I’m officially the laziest blogger I know *covers face*, I’m sure you are tired of my numerous excuses. Anyways, I have a new story for you today. I know I haven’t finished with Through the waters but just enjoy a different story.
“Over my dead body! Arinola you CANNOT marry that man!”
“What will people say???”
“You will call him and return that ring. IS THAT CLEAR?”
I hear the sound of my parents’ voice over my head. My mum is sitting across and my dad is pacing about the living room.
My head is bowed and my eyes are focused on the engagement ring on my finger. I smile as I remembered the day Akintunde asked me to marry him. We had just seen a romantic comedy which I forced him to watch and he was driving me back home. He took a detour and I asked him where he was going but he refused to tell me.
“What are we doing here?” I asked when I noticed he stopped in front of Ikeja High School
“Young lady, you ask too many questions!”
“Seriously Akintunde, I haven’t been to this school in about 2 years. So I think I’m allowed to ask questions.”
“Okay, keep asking oh!” He replied playfully and got out of his car. I waited while he came round to open my door.
Even after dating for a year, he still opened the door for me; he was the true definition of a gentle man.
“AKIN! I’m not stepping out of the car if you don’t tell me why we are here! Cos today is a Saturday and obviously not a school day”
“Please now.” He begged and pulled my hand. I obliged and we walked towards the front gate. Surprisingly, there was a security man at the gate who smiled at us and opened the gate. We walked hand in hand past some classrooms and climbed the stairs to the second floor. I was shocked to see rose petals from the stairs of the second floor and I looked at his face and he simply smiled. The rose petals led us to the computer lab and I was still trying to understand what was happening when Akintunde went on his knee.
“Oh my gosh!” I screamed
“Arinola-temi this seems like the oddest place to propose to you but I couldn’t think of a better place because this was where I first realised you were special to me. I couldn’t take my eyes off you…I love you so much and would like to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”
“Arinola dear listen to your father.” My mum’s voice brings me out of my reverie and I sit up.
“Mum but I love him.” I say amidst tears.
“Arinola, love is not enough my dear.”
“Love? What do you know about love young lady?” my dad says
“Pleaseeee daddy please.” I get down on my knees and beg my parents to allow me marry the love of my life, the one my heart desires. “Please mum talk to daddy.” I speak to my mum with pleading eyes, tears falling down my cheeks.
“Now I regret sending you to England to study because that’s where you learnt that something like this is okay!” My dad storms out in anger and my mum sinks back into her seat. I don’t blame them for their reaction. Whose parents wouldn’t react this way?
ARINOLA-TEMI, that’s what he calls me. He’s the one person on earth who calls me that.
People say you can’t help who you fall in love with. Now I know it’s true.
It was summer 2012 when I moved back to Nigeria. I had just graduated from the University of Nottingham with a first class in International Economics. I had always wanted to come back home so I never bothered to apply for jobs in the UK. I was so excited about coming back home after being away for 5 years since I never came home to visit because of my superstitious parents. They were scared “awon aye” would kill me just the same way they killed my twin sister when we were 10. They came to visit me together every summer and my mum came over during Christmas too.
I was so excited about the next phase of my life. I looked forward to the “new Lagos” based on all the stories my friends told me whenever they came back from summer holidays to “Naij” as they called it. I was excited at being one of the IJGB kids. I moved back with 6 suitcases as I had to go shopping for clothes and other necessities I would need. My friend Sandra kept drumming into my ears that “there is no dulling in Lagos; you have to always look on point.”
My parents were equally excited to have their only child back at home. They were so proud of me and boasted about me to anyone who cared to listen. They got an interior decorator to decorate my room, got me a brand new car and even went as far as getting me a driver because they said driving in Lagos was crazy.
I arrived on Nigerian soil on the 21st of July 2012, two weeks after my graduation ceremony. After a month of adjusting to the heat, irregular power supply (thank God for generators and inverters!) I travelled to Abuja to register for NYSC. Foreign students had to go register at the nation’s capital for NYSC. My mum insisted on coming with me but I had to stop her, thankfully, my friend Aisha who had just moved back from Canada was going to register too.
We got to Abuja, registered for NYSC and explored the city for 3 days before moving back to Lagos; we visited Ceddi plaza, Jabi lake and bought kilishi from Garki Area 2. We both hoped we would be posted to Lagos, although our parents had plans to “work” our posting to Lagos. I heard that sometimes working one’s posting fails.
Our call up letter came out and we were both posted to Lagos! I was posted to a private school in Ikeja and Aisha was posted to Ikeja local government. NYSC had a policy of posting youth corpers to only schools and government agencies. I was excited about serving in a school as I had some teaching experience from volunteering during my undergrad days in the UK.
I can’t believe I made it through the entire three weeks of orientation camp. Longest three weeks of my life! From the annoying bugle that woke us up at an ungodly 4am to the poor state of the hostels and toilet. I couldn’t believe 27 double bunks could be crammed into one small room with little or no ventilation. I hated the morning parols, hated the boring lectures under the hot canopy, hated mammy market, and hated how I turned darker despite my sun cream. I didn’t poo for the 21 days in camp because I just couldn’t get myself to use a ‘shiting bucket’ or use the disgusting camp toilets. The last day of camp had to be one of my happiest days!
At my PPA, I was made a Year 7 Business Studies teacher and a class teacher. I enjoyed my job and my students loved me. I was active at my Community Development (CD) group; we planned to refurbish the computer lab of Ikeja high school before passing out. We decided to raise funds by approaching some of the multinationals in Ikeja since they were close by.
One CDs day, a fellow corper, Kene and I decided to visit two of the companies we had written to about our project. We were given a 10 o clock appointment in the first company and we were there by 9:30am. We got our visitors tag and sat patiently at the reception. When it was 10 o’ clock, the receptionist didn’t call us, I got up to remind her five minutes after and she said the admin manager who we had the appointment with was in a meeting. At 11, we were still waiting, my friend got up to speak to her and she said he was still in a meeting. By 12:30 we were both tired and knew we had to leave to make it for out next appointment at 1 pm in the other company. We both got up to leave and the receptionist apologized and said we should book another appointment.
Annoyed and disappointed, we left and I drove to the other company praying that we would not have a similar experience. This one was even scarier because we were going to see the MD; I mean if an admin manager couldn’t make out time for us, how much more the MD of a company.
We got to the office just in time and we were immediately directed to his office. He was a middle aged man with a friendly face. He smiled as we walked in and said hello to us. As we took our seats opposite him, it dawned on me that I had seen him before but I couldn’t remember where.
We made small talk about our educational background, NYSC, the state of the economy, the company and the job market. He offered us lunch which we gladly accepted. We talked about the project and showed him pictures of the labs we planned to refurbish. All the while, I was racking my brain to remember where I had seen him before. Was it at church? At an event I attended with my parents?
“We are very much interested in this project. Personally, the state of our educational system saddens me. From lack of infrastructure to unqualified teachers to falling standards. Just two days ago, I heard over the radio that only 33% of students who sat for WAEC passed maths and English” He said.
“I have a 12 year old son in secondary school and I want the best for him.” He continued. “It’s easy for me because I can afford it. How about the common man on the street? Who doesn’t want the best for his son or daughter?” He reached into pocket and brought out his wallet, opened it and removed a passport photograph. “This is my son Bidemi, he’s my world.” He said handing the photograph to Kene who looked at it and passed it on to me. One glance at his son and then it hit me.
His son was a student in my school; which means I must have seen Mr Coker in school before. “He’s handsome sir. Does he attend Sure Foundation School?” I asked.
“Thanks. Yes he does, he’s in Year 9. Do you know him?”
“Yes I do, I serve there.”
“Oh okay, that’s good. Hope you enjoy teaching?”
“Yes I do sir.”
“Kene you mentioned you were posted to the local government.”
“I know you must have free time on your hands. Use it wisely.”
Mr. Coker called the accountant to inform him to write a cheque for us and our lunch arrived just as we were about to leave. We thanked him, took our take-away lunch with us and went to the accountant’s office.
The amount written on the cheque made Kene and I gasp. It was way above what we expected; it was in fact the total amount we needed for the project which meant no need to go source for more fund.
We kick started our project, I noticed Bidemi more often I school and I saw Mr. Coker a few times during PTA and report day. We spoke each time we met about the project and I promised to send him an invite on the day we were going to dedicate the building.
We completed the computer lab and decided to dedicate it a week to our POP. I gave Bidemi an invitation card for his dad and Mr. Coker promised to come. We had the dedication ceremony and Mr. Coker was there right from the start of the event to the end which was impressive. We were so proud of ourselves. We bought 20 PCs, put 2 ACs in the lab, repainted it and changed the furniture. The look on the faces of the students as they saw the transformation of their computer lab was priceless.
The ceremony ended and I was exhausted but glad because it took 7 months to complete the project. I was speaking to our LGI* and I noticed Mr. Coker standing at a corner and smiling at me. I left the LGI and went to meet him.
“Hello Mr. Coker!”
“I’m so proud of you. You guys did a great job.” He replied smiling.
“Thank you Mr. Coker. We wouldn’t have done it without you!”
“No, thank God. I’m glad he used us to help and please stop all the formalities, you can call me Akintunde or Tunde if you want.”
“Okay Sir…sorry Akintunde.”
He glanced at his watch “Do you want to grab a late lunch?”
“I’m sorry our snacks were not enough.”
“Nah it was good. I just have a large appetite. So? Lunch?”
“Yep, lunch is fine. I’ll just grab my stuff and tell my friends I’m leaving.”
As I walked back towards my LGI, I wondered why I had said yes to his offer because I was so tired, all I wanted to do was go home and sleep.
We got into his car and his driver drove us to Yellow Chill restaurant in Ikeja GRA. He took our seats and placed our orders. Lunch was nice; conversation flowed easily and the food was tasty.
“Here’s my card, don’t forget to send me your CV so I can help you with your job hunting.”
“Thanks Akintunde.” I replied and slipped his card into my wallet.
POP day finally arrived! I was so excited because my service to the nation was finally over. No more clearance, shakara and unnecessary drama from local government officials, waiting for allowee and my job prospect wasn’t looking too bad. I had 2 interviews coming up.
I went to NYSC camp in Ipaja with some friends, we got our certificates, took pictures and it was over. We decided to go see a movie at Ikeja Mall and after the movie. The movie was a Nollywood movie which had great reviews and we were not disappointed. After the movie, I called Akintunde.
“Hi Akintunde.I hope I’m not disturbing?”
“Not at all. Congratulations on your POP!”
“Thank you, you remembered?!”
“Of course, how could I forget? I planned to call you this afternoon”
“I just saw a movie with my friends and I’m about to go home.”
“Yes? Are you in a hurry? Can you spare some minutes?”
“I want to come say hello to you.”
“Okay that’s fine.”
“See you soon.”
“Hey guys, I’ll chill here for a bit, I’m meeting up with a friend.” I told my friends. They said their goodbyes, we promised to keep in touch and they left. I decided to window shop while waiting for Akintunde and ended up buying a top. He called me to say he had gotten to the mall just as I was paying for my purchase. I told him where I was so he could meet me.
I turned back and saw him walking towards me. He looked handsome in his blue shirt and jeans. I gave him a hug and became embarrassed immediately. I don’t know why I hugged him.
“Hello” I said shyly.
“Hi, Arinola, congratulations once again.”
We strolled around the mall and stopped to have ice cream.
“Akintunde, you’ve never spoken about your wife and I noticed you don’t wear a wedding ring.”
He was silent for a while and with pain in his eyes, “My wife died while having Bidemi.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay Arin.” He continued, “Debbie and I were only married for ten months before she died…it’s been over 12 years now and I still miss her so much.
“I put my hands over his hand on the table and squeezed it.
“You know people don’t understand why I never remarried…my mother has given up on me.”
“How come you never remarried? 12 years is a long time.”
He was silent for a while before replying, “I just never found the right person.”
Over the next few weeks I found myself thinking of Akintunde.
He added me on BBM and chatted with me every day, called me from time to time. We hung out at the mall and went to see a play together at Terra Kulture. We had some things in common; our love for theatre, our obsession with jazz music and our love for food. We went for lunch every Saturday at a different restaurant and rated each one.
My mum suspected there was a man in the picture but I refused to tell her anything. Akintunde I were just really good friends.
We spoke about everything; he was the first person I called when I got my job offer. I enjoyed being around him, he made me laugh, listened to me and I loved how mature he was.
One day he called me and I noticed his voice was solemn, I asked him what was wrong and he said he had to end our friendship. I was shocked and asked him why.
“Arin, I want more than friendship and it won’t be fair to you.”
I was silent, not because I was shocked but because he finally admitted it.
“Arin, are you there?”
“Yes I am…how do you know I don’t want more?”
“I can’t do that to you sweet heart…I’m too old for you. I’m 20 years older-”
“I know Akintunde.”
“I love you Arinola…I love you so much that it hurts. I think about you all the time…”
Two weeks and I still hadn’t heard from him; no phone calls and no messages. He refused to pick up my calls and didn’t reply my messages I called his office and was informed he was on leave. I was so miserable and everyone around me noticed, even my colleagues at work.
I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to go to his house. I had his house address but had never been there. I drove all the way to Magodo phase 2 on Saturday morning. I found his house, parked outside and walked towards the gate. I told the gateman my name was Arinola and I was there to see his oga. He told me to wait outside and went inside the house to confirm my identity.
I stood at the entrance wondering what had come over me.
I realised I was in love with him.
I heard footsteps approaching the gate; the gate flung open and Akintunde swept me into his arms.
“I’m so sorry Arinolatemi, I’ve missed you so much!” He said when he finally put me down.
I punched him playfully on his shoulder “That’s for being a goat and ignoring me!”
“I’m sorry sweetheart.”
He held my hand as we walked into his house. His living room was tastefully decorated and spotless.
“Where is Bidemi?”
“He went for swimming lessons.”
“Oh yeah I forgot, swimming lessons every other Saturday.”
I walked around, looking at pictures hung on the wall. “Debbie was a very beautiful woman.”
“Yes she was.”
I walked to the next picture of Akintunde and Bidemi taken at Disneyland, Paris. We sat down and looked at more family pictures.
“Arin, will you be my girl friend?”
I don’t know what to do. I love Akintunde so much and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I don’t mind the age difference and Bidemi and I get on very well.
My friend Aisha told me to think about my decision properly; she said I should think about the future. In 20 years time, Akintunde would be 65 and I would be 45 and also the fact that we are from different generations. I have thought about it and I am not worried about 20 years time or being from different generations. I told her there are no guarantees in life, that even when two young people get married, there are no guarantees about the future.
I love my parents so much and I don’t want to offend them but I didn’t choose to fall in love with a man 20 years older than me.
Thanks for reading! What do you think? And no there’s no part 2!
*LGI: Local Government Inspector
*NYSC: National Youth Service Corp
*Allowee: Monthly allowance for youth corpers
Image credit: thehungergames.wikia.com-