I fell in love first with her moon-shaped face and colourful hijab then with her diligence, intelligence and her ever wanting to know how I was. It was pure, genuine and simple. I just never tired of looking at Mairo and if someone had said, young man, this feeling of never wanting to let go was mutual between us, it never would have entered my head. I mean, I constantly dreamt about it but you don’t need anyone to tell you which of your dreams are beyond your wildest imaginings.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” She asked me one afternoon in class. We had been waiting for our lecturer to show up and the thing that shuffles the sitting position now and again brought us together on this fateful day on which I couldn’t help but stare as always. It was the brown of her bright eyes that I could see clearly even as I beheld her profile that day. It was the chin, which without me touching it, knew it was soft like the clothe of her hijab that seemed to flow into it and be one with her. No woman I had ever seen wore her hijab quite like Mairo.
“Because you make it easy for me,” I said matter of fact. I could never lie to her, not then, not now.
“Never start a sentence with because,” she said, something completely unexpected.
“Why not?” I found myself with the short end of the stick.
“In 200 level English and you don’t know that? I’ll tell you the day you stop staring at me like a sheep that has lost its way,” she said just as Sola Fosudo walked in to take charge of the class. No one was to be found saying it but all of Lagos State University was happy to have him represent us in Nollywood and were indeed awed by the honour of having to learn at his feet. For all we knew, this was knowledge straight from the source. But this collective high came no close to the personal one I had for the better part of the first semester in my second year when Mairo transferred from Bayero University Kano to follow her military officer father to Lagos. BUK lost an angel, which the heavens were kind enough to bring to LASU and into my waiting laps.
“I’m his only daughter and he didn’t want to leave me behind in Kano for those he describes as hyenas to ravage me,” she explained when we got passed the introductions and continued to plough the depths of our personal histories.
“I’m Mairo, by the way,” she said as soon as the lecture came to a close.
“Pius,” I said.
For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what the lecture was all about that afternoon those many years ago and it has nothing to do with me being a numbskull. Even if I say so myself, I’m brilliant, and at over six feet, not only tall but also handsome. So, I wasn’t a deprived puppy hanging on every word Mairo uttered for validation. I had women willing to do my bidding. But that she spoke to me that day was akin to a dream you had catalogued as unlikely to come true going ahead of you to surprise you bountifully. And, not to mention, my dad came from privilege, in fact, both my parents were oil people who raised me and my two siblings in Warri to be Christian and dogged before I left their nest to pursue an education in Lagos. Little did I know then that I would meet and fall in love with a Muslim girl who also found me attractive.
“My dad will have none of it. He will feel that he has failed his late wife, my mum, whom he was unable to replace and had promised to bring me up as a good Muslim girl. I love you Pius and will go to the ends of the world with you but it will be remiss of me not to let you know how rough the road ahead will be,” Mairo told me after I asked her to marry me. I knew this day would come but no matter how long we had prepared, there was no stopping the storm.
“I know what you are talking about. But I will go with you to the very ends of the world if you only take my hand and go with me. When I say that I love you, it is not mere proselytising, it permeates my being and makes me want to shed tears just to think it,” I told her. I wasn’t planning on giving in. I would go through hell just to protect and treasure the feelings I have for her.
My parents and Mairo’s dad are united in the mission to keep us apart. So outrageous is their dexterity that they have failed to see that there is another way, which is that Mairo and I have found love and we know exactly what we want to do with it. We each knew back then what we would do should this come up and that is exactly what we have gone ahead and done. After all, if they were to succeed in separating us, who will take the pain of it all but the two of us? They will go on with their lives and leave us to be miserable with the partners they have selected for us, for life. That’s what is most scary to me. That’s not how I want to go through life. Perhaps if I didn’t meet Mairo, I never would have known and not knowing would not have bothered us.
So this is what we have done. Once I was completely certain that what I want is also what Mairo wants, we came up with a game plan. We are after all independent young adults who probably need only the blessings of our parents and religious leaders to get hitched. We found that we could get this blessing later on when they see that we are really serious about our decision. We are lucky to be in Lagos where people have come to realise that people largely get what they want so no one harmed us physically as is the story of some unlucky couples elsewhere in the country. We are moving to Canada. All is set now and we are going to continue to stay in touch with our parents hoping that someday soon, they will see the futility of their stance and embrace our decision.
As for how we will leave our lives, we will be figuring it out as we go along. Mairo says she wants to have a house full of kids. I want one or two. But like I said before, we are going to be figuring it out as we go along. I have friends who tell me it will never work because our different world views especially religion will always stand it our way. But I tell them, who says we can’t have a couple with different religions? There are also those who applaud what we have done, who say it gives hope to the coming generation of Nigerians in our situation. I thank them and hope that our example will be a shining light to not just our fellow countrymen and women, but also to the world. I’m glad that I have the support of my siblings and hope that my parents will soon turn around and embrace Mairo and I.