“Sacrifice,” she says, louder.
I hate situations like this. Old people annoy me with their cryptic talk and their “a word is enough for the wise” talk. What if I am not wise? And aren’t they the same ones that say “What an old person can see on the ground, the young can’t see even on a tree”?I heard you the first time. I’m just confused.”
“You choose to be confused”
“Ermmm maybe you should say more.”
“I have said enough.”
To be honest, I don’t need this in my life. What I need to do is go home to my fiancé– no, girlfriend. Say girlfriend, Deji. She returned the ring.
I don’t need any of this.
“I am going home, mama,” I say to her.
“This is home” she says.
I roll my eyes. This woman never gives up.
“Well for you mama, it is.”
“This is home, Adedeji. Home is sacrifice,” she says, gripping my hand.
“Ok mama,” I reply as I bend to kiss her forehead.
She grips my neck and says in a low whisper: “Tell her to go home, Deji. She is not your wife.” I nod because if she doesn’t part with those words, have I really visited her?
On my way out, I turn to wave and I see her lips move and mutter the same words she always uses to bid me farewell before bowing her head. I don’t need to hear them for them to get my heart racing. l feel the familiar pang I thought I had gotten rid of – the one I get each time I remember her – and for a moment, standing in front of my grandmother’s house, I let myself feel and hear her words: “bring my daughter-in-law home.” She isn’t referring to Sade, who has left me several missed calls. I know who she means and I can’t bring myself to think her name or remember the invitation I have buried under so much paper in the last drawer of my work desk.
For what I know cannot have been more than a minute but feels like a lifetime, I try to retrace my steps and figure out how I missed it and how every single decision I’d made had led to my whole world crashing on my face and nothing I could’ve done afterwards could have saved it.
I send a text. “Sorry I can’t make it today. I have no excuse, I just don’t want to be there.” Then I make a call.
“Hey baby! Where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you.”
“Yes I know you went to see mama but the plumber wanted to find out…”
“…about the bathroom renovation. We never decided on the colour of tiles and I know…”
I listen to Sade talk for a couple of seconds more without hearing anything she’s saying.
“Sade, I think you should go home”
Shit! Did I just say that out loud?
I have been thinking of this since she returned my ring. Every conversation we have had since then has had me thinking “Go home”, “I think you should leave”, “Maybe you shouldn’t stay here” but I never say it out loud. Maybe I didn’t this time too but the silence confirms that my mind’s voice has gotten considerably louder.
“Home? Deji, I AM home. With the plumber. That’s why I’m asking about the colour of tiles so we can conclude on the sink and tub he’s installing.”
Silence but I’m screaming in my head.
Deji, let it go. Let it slide!
“Where did you think I was?” she asks.
“In my house.”
Shit! What is wrong with me today?!
“I think you’re in my house and you should go home. I would sort out the plumber later.”
“YOU THINK I AM IN YOUR HOUSE?! DEJI! YOUR HOUSE??!!”
I sigh and wonder why she is shouting.
I can’t do this. Deji, say it was a joke.
“It is my house. Paid for with MY money and it’s MY money that’s paying for all your wild renovations. Which, I should add, is pointless seeing as you don’t plan on marrying me.”
She goes mellow. I can already hear her crying before she replies .
“I didn’t say that…”
I wonder what she’s waiting for then I realise I’m waiting for the sob followed by a little sneeze she makes when she’s crying and on cue, the single sob that sounds like she’s choking but holding it in comes out.
I can hear her explanation before she even starts.
“You’re not ready Deji. You just got a new house, the job is not paying well (I quit my job, she’s in denial), plus the expenses. This is about us, not meee”, the last word coming out as a squeal because it comes with a sneeze.
*chuckle* There’s the sneeze.
“You’re not ready”
As crappy as excuses go, this is the worst of them all. Who is to say if I am ready or not? Honestly. I got her a ring and I proposed. Does she think I hadn’t thought all these things through? Usually I’d let it slide. I’d nod my head and apologise saying that it was the visit to mama that had me stressed and not thinking straight. But I don’t.
“Or maybe you’re not ready to commit to a man who quit his job to start a business that is likely to fail”
Up next; fake gasp.
I chuckle silently to myself as she continued.
“How dare you?! I stood by you! I…”
On instinct, I cut her off in my mind then it occurs to me; I have had this very argument before in my head. I’ve had it a number of times since I saw the browser history where she looked up the price of her ring and noticed she somehow forgot to wear it to work and returned it afterwards saying “I don’t think you’re ready baby”.
“Why did you return the ring, Sade?”
I can see the shocked expression on her face. I can picture her wearing her pink shorts with those pyjamas shirt that got returned to me; the one she insists on wearing, trying to stamp herself on it. I can picture her bent over the fridge, deciding what to make for herself, knowing fully well she’s making the plumber uncomfortable by giving him a good view of her ass because it makes her feel “super attractive to be checked out” (her words) then she’d turn to me at night and say “I think our plumber has a crush on me, he was seriously checking me out today. Better be careful, you have competition” and I can feel myself rolling my eyes and thinking “like you would date a plumber” but smiling instead and saying something like “well he better find a new crush because I’m not sharing” followed by my internal cringe and decision to fall asleep even though I still want to be online a bit.
“Baby, I think you’re not yourself, come home…sorry, come to your house, let’s talk”.
Ahh the submissive girlfriend play.
This is funny to me. We won’t talk, I know that for sure. I’m coming home to either an empty house or a naked horny girlfriend who is conveniently drunk (she learnt that last month). I hear the quiet thud of the fridge door closing, confirming there’s an uncomfortable plumber in the kitchen.
“Are you wearing my pyjamas shirt, Sade, with your pink short?” I ask.
She laughs playfully.
“Where are you?”
I can see her smiling coyly at the plumber looking round for me to appear, probably thinking I have a surprise for her. Maybe a new, more expensive ring and all this talk was a distraction. I shake my head.
“Take it off”, I say quietly.
“My Shirt. Take it off.”
“Baby if you’re trying to be kinky, there’s a plumber in our kitchen” followed by fake high-pitched sweet laugh.
“Sade go into the bedroom, take off my pyjamas shirt, change into something decent, take as much as you need and go home. I will send the rest of your things.” I say to her quietly but in a tone she knows I’m not joking or being ‘kinky’.
“Is this about the pyjamas top? You’re being so childish! She returned it! She doesn’t want it, Deji. She doesn’t want you! Get over yourself! Get over her! You know what, I can’t even deal with this bullshit! You want to know why I returned the ring? BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT OVER HER!”
Very convenient excuse I think.
“Yes I said it! I can’t marry a man who still makes a fuss when I wear some stupid ugly shirt his dumb ex returned because it is stupid and for your information…”
This is where I block off her rant and head to the supermarket, pretty sure I’m going home to an empty fridge. Maybe I should just order pizza for dinner, turning the car around.
“…DONT IGNORE ME DEJI!!, I WILL NOT BE DISRESPECTED!”
“Then go to where you would be respected” I respond, feeling a bit too calm for all that is going on within me. I’m not sure why but I am not avoiding this confrontation. I feel empowered, instead of the usual ‘for peace sake’ attitude.
She’s quiet for a while, then goes “You know what? I think you need your space, you know where to find me. Have a nice life”
She’s waiting for me to respond but I’m too busy taking her advice and having a nice life starting with ordering my favourite pizza, not the healthy crap she makes us order and doesn’t eat, making me eat it all out of hunger.
She hisses and ends the call. I guess that’s it then.
“Savings or current sir?”
I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about pizza or the thought of going to an empty house. I usually hate empty houses, ever since I got home from school to an empty house and had to go live with my Grandma because well, I’d lost my parents to a falling tanker.
Today has just been a weird emotional day. I swear it started out fine with me as a semi-engaged, young, newly initiated entrepreneur, who wanted to go and see his grandma, pick out matching tiles and sinks with his live-in girlfriend who returned his engagement ring because he might not be as rich as he was when they had started dating. Now, I’m having pizza in a fast food, as a single entrepreneur who is missing his mother while trying to ignore the fact he is missing his best friend’s wedding because he’s an idiot and didn’t…
My grandmother has to be the smartest woman on earth! Shit! Shit! Shit!!! How the hell did I mess up this badly? How the fuck did I not see it?
She left me because I didn’t pick her, I couldn’t do it. I put my job before her, my career. I wasn’t ready to make a sacrifice. I didn’t think…oh dear! The same job I left. The same way Sade returned the ring because I didn’t have the job security of 6 figure salary, she left me because I kept holding on to my job, the security of it all! I loved her! I fucking loved her! I should have seen it but I thought I had no other choice then, that I had to hold on to my job. I couldn’t make that… sacrifice. I can hear mama’s voice in my head. She had actually said enough!
But it’s too late.
I end up sitting in the restaurant, slowly eating my pizza. I don’t want to go home anymore. I had a perfect excuse to turn to the bottle but my metabolism is annoying, won’t let me get drunk. I’m not sure what to do with myself and there’s no workload to bury myself in.
Knowing the Nzakwes, the party is just starting. I can still make it. I can throw on a suit, fake a smile and tell her how happy I am for her. How proud I am too. Maybe even jokingly confess how much I have stalked her life and her progress, tell her I knew how he proposed, where she is volunteering after her honeymoon and tell her I can be her friend again. Beg her to forgive me for pushing her away because I would want to carry her baby in my hands, I would want to be allowed to be a godparent, I want in on her life, no matter how painful it may be because nothing could be more painful than not being in her life and watching her live it on her sister’s Snapchat.
I had messed up and lost my everything but I could still be her friend, right? Right? If I leave this restaurant right now, I can be home at… 6:30 or thereabout, dress up in 10 minutes and be at the venue before 8pm, right on time to see her before she leaves…
Who am I kidding? This is not a movie. I would most likely cause an unwanted scene and end up feeling worse than I already do. But what if…
I sigh again, not moving from my seat and devouring another slice of pizza. I order for a box of chicken wings and a large Coke to go. My nutritionist would have a mini heart attack if he sees me now, but who cares? I even need to fire him, he was Sade’s idea. A lot of things were Sade’s idea. Like that God awful couch in our – no, in MY bedroom, the one she thought would be a good place to have wild annoying sex. I say ‘wild annoying’ because she comes up with this wild idea she ‘heard’ (insert watched crappy porn) somewhere that ends up being a bag of disappointment which is somehow my fault, then the annoying whine of how I need to loosen up. Yeah thank you but I like regular sex, not some amateur couch rendezvous. Wait! I know what I can do. Yes! I would get rid of that couch! Throw it away, put it on the driveway, anything! Just get it out of my room and my house and my life!
I get home and everywhere is quiet. I drop my key in the key hub and Sade’s spare is there and my heart starts to race. She’s either gone for good or naked somewhere in the house. Oh God let it be option 1! I can’t deal with a drunk Sade now. True to my word my fridge is empty. Petty Sade strikes again, but I laugh and put the rest of chicken wings in my fridge and plug the fridge back, check around for any immediate damage, nothing. Just my trash can emptied in my sink. I sigh because the cleaning lady is not going to be happy but that’s not really my problem now. I need to get that couch out of my room. Then I hear it, the tiny whimper of someone sobbing silently. Oh God, she’s still here. Well I guess that’s good because she’s going to clean up her mess. I’m no longer taking any of her bullshit. In fact she would leave with her useless sex couch.
Then I see her on the couch and my heart stops.
There she is sobbing in her sleep, wearing my pyjamas shirt on top of her dress, her white flowing dress, the one she bought from Vera Wang and the first thought in my head is “I’m never getting rid of that couch”. I’m not sure what to do so I stare at her forever, then I backtrack to the kitchen. She would wake up hungry so I start clearing the mess. I’m thinking of what to cook, trying to decide what to do. Should I wake her? Should I leave her to cry and sleep? Should I call someone? Her family maybe? I’m not sure! I am so confused, excited, scared, happy, I don’t even know what to think. Why is she here? I think of the event of the past hour, how a lot of things could have changed a lot of things. What if she came home to Sade?
My phone beeps and it’s a text.
“I don’t know why she did it, but I’m pretty sure she came to you. Take care of her this time, that’s all I ask. She’s all I have and if you hurt my sister again, you will answer to me. They are looking for her. If she’s with you, which I know she is, don’t pick up. This is your last chance to not screw things up”
I don’t know why but I am crying. Not sobbing like a cry baby but I can feel hot splashes landing on my hand. I realise the key in the hub is Adanne’s. I remember the day she got the lock, the first time I mentioned I wanted to buy my house. She came with the door handle and 3 keys, then kept one “because it’s my house too” she said, daring me to argue. “The third key should be for visitors, or Mama. We should give mama”. I remember how I felt that day; like I wanted to spend the rest of my life holding her in my arms.
I look up and she is standing there by the fridge her makeup smudged, her eyes puffy, black lines around her face, and she is looking at me, daring me to laugh. I hand her the box of unfinished chicken wings
“Nice dress” I say.
Her face screws up like she’s about to start crying again. Oh shit, I’m back to ‘Deji the asshole’ saying whatever pops into his head.
“If we sell it, we can afford a cleaner” she replies.
“I have a cleaner” I reply, making a cup of milk for her.
“Well we need a new one”
“Nah, I need to stop dating lunatics”
Just like that, we are laughing and it’s like she never left, like I never told her to take me as I was or leave me. We are not ‘back’, I know this. But we just took the first step.
She did just say ‘we’ right?