The Magic Words

“I love you.”

Those words I have heard on many occasions with different meanings from separate people. Love — the simple emotion with a complex understanding.

What is love?

There are countless variations to this question that prove its misconception. The first time I was ever told was at six years from my mother, to which I replied with the words and a hug. You should have seen the beaming smile on her face upon my reply. A lesson learnt — those words will cheer up anybody. But, deep down then, did I truly love her? Did I understand?

The first time on my accord was when I walked into my parent’s room because I heard them shouting. My mother wore a frown and remembering the effects of those words, I said them. There it was, that smile; she wiped her tears and shone her teeth at me. We pulled each other into a warm embrace and then, she repeated them to me.

The magic words.

23rd July, 1994, I was in an accident but came out unscathed. My father was on the phone while driving us to the barbershop. It fell out his hand and quickly, without thinking, he ducked for it and before realizing his stupidity, the car rammed into a tree. Better than dead, he suffered minor bruises but his concern was my welfare. His hand reached for me, pulling aggressively, but with love, compassion and guilt.

“I’m okay, Daddy.”

The tears of apology rolled down his face and then he too said it, proclaiming his love for me. Without thought, I reciprocated and with a hug, just like I did my mother and just like her, he smiled repeating them to me.

The magic words.

But I learnt differently not too long after. My parents were called into the head teacher’s office. Their surprise when the well behaved and sweet son had caused a huge ruckus. My offence — two boys were fighting and the boy on the losing end was crying. It didn’t help he was being made fun of by the other boys so I walked up to him, picturing the faces of my parents when I said those words, held his hand and said the same words to him gallantly. My teacher heard and the rest was history. I got into trouble and had to change schools.

“Homosexuality is not accepted.”

My parents were terrified by the possibility of me being gay, drilling me and hoping none of its fibers were left in me.

Not so magic after all

For the fear of being punished again, those words became sacred.

February 14th, 2002, my best friend received a rose and a card saying those words.

“I love you, forever and after.”

The horror in my eyes. I pleaded with her that trouble was brooding and pain lurking, but she rebutted not after an outburst of laughter that lasted too long. I was bemused she found a joke in my warnings. Still maintaining my stance, I urged her to dispose of the card as the consequences were beyond grave.

“No, silly,” She laughed again. “It’s love.”

Love, she said, is an emotion and the card is an expression of said emotion. It can only be said to a boy, and in my case, a girl.

The magic words are for women only.

My mother got a better paying job along the line but the responsibilities were tasking, she was scarce at home so a help was employed. A woman with a knack for being half naked till my parents returned. I saw nothing wrong. My mother wore a wrapper around the house occasionally but the difference was I had never seen my mother’s boobs. Naively, I would point out that one or both had fallen out and she would act ignorant, setting me up. Months went by, idle strangers became best companions, long conversations about her village, her family and how she missed them all. She was fun to be around. One fateful day, she kissed me out of the blue and then said the words. I recalled what Joke had said,

“ It can only be said to a boy, and in your case, a girl.”

Right there and then, saying those words back lead to losing my virginity to a woman six years older than me, and every time I said those words to her, sex was the reward. I loved it.

The magic words open a secret door.

Years later, the magic words had become a tool that served a purpose — sex. After months of gaining a girl’s trust and building a solid foundation the words are used, just like she did me; a play from her book. Failure only occurred for my first two attempts and just like a ship on calm waters, I sailed with ease.

The magic words are a tool.

My first year in the university, I met a girl who took majority of my time. In fact, she took it all. Being around her was a literally a breath of fresh air every single time. Beyond sex with her, I saw a future; I saw a life time of happiness. Blinded by that possibility, It never occurred to me to use the words on her. Not to say sex came easy or did happen, it wasn’t a priority; her love was. Unfortunately one night, I walked in on her having sex with another guy. Clouded by so many thoughts, as I begged that she was forgiven, the words slipped my tongue. The words that brought me so much joy bore me so much pain. Gripped by shame, I froze where I stood, remembering the first time pained accompanied those words, as they laughed at me.

The magic words are bearers of pain — the hurtful words.

Just like before, I reprimanded myself never saying them again, living with an icebox where my heart used to be.

The hurtful words.

It has been many years since. I live on my own and have a good paying job; more mature but still traumatized, steering clear of any romantic involvement with any woman. That was the case, that was the plan until Tolu. One too many hook ups with her and a relationship was birthed. Feelings stirred within me for her. I felt it, I knew it, yet I was unsure and scared.

“Temi?” Tolu asks, worried and scared “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I lie, knowing what she wants “I’m sorry. Just a little trip down memory lane.”

It is our one year anniversary and she just said the words.