Tuesday, January 8, 2019

i love my girlfriend(episode 4)

I went through all the emotions possible, after the incident with Tonye…
Journeying back to Abuja, I was heartbroken like I had never been before…ever. The finality of the end of whatever there was between Tonye and I, broke my heart. It was as if the last year hadn’t happened, and all the progress I had made getting over him had been destroyed…just like that. I realized that my consolation that past year had been that I was sure that, if it hadn’t been for Juliet and her (what I now realized was a phantom) pregnancy, Tonye would have been with me. But after what had just happened, even with Juliet out of the picture, he had rejected me…
After hiding away in my bedroom for a few days, the next emotion I went through was numbness. I switched to autopilot mode and performed my tasks with mechanical accuracy, not entertaining any thoughts about Tonye, or anything that had to do with him. It was over, it was over…and I just had to deal with it. There was no use lying in bed all day, crying myself to sleep, when I could be out there doing something with my life! So I pushed it to the farthest part of my mind, and decided to focus on my work and philanthropic interests.
But by the time Christmas came by, my numbness gave way to an anger so intense, it scared me. I hated Tonye for his rejection…but I hated myself more for putting myself in that position. I hated myself for giving my heart away. I hated myself for not resisting the gravitational pull that had led me to Tonye…that had placed my heart firmly in his hand, for him to do with it as he pleased. I hated myself for making myself an object of his humiliation. I hated myself for loving him. I hated myself for putting myself in that kind of situation time, and time, and time again! I hated myself for always choosing men who didn’t give a damn about me!
So I got rid of anything that reminded me of him. Letters, books, CDs…if it had the potential of reminding me of the man I no longer wanted to remember, off it went. And it worked…albeit only during the day. In the daytime, my anger was enough of a companion for me, giving me the strength to banish all thoughts of Tonye out of my mind. But at night, when it was just me, lying on my bed, staring into the night, there was no amount of anger in the world that could stop the pain I felt.
But as the year 2014 rolled in, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to turn 40 that year. Four good Forty! And I made up my mind not to carry all the baggage and mess from my 20s and 30s into this new decade of mine. I’d had more than enough drama to last me a lifetime. Now, it was time to put me first, and run far away from anyone who tried to hurt me.
Thankfully, God had great plans for me, and as the year progressed, so did my business. My client base grew to the point where I had to hire more hands, and before I knew it, I was too swamped with work, too busy building my empire to even spare Tonye any mind. And when thoughts of him tried to sneak into bed with me at night, they were quickly banished to the purgatory in which they belonged.
Soon, it was August, and time for my big 4-0! Even though I was excited about it, I found myself growing increasingly irritated by how everyone around me felt it was such a big deal! My parents, all the way from Ihiala, were planning a huge Thanksgiving Mass followed by a party, my siblings abroad were in support of my parents’ plans and were even making their own travel plans, my employees were chomping at the bit to throw me a ‘party like no other’, even my Church Members were not left out of the mix! When all I wanted to do was to be by myself and reflect.
So I decided to just run away.
Two weeks to my birthday, I took off! After sending apologetic text messages to my parents (to cancel their party plans) and my siblings (to cancel their travel plans), I got on the plane and headed to Malaysia. I had always wanted to visit South East Asia, and figured there was no time better for it. I didn’t want to go to some beach somewhere, and feel sorry for myself. I wanted to be happy…with me and for me! So, for two weeks, I was your quintessential tourist in Malaysia, exploring all the country’s amazing sights and sounds; from the Genting Highlands, to the amazing food island of Penang, to the gorgeous beaches in Langkawi, not to mention the fantastic shopping attractions in Kuala Lumpur, I had the time of my life. And on my 40 th birthday, as I sat in a restaurant overlooking the most picturesque lake, I blew out the lone candle on the cupcake I had ordered, and wished myself a very happy birthday. I felt bad about disconnecting my lines, and denying those who loved me the chance to wish me well, but the truth was, on that day, all I wanted was to just be me!
A few days after, I returned home, and it was almost like I needn’t have bothered running away! The party my employees were planning still happened, and my Church members still went ballistic over my milestone birthday. But as much as I wanted to complain about all the attention, I was actually grateful for it. I had people who loved me…and it wasn’t something I was going to take for granted.
In October, my brother, Tobenna, turned 50, and unlike me, wanted to have the mother of all parties to celebrate it. Tobenna had recently relocated with his family from London to Vancouver, Canada, but that wasn’t going to stop him, or any of my siblings for that matter, from having the party of their lives. And that’s how all roads (or should I say skies) led to Canada for my big brother’s big birthday. Our parents opted out of the long haul flight, and were pacified by the assurance of a double Thanksgiving party in December, when we would all be in the village for Christmas, celebrating both my and Tobenna’s milestone birthdays.
I got to Vancouver on the 14 th of October, a Tuesday, a few days before Tobenna’s party on Saturday, the 18th . By Thursday, my other siblings had arrived from their various locations, alongside their spouses, and it felt so good catching up. Yes, it hurt that I was the only unmarried one, but being in the company of these strapping men, who loved me more than life itself, made up for any insecurities I had about being there alone.
On Friday, the 17 th , two clear months after my own birthday, and a day before the big party we were all there for, my siblings decided to throw me a surprise ‘birthday’ party.
“You guys! How can you be throwing me a party when I am almost 41!” I laughed, after recovering from the shock of the surprise. “In a couple of months, we will be in a new year oh!”
“I’m sure you were there thinking you could escape us!” my brother, Buchi, had joked. “How can our baby sister be turning 40, and she’ll go and hide under a rock in the middle of nowhere?! You know we weren’t going to let that happen!”
I looked around at the people gathered in the living room; my siblings, sisters-in-laws, and a few of Tobenna’s friends, and I was actually emotional by the display of love and affection. It was a small living room gathering, but it was more than enough to make me feel like the most special woman on earth.
“Make a wish before you blow your candles!” Ugo, Eloka’s wife, chimed.
I smiled to myself, and shut my eyes before blowing out all the candles. Make a wish indeed! I no longer believed in that kind of foolery. Love and happy-ever-afters were pure make believe.
Once I was done blowing the candles, I opened my eyes and the smile on my face froze when I saw who stood before me.
“Happy birthday, Chets!” said Tonye, anxiety and nervousness mirrored all over his face.
I looked around at my siblings, all looking at me eagerly and with bated breath, while the other guests also looking on, probably wondering what was happening…and I felt the anger in me boil.
“What’s this?” I retorted, to nobody in particular, before turning to Tonye. “What are you doing here?”
He cleared his throat. “I wanted to wish you a happy…”
“It’s not even my birthday!” I snapped, cutting him short.
“Cheta, cool down…” Ebere, one of my sister-in-law’s said. “He has traveled a long way. At least be nice…”
“You came all the way from Nigeria just for your girl’s birthday?” one of Tobenna’s Caucasian friends said. “Wow! She must be truly something!”
“She’s not truly something.” Tonye responded, not taking his eyes off me. “She’s everything.”
From the look on all the faces, he had clearly won them over with that line. But for me, it was all a load of crap. All I could hear were his words from the year before, calling his love for me toxic. Toxic indeed!
I rose to my feet, hissed, and stormed upstairs. The cheek of my family trying to pull off something like that! And the nerve of Tonye, showing up here after what he did to me! What did they all think I was? A button that could be switched off and on at whim? Well, they were all in for a rethink, as I was hell bent on not carrying baggage into this wonderful new decade of mine!
Getting to the guest room, I was once again angry at the No Key policy in Tobenna’s house, which didn’t allow me just lock myself in the room. But lying on the bed, I was surprised that nobody even followed me. Nobody came charging after me. Nobody came barging into the room to talk to me. Instead, from the voices I heard downstairs, the party had moved to the garden, which was already set up in anticipation of Tobenna’s birthday party the next day.
So I sat in the room, sulking. One hour turned to two, and I was still wasting away in the guest room, while everyone else had a good time at what was supposed to be my ‘birthday’ party. Just as I was about to give up and retire to bed, Tobenna walked into the room.
“You’re missing a great party!” he teased, sitting on the bed.
“Who invited him?” I asked.
“I did.” Tobenna answered. “I thought it would be a great gift to you…Clearly, I was wrong.”
“You don’t make decisions for people like that!” I snapped. “I’m 40 years old, for crying out loud! When are you guys going to quit thinking you can help me live my life?!”
Tobenna smiled, and I could see the wisdom of his 50 years of age, as he contemplated his next words.
“First of all, nobody is trying to help you live your life.” he answered calmly. “Tonye got in touch with me a few months ago…June, to be precise. He told me about what happened between you the last time you saw. He also told me that he was still in love with you, and wanted to reach out to you but didn’t know how. I told him to be patient until your birthday, but when you decided to disappear to Malaysia, that plan couldn’t work…”
“So is he the main reason you’re having this party for me? To set the mood and tone for Tonye and I to reconnect? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that is never, ever going to happen!” I muttered, still angry.
Tobenna was quiet for a while, and we both sat in silence on the bead, the only sound coming from the music downstairs.
“When I first met Ego, I thought she was too good for me…” he mused, breaking the silence. “I was scared by the intensity of my feelings for her. I hated the fact that I wasn’t ‘in control’ when I was with her, and that she had me wrapped around her little finger. So, I can relate with Tonye.” he smiled, as he remembered his own past. “Don’t you remember how long it took for me to finally marry her? It wasn’t until we’d been together 10 years, that I realized that being in control of my emotions was not worth my losing the love of my life!”
I kept on looking ahead, understanding his analogy, but choosing to ignore it.
“Cheta…even as far back 2007, when he was running up and down like a headless chicken, trying to get you out of Police Custody…I knew it wasn’t just neighbourly love. It was obvious to me, 7 good years ago, that love was his driving force. The man is in love with you.”
“Tobenna, please don’t get me upset. I came all this way just to celebrate with you. Please don’t make me regret it!” I snapped. “What kind of love is that? A year ago, I bared myself to him. I exposed myself like a fool…literally begging. But all he did was shun me and send me away!”
“I need you to step out of that selfish little box you’ve created for yourself.” Tobenna scolded, in that mellow voice of his that, if you didn’t know him well, you would never hear the hidden jabs that usually came with it. “Step out of it, and look at things from his perspective. He was there when you were with Tersur. He was there when you were pining for Atoo. And, from what I hear, he was there when you were cavorting with all kinds of different men. You must really fancy yourself the fairest in the land, thinking he would just jump straight into your arms like that!”
“He got engaged himself, or have you forgotten?” I demanded.
“But that engagement ended because of you.” Tobenna answered. “You know yourself that he was still in love with you, even if he was engaged to another.”
“Well, that engagement ended…and you know what he did to me, when I tried to enter his life last year? He shut me down! He called our union toxic!”
“Chets, I’m not here to tell you the hows, the whys, or the whats! All I know is that there is a man downstairs, who loves you very much. A man who flew halfway across the world for you.” Tobenna rose too his feet. “If you’re not moved by that, feel free to fall asleep. But if you are…if by any chance you are, you know what to do….”
Long after Tobenna had left the room, I sat there thinking. I thought about the friendship Tonye and I shared…and how, somehow, love had happened for us. I realized, for the first time, how truly difficult it must have been for him, having a front row seat to all my mistakes, to all my promiscuities, to all the men that had walked in and out of my life. I had only been a spectator with one person, Juliet. Tonye, on the other hand, had witnessed as I gave my love to Tersur, Atoo, Eyitemi and Farouk.
And then, I understood.
I rose to my feet and walked down the stairs. The house had emptied, and the only people that remained in the garden outside, were my siblings, their partners, and a few of Tobenna’s friends. Walking into the garden, I noticed Tonye still sitting in a corner, without nary a word to anyone. There was an empty chair next to him, so I took it…
And we both sat in silence, staring straight ahead and not looking at each other.
“Why are you really here, Tonye?” I asked, after a while.
“To tell you that I was an idiot for letting you go…and that I love with my whole heart, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you…”
“You said our love was toxic. You said your love for Nengi was a better and more stable love…”
“Overwhelming? Yes! Intoxicating? Very! But not toxic. There is nothing toxic about what I feel for you, Chets.” still staring ahead, his hand covered my own hand, and as our fingers intertwined, I felt all my anger and reservations fall away like autumn leaves from a tree. “I miss you, Cheta. I miss your voice…I miss your laugher…I miss your stories. I miss your constant indecision of what to eat…every single day of the week. I miss seeing that crinkle on top of your nose when we’re gisting and you suspect I’m exaggerating. I miss that after I spend the day with you, I still smell your perfume on my clothes. I miss you being the last and first person I talk to every day. I miss you, Cheta.”
This time, I looked at him, and he looked at me, and it was like our hearts took over the conversation through our eyes.
“I’m complicated. I’m an emotional mess…you know that yourself…” I said, my voice uncertain.
“The you…the beautiful you that you are tonight is the same you I was in love with yesterday, last year, the year before…and the you that I will be in love with tomorrow.” was his beautiful response.
“Even as flawed and imperfect as I am?” I asked.
“Cheta…to me…you are perfect.” he answered.
I chuckled. “All this toasting, Tonye…”
He chuckled as well, and I placed my head on his shoulder. We sat there in silence, listening as Tobenna’s music switched from fast tempo hip hop, to more mellow songs. Soon, Blackstreet’s Let’s Stay In Love started playing.
Listening to Teddy Riley’s intro, it was almost like the song had been written specially for us.
Listen, I know we have our ups and downs
Our fights, our good times, and our bad times
But through it all
Nothing compares to the way I love you girl
So baby, let’s stay in love
Let’s stay in love
Tonye chuckled again. “You think Tobenna is playing this song on purpose?”
I laughed, as I looked across the garden at my brother, and other siblings, all of whom were pretending not to watch us. “I’m almost certain of it.”
“What would have happened if it he’d chosen our infamous Dru Hill song instead” Tonye teased.
“That song you made me hate after I tried to seduce you with it last year!” I chuckled back, remembering the incident from the year before.
“Well, I lied that day about hating it. I’ve listened to it almost everyday since that time we…you know…” he shrugged “It always gives me a strong memory of you. Chets, we might not be perfect human beings…but I know we can make each other whole…”
And my heart melted to butter.
Looking up at him, our lips met…and every reservation, resentment, anger, fury, rage, anxiety, sadness, disappointment that I had disappeared like doves released into the wild. Kissing him, I knew there was nowhere and nobody I’d rather be with…
“Dance with me…” he said, rising to his feet and taking my hand.
As we danced, Tonye sang along to the beautiful lyrics of the song. “Lady…I never knew a love before you. And then you came and made it clear view. And I wanna thank heaven above for placing you beside me…You’re the queen of hearts in my world…I’ll be the king of hearts to you girl. With our love, we can conquer anything…”
I looked up at him, and he kissed the bridge of my nose.
“You’re the one, Chets.” he said. “It’s always been you. Always!”
And at that moment, at that very moment, I knew I had finally found my forever love

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