I used to feel so good with him just lying next to me. Who will dry my tears now? Who will make me smile like he used to do by just showing up? When 21 years ago he came into my life, he blew me away. He was in the army but also so sophisticated. Until he came along, I had no idea that you could actually say army and sophisticated in the same sentence. I was wrong with him. It was wrong of me to judge him the way I did, the way most people judge soldiers often saying they are this or they are that. You just couldn’t fit him into any box. Come to think of it, that is the first thing I loved about him.
If someone had told me that we would end up together the first time I saw him, I never would have believed it. He had accompanied a group of friends to the eatery where I was doing a holiday job to augment my income as a university student and I was the one who served them.
He just bought a phone and was so distracted with getting connected that making an order was not a priority to him.
“What would you like to have?” I asked him pen and jotter in hand ready to take notes. But he looked at me and said, “Is the world coming to an end?” I was taken aback by his question. What had that got to do with anything? It had been a very busy day and if you have never worked in an eatery, you will not understand the frustrations of dealing with all kinds of humans, which made the 12 hours I worked daily seem like a whole week.
“You are not smiling,” he said as a way of offering an explanation for his puzzling question. But I found myself smiling all the same. In fact, the smile soon morphed into laughter whenever he was around as that turned out to be the first of many visits he would make to the Ikeja, Lagos-based eatery.
He chased me for a long time, five years to be precise, even finding time to visit me at the University of Ilorin where I was studying English. But all along, I convinced myself that he and I would never happen even if we were more than just ships that pass in the night on account of the fact that we had nurtured a relationship for far longer than some people we know have been married.
When we had our first meeting, TJ, which is short for his name Tunji, was a sergeant in the Nigerian Army and living at Ikeja Cantonment. But he was a man with a mission. He wanted to become an officer and by the time I completed my studies at the university, his wish had been granted. He had sat and passed his exams and was commissioned a lieutenant. Although he had all along been treating me very well, making sure I lacked nothing, he was now able to treat me to all kinds of luxuries. He even asked me to marry him. But I was very wary at the time, wondering if getting married right away was the thing for me.
“It’s been four years, Funke and I can’t wait to make you mine. If you insist I will wait another year but that will be it,” he told me when I expressed my concern. It is not that I didn’t love him enough to settle down with him. It is just that there were so many things happening in my life at that time. I just finished school and had been mobilised to serve the country in the National Youth Service Corps, I was dealing with a parent who was terminally ill. My mum had been diagnosed with cancer and all kinds of other things occupied my mind. So, him bringing up the subject of marriage felt like he was brushing these issues aside as if they did not exist. But that was my reality at the time. Even if it was nice to know that he was there, it still felt like he was crowding me in and that I couldn’t breathe.
Now that I look back, I can tell for a fact that TJ was blindingly in love with me and couldn’t wait to make me his for all time. But I took the one year he had offered me. I had to serve anyway and at the end of the service year, I said yes.
“Funke, are you sure you don’t want a big wedding?” it was TJ worried that I had decided on a small wedding in too much of a hurry and trying to change my mind.
“Yes, my love. I’m very sure. We have wasted too much time, let’s get on with it. Besides, my mum id not here to cheer me on. It would have been as much a big day for her as it would be for me,” I said. My mum succumbed to cancer halfway through my service and TJ had been more than supportive even if he couldn’t say for a fact that I would agree to marry him when the one-year ultimatum he had given me came up at the end of my service year.
Eventually, we got married and for many years it was brilliant and we were totally into each other. We have twins, thankfully. My boys, who are an exact carbon copy of their father will make his loss bearable and he will never be forgotten.
The road that led us to this juncture in our life opened when Tunji was deployed to the killing fields in Borno State only last year. He was soon to return with injuries that didn’t look life-threatening. All the doctors said was that he would have to undergo surgery mostly to extract the shrapnel that had lodged in his body, simply a routine procedure. TJ was his lively self throughout his hospital stay but alas, complications arose afterwards and he soon succumbed to death. But I blame Boko Haram for this needless death. As I see it, if they had not started this crisis, we will not be here in the first place.