Previously on LET ME SING A SONG ABOUT LIFE:
And yes, it was happiness, living with Emeka. Being with Emeka. Sharing a house – and life – with Emeka. It was a lot of happiness.
Too much happiness, in fact.
And considering my history with misfortunes, I should never have trusted that I would be this happy without life coming to fuck it all up for me.
Emeka was one of the leaders of the Igbo diaspora group in my state, and they always had meetings about the welfare of their community in the East. I once went with him to one of those meetings. Sitting in a corner at the far back of the room, I remembered hearing them barking out argument upon argument as their voices resonated all over the room with a boisterousness I’ve always admired about Igbos. Emeka played significant roles in the group. His father was late; he had a young son who was residing with his (the boy’s) mother in Canada, and he was wealthy enough to make generous contributions to the group’s welfares. So, even though he was younger than most of the members of the group, he was affluent enough for his opinions to be considered and his voice heard. I didn’t want to go with him to any more of those meetings after that first time, and he respected my decision.
On this fateful Friday night, we were in bed together when he told me that he had confirmed his trip to his hometown on Sunday morning. He had initially told me after his last meeting that they were planning to travel together as a group.
“Some greedy people want to snatch our land and we won’t allow that to happen,” he said grimly. “We have been negotiating peacefully, but now is the time for us to use force. We will come together as brothers to fight these thieves.”
I didn’t know why my heart skipped a beat when I heard this. I felt a faint frisson of apprehension snake its way up my spine. Nollywood had taught me that land disputes rarely end well when it comes to force. I asked him to be careful. And he laughed in response, telling me that this was a man’s thing, not a woman’s. I didn’t know what that was supposed to mean. And it wasn’t the first time he’d speak like this. Emeka could be quite sexist. And usually, I would brush it off. But the way he said it as a blithe dismissal of my concern over him filled me with irritation. I said something terse in response and soon, an argument heated up between us. He got upset that I did not respect him, that despite us being lovers, I should at least think of him as an elder brother and treat him accordingly. I retorted that he should see me as a man with brains, rather than the one with just an asshole, otherwise I would start reconsidering letting him touch me.
For a moment after I said this, he glared at me in fulminating silence. Then he growled, “So you’re now giving me conditions, eh? You should know that you’re not the only one with what you have.”
“True. The same can be said for you,” I snapped back.
His eyes became so inflamed, hot and angry, filled with the disbelief of someone who wasn’t used to me speaking to him in this manner. At the same time, I felt like my words were coming out from any part of my body but my mouth.
He rose swiftly, hulking over me like a lion, and pounced on me. Then he raised a fist. My heart jumped and fled, even though I lay there as rigid as a statue.
However, the raised fist hung in the air. Perhaps I wouldn’t be telling this story now if the fist had landed on me.
Then, as if realizing something, a calmness came over him and drained his anger from him. He let out a sigh and collapsed back on the bed, away from me.
“What has come over me?” he said in a low tone as I lay there next to him, breathing heavily, my heart still pounding even though I was still frozen in place.
He looked at me and then moved on the bed to take me into his arms.
“Don’t touch me please!” I hissed.
And it was as though both his touch and my finding my voice suddenly galvanized me into action. Taking him by surprise, I leaped up from the bed, snatched up my wallet and ran out of the room, headed for outside the house. I could hear his voice calling after me as I fled. It was around 8 PM, and rain was falling, almost discouraging from my flight from Emeka. He was calling me, coming after me as I ran out into the street, desperately looking for any form of transport that would take me to Segun’s place, where I had determined I would pass the night. Not even a motorbike passed by, and I was drenched within minutes of standing under the rain.
After standing miserably in the rain for several minutes, I suddenly felt the rain cease to beat down on me at about the same time I sensed him next to him. I looked around. He was holding an umbrella over me.
“Baby, have you not punished me enough today?” he said cajolingly. “How do you want me to have peace of mind with you wet like this? Please let us go home.”
“Your home,” I snapped.
He laughed and answered, “For where? Na our house be that. And the earlier you begin to realize that we have to solve our challenges by ourselves instead of running away, the better.”
“So I should stay there till you beat the hell out me, eh?”
“Baby, you think I could ever do that to you?” He sounded genuinely stricken that I would think that. “Yes, I felt provoked, because we’ve never had this kind of fight before. Now, I realize that you were just being concerned and following my lead by wanting me to be with you always. You know I always feel the same way about you, not wanting you to travel. So I am the one who is wrong. Please come back so that we can settle it. I apologize for the way I reacted. It will never happen again.”
When I looked up at him and saw how much he meant every word he’d just said, I had no idea how seriously Fate would take those words about tonight never happening again.
That night, we made such fierce love, as though unwittingly preparing for the inevitable.
When he was about to head out that Sunday, I kissed him and again told him to be careful. He said he would.
Monday morning, I was at home watching some nice Yoruba movies, when someone began banging aggressively on the door. I opened it to find one of Emeka’s boys on the threshold in tears.
“What happened?” I asked, feeling the panic seize me even before I knew what I was panicking about.
And he broke the news to me that changed my life forever. He talked about how Emeka had led his men to the land of interest. Things quickly got heated and a physical altercation erupted. And he was stabbed several times in the process. He died on the way to the hospital.
I don’t think I could tell you what impact this news had on me immediately I heard it – or for several days afterwards. Even now, years later, I don’t quite have the courage to delve into the dark, dark times that overwhelmed me in the wake of Emeka’s death. After I learned that the man I loved, the man who loved me more than any man ever had, had been killed.
It took me almost a year to recover from the loss of Emeka. They say you don’t know how important somebody is until you’ve lost them. It even got to a stage when he began to appear to me in my dreams, admonishing me to move on with my life, that that was the only way I could show him how much I loved him – by living again. I was about rounding up my programme at the college when Emeka died, and I would have failed my final exams if I hadn’t been a tutor to my course-mates in most of my subjects, something that made most of the exam questions so familiar to me, I could answer them correctly by rote, considering my grief couldn’t let me study much.
Individual decisions about life separated my best friend, Segun and I after graduation. I got direct entry to study Mass Communications in the University of Lagos, while Segun relocated to the North to join the army. Even though I got admission for both full time and part time studies, I opted for the latter, so I could work to train myself through school. I had no one but myself to rely on.
I most certainly no longer had Emeka.
For accommodation in school, I managed to stay temporarily here and there before I finally landed in shared flat. Within three months of my arrival in Lagos, I found a teaching job at an elite nursery and primary school. The school had wanted university graduates, but I was shortlisted because my handwriting had gotten the school headmistress interested in me. Thankfully, I didn’t disappoint her during the interview process.
After settling in Lagos, I started recovering gradually, and with time, gradually went back into the dating scene. Life went on for two years, when a six-month scholarship to learn German language happened past me. I applied for it, passed, and before I knew it, I was traveling to Germany. Before, the six months ended however, I’d applied for a Bachelor’s degree at a German university. After a series of complex procedures, I was able to get my visa extended. After completing my Master’s in 2018, I am now pursuing my PhD programme.
It is because of this PhD that I have unearthed this story about the past. As I planned to visit Nigeria in May for a preliminary field research, I was caught off guard and in a moment of vulnerability, the past came crashing down on me. Mostly because of Yemi and how differently he loved me from Emeka who loved me the best.
Till my dying day, I will never forget Emeka, and even as I query the decision I took to prioritize my career over my (now dead) relationship with Yemi, I do fervently hope that I will find another love like Emeka’s.
Written by Bamidele