I’ve thought of all the ways I could have avoided meeting you. I could have left home early, that day. I also could have taken my own umbrella when I saw the clouds gather but then I had no umbrella and Dr Obumen, my Press Laws lecturer, had threatened to give an impromptu test since the beginning of the semester and I had quite the knack for missing tests. So I dared the darkening clouds and left my studio apartment in Aluu for Abuja campus, Uniport.
Once the rain began, you appeared. Or was it I who appeared to you? I was merely seeking shelter from the rain under Mama Blessing’s MTN umbrella and you were buying recharge card. Nobody leaves their vehicles to recharge their phones in the rain, Imoh. But you always did manage to be at the right place at the right time. So I called Kesiena, asking if Obumen was in class. The reception at her end was so bad she couldn’t hear a thing and that was when you, Sir Lancelot, offered to take me to the campus.
My mother didn’t warn me about your kind, Imoh. She warned me about the men who would look at me as though I was food; to be eaten. She warned me about the ones who would fill my head with so much lies, I would begin to distrust even myself. She warned me about men with a long trail of women in their lives. My mother never told me that I’d meet a man with eyes like yours; eyes that saw into my very soul and knew just where to touch; eyes that could not lie. The day I asked if you were seeing someone, your eyes answered before your mouth. You said she’d been with you a long time. But in spite of that, I was awestruck by the way you looked at me. It made me stare into the mirror longer than I usually would. I wanted to understand what you meant when you said “you’re beautiful in a way that shouldn’t be possible”. It didn’t make sense, but I believed you because you said it first with your eyes and your eyes never lied.
You said I shouldn’t have fallen for you. Lol! Did you give me a chance to think it through? You left work, drove two hours to sit with me through my dental surgery because I said I was scared. It was the same day you cooked the watery noodles with the half boiled egg we would later joke about, in my tiny kitchen. The kitchen was so tiny and you looked so out of place, I wondered what kind of man you were. I wondered until I said “I love you”. And you just smiled at me. You said I was 19, that I would love other men soon enough. You were only 27, Imoh, and very wrong.
Maybe it was your honesty. The fact that you didn’t bother to hide her pictures hanging on the walls of your sitting room. Or maybe it was because she was so far away in Canada studying for her Masters. But the more you smiled at me, the less valid her existence got until she became a figment of my imagination. So throughout the time we spent together it was easy to not think of the girl. As long as we didn’t talk about her, she wasn’t real. Or so I thought.
Kesiena said if I fought hard enough, I would have you to myself. But I didn’t even know what or who to fight. Was it a girl in Canada whose name I didn’t even know? Was it for your affection and attention which I already had? I never had cause to feel like the other woman. But then was I ever your woman? So I chose to fight by living every moment with you as though it was my last. My mother wouldn’t even believe a man like you exists. You, who would give almost anything and ask for nothing in return. You drove me all the way from Port Harcourt to Ogun state for NYSC orientation exercise because I missed my flight. And through the ride, you kept smiling as though it was nothing.
It was so easy to keep denying the girl’s existence while I was in Ijebu. The conversations, visits, what else would a relationship require? So I kept on loving you. And even though you would only say, “I care deeply for you”, I heard what I wanted to hear, until I wanted more.
Maybe I was selfish and proud, but all I wanted was to be with you. So, when I moved to Lagos after youth service and stopped talking to you, it wasn’t because I found someone else. I got tired of waiting. All I wanted was for you to finally realise that you loved me. I figured it couldn’t be that hard. I also played myself.
I’m looking at this picture of you two and you can’t even look at her the way you used to look at me. I want to feel proud but I am too miserable.
Today is Saturday and as I sit here in my tiny apartment, looking at Instagram pictures of your wedding to The Girl, the same girl I saw in your eyes three years ago, I ask myself how you could be so beautiful, so perfect and yet not mine. Why didn’t my mother ever meet a man like you?
Image source: Enwongo C.Cleopas