This is no love letter; it bears a message that’s least romantic. See, time has changed, a lot have happened and I’m no longer the same old Damilola. This story broke the Dami you knew and re-made a new me you’d never come to comprehend. If what we had was a union that takes two to work, then we’re broken because a working part has been altered. For what it’s worth, you’re a great guy and this has absolutely nothing to do with you. You’re the perfect guy for the girl I use to be.
When I was called to serve motherland, all I had in mind was to go have the fun of my life, not the neck-breaking kind but the usual kind of fun a young girl fantasizes about before an all-youth retreat. If you know what I mean.
If the story you’re about to read pushes you close to the edge of your seat, know that it pushed me closer to the edge of death. It was a time that tried my soul with trials that as I have now come to understand did not necessarily tell who I am but instead, presented the question of who I am. A question I was left to answer by no other means but my direct reaction to those trials.
I won’t remind you of those blissful romantic moments we shared, that could be torturous to you, but I’d like you to know they use to mean the world to me. How we watched the stars in each other’s arms in maami’s veranda and planned to name that bright one usually on the south-west sky after our first child. How we sang love songs each night loud enough to peeve the neighbors. How we went window shopping for wedding rings and gowns. How we…damnit Kayode, I promised not to bring back those times.
Here’s something to help you get over me, ours wasn’t the most perfect union of all times, we had our flaws and we disagreed on quite a lot. For instance, you stammer embarrassingly and my talkative habit annoys you. My favorite color is red but you’re too superstitious not to see red as a bad omen. You want to spend a greater part of your life in the hinterlands of Ile-ife while I craved for the Igboro of Eko.
While you swore to love me come rain come shine, in paradise or hell, you’ve had Bukky, Shade and the other chubby-cheeked belle. That’s as much as I can tell. You’ve lied to me countless times and I’m not innocent in that aspect either.
In all these, we had what others would die for, a friendship and understanding that’s inexplicable. We finish each other’s sentences and some other emotional fallacies one can find in a typical Harlequin best seller. You’ve broken my heart before but you came running with apologies. That’s sheer courage. Now I’m turning my back on us without adequate apologies because no amount will be adequate.
I wish for your sake I can say I’d miss you but you should know that the Dami that’d miss you is gone. If however it makes you feel any better you can go ahead and believe so. All that is behind us now, I’m speeding towards my new world in this bus with no plan of a possible return. I’m writing this letter, having deep thoughts about you for maybe the last time. You’re a good guy; I’m a changed girl.
Do what you wish with this diary when you get it. Knowing who you are, I think you’d first be clueless what to do with it. Then you’d determine to put it up that iron book shelf in your room in the midst of your devastation to sit sandwiched by your least read titles. If you ever want to please the girl I was which you well know, you’d find a way to publish it, peradventure the world would find it hugely compelling. You might make a fortune from it after all; let that be a legacy from that old girl that loved you.
In all these, please find a liberal heart to wish me well in my new life. From the depth of my heart I truly wish you find that new girl that would complement you the way the old me did. That would love you the way the old me did. That would criticize and at the same time respect your decisions the way the old me did. And above all, that would tame your ego like the old me did.
I’m not ignorant of the obvious fact that this would hurt you bad. After yesterday’s incidence I thought it appropriate to make you read this diary. If you’d be affected by this drastic change in me then it’s only fair that I try my best to let you know what caused it. If I ever looked into your eyes to say I love you, then you deserve to know of the tornado that blew that love away.
Though we never factor heart break into the plot of a romance, they happen all the same. It’s the cord break that is never written into the symphony. It’s the paint splash on canvass that’s never preconceived by the artist. At its worst, it’s that grand iceberg thousands of nautical miles away the Titanic maker did not foresee.
These lines from Robert Burns keep ringing in my head,
Had we never lov’d sae kindly
Had we never lov’d sae blindly
Never met-or never parted,
We had never been broken-hearted.
Hope you still love poems?
* * * * * *
Sunday, July 11, 2010. 5:45pm
(Lahadi,Yuli goma sha daya, shekara 2010. Karfe biyar da minti arbain da biyar na rana)
Our camp commandant is a fantasy liar. He tells us untrue stories of military exploits and engagements he wishes he had in his career. He’s that kind of liar that brings his dreams and fantasies to life inside your head. He’s that good, on his good day, he could lie you to death faster than his gun could kill. For instance, last night he gathered us outside our hostel around a blazing campfire of condemned tires and few woods from broken furniture. We listened with only a few interruptions to his tale of a UN peace-keeping mission he partook in. He said it was in 2006 in Kigali.
He narrated with a wistful stare into blank space with pride the details of the role he played, how honor swelled in him whenever he fired a shot at the bad guys.
As intriguing as his stories were, they were at best fictional. In my memory was no record of a crisis in that land at that time to demand the involvement of him and his bad-guys-shooting fellows. He craftily failed to give a clear answer when I pressed him to give factual details but I knew not to press too hard to kill the fun of the night. I’d be damned if I did.
The other girls either did not want to kill the fun too or did not know a thing about the topic to detect even the biggest lie. One however would not tell a false story about Lindsey Lohan or any of those western pop stars on MTV without being caught. We know those stories better.
Captain Mahmoud is a fine soldier in built and courage –the courage part is what I can’t say under oath. He carries taut bulky muscles and stood at six feet, give or take an inch. A lady’s delight if you imagine him topless –which I often catch myself doing. We share same complexion, shiny dark and smooth skin, smoother than I would expect from a soldier’s skin.
Unlike the meekness of his face, his totally shaved scalp adds a little toughness to his look. That also is usually countered by his occasional generous smile that reveals a well spaced dental orientation, a smile that fades all too quickly. Especially when he’s lying up a storm.
I also consider him patriotic. I know there isn’t a reliable yardstick to measure that after just a few moments with him or anyone. I can however attest to that from the rueful tone of his often expressed disdain for the menace in different regions of the country…how uniform it is. I mean his eagerness to take out the Boko haram bomb boys matches his wishes that the JTF crushes the militants down south.
I’ve grown fond of him now, and his well cooked up stories are part of the few things I’d miss when we leave this camp.
It’s my seventh day in this Walio camp and my experience has been an equivalent blend of fun and sweat. I know a larger portion of both lay ahead for me in the coming days but like every other person here, I hope I find more of the former.
My laziness has come to manifest in no small measure, no thanks to the early morning parades and the stupid military drill they put us through. The endurance trek comes up in four days and I’m yet to find a way around it. Fluttering my eyes at Mahmoud is yet to yield any tangible result but, I don’t plan to give up.
My biggest nightmares in this camp are the mosquitoes. I woke up this morning to find that my net has been stolen, and it wasn’t a big deal to my bedmate. Someone has to be fracking kidding me. Yet I was least bothered because I usually don’t get out-done in things like this. Soon, very soon, after lights out, I’d find the next person or persons to lose a net. The thief only gave me a good mind to end up with a spare net tonight.
Friday, July 16, 2010. 2:15pm
(Jumma’a, Yuli goma sha shidda, shekara 2010. Karfe biyu da minti goma sha biyar na rana)
Men are timid! They fight hard to hide it. That’s a fact I’ve come to confirm for myself in the past two weeks -please a round of applause for me.
A young man who would love to say Hello would stay for almost eternity before he summons adequate courage to go ahead. Sometimes when he does eventually, he stutters in the opening conversation. How awkward.
As is typical of me, I’ve been the most fortunate with the best hunks than a handful of the ladies. I’m yet to figure why I become their favorite.
It could be the graceful glide of my steps or the sway it produces in my curvy hips. It might as well be the charm in my smile, the inexplicable innocence of my stare or perhaps the vitality of my laughter. It could be a combo of two or three of these. It could even be none of them. Perhaps something I haven’t noticed about myself. I take it it’s the Maya Angelou in me, that I’m simply a phenomenal woman. I love saying that to myself. You wouldn’t blame me for choosing to believe a few of the many flatteries I get from the dudes.
Still on the guys around here, it appears every one of them has a compliment –mostly insincere- in his mouth waiting for the slightest chance to pour it on you. From my early teenage-hood, I’d learnt how to handle compliments and flattery alike especially when it’s from that aesthetically challenged guy next door. However, when it’s coming from that pink-coloured lips guy who’s succeeded in taking up my entire fantasy space…I get lost for words at best.
A good instance happened with Francis a few days back. By my standards he’s the most charming on camp that I’d seen. And mind you, my standards are pretty high. He offered to buy my lunch which I accepted after much gragra.
Before and during the lunch Francis was impeccably gentlemanly but it was nothing beyond the usual hail-fellow-well-met gesture typical with boys these days. He opened the door for me, carried my dish to our table, pulled my chair, did not sit down till I was seated and after I’d taken about three spoonfuls he paused to ask me if I was enjoying the meal. If I would prefer joloff rice instead. And the rest of the, you’re-the-queen-of-my-empire gestures. I knew I should have grown past being moved by those, I still couldn’t stop myself from blushing recklessly. I should be ashamed of myself, really.
I couldn’t help but point out to him how untypical it was for the average African man to be that chivalrous, and…boom! That detonated the flattery bomb in his tongue.
He dropped his cutleries gently, placed his right hand on my left and fixed a warm look on my face to say, “For me you’re the closest bodily presentation of a fully grown and fabulously endowed African woman, you deserve the finest treatment the best African man can offer.”
Goddamnit you crossed the line, you sugar-tongued serpent.
If I hadn’t known any better I’d have fallen off my chair and fainted. Even with what I knew of men and their tongues I still couldn’t hide my shy blush, “What can I say?” said I with a broad grin.
That wasn’t only the deepest flattery of my life; it was the most smoothly and firmly presented in simulation.
I left him that afternoon not being sure what to make of his personality or how real he was but I was sure he won’t get whatever he wanted from me. That would have worked on me when I was sixteen. Dude was seven years late.