As Onyeka’s voice trails off, Dili and I stand there in silence. After a few minutes, as if on cue, we both retreat to our separate bedrooms, neither of us saying a word.
What more is there to say, really?
Onyeka now has her visa and, come Sunday, will be reunited with her man. Her man who has warmed my bed for months, but who has always made it crystal clear to me his stance when it comes to her. True, in recent times, his stance hasn’t been quite as strong, but if I’m to be honest with myself, I knew exactly what I was getting into. And well, here we are.
But that doesn’t stop me from lying awake all night, staring at the ceiling. It doesn’t stop me from being hopeful of hearing a light tap on my door. It doesn’t stop me from longing for his familiar warmth beside me.
But none of these happen. In the morning, I leave the door leading to the bathroom open, hopeful he will join me as usual. But he is painfully absent, and as I head to the door on my way to work, the first time I have had to do so alone in months, his door remains conspicuously shut. I hesitate by it, wanting so much to knock…but common sense prevails and I leave the apartment instead. I know I have no choice but to accept the abrupt end of our relationship.
Getting home that evening, Dili is in the kitchen making dinner. From his stiff smile and impersonal questions about my work day, I know we have reverted to our status quo. As we eat and make idle chat about work and President Obama’s recent trip to Cuba, neither of us mentions the infamous message from Onyeka from the previous night…and neither of us makes any romantic moves or overtures either. And as we politely bid each other goodnight, it is almost difficult to imagine that, less than 48 hours before, we’d been an extremely and intensely passionate couple. I guess it is easier for us to just adjust to our new reality…than to talk about it.
It isn’t until Sunday morning that Dili finally mentions Onyeka.
“Her flight arrives this afternoon.” he says, as we eat breakfast. We both know very well who ‘her’ is.
I look up at him, wondering why he has chosen to offer me that piece of information.
“Will you come with me to JFK? To pick her up?” is his surprising question.
That is when I see, for the very first time, fear in his eyes. I realise that Dili is frightened of his reunion with the woman he hasn’t seen in three years. I also recognise the guilt in his eyes, and it dawns on me that he is ashamed of what transpired between us. I realise I am nothing but a mistake…a slip-up he wishes he’d never made.
And for the first time since we returned home on Wednesday, I can feel my heart breaking to little, tiny pieces.
“Sure.” I surprise myself by saying. Whilst I am hurting from the realisation that Onyeka is clearly more important to him than I ever was, I am also curious to finally see this Onyeka face to face. Yes, I have seen several pictures of her and can probably do a sketch of her by heart. But that isn’t the same as seeing her in the flesh, hearing her speak, observing her mannerisms and everything it is about her that has won over the heart of the man I love.
At 1pm, we get a rental car and head to JFK. It takes us over an hour to get there, and we await the arrival of the Air France flight from Lagos. And even after the arrival of the flight is finally announced, we anxiously await her emergence from Immigration and Baggage Claim.
“I hope you tutored her well on what to say.” I mutter. “Before she starts telling them she is here to join her husband.”
Dili glances at me from the side of his eye. “She knows exactly what to say, Ezi.”
I purse my lips and cross my arms, suddenly overtaken by jealousy and wondering what on earth I am doing there, waiting to welcome my very own rival. It’s insanity.
When she emerges, it is like even the air in the room changes. She stands out from everyone around her, like a ray of sunshine. Her skin, golden and flawless as it is, doesn’t even match the glow that radiates from within her, her mega watt smile running from ear to ear. Everyone around her turns to stare. She is so much more beautiful than even I expected.
She lets out a scream when she sights us, and in typical Hollywood, or Nollywood, fashion, pushes aside her luggage trolley and runs towards her long-lost lover. I look to see Dili also running to her, and they are soon reunited in an emotional embrace. From a few feet away, I watch them, and I almost going crazy with envy. I am able to see for myself the depth of the love they both have for each other. Nothing one-sided about it at all.
After what seems like forever, they pull apart from each other and she sights me. The smile on her face grows wider, and before I know it, she has enveloped me in a bear hug.
“Sis! It’s so wonderful to finally meet you!” she says, looking at me like I am some sort of Goddess. “Thanks so much for everything! I brought you some lovely gifts from home. Even my mother sent you something!”
As she rambles on, I am able to take in her beauty and see that she is more flawless up close. Even with her very minimal make-up, long hair cascading loosely down her shoulders, and very casual travel attire of a tracksuit and sneakers, she has paled me into insignificance…. my cashmere Marc Jacobs sweater and Roberto Cavali jeans ensemble and all. Even in only sneakers, she stands at over 6 feet and her voluptuous curves are still evident even underneath her loose attire.
Luckily, she is all talk as we head to the rental car, so I don’t have to make any conversation…which is just as well, because my inferiority complex has left me tongue tied. As I take the driver’s seat, I observe how awestruck Dili is by her, listening to her mundane talk with rapt attention, and I realize I was a fool to have ever thought he’d choose me over her.
“But obi’m, enweghị m obi ụtọ na gị. I’m not happy with you.” she says, as we are approaching Harlem. “My friend told me that with your temporary Green Card, you could have still travelled out of the country. Why didn’t you come to see me? Nkeiru was even asking me if you came to surprise me for Valentine’s Day. She said you actually told her you would. Emere m ihere nke ukwuu! I was too ashamed to tell her you didn’t even talk about it, let alone come. Kedu ihe mere? What happened?”
I feel Dili steal a glance at me, but my eyes remain on the road, unwilling to be roped into their discussion.
“Ugegbe, I’ve been so busy with work.” he says lamely. “I really wanted to, but I haven’t been able to get any time off.”
I smile bitterly at the term of endearment he has used for her. Ugegbe. Radiating Beauty. Funny how he has never used any such term of endearment for me.
“Eeeiyah! If it’s because of work, then I should be the one apologizing to you! Biko, we don’t want to do anything to jeopardise this our fantastic job ooooo!”
As she giggles, I turn on the radio, cranking up the volume on Hot 97 FM. The less I hear of their conversation, the better for me.
“Wow! This is where you live?” she exclaims in amazement, when we get to my apartment building, and it makes me nostalgic as I remember Dili’s identical reaction the first time he came here. “And you have been housing Dili here for free all this while?! You are a real angel on earth, Sis Ezioma!”
Her awe and amazement remain all through the elevator ride to my floor, and by the time we get to my apartment, she is completely star struck. As she is ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ all over the place, Dili takes the opportunity to leave the apartment under the guise of returning the rental car. I can almost murder him for leaving me alone with her.
“Wow, Sis! You are a real inspiration!” Onyeka gushes. “I am so impressed by you. And it’s not just this beautiful apartment. Whenever I go on your LinkedIn page, I can’t help but doff my hat to you. You are simply amazing and have achieved so much already!”
I smile modestly. “Thank you, Onyeka.”
“My plan is to start a Postgraduate program in a good school as soon as possible.” She continues, taking a seat on the couch. “I’m thinking Columbia. As soon as Dili and I marry, that’s what I’m going to do. No babies for the first few years, biko! I also want to make big bucks and be as glamorous as you, Sis.”
“But nothing like you!” she gushes. “Just see how everything about you is just set! Look at your apartment, your designer clothes! You are what they call ‘complete package’! Ha ga-abụ ndị ìsì ebe a! They must be truly blind over here, for a woman like you to still be single.”
I throw my head back in throaty laughter, reveling at her choice of words. Blind indeed!
“But on a serious note, Sis.” she says, her voice dropping as she leans in. “I have something to ask you. You’ve been living with Dili for almost two years now. Ọ nọ na nwanyị ọ bụla ọzọ? Has there been any other woman?”
Hot beads of perspiration form on my forehead, despite the cool weather. I find myself suddenly unable to breathe as I try to decipher if she knows about our affair…or is merely asking an innocent question.
“I know you won’t want to tell me, but I really need to know. Biko!” she pleads, mistaking my discomfort for reluctance. “Ị bụ nwanyi dị ka m. You’re a woman like me. I’m sure you too would like to know if you were in my shoes.”
“But why has that thought crossed your mind?” I ask, trying to sound cavalier, when I am literally dying inside.
She shrugs. “These last few months, things were different. He stopped calling as frequently as he used to. Dili that could call me up to 10 times a day before, suddenly would now go days with no word from him. Everything just seemed strange. My spirit was telling me something was wrong. In fact, if it wasn’t because of my respect for you, my plan was to just show up here unannounced and catch him red handed!”
It is now my turn to feel guilty. “He hasn’t cheated on you. It’s probably been work that has kept him busy. There has been no other woman.”
The relief on her face is palpable, and I feel almost sick to my stomach, nauseated at myself for the role I have played in hurting such a simple minded, innocent girl. When Dili returns home about an hour later, I happily leave them alone and retire to my bedroom.
But sleep and indeed any form of rest elude me. Instead, I lie awake that night, tortured by images of them being intimate in his bedroom. I even listen out for tell-tale sounds, but thankfully there are none. But I am not naïve enough to think they are not having sex. After being apart for three years, I know that’s probably all that they are doing…ravaging each other’s bodies. And the visual pretty much kills me alive.
The next day, I leave for work early and spend the whole day trying to brace myself to face them, the reunited couple, later that day. Thankfully, I am able to get through an evening of chatting with them and trying to act normal. This continues for the rest of that week, and into the next week, all of us acting like one big happy family; me, my former lover and his fiancée. What could be more complicated than that?
But rather than feel better about it, I am worse off with each passing day. Every time I see them stealing kisses or laughing over private jokes, it literally feels like a kick to my stomach. I find myself now looking forward to Dili’s permanent Green Card getting issued, so they can leave me alone in peace. It would be easier for me to mourn the loss of our relationship alone, than to have it shoved in my face every crying day.
What makes things worse is her idolation of me, which seems to multiply everyday. She literally worships the ground I walk on and hangs on every word that comes out of my mouth. On her first weekend, I practically had to hide out at my office to escape her request for us to ‘hang out’. After what she chose to discuss the last time we were alone, ‘hanging out’ is truly the last thing I want to do.
By the end of the second week, I can no longer hold it in and confide in my best friend, Mia, over drinks after work. She listens in rapt attention as I tell her the entire story.
“Oh you poor thing!” she says, holding my hand sympathetically. “And you’ve been going through all this alone? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to involve you in something illegal.” I say. “It’s not exactly the most straightforward of arrangements, marrying for a Green Card.”
“But the chemistry between you two!” she exclaims. “Whenever you’re together, your sexual energy is always so intense and overpowering!”
Even without my saying it, she can pick up on what I have not said. “But you fell in love with him.”
I wipe away a tear. “I’ve been in love with him since I was 5 years old. He became my everything. How am I supposed to just let him go, and be happy that he’s with someone else?”
She puts a comforting arm over my shoulder. “Because that’s what you gave him your word you’d do. From everything you’ve said, he never hid anything from you. You knew what the deal was from the beginning. And you’re too good to fight over a guy…least of all with some young girl hot off the plane from Nigeria. You have to let him go.”
I wipe away more tears and nod in agreement. Mia is right. The sooner I forget about Dili and fully release him in my heart, the better it will be for me.
“Do you have a picture of her?” Mia asks, and I pull up a few of Onyeka’s pictures from her Instagram account. “She’s pretty.”
I nod in resigned agreement. “Yeah. She’s even prettier in real life. She looks like a model!”
Mia shrugs. “But it’s just vanilla pretty though. Nothing I don’t see every day walking down 5th Avenue. You, on the other hand, have an unusual beauty that people don’t come across very often!”
I laugh, knowing she is only trying to make me feel better. “Oh really? Unusual beauty?”
“Yep!” Mia nods enthusiastically. “You’re a ‘Katie Girl’! Remember that episode of Sex & the City, when Carrie and her friends are talking about that old Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford movie, and she realises she’s a Katie girl, and Mr. Big’s fiancée, Natasha, is just a simple girl. That’s exactly what this is! You’re a Katie girl, and Dili’s lady is just a simple girl, with her vanilla beauty. You never should forget just how fabulous you are!”
I smile, grateful for my friend’s attempt to cheer me up. But as I walk down Broadway, headed to my apartment, I find myself really consoled by her words. Yes, I might not be as beautiful as Onyeka…but I know that there are so many parts to me that make me the phenomenal woman I am.
Getting to the apartment, I find it empty and remember Dili mentioned something about taking Onyeka out for dinner. I am actually happy to have the house to myself.
After dinner and a shower, I pull out my laptop to write for the first time in days. And what I choose is to write an ode of release to Dili, the man I love with every fibre of my being. An ode of release…and wish for happiness.
You Could Be Happy (Snow Patrol) – April 15, 2016
…You could be happy; I hope you are.
You made me happier than I’d been by far.
Somehow everything I own smells of you.
And for the tiniest moment it’s all not true.
Do the things that you always wanted to.
Without me there to hold you back; don’t think, just do.
More than anything I want to see you grow.
Take a glorious bite out of the whole world…
The most painful in life is saying goodbye to someone you love. And today, that is what I am doing. Today, I release you, my love. I release you to live your life exactly the way you want to. I release you to love who you want to…do the things you want to.
I release you to happiness.
My lips quiver and tears roll down my face. I make no attempt to restrain them and instead give full rein to them, crying like a baby as I bury all the fantasies and desires I have ever nursed for Okwudili Dike.
I know it’s time to let go.
Catch up on Ezioma’s story here:
- A Love of Convenience! 1: Handbags & Gladrags
- A Love of Convenience! 2: There she goes
- A Love of Convenience! 3: The day will surely come
- A Love of Convenience! 4: Russian Farmer’s Song
- A Love of Convenience! 5: Moonlighting Strangers
- A Love of Convenience! 6: Knocks me off my feet
- A Love of Convenience! 7: A simple kind of life
- A Love of Convenience! 8: I can’t help it
- A Love of Convenience! 9: Edge of desire
- A Love of Convenience! 10: The Fear
- A Love of Convenience! 11: Ordinary People
- A Love of Convenience! 12: Me and Mrs. Jones