What is love? What exactly does love mean? These questions might seem so absurd coming from a sixty-five year-old Nigerian woman but quit everything else, look within yourself and answer them. Now.
I’m telling you this because it was the mistake I made. I remember my life as a young girl in Abeokuta. I used to live in a little house with my siblings, all four boys, my parents, who were always arguing about money or some other thing I rather not say, and my father’s other wives.
When we, young girls, talked about love in hush-hush tones, the image of my parent never came to me. I was still very young and naive about love, but I knew love wasn’t chaotic, that love wasn’t in shouting or hurling abuses at one another. And this brought me to a realization: Those couple down the street. Every time I passed by their big house running errands, I took my time in capturing the grandiloquence of it, wondering what sort of lives ran behind those walls. Then one day, I got a glimpse into it. I remember I had been sent to buy pepper and had passed by the house. It must have been her birthday, the woman, because her husband was in the garage, a huge pink cake on his hands, singing “Happy Birthday, Sarah” while she stood beaming at his side. I stood there for a moment, unconscious to the world moving around me. This was love. I didn’t define it. I didn’t need to. I saw it, in this million-dollar couple.
I didn’t think about it, it just came: My husband has to be rich and love me like this man loves his wife. Maybe, just maybe if I had taken a keener look, I’d have seen that the smile didn’t reach her eyes, that it was all a facade.
Years later, I met Abdullah and believed in love at first sight. He was an intern at Tasco Industries, where I worked. A year later, I met Bayo. His father was a close friend of my father. Abdullah seemed undisputable for my marriage, but when I brought him up, my parents brought up Bayo.
“I love Abdullah,” I’d say. “And he loves me.”
“What do you know about love?” My mum would reply. “Love always seem like this at first, but in marriage it changes, and above all, he’s from Ibadan and you’re from egba so you can’t marry him. Bayo will take care of you, my daughter.”
I should have asked her about her marriage with father, and why tribe mattered. But I didn’t. Memories from childhood played before my eyes and I remembered Sarah and her rich husband. Bayo didn’t give me tingles like Abdullah did, but he was rich, very rich like Sarah’s husband. I loved Abdullah, but he may not love me. It could all be a ruse. Who knows? I married Bayo.
My life with him can be summed up in a few phrases: One year of fake bliss. A child. Three years of hell. Two of depression. It ended in a divorce, when I couldn’t take it anymore.
I have to tell you what happened after. Abdullah came to me, he was still unmarried and willing to take me as his wife. “I couldn’t find someone with eyes like yours.” He said. And all through our reunion, the countless dates we had, he never mentioned Bayo. He acted like nothing ever happened, like that time had been cut away from the clip of our lives. Surely, this was love. It was only love that defied all explanations, all expectations. How could it have taken so long to find it?
The night we married, I looked my eyes in the mirror and saw it was not different from anybody else’s. But I didn’t dwell on it, because a thousand other tingly things were scrambling for space in my mind.
About the Author
Timi Sanni is a poet, essayist and writer. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria and his works have been published on literary platforms like Nantygreens, Sprinng Literary Fellowship etc. His short story “The Good Things Are No More” won the ANSA short story of the month, Sept. 2018 and was also shortlisted for the I FOUND IT Contest.
When not writing or studying, Timi can be found painting or in a quiet place with a book in his hands.