The stark whiteness of the dress ran endlessly or so it seemed from the angle the photo was taken. But perhaps what made this picture worth the double take was the way her jet-black fused with the white lace like the milk I pour in my morning coffee. My grandfather will call his ‘adumaradan’ as he did, turning from eulogy to compliments. I hear his voice say it again and realise just how much I miss him. Perhaps if he had been here at the time that everything came crashing down, I would have found some comfort in his lightly spoken admonishment. Maybe not this time……at least this issue was not one about my beauty. I was Icarus and he, the sun; I flew too close and he burnt me. But why this picture – of all the pictures I scrolled past mindlessly watching my Instagram feed attempting to get him and it off my mind, I wonder. I observe this woman’s face and it felt which felt unfamiliar given how long I had stared at the photo. Now I cast my mind back to the moment when the photo first pierced my reverie and finally understand why – I saw myself in all of my ‘adumaradan-eleyinju-ege-eyinfunjowo’ grace and not her. The warm tears begin to roll down my face again moistening the dried streaks of tears left earlier. Now I ask: Should I have seen it coming? Now I think, why was I so scared of him? How did he successfully make me feel like my privilege was something I ought to apologise for?
I loved him and he loved me too. After 4 years, am I crazy by being reluctant to doubt us given how we ended? I cast my mind to how insignificant our meeting was; to how had not needed the toilet so urgently, that now unfortunate incident of literally running into him would not have happened. Perhaps, if I had left work on time as I planned to, I would not have been in such a rush to get ready and leave my house. Better still, if Chi had been stuck in traffic as usual, perhaps she would have gotten to my house as quickly as she did, giving me more time after I got ready to use the toilet. But then, how far back do I go? do I also start to blame Yinka for being born on that date or her boyfriend, Tonye, for the planning the party which took me to that restaurant in the first place; or blame Azeez’s IBS and its perpetual post-lunch vandalism of the office toilet which rendered it useful only to the strong-hearted. Do I blame myself for taking time to listen to him? Perhaps I should never have gone for that first date or the second……but he had me at the first date and he knew it for the next four years.
I always said I would never date someone who I could not see a future with…….and at the time, I saw the future with him. It seemed from the first date that we wanted the same things despite starkly different pasts and at the time, this all made sense. As much as I will like to say I was struck by his beauty that day, I must say it was more about shoulders. They seemed so sturdy and strong…………perhaps mature aged by the weight of the responsibility he shouldered daily. For me at that prime age of 24, that was all I wanted……..a responsible man. What exactly I meant by “responsible” is no longer clear to me. I remember the first date……and the moment I agreed to go on that date with him. He had been waiting outside the toilet and I had breezed past him on my way back to join the surprise before Tonye confirms Yinka’s arrival. He stopped me outside the private dining room Tonye had booked, to introduce himself and asked for my name. I was reluctant and so I gave him a fake name and as I was about to walk off, he pestered me for my number. Now I wonder why I did not give him a fake number. He called a day later and somehow, he managed to convince me to go on that first date and I thought why not; after all, I had not been in a relationship in a while. I remember being so happy after the first date, that made it all seem worth it. He told me he knew from that moment that I would be his wife. I also remember that we both had such a good time that our second date happened the next day…….I mean, he asked. Three years later, he would propose on the anniversary of our first date and I would accept convincing myself that we could work through our issues. Yet, now I think, the differences we found at the start would be the end of us.
I was St Saviours, Ikoyi and he was Mushin Public primary. I was the Cornell University and he was OSCOTECH. I was an only child and he was the first of 5 children. We were different, but I loved him. I remember first major fight – Major like we did not speak for 3 or 4 days after a very intense argument. Thinking about it now, maybe I should have seen the end at that point. It was a year into our relationship, and it had been my birthday a couple of days earlier. He did not get me anything for my birthday just like he did during valentine’s day. Although I had accepted the excuse that he was broke from having to pay his younger sister’s school fees and give his brother an allowance, I still had this unresolved feeling that I was somehow trifling in his world. He was trying to open up to me about his pending expenses that meant his following months’ salary had been tightly allocated before it even arrived. As spoke, I began to wonder why the previous month, I was not a consideration in his money allocation. He moved on to talking about his younger brother’s bad spending habits given he gave him money to last him six month a couple of months prior. I started to wonder why even the smallest gift for me could not take priority over his brother’s needs. I was surprised to hear myself say “Will your family’s needs always take priority over me?”. But I was even more surprised by the nonchalance that accompanied his response – “So long as they are more consequential than yours, yes”. That was enough to get my head spinning and I let it all out. He had referred to me as a spoilt brat with a sense of entitlement and stormed off. Was I really entitled to expect even the smallest thing from my partner on my 25th birthday? I remember feeling my world stop but now I know that it was only a peak into what would be the end of us.
In the end, it would be his ₦500-a-plate catering versus my ₦5000-a-plate catering and the arm that stretched out from the responsibility shoulder that would be break the camel’s back. We started planning the wedding after he met my family which went hitch free. I remember my dad being excited at the fact that he finally had “son” who studied engineering especially one as obscure as Mechatronics. With master’s degrees in engineering and Management from Unilag, and now owner of an alternative energy start-up, he was perfect on paper, every parents dream. He already had has had me and then he had my parents. I remember when he took me to choose my rings and the fight that ensued. He gave me a budget which he did not want to go over by ₦50,000 and when I offered to pay the difference, he threw that phrase -“spoilt brat”- at me again. In retrospect that word defined key moments in our relationship when he used it as a joke – my 26th birthday when daddy gifted me a Rolex watch; when the Chanel bag my mom got me when I got promoted; when I told him about the girls trip I was taking to Mykonos or when he used to justify his frugality when it came to me. Now, from the impact of his palm against my cheek which accompanied him calling me a spoilt brat during our last moments together, I know those shoulders did not show responsibility but oozed ego. This is the first time he would hit me, and I remember trying to rationalise it because it had been an intense couple of days of fight after fight trying to iron out the final details of our wedding parties.
I remember thinking it was his sense of responsibility that made him want to contribute to the cost of the wedding although traditionally, the burden ought to have been my parents. In the course of that final fight, I remember mentioning that my parents wanted to pay for it all and that he did not have to chip in if he felt their preferred caterer was too expensive. The fast pace at which this fight occurred left me remembering very little but his response this remains vivid in my memory – “YOU ARE MARRYING INTO MY FAMILY NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. YOUR PARENTS ARE NOT BUYING A SON-IN-LAW AND SO THEY ARE NOT PAYING FOR THIS WEDDING. THIS IS MY HOME AND NOT THEIRS AND SO LONG AS THAT IS THE CASE, I DO NOT NEED THEM DICTATING HOW I RUN THINGS, I AM NOT THEIR PUPPET”. I do not remember what I said in response, but I remember the slap that will follow and the way he called me a spoilt brat with utmost disdain. I remember falling into the solace of the sofa against which I stood.
***Let’s discuss in the comment section where the faults lay with this relationship. I look forward to hearing from you 365-ers
– Adumaradan: dark skin shines – Name given to a beautiful woman with glowing dark skin
– Eleyinju-ege: Hazel eyes – Name give to a person who is described as having graceful eyes
– Eyinfunjowo: teeth whiter than cowries – Name given to a person with very white teeth, a trait seen by the Yoruba people as a sign of beauty.
– OSCOTECH: Osun State College of Technology – A state owned University located in Osun state Nigeria
– Mushin: A local government area situated on the mainland of Lagos State, Nigeria – It is known for its poor sanitation congestion and low-quality housing.
– Ikoyi: An area situated in the Eti-Osa Local government of Lagos state – it is recognised as one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Nigeria