Maitama and Asokoro
I’m Igbo… my lover/boyfriend is/was Hausa..
I swear I loved him with all of my heart, body, and mind..
a week ago he said he couldn’t date me anymore, that we weren’t in the same…
he left the words hanging.. leaving me to fill in the blank..
..religion? (He’s Muslim and I’m Christian)
..tribe? (He’s Hausa and I’m Igbo)
..class? (His father is a prince, mine is… well, I don’t know – but I trump that because my uncle was Senate President)
..wealth bracket? (He’s rich, and I’m struggling not to fall into poverty – but it doesn’t matter because I’ve never asked him for anything. I pay for his gas when we go out. I insist.)
He told me he loved me… I still think he does..
but at the same time.. he thinks I am inferior to him.. not worthy of him.
It is possible to love something with all your might and still condescend to it.
Especially when that ‘it’ is eight years younger than you and a willful, wild, seventeen year old.
I’m nineteen now, but that’s how old I was when I first knew I loved him.
I was seventeen, and he was twenty-five.And there were no two people more suited to each other in the world than we.
But I’m not enough. No matter how hard I tried to please him, to be his fantasy and still be true to myself, I was never good enough. Because I didn’t wear a hijab, because I wasn’t Hausa, because I didn’t dream of summer in Dubai and Oman. I was Igbo… and therefore, I was just wrong.
There was this other girl. Omani. They went to college together. They dated. He loved her I heard. He would have married her, except… the irony still makes me shake with grim laughter… her family wouldn’t have him. He wasn’t Omani or Saudi you see… and though she loved him equally, his dark skin repulsed them, and they wouldn’t suffer him to marry her.. or see her ever again for that matter.
They starved her. Locked her in a room. Flogged her, and sent him away, a dog, with his tail between his legs, scuttling home to Nigeria, his princedom flung in his face like piss and leaving a sharp, sour tang.
To them he was nothing.
To him I am nothing.
Sometimes I think he hates me for not being her. Sometimes when we make love I think he sees her face, superimposed on mine. I think for him my skin lightens and my face is framed with softly curling hair that blows about with the currents of the air.
I think he still loves the girl he met at school in faraway Scotland.
And I? What do you think I make of it?
When I am with him I close my eyes…. and let the hopes and dreams of my heart take me. We fly away, and for an hour, maybe two, I can forget that the man that holds me in the darkness hates me. I can forget his cruelty. I can forget all the things he has done to me or said to me. Because for an hour, maybe two, he is mine.
Sometimes I look down at us from the ceiling. Sometimes I stare into my face and try to read my expression. I watch his back moving as he thrusts. I used to wonder if I would ever escape or be happy. I watched the scene unfold, inhumanly, away from my body because I couldn’t bear to be in it. Watched him shudder, come, and push me away in sudden, sharp rising anger. I watched myself, naked, and cold, huddle, curled up in a ball on the far side of his bed, on his orders, facing the wall and not making a sound. I watched myself freeze, watched him sleep. I saw myself inch closer to him, desperate to be warm and feel loved, saw the unfeeling me work my way into his arms and fall asleep.
And then he woke, and hit me, over and over again. Then he pushed me away from him and threatened to put me out of his house naked like a dog, if I came near him again. I heard myself sob silently on the far side of his bed, felt my heart break over and over again.
I have seen the pictures of her with him. He held her, kissed her, cuddled her; all expressions of love a lover could make to his beloved.
He tells me he’s not the type to cuddle. But I have seen the pictures. The ones he refuses to get rid of. The ones he displays proudly.
There are no pictures of him and me.
Just my memories, and his; when he chooses to remember them.