Orientation camp at Ikare Akoko was supposed to be fun, but I didn’t reckon that the posse would be up in arms with me considering that I was the one who clinched the prize in the name of the tall, handsome William. If only they each knew what I don’t only know today but I am going through, they most likely would have cut me some slack.
“But I saw him first,” said Zainab with the bitter vehemence of someone who felt she had been disappointed by no less than a friend.
“But how could anyone had known that he would love Abigail mot you. The way they have been carrying on, you have to know that this is no ordinary love. Let it be,” Iyabo replied. I recall this conversation though it was many years ago in our section of the orientation camp in Ikare Akoko. Zainab may not have made it clear back then but she felt that she was entitled to have William for herself since she had seen him first.
“But Abigail is the one he chose, and I think it is best you let it go,” said Josephine or Anne, I don’t completely recall. But they come to mind because they formed the other half of the posse we had formed in camp and were the only two who felt that I had done nothing wrong by pitching my love tent with William.
“There is no way she could have known this would happen. Besides, this is love, no one can tell why a man decides to settle with a woman. It often just happens,” the same person added.
They had no idea I was listening in that morning since I had come back to use the toilet which was close to our section of the hostel. And that was how quickly divided the friendship I had formed in camp. While Zainab and Iyabo were on the other side, Josephine and Anne sided with me. In fact, Anne had had many occasions to tell me that William and I were perfect for each other.
“I have never seen two people who finish each other’s sentences like the two of you do. It is as if you both are always reading each other’s mind,” she told me one afternoon after our platoon had walked the rope tied between two tall trees.
“Thank you,” I simply said, certainly blushing if it were possible but knowing that like every human endeavor that my relationship with William, which was envied by perhaps all the girls in camp, was just like the tightrope we members of platoon three had walked that day. Indeed, every relationship is like that and those involved in it need to strike a delicate balance or would tumbled to the ground like more than 90 per cent of the entire camp, who could not walk rope successfully.
It was that day that I made the second most important decision in my relationship with William. I vowed that no matter how hard it got, I would not be the one who would mess things up for I would always be the one to find a way to keep us going. The first had been to ask him out. And now I look back on it the question that often comes to mind if whether he even agreed to go out with me in the first place. There will be no need to raise this very question had he not done one questionable thing after another since failing to dignify my proposition with a decent yes. Instead, he had shut me up by kissing me to silence.
I recall that kiss even now as if it had just happened with his tongue probing deep and letting loose the fire within with flames huge enough to consume me. I let the awe that was him take hold of my heart and lead it to places I had control of. We should never take leave of our senses in love but that is exactly what our lot when we are in love or love would not be love.
No one could pry us apart in camp as William and I quickly became an item, the only two people that everyone including the camp commandant, was talking about. Those who had the sense to think it through wished us the best. Some wished they could have the same kind of love and then there were those who wished us evil. What they may not have realised is that they were having their way. Perhaps it was because I had been the one who had asked him out, I can’t tell for a fact but William always found a way to take off whenever intimacy was the subject between us. He even ended our first kiss, the bliss that it all was and bid me attend to his leg. Even on burn fire night where everyone had gone gaga and the after effect the next day was the condom strewn nook and crannies, William refused to make love to me, saying that we should do better than have it in the open. He went through the motions of the perfect lover but always fell short of doing the act that would have cemented it, put a seal of approval on what we were calling our love. What is more, the all mighty posting sent us far apart from each other, him to Owo and I to the other end of the state in Oke-Igbo. He neither contacted or made attempt to visit me. I counted that as a heartbreak and nursed myself out of it promising never to give my heart away so easily.
As a doctor who was a member of the NYSC, I could have found my way out of the community to a major town or even out of the state entirely to a city like Lagos but I decided to stay put. I was no doubt hoping that staying in the state would one day force William to come looking for me. But my service year ended without that happening. In fact, I didn’t see him for the next 10 or so years until one auspicious morning in 2008 when I was heading to work and the gridlock was out of hell. One moment I’m sitting in traffic and wondering when it will all clear and the next a familiar figure steps out of the black SUV in front of me and the years just rolled back like an action from the wipers wiping clear the windshield of our lives. He saw me the same time I also saw him and the next moment I was throwing my door wide open and jumping out of my car seat to be enfolded in a warm embrace. The traffic did not move an inch until we both got a chance to say where we worked and live. That evening I received the biggest bunch of flowers anyone has ever sent to me. We were working streets apart in Ikoyi and living not far from each other in Gbagada Phase 2. He had travelled to the United States after service and returned five years before. I, on the other hand, had decided to specialise as a pediatrician. He was working in oil and gas and we were both single. We naturally walked down the aisle in less than two years no questions asked. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, it has turned out. William doesn’t enjoy sex except he does it as if he is raping me. He rapes me. I didn’t know about this as he hid it very well for the brief period we dated. Quite frankly, I love him but I don’t think I will be able to stand the rape. I have stayed with him since we got married in 2010 but I don’t know if I can continue to stomach it. I have stayed this long in the marriage because I feel that we need each other more than ever before but we need to find the love that we used to have.