“The half life of love is forever.” Junot Diaz
I know you won’t believe it, but I wanted to kill myself yesterday. I have gotten so used to your presence that I no longer know how to live without it. I now understand what it means to miss someone. I miss you, because you’re missing from me.
I wanted your attention. It wasn’t like I didn’t try other ways, but they didn’t work. For example, you know I usually go through your phone, and the random pictures of boys you screenshot from Instagram had these in common: tall, dark, low-cut, beard, dark jeans, sneakers, T-shirt.
The only problem was the beard. No matter how much ointment and methylated spirit I applied, my beard still grew in small clusters like armpit hair. So I dumped my shoes, shirts, and ties, for sneakers, T-shirts, and jeans. I took pictures, trying to mimic those ones on your phone, and frequently used them as profile DPs, with PMs like: “Casual Swag”, “Rebirth”, and so on. Just like in those pictures I saw on your phone.
The pings came in as expected, commending and commenting, enough to potentially make me happy. But they were empty words because they didn’t come from you. You, always at the top of my chat list, now slowly dropping.
You still have that same DP from three weeks ago: blowing a kiss to the camera, squinting your eyes in that manner that fits you just fine.
I remember that picture so well. You made it look like you were holding a selfie stick. I took about fifteen pictures, until you chose it, saying it was the most convincing of them all. Can you remember when your friends pinged you and asked, where you got the selfie stick, and you said it was a gift from me and we laughed?
Was that a sign that I should have gotten you a selfie stick? A subtle way of saying you wanted a gift? You know we didn’t do gifts. I thought it was a tacit understanding between us. Even if you had wanted one, you could have just told me. Was that where things started going downhill?
But you have to still be fair to me, Jummy, I gave you my time. If time was actually money, then I spoilt you rotten.
But come to think of it, since you haven’t changed your DP, does it mean you still think of me? Us?
Anyway, I’m going off track. So I tried to kill myself yesterday. For real. Did a lot of research on the net. Found out that everything, no matter how harmless it seemed, when used rightly could be a weapon. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was a coward, it made think suicide was an act of bravery. I couldn’t kill myself, because, even though you don’t love me, I cannot imagine living in a world without you, if there comes to be life after death.
So I did something stupid. I wrapped my head with a bandage, painted it red at the front, slathered my face with oil, then took a picture, and used it as my DP. For my PM it was: “Robbed, but I’m 10kin God for life.”
The picture brought me many empathic and sympathetic messages. I was certain this would get to you. But there was nothing. I typed ‘Jummy’ in the contacts search bar, and what I got was: No results found.
Do you know what? When I said I missed you, I lied. What I missed was the sex, not like you were good at it anyways.
Right now, I feel so happy and free. Like I have been in a cage for the past sixteen months. Now I can talk to a girl without thinking I’m breaking the line between being jovial and flirting. I can hug a girl without feeling guilty that I enjoyed the soft feel of her breasts on my chest. Nothing like, did I hug her too much? Nothing like, I called this girl at midnight, does it mean I’m cheating? I can stare at girls with big boobs and have a few daytime fantasies without feeling like I have betrayed you. I can go out with the guys without feeling bad for missing our date.
You know what? It is even because of you I am broke. If I had saved all the money I used as transport fare to your house, all the money I used for airtime, the money I used to take you out, all the money I used to buy you shawarma, I would have gotten a decent car. I swear, I for don buy land!
Now things will be better, I’ll be able to save more money. Thank God you left me, I am as happy as… as happy!
P.S: I went out with the guys tonight, and we had so much funnnn!! As in! The ladies were ready to mingle!! If you know what I mean 😉
Shit. Jummy, I am so sorry for yesterday. Woke up with a crazy headache, and saw what I wrote to you. I didn’t mean any of it. You have to believe me. I know you will be disappointed in me for drinking so much that I wrote such horrible things. I am sorry. I really am. Please. Please try to forgive me.
So Jummy, I have decided that I deserve happiness, and the first step is moving on.That is why I want you to know I’m dating another girl. Her name is Ini.
You know, if you ask my friends the kind of girl I like, they will tell you: short (someone whose chin I can raise, and have to bend to kiss), dark skinned (someone whose beauty is not just an illusion of skin colour), then the breasts. Jummy, the breasts. Firm breasts that make me salivate. Breasts that announce their existence even in an XXL shirt. Jummy, you already know I am a breast man. My friends were even surprised when I first introduced you as my girlfriend. You are tall, fair, and not very busty. But Ini, she ticks all the boxes. With Ini I have started to believe that when one door closes, another opens. So, this is me closing your door, and opening Ini’s.
ONE MORE LETTER
It was Ola, you remember him right? The guy who introduced us. Shaved head, mustache, glasses? I know you would. So he came that day to tell me: Guess what? As usual I couldn’t guess what. He said you were getting married. Did I know the guy? No I didn’t. He didn’t either. I said it was good, you finally found someone. We fell silent for a minute. Then Ola asked if it was a nice idea bringing the invite here, and more so inviting me. I said no qualms. He said I needed to see my face, I think I must have looked like the saddest person ever because he asked if it was because of you I broke up with Ini and if I never dated anyone after Ini.
Oh, I didn’t tell you? I broke up with Ini. She was furious. She threw her bag at my face, I had swollen lips for two weeks. She wrecked my house too. My mirror, TV screen, windshield, shattered, like her heart. I never knew love could make one that angry. Maybe this is how to measure love: Break up with a person. The ease with which the person gets over you is inversely proportional to how much they love you.
And I swear, Ini was nice. You know the cooking, cleaning etc., you never did? She actually enjoyed them. In fact, for a brief while, I forgot about you.
But there was something about Ini that didn’t make me love her more. I didn’t know why, but I picked up fights with her easily. I could say her dusty shoes had just stained my carpet; the perfume she used was too much, making me sneeze; why serve with a blue plate, didn’t she know I hated blue? Funny right? But that was how I reciprocated her affection.
Did she talk too much? No. Was she over pampering? I don’t know. But I never felt jealous when she spoke about other guys; when she walked into the room that heartbeat, that butterfly-stomach thing wasn’t there; never for once imagined her as my wife; I was never scared of losing her. Most times, she left my place with tears. I couldn’t do it to her any longer, so I had to cut it off. But why I broke up with her wasn’t just because I didn’t like to see her cry, it was because I pitied her. Yes, pity. And as I always say, pity is a condescending emotion; something you feel towards a person you feel is less fortunate than you. Empathy is more humane. In hindsight, now I think that real reason I broke up with her was because she wasn’t you.
So where was I? Yes back to Ola’s question. Of course, I told him ‘No.’ I would look like a weirdo if I had said yes, I was still thinking about you after all these years. But that is the thing Jummy, I do think of you. And when I think of you I know love songs are lies, and the only truth is heartbreak. When I think of you, I feel like punching every couple chuckling to each other in public. When I think of you, I regret ever falling in love.
And it was true, after Ini nobody, no one could freak me again. The only time I felt something close to love was when I scrolled through our pictures on Facebook.
My favorite is that one I took of you, when the hairdresser used that hair product that was incompatible with your hair, and your hair kept falling over your face and you kept flipping and flipping. You looked like a rock band guitarist. It makes me laugh, even till now. I had to post it on Facebook then. I remember we had a fight. And how did I get you calm? Something about how it was these imperfect pictures that will always bring smiles to our faces. It still brings a smile to mine. Does it to you?
So as for your wedding, I definitely will have to come. I need to see him, know what he is like, see why you chose him, and above all, I need to see you.
Yes Jummy, I’ll come to your wedding.
POST WEDDING LETTER
I don’t want to start this letter with how I felt after the wedding or during. I am more relaxed now.
The traditional wedding that took place in the morning, I couldn’t go. I didn’t want Ola to think I wasn’t over you. We couldn’t make the church wedding in the afternoon, you know Lagos and its traffic now. Coupled with the fact that we used an old model Toyota, ours couldn’t fly. So we drove straight to the reception. I was quiet in the car all through. Ola kept talking, but it was like one-man ping pong. Beatfm.com’s Top Ten Naija did nothing to help my feeling. My heart was jumping to my throat and sinking to my stomach rapidly. Jummy, I was sweating inside air-conditioner.
We walked in when the MC was cracking a joke about how even though Wizkid had grey hair, he still retained kid in his stage-name. I know you wouldn’t have chosen the MC. His jokes were horrible. Like the one about how police officers, because they wore black uniforms, should be deployed to fight ISIS but only at night.
We sat at the front by your left hand side. I didn’t know if Ola had told you I was coming. But when I entered, your face changed a bit. I felt like running to the stage, and sweeping you off your feet and carrying you into my arms. You looked so beautiful it made my heart ache. If you were my bride, and you were walking down the aisle, I would have cried.
But Jummy you haven’t changed at all. Yes you’ve added a little weight, and you look older. But you haven’t changed! A lilac wedding gown? When you had told me then, that you would wear it, I swear I thought it was a joke. You said something like royalty over purity. But now, damn Jummy!
And the guy. He was tall about 6’2, compared to my 5’10. He was… Do you know what? There was nothing special about him. Just a random dude who caught your fancy. He even had a kind of face that looked like he was pretending to smile. And his nose, it was so large, I feared you would suffocate, since he would have inhaled all the oxygen meant for two. I don’t know what you saw in him. But love is blind, yeah? So you didn’t need to see.
Then there was that part where the MC asked both of you questions. You had to sit, backing each other, shoes removed. The answer could either be you or him. If it was you, your shoe would be raised. Same for the guy.
They asked who chose the honeymoon spot. You both raised his shoe. I knew you’ve always loved the Caribbean, the soothing sea waves. You said it had the best sunsets, at least in pictures. You know if it was me, I would have let us go to the Caribbean. Or maybe he had taken you there, and you wanted to test new waters.
About ten questions were asked and the answers he gave surprised me. Did he know you at all? Or have you become something different from the memories I cling to?
And the MC was a big fool, he told both of you to kiss until he stopped you. And that idiot took over your lips like he was a fucking dictator. Is that the kind of guy you like? Someone who would rule over you like a dictator? Not even showing finesse when people are around? When the MC said stop, I could actually breathe freely again. I adjusted my bow tie.
Jummy I tried seeing you during the wedding, but Ola…. he wouldn’t let me. I hope you got the gift I gave you? The selfie stick. Old fashioned, yes. But I hope you get it?
That night, I locked myself in my room, I couldn’t sleep. The windows were open but I kept gasping for breath. Jummy I cried that night. Why did I love you this much? Why?
LAST LETTER, FOR NOW
Remember when we were young and we both wrote a letter to ourselves at age forty five? We asked each other questions. And the first was: did we finally get married? And did we end up with two kids? Or were we so in love that we had three kids? There was the one I wrote where I hoped to be a Professor at that age. And you were like, of all things.
Well, I would like to tell you I just bagged my professorship a day after my forty-fifth birthday. But it didn’t make me happy like it would have, if I were married to you.
My parents finally gave up on me giving them a grandchild. They even tried seeking authorization to clone me, so my clone would give them the grandchild they craved so much but their request was denied by the courts, for insufficient cause. They would argue that if a man could be permitted to marry a tree, why deny them what would bring forth life? The answer is simple, population explosion. You’ve probably seen the op-eds. I’ve even written about it myself. But don’t let me get tempted and bore you with Sociology.
How about your life? I know you have three children. But two years ago, you lost your husband when the Abuja-Moon transit rocket crashed. Trust Naija not to service the Automated Piloting systems before take-off. (But wait, it isn’t like I am a stalker or I didn’t respect your privacy, but for reasons I couldn’t understand, you put your Lifebook feed on auto-update, and all I had to do was log in.)
I couldn’t come to his funeral, so I sent a drone. Yes that anonymous drone was from me, maybe you downloaded its log file and listened to all my letters. Or maybe you thought it was just a tracker drone from Google, and you destroyed it? Google, always putting their eyes everywhere.
Since the Abuja Rocketline was found innocent of any wrongdoing, blaming the crash on ‘unforeseeable circumstances,’ I thought things might be difficult for you financially. Yes, the monthly sum is from me. And don’t feel guilty, there is little I use money for over here. It is just me.
My world became less lonely when your daughter turned up in my faculty. I wasn’t sure she was the one, until she came to my office for certain clarifications. We got talking, and everything opened up. Her name is even Oyinkansola, the name we planned on giving our first daughter. She looked so much like you. One would think she was a clone of your younger self.
Naturally, we became friends. I made sure to ease her passage through school, especially financially and academically. Told her it was a scholarship. (It is also nothing Jummy, she is like a daughter to me.)
She began telling me things. Personal things, like how one of her female classmates had liked her, and when Oyinkansola told her she was straight, the girl almost took a trans-pill.
However, the best thing she ever told me came two days ago. She said today you would be coming to visit ‘that her lecturer she adored so much,’ and not just via hologram-call, but in flesh. I went mental.
I switched my office walls to lilac, your favourite. Sprayed vanilla air freshener. I was tempted to Skype my parents and tell them they would be getting grandchildren soon, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.
First, we would have to catch up on old times. Then, let’s see how it goes.
Looking forward to seeing you again Jummy,
This story first appeared on The Naked Convos.
About Gbolahan Badmus
Gbolahan Badmus is a lawyer writing stories. His works have been recently published in Saraba, AFREADA, Litro UK, The Missing Slate, and Omenana. His short story ‘A Day in a Life, A Life in a Day’ was shortlisted for the 2016 ACT Short Story Award. He is also an alumnus of the Writivism Creative Writing Workshop. He resides in Nigeria. For now.