I once was young, now I’m a graybeard—
not once have I seen an abandoned believer,
or his kids out roaming the streets.
Every day he’s out giving and lending,
his children making him proud.
I remember those days. My teeth were still pearly white and my hairline was still full. My legs were smooth and my hips were just flesh and bones. One smile, and I had half of the world eating out of my hand. Add the sweep of my full eyelashes, and the other half joined in. Okay. I am exaggerating, but you get the point. I could have had the guys with the Nissans and Lexuses, I could have had the ministers’ sons and the Emir’s heir, instead I chose to fall in love. Let me tell you the undiluted truth – Love is a disease.
My children’s laughter bring me back to the present time. My eyes take in the now empty bowl and scattered bones in the foil paper. Dinner was peppered grilled fish and garri in the Milky Way. My first daughter begins to clear the table, and her other two siblings join her. When it is just me and my husband left in the sitting room of the room and parlour we share, I walk towards him and sit at his feet. I rest my head on his lap. His voice breaks the silence…
‘Do you remember…’
I remember too well. I had just finished arguing with Aramide, my close friend, as to why I couldn’t date Ike, one rich politician’s son. I claimed I was in love with Niyi – my husband. I left the room in anger, and called Niyi. He wanted to make me happy so he said we should just go to the nearest fast food joint and have a snack. So we walked down, holding hands, care free, young, in love, laughing. It felt right. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. When we got in, there were other customers before us, so we gisted to while away time. At about the same time it was our turn, one of the rich kids came in. He looked rich, I guess. So Niyi said ‘Good afternoon’, and in one fluid movement, the lady at the counter just looked through us, straight to the rich kid, and said ‘Welcome’, and began to attend to him. I was just there like one of the statues of the three men who welcome people to Lagos. For roughly six minutes, we were staring at the girl, but we had ceased to exist because she didn’t even spare us a glance. It was humiliating. We left quietly. And somewhere along the road on our way back, Niyi turned to me. His eyes were teary. I had been crying silently and cleaning the tears from my face with my palms because I didn’t want Niyi to see.
‘I know about those guys you turned down because of me.’ I shook my head because I didn’t want to cry harder.
He continued. ‘If you walk away now, I will understand. I will never hold it against you.’ I could not stem the flow of tears anymore. I just pulled him closer and hugged him tightly.
I heard myself say, ‘I will never stop believing in you.’
The voices of our children bring me back to the present. My first daughter is an adolescent now. She sits on the other chair, while her siblings join me at their father feet. I kiss each of them on the forehead.
‘Night shower time!!!’
The kids grumble. They move into the room. I get up from the floor. I pull my husband up, and look into his weary eyes.
I hear myself say, ‘I have not stopped believing in you. As long as I live, Niyi. As long as I live.’