It’s about one week to my favorite day of the year, and yet it’s been so hard for me to channel joy. Everyone knows I’m crazy about my birthdays, and this year it’s a huge one! But the past few weeks have been pretty difficult. I’ve had unexpected losses, that have ultimately reminded me how short life is, and how important it is for me to truly live.
So I sat down to write, to try to grab some joy for myself. So this is your reminder to do something for yourself that brings you true joy. A reminder to also spread joy to others. We dont know the half of what people are going through. So here’s to a weekend of true living and joy spreading. No matter what you’re going through, I hope you find some joy ❤️!
I’m learning that ultimately, we’re all really different people. While I get off work on a terrible day, eager to hear from her, eager to hear her voice make it all somehow better, she is entirely the opposite. A sure sign that she was having a bad week or whatever, is that I will not hear from her. For days, sometimes weeks. This time it’s been months.
I’ve talked about it multiple times, maybe even nagged a little bit. And then I’ve decided that it’s enough. I’ll be here whenever she wants. But I can’t keep on this way. And I need to fix my eagerness to talk to her, to constantly be with her. It’s a hard journey… I feel very easily dispensable. But I’m learning, I’m growing. How did I get to this point of constantly wanting this woman? This is not who I was, this is not who I am!
Sayo walked out of the studio on the verge of tears. As always, nobody could tell. She was her usual stoic self, but underneath the surface, she was trembling. She was so mad! Her Nana’s words came back to her “Remember how you were always tracking mud onto my carpets? Oluwasayo why are you always self-sabotaging?”
Her shoulders felt so heavy, and for the first time in a really long time, she felt grief overwhelm her all over again. KB’s words filled her ears…
“I heard you, Sayo… and I saw you… while it felt as if I was dreaming, we both know I was not. And to make it worse, you refused to talk to me… for months! And now you expect to waltz back and act as though I’m obligated to talk to you?” His voice was raised and clipped, and she had never seen him this way. Calm sensible KB. She’d brought out the monster in him. Of course, he was right… maybe she should have told him, should have explained – or tried. She should have been more sensible! But how? How could he possibly understand?
She tried to walk a few blocks away before she buckled. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt like this. What was it she was supposed to do again? Breathe. Count. Crouch down, head between knees. She could hear Dr. V’s voice, but it wasn’t registering. Her head was spinning, and she was breathing way faster than she knew she should. She just wanted to get home. Where was her car? She spun to the left too fast, not helping her situation.
From nowhere, Dr. V’s words were replaced by those sharp words she’d worked so hard to forget. “Orlu, why are you always so dramatic? I know you do this for the attention!”
She dropped her bag, brought her hands to her ears, as if that would stop the voice, and bent down, hoping this would pass. She couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe.
When KB walked out and saw her stooped a few meters away, it rattled him. A part of him wanted to ignore her… to show her what that had felt like. But his heart clenched… there was something wrong. Sayo was never one to be caught looking so …vulnerable. He’d never seen her cry… even when her face was buried in a toilet, she managed to look like she owned the world. She was the most guarded person he’d ever met, and this was not like her.
“Sayo!” he called out. She wasn’t moving. Could she hear him? Why was her bag on the floor? Why was she covering her ears? He half-walked, half-run to her.
She wasn’t sure if she was hallucinating. She could hear her name. She couldn’t breathe still; she could only see black spots… it all felt too familiar, and yet so distant.
She felt his hands on her shoulders first, then on her face, heard his voice say her name… that way only he said her name… But she couldn’t see him. She felt him shake her.
The last thing she remembered before the darkness, was his frantic voice. “Sayo, I’m here… I’m here… Sayo!”
They had sat in companionable silence one night. Sayo had been preparing for a class, and KB was working on his applications. She was sprawled on the floor in just a large T-shirt, and he sat across from her, going through his portfolio.
He remembered how those random social media posts came to mind – those cliché posts that went along the lines of: “He slept next to her all night and did not touch her. Because ultimately, he wanted her for way more than just her body.” or “I want to be close to you, just lie next to you all through the night.”
They’d never made any sense to him then. Which red-blooded male with functioning parts would decide to lay next to a woman all night for no reason? That was before Sayo.
With her, he finally understood. He crawled over to where she lay and sat. She turned over and put her head on his lap. He stroked her face over and over, wondering if there was anyone else, he’d ever thought these things about. Anyone he wanted to just…cradle, just for the sake of it. Not for sex.
“A penny for your thoughts.” She’d said, clearly exhausted.
He sighed. Wondering if telling her was a good idea.
“I’m not an intentional lover, Sayo. I’ve never really been in a relationship where I thought I could be in love. I want to learn. I hope to learn. And I know we’re from different cultures. So you’ll have to teach me. I want to be intentional. I don’t want to lose you.”
Sayo came to fully in some sort of ward. It had walls on either side, but instead of a door, there was just a curtain. She could see and hear movement and conversations on the other side of the curtain. KB was sitting in a chair close to the bed. He was fast asleep. She remembered being semi-conscious and yet still frantic in the ambulance. KB had been holding her hand then. She wanted to pinch herself to find out if this was real. As if on some cue, KB jostled awake. He noticed she was awake and grabbed her hand.
“Hey” was all he could manage.
She tried to smile. Her face felt stiff. “What’s the time? How long have I been sleeping? Where’s my bag? My phone? I need to call Admin” He pulled out his phone to check the time. “You were a little agitated earlier, so they sedated you. Please calm down baby.”
Baby. She hadn’t heard that in a while… it filled her chest with some kind of warmth.
“The doctor asked if I was your husband. I said yes. You’ve apparently taken your emergency contacts off your file?” She sighed deeply and looked away. Clearly, she didn’t want to talk about that.
“Can we go home? To your place? Please?”
He nodded. “The nurse said you could probably leave tonight. Let me find her.” He walked to the curtain, and just before he walked out, he turned to look at her.
“Sayo, promise me something…”
She looked up questioningly.
“When we get home, you’ll tell me everything!”
“It always starts as a simple negative thought. Planted by doubt or someone’s words, or sometimes just by life. It grows until you cannot believe anything else but this one negative thing. Even if it’s a lie, to you, it’s gospel. So even when you start to move past it, start to feel something close to good, somewhere at the back of your mind, you expect it to end. You actively start looking for the bad thing to happen to prove that it was always going to end badly.”
“People in constant pain tend to get used to it. I’ve lived a life of constant pain before. I thought it was over. Apparently not.” “And as you probably already know, I’m a bit of an over-thinker…”
“Mama and Dada are the typical immigrant Nigerian parents. You ever seen the series ‘Bob hearts Abisola’? When Abisola told her family about Bob? That’s kind of what my marriage was like. They didn’t understand why I married a white man. It made no sense to them when they’d made sure that we went to a Nigerian church, I had constant run-ins, forced or otherwise, with the Nigerian families they considered good enough for me to marry from.”
“So, Dean was a shock to them. But I was in love. Truly. At least initially. And he was too… I think.” Her face was indecipherable.
“He literally worshipped the floor I walked on. And I was young and naïve. I have always been hella smart, but somehow, I didn’t see it coming – his narcissism, the verbal abuse, the…” She paused. “He was…” She paused again.
“We met a little after undergrad when I was working as a teaching assistant for a math course in my alma mater. He was a Ph.D. student then.
I was fresh out of a relationship with one of the many Yoruba demons Mama was constantly urging me towards.” She laughed a weird laughter.
“He was different. Calmer. Different. And older – Older men are a breath of fresh air!”
“Within a year, I was in love, married, and just about to be knocked up when it really started. The mean comments. The weird looks. The highhandedness.
He never hit me physically. Somehow, I think that would have been much easier. Maybe one slap and I would have left? I don’t know. I just know that he would hurl terrible words at me while holding me, cradling me in his arms, and I would absorb them, making mental notes to change things about myself.
“I don’t blame him… And I don’t want you pitying me. You asked. And I just want you to understand… that this doesn’t come easy for me. I know…. I know all the popular sayings – all the BS. Heal from those who hurt you, so you don’t hurt those who love you…You think I haven’t tried? You think I haven’t fuckin’ tried?!”
At this point, she was losing it. He’d never seen her this hysterical.
“Babe, we can talk about this when you’re ready. I… you don’t have to. Not right now.”
It was as if she was in a trance.
“I walked in on him and one of his post-doc fellows once. That day, I started to believe that I was as stupid as he kept saying. Because how had I missed it? His hand was up her skirt. He ordered me to sit down.” She swallowed. “To sit down and watch.”
She pressed her hands to her face as if to shut out the memory.
“I have never been that humiliated in my life. He… he kissed her slowly and passionately – in a way he hadn’t kissed me in a really long time. Right in front of me. He kissed her neck, nipped at her ears, and kissed his way down till he got to her breasts. He kissed them, bit at her nipples… and the whole time, his… his right hand remained in her underwear; moving slowly, then fast, until she climaxed with quite the display.” She took a steadying breath.
KB was aghast! He had so many questions, but Sayo was getting more and more worked up. He did not want another ER visit. “Babe… ” he pulled her to him, and just held her tightly. “Shhh… let’s finish this tomorrow.”
They were quiet for a few minutes. Each lost in their own thoughts, neither able to sleep.
“KB I know what you saw. And I know what you heard. I did not kiss him back. And I told him you’re just a child because I didn’t want him anywhere near you. I don’t know what I was thinking. I just wanted him gone. And I didn’t want him to think he could threaten you or anything just to get to me.”
“He’s currently a big deal. He wields so much power in academic circles. I moved halfway across the country after the divorce to be this far away from him. And I know you might think I’m stupid. Heck, even I think I’m stupid. But I wasn’t thinking when he showed up at the house. I just wanted him gone.”
KB hardened his jaw. His mind flashed back to that afternoon. It hadn’t really registered when he walked in on their conversation. At least not immediately. And then he saw them kiss… and that’s when he saw red. That’s when he’d started to question the past year with her.
“What did he want?” KB finally asked.
“A lot more than I can give.”