Seven years ago, Esohe was a newly- wedded woman, and three years into an advertising and marketing officer position for a widely popular women’s magazine before that. She married Folarin after a year – long relationship. A man quite a number of people – friends and family alike – had reservations about. Most of which were similar.
“He doesn’t seem to have much regard for you or your friends, and his parents for that matter.” Jeje had told her bluntly, risking their lifelong friendship. “But na dis kind guy man Esohe dey like naaaa….na her spec be dis.” Alero reliably countered. “Nor be you go word am who she go marry! Guy man get solid job, e hold im side, pepper rest. You don hear bros dey yarn English? Guy man dey flow for English! Esohe like am wella!”
Esohe saw none of it. Folarin was suave, cocky with a confidence level bordering dangerously at an arrogant angle. Critical of some of Esohe’s moves, ideas, choices, and even friends, and she let him change her. A power dresser with a wardrobe his job in a multinational funded easily. At 5 ‘8’, he once confessed to Esohe that he wasn’t exactly at the height he would have preferred but would make do with it anyway. His suits moulded his lanky frame, exuding just the right amount of importance and ego he needed to exert authority and respect. His ebony head was almost always clean shaven, a smooth flow into an equally shaven face, free of any additional strand of hair either save for his eyebrows above a pair of brooding, deep set eyes and sensual, slightly full lips. He was all about his image, outward appearance, and Esohe, distractingly pretty and easy to manipulate trophy wife was perfect for his external impression on the world. He said the right things; he made the right moves, grand gestures on special days that rocked her world. Esohe was totally smitten. He was her knight in shining armour. The one.
In the course of their relationship, she applied for and received a scholarship to study in the UK for a master’s program. Excited at the prospect and her recent engagement at the time, she broached the idea of postponing their nuptials until after her graduation and subsequent return. Folain shared in her joy but bluntly refused to delay their marriage. He didn’t reveal to her his fears of possible changes in their relationship while she was still single and with a long distance thrown in the mix. So get married, they did in an elaborate wedding ceremony well – attended by family and friends, and draped in shades of purple and lilac, two of Esohe’s favourite colours. And off to the UK she went for a little less than two years where she finished off her course, gave birth to Osayu, Folarin made visits as frequently as he could.
By the time she returned to the country with her baby and degree, things indeed had changed between them. Sadly, not for the better. Folarin blamed it on the distance!
It didn’t take long for the rumours of his philandering to filter past Esohe’s ears. At first, she ignored them. Then once she mentioned it to her friends in passing; their expressions spoke volumes that they fought to hide but failed in doing so. Bracing herself for the avalanche of truth or denial, she demanded they tell her what they knew. Jeje was hesitant to speak, attempting to steer the conversation in another direction; Alero held nothing back, spilling both relevant and irrelevant details, clogging Esohe’s mind with disturbing images.
Apparently, they hadn’t only heard the rumours too but had also run into Fola with the same lady in different public spaces. He had betrayed their vows time and again, had betrayed her in every possible way she could imagine. There was no telling if he hadn’t done so on their marital bed.
Even after that, Esohe was of the opinion that their marriage was worth fighting for. What was one indiscretion when a man was lonely and without his wife? She thought.
She was alone.
Folarin was less than remorseful when confronted with his infidelity. Everyone and everything, including her, was to blame except him. And her constant nagging at him to change his ways, take more responsibility as a husband and father saw heated, verbal battles between them and his long absences away from their home. She was like a chattering cricket to his conscience, not unlike the one perched on Pinocchio’s shoulders. His parents were no help either; they couldn’t talk to their eldest son. It was something they were incapable of doing, had never done it and weren’t planning to begin then. This revelation Esohe was told by one of Folarin’s closest friends, who had also been his best man at the wedding.
Six months after her return and a ballooning strained relationship coupled with a tension- thick home space, Esohe awoke one weekend to find Folarin gone, his personal effects accompanying him. No note. No warning. Nothing. Osayu was almost two years old.
She didn’t call him to inquire of his whereabouts, though she yearned to know.
Her job, her friends and her mother allowed for enough distraction to keep her from losing it. She moved in with her mother in Games Village once the lease in their shared house was up, and immersed herself in work she loved, bringing up her child, and further strengthening her bond with friends, one of whom, Jennifer, never once said to her: “I told you so” after she had irrevocably broken down in her arms days after Folarin’s disappearance and the realization had set in – her three -year-old marriage had gone over a steep cliff. Instead, Jennifer’s words were uplifting, encouraging: “Buy a pair of bright red, high heeled shoes and walk it, girl! Go for a spa treatment. Treat yourself to a seven – course meal. Smile. Life goes on because the man who’d make you miserable hasn’t been born yet. Keep your head up!”
Folarin resurfaced months later; he hadn’t disappeared into the ether after all but had taken up a job offer outside the country without deeming it fit to inform her. In his first call, he was awkward, fumbling, quite the opposite of the suave, arrogant and assured man she had fallen in love with and eventually married. She spared him the moment and handed the ‘phone to Osayu.
In time, he visited his son at her mother’s and began to send money for his upkeep. Not that she relied on it, but it came in handy sometimes. The allowance stopped arriving monthly when they moved into their own apartment, and Esohe was glad about her initial attitude towards it. Folarin also stopped the physical visits and observed his child’s growth and development through telephone calls only.
Osayu was almost three years old when the divorce papers arrived at her office, filed by her estranged husband. The final severance of their relationship staring at her in black and white took its toll, and for a week or so, she was on autopilot, feeling like a colossal failure as a woman.
But when she remembered it took two to make a marriage work, she found the strength to sign above the dotted lines, and move on. Slowly, one excruciating step at a time but move on she did.
Besides her child who was a constant ray of sunshine in her life, the only other bright spot was her job. She moved two steps up and had her own glass-panelled office.
Four years later, she seemed to be in a much better space. Maybe not exactly where she’d have envisioned herself at this time – raising a child on her own and single as the number one – but she had a job she loved, a son she adored and family, friends who were ride or die those were things worth being grateful for.
And with the onset of another year, she felt stable enough to re-enter the dating scene again.
So why did the first man to really catch her eye and attention have all the trappings she required (well, maybe not all; he was Igbo after all) but let a cell phone screen destroy his chances?