‘Nice to meet you Pauline. How may I help you?’ I said. For some reason, I wasn’t angry. I was intrigued. As I stood up to pick up an oversized dress to wear, a dozen questions were flying in my brain; ‘was Gabriel jus leading me on? Was I the one who assumed some sort of chemistry? Did a man call a girl constantly and not have any feelings towards her? Oh my God! He has a girlfriend?!’
‘I am so sorry to ambush you like this Tobi but we really need to talk.’ Pauline said. ‘okay, shoot!’ I said. Pauline would later tell me how she and Gabriel met and how he nicknamed her ‘Twinkles’ because her laughter reminded him of twinkles in the sky. Cheesy but sweet, I thought. At least she had a nickname to show for her relationship with him. What did I have? Pauline went on to tell me about how she loved and adored Gabriel and they had been dating for five years. How she had given up everything and everyone for him and how they were planning to spend the rest of their lives together. I was genuinely interested in the conversation plus Pauline sounded like a really nice person. Then she asked if I wouldn’t mind if she asked me a question. ‘Naa’, I said. ‘Shoot’. ‘Are you a virgin?’, she asked me. I’ve heard from different friends how you can ‘revirginate’ yourself should your husband require you to be a virgin. ‘No I’m not’, I answered her. ‘Do you remember your first time?’, she asked. I tried to mentally go back again but it was really difficult. ‘No’, I said. ‘I do and I’m not trying to gloat’ Pauline replied. Gabriel was her first and she had promised God that the first man who slept with her would be her husband. A quick image of me and my mum’s recent conversation flashed in my mind. ‘why does Iya Sofia call Baba Sofia Baale mi?’, I asked my mom. ‘Well, its because Baba Sofia is Mama Sofia’s first’. It was Iya Sofia’s way of reminding Baba Sofia of their first time together and show her respect for him’. I was silently jealous. At least, Pauline knew who her bale was. So I asked her ‘why are you telling me all these things? I hope you are aware that myself and Gabriel are nothing but good friends?’ Again, she chuckled infectiously. This time, I chuckled with her.
‘Tobi, if you believe that, then you must believe that our mothers are still virgins’. I felt weird that she knew I was naïve and she called me out on it. Still, she sounded like a really honest person with a loving heart so I decided not to take offense.
She told me how long ago, Gabriel would tell her that he was going to visit a friend and through the years, she had seen him light up when talking to and about me than when she was trying out a new, yet difficult sexual positions with him. To Pauline, she was convinced beyond doubt that Gabriel was in love with me but also, just like me, for some reason had convinced himself that we were just friends.
Her greatest fear? Gabriel would realise soon that I loved him as much as he did me and then, he would move all mountains to be with me and no one would be able to stop this love of ours. ‘I’m scared Tobi’, she said. I was shocked at her sincerity and vulnerability.
‘What would you have me do, Paula?’, I asked. ‘Keep this information Tobi. I trust you with it’. She went further to explain how she had to drug Gabriel earlier so she could speak sincerely with me and how even though he was trying to be the man who made her happy, he couldn’t completely do so with me in the picture. ‘I love him, Tobi and I will fight for him. With everything I have, I’ll fight for him’. A girl fight flashed through my mind briefly. And in that picture, even though I had never seen Paula, she was winning and Gabriel was the referee. I come from a polygamous home and in my opinion, if my dad had been a little patient, he would still be with my step mom and if my mom knew my dad was married, she wouldn’t have married him. Now, we kids have to endure the never ending bickering and jealousy between the moms and when this happens, somehow, my dad ends up looking like a super hero. A really cool super hero. And his wives? Like silly children who forgot to learn how to share their toys.
‘Hello! Did you hear me at all?’, Pauline’s voice cut through my thought. ‘Yes I do and I know what to do’, I replied. I thanked Pauline for taking out time to talk to me and not just assume me an enemy. ‘one more thing’, she said. ‘Could you please help sway Gabriel back to me?’.
That night, we signed a non-written contract. She would have Gabriel and work out her issues with him. If things didn’t work out, she would sway him back gently to me without a fight.
The next morning, Gabriel called me and we talked at length. In his words, even though he had spent five years of his life with her, I meant much more in one day than Paula meant in five years to him. How touching!
‘If I were not in the picture, would you try a little harder to make things work with her?’ ‘Yes’, he responded. He couldn’t even lie, I mused.
‘Paula has spent five years of her life with you and that has got to count for something. If you try and things don’t work out, come back to me. I don’t know if I will be waiting, but come back to me. I’d love to be with you but not like this. Never like this.
Gabriel begged and begged for me not to shut him out again but what was I to do? I had given Pauline my word and just like Fidelity Bank, I was going to keep my word.
Just like that, again, I broke up with a man I wanted so badly it hurt to breathe. I broke up with a man I wasn’t even dating.