“Hey babes, I just got a call from Big Mama and they are planning sum’n for momsie’s birthday. It’s sum’n really small – family only. She said we should get there about midday.”
That was how I remembered my end of the phone conversation going.
True, she told me she had a colleague’s wedding to attend on Saturday – the same day of the ‘do’, and a fashion house opening by a friend’s sister – and in my characteristic way I had said nothing one way or the other to force her decision. But I had expected she would shuffle her social calender and prioritize events accordingly.
We were having one of our fights at the time so I did not check in with, or check up on, her as regularly as I ordinarily would have. I got to Mama’s place a bit early, so I did not think it strange that she was not there. When my siblings arrived, I got caught up in the joy of their company and did not notice time fly. That was until Big Mama pointedly looked at me and asked “Where is our wife?”
Feeling hot under the collar I said “She is attending a wedding.”
A collective gasp went up around the table. “She’s on the train…” I rushed on, but the damage was done. Looking around the gathering at everyone there, I saw each of my sibling present with their partner in tow. Even my kid brother had his homeboys with him – as he could not decide on which girlfriend to bring to the family gathering. And to think I had already brought her home and introduced her as “our wife”.
When one hour later there was still no sign of her, I called her. She had left the wedding, and was just heading out to the fashion event. Huh?!
Long story short, I was finally home when she called and said she was coming over to mine. Initially I refused, but then I considered that she eventually went to see Mama anyway, so I relented. As she launched into her apology, one thing became clear: she had no idea of the gravity or implication of her actions or the lack there of. That she did not make it over was bad in itself, but not calling any of the family women to give them a heads up was something I could not understand. And I told her as much.
“You mean there are two offences?!” Came her reply.
Mentally, I changed tracks and said instead, “Assume this was an occasion for your mum, would you honestly had gone for those functions before returning home? Without a word to anybody in the house?”
“I don’t know.” She hedged. “I don’t think so.”
“Please don’t insult me with an answer like that. We both know you wouldn’t.” I told her in a cool voice.
“I only came here to apologize, I didn’t come here to compare mothers.” She fired at me.
Even in my position, lying on my back and looking up at her, my jaw dropped to my ankles. “Breathe…” I told myself. I got up to drain my laundry and so I was at the machine when I heard the ‘koi, koi, koi’ of high heels. When she came into view she had on her shoes on her feet, handbag on her arm and purse clutched under her armpit. Although later her lips said otherwise, her body language was one of somebody ready to go – regardless of the consequence.
10 days later I told her we were through, for even though I had promised her months ago that I would never leave her unless she asked me to go, I knew I could not put up with her attitude and obvious disrespect for my family for the rest of my life.
I was either working on something really serious, or doing a good job of looking like it when my phone buzzed. It was the boyfriend. I rolled my eyes. We had been having one of our “usual” fights, and as with the other times, I was not particularly keen on being nice so I answered the phone with a sour tone.
“Hey babes, Big Mama is planning something for mumsie’s birthday and it’s this Saturday.” Came the familiar casual tone.
“I see.” I replied, sounding professional. “I have a wedding and my friend’s sister is launching her fashion house as well on that same day.” I retorted.
“Oookay. Anyway, it’s a small gathering, family only. Just wanted to let you know.”
I hung up making a mental note to plan Saturday properly so that I could at least “show face” for all three events, but it was easier said than done as the wedding alone was proving tough to ditch.
I had expected to attend only the church service, and then head over to the fashion house launch; but with all my colleagues there, it seemed odd to just turn and leave from church. So to the reception I went. “I’ll stay till the couple dance in and take their seats centre stage, and then I’ll make a run for it.” I told myself, but regretted it about forty five minutes after getting to the reception when the newlyweds still hadn’t arrived. Two hours, a soft drink, and many conversations later, I was en route to the Fashion House launch, silently chastising myself for bad time management when I felt my phone buzz.
“Where are you?”
“I’m on my way to the Fashion event. You know? The one I told you about? I left the wedding a little late and then went home to change. I am just leaving the estate, you won’t believe-”
“Are you kidding me?”
“What is it?”
“What do you mean ‘what is it?’ Didn’t I tell you today was mumsie’s birthday party?”
“Yes and I’m still going, I just have to touch this fashion event first.”
“You have got to be kidding me. I can’t believe you right now.”
“Look, but we discussed this. Why are you blowing this out of proportion? Besides, you did not tell me what time it was going to start.”
“Wha? You know what? This is me hanging up on you.” Click
“Hello? Hello?” I screamed into the phone, not because I thought he was still on the other end, but because I didn’t want to believe he actually hung up on me. We fought all the time, and I mean all the time but he had never hung up on me. I must have really pissed him off. I looked at my phone for a few seconds. Should I call back?
Then I got this message on my Blackberry: “Yes, but I hoped you were going to have enough sense to know what was more important. And quite frankly, I do not think it’s a lacking in sense, I just believe that’s you having ZERO respect for my family.”
Is that what he thought? That was certainly not my intention. Rather than call back, I felt it would be better to just speak with him in person. I needed to get to his mum’s place as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I was only minutes away from the fashion event and I had promised to be there, so I reluctantly decided to make a brief stop; but I might as well have not gone because while I was there, all I could think of were my boyfriend’s words. I couldn’t control the tremble in my voice when I arrived at his mum’s. I wondered if my boyfriend’s mother could tell I wasn’t all there when I hugged her. I only hoped she didn’t think it was a half-hearted hug. I saw a look on her face, one of those “I am glad you made it sha, but your own ‘African time’ na wa oh.” Everyone else had left – even his older brother who had given me directions to the place. I gave my well wishes, and muttered something about traffic.
To be honest, and I’m sorry to say this, I could care less. All that preoccupied my mind was my boyfriend. I have screamed, cursed, and said downright mean things to him but he had never hung up on me. I started to wonder if he had reached his breaking point. Over one hour later, and with still no word from him, I was beside myself with worry. I didn’t know if I had damaged things beyond repair, and I was not sure how to go about fixing it.
“Just call him.” His younger brother urged. He made it sound so simple. I had to give it a shot.
“So I was wondering if I can I come over…and talk?” I asked fearfully after he answered the phone. The tremor in my voice was a little embarrassing, but it didn’t matter at the moment. After playing hardball and telling me not to bother, he paused and said “Sure.”
“Okay, see you soon.” I said eagerly.
“Yeah” He hung up.
He sounded so cold, like something had died inside of him. I took a deep breath. “You’ve really done it this time.” I told myself.
My strategy was simple: start with an apology and don’t stop until he accepts. I prayed it would work.
“I’m sorry.” I let out as soon as he opened the door.
He left the door ajar for me to enter and walked away.
“Did you hear me?” I asked, a little taken aback by his demeanor as I followed him inside and closed the door behind me. “I said I’m sorry.”
“I heard you.” He said coldly, lying down on the carpeted floor.
I sat across from him. “I’m really sorry. If I had known that it was going to be that big a deal, I would have definitely gone there first.”
“You don’t get it, do you?”
I blinked in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“It’s bad enough that you missed the party, but you couldn’t even be bothered to call Big Mama or mumsie to let them know that you would be late.”
I had come to his place with the intention of apologizing but he was making it difficult.
“You mean I committed two offenses?” I groaned.
He adjusted himself on the floor. “Let’s assume this was your mum’s birthday, would you have gone to those other events before attending? And without telling anyone? Be honest!”
I sighed, looking everywhere but at him. “I don’t know…I don’t think so.”
“Please don’t insult me with that answer; we both know you wouldn’t!” He spat.
Granted, he had a point, but I did not like the fact that he was implying that I purposely chose to be inconsiderate because it wasn’t my mother.
“I only came here to apologize, and not to compare mothers.” I fired back, abandoning all the guilt I had felt only moments earlier.
He got up and went into the laundry room. I was at my wits end. Here I was, trying to apologize and he was walking around acting like a prima donna. I replayed the events in my head. He had said there was a party, his mum’s birthday party, but he didn’t specify the time so was it really my fault for assuming it would be in the evening? And for crying out loud, I told him my plans for the day, if he expected me to make his mother’s birthday top priority, he should have said something so I wasn’t entirely to blame. And if he was going to be difficult, then I wasn’t going to waste my time. I got up to leave. I hadn’t been feeling well anyway.
A day later, I came to my senses and apologized. I pinged him continuously, tried to call but to no avail. I felt so angry at myself. What was I thinking walking away like that? A combination of my nerves and hormones were driving me insane, and I was sure I was going to have a meltdown, and then he called asking to see me.
It was ten days after I saw him last and sitting in his favourite chair, he looked at me as if prompting me to say something. When I asked him to go ahead and tell me what he had on his mind, his words were swift: “It’s over.”
The world stopped.
“I…but…where is this coming from?” I said, after what seemed like forever.
“Are you serious?”
“I just…I didn’t see that coming. But then I always thought it was too good to be true.”
The room was spinning. “But you promised.” I added, my voice almost a whisper, “You promised that you weren’t going anywhere unless I asked you to leave and…and I didn’t… I haven’t.” I was stunned but was being careful not to sound too desperate. He couldn’t have my heart and my dignity too.
“I just can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry.” Was all he said in response.
“You-” I stopped myself. My voice had cracked, I couldn’t let him hear the despair in it, and so I got up, and paced instead.
Moments after he left, I glanced down at, then rubbed my stomach as the tears that I had been keeping at bay formed and began to fall. Not now. This cannot be happening now…
This DUET was with Cousin M.E
Do read other DUETS here.