After my national service, it became very hard for me to get a job. There’s no application I didn’t write. There’s no interview I didn’t attend. There’s no networking seminar I didn’t go to. It all yielded zilch results. Every company was looking for somebody but that somebody they were looking for wasn’t me. It’s either I didn’t have the experience or I didn’t have the proper qualification.
When I had the experience and proper qualifications, they told me after the interview, “You’ll hear from us in the coming weeks.” One month later, I picked up the phone and called the HR; “You told me I will hear from you in the coming weeks. It’s been a month already.” Her voice was sweet and calm until she said, “I’m sorry, we gave the offer to someone else. It’s the reason you didn’t hear from us. I’m very sorry.”
Of all the opportunities that I lost, it was that one that killed my spirit. They gave me the impression that I was going to get the job so I raised my expectation. It’s always the expectations that kill us. So I died that day. I gave up on myself and decided to look elsewhere for grace.
All through this struggle, I had a girlfriend. Lucy. We met on campus and dated for a year before I completed school. She was a year behind me so I left her on campus. She became my inspiration. I must say she did very well for me in my trying times. She was a student but she sometimes gave me money for my pocket. She told me, “It’s always like that when you are looking for a job but you don’t have to stop. Everyone gets a job eventually. I’ve never seen any person on earth who never got a job until he died. Maybe they died young but if you persist you’ll hit gold.”
I had an uncle who was into tiles business. He imported foreign tiles and sold them at wholesale prices. I spoke to him and he told me, ‘It’s hard here but if you’re ready to grind then you’ll make it in the end.” I told him, “Uncle I’ve been grinding. I’ve been grinding since school. Even in the house, I grind. There’s no grinding I won’t do. Just put me to a test.” In the end, he set me up in a new area. He’ll bring me the tiles, I would sell them and keep the profit while I return his money to him. It was a good deal. It meant I was starting a business without capital. So I put all my energy into it, going places and traveling the road less traveled just to get customers. As he told me, it wasn’t easy but I had the heart of a soldier so I kept grinning on.
Lucy completed school and did her national. There’s something about girlfriends. I don’t know whether it’s magic or it’s God’s special grace on them. They’ll always get a job before you. And they seem to get it so easily. Lucy completed school, did her national service in an international organization, and was retained with a fat salary right after her service. It sounded like a fairytale—a fairytale that never happened to me. I congratulated her and celebrated her wins with her. But she wasn’t happy about the work I was doing. She would call and ask me, “So what are you going to do?” As if I wasn’t doing anything with my life. I told her, “I’m already doing something. I’m into the sales of tiles now. I started from zero. Now I’m at zero but don’t worry. Things would pick up very soon. I trust in my effort.”
She didn’t see a future in what I was doing. She came to visit me at the shop and saw me in working gear. Maybe she wished her boyfriend would rather be in a suit and tie. She would come and meet me carrying boxes of tiles and arranging them. Maybe she wished her boyfriend would rather sit in the office and scream orders to subordinates. She was making a fat cheque every month but I was always complaining about a profit margin I couldn’t meet. Maybe she wished her boyfriend would be talking salaries too. So the relationship started suffering. She wouldn’t return my calls for the whole day. She would tell me, “Work got hectic. I couldn’t get a hand to do anything for myself.” The excuses built up. The distance between us widened, especially when she bought a car.
I couldn’t measure up in her eyes so she called it quit. I saw it coming so the break of heart wasn’t severe. I may have had a crack somewhere at the side of my heart but it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t heal in a week. She kept sending me sorry messages; “I’m sorry Odame. I’m very sorry but it’s better for our individual futures. We are sliding apart each day. It’s better we die a faster death than this slow death.” I understood her language. I moved on with my tiles while she moved into her flashy white-walled office.
Two years later, we hadn’t spoken much. One weekend, I was on Facebook when I saw her wedding photos. She was smiling wide like a princess who had found her prince charming. I did “awwwwn’ in my head and wrote under the photo, “Congratulations, friend. You look beautiful.” She didn’t respond to any of the messages under the post but mine; “It’s God. We can only give him praise and honor.” It was later when I saw the photos of her husband that I got to know that she married a pastor. I said to myself, “No wonder she’s preaching God to me.”
Facebook is lovely but no matter how long you stay there, you’ll close the app and face the realities of life. My realities were two; I was a struggling tile seller. My ex-girlfriend got married and unfortunately, she looked beautiful. It’s hard to see your ex doing well after they had left you. It makes it look like you were the problems in their lives. So once they let you go, they started flourishing. I pepped myself up; “We’ll get there one day. It’s a very long road but we would.”
Four years later, I met her at a mutual friend’s funeral. She was the one who saw and called me. The girl was looking dashing behind her dark shades. I nearly didn’t make her out. We sat together and mourned the friend together. We left the funeral together. I was in her car while she was driving and playing us good music. The temperature in the car was perfect. The fragrance, awesome. We talked about the past and the present. She asked, “How’s business going?” I said, “I’m on it. I started from zero. Now I’m still there. Pushing and sticking my neck out. Looking for green grass and grace. But I’m fine. The future is bright.” She pepped me up again; “You’re looking great. It means things are better than before.” I smiled. She found me looking great. I smiled again. Then she said, “I don’t know why you decided to act like an enemy when we broke up. I wanted to be friends. Be there and give you support when you needed it. But you simply didn’t want to see or hear anything about me.” I answered, “It’s been years. I was a boy. I didn’t understand it this way. Let bygone be bygone.
We started getting along. She would call and text. I would call her and text too. One day she came to town and she called. I met her on her high horse and we talked and dine and laughed. Things were getting intimate. The old chemistry was rearing its face. I was pulling away but she was pushing in. I was thinking, “No, she’s the wife of a pastor. She can’t do that.” But every second we stayed together, she proved that she could do what I was thinking she couldn’t do. When we sat in her car, she whispered, “I miss you sometimes, you know. Too bad how things turned out.” I answered, “Yeah you come to mind often. I really loved you but you let me go.” She asked, “What if I bring you back? You know what they say about old flames? What if we rekindle?” I screamed in my head, ‘“Eiii Sofo Maame! Wonders” But I entertained the thought. I felt it would be the perfect closure I didn’t get. I wanted to go for it but I was scared.
Pastors are friends with anointing oil. What if he had sealed the ‘distin’ with anointing oil? Won’t I curse myself if I enter? Then the tiny voice in my head screamed, “Curse papa b3n? The girl is still yours. She was yours and he came to snatch her. Hit it. After all, you’ve been hitting it when you were together.”
When she was away and we talked, I gave her the impression that I was ready to hit. We would do video calls and she would show me skin. Real skin that can whet the appetite of the impotent. I was in my desire but she was far away. So we planned to meet. She’ll come back to town and spend the weekend with me in a corner where no eyes can see us. All week we talked about it. All the moves we wanted to do and the crazier things we used to do when we were together. We were ready to go back to the past.
I started having weird dreams. Each night when I went to bed, I had scary dreams. In one of the dreams my tile shop had burnt down and I was sitting in front there crying. An old woman brought me konkonte and light soup. There was no fish. She said, “You’ve lost everything. This is what you are going to eat these days.” The dream felt so real even when I woke up I was still thinking about my burnt shop. In another dream, I was with Lucy and her daughter. Her husband was there too but he was sitting far from us and crying while we were playing with the kid. This dream came in different variations for days. In another dream, I was on top of her doing the do while her husband was sitting at the corner reading new papers. He looked at us and turned away. He didn’t care what was happening. I didn’t care too. So many silly dreams I didn’t know the meaning of.
The Friday before we meet on Saturday, I had a dream where I was burning in a car with her. We were screaming for help. I looked outside and there was someone standing there watching us burn. We were shouting and pleading for him to rescue us. He came closer to the burning car, looked inside, and laughed. That man was Lucy’s husband. I woke up drenched in my own sweat. My pillow was wet. My bedspread was heavily wet like water had been poured on it. I checked my boxers, I hadn’t peed on myself. It was the heat in the dream that had gotten me wet physically. It was around 2am when I woke up. I sent her a text; “Unfortunately, suppliers called this dawn. They are bringing materials so please let’s postpone the meeting.”
She was angry but I was steadfast. The next weekend too I didn’t meet her. I started dancing around the date. I was busy all the dates she suggested. One day she said something that connected the dot for me. She said, “We can’t give birth. It’s my husband’s fault. We’ve tried IVF twice and it failed. We don’t have the money to go again. Doctors had given him a 60% percent chance yet he doesn’t utilize it. Always traveling around in the name of God’s work while ignoring his manly duties. I’ve been depressed. That’s why I’m ready to go this far with you. Odame, you know me. I’m a good girl so what would push me to do this with you? I need satisfaction. I need to feel my feminine mojo again but guess what, the last time we did it was four months ago. Which woman will sit and watch while her youth wastes away?”
“While her youth is waste away” was the dot that connected everything.
She wants a baby before the last oil of youth in her drops on the floor and I’m the one she chose to have that baby with. The dream about the baby while his husband was crying. That dream that came in variations. That was it. That was the meaning. Even if I didn’t fear God and was ready to still sleep with her, my dreams were there as a reminder of what may happen to me if I go ahead. Because of one round, I should lose my tiles shop and eat konkonte without fish? Burn in a car with her? Life is hard but I will always choose life over death. So I told her, “Maybe we shouldn’t do this. It doesn’t look like we’ll get away with it. Let’s just not talk about that again.”
And then it stopped. We stopped contacting each other and stopped making plans. We went back to how we used to be before the funeral. Months ago, I saw her on Facebook with a baby in her arms and sitting pretty with her husband next to her. The caption was, “There’s nothing God can’t do. It may keep long but in the end, he’ll glorify himself.” I reacted with a heart and scrolled on.