I looked up through the blinding brightness of daylight at the face that belonged to the rough smoky voice that dared interrupt my miserable musings. I couldn’t make out his face clearly, because of the brutal force of the sky’s brightness. The sun was hiding somewhere behind the clouds, but nonetheless harmful to anyone who dared stare at her. Just like a shy courtesan can damage the reputation of a gentleman who ventures to associate with her.
I was sitting on a small section of a long stretch of grass in the only recreational garden I usually feel at ease in. Maybe not anymore since my peace had just been disturbed.
I was staring at a distant white skyscraper, thinking about how beautiful my life had become in the past two years. Oh, but I meant the opposite actually. You see I come from a generation (when I say generation, I mean family and a tradition passed down from centuries) of positive vibes that leans a little towards the absurd.
Perish the thought that I think or say that my miserable life is miserable when I could think or say otherwise.
When we are burning up with fever, we say are cool, even when our pounding heads are about to split open, we simply give a forced smile and say,
“Oh, I’m fine, my head is just so calm right now” Even though the other party can see the outline of pain etched on our faces.
When you lose a job in my generation, you just shrug it off and say,
“One has to end before another comes” Even if you’re still at home six months after, waiting for your miracle job.
When you, as a single young adult, get an eviction notice to leave your apartment because your rent is overdue, your friends will just sing back the depressing chorus,
“Don’t worry, be happy.
They think the song will make you feel better but in actuality, it depresses you because you have nowhere else to go but your parents’. When your life has been as awful as mine, you call it beautiful because,
“Everyone has their own problems, you don’t want to add to theirs.” My sweet over trusting mother would say.
I broke out of my long thoughts to see the stranger continue to stare at me, with a look of concern on his face. He must think I’m dumb. I tend to drift off for a long time. Finally, I replied,
“Hi,” and added a totally silly and unnecessary wave to my unenthusiastic reply.
“May I join you?” He asked.
Although I still could not make out his features well enough, I could at least see that he was good looking and tall too. Ugh, I’ve had enough of his type, I thought. I don’t know if I should tell him no but—
“Uhm, I don’t think so–,” I dragged the so, thinking he would take the hint, but he just plopped down with an ease I envied. I need to get rid of this guy I thought. I just want to be alone.
“I’ll just take a minute of your time”, he continued in his whiskey voice.
I’ve never taken whiskey before but I can imagine that was the right description for his voice. I could see him clearly, now that we were sitting at eye level. He had almost perfectly symmetrical features. His skin was the perfect dark chocolate, his nose slightly long and lean, he had warm chocolate irises nestled within pure white eyeballs and framed by long black eyelashes.
His slightly bushy yet beautiful eyebrows made me dislike him a little bit more. His ears were moderate, they even looked soft and his lips seemed too good to be true. In short, he is the dream of millions of females, the envy of less attractive men and ladies like me are jealous of the features he had no right to have. However, I needed him far away from my dreams, so you can imagine I didn’t like him intruding my reality.
“You wouldn’t want to do that,” I told him, putting on my poker face.
“Why?” He asked, the left side of his mouth lifting in a faintly amused smile.
His smile irritated me because it was so darn cute and made him even more attractive.
I replied him anyway,
“Well, because my uncle is standing right over there,”
I point to a soldier in uniform standing a few steps from where we sat,
“And he just might break your nose and knock out a few teeth just for talking to me.”
I completed without cracking even the smallest smile. I felt proud of myself.
Mr ‘I don’t know his name’ raised his hands and said,
“Woah, that’s serious, what are you, a golden princess being preserved for the king of the North?”
I burst into laughter, not knowing when I did so. I thought his pleasant sense of humour and vague allusion to the popular Game of Thrones TV series rocked and I just felt sad we wouldn’t get to know each other after we left this place. I quickly replaced my knee jerk laugh reaction with a cough and slid my blank face back in place.
“Oh well, you can never tell but I’m serious though,” I said.
“Why?” He asked, sounding like a broken record already. I answered him anyway, reluctantly accepting that I was enjoying our banter, no matter how short lived it will be.
“You see, I just came out of a relationship that ended brutally. My ex used to abuse me emotionally, which I didn’t mind too much cause I loved him, that is until he became physical. My uncle found out about it and he lost it. He beat the living daylight out of him and as I speak, he is in military holdings, left to stew over his actions until I tell my uncle to let him go.”
The stranger’s face morphed into several reactions as he followed my half-truths. Well, he didn’t know that they were half-truths.
At one point, I read pity on his face, I didn’t know if I should slap him or tell him I was exaggerating a little bit. I hated pity but I excused him because I wasn’t being completely straight with him.
“I’m sorry about that, you’re lucky to be out of such a situation. Many women don’t usually leave until it’s too late or they don’t leave alive sef.”
I looked at him in surprise because he sounded so compassionate and intelligent.
“Uhm, tha– thanks, that was kind of you.” I stuttered. Woah, I never stutter and this strange man made me stutter.
I looked around, my gaze taking in the pool area ahead. Quite a few people were in the clear pool with blue tiles. Some kids were splashing happily. A child of about three was being led into the already crowded pool. When she was plunged into the cold or maybe warm water? I didn’t know, since I didn’t want to share urine saturated pool with strangers. The girl started crying at the top of her lungs, and with all her strength I’m sure. Her mother finally conceded defeat and carried her out. The girl stopped crying.
I shifted my gaze to a tent made from bamboo trunks and rafters, where three white guys sat with three black ladies; well they are ladies, regardless of what their profession might be. I could almost touch the sexual tension coming from the table. I could almost read the thoughts of the men. They were probably saying,
“I just want to boink this lady and move on to the next. I leave in a week. I had better get all the black goodness I can. My wife is too far from me. Man’s gotta take care of man.”
I’d been trying to catch the eye of one of the white men since I noticed them. The men were not that good looking but I’ve also never had a white friend, so I was hoping this will be a first. But wait–, am I that desperate for a fresh perspective that I now fawn over a white man? Something I’ve never done before? I really need my head checked. I must have left some parts of my brain in my last relationship.
I shifted my attention to the lovebirds who always take advantage of the natural beauty the garden offers as backdrop for amazing pictures. So, almost every weekend you see at least one couple taking pre-wedding shots. I felt a slight twinge of pain at what I lost and what might have been.
Finally, I stood, dusting dried twigs, and fresh grass strips from my bottom, thereby, breaking the surprisingly comfortable silence that had fallen between the stranger and me.
“Uhm I gotta go, plus–,” I added when he interrupted me,
” –my uncle is heading this way.”
Just then, the tall man I claimed as my uncle headed towards our direction. I quickly turned and went behind a tree. The stranger followed me, looking at me as though I were crazy. As soon as the soldier passed, I take to the opposite direction, yet the persistent ridiculously handsome guy followed me.
I wondered what was so fascinating about me. Maybe it was my slightly round/oval shaped face with dimpled chin, or my feline eyes that slightly tilts at the sides? Could it have been my round figure which is typical of a physically blessed African woman?
God forbid that it was the image of the sad lonely girl I painted that made this knight in shining armour try to save a damsel in distress. Whatever it was that drew him to me, he wasn’t ready to leave without a fight. If the soldier was really my uncle and the tale I just told him so far had been true, then this young man had a death wish, and I would have admired his guts if he were someone else, or if I were someone different and if the situation were more pleasant. Right then, I thought he was stupid for sticking up for a stranger.
“Can I at least have your number, please?”
Oh come on, he said the please with an adorable pout that should have looked stupid on a grown man but came out kind of sweet. I gave in. At least he had been a really cool gentleman.
“Oookay,” I said with a growl that made him chuckle and had me smiling. I rolled out my phone number and said,
“It was nice meeting you.” Then I took off.
He said a ‘thanks’ that was carried away by the cool breeze picking up force as the evening set in. Then, I heard him shout,
“I didn’t even get your name,” when I didn’t reply, he said,
“But I’ll call you.” To that, I gave a backward wave.
I headed towards the exit but then turned towards a direction that would take me away from the stranger, yet still inside the garden. At last, once again alone with my thoughts, I could be sincere with myself.
I didn’t know the soldier, I made a part of my story. I definitely do not know any soldier personally. I do not have anyone in military holdings, and… Then I even struggled to remember what other lies I must have cooked up.
See? This is what my mama used to say about lies. It never ends well because you have to cover one lie with another until you don’t even remember where the lie started from.
However, I did just leave an abusive relationship, but unlike the other inflated lies, I had downplayed the extent of abuse I suffered.
Well, because I didn’t want the pity and look of controlled rage I saw on the stranger’s face, which I indeed saw, I can imagine how horrified he would have been if I had told him the full story.
I met Dennis in law school. He was the leading male student and I was the leading girl in class. We were good looking. Well, he was really charming and handsome. We were attracted to each other, people thought we were a perfect couple, Yin Yang, we started our relationship. Law school finished with a bang. We finished top of our class and our colleagues were thinking, wedding bells ringing. We decided to get our careers started before we make the walk down the aisle.
The first year after we were called to bar was amazing. He was a prosecutor with the government, while I was a tax lawyer. We were both on excellent payrolls, and our area of specialisation differed, so we didn’t have to butt heads in court. A few times, I was involved in his cases and he in mine, but all those situations were unbiased. Which meant our careers was going just fine.
It is usually believed that two lawyers shouldn’t get married. The same way two surgeons should avoid tying the knots, but career compatibility wasn’t the deal breaker for us, Dennis’ temper was. He was sweet at first but started getting violent whenever he saw me with my friends, colleagues and even clients! He would speak angrily to them even though he didn’t know them, or drag me away whenever I greet a guy with a harmless smile.
I called him out on his attitude every time but he would apologise that he was just a little jealous. It became bothersome when he hit a guy that merely hugged me by the side and it was then I threatened to leave him. Again, he begged and promised it wouldn’t happen again.
However, this pattern continued. Then he started abusing me emotionally by complaining so bad about everything I did or say. He always had a snide comment, which made me start doubting myself. At a point, I added a little weight from the stress at work and his constant negative attitude. I lost sleep and appetite. When I ate, it was unhealthy.
As luck would have it, my mom noticed and asked me what was wrong. Initially, I kept up with the positive replies I was brought up to say even when things were going bad but when Dennis beat me the third time, my mom wore me down until I told her the truth.
She was aghast and furious that an enlightened lady like me would stay in an abusive relationship for four years and not say anything to anyone about it, a lawyer for that matter. I wish I had confided in her sooner but, I chickened out every time I visited her, so I kept it to myself.
In our society, it is believed that career- women, especially the ones in my profession, are tough nuts, untouchable, cannot be messed with, we have tough hides and hearts made of steel. They fail to remember we are flesh and blood too. I don’t blame them much.
Instead, I blame overzealous feminists who portray women as superbly powerful. So we are forced to compete with the standard they’ve set. Many uneducated women are to an extent spared this high bar because the feminists think “they don’t know any better, but we still have to teach them.”
They forget that we have emotions too. Then, we pretend all is well. Unfortunately for me, my background cemented my desire to cover up because “all is always well” even in terrible times.
Love is a beautiful thing but it can be twisted. It can turn the most sensible person into a blithering idiot and once your mind and psyche get used to something, even though harmful, it becomes extremely difficult to reset your emotions and thoughts.
What more, you have invested so many years of emotions, physical and even financial dedication. Is it that easy to discard such and start all over again? These and more were what made me stick to Dennis, trying to salvage what I thought we had left, hoping it might spark the beauty we once experienced. Dennis didn’t change and the sparks fizzled out.
I had to come to grips with the fact that he would never change, so I left him but Dennis didn’t leave me. He threatened me, threatened to kill himself, and then kill me. He didn’t stop until he was stopped. He was arrested, then released, yet he continued. He almost succeeded in killing me after stalking me for months and tried to drown me in my bathtub.
Now, he is receiving treatment in a mental facility after the judge declared him to be suffering from PTSD, a delayed reaction to a latent childhood trauma I didn’t know he suffered. That tells you how much I knew of the man I was going to marry.
I resented him but I also pitied him. He suffered physical and sexual abuse himself, something no eight-year-old should have to go through. Such a brilliant man wasted and damaged from childhood. On his part, he should have sought help but in Nigeria, mental health is considered a disease, of which you might suffer stigmatisation or dismissal from people you trust. Hence, we keep shut then let the wounds fester into a deep rot that might never heal.
I am grateful I survived that phase of my life, but I was deeply shaken by it and emotionally scarred. I don’t know how long my own healing will take place but it better be soon.
As I finally headed towards the exit gate, I wondered about the young, handsome yet kind stranger and smiled. A bitter, enigmatic smile that said,
“You can never tell what tomorrow will bring. It may be or may not be.”
I approached a bike man, told him my destination. We agreed on a price. I got on the bike, enjoying the breeze blow my hair into my face. For the first time in a while, I felt free and light. To think it took a stranger to bring back that feeling. I had no idea if I’ll ever hear from Mr Perfect again but, hopeful that tomorrow might hold something good for me, we zoomed off.
Yeah, I might have just resorted to my extremely positive mode but it’s who I am, it is my identity. Hope and faith flow in my veins and I am unapologetic about it.
Alfred Deborah Olabisi is a budding writer with a goal to reach her audience through everyday language they can easily relate with. She projects in her writings themes ranging from lifestyle to fictions, in depth musings of the ideal world and reflections on the pain of humans through her own eyes and others. Above all, she projects hope of a better ending for every man.
Deborah has written a few works, some of which have been featured in a few publications such as the ‘U.I Writes’, AUCSF magazine, NUESA Press magazine and so on. She is also an approved content creator whose works have been considered successful and satisfactorily accepted. She is the Founder of Pyramid Consult, a startup Content and Career solution firm. Her early discovered love for reading, and eventually writing has made her relentless in her pursuit to be heard. It has bred in her the passion to reach out to the world through her words. When she is not writing, she is reading, making new friends and volunteering. She holds a B.Ed in English Language/Communication and Language Arts.
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