“We cannot decide to love. We cannot compel anyone to love us. There’s no secret recipe, only love itself. And we are at its mercy–there’s nothing we can do.”
― Nina George
It is a phone call that stirs you up this morning, just before the alarm goes off. Samuel is sprawled on one side of your bed, looking magnificent and glorious in his bare skins and stuff. You bite your lower lip so hard blood almost spills from your un-cut wound, as you remember last night’s escapades. You want to take him into your mouth when your phone starts to ring again. You groan. It is Gbenga. You do not want to talk to him, so you don’t. But he calls again, and again, and again, and you begin to wonder if it could be an emergency. Eventually, you tip-toe into the bathroom to talk to him.
“It’s 4:30 in the morning Gbenga. Tell me this is an emergency?”
“Good morning darling. How are you?”
“Really? How am I? This early in the morning? I am sure it would not matter that much to you, so that is not why you called. What’s up?”
“Hm! Fesity much this morning. Anyway, I missed your calls and my uncle mentioned you came to see him yesterday so I called to ask how it went. I would have called later in the day but I would be too busy to take or return any calls for the next few days… so, here I am!”
“Thank you so much. Well, it’s the same reason why I called yesterday. It went well.”
“Right. Are you okay?”
You want to say yes and get the conversation over and done with, because what does it matter anyway? But, you want to say no too. You want to know why he didn’t mention he was married with a kid, you want to ask if he was ever going to tell you, you want to ask why he decided to see you again, you want to know if his wife knows.
“Solaye Grace, are you okay? Is there something bothering your mind again?”
“When were you going to tell me that you were married with a child?”
He is silent for so long, “I don’t know. Someday sometime, maybe.”
“Someday sometime? Maybe? And you wanted to sleep with me knowing full well the situation you were in? Were you trying to pay me back for leaving you? Were you trying to hurt me on purpose?”
“Common… common Grace, you know I would never do that.”
“No, I don’t know Gbenga. I don’t know anything. So, this job? You wanting me around Lagos, to what end? To be your side-chick? A souvenir of what could have been?”
“I love you, okay? I love you. I never stopped loving you. When you left, you broke me Grace. You shut me out of your life, and it wasn’t supposed to, but it damaged me. I wanted to get over you so bad that I got down with every girl that was ready to get down with me… just anything to get your taste off my tongue, your scent out of my nose. It never worked. Instead, I got a lady pregnant. It wasn’t planned. None of it was planned. Two years and a child down, I still cannot bring myself to love her and it breaks me every day. She doesn’t laugh like you Grace. She doesn’t bite her lips the way you do. Her eyes don’t have that smiling glow about them. She doesn’t make burnt noodles taste as good as you…”
You laugh now, even though you want to cry; even though tears are slipping out of your eyes and you don’t even notice it.
“—she is not you Grace. I love you.”
“Solaye Grace Ayodele…”
“Go home and love your woman. Go home and love the mother of your child. I will not be a party to this.”
“Grace, I am sorry, okay? It was wrong of me to put you in the middle of all of this. I should have stayed away or come clean from the beginning—”
“You should have stayed away.”
“Fine, I should have stayed away. And you don’t want anything to do with me now because you found yourself a new guy, I get it. But you wanted me that night Grace. It was in your kiss. You have missed me. You still have feelings for me.”
“I am sorry.”
“For what exactly?”
“For everything. For leading you on, giving you the wrong signals, making you think I loved you.”
He pauses again, “So you didn’t love me? You used me?”
“No. God, no. I enjoyed being with you. I enjoyed everything we did together, but it just was not love Gbenga. I never said I loved you.”
“What is love? What does it mean to you? Have you ever felt it before? And this new guy, what do you feel for him? Do you even know?”
You disconnect the call and let yourself cry. You don’t know the answer to the questions he asked and that must make you a terrible person. You feel ashamed. You almost forget that Samuel is in your house until he knocks on the bathroom door.
“Grace? Are you okay?”
“Go? To where? Please come out and tell me what’s wrong. It’s Thursday and we have to be at work in less than two hours, you know that?”
“Just go Samuel. Please.”
“Grace… I am not going anywhere until you tell me what is wrong with you. Who were you on the phone with? Did something happen?”
You don’t respond.
“Okay, I am coming in now and I don’t care what you say.”
He opens the door to find you seated on the edge of the bathtub. He joins you there and cradles you against your violent protests. When you are much calmer, you sit up to look at him.
“I just spoke with my ex. For two years, I was in a relationship with him and I never said I loved him because I never did. I enjoyed his company, and I enjoyed the intimacy but I could never bring myself to saying I loved him. I agreed to a relationship with him because he knew how to love me, and he took very good care of me and my needs, but thinking back now, it was a selfish thing to do. I am capable of a number of things but love is not one of them. I don’t want to hurt you too Samuel. I may never fall in love with you.”
His eyes are resting on yours but you cannot decipher his thoughts. When a minute passes and he still does not say a word, your fear begins to grow wings. “Say something Samuel.”
“What do you want?”
“What? What do I want?” The question takes you by surprise. But you imagine that if you had had an entire lifetime to prepare to answer it, you would still not have an answer to give.
“I don’t know Samuel. I don’t know what I want.”
“That’s not possible baby. We always know what we want. I know I want to kiss you now even though I should be running for my life. So what do you want?”
You chuckle. “I know I want to be with you even though I don’t want to hurt you.”
“So be with me baby.” He envelopes your lips with his now. You feel the warmth and softness and familiarness of his breath cascade through your veins, and you know—despite not knowing many other things—that you want to feel this way for a very long time. For the rest of your life, maybe.
© The Short Black Girl, 2018