It’s been a year, and I believe it’s time to share it here.
My dearest Abim,
There will always be finer women
There will always be smarter women
There will be women sexier,
As there will be women more motherly
If I ever chose to,
(And this does not mean I ever would)
I could find another woman I’d deem
More suited to me than you
I can find a woman who loves me
Even more than you do
One who I find more lovable than you.
The irony though, is if I were to choose
To embark upon that quest now,
And found a woman whom I thought
Was more suited to me than you
I would soon find yet another
Who seemed even more suitable than her
Yet, I choose you
For love is a choice
And after considering many variables
Such as our friendship
Steady and true
And the way our hands fit
Into each other’s
And the way your voice
Resonates with my heart
And my spirit
And my very soul
And the convenient fact
That our genotypes match
And also because my loving you
Comes entirely naturally
Even when my head tried to fight it
My heart already chose you
It was only common sense to follow through
And so I chose you
Regardless of your shortcomings,
Or your flaws
Regardless of the ups or the downs,
Regardless of sickness or wellness
No matter what else may be offered,
For no matter how long
Only on the condition of death
Will I let you go
And even then,
Never in my heart
I make the choice to love you
And only you
Abimbola, I will always choose you
You were always the creative one. Poet. Artist. Musician. Thespian. You may never have been master of any of those art forms, but having all of that myriad of talent balled behind your beautiful personality made you out to be the most charming man anyone would ever come across. It’s funny though, how you tried and tried to charm the socks off of me. And failed. Drama king that you were, I don’t know how you ever thought the antics you displayed- the spontaneous romantiques, the unnecessarily boisterous shows of affection- would win me over. I was the realistic one. The no nonsense one. The one who couldn’t be bothered with your type. And there you were, doing everything wrong to win me over.
But that letter changed everything.
Oh, I saw through the bullshit that was flowery words and a bundle of figurative expressions put together to make a girl weak in the knees. But then again, we’d already established the fact that I was not that type of girl. The go-weak-in-the-knees type of girl. What did it for me was how through the My heart beats for yous and I will die for yous, I could see the practicality of choosing you, based on the words you stated in writing. The promises you were making which I could hold on to. It was how I could take that letter for what I first saw it as: a binding contract I could always hold you to.
Nothing had changed. I was still the stoic; you, the boisterous. And we fit. You were in your element when you brought out all that charm and wit again at the wedding. For the first time, you ‘performed’ the words you had sent me in that letter, up-staging me. You had to wait until I was done with my drab, straight-from-the-books vows before dramatically shushing the priest and then wowing our audience with your performance. The letter had read like they were vows, I just never expected you’d go all Hollywood on me at my wedding. I was not impressed. These were your vows to ME. I, not the blasted audience, should have been impressed. Frankly, I would have been most impressed if you’d just stuck to the bleeding script and not gone firing on all your loose cannons again.
But you were you. And I am me. We were different, yes, but we fit perfectly. Your bullshit and my no-nonsense like the repelling, yet forever attached ends of a magnet. The practicality of us; this was what held me the most from leaving when you so earnestly broke those vows. I should have expected more from you after that display at the wedding but if anything, it made me expect less. Much less. You were, after all, all about the talk.
How could you bring another woman into our home and so wantonly disregard my opinion on account of hers? You chose her countless times over me. Breaking your vows again and again. What ever happened to “I choose you and only you”? Where did all the promises go?
She and I constantly fought for your attention. Outwardly, we bickered like school kids over who was right and who didn’t know anything but silently, we waged war upon each other, each fighting for the cause of who knew you better and who loved you more. Yet, somehow, it did not feel like victory the day I walked in on you telling mama off on my account.
“She is my wife, mama. She is me. If you cannot accept that whether you like it or not, she is your daughter, then maybe you should go back to your husband’s house and leave her own for her.”
That woman. She had the look of an obstinate goat chewing on the naira notes that should buy its feed and remaining petulant to its master’s display of dismay. You weren’t getting through to her. Yet, every word you said that day stung my very soul. No one should speak to their mother that way, least of all on my account.
I will never know what went through my head when I dashed towards my then arch enemy, crumpled at her feet, wrapped my arms around her legs and began weeping like a baby. Through the film of the tears in my eyes, I saw what appeared to be a mixture of shock, incredulity and utter confusion in your face. It was the first time you ever saw me weep.
Mama’s white flag was sent waving when she reached down, pulled me up and held me to her bosom. You could not have understood what had gone on that day. At the time, even I didn’t. An allegiance was formed and your words were replayed back to me…
I make the choice to love you and only you
When ten years later, you stood proud and ended with that, again upstaging me with my simple vows, I was more tolerant of your performance. Especially with our small audience of two, who you were doing an excellent job of entertaining with your loud gestures and over-the-top voice. They may not have seen the significance of the words but they felt the love. I felt the love. I saw less bullshit to see through by this point. Much less bullshit.
No matter what else may be offered,
For no matter how long…
When you came to this part at our twentieth anniversary, with much less gusto and much less conviction, all I could see was the bullshit. Thick, dark, smelly, disgusting bullshit that was too much to possibly see through.
It had taken you many, many years for you to convince me that perhaps, not all men were lying, cheating dogs. At least, not my man. And then you had, in one fell swoop, disproved your entire theory.
The episode of Hauwa in our story was a short, dark interlude which many times I wish I could just package neatly and ship off to the farthest reaches of my memory and never again remember. But it happened and I have a daily reminder in the form of Andi.
Choosing to take in the evidence of my husband’s indiscretions and raise him as my own is a decision I have never come to regret. I knew what it felt like to lose one’s mother at a tender age and Andi was not deserving of that punishment for crimes he did not commit. Crimes I had come to accept my complicity in. I could defend my actions of four years previous all I wanted, but I had come to admit to myself that when I vowed that I belonged to you,
To have and to hold from this day forward…
…to love and to cherish
I had broken my vows by locking up shop just as much as you had when you strayed to Hauwa’s honeypot. Of course, this did not absolve you of any guilt. None at all. I may have played a part in driving you into another woman’s arms but I did not also give you the directions to get there. That was all you. But forgiving you was a choice I had chosen to make long before you ever even committed any offences. Same as choosing to love you…
In sickness and in health,
Till death do us part
Bald headed, withered-bodied and causing you to pause every few moments so I could spit over the side of the bed into the waiting pan, I witnessed the beauty of you nursing me – and our love – back to full health. Our thirtieth anniversary vow renewals couldn’t have had a more apt venue than a recovery ward.
There was no more bullshit. We had laid ourselves bare before each other and found ourselves out of the deepest darknesses… together. I had been ready to let go and move on, but you refused. I… We… could never have beaten the cancer if it hadn’t been for you. Being there, supporting, praying, caring and mopping up the bullshit that had caked over our love over many years.
And then when you were done, in your usual dramatic fashion, you went and died yourself. After not allowing me, abi? Well done, Tokini. Well done o.
Tonight, I will perform the vows you made to me. As always, the audience will be just our children. You’ve been gone eight years now but I refuse to stop celebrating our love. Death may have separated us but I have chosen that never…
Will I let you go…
…Never in my heart
It suddenly occurred to me early this morning that in over forty years, I had never replied that first letter. And so, here I am now, doing you that courtesy.
You were a talented man, Tokini. A good son. An excellent father. A beautiful lover.
And I am so glad I chose you.
Dedicated to the beautiful Honey whose presence I was given the exquisite pleasure of indulging in today. Loving you is a thing of beauty.