Of Pain, Pleasure, and Purpose

Seventh and Final Part of the “Shall I Fall in Love Again?” Series

It took me four months to gather my thoughts and write the last piece in this series of meanderesque musings. You don’t have to think far about the reason behind the strange hiatus—it was Valeria (Vee). Now, it may be that you didn’t follow my story from the beginning. Or perhaps you did but lost track along the way. Maybe it’s even a mix of both. It’s fine, really, and I assure you that you won’t need it to get the gist of this concluding piece.

By the time I wrote you last, Vee and I had been talking quite well, and she had told me that she had a confession to make. What I didn’t see coming was what happened when we met to discuss.

It was thirteen minutes past 7 pm, and we were headed for Tamberma in an Uber. I was somewhat nervous, to be honest, but my “what’s the worst that could possibly happen” instinct kicked in. While she was looking as stunning as ever, my mind was wrestling with the thought that I might have been a bit underdressed. (I still hope I wasn’t, though.)

Her eyes glowed in the dark; she seemed to have put on contact lenses that gave her these look-complementing blue eyes. How I got to “land” this babe was still beyond me. This time, she had worn an unfamiliar scent that was playing tricks on my mind. Was this what seduction looked like? Was this seduction, or was I just the one with the problem?

The glistering red dress she wore wasn’t revealing, but oh did it make me understand beyond any doubt—by experience—why they say women are dangerous. She sure wasn’t overdressed, but her natural glow makes it hardly possible for any fit of hers not to appear “over”. As we drove through the busy roads of Ibadan on that warm Saturday evening, the stereo was on. Qing Madi’s American Love played as I stole glances at this angel next to me. For a moment, I felt like the guy in the music video; there were just so many parallels I could not ignore. With her, I felt I had “never met a girl [I] go wife up,” and all I really wanted was for her to “hold me down with no excuse”. Maybe—just maybe—she was going to do that, and I tried so hard to hide my nervousness and keep my composure.

We arrived at the place and alighted to a delightsome sight. With the lights, I had a much clearer view of the damsel whose hand I was now holding as we walked into the bar to get a seat. It turned out what I saw earlier was just the tip of the iceberg. It took me quite a while to recover from the amazement that besieged me and held me tongue-tied for close to five minutes.

She sat and settled in comfortably, and we took a glance at the menu the smiling waiter handed us. We decided to have drinks first, so I ordered a tequila while she went for their cocktail. After a few minutes of brain-racking, we both decided to have their onion rings and chicken tenders for starters, and beef lasagna and spaghetti Bolognese for main. The waiter nodded and left. I looked into her eyes; they seemed to have lit up quite unusually. Or maybe it was just that her irises were dilated; I don’t know. But they held me with a charm a thousand battalions couldn’t resist.

“Are you okay?” She asked. “Oh yeah, I’m good. I just noticed a speck on your temples,” I lied, as I feigned removing the imaginary item. As my middle finger touched her face, I found myself slowly caressing her hair—the way they do in movies. “You’re not that bad a romantic, you know,” she said as she smirked and giggled. I think she got the drift. There was no point defending myself at this point; I’d been caught red-handed.

“Did you notice the tattoo on the waiter’s forearm?” I asked, desperate to switch the subject.

“Yeah… I did. You know I once wanted to get a tattoo when I was 16.”

“Really? Of what?”

“Whom, actually. It was my then-boyfriend, Lanre.”

It just occurred to me that she hadn’t told me much about her past, particularly her relationships. Maybe that was what she wanted to talk to me about.

“Oh, I see… why didn’t you get it then?” I replied.

“Well, this is probably where should I say ‘my parents’, because there was a real possibility they would have disowned me.” She laughed and paused.


“I was willing to take the risk because I was so much into him, and I loved him so much that I wouldn’t mind moving into the streets if that was the consequence of showing how much I loved him through that.” She chuckled. “How stupid I was.”


“I’m glad I didn’t get the tattoo. It didn’t take me long to discover that he was into another chic. Four actually, but one main. It didn’t take her long to discover either, but she seemed more able to assert dominance and caused a big ruckus for me. In the end, she got him.”

“Ouw. Must have been a disaster.”

“Yep. It was. It lasted quite many weeks, and as things progressed, I slid into depression, became suicidal, and had to go for therapy.”

The waiter arrived with the drinks. We both took a sip.

“Have you got into a relationship ever since?”

“No, not really. And it’s perhaps largely because of that. You know, I like to think of myself as fragile, and I try so hard to avoid things that are beyond me—like love, the intense romantic kind. As young, naïve, and impassioned as I was, it’s little wonder that the experience left a great scar on me.”

Instantly, it became clear that she was the exact opposite of what I was. By now, she was already intimate with quite a number of my past experiences with relationships, and I wondered if it affected how she saw me.

“Many would think it was just a ‘high school fling’ and so it wasn’t really that deep,” she continued, “but the fact remains that the experience affected several aspects of my being. I still haven’t healed fully, although of course, I’m in a much better place now and it’s taken me a lot to get here.”

“So you’ve just not met people you liked or had people walk up to you to make known their intentions?” I asked, curious as hell.

“I suppress the feelings. And I turn down the advances. For me, it isn’t worth it, and I think I have saved myself from unnecessary pain and disappointment by staying safe that way.”

To be honest, I was speechless. I couldn’t quite square her experience with mine (considering that I had entered lots of relationships hoping to find healing from previous hurt), and we now seemed to be worlds apart with colliding philosophies of love. By now, I was almost done with my drink, and the waiter had brought our meals.

“It’ll get cold,” I said, signalling her to eat.

She sensed I was having a difficult time with all she had just said. “(my name), I know you’re probably wondering how then I’ve experienced healing, since the other time we spoke I agreed that healing comes through love.”

I nodded, sombre.

“Well, two things basically. First is that, among other things, the experience plunged me into an existential crisis whereby I was forced to spend extended amounts of time contemplating the purpose of my existence. I remember reading books like The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis which helped me make sense of my feelings, direct my mind to what matters, and realise that often time when people struggle with heartbreak, there’s an underlying existential issue that needs to be addressed as well.”

My eyes were fixed on her the whole time. “Hmm,” I nodded in the affirmative.

“Then the second was that I set my mind to find love and healing in non-romantic friendships. Of course, they’re not the same and they probably don’t feel the same, but with just enough patience, I discovered so much about the potency of such relationships. As time passed even, I began to regard romantic ones as being unduly overrated.”

“Okay, so where does that leave me?” I asked—in my mind of course. I mean, here I was with Loreen’s Tattoo living rent-free in my mind: No I don’t care about them all | cause all I want is be loved | and all I care about is you | you’re stuck on me like a tattoo | no I don’t care about the pain | I’ll walk through fire and rain | just to get closer to you | you’re stuck on me like a tattoo…”

Indeed, all I wanted was to be loved by her, and Anne, and Angela, and Princess—every single lady that had come before her—hoping I would find respite to my now weary soul, and here she was, telling me she didn’t think that such love was necessarily the solution. Are you whining me?

I think my expression betrayed me. She continued. “(my name), see I get why this may seem strange to you, but have you ever tried to think through the existential issues that may be using your thirst for romance as a cover to remain undetected? Or even just consider the possibility of them existing? And have you laboured well enough to mine the treasures hidden in the fields of your friendships with people around you—friends, real friends who make love come alive and make you know it as a strikingly real thing? And mind you, this isn’t restricted to any sex.”

At this point, it began to make sense—I think. I was broken. I needed more than just someone to feel giddy about. Maybe it was why my roommate could pursue several ladies serially for the thrill of romance and not because there was love involved to begin with.

I finally spoke. “It sure is a difficult thing teasing temporary thrills and flirty flings apart from lucid lasting love. How may one learn the difference?”

She sighed. “I don’t know, (my name). I really don’t. All I do know is that they’re distinguishable, and with time, one will be able to tell.”

“But I like you… a lot, Vee. Is it just a thrill like the rest or a sign of something deeper?”

“Time will tell,” she smiled softly, her eyes gleaming brighter this time. She meant it.

“But I don’t have friends… I’m alone most of the time…”

“If you look around well enough, you do,” she interjected, “but even if you don’t, that is why I’m here… given we manage our expectations, take things slow and steady, and see how things go. But one thing is certain, and it is that I am ready and willing to hold your hand, see you through this phase, and help you find healing.” The soothing tone with which she said this was enough to anaesthetise me from any pain for years on end. A tear dropped down my right cheek.

“Ah, the onions,” I said, trying to cover up. She was smarter obviously. What was I thinking?

“Of course, the onions,” she replied sarcastically. “You know when I started believing strongly in the power of non-romantic love?”

“When?” I was curious.

“It was when I read that David once said to Jonathan, ‘You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.’ I couldn’t believe my eyes.”


“I will love you (my name),” she continued. My eyes lit up. “I will love you so simply and sincerely if you will not take my love for granted. I will be there for you and make you know love as a strikingly real thing. I am ready to give you something deeper than just the superficial giddy feelings of romance.”


After the near-constant pain and intermittent pleasure of these past years, I think I am finally finding purpose. These past months have been a serendipitously guided journey of healing and self-discovery—sorting through previously accumulated grief, pain, hurt, disappointment, rejection, and whatnot. I may not have “fallen in love” this time, but I am “rising from the ashes”, and it’s all thanks to love.

Pray for me. There is hope.

Mr. eX

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