How do I begin? How do I start to tell the story of love that might have been but never was and, because of what has happened, will never be! It’s really sad! I never heard a thing. And that was because we’ve grown apart and so far away from each other. I know I’ll always have you in my heart because, who ever forgets the first love. You were my first love, even if I never knew what it meant at the time, but I later realized that I did feel something special for you. But now that you’re gone forever, we can’t even get the chance to rekindle such beautiful, hidden romance we once had. I’m beyond tears at this moment but the news of your passing, especially the way I found out, knocked the stuffing out of me! I’ll never forget you! And this post is a way to preserve the memory of you.
The story from the beginning was one of childish antagonism turned secret love affair. We just moved to our new 3-bedroom apartment in Akoka then and I and my immediate elder sis were still schooling at Festac so we only came over once in a while on weekends. It wasn’t long before we moved over finally to begin some of the longest periods I spent in one neighbourhood. The early days are quite foggy but one memory stood out for me. It always has. That fight at the tank downstairs. I hope you remember too. It was serious ‘chicken fight’ and we had a real go at each only to be separated by some of the adults around there. I still can’t remember what caused it but it’s one of my earliest memories of you.
It wasn’t long after that that everyone found out, including both of us, that we were birthmates. Yes! Same day, same month, same year! Then I knew you were always going to be special to me, even if I never wanted to show it. I’m sure finding out such information made us fond of each other, still secretly. We had a thing for each other but never talked about it. We only communicate with the eyes while in the crowd. We never really had time alone but when it’s just you, me and Bashiru, you were always different. I could hold you or touch you.
I remember the teases from Bro. Fatai and Bro. Jako. “Husband and wife,” they’ll say, anytime we were together with everyone and we used to fight against it going at them like we were very mad at the notion although we secretly both liked it. Other variations were “Iyawo Akin” or “Oko Basira” and we would start our tantrums. I grew out of it earlier than you, though. I just stopped responding to it but you were still fighting against any adult that tries to put what we had privately out there in public. I don’t think any of our mates really teased us about it.
I remember that one time when Papa came to our compound to play ball with I and Bashiru. He started telling us that he was going to marry you. I didn’t say anything about it even though I was quite pissed. Later that night, I was in your apartment watching Monsor and Bashiru play that new computer game when Bro. Fatai came in and started teasing you when he saw me there. You rushed to him and started hitting him. Then Bashiru dropped the bombshell! He said that Papa already said he’ll be the one to marry her so you should be ‘Iyawo Papa’. Bro. Fatai played along and you started asking Bashiru when and where Papa made this reference. I was a bit relieved that I was no longer the focus of the teases but I was mad inside that anyone else wanted to have you, much less my close friend.
I needn’t have worried. The following day, Papa came to see me while you were in the passageway playing with some of your friends. I can’t remember those that were there on that day but I guess they were the regulars: Nkechi, Efe and the rest. The moment you sighted him, you challenged him, “Come, Papa, who gave you wife? Are you sure you’re alright? Who do you want to marry?! If I hear such again…!” Or something like that, but you embarrassed him that day. I had to come out of our flat when I heard the noise just before Papa turned back and left. I pitied my friend but felt joy that you had just defended what we had. You wouldn’t let anyone take what we shared, even though many suspected and no one really knew. Except maybe Bashiru. And my sis, Lola. She was a tricky one. Always trying to get us together as much as possible.
I remember the days of ‘Dunlop’. I smile right now just thinking of those moments. ‘Dunlop’ was a game, quite pointless I might add, that we sort of invented where someone shouts “Dunlop!” and jumps on the bed, then the rest follow one on top of the other until last person and we roll over and start again, changing the first person. I remember we never wanted to follow each other even if it was just I, you, Bashiru and Lola. But we would try to feel for each other’s hands or bodies just before the roll over. On one of those fun nights, after we got tired of ‘Dunlop’, Lola came up with the idea of ‘Mummy and Daddy’ and, the matchmaker that she is, paired us together while she and Bashiru were the other family. Each family had a blanket to cover themselves with as their ‘house’. Under our blanket, we shared our very first kiss and held each other as much as we’ve always wanted. It was a night I’d never ever forget because that was the closest I got to you, ever! Other details of that night will be locked in my memories. Needless to say, that was the night I knew you truly felt the same way about me as I felt for you. That night I dared to dream that we would always be together and grow old together. Yes, we never really went to the ‘extreme’ but the closeness I shared with you that night was worth the thought! How wrong I was!
All these happened between the ages of 7 and 12 and I often looked back and thought if we’d grown up together, you would have been my one and only girlfriend, ever! I loved you like that. But it just wasn’t meant to be. You guys moved to your dad’s house, still around Akoka but we never got to see each other as much again. I visited with my siblings once or twice over the next few years but there was really nothing memorable apart from the fact that my heart still fluttered at the sight of you. I never really dropped the feelings I had for you. They just moved into my subconscious and resurfaced every single time I see you after that. Once just after I was through with WAEC and the other at your mom’s housewarming around Meiran when I was in my third year in the University. I still felt the same way about you. Even after two different relationships. I never knew how you felt, though. We never discussed it, even after I got your number and started calling every once in a while. You seemed like you’d moved on from our pre-teen romance and, though it was kinda sad for me, I couldn’t begrudge you for that.
We didn’t contact each other for a while until around 2011 when you gave me your BB PIN and we started chatting a bit on the regular. I remember that one time I asked about ‘the guy’ and told you if he wasn’t fast enough to snap you up, I’d just appear from nowhere and pack all the yams, palm oil and fruits to your parents and steal you away. You just laughed. I wished I had been capable then. I was in transition between relationships and I think I might have tried to start something with you. I moved on to someone else but I was still bothered you weren’t ‘off the market’ yet. After a while we just totally stopped communicating. I think I called once since that time, just to say ‘Hi’, besides the customary SMS I send on our birthday. It was almost obvious we were never going to be together because we’d grown apart but I still want to keep in touch anytime I think of you.
Today was one of those days when I thought of you and decided to check on you on Facebook and probably call you later to ask for your new PIN because you were no longer on my contacts list. I just wanted to know how you were faring and maybe see if you’re still available. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who can handle inter-religious marriage. I deeply respect those brave people who make it work. I naturally believe that there are too many things to work out between couples in a marriage before now adding the religious aspect into the mix. But with you I was willing to make an exception, if we ever had the chance. I always told anybody I spoke to about you that you were the only girl I could have ever gotten married to as a non-Christian and I would be willing to try and work it out. You were that special to me!
Imagine my horror, sadness and depression when I found condolence messages on your wall. I was shocked to the marrows! I couldn’t utter anything as I scrolled down the messages, hoping to see a response from you that all’s well and you appreciate the messages. I never wanted to accept that they were talking about you! It’s been 2 months. October 9th, to be precise. And I was just finding out today. I didn’t cry. My state of shock was too deep to bring tears to my eyes. That would come later, I know. I motioned through the day and knew I had to do this.
This is my remembrance of you, my dear soulmate! This is where I’ll come to share time with you now. I loved you like I’ve never loved anyone else! Even if the relationship was hidden and short-lived, you still existed in my subconscious.
You will forever live in my memories!
Rest in Peace, my darling!
Adieu, Bas’rat Yakub!