Shall I Fall in Love Again? (Part 5)

Letter from a Hopeless Romantic

As I stooped over the storage box to grab the Sniper bottle, my mom’s voice echoed in my mind. I instantly stopped in my tracks. I remembered the last time we spoke over the phone and she complained about some of the issues with her health. “Jo sa ma ba mi moju to awon aburo e” (“Please just help me look after your siblings”), she’d said in her emaciated alto voice as she bid me farewell. I couldn’t afford to fail her.

We lost my dad to ill health when I was five, and she has been holding the fort ever since. She’s a strong woman; I love her, and the last thing I want to do now is to compound her pain through another loss—this time, of me. Besides, I’ve been sponsoring my three younger siblings’ education and footing their bills for a while now, and so even if for them, I know I must stay.

These are the days I see the scarred face of true love—sacrifice. Each day I remain in this world and I have to bear the pain and difficulty of living (rather than calling it quits) because of my family, I’m reminded of what love demands. It’s never about comfort, mere impulses, or butterflies, but about being willing to live for someone even when the will to live is gone. My family needs me. I can’t leave…yet.

You may say some people have had it worse, so I should be thankful. Thank you, but that doesn’t change the fact that the pain I feel each day is real, and most times unbearable. I’m learning by experience that hardly is any pain as bad as the pain of paradox: my heart aches and yet feels numb at the same time; I feel surrounded and yet sorely lonely; I feel (with Valeria, though we are not officially a “thing” yet) safe and yet uneasy; I feel seen yet hidden away, I feel high/excited and yet low/depressed. This is what makes it all confusing.

I’ve told you about Angela, and I’ve told you about Ann. I’ve told you that I’ve been in many love stories, and these have compounded my hurt. Nevertheless, I’ve told you that Valeria is the person I’m currently seeing (by the way, I hope she’s “seeing” me too, lol), because I’m a hopeless romantic who believes that true love will cure my aching heart—if only I will find it. There’s one thing I didn’t tell you about me, though.


Enter the hall cafeteria. My roomie and I sit together for a meal. It is Saturday, so I’m not as tired as to require my beans therapy. I’m down with fufu and egusi, and he’s having amala abula. I’m almost thinking I should have taken that instead. But that’s gone now. The area is less busy than usual, perhaps because it’s almost year-end. His phone in one hand, the other dipped in the dish, he seems engrossed in both. “Bro, how did you see the basketball tournament today?” I ask as he grins from ear to ear staring at his device. He’s certainly not smiling at what I said, because the game wasn’t particularly funny, I think.

“I think the play was fair,” he shrugs, obviously distracted. “The defence was tight and the assists were topnotch.” He completes his comment as another morsel takes a trip down his throat. Before I can reply, he turns his phone screen my way and motions for me to look at what’s on it. The face looks familiar. “Shade?”

He chuckles. “Yep.”

“But what about Jummie? And Faizah? And the other one—Amaechi or what’s the name?”

“Amarachi, boss.”

“Yeah, whatever. So what’s with this one now? Another potential catch or already caught?” I smirk, as I drink from the water sachet before me.

“Let’s just say somewhere in-between. See bro, I am not a playboy, and we both know that—” 

I almost spurt out the water in my mouth as I burst into laughter. “You and who?”

He rolls his eyes. “Just look at it this way,” he continues, “I’m not in a relationship with any of these girls. And I don’t even ask for anything more than they are normally willing to give. I’ve told you this before now. Don’t you remember when Busola was calling me almost every night? I swear I never asked this babe out. She was into me; who was I to say no?”

“But weren’t you seeing someone then? Lolade, I think?”

“Yes and no. Yes, I was into Lolade but I wasn’t exactly sure she was into me too. We were cool, but I think she had boundaries, so it sort of put a limit on how far we could go.”

“So, you decided to lead Busola on? And the rest too?” I raise an eyebrow.

“Well, if you call it that. See, the thing is I never officially get into a relationship with these people—well, except that one time I was head over heels in love with—”

“Sandra?” I interject.

“Yeah, Sandra. She later cheated on me though.”

“Oh, she did?” I ask, with biting sarcasm. He gets the drift.

Waka. I never feel the same with any two people, you know. And that’s why it’s hard to resist. Each one is different, with a different persona, set of attributes and the likes. You know how it is when you go to Coldstone for instance and rather than stick with one flavour, you decide to mix different ones? That’s just it. Each of them has a unique flavour and what makes it interesting is that you don’t have to stay with one.”

“Awon omolomo lo so di ice cream yen o?” (roughly Yoruba for “It’s the poor girls you’re comparing to ice cream?”) I shake my head. “I’m curious, how do you even manage to attend to multiple of them at once, remember their preferences, birthdays, and so on?”

“When there is a will there is a way. Wo, forget. You sef sabi say technically, no be cheating. The thing is, if you give me the green light, I won’t leave you hanging. I’m that generous.”

“So, what now happens if the person falls hard for you? Won’t you hurt her if she discovers that you’re only stringing her along, and she’s not the only one? How do you handle that? Wasn’t that what happened with Busola when she blocked you?”

“I’m not only stringing her along,” he marks off his emphasis with finger quotes. “I’m genuinely interested in each of them and their welfare, and I genuinely have feelings for them. I mean, I wouldn’t follow through if I didn’t. Again, I never assured any of them that I was in an exclusive relationship with her. Besides, you said if she discovers. What if she doesn’t?

“Of course, welfare Daddy. Keep up the work of the Lord.” I quip. “Okay, so what’s it with Shade now?”

“Oh, nothing much. We just started talking recently and it seems to be going pretty well. It’s a promising one.” He winks as he rises to wash his hands at the sink nearby. I had used a spoon, and so I awaited his return to take our leave together. While waiting, I reach for my phone, only to see a missed call from Valeria. She had left a text; she wanted to meet up.

I respond.

As my guy and I walk out of the cafeteria, I tell him that I have to see someone. He gives me a funny look, apparently indicating he has an idea of what’s going on. “Sha no late, ogbeni,” he teases. I roll my eyes as I take a detour to my rendezvous.

On my way, I reflect on all I have just heard. I sure want Valeria to “fall” for me, but I don’t want to hurt her in any way. Do you remember that earlier I hinted at something you didn’t know about me? This is it—while I’m not all out like my roommate, I sometimes see in myself some of the same tendencies at work in him (though I don’t always indulge them the way he does). I see that often, out of the thrill of newfound love, I expend my love on someone and commit myself to her, and then after some time, it wears off, and I get exhausted.

Remember I said I’m a hopeless romantic. When I love, I love fully. I give myself wholly. I go all the way to make sacrifices. But then when the thrill wears off, I don’t give as much as I used to. I don’t withdraw, but perhaps I become “pale”—not as vibrant as before—and my love grows “stale”, lacking the freshness it once had. On account of this, I’ve had issues quite in a number of my past relationships. For instance, Angela thought I was already seeing someone else when I wasn’t, and after some “fights” (over things, some of which I don’t understand to this day), she called it quits.

Shortly after we parted ways, I met someone else who gave me a different thrill. It’s the kind of “flavour” thing my roommate was talking about. Allow me to make a little adaptation—it’s more like how a new/stronger kind or dose of weed gives a new high after the previous one wears off. So maybe part of why he doesn’t commit is so that there won’t be ties to be severed when the thrill wears off? As I approach Valeria where she is waiting, I look at her and ask myself, “How much am I willing to fight this tendency out of love for her so that she won’t be hurt?”

Sure, I’m damaged and I’ve got a lot of emotional baggage I’m still dealing with. But will I be able to strive to sustain whatever results between us? She lifts her gaze as I enter her field of view. Our eyes lock, and a smile spreads across her face.

Will this be true love, or will it be like the rest—a temporary thrill that only fades with time and increasing familiarity? Certainly, I will have to work to keep my baggage away from her, so she won’t have to deal with my mess. But can I?

Mr. Ex

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