Love Does Not Choose Me

Love Does Not Choose Me

Love Does Not Choose Me 1080 1350 Oluwadunsin Deinde-Sanya

When Kambili calls, I am in the kitchen making Egusi that has iru in it. I perch the phone on the rack and laugh heartily, but when she talks about him, I quickly stop stirring the soup, pick the phone from the rack and take it off speaker. Away from the amebo ears of my mother.

Abebi, you know you’re not getting any younger. What’s wrong? Is something wrong? Are you a lesbian? You don’t like men?

When Kambili asks me questions like this, I never know how to answer her. Whenever she says Abebi, we are Nigerians. Marriage is important in our culture, it makes you a complete human, I just release peals of laughter and ask how her baby is. Then she tells me her baby suckles from only the left breast, as if shit has been smeared on the other.

I am scared, Abebi, what should I do? 

I am not a doctor, bikonu. Don’t ask me silly questions.

Stupid girl, nkita la’cha ike gi, may dogs lick your butt. And we both scream with laughter.

One day, she tells me how, when her baby says ‘mama’, her heart runs away from its cage and she has to clasp her dripping breasts to stop herself from wailing for joy. Then she babbles on about her husband, how he is the best thing to have ever happened to her and how she wants me to experience the joy of being under a man.

I like to listen to Kambili talk, because I do not have to answer at all. All I have to do is nod my head even though she cannot see me and say uhmm, ahh, wow, at intervals.

But today when I say, How is your baby? she says, Abe, forget about that. What’s wrong?

And my heart is beating again, my face burning in distress. I search my soul and mind for what could be wrong. But everything is sinisterly silent. I find nothing, so I cannot answer.

_

I stare blankly at the text, my heart running faster than my lungs. It is 10 pm and the apartment is an oven, so I increase the fan to the highest and hide beneath the Ankara wrapper. It is like a shield against the outside world. A little cave I run to when I want to feel warm and bask in quietness.

I hold the phone tight, my veins rising above my skin like wormlike interwoven creatures. At first, I feel pity as I stare at Adigun’s wordings. The sincerity of it all. Emotions melted into ink and broken into letters. Sculpted into honest words.

There is also shame. That I do not know how to react to the message, what to do with these feelings or how to face it. And fear that, again, that I do not feel what I ought to feel.

I already know that he is professing his love, so I ignore the lengthy message. I am too cowardly to read and my insides are cold. My intestines are iced and my heart pumps nothing. These butterflies in my belly are cockroaches that have eggs stuck in their yansh.

_

There is something eerie about emptiness. First, it loosens your rib cage and pumps your heart full of air. Then when your heart has eaten enough void, it climbs in and occupies all space.

Emptiness makes you scared of getting full. The fear of getting more out of life makes your heart pound against your ribs. This void consumes you and makes you content even when you know you are desolate. It is as though it saps your energy, adagio, until you stare at the walls thoughtlessly, lonely, like a man accused of having leprosy.

I feel this emptiness when I talk to Kofo, the first guy Kambili introduces me to. He is slim and not-so-tall, and, even though I want my men tall, I am willing to let that slide. But my conversations with him are watery. We spend long hours on the phone talking trash, my fingers twitching impatiently. I am too polite to tell him he is saying nonsense, so I put the phone on speaker and mutter hmmn and ahh when necessary.

When he talks, large droplets of misogyny splash from his mouth.

I’m very blunt, he says.

It is when he asks me when last I had sex that I had freeze, too embarrassed to say that the only time I have had an orgasm was when that tall beautiful dreadlocked man I dream of slowly parted my legs and placed them across his. How his bulge sent warmth into my fingers and I shrieked quietly when his too-large penis repeatedly hit that sweet-sweet spot inside me, moving slowly and surely until I splashed myself on the walls and furniture, moaning incoherently into his little ears.

When I tell him this all happened in my head, Kofo is silent. At first I am scared of his silence, but anger at the way people respond to my celibacy quickly replaces my fear. Then his voice rings of joy when he says, I must wife you. Like a hunter who has finally caught a big antelope in his trap. Bile gushes into my mouth and I spit on the black floor.

He tells me he has never had a girlfriend, and I warm up, thinking we have a common fire burning.

Then he says, I’ve only had friends-with-benefits, but I did not date them because they must be whores if they can give themselves freely to me.

My intestines ice up and my heart closes its door.

I delete his number.

_

There’s a man who creeps into my soul when the moon is halfway hidden behind the banana tree that stands outside my bedroom window. He fills me with warmth.

I wrap my arms around him and smile like a fool. The air in this grey room is warm with the scent of candles and the exorcism of the wall decor reflects the mood: carnal, sensual. Ed Sheeran is singing in the background. There are red roses scattered across the silk duvet. Beside the bed, a little sparkling nightstand, perched on a fluffy white carpet, holds a glass of Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru and many bars of chocolate.

Tonight, I am working on my laptop when he creeps up on me. His arms worm their way around my waist, and slowly we set our souls on fire, our bodies quavering with the intensity of each thrust until we scream blissfully as we let go. Sometimes we explore one another’s bodies all day, pausing to drink wine or eat fruits or bathe. Other times, we lie unclad in the deep blueness of the night, completely consumed by love. As we talk in hushed voices, we are skins and cuddles, eyes and stares, tongues and spittle. Always, I feel warm inside of me and sticky between my thighs. There’s a tranquility that comes with this.

_

Kambili’s voice is a plague.

You have an excuse for all the men who come your way. And this is because of a man that exists only in your dreams. You are just living in fantasy, wake up!

Her words are an apocalypse of my dreams and love life. There is no home in Kambili’s head, and her eyes see the world exactly the way it is. She throws her head back and laughs maliciously when I tell her of this man. I feel like smacking her through the phone.

When I meet him, I’ll feel it. I’ll know.

No, you won’t. Don’t be stupid. The world is not built inside your head.

But I don’t feel a thing for any of these men. Not a single thing.

Make yourself feel it. When you get out of your head, you will feel it, sogbo? You can’t continue this way, a woman that has no man is never complete. No matter what career you have or how much money you make, you have to be under a man. In your husband’s house. You’re not a complete woman, Abebi. You have no crown.

My stomach churns and I want to retch the amala and gbegiri that has refused to digest in my belly.

How is your baby?

_

There are three things that are difficult to say. One is that I have a problem. The second is that I don’t know if this problem is a problem. The third is that I don’t know if this problem requires a solution or if that solution will ever come.

It is three months since I refused to read Adigun’s text, but tonight, I rest my back on this plantain tree where witches are rumoured to meet and I open it.

Kambili’s voice echoes in my head, He is a very nice person, what else do you want?

Butterflies

They don’t exist, she sighs. You are growing old. What happens if this mysterious man does not show up?

Sigh. I don’t know.

Abebi, tell the truth. Have you lost the ability to feel? Do you have a spirit husband? I know a good prophet.

I roar in laughter, mucus running down my nose and spittle flying across the room.

How are your husband and baby, are they fine?

_

It is not the first time I can have certain conversations with someone. But it is the first time I can tell a guy that I am crazy upstairs and I am unabashed. I call him. We laugh and talk. My heart tightens and loosens. I feel he really has what I want.

Still, nothing tingles, and I do not know what to do to make me feel something.

Don’t worry omoge, it is because you have not seen him. When the two of you eventually see, you will feel that spark. He’s a good guy.

Kambili’s voice is persistently annoying. Like Nigerian politicians when they open their mouths to talk.

I stare hard at the text and reply with do you ever feel you are wasting your time?

But this is after 7 months, or a year. Because I am scared of what the reply will be, and I am enjoying his company. I don’t want to let him go, but I am still here, blank.

Header photo © Hanna Komar.

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