I wasn’t expecting the message: Hi, I can write children’s stories. We started talking. I’m Ohakwe, he said, Ohax for short, and I thought I had absolutely no interest in calling him Ohax; Ohakwe was the most beautiful name I’d ever heard. It means unity, he said, in a nutshell.
He flattered me, asked me question after question, was genuinely interested in me. He was careful, too, like when he asked how old I was, but then immediately said, ‘Or do you consider that a personal question?’
He laughed often, although I’ll never know the sound of it.
He flattered me.
I looked him up on Instagram. Followed him. Liked his pictures. When his story came in I was impressed. Submitted it immediately.
We talked some more:
Him: So what are you up to
Me: You mean at the moment?
Me: Nothing. Making dinner, actually.
Him: For who?
Me: For me, my brother, my sister.
Him: Are you the cook at home? Or you’re the last
Me: Lol. I’m not the last. And everybody in my house cooks. Except my little sister, who’s just 10. It just fell on me tonight
Him: You’re the first?
Me: Yes. But I’m not the oldest child at home.
He told me about his family. First of four children. His immediate younger sibling married. His little brother still in school, ‘chilling’. I asked why he wasn’t married. We’re working at it, he said. Well, I’m not particularly killing myself over it. It comes when it comes. I laughed.
Last night, the news came. There was a photo of him, to aid recognition. It was a photo I recognized from Instagram. ‘Our friend Ohax has passed on.’ and it struck me that I’d never get to meet him, that I didn’t even know what he sounded like. I was terrified. I don’t know why, but I was.
This morning, after a few sips of wine, I played Hold On by Chord Overstreet and cried. Ola says, Calm down. You can’t let yourself react like this.
I’m calm, well, at least physically I am. In my mind, I keep replaying bits of our conversations. I don’t want to say rest in peace because that just feels too flimsy. I can’t get his image out of my head. What is going on right now in his family? What is his little brother thinking at the moment? What, for God’s sake, did his laugh sound like?
It didn’t occur to me at first to write this. Our friendship was private, I doubt a single person knew about it, or what it meant to me. I doubt a single person cares how much he flattered me. I doubt a single person would understand how I feel. Somehow, I don’t think I have the right to feel so bad, we were, after all, not very close. But I don’t care. I do feel bad. I feel terrible. And I miss him.
I’ve still not gotten feedback on his story I submitted. When I do, I have no idea how I would react.