Uloma walked into Church that Sunday, totally lost in thought. Her on/off boyfriend, Bayo, was causing her serious heartache. Their relationship was on the rocks, and she was desperate to patch things together. If she was to be honest, she knew that using the title “girlfriend” was being overly generous. He had never made it official between them, and she knew she was one of many side chicks…except there was no main chick. Bayo was enjoying the attention of a number of women, herself inclusive, and none of these women was willing to break away from the love chain.
As she walked up the stairs of Church, she sent him a frantic text, asking if he could come to her house that evening. As she was done with her final exams, she had moved back home to continue working on her final year project. Bayo, being a lecturer’s son, was still on campus, and Uloma panicked over the thought of him having even more opportunity to run amok with more women, now that she was away.
She was still texting when she felt someone hovering around her. She looked up and saw a young man standing nervously near her. She arched her brow in irritation. Who the heck was this?!
“Hi Uloma. My name is Eteka…Doyin’s friend” he managed to stutter. Oh yes, it hit her now. Her former roommate, Doyin, had told her about some guy that had been pestering her for her number. “He lives in your neighbourhood, and I think he has a crush on you”, Doyin had teased. Uloma had laughed distractedly and had not given it any more thought. She looked at her watch impatiently. “Listen, Mass is about to start. Maybe later, okay?”. And with that she walked away, without thinking about it until she saw him standing in the car park, after Mass, obviously waiting for her. Before he saw her, she used the opportunity to size him up. Hmmm…he wasn’t bad looking at all. A bit skinnier than she found attractive, and with far less swagger than the men she usually went for, but otherwise he wasn’t bad at all. His face lit up as he saw her approach. “Listen, I’m really in a hurry. Is there anything you want?” she asked impatiently. “Ermmm, I’d like to…I was wondering if we…” he stuttered “Can I have your phone number?”. Uloma hesitated, but figured there was no harm done. She recited her number as she walked to her car, and was almost positive that he wouldn’t have caught all the digits. What did it matter anyway? He was nowhere near her type.
That evening, Uloma sat at home, staring at the feast she had prepared for Bayo. By 9pm, it was evident that he had stood her up, so she proceeded to dish herself a plate of the special fried rice she had made. Yet again, Bayo had broken her heart, leaving her high and dry. As she ate her food miserably, her phone rang. Her heart fell when she realised it wasn’t Bayo, but Eteka.
“Hi. Is it a bad time?” he asked, probably sensing her disappointment. “No, it’s okay” she replied, realising this was as good as she would get that night, and also surprised that he had managed to catch her phone number. Nervously, he proceeded to tell her how he had noticed her years ago, and had been nursing a crush on her ever since. She smiled despite herself. There she was pining for a man that couldn’t be bothered about her, and here was this good-looking man who thought she was the best thing since slice bread. Ironic much! As they talked, she found out that he had graduated a year earlier, and had just finished his NYSC program. When he asked if he could come see her at home, she found herself giving him her home address. It was October 1st, 2000.
The next day, he came to see her at home…and she noted that he looked better than she recalled. She still didn’t think he was her type, but her ego did need some fanning after the Bayo fiasco, so decided to keep him around. Even though he was still nervous, their conversation flowed, and she thoroughly enjoyed his visit. As he was leaving, he handed her an envelope. “What’s this?” she asked, an amused smile on her face. “Just read it.” he said shyly, before walking away.
A letter ke? What was this, secondary school? She took the letter to her bedroom, and sat down to read it. In all her 23 years, she had never read anything so beautiful. Eteka had poured out his heart on those 6 pages of paper…describing the very day he lay eyes on her, how she made him feel, and how she was his waking thought every day. It was incredibly cheesy…but also extremely endearing. Coming from the non-relationship she had with Bayo, this was a breath of fresh air.
After that day, Eteka came to her house everyday, on his way home from work. She still didn’t think she would date him, but she enjoyed his company, and found herself looking forward to his visits. At the end of every visit was yet another beautifully written letter. She didn’t like him romantically, but she sure as heck looked forward to his letters.
Then one day, he didn’t show up for his routine daily visit. Uloma found herself listening out for him…looking out of the window for him…but he never showed up. And it was the same thing the next day. And then the next. By the fifth day, she was going out of her mind in a nervous panic. As it was the pre-GSM days, she didn’t have a personal number for him, and had never bothered to save his home phone number from which he called her.
And then a few days later, she smelt his perfume. Before he even knocked on her gate, she knew it was him. And when he was let into the house by her brother, her heart leapt at the site of him. He explained that he had had to make an emergency trip to Calabar to see his parents, which was why he had disappeared for so long. As they talked, Uloma realised that she was no longer as indifferent to him as she had thought. She suddenly noticed his beautiful brown eyes, and his long slender fingers. She noticed the way his lips moved as he talked, and the slight dimple in his left cheek. When he leaned in for a kiss before he left, she didn’t pull away. And that was how their love affair began.
It was so wonderful loving someone who loved her right back…probably even more. For once, she felt secure in a relationship, and didn’t have to think twice before picking up the phone to call him, or going to see him at home. It was refreshing not to have to worry about bumping into another woman, or wondering how he would react to her that day. Eteka’s love was as pure and steady as nothing she had ever experienced! Their love was beautiful. He didn’t have a car, so they often walked, hand-in-hand, around the neighbourhood, or took taxis if they were going a far distance. But for special occasions, like dates, he would borrow a car from home, and was always sure to give her a special treat.
Soon, she submitted her project, and was finally free of school wahala. But Eteka’s NYSC job had wound down, and he was fully in the job market. Uloma used her newly acquired MS PowerPoint skills to refresh his resume, and they would often sit in her living room, skimming through the newspapers, searching for job vacancies. After a few months, he wrote the entrance examination of one of the new generation banks, and as luck would have it, got the job. They were both ecstatic! It was one thing planning the future when neither party was employed, but it was a completely different thing now that he had gotten a good job. He was soon able to buy a small car, and Uloma was beside herself with joy at the prospect of their lives finally beginning to fall into place.
The decline started slowly. Eteka started having less and less time to spend with her. He attributed this to the stress of the bank’s training school, and getting home too tired to come by her house every day. The love letters, which had become their thing, also stopped. Uloma suddenly found herself the aggressor, the one always seeking his now precious time.
Soon, she got a pre-NYSC job, and was excited about being able to commute to work with her man. It started off fairly well, with Eteka picking her up in the morning, and dropping her home after work. But he suddenly always seemed irritable. Everything she said, or did, seemed to grate on his nerves. And when he wasn’t snapping, they would often drive in cold silence.
Then one day, after dropping her home one day, he killed his car engine and asked to come inside. Uloma was overjoyed that they would finally get the chance to spend some time together. As they sat in her living room, a cold wave of premonition hit her, and she suddenly realised she wouldn’t like this conversation. And she was right.
Eteka told her how he didn’t think they should ride together to work any longer…how seeing her everyday was beginning to make their relationship dull and predictable. Even though she was shell shocked, Uloma accepted and agreed to start finding her own way to work. If that was what it would take to take things back to the way they used to be, then she was ready to do it.
So, she began waking up earlier, to be able to catch the bus to work. She tried to restrain herself from calling him too frequently during the day, and when work was over, she would hop the bus again, making sure she got home in good time to make herself look pretty, in case he dropped by. Except he hardly ever did drop by. She was lucky to see him twice a week. There was no change in his behaviour. He was still as irritable and distracted as before.
Their birthdays were a day apart, and on his, she literally emptied her bank account to buy him gifts she knew he would like. It was just like old times watching his eyes light up when he got his Swatch watch, T.M Lewin shirt and tie, and massive birthday cake. Spending the night with him felt almost like the early days of their relationship. It didn’t matter that he didn’t have a gift for her the next morning (her own birthday). That night, it felt like she finally had her man back. But by the next day, the irritability and moodiness returned.
And it only proceeded to get worse. She found herself walking on egg shells when it concerned him. She didn’t want to call too much…talk too much…visit too much…anything she thought would trigger his irritability, she tried to avoid.
One Sunday, she went to his house and sat ignored in his living room for hours, watching him as he flicked through channels idly. She finally summoned up the courage to ask him what was really wrong. “I just don’t feel it anymore” was his flippant reply “It all seems stale to me now”. In a desperate panic, she asked what she could do to make the magic return, to which he shrugged and replied “We just have to wait and see”.
We just have to wait and see…that was the last phrase she thought about that night, and her waking thought the next morning. We just have to wait and see! How had they gotten here? How had SHE gotten here? When had she decided it was okay to be satisfied with the crumbs he was now throwing at her? These were her thoughts when she absent mindedly walked the 3km from her dentist’s place on Muri Okunola road, Victoria Island, to her office at Adeola Odeku. By the time she got to her office, she knew it was over. She absolutely didn’t deserve this.
And that was how their relationship came to an unceremonious end. She didn’t get in touch with him, and, as expected, neither did he. Once in a while, she would see him drive past, his car filled with unfamiliar faces, but he never made any attempt to contact her.
She was broken…crushed. Her self-esteem was completely shattered. She felt she hadn’t been attractive enough, interesting enough, or classy enough to hold his attention. She tortured herself, reading his letters every night….wondering where, and how, it could have all gone so wrong.
Slowly, she began to pick the pieces of her life. Her pre-NYSC job, turned into an NYSC job, which turned into a permanent position, with an attractive salary and perks. Soon, the heartbreak faded, and her self-confidence returned. She was excelling at work, and soon started enjoying being courted by a few new suitors.
And like a bad coin, Eteka showed up in her house one evening…all contrite and repentant. He lamented about how much he missed her, how she was the best thing that ever happened to him, and how he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. She was briefly swayed…his perfume, his brown eyes, the way he held her hand…all of these took her back to their wonderful times together, and she told him to give her time to think about it.
But as she lay on her bed, it dawned on her that Eteka was one of those men who thrived on the chase. He was more interested in the toasting and the wooing…and not the relationship itself. As soon as he got the girl, he got bored, and needed the next challenge. Uloma knew there was no way in the world she would allow that happen to her again. She resented him for uplifting her…giving her the heights of love she had never experienced…and sending her crashing down when he abruptly took this love away.
She also realised that she had a lot of workto do on herself…especially her self-esteem. It was this same low self-esteem that had made her satisfied to be Bayo’s side chick in University, and had contributed to her feeling undeserving of Eteka’s affection, and almost driving herself round the bend in her desire to please him.
She didn’t even bother giving Eteka an answer. Instead, she proceeded not to take his calls, and chose not to see him the numerous times he dropped by her house, or office. It wasn’t until he ran into her with her new boyfriend out on a Friday evening, did he stop harassing her.
It was a relief to Uloma to realise that she wasn’t the unattractive and boring person Eteka had made her believe she was. She felt a renewed sense of validation, and knew that she was a beautiful, smart, kind hearted woman, that any man would be lucky to have. She wasn’t holding on to her new relationship with the same level of desperation as she had the previous ones. If it worked out…great. If it didn’t…there would surely be another!
But when you love someone, you just don’t treat them bad. Oh how I feel so sad, now that I wanna leave. She’s crying her heart to me, how could you let this be?! I just need time to see where I wanna be….where I wanna be! (‘Where I wanna be’ – Donnel Jones)