It felt like I was in free fall.
After Jimi left our home that Friday evening, it felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. It felt like I was drifting and watching things unfold from a distance. Somehow, even though my heart was broken, I was…numb, almost.
I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t do anything but walk around in auto pilot mode, attending to Rire’s needs. And when Jimi came back to the house on Sunday to pack the rest of his things, even though my heart yearned for him, I just sat there, stoic and silent, watching him leave.
But as soon as the new week rolled on by, what had started as our quiet separation, became a full-on debacle.
Somehow, by Monday, word had gotten out. I told Adun, who had just received our mother the day before, and she had literally exploded in her rage. My bestie, Bimbo, who was pregnant with her first child, had almost popped a blood vessel, after I relayed the story to her. Jimi’s parents cut their trip to the U.S. short, in the hopes of returning to remedy the mess we had made. For everyone, the truth was pretty clear. It had been a set up, plain and simple. Dolly and our mother had orchestrated the whole thing, and that was obvious to just about everyone, myself inclusive. Jimi had just found himself at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Only a few short days after her arrival in the U.S., my mother had been bundled on a plane back to Nigeria, by an enraged Adun, who, quoting her, ‘couldn’t stand the sight of her a minute longer’. In hindsight, I wish she had remained in the U.S., as her return just made an already bad situation worse.
The first family meeting was awful. Mama Jay and my mother had almost come to blows at a point, yelling at the top of their lungs, with my father-in-law trying, but not succeeding, to douse the raging fire. Mama Jay had been mortified at the role my mother had played in the breakdown in my marriage, and my mother, unrepentant as ever, had maintained her stance that the marriage should never have been in the first place.
“You are an evil woman!” Mama Jay had shouted, her finger wagging. “A normal mother would fight with her last breath to ensure her child’s happiness! Your own mission is to destroy hers!”
“Rather than blame me, why not blame your son who had one thing but was lusting after another?!” my mother had shouted right back. “Was I the one who drove Jimi to Dolapo’s house at the ungodly hour of night?! Was I the one that made him constantly undress Dolapo with his eyes, anytime he saw her, looking at her like she’s a piece of meat?! You blame me, when you should be blaming yourself for allowing this sham of a marriage happen in the first place!”
Through the fighting, Jimi and I had sat on opposite sides of what used to be our living room. It was evident that he was just as deflated as I was. We were both emotionally and mentally drained…spent. So we had observed our altercating mothers as we would have if we were watching a scene from an over zealous play…far removed.
Because despite the fact that my heart was broken, and that I was devastated over having lost the man I loved, I was also…relieved!
Oh my God, I was so relieved. Even though I cried myself to sleep most nights, at least I slept…which is more than what I could say during those long nights I would toss and turn in bed, thinking about Jimi’s feelings for Dolly. If I were to be true to myself, right from that very first time we had kissed at the Iyana Ipaja NYSC camp, Dolly had been in that relationship with us. For every time I compared myself to her, for every time I wondered how I measured up to her, for every time I tortured myself with thoughts of Jimi longing for her instead of me, for every time I wondered if he had only married me because of my pregnancy, for every time I broke into a sweat when she showed up in her home, for every time I envisioned him in her arms…for each and every one of those times, she had been the third chord in our marriage.
And I was tired.
I was tired of the anxiety, the stress, the tension. And now, with everything having finally come to a head, I found myself happy it was all over…and that I wouldn’t have to go through that stress anymore. And from the sound of things, so was Jimi.
“It’s better this way, Mom.” he had said, actually the only thing he had said at that meeting. And to me, it spoke volumes. My relief was explainable, but his…well, it was an indictment. Clearly, he had never wanted the marriage in the first place, and the realization of that both hurt and consoled me.
So, even though my father flew in from Saudi Arabia for the next few family meetings, and my mother was forbidden from attending any, it was clear that our marriage was dead in the water.
“How can you just give up like that, Fola?!” Bimbo had exclaimed, exasperated. “Fight for your man! Don’t let Dolly win!”
Her words echoed the words of my older sister, Adun, who called me daily, trying to ‘drum sense into my head’.
“Folabomi, we know that Jimi wasn’t up to anything with Dolapo. We know that she planned the whole thing, just to destroy your marriage! Don’t let her get her way!” Adun had exclaimed.
But it wasn’t even about anyone ‘winning’ or ‘getting their way’. And I didn’t expect either of them to understand. Neither Adun nor Bimbo had married men whose love for them they weren’t certain of. They had both married men who literally worshiped the ground the walked on. So I didn’t expect them to understand the struggles and turmoil I had faced for over 4 years.
And they didn’t. Bimbo had even gone to confront Dolly, in her bank of all places, when she was well in her eighth month of pregnancy. After exchanging a few heated words in the car park, which involved Bimbo calling Dolly every name in the book, and Dolly initially implying that she had done nothing, and was just a victim of Jimi’s ‘obsession’ for her, her true feelings had finally slipped out of her mouth, when she’d shouted, “Fola shouldn’t even be with Jimi in the first place!”
That was when I realized that was what it had all been about all along. Dolly had never forgiven me for hooking up with Jimi. Her supposed acceptance of our relationship had been nothing but a lie, and she’d just been bidding her time to get her own pound of flesh back.
But as evident as it was to me, I wasn’t willing to subject myself to a day longer of the emotional roller coaster I had been on. At that point in time, all I wanted was to breathe.
Eventually, it became clear to everyone that Jimi and I were no longer fighting our separation process any more. Christmas soon came by, and even though memories of previous Christmases we’d spent as family filled my head, somehow, Rire and I were able to have a nice, intimate time, spent just the two of us. I had declined invites to my family home or Jimi’s parents house for the day. All I wanted was to finally enjoy being me, and not a puppet ever eager to please.
January soon came along, and with it came the mother of all shockers. My father filed for divorce from my mother, which shocked us, considering that they were on the path to reconciliation. Apparently, they’d actually been making progress, but the role mom had played in the breakdown of my marriage, had been the last straw for my father.
“Yeye man!” she had cried, seated in our living room. “I’m sure he has a girlfriend in Saudi! Foolish man! After giving him 32 years of my life, this is how he repays me!”
Seated there, I could actually understand how my father must have been feeling. I could understand why someone would decide to throw love away, for the sake of a little peace of mind. For all of my almost 27 years, I had never seen the woman give him peace…and so, unfortunately, they were yet another casualty of my own failed marriage. Luckily for my mother, her recently widowed younger sister, Titi, had asked her to accompany her to their home in Switzerland, where she wanted to get away from things. As mom set off for this, I could tell it was a dream come true for her. All my life, she had longed to have a ‘better life’…and to be able to enjoy the finer things of life.
And in April, when I got served with my own divorce papers, I couldn’t help but think I was back to where we started from. I had been alone when Jimi and I started hooking up…and now, years later, I was alone as the the whole thing came crashing down.
But as ‘happy’ and ‘relieved’ as I was, looking at those papers still hurt. Gosh, they really did hurt. I don’t think I expected that we would end up ‘divorced’. Separated, yes…but not divorced. Regardless, I was determined to see it through, and signed and sent back the papers as quickly as they had come.
But one person who wouldn’t let go? Mama Jay, my soon-to-be-ex mother-in-law. After all the initial tears, lamentation, pleading and coercing, she had finally reached some level of acceptance, but not before emphasizing that, whether or not Jimi and I were still married, I would always be her daughter.
As I was still recovering from the treachery and cold heartedness of the woman who claimed to be my mother, hearing those words from Mama Jay, just filled my heart with joy and happiness. And she didn’t renege on her words. Not even when Jimi left for the U.S., a few weeks to his 30th birthday, to take up a post graduate place at Stanford University, a move that totally blindsided me.
Even though the divorce had come with a very generous settlement package for me, Jimi’s parents still insisted on taking care of Rire and I. They moved us to one of the luxury townhouses a few doors from their own house. Their excuse was that they wanted to be near their grandson, but I knew it was because they wanted to make sure we lacked nothing.
And my relationship with Mama Jay just blossomed day by day. She became the mother I never had.
As for Dolly, I avoided her for the first few months after our separation. Even though I had let go of all the hurt, the possibility of seeing her again made me so angry, so much so that I had no idea what I would do when I saw her.
But, I had eventually seen her…at a cousin’s wedding. As we made eye contact, I felt all the anger in me well, and all I wanted to do was claw out her eyes from their sockets. But instead, we had just exchanged an indifferent greeting, before walking away. I wasn’t going to waste any of my time being affected by her.
It didn’t take long for my bravado to be over.
Christmas was soon upon us. Jimi and I had been separated for over a year, and divorced a few moths. But sitting in our gayly decorated living room, with my 5 year old son, I felt a vacuum so large, I thought it would suck us right into it, feet first!
I found myself missing my husband…
Sister, Sister returns on Wednesday, 3rd May, 2017
You can catch up on Fola’s story here:
- Sister, Sister 1: Calling Me Mrs.
- Sister, Sister 2: The Odd Family
- Sister, Sister 3: Floating On Air
- Sister, Sister 4: The Many Wives of Jimi
- Sister, Sister 5: Russian Roulette
- Sister, Sister 6: So Much In Common
- Sister, Sister 7: An Unlikely Pair
- Sister, Sister 8: Longing For Her
- Sister, Sister 9: The Return
- Sister, Sister 10: The Catastrophe
- Sister, Sister 11: Not Working