Several years walking in, out and through the same street under the same furious sun, He finally felt the satisfaction as though it proved its purpose of ever letting him the endeavour. Nature was never a best friend to Tayo Adekunle, yet that day he found her to be his most dependable and thoughtful companion.
Ignoring his shallow breathe, he could not but keep shooting glances the other side of the walkway. She wore the usual low cut that secondary school girls were compelled to according to the school’s preference hairstyle. Her forehead shone from the radiant sun, her eyes wearily wore thin from similar stress Tayo could relate to as he was a pupil himself.
However, regardless the effect of the sun, her plain beauty fought its way through to bring life to her young and cute face as much as her neatness complemented the beauty. He was quick to judge morals when it came to girls that looked attractive and somehow fell within his naive checklist of attributes.
He quickly checked his legs to begin his self-examination. His Aerosoft sandals looked their best; he did not play during the lesson break. His trouser was still fair with the Sunday night gator he wrongly pressed and his shirt…he never joked with it being the most obvious to give away any student as a troublesome or coordinated one. He shabbily rehearsed a few pickup lines in his head. The ones he had used before that earned success were always the safest. They barely failed.
He crossed the road and walked to her. With all the confidence a young man could muster, “Hi”, he said, sceptical about extending his hands for a shake.
“Hi”, She answered with a straight look and mindless tone. She kept walking. He turned around to follow in her direction even though it was against his.
“I'm Tayo. My friends call me Scaler”, He started, troubleshooting his mind for several goodies he could use to qualify his personality and brush it up to her standards.
She smiled and remained quiet.
“Whats yours?” he asked, and waited…no response, he continued, “I'm in xxx high school. I…um…am a science student”, he found it easy to flaunt that since the usual impression was science pupils were always the most brilliant ones.
She smiled again, shook her head and evened her steps.
He scoffed, his frustration growing, “Can you at least tell me your name? Please”
She looked at him and answered dryly, “Ope”.
He spent the rest of the walk summing up compliments to return the smile to her face. It already made an impressive run on his mind like he was used to the smile all his life. After several rounds of argument and bragging about whose school was better, she finally let him through her walls to the might-become-a-friend zone.
Over the week and the next, he worked on new strategies to build conversations and stay away from the lesson break football crew to maintain his neatness. He dared not slip down that slope with such class and standard Ope possessed and have him set for himself indirectly. He made sure he left the school twenty minutes after the closing time; no staying back to discuss events that played through the day with his friends. Soon they all noticed his sudden change in attitude and looks. They mounted pressure to know what was going on. Two of his crew already suggested a girl was involved, and they were right. He finally opened up while on the walkway he routinely waited to meet and walk her to her junction. He dared not take the walk further after she narrated what had happened to the previous boys that pushed that far. Her parents had eyes in every fence, tree and electric pole from their junction to their house. And since it was a friendly neighbourhood, people talked. Especially when a school girl and a boy is the subject. They would add and add new details from their imaginations as the story got retold till it would spring to life like a movie scene when it reached whoever’s parents.
With the support of his friends, Tayo was able to keep up the faith of something solid, and maybe romantic happening with Ope. Though they often poked fun at his resilience, perseverance and commitment to making it work. Since he admitted he needed their support to keep him going, his loyalty went as far as promising them they would meet her friends if he got ahead with her. Boys don't slow the roll on hearing this. They became cheerleaders and mascots to help him achieve grand success.
On a fateful Friday, he got delayed in school due to the Principal’s student address during an impromptu second assembly. He could not hide his displeasure and tried several ideas to boycott the gathering. He pushed far enough that he got punished by a teacher for trying. Unfortunately, he was made to spend an extra hour after closing to darken the board as punishment. His friends waited, owing to loyalty and the promise of their beautiful maiden rewards.
He got several stains on his shirt alongside a weary look as he rounded up and headed for his adventure before home. He was surprised to see Ope waited at a newspaper vendor’s stall. He could not even hide his excitement as he ran to hug her for waiting. She was surprised to see him in such state and asked what happened. He tried to cover up but his friends quickly saw an opening and let her know what really happened. She was touched by such devout act and took over the conversation drive for that day. When they got to her junction, she finally reminded him of a question he always asked her. He acted as though he had forgotten about it.
“You better talk now. I don't want to get home late” she warned and waited with a veil on her anxiety.
He smiled and asked again, this time with such innocent and pitiful look “Will you be my girlfriend? my one and only. I have promised you and will promise you again that I won’t treat you bad. I won’t…” he started as usual.
She put her index finger on his lips to shush and said “Yes. We will talk on Monday”. She turned and walked away.
He maintained a calm, and soon as she was lost in sight, he jumped up and shouted with his friends. It seemed that way, his punishment had paid off after all.
The relationship was such blessing to him as it helped him grow quickly, setting good goals for himself even though they were at first to impress her. They had later turned out to be sound ideas that helped him become the man he always wanted to become…even better. They shared so much from school notes, key points during GCE period, past questions during their SSCE preparations. Even his parents commended the drastic change that swept through his life, habits and attitude.
In 2007, the unexpected happened. Ope revealed to him in a heart-to-heart conversation they had one evening as he saw her off to her house. She was traveling out of the country with her parents. At first, Tayo was sad. He was upset with the news, and felt worse knowing she told him few months from it happening.
She explained, “Its not my fault. I'm sorry. I didn't know how to tell you. I've been playing this scene in my head everyday since the day I heard. I have cried several times because I don't want to go. I swear to God I don't want to…”
He felt the sincerity in her voice. It was something he had gotten used to over the years and quickly cut in to hold her in his arms. He needed not push her enough till she had to swear in God’s name. He let her know all he needed was to be informed and assured she would never leave him to marry an American citizen. It was the norm fear of any Nigerian with a partner at the edge of traveling overseas.
“Temitayo, I can never leave you. You are the only man I can ever love. No one else can take your place, even God can bear me witness”.
He wrapped her face in his hands and kissed her. He tasted her tears and made a promise to himself never to leave her. He swore he would wait for her however long it took since he knew from within her love was way too deep for him to ever feel that much with someone else again. “And I will wait for you. I will work hard to become a successful man as we planned, and if God will have it, I will come over there to meet you someday”
“Don't say someday. Say soon” she said
He smiled, stunned by her confidence. He looked into her eyes and replied, “Yes, soon, Opeyemi. I will come and meet you there soon”.
After she departed with her parents to the United States, it took a toll on Tayo. At first, he struggled with the balance knowing the woman that had his heart was halfway across the world from him. But the genuineness of what they shared prompted his faith and strength to holding on. She called often and he did the same regardless the high tariff for international calls from Nigeria subject to the telecommunication bubble that reigned that period.
Against all odds, the bond grew stronger. He started talking to her family and his politeness and sound manners helped him keep good tie with them that earned him such benevolent acceptance he got from them over time.
In 2011, She finally announced her decision to come home. His heart was back on its way back to him. He was overwhelmed with such relief he had not known since the day he jumped screaming her name in a charcoal-stained school uniform. Memories came rushing through him, his anxiety grew over the weeks and he planned again and again, how their first meeting in years would be. What would she sound like? Will she still feel the same way she used to after seeing me? Will I still be the same sweet guy when she spends time with me?
However, unlike a lot others would panic with cold feet, his confidence of her acceptance of who he had grown to be in looks, manners and socially was firm since they maintained frequent and solid communication that was wounded in honesty and openness.
The day finally came! He struggled to let his face defy his sleepless night filled with imaginations and flipping through the photo album pages. As the sun rose, he said his morning prayer and added a few new habits to his routine. He sang through the shower, he spent almost an hour in front of the mirror trying different shirts on till he decided on which he was to wear. It was her favorite color. Next he worked on the shoe rack but quickly decided on the footwear she had sent him a while earlier as his birthday gift. He moved on to his perfumes to know which was cool, warm and inviting for her. He wanted her to bury her head in his chest when she hugged him and one of what aided such act was the choice of cologne. The foot mat, and he polished the dash board. Everything needed perfection for Opeoluwa. She was worth it and a lot more. Then he was set for the drive to the airport. On getting there, he waited at the terminal with flowers in his hands. He ignored the onlookers and bystanders as they shot him critical glances that judged his excited look. Nothing else mattered than the wonderful creature that awaited him on Virgin Airlines on its way to Muritala Mohammed Airport.
And finally she arrived. In a breathtaking moment, he felt the tears cloud his eyes as she walked towards him but kept his cool at being a man. Drawing her trolley in one hand, her bag in another, she was jet-lagged. Why did it matter less? She was beautiful through the weariness. Images of her from the first day he saw her on the other side of the road from his school with such innocent beauty and tired eyes flashed through his mind. He smiled, grinned and could not help his joyful cheer. He hurried to her, with the flower falling from his hand, pulled her into his arms and held her tight. So tight he feared she would squeeze. It was a fulfilling moment for him. His stomach churned and he felt overwhelmed. His life was complete again from the inside and the outside. It felt within him as though everything fell into place.
“Look at you”, was the first thing she said. “You look like a boy seeing candy for the first time”
He drew back and mocked her humor before bursting into a loud laugh, “You, ehn…your mouth!” He kissed her cheek, her temple, her nose and her eye lids. Every part of her needed his lips, he behaved gentlemanly and let the thought hang someplace safe in his head for later.
As they walked to the park, he heard a voice inside him scream “My life is finally back on track. My life is starting again. Feels like I'm just starting to live again”. He was surprised nothing had changed. If any, he felt stronger attraction towards her and she felt no less towards him either.
His eyes barely leaving her, he held her hand tight in his, fingers locking into each other. She laughed each time their eyes met. The drive home was full of tales and laughter that never hushed.
Through her stay in Nigeria, everyday was a holiday for Tayo. He did not want to spend any time with anyone, doing anything or with her out of his sight. It was as though he could never have enough of her. The weeks were full of different adventures that made every moment and day worth it. Before she mentioned returning to the States, he summoned the courage from love and dedication to their union to pop the question. He asked for her hand in marriage and in a gracious way like he knew she would make it, she accepted. He relocated to the United States three years later to walk with her down the aisle at a church in Chicago, Illinois. The couple became a blissful pair to their peers and peeps from far and near about how love lives through the night, how determination lives through the circumstances and how sincere and sound communication remains the bedrock of every unbreakable bond. Till date, the uniqueness and firmness of their love remains an inspiration that love will always find and make a way.
Set to have their Nigerian wedding 21.05.2016 #OpeTayo2016.
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