She was everything I thought a woman should be. She had everything in my approved proportion. The right attitude, the right complexion, a well-toned body and an admired part that would make me think about two big oranges. She was dark and tall. She was the kind the Yorubas would call adumaradan, and there was something about her smile.
On a few occasions when it all started in Ibadan we would walk hand-in-hand on the sidewalks in the evening, we would laugh about the fact that we seem to have the same height. She could walk for long without complaining, she was not like the lazy ones who would get down from a car and would stop an okada for a destination of less than a hundred metres.
She was unlike most black women; she loved her hair, she actually had hair. Real hair.
We were close like lovers in our UI days. Sometimes we would have dinner at U&I, that restaurant beside Abdulsalam Abubakar Hall. After the dinners we would walk slowly, leisurely, to Awo Hall; we would stop beside the entrance of the hall and talk for hours, until our silences become unspoken intimate words.
“You have to go now Shola,” she would say. “It’s getting too late.” and then I would walk all the way to Tedder, hugging myself like a girl poorly dressed for a sudden cold-front on a summer day.
I wanted to take us – whatever was between us then – to the next level; but she was not that kind of girl. She wanted things done by the book, she had certain principles. Who would have thought such a nubile twenty first century-savvy girl would hold too tightly to that antiquated talk about keeping the honey-pot sealed until the wedding night?
“Look Titi, I am a Christian too.”
I was a Christian. If I mention the name of my church, you would know how serious I was. Our senior pastor would have this quarterly gathering of millions, and I was always there. Your life could change forever if you just say a ‘louder’ amen to whatever Papa says.
Titi was a member of one of these churches where the congregation would read prayers from books, so I was sure we – as members of Papa’s church – had this spiritual thing up there above the rest of them.
Our leader didn’t call God, ‘gahd’ – like those TV evangelists with their fake American accent and curly hair; our senior pastor would call God, ‘daddy.’
I really wanted to do something sweet and secret with Titi. I had been thinking in pleasant pictures. I tried again and again with persuasive words, she seemed fully persuaded that the Lord would be pissed.
One rainy evening when we were alone in my room and I knew she could not leave, I decided to act. I moved to kiss her.
I did kiss her. She responded to the kiss, it was a brief kiss; okay, maybe not so brief. She wanted to know how many women I have kissed like that.
“None.” I lied. “You are the first.”
I had thought we would move forward from there; I thought the kiss was a new beginning, I thought I would finally get to do the things I had been thinking about doing.
I was wrong. From that time, she started avoiding me as if I was a friend with a communicable terminal disease. She didn’t take my calls, no response for my text messages. She even blocked me on Facebook.
I kept hoping. I kept trying.
When I saw her after my NYSC year, she was more beautiful than I had remembered.
“Wow! Someone has been taking care of you!”
“Shola, I thank God o.”
“Where were you posted?”
She had a glittering ring on her finger; she was engaged to a medical doctor who just came back from Australia.
“We had our introduction last week,” she said with the smile I had known for years, “We are getting married in April.”
“That is three months from now! Wow!”
My excitement was like a well-fixed weave-on. She would never know what I didn’t want her to know.
I never got to meet the guy but I hated him already. I hoped he would do something stupid that would end the relationship. I hoped he would be seduced by some pretty nurse who would get pregnant and make the whole love-thing go up in flames. I wished he would just die, so that this girl I wanted so much would come back to me.
He died six months after the wedding.
I read it in centrespread of a newspaper. The Toyota ran into a truck and the car ended up like a piece of metal crumpled into a ball by the palm of a giant. I saw the wreck by the roadside near the junction a few metres from their house.
I decided to visit her, to comfort her, I wanted to be a shoulder to cry on. Pastor Onyeachonam was there when I got there. I never knew Titi’s husband was a member of Onyeachonam’s church. All the seats had been occupied by sober-looking men and women, and a few people were on their feet behind the seats. Titi looked up when I came in, even though I couldn’t be sure if she had seen me. Tears flowed from her puffy eyes and she didn’t touch the box of Kleenex on the stool beside her.
“Sister Titi, I’m disappointed!” Pastor Onyeachonam said. “Why are you mourning like an unbeliever? I was told you’ve not eaten for the past two days. Why are you crying like a hopeless woman? The Bible says, ‘in everything give thanks’. Not ‘for everything’, but ‘in everything’. As hard as it is, this is the Lord’s command!”
The look in her eyes said she was not listening to the man of God.
“Your husband has gone to be with the Lord. He is at the right hand of the father. You will see him on the resurrection morning.”
I saw her husband on the wall, smiling with Titi beside him, I took in all the pictures on the wall, I saw the pair on their wedding day; I couldn’t help but feel guilty for wishing him dead, for the love of a woman.
He was a good man; I heard it again and again. He was in the choir, in fact, he was the keyboardist. He never missed Bible studies…his spiritual life was an inspiration. He paid a sister’s school fees; he helped a brother with some hospital bills. If all the Christians were like him the world would be a better place.
Pastor Onyeachonam seemed to have a problem with the fact that Titi would not stop crying, so he spoke about that once again.
Suddenly Titi was on her feet as if she wanted to slap someone. “No! My husband is not at the right hand of any father! We had a nasty fight before he left the house in anger, saying he would never forgive me! He crashed the car because he was too mad! The last word he said to me before speeding off like a stuntman was ‘you are a disobedient woman, just like your mother’. He is not in heaven! Pastor. He can’t be in heaven, that is why I’m crying!”