Husband Ghost

9 min readFeb 13, 2024


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Try as I might to deny it, some part of me knew Tobi was not real. It was a strong knowledge, couldn’t shake it off, no matter how many times I coaxed my mind with pep talks about not allowing the trauma of my past relationships ruin the one good thing I had going for me. No matter how many times I confronted him about it — how little I knew about him despite how long we’d been together, about how I feared that one morning I would awake to find straightened sheets in place of the slender, solid weight of his frame, and his palms would no longer slide into mine as it had every morning for the past nine months. He had laughed when I told him. His laughter, carried as if from a hollow, came to my ears, encircled them, slithered down the corridors with warmth so intense, powerful and complete with an assurance I could almost touch when he said in his sing-song baritone: “I will never abandon you, Ifem. You have nothing to worry about.”

My previous partner had said the exact phrase to me. I will never abandon you, my light. I’d be directionless like the wind. But he’d carried his big head to go and die in a road accident while traveling from Enugu to Lagos, for what he said was a business trip. And at his requiem in his hometown(one of his coworkers, a friend, had taken me), I was bone-shocked to discover that the woman sitting behind the condolence table, garbed in white all-through was his wife, and that the three young boys surrounding her like soldiers, were his children. The trip he’d died making was in return to his real family for his wife’s PhD convocation at the university of Lagos. I had been enraged then, walked stiffly behind my friend in a queue leading up to the table. I contemplated telling the woman as I shook her hand that her husband was a cheat, and that he deserved to have died in such horrible manner. The line proceeded slowly, I fiddled the promise ring he’d fitted on my middle finger after a wild round in my house, the one he paid for in full with his money, finally taking it off, slipping it inside my purse before my friend left the table and it was my turn to offer condolence. I told her I knew her husband well, that we worked very closely.

“I don’t recognize you. What’s your name?” A hint of suspicion danced in her tired, tear-reddened eyes.


“Richard never spoke about you. I know all his close associates.”

I wanted to say maybe it was because her husband thought telling her about me was like delivering arsenal into the enemy’s camp. He thought it best to leave me out of their conversations, smart, big-headed man that he was. He also never mentioned his family to me. He’d been good to me. It would’ve been senseless to ignite chaos.

“I am deeply sorry for your loss, ma. Your husband was a seasoned professional at his job.”

I discarded the ring as our vehicle sped past the undulating hills of Nike, folded up all the promises he’d taught my heart to believe. In my room that night, in the bed that had bore his weight, I thrashed madly about mourning something that wasn’t mine to mourn.


Tobi’s words buoyed me out of the morass I’d been wallowing in since he appeared in my life, held my arms and led me over the ledge, as I crossed from a world of skepticism into one where he was possible, where his presence was real as real can be — like the black mole on the arch beneath his right eye which I caressed on Saturday mornings that I usually woke up before he did, when he lay asleep undisturbed, as if in death, until it was noon. He was as real as the sweat that poured in rivulets down his back, denying me a firm grip of skin while he worked his weight above me; like the grunts and hot breaths that clung to my wet throat while we kissed, as my thighs vibrated from the ecstasy his hardness harnessed from my body. That, too, was real, in fact, I don’t think anything can be realer than an orgasm.

Yet, the knowledge of his un-realness was a ghost that retreated into the shadows, because I commanded it to, never rearing its head for the longest time. But its presence was still apparent, lurking about. He owned only three shirts, three jeans trousers, a black tux, and a pair of canvas. When he moved in finally, two weeks after I asked him to, a month after we met at Ballroom, he came with just a carry-on slung over his shoulder. Nothing else. I thought he wanted to make it easier for himself to be able to leave me. Less load, quicker disappearance. I kept expecting to find more of his luggage occupying space in the wardrobe we shared. I kept expecting to wake up one morning, or return home from work one evening and not find the carry-on in the corner where he’d securely fit it on the top wardrobe shelf. But that never happened. And even now, I can see the bag, black and new, unmoved from its position. He’s no longer here, yet what belongs to him still is. I realize he’d taken to owning little not for himself, not because he was cunning and calculative of his plan to disappear after he tired of me. It was for me, to make it easier to forget him, to get rid of any physical memory that he was ever here. More bags, clothes, shoes, meant it’d be tasking to move him out of my space after he was gone. He’d left a note tucked in the side pocket of the carry-on, the white edge of the paper sticking out. Had it always been there, this note? It was his directive for me, not a love letter of sorts. It listed all the belongings he ever owned in this lifetime, everything of his that he brought into my home. “They fit in here,” the paper said. “Burn them.”


I’d said yes without much persuasion. We invited a pastor and tied the knot in my sitting room, just us three. Tobi had no living relative, and my brothers had long relocated abroad. I enjoyed the intimacy, so I didn’t invite friends. Tobi sang love divine all loves excelling after he put the ring on my finger, I wept hot tears because I never pictured myself this happy in a wedding dress after Richie. The ring didn’t fit — it does now with the acquired weight — yet it didn’t deter me from flaunting it at work. Our love was real: awaking with his fingers tracing patterns in mine; finding poetry inked by his slant, artsy handwriting in folded-up papers underneath my pillow or the lampstand on my dressing table. I came to love the unsalted scrambled eggs he made me. He was scared of adding too much salt, so he didn’t add any at all. His weird taste in music, now my favorite tracks. His terrible dancing. And when one morning I discovered my body taking new form, I knew we’d sealed the deal.

He’d been there with me at the clinic, kissing my knuckles as the nurse moved the pad across my slimy belly, pointing out our soon-come baby on the monitor. He’d been here, sitting on this couch, to hear the first kick that advanced into multiple kicks in the the middle of the night, jolting me out of sleep, painful, relentless, as if a thousand horses galloped inside of me. He rubbed my feet on those dreadful nights, the discomfort settling around my waist like a tight band. He’d been here to setup the cot in the spare room, which was why he wasn’t there with me at the boutique while I picked out baby items, when the strange woman approached me to say out loud what I dreaded to be true.

She looked well-worn with age, eyes hooded under dark circles, head scarved, a chaplet dangling from her neck. Tobi had been dead for three years, she told me. A road accident. They never recovered his body. He’d left home after calling off his wedding. He discovered his bride was pregnant by his brother. I was dizzy, as if under a spell, my neck was sweaty even under the heavy AC of the boutique.

“When did this happen?” I asked.

“Three years now.”

“No. The exact date.”

“November 11th.”

That was the day Richie’s accident happened. What were the odds? I struggled to keep my body upright, leaned onto one of the shelves. I could taste behind my throat the acridity rising from my gut.

“Is that his child you’re carrying?” the woman asked. There was an accusatorial glint in the way her index pointed out my belly.


“You know, you’re not his first. He’s been several places planting his seed, leaving whenever we discover his hiding.”

“Why are you telling me this?” My eyes stung in the beginnings of a bawling. I hurriedly took my handbag, abandoned the trolley-load of baby things, and speed-walked out of the boutique, the woman trudging behind me.

“Tell him we’re looking for him.”

“Who’re you sef?”

“His aunt. Nwaka. Tell him to please come home so we can bury him, so he can rest in peace.”

“He seems at peace now,” I said, entering my car.

He wasn’t there when I got home, I didn’t bother searching for him; I knew. And when I returned to the hospital a week later, a ball of fire between my legs, the nurses looked at me askance, pointed to my huge belly, then the screen. “There’s no baby in there anymore.”



here are the things I know about you: you dance

as if you need saving, as if the stage is made of water, and

you’re drowning in the currents. but it is not at all a call for rescue,

I’ve learnt. you’re not drowning. your flailing arms, like wings, are salvation,

your body swinging to music is made of water, there’s nothing to differ

-entiate the bobbing of your afro from the radiance of the

moon standing guard as you sway, without any

care left for the world spinning madly about.

you smile and the world is summarized

in the way your lips are parted, two rivers stretching and

stretching, swallowing up obstacles in its way.

third thing I know about you, light,

the way your eyes twitch in your sleep, as if

you’re suspecting of the world, as if

you’re scared of disappearing, of waking up

to find life as you know it upended by some cruel twist.

coffee with two sugar cubes, no more

because you’re afraid the sweetness could kill

suck the life out of you, in steady slow motion, like tap dancing

in your old house with your mother on the morning of your graduation,

hands behind her back, tear-wet shoulders, the sweetness pouring

from her heaved breaths, rancid

your mother who always smelt of lavender and loved the harmattan

your mother, who got the sweetness-inflicted disease, carving a hollow in

your chest, shoulder, places where parts of her had last found respite.

you love the harmattan, but detest the dry wind,

said it reminded you of hurt, blood-clots slinking from your nostrils,

the childhood wounds that took ages to heal, the dust that coated everything

in a film of permanence, casting them as if like monuments. I say, maybe,

you don’t love the harmattan that well if you dislike the accompanying features.

you say I don’t understand. you can love a thing in parts. you can love a thing in

parts and that still counts.


I do not want to love you in parts

I want to love you whole. raise you to the heavens

make the angels reel in a thunderous jealousy, by which I mean

I do not want to love you in shadows, or in secrets,

a vampiric kind of love, full of darkly desires, but withered by sunlight,

by which I mean I want to love the parts of you that feel unloved

the parts of you that shriek away from the light of truth, the parts of you

that feel unworthy, untamed. I want to love you wild, unfettered

consumed by the fire our passions make. I want to love you without

inhibitions, by which I mean, I want to love you

“without knowing how, or when, or

from where.” by which I mean, I want to love you

“straightforwardly, without complexities or pride”

I want to love you without alternatives, without

knowing any other way to love you than this: “where I does not exist, nor you,

so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,

so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”

*italicized portions in the poem are from Pablo Neruda’s sonnet.