After a long night, I stood up to leave. I jokingly said if we were not careful we might check the time and realise it’s the morning of the next day. Indeed glancing at my watch, it’s already midnight. He also stood up and the next minute he was was one knee staring into my eyes.
“What are you doing?” I asked, my eyes wide with surprise. I had always dreamt of being proposed in the old English way and this guy who stole my heart without even trying to, was here, on his knees. “Olulana Oluwatooni, I love you from the first day I saw you but not until being way did I realise how much it hurts not to have you around. I want you, not as a girlfriend. I want you as my fiancée. The girl I would get married to and be the mother of my kids. I will support you to be the best you can be in all your goals, career and ambition.
“Olulana Oluwatooni, I love you from the first day I saw you but not until being away, did I realise how much it hurts not to have you around. I want you, not as a girlfriend. I want you as my fiancée. The girl I would get married to and who would be the mother of my kids. I will support you to be the best you can be in all your goals, career and ambition.
Now that part of marriage and mother of kids was quite scary but I was enjoying my Cinderella moment. This proposal topped the chart.
Being a Bimbo Odukoya mentee, I had learned earlier never to rubbish a guy who proposes to you. It took a lot of courage for him to walk up to you and if you don’t accept his proposal do not wound him and kill his self-esteem in the process. So I had my beautiful little speech of how I appreciate the fact that they considered me and how it was any girl’s dream come true. However, it was unlikely that I would be the one who would make them wake up with a smile each morning, grateful to God for this blessing in their lives some ten to twenty years later. That the girl is out there waiting for them and they needed to find her.
It was my signature rejection sentence. I never wasted their time and I often hoped that when I was to accept it would be that fast.
However, for some reason, I could not reject his proposal neither could I accept it. So I only told him, “Thank you”, and if he could, please give me more time to think it through.
In my discussion with friends, I had often berated girls who gave months and years for a response. I said you either knew it or you don’t.At that moment, I learnt never be too quick to judge people.
The month I graduated from the University and five months after he asked I gave him my consent.I had come into Lagos during the week. He was at my place over the weekend, to see me. He chatted with both my mum and I.It was surprising how he could hold her attention for so long. I could tell she was having a great time and secretly I knew she would be happy if only she knew but I was not going to tell my folks. I would be forced to take him round all my uncles and introduce him. He brought some chocolate chip biscuits that day which became my life addiction. Lucky me I do not have to visit the gym to keep the fats down.
I had come into Lagos during the week and on over the weekend, he was there to see me. He chatted with both my mum and I.It was surprising how he could hold her attention for so long. I could tell she was having a great time and knew she would be happy if only she knew but I was not going to tell my folks. I would be forced to take him round all my uncles and introduce him.I was not ready for that yet. He brought some chocolate chip cookies that day which became my life addiction. Luckily, I do not have to visit the gym to keep the fats down.
“You will get your answer today,” I said to him as I walked him out.
“Whatever the answer is, please don’t look back just keep going. I am not sure why I opted for that but somewhere I was afraid of any public display of affection.I walked away and shouted, “It’s a yes!” Bode took a leap into the air and was about to turn back and I said,
“No, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
We started our whirlwind romance and I must confess he made me feel like a princess. I only had to cough or sneeze and Bode was doing everything and anything.
I remember a time he came to the house and met my Dad in the living room. The interrogation by my Father was second to none. There behind the doors as I listened I was mortified.
“Where did you meet my daughter?” My Dad asked.
“We attended the same school sir,” he replied.
“You were in the same class?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
“Oh no sir, I graduated a year before her.”
“So what do you do now?”
“I work with a bank sir,”
“what bank and as what?”
“Marble Bank, I work in the IT Department, sir.”
The man was firing him questions on a full cylinder but you could see how calm and confident Bode was, not in an arrogant way but in an endearing way. I saw a twitch of a smile on the corners of his mouth although he appeared stern and strict.
“So what are your intentions for my daughter?”
“I love her sir, and with your approval, I would like to spend the rest of my life with her.”
The next question blew my mind.Did I see it coming? Who asks a prospective son-in-law such questions.
“What is the number of girls before my daughter have you said this same line to?”
“None?”, He queried.
“How many of this none girls have you had sex with?”
At that point, I had never been more embarrassed in my life. But the guy took all so well. I guess when you have nothing to hide some issues don’t bother you. But Dad was taking this too far.
“None sir,” he replied.
My father guffawed and told him, “Tell that to the birds. You and I know that is not possible. I am a man and a young one once so you do not need to lie to me.”
It was time to stop this interrogation. I retreated and came in with a presence of one oblivious to their conversation.
“Hi Bode, you did not say you were coming”. I say as I take a seat beside my Dad facing Bode.
“I came to the area and decided to say hello before leaving.”
“Daddy meet my friend Bode Coker. We went to the same school”.
“We’ve already met”. He grunted and went back to reading his newspaper as if he had not been the one interrogating the young man before I came in.
Bode and I chit chatted for a while. We tried to involve my Dad in the chat but he appeared engrossed in his newspaper, which I knew was a facade and everything we said was going through his ears. My Dad did not leave the room. But not too long, Bode announced he was leaving.
Outside I apologised to Bode on my Dad’s behalf.
He laughed, “you mean you heard all that?”
“Don’t mind him. He is too protective of his daughters. When Nekan, my elder sister married, you would think the man was contesting for the Senate,” I retorted still miffed at my Dad.
“I guess that is what any father would do and I don’t blame him”, Bode said.
I thought it was cool of him to take it that way. I sure was going to have a word with him when I went back inside.
Exactly a year, after I agreed to go out with Bode. I started feeling I needed space. Bode smothered me with too much affection and I began to feel I needed my freedom. I had to consider Bode on weekends and I was missing out on much other fun and outing with my girlfriends.
Bode was in his second year of work with Marble Bank. He was very been generous with his time and money. In between the numerous International exams, he was writing he still had time for me.
On a typical day, he could call four or more times. Initially, I loved it but somewhere down the line, I started getting irritated. To top it all, he usually picked me up from work on Fridays without a car.
We would both wait at the bus stop beside my office while my colleagues who had spent the same years in banking with him would drive off in their cars. I couldn’t explain it but after a while, It began to bother me why he could not just buy himself a car. It got to a point that nothing Bode did was right.I saw faults in almost everything.
One faithful Friday, when he called to inform me, he was on his way to pick me from work.I told him not to worry that I would be going home with a colleague from now on. I could sense the shock in the long silence that followed my announcement on the other side of the phone. Then asked when I decided that.
“Last week,” I answered without thinking.
“Lana, you are just telling me. I could have made other plans you know.”
“For reasons, I still can not explain. Perhaps a bad day at work but I still am not sure that was why. I just lashed back.
” Bode Coker, I do not owe you an explanation for what I do or do not do. You are neither my father nor my boss.”
The words were out not the way I meant it but I was too upset to care.
“Are you okay? Did something happen at work?”
I raised my voice, “Don’t patronise me, Bode.”
Why does he know all the right things to say and do. With Bode, he was just this perfect guy and at this moment. He was holding back whatever he felt to get the situation resolved.
I for one must have gone crazy. I was not sure what I wanted in the relationship anymore.
He asked if we could still see during the weekend. I said I wanted to be alone.He further inquired if he had done anything to offend me.
The truth was he had not but I was beginning to feel suffocated in the relationship. We had our first major fight that day. I was the one raising my voice. But you could hear his smooth, soothing voice enough to melt a candy. But it had no effect on me. I seem to have become steel or a rock.
He gave me my space for a whole week. He would call, I won’t pick his calls, he sent dozens of text messages that I had stopped reading so that there was no need to reply.
Sunday evening, the next weekend, I met Bode at the door of my house as I came back from an outing with some of my girlfriends. I was surprised to see him. We had not spoken in seven days. Although my heart was bleeding, I joked that I survived without him. I missed the text he sent on Friday that he was coming as I had stopped reading his text messages.
We sat outside the house. The sky was dark speckled with tiny stars appearing as white dots just like the night he proposed.
The first thing he wanted to know was if I was okay.
I loved Bode and still do but I was chasing my demons. I was the problem, not him.
Then he said we needed to talk.
“Lana, have I done anything to offend you?” He asked.
I said no. How do I explain the mirage and paradox of feelings, all battling on the inside of me?
“You say I have not offended you but you are upset with me and don’t want to see me. I don’t get it. You are acting strangely,” he said.
“I am not acting strange and you are taking the matter more serious than it is,” I argued.
There were arguments. I said hurtful things I was not proud of and it was out.
“I need a break from this relationship.”
I saw shock and then slowly pain in those eyes.
And he asked,” Is there someone else?”
“No,” I reassured him and didn’t know why I did. Maybe it was because a part of me still wanted this relationship.
“I am not asking for a break because there is someone else. I am asking for a break becauseI feel like I am losing myself. I don’t know who I am anymore. Lana is gone.The Lana you see that is your ideal Lana and that is not me. I need to find and keep myself. I love you Bode but I need to do this for me, for us.”
Tears welled up in my eyes and I willed them to stay put. A drop was the excuse Bode needed to hold me and I doubted if I had the strength not to recede on the breakup and something worse might happen in the future. It was better this way. Now is the time we get to stay apart and reassess our relationship.
He was quiet for a long time.
“How long do you need this break?” he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know but I will call you. Please don’t call me. I need to think this through. I will call you.”
” You sure this is what you want” That was Bode even at that moment, he was looking out for me.
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“Lana, remember all I said the day I asked you out. I do not need to reassess this relationship to know if I love you enough to marry you. I want you in my present and future. I have made a life commitment to you. I will give you all the time you need. One month, three years, ten years. I will be waiting. I won’t look for you. You know where to find me.”
He stood up and walked away never turning back. I saw the sadness in those eyes. He suddenly seemed to have aged before my eyes. I was hurting. I could feel pain in my heart which must have been one tenth of what Bode was feeling.
I asked myself what have I done. My stubborn heart said to me, I needed to do this. I wanted to call him back and apologise but I also knew that as much as I loved Bode, This was for both of us to find out if we wanted this relationship or not.
The tears that were threatening to fall fell freely down my face like a dam of water let loose. I got into the house and met my mum in the living room.
She was alarmed when she saw my tears.
I just sat down beside her tired. How do I explain to her what I could not explain to myself?
“Is it Bode?” She asked
“Is he cheating on you?” she inquired further.
“No,” I answered. That was a preposterous thought. If only she knew.
” Bode seems a very responsible guy. Give it time then call him and talk things over. There are issues in all relationships which are very normal but how you handle those issues are what matters. You’ll be okay my dear. Don’t let it be too long. Never think because just 21, you have all the time. Men like Bode are hard to come by and he seems just the right guy for you. You both are just right for each other.”
My mum’s words just added to my misery and confusion. Was it not better for Bode and me to break up than to end up getting married and looking for a way out.
I thanked my dear mum and left for my room. I just needed a break it was not a total breakup. I tried to convince myself.
I never called Bode. Six months later, I called him on his birthday but his phone was off. Then four months later during the Christmas holidays, his phone was still off.
I visited his office.I learnt he had been moved to the London office four months back on a six months training course.
I fumed and was upset that he had moved out of the country without getting in touch with me I was too angry to bother trying to find him and I felt it was just a good excuse to move on. If he wanted the relationship, he definitely would have called.
A little voice in my head reminded me that I specifically told him not to call me. Bode being the perfect gentleman he was, obliged my request. He had also told me I knew where to find him.But the other part of me argued. It was silly of him not to have contacted when he was leaving the country for six months.
I do not know why I always thought that Bode will be there forever and I could always go back at any time.
In the period we had separated, I did not start any relationship. I was not looking for a relationship. I was too in love with my career to think marriage or to settle down. The husband and kids will slow down my advancement on the corporate ladder. I was an all for or nothing kind of person. I did not do anything in bits and I feared that marriage would tie me down.
So being without Bode was not a licence to look for another relationship right away.I guess in another ten years when I have made senior manager. I would be considering settling down and hopefully, the right person would come my way. If not adopt a kid or two and become a single mother. I would have considered getting any guy to sire the children for me. Although, I know I had wandered away from God since my first year at work I was not too far gone, to go about having children out of wedlock. It looked like charity to adopt. The kids needed a home and I needed kids. That is if the state would give them to a single parent.
I had my life planned out as I had always done. My life has been together the way I wanted.There was nothing out of control and no surprises. My relationship with Bode was great while it lasted. There had never been room for a relationship in my plans. Perhaps I was too selfish to think of others but myself and what I wanted.
In School, all I did was read and study to distraction. My love was my academics, my goals and my aspirations. I let my guards down with Bode but his love was not enough to satisfy me and make up for where I was heading to in life. I know he promised to back me up on my career but it was a whole more than words. Pregnancies will come and knock you one step backwards; perhaps two or three if you decide to have that many kids.Then the guilt you would feel in leaving them behind with helps, nannies and chauffeurs. I see older colleagues at work juggle and seem to balance it but I also the failures too, mishaps and near disaster stories.
I am glad or so I think to leave home each day without the baggage of family – work life balance and come back every evening to sleep. For weekends and holidays, I hit rock bottom wishing for a family to share the moments with but all that is out of the windows by Monday morning. The cycle continues.
I never heard from Bode and the years have ahead. I progressed in my career beyond my dreams and was pleased with myself. Somewhere the key to that part of my life was locked and thrown away. I was the architect of my misfortune and there was no one to blame but myself.
Your thoughts and comments on Lana are welcome.
I would love to read from you. You can tweet, post comments on our Facebook page or use the blog.The links to our twitter and facebook are on the blog page.
1.What could have driven her to push out something so significant in her life?
2.Should Bode have just walked out without fighting for the relationship?
3.Do we believe in love at first sight? Please share.
Life is a paradox; we want what we don’t have, hold no value for what is before us and within our reach. We have misplaced values and priorities that shape our choices. We have myths that are what they are myths but seem to be a force that controls and guides our decision making.
It might not be relationships for us. It could even be a career we let go because we felt we could not balance up or cope with the stress. It could be our kids, our relationship with our maker because we felt we had wandered too far to come back. It could be a dream that we have given up on because we never bothered to try.
We make mistakes, but we should not sit and keep crying over spilt milk. We clean our eyes, dry those tears and ask what can I do now? How can I make my life better? What can I do differently?
………………………………Simply just us, women.