, they stay too long in bed, until she says they have to eat or she’ll die hungry in his arms, then disappears into the kitchenette.

Back in the room, a cockroach scuttles across. Nonyelum can’t stand the smell of cockroaches, dead ones worse so. If she weren’t around, Ayo would turn the house upside down just to squash it. But he doesn’t; instead, he reaches across and shoos it away.

To be in love is to concede.

If he stops looking at the corner the cockroach disappeared into, perhaps he’d forget he ever saw it? If he stops worrying about his conundrum, will he forget he ever had it?

***

Six weeks into 2020, and all arguments about which year is the beginning or end of what decade have now died. Initial reservations about staying back in Zamfara have also ebbed; no bandit attacks nor Boko Haram yet, none of those things that made his mother wail when his NYSC call-up letter arrived and doomed him to the Northern hinterland.

He’d spend his days in Tsafe camp zombeing around, counting down until he could flee back to Lagos, only taking part in parades because marching made him feel a little less useless.

Until the evening he sprained his ankle and hobbled to the clinic, where the physio whose hands were maybe a little too strong (for a woman, he thought), who forced him to take pills (which he hated), introduced herself as Nonyelum.

“Stay with me,” she said. “That’s what it means in Igbo.”

Even after his leg healed, he kept going back to the clinic. They’d gist until lights-out and he’d forget to get supper from mammy market, so she’d give him glucose D powder.

But Nonyelum wouldn’t relocate to Lagos because she couldn’t afford it.

When Ayo told his mother he wouldn’t be relocating, she cast and bound every evil spirit trying to lead her son to an untimely death.

***

Outside, Hayin Buba Area bustles: the arrhythmia of footsteps, the cacophony of motorcycle horns, the catharsis of street food aromas.

Someone must have told Ayo’s mother he’s eligible for relocation after camp, because she’s on his case again. “Engineer Azeez says your slot in Chevron is still open,” she said last week, on one of those dreary phone calls.

Two nights ago, it was: “Imagine the opportunities you’re missing out on just to rot away in that backward desert.”

Yesterday: “This is the Heaven every corper dreams of and you’re throwing it away?”

Nonyelum’s off-key rendition of Fireboy’s Like I Do fills the tiny apartment from the kitchenette.

Ayo leans in the doorway and watches her whisking eggs: short dreadlocks standing defiantly like little antennae, shoulders and hips swaying to tone-deaf a capella.

He steps in and hugs her from behind.

“Limme jor,” she says.

In this moment, Heaven can wait.

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38 comments

  1. This is really nice. Just the right amount of sentiment, and great attention to detail. This is a writer to watch.
    Ama, like a lizard, “Agama eyes on you!!!”
    But seriously, great work. I’m a little jealous of both your skill and the fellow in the story. Thanks for this.

  2. You take me there. To the north. And then to the love you find Far away from home. When it’s all you have to hold on to. Yes. Heaven can wait.

  3. It has a touch of the whimsical, keeps you glued with just the right dictions and expressions.
    Beautifully crafted. Well done.

  4. Maybe one day I would find a love that sacrifices heaven for me.

    The story is too short, I do not want to create an end for it 😭

  5. That some really nice sentence crafting here. Plus, that ending was genius. I like that the writer doesn’t let us know whether or not he decides to stay or relocate. Love hardly ever makes sense. This writer is someone to look out for. It’s in the small moments that heaven should really wait.

  6. Great work, Ama. You were able to create substantial detail & backstory within a very limited word-count, & I find that very admirable. Definitely worth the 3 minutes I spent on it. Cheers!

  7. My God Ama this is so beautiful. I always like seeing you write about love because come on, no one does it like you do. You deserve to be wherever this story takes you to

  8. This story has the right dose of sentimentality and harmony, which is partly what love is about (especially in its nascent phase).

    The writing is succinct and compact, and the diction exudes a well burnished tenderness.

    It’s a pretty straightforward romantic story with an affective ending that leaves the reader craving for more.

    Well done, Ama.

  9. I like this story. I particularly like the fluidity with which you alternate sweetly between the present and past while projecting the future as hopeful and beautiful because love is all. Thank you, Ama.

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