I’m sure that like me, the prayer of most people when they find cause to communicate with the god they serve whether it be the supreme and all powerful being or otherwise is, please, don’t let me be misunderstood. So, I say that prayer as I set out on this journey to myself. As I put down my experience for posterity. I say the prayer because even I find it difficult to understand me right now. And even now, I am convinced that this, too will pass even if it has gone on, some people will say, for much too long.
There are those too who will wonder how long this should go on before the person bearing the burden, some might even call that person a victim, me in this case, cries out. This is by no means a crying out. I just want to tell my story of love, bitterness and pain. I just want to make sense of the pain especially of never knowing when the end will come or if it ever will. Of the fairytale with the happily ever after ending never ending. Ours ought to have started the moment I set eyes on William those many years ago.
I met him in Ikare Akoko. At the NYSC camp in Ondo State. It was 1998 or thereabout. He arrived camp on the day of the swearing-in ceremony and everyone said he would be sent home. By everyone I am referring to the few girls who ended up in the camp. By my estimate, guys outnumbered girls by three to one. So it was a natural thing for the girls to take note of such a tall and handsome William. Even if he did not seem to want to mingle.
“I saw the most beautiful boy I have ever seen today. Eye candy and more. Sadly, he will not be staying,” said Zainab, who seemed to know everything and always spoke her mind either in the section of the hostel we occupied in camp or elsewhere in camp.
“Why do you that,” asked Agatha, who was always the first to get clarification from whoever had said something,
“Because he got here late. That is why. The NYSC insists that corpers get to camp well on time and provides up to three days for doing that before orientation begins. Miss that and you are out. It is sad that he will have to go home,” Iyabo chipped in sounding really sad.
I had nothing to say then because I as yet had not set eyes on the object of their concern. Of their shameless desire would be more apt. We went on to talk about all the things girls far from home who had formed a posse after meeting for the first time get to talk about. Then it was lights out and we had to go to sleep.
That night I dreamt of a tall, ever-smiling but never blinking young man who shone as bright as the morning sun. I have had occasion to look back a million times and realise that I was actually dreaming of William. Although I had not caught a glimpse of him, the many things Zainab, Iyabo and the rest of the girls in the posse had to say about him had etched him on my subconscious. So, although I had not seen him, I knew him. And the one thing I was wrong about was the non-blinking part. For I found out that William blinked far more than any girl I ever knew even if it is fact that girls blink far more than boys. Every other thing was perfect and all the stars in the sky in all their glory could not outshine my man and he burned, burns bright like a million candles even now that I have put him on a scale and found him wanting.
William was late once more for the morning routine that included waking up early, a motivational talk, some exercise and the jogging in the cold morning that I hated to so much. But as soon as he stepped out, the very morning itself stood still. It was as if the king we had all been waiting for had come. I could read on the faces of the few ladies in camp that they all desired William. I was not exempted. Even I who had been nicknamed woman of steel for my being able to parry off advances from boys and even men while I got a degree in medicine at the University of Ibadan. William had effect in anyone, he inspired envy in the guys and pure desire in the ladies. I swear to you, I was not just week in the knees when I saw him, I was dripping wet like I had never in my 26 years on planet earth. And like hundreds of African drums sounding at the same time, my heart started to beat only for the tall, handsome, half god and half man before me. I wanted him for myself and for the first time in my life, would do anything to keep him.
And I thought that he would slip away never to be seen again if I did not make a move. So I went ahead and asked him out the next time I saw him.
Somehow I felt that my fears were over, that I didn’t have to cry myself to sleep no more. That the man I had been waiting for all my life had shown up. I also knew for a fact that this was the kind of prince charming you presented to your mum and dad and they would not realise when they would ask him to take your hand without paying the bride price.
The next time we met was at the camp clinic where I held sway as the doctor. There was just two other doctors to man the clinic and we took turns to do that. That same morning I set eyes on William was my turn to be at the clinic. Before he showed up with pain etched on his face anticipation had twined me in all corners of my body squeezing the very light out of me. So I was shocked when my first patient that day turned out to be William.
“Hey,” was all I could manage when I opened the door and he was standing there. I quickly felt like this was my only son and my job was to carry out a lifesaving operation on him. I was an emotional wreck like someone had tied me up and held me up to a burning sea of candles on a very cold day.
“Hello,” he said and the candles quickly became an ocean. It was his voice was almost honey coated, better than listening to Teddy Pendergrass sing all day. Thankfully, too, he loved to blink.
“I have a sprained ankle from the exercise,” he continued to serenade me even if he was just telling me what was wrong with his leg.
“Sit,” I found my voice after what seemed like an eternity of trying to bring my vocal chords to order. “I will fix it,” I added in a voice that seemed to belong to someone else.
It is not everyday people find something this perfect and want to hold onto it for all time.
Now I think about it, as I attempted to fix William’s sprained leg I found myself shattering, losing myself to him.
“If I don’t say this, I will never forgive myself,” I started to speak but he put his hands on my lips and made me stop. “No, don’t stop me, I want you and I will always be there for you, I will wait for you to make up your mind. Our love is different. I can feel it, and for a long time, maybe even forever, our life will also be different,” I added.
“What is your name?” He asked and I realised that I had not even told him my name as I said “Abigail”.
He kissed me ever so passionately and the world as I knew it then all but came to a stop. He was my first, my last, my everything. I had no idea then that I had left the barn door wide open and let the king of foxes in.
To be continued.