“The strangest happenings in life come with the most sincere intentions from familiar people, and such sincerity is what hurts us the most.” That was the consolation I got from my friend, John, after the astonishing reply I got from Tutu earlier that day. I had asked her “will you marry me?” in a bar somewhere on Atican beach where we decided to celebrate her birthday. The ovation was high, it was a well packaged surprise; I invited few of our friends, including a saxophonist to usher in a romantic aura, and John even went out of his way to invite Wande Coal just to make it look extraordinary. “Forget it, this guy is the best male vocalist in Naija.” Tutu is also a big fan of his. The stage was set for me to shine, and I was quite confident she was going to say yes. I sipped on the wine I held in my left hand as the saxophonist set my heart ablaze with the melodic tune he played. Not quite after that, Wande Coal stepped forward; you need to see the way Tutu’s friends were screaming, “Black Diamond!” What’s it with girls and glamour? I can’t comprehend. Wande’s voice finally brought decorum to the room. He sang his onetime chat topper and R&B single Ololufe and concluded by walking up to Tutu and asked her as he pointed at me, “t’iku bade, s’oma baa lo? – when death comes, will you go with him?” and then the ladies echoed, “awww” “he’s going to propose.” That was my cue. I approached Tutu as Wande faded from her presence. I deep my hand into my pocket and retrieved the Tifanny diamond ring I had prepared for that moment. I hit it on my wine glass as if I was going to make a toast and declared, “ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention for a minute?” Silence enveloped the bar.
I drove to the nearest bar on my street and sat there for hours in an attempt to drink off the pain; but for every shot of vodka I took the agony became more evident. My fiancée had just broken up with me. I wasn’t pained because she decided to quit, I was hurt because she didn’t give me a reason. I have always been a victim of breakups, but Gbemi’s exit was traumatically dramatic. Who ends a relationship without a reason? “Maybe I am not just good enough” I muttered to myself, and then I got an unexpected response from a lady who was sitting opposite to me, “good enough for who, the vodka?” Before then I didn’t notice anyone was seated in front of me, and so I was surprised to hear a stranger question me. However, the boy within me who was hurt and seeking for attention couldn’t ignore her presence.
“Maybe I wasn’t good enough for her, my ex. She broke up with me,” the alcohol aided my speech. She simply smiled and snapped,
“Your girlfriend broke up with you. So? How is that the end of the world?” I was perplexed at her response, I expected to hear a “sorry” or “why?”
“Mister, if you choose to drink away the memory, you’ll only wake up from a hangover to discover how a beautiful girl walked pass you.”
“Who are you?” my curiosity heightened
“I am Tutu.”
“I am Omotayo, and if I may ask…”
“Ask” she interrupted. Truth is if she hadn’t interrupted I wasn’t sure of what I was going to ask her. She technically afforded me few moments to think,
“Are you here alone?”
“Okay, I can see you are also drinking. If I am drinking to cure my pain, why are you drinking?”
“Every passing moment is but a privilege. You never know when death will come knocking, enjoy the life you lead while it last. I am simply enjoying the moment.” She winked at me and made a toast, “to forgetting about the past and focusing on the future.” Our glasses kissed and that night became history.
That night I got her contact and we decided to hook up some other time. While we conversed, she exhibited a strong personality trait; she appeared to me like an angel with a broken wing who was helping others survive. There was something about the words she spoke; they came with precision and definite messages.
Meeting her birthed a new me, she became my counselor and no night became dawn when we didn’t reach out to each other. Then something happened, I called Tutu’s phone on a Sunday and it was switched off. I sent her messages on the social media networks she operated, I didn’t get a reply. Things remained that way for two months, and for each day that expired all I did was stare helplessly at the last text she sent me:
I am going to bed now dear. I just want you to know that meeting you has made me a happier woman.
One day, I was on my way back from work when I saw her standing outside my door. I matched the brake impatiently and rushed out of the car leaving the door opened after I had managed to pull the handbrake. We reached for each other and hugged. I fell in love with her afterwards. We did everything together; she spent more nights at my place. She helped me plan my life and with her by my side I was able to exceed certain milestones. I soon learnt about the dreadful things she had gone through in life; her mother died while birthing her and her father was a soldier that lost his life to the war against the Boko Haram insurgents. Learning about her sufferings made me love her more, hence I decided to will my loyalty to her.
“Today marks the beginning of another year for a very special woman in my life. She is someone I like to refer to as the hallmark of my existence, because she gave me a reason not to drown myself with alcohol,” I smiled and winked at her before continuing.
“Tutu, you made yourself a perfect reason for me to love again. You nurtured the boy you met in that bar into a man. Your presence in my life has made it more colourful. I cannot imagine a future without YOU. Tutu,” I knelt on both knee and asked her, “Will you marry me?”
She gazed into my eyes as I watched tears drop from hers, and as I reached for her hands, she ran outside the bar and I went after her.
“Tayo, I cannot marry you.”
“Why? What have I done wrong?”
“You haven’t done anything wrong; I just don’t think this is right.”
The memories of the times I have been a victim flashed through my mind. I searched my mind for answers I didn’t get, “am I about to become a victim again?”
“Tutu, do you doubt how I feel about you?”
“No Tayo. I don’t, but love isn’t about the feelings alone. It is a decision that has to be made.”
“Then decide, marry me. I have made up my mind.”
“I cannot afford to enslave you with my burden,” she replied. I became confused and nervous; I couldn’t comprehend what she said. I held her hands as I pulled her closer, kissed her forehead and whispered, “No condition will change my conviction about you Tutu.”
She murmured “I love you Tayo”, pushed me away and exited the beach.
By the time you get this I will be dead. I was diagnosed of leukemia, and the few months I have to live expired yesterday. I was on chemo the two months I was away, but I missed you so much I had to return and spend the rest of my life loving you. I almost said yes to marrying you, but that would have made you a widower. I loved you till my last breathe.
She died two weeks after her birthday. I dropped the ring on her coffin with a note that says …the history we shared will never fade away. I wasn’t a victim after all.
“True love knows when to say NO.” – Olufemi Fragile