What If

pensive African woman

I was 18 when we broke up; 18 years, 11 months and 29 days old to be precise. He attacked my weight again, I remember it like it was yesterday. The first time he did it, I can’t remember what we were talking about but arthritis came up and he said I should watch my weight or something like that. Basically, “you are getting fat”. That was the beginning of the end because come on, he knew how sensitive I was on the matter.

Well this time, I decided, would be the last. If all his love did was make me feel wretched, then it was pointless loving him. So I called it off. I knew he would come back, and come back he did. Suddenly, my weight was not an issue anymore.

Anyway this story is not about him. This story is about another ‘him’; the kind of ‘him’ that marks himself.  You know…right up there. He is like that scar you alone know of, the one you often find yourself fondly rubbing your hands over. The kind of scar that makes you smile. This story is about him.

I was 18 when I met him; 18 years, 11 months old to be precise. Funny how ‘met’ as a word is now very subjective, what with social media and its array of networks. I remember it like it was yesterday. I commented on something, he replied, I replied his reply, he replied mine…and we got talking. You know how you meet a guy and unconsciously compare him with your father, and oh the joy it brings when he checks every box. If you have your dad as a benchmark – Daddy’s girl club – you’d know exactly how I felt. Because this dude checked every box and moved on to circles.

We did not date, it was not practical considering the distance. But oh my, the chemistry, it sizzled hot and fierce on both sides. I had hit jackpot and boy, did I have plans! I would graduate at 22 and go on to Lagos Law School so we can officially be together. Then NYSC, settle in Lagos and live happily ever after with four kids; three boys and a girl in a big house with…well, we could work out the other details later.

Then I turned 20. They say when you get older you have more answers. If that is true, something must be wrong with my growth. My birthday that year came with a lot of ‘what ifs’ – “what if I only get into Law School in Abuja?”, “what if I am drafted for NYSC in Sokoto?”, “what if his genes are allergic to mine?”, and “wait oh…what if he does not feel the same way?” And in all of these ‘what ifs’, there were no answers.

I have always wanted to be mature, to really live in the 21st century as a 21st century woman. Gender Equality! If you like him, tell him, et cetera. Anyway, I told him how I felt. And in response, he officially asked me out. Not the answer I was expecting but an answer nonetheless. It felt nice at first. I finally could call him “baby”…aloud – oh yes, I used to say it in my head – and I could end the calls with” I love you”. But distance, the witch that she is, refused to let it be.

I couldn’t kiss him or hold his hands; we couldn’t touch each other or “touch” each other. No dates whatsoever – forget all that Skype. There were no eye to eye declarations of love or playful tickling that ends in bed with panting and sweating and no clothes on. Yes, we connected intellectually. Yes, relationships go beyond physical needs but…I don’t know, it just was not enough for me, for us. And so we broke up.

Looking back now, I think we just missed being friends that we did not work to actually be a couple. We became just friends again and yes it was awkward – going back from “hi baby” and “I love you” to “hey buddy” and “guy, pack well”. But we got over it. We were die-hard friends!

I told you the first one came back, right? Not my ‘jackpot’ now, I mean the first ‘him’ with the weight issue. Yes, he came back and became a good boy, always on his best behavior. He was safe and secure – no sizzles, no hot and fierce whirlwind of emotions. It was not the same as with my ‘jackpot’ but it was something good. I was not lonely, needy or desperate. So I settled.

Sometimes, I imagine what my life would have been with my ‘jackpot’. “What if I had waited and kept my mouth shut?”, “what if I had met him at another time, under different circumstances?”, “what if we had held on to each other just a little longer?” Even at 32, I still ‘what if’; like I said earlier, something is wrong with the way I grow.

Now I look across the table at my ‘best behavior’, and I look at the little one we conceived on one of those rainy nights when holiness flees and everything is possible. And I smile. Yes, I lost my ‘jackpot’ and I settled with my ‘best behavior’ but this right here…this little man in the high chair, gurgling cute nothings and trailing cereal all over his cherubic face, this is my pot of gold.

By Ezinma Ukairo.

Ezinma enjoys good music, food, books and movies. She is currently in her third year at the university where she is studying law so that she can promote the beauty of womanhood, and end child marriage and world hunger. Ezinma is afraid of ever having to just ‘settle’ in a relationship, but she keeps a closed mind to all the ‘unwanted stuff’ and continues to believe in love.

49 thoughts on “What If

  1. Our fast ticking biological clocks often make us settle… It isn’t even made easier with the way everyone emphasizes it, so even at 16 we are ready to settle, Lol. Very relatable.. Beautiful style of writing. I guess we all have our own” good behavior ” and “jackpot”.. Playing it safe I guess… although ” those nights when holiness flees” doesn’t form part of the rules.

    • Interesting perspective you have there, Thia. Pray do tell, these ‘ticking bio clocks’ and the resignation to ‘settle’ at a young age…are these peculiar to females along? Or do men also have to make these unholy choices?

  2. nice one. sometimes we just wish we were a lil lil bit more patient, but all things at the end usually work together for our good.

    • Yes, all things do. But you see, being patient means you wait a long time and in the end this person you waited for might not want you again. It is really an uncertain affair. We just pray to have all things work out for us in the end.

  3. Jeezuz! I LOVE THIS! I didn’t even know which one I preferred for the protagonist at the end. The ‘jackpot’ or the ‘best behaviour’. This writer is absolutely GOOD! Simple words. Simple sentences. And yet powerful meanings. I love, love love!

    ‘Because this dude checked every box and moved on to circles.’ That line killed me. I have to know who this Ezinma is biko.

    • Walter lol, I’m glad you love it too. But why can’t you choose? There has to be someone you prefer.
      And the line, yea it has a ring to it, doesn’t it? Anyway, you can say hi on Facebook. My name is Ezinma Ukairo.

  4. Wow.. nice 1..
    “going back from ‘hey baby.. I love u’ to ‘hey buddy.. guy, pack well’.. rily awkward.. hahaha.. loss of a jackpot, SMH.. “dt scar you often find urslf fondly rubbing ur hands ovr”
    Thanks Ezinma 4 writin our story.. haha

    • Indeed people have this as their story. Maybe not exactly but same thing; loosing someone you thought was the one. Personally, it scares me. I’m a hopeless romantic.
      I don’t ever want to be in this situation. Thank you for commenting too.

  5. This is great telling! Can’t say I’ve traveled this road, cause I actually did end up with my jackpot and first love; who I met right after High School at age 16, but having felt what I felt then; I’d have been plunged into this same predicament; and wondering ‘what if’, had I not ended up with him….I totally perish those thoughts, must be real tough! The horror! 😔

    For me, a very firm believer in destiny, what will be, will definitely be inspite of whatever! If you’re meant to be, stars will allign and the very forces of nature themselves, will go outta their ways, to bring you both so close together that the tides of life would not stand a single chance, to sweep you to other shores and into the arms of other people! Moreso, it may actually be for the best that you both didn’t make it….you’ll never know! Sometimes, things aren’t exactly what they seem! What’s left to be done is to cherish the moments spent and memories made, be careful however not to make a monument outta those; so moving on can be really feasible! Bottomline…accept what is, let go of what was and have a lotta faith in what will be! Difficult it’d be, but not utterly impossible! You loved sooo hard once many moons, Sweetkins; you sure as heck can again! After all, a flower DOES bloom more than once! 😉

    Thanks for sharing Chisom, its a really beautifully composed and endearing piece this….beauty in simplicity! I am soo loving it! 👏👍😄

    • Succinct…”bottom line…accept what is, let go of what was and have a lotta faith in what will be.”
      And you are so lucky, ending up with your first love not having to feel like you are settling. Getting married and growing to love the person…for me that’s a scary prospect. I really am a hopeless romantic! Thank you for commenting.

      • If you ask me, Ezinma, being a romantic is even the reason you shouldn’t run scared. Yemie’s case is a beautiful rarity but the first love is not always the right one.

      • Aw! So amma put my Igbo 101 to the test now! *clears throat*

        Mmiri- Water

        Oyi-In the gospel according to the most talented, prolific musician, Flavour; that must mean cold

        So, here goes…..’that cold water’ on naked skin moment; literal translation; or better, that refreshing moment when Yemie rolls in with calvary! I think am gonna cry now…😭😭😭😭

        Thanks a bunch Chisom, am truly appreciative of your kindly thoughts! Missed being here too and I shall make straight my crooked ways, so help me gawd! 😈😆

        You rock too darn hard buddy! WAWZER!!! 😂😂

  6. …this little man in the high chair,
    gurgling cute nothings and trailing cereal all over his cherubic face, this is my pot of gold.

    Aww…so cute.

    Awesome read.

  7. Feels more like a poem to me. Maybe its just me. Maybe the writer’s skills evidently exceed prosaic boundaries. Either way the write-up is good. Deep for me to grasp all at once. Might read it again for full understanding.

    • Oh please do read again. I’m glad you like it. Maybe I should dabble into poem writing…who knows, I might be good at. Thank you!

    • Lotanna! Chief Lanterna! *no idea why I just did that … the rhyme was just too good to pass up* lol. Don’t forget to share your thoughts after the second reading, man…thanks aplenty.

  8. Dear dear, this piece is exceptional. I daresay your literature teachers would be so proud. Your ingenuity created a whirlwind of emotions in our heads. Keep at it Ezinma, you’re a genius.

  9. …nice write up just that it looks more real than fictional. I just can’t but appreciate the exquisite use of english language here. nma is still the best…

  10. Nice write up Ezinma ! Don’t stop writing. Quick question, so the lady in your story settled for second best? I don’t buy that. Call me a hopeless romantic but “forever”& “till death do us part” is a very long time and nobody but the “jackpot” will do for me. Although, my “pot of gold” definitely be worth it. Nevertheless, a woman should be ambitious, biological clock or not. There is only one “you”. Do whatever makes you happy.

  11. aunty moi, you read! thank you. okay…i don’t think she settled for second best. at the time in her life, that’s when she met jackpot, she must have felt he was the one. but you see later on, with time and age, she did settle but at that time he was the best for her. she wonders what it would have been like with jackpot but i don’t think she regrets best behaviour. I think she feels he was and is the best for her.

    • I think I see what Olekanma is saying. Ezinma, if she didn’t settle then why does she still ‘what if?’

      Plus she ends on a final note of joy from a single source – her pot of gold, and not to ‘best behavior’.

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