I look at Tayo again. This is the man I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. In the past 5 years, his caring heart has nurtured my dreams. He has shared my every pain, laughed my laughters, shed my tears too. Tayo has been the grave of my secrets, the friend of my heart and the love of my life. I look down and realize that I have shredded the piece of medical evidence that brought the message of doom to this relationship. Subconsciously, I bent down to pick it up. If only I can bend to pick the scattered pieces of my life too. This God has failed me!
I first met Tayo in the village of ‘Amawo’, my mum’s place of birth. It was on one of those unplanned trips mother used to make to the village when grandma had a series of illness before her eventual death. I cannot remember why mother took me along that time. The moon had started unveiling itself when we arrived. It turned out that it was a false alarm and grandma was in good health but it was too late to return to Lagos so mother retired for the night. I joined grandma in peeling the roasted groundnut she usually served to the village children who gathered daily in her compound for her stories.
My grandma told the best stories in the whole village and that night was no exception. We all sat on mats around her. The girls came earlier than the boys that night so we had to wait for some time. When the boys arrived, they weren’t led by the regular gangly boy with a big head and stomach but a goodlooking boy who looked nothing like a village boy. They soon settled down and grandma started her story in that sweet sonorous whisper she used. We had to listen attentively as she always talked in different pitches of voice with her arms sometimes outstretched as the winds slash into the quiet nights with her whispers.
Grandma told us the story of a girl who wanted to buy beads for the village festival but her mother couldn’t afford it. The mother was an ordinary pap seller and asked her daughter to carry a basket of pap with a promise to buy her the bead if she sold it all. This girl had never sold more than half of the basket prior to this day but she went out and was able to sell it all. Her mother asked the girl to sell another basket with the same promise. The girl again sold out and was given another basket. This act was repeated for 3 times and each time the mother told the girl search beneath her sparse collection of clothes for the beads, each time the girl ransacked and found nothing.
The fourth time, the girl got angry and went to the river bank with the intention to commit suicide. News travelled home to her mother who had eventually gotten the beads. She quickly went to pick the beads and hurried to the stream but the girl had dived into it. If only the girl checked one last time! If only her mother had honoured the promise earlier!
All through the night, I could feel the strange boy’s gaze on me and tried not to look at him. However, each time I did look in his direction, his gaze was always fastened on me. When all the boys were leaving he came to meet my grandma and told her he wanted to marry me. Grandma threw her head back and laughed so much that her frail and tiny body was shaking. She then gave him the elderly people’s creed about ‘reading your books and being successful’. I didn’t see him again before leaving but I did learn from grandma that he was a Lagos boy who came to spend his long vacation in the village. I was only 7 years old at the time and we didn’t meet again until 10 years later when I was a first year student in the University.
It was an exceptionally cold night and I was supposed to bury my head deep under my mother’s thick ‘aso ofi’ that doubled as my blanket. I also had to return a note to my course mate who lived in a 2 bedroom flat just outside the school gate. He wasn’t home so I dropped it with his flatmate who seemed like an amiable person. Just as I stepped outside the gate of their house, a horrendous downpour began. Instinctively, my feet sought shelter in the arched balcony of the building and I sat awaiting an abrupt end to the rain but it kept increasing.
The roommate came out and offered me the warmth of his room which I accepted with little persuasion. In the brightly lit confines of the room, I took my first thorough glance at him. He was a very goodlooking and tall guy which was a surprise because I am a tall girl and I rarely met people taller than me. We got talking and I discovered he was from my village! Further talk revealed him as the strange boy from my grandma’s story night.
Tayo and I soon became inseparable friends. Our friendship spurted the stem of a relationship and by the time we were in our 3rd year in the university, we were unarguably the best couple on campus. I never had a friend independent of Tayo and vice-versa. We had such good times together, watering the roots of our relationship and we thought, knew nothing could go wrong.
I was an unrepentant pessimist until Tayo infused his optimism into my blood stream. I had watched my father cough to death when I was 6. He used to have this epileptic fits of cough. In fact, I can’t conjure the memory of a conversation with my dad without the cough that always paused his sentences after few words. I still wonder now why none of the grownups suspected it was tuberculosis.
My mother had 2 children, Sade and I. Sade was the little sister my mum was babying when father died. Sade was seldom healthy in her entire lifetime as a result of sickle cell anaemia. Mother did her best to love and care for this sickly child she was left to raise alone, I tried to help as much as I could too. The illness soon became the worm that consumed the little money father left. Still, mother struggled. One fateful day, after 9 years of suffering and living a miserable life, God in his high chair decided to take Sade’s life after another bout of illness.
I never really believed in God since Sade’s death. What God would allow such tragedies befall me, a 14-year old girl? It was Tayo who planted the seed of God in my life and helped nurture it so much that I became an ardent believer. He pleaded God’s case to me until I acquitted Him of all the misery hitherto present in my life. Tayo taught me to love God. Funny that this God isn’t on the side of our relationship.
I remember the first and only serious fight we had. It was a cool night and on such nights we had a spot we usually went to sit, talk, look at the skies and enjoy each other’s company. We used to go individually or together and sit on the stairs atop an abandoned storey building inside school. The birds played music for our ears, the dim gleam of fluorescents from neighbouring buildings as well as dotted red beam of antennas always gave the ambience of romance. On this day I went alone and to my surprise met someone already seated. My first prerogative was to dash forward and demand an apology for the intrusion on a private space, but I knew that would be making a fool of myself so I decided to sit and await Tayo’s arrival. The guy sitting in our spot greeted me politely and somehow we got talking and proceeded to having some good laughs.
Tayo came in time to witness our laugh and begged to be excused. He was angry that I had desecrated our holy land by enjoying it with another guy. It was supposed to be exclusively ours, away from all influences of the world. We weathered the storm of that disagreement and rolled over the tide after a week that felt like a year. It was then I knew the depth of my affection for Tayo. We never had any issue after that.
Our love continued to wax stronger even after school. We secured good jobs and began discussing marriage. I told my mum and she was ecstatic about it but insisted I found out Tayo’s blood group before his family comes to our house for the formal introduction of both families. I knew I was AS but Tayo never did a genotype test so we both went to a hospital and Tayo was AS!
Both our parents have withdrawn their consent from the marriage especially my mother who has lost a daughter to the sickle cell disease. Tayo says there are ways we can prevent the birth of an SS but the only definite way I know is for us to stay away from each other so here I am in Tayo’s room, as naked as the day I was plunged into this wicked world by a God that doesn’t care for me. Or why else did he allow my father die so early? Why did he take my sister away? Why lodge Tayo in my heart when he knew that our dreams of forever will not come true?
Our dreams of aging together with our children and grandchildren might have been aborted by a piece of medical evidence but I will not let this last dream be taken from us. We have only loved each other with our hearts and preserved our body for a grand felicitation on our marriage night. A marriage night we have been denied! We will meet now, flesh to flesh, body to body, soul to soul. We will climax and soar high into the clouds for the first time, for the last time, for the only time. When we come back to earth, we will shed our tears and move away from this crossroad of defenseless fate on parallel lines. I will sing a dirge to us and muster a prayer to Tayo’s God. For the sake of my future husband and my marriage vows, may our parallel lines never find a meeting point.