Other than the thought of being locked in a box and stuck in the ground when I die, nothing in my life seems to be as scary and troublesome and as endlessly confusing, as how I choose to love anybody. Coming from a life where my opinion on love was warped, meeting Ike was a little unsettling (in a good way). It’s a pretty funny story but I’d tell you part of it and some of the lessons I learnt.
She had been reading my blog for a while, one day she shared something I wrote and I followed her on Twitter. A few weeks after, I was looking for t-shirt designs for my flatmate, she DMed me offering help I gladly took. We had really easy conversations in the weeks following that, she made me laugh, genuinely, not the forced type you do when you’re trying to be polite. I still maintain that she strategically positioned herself, but meh, she’s denied it for as long as I know. It’s a hard fight fight to not veer off course and make this solely about the wonder that Ike is. Besides being funny, she’s easily the most beautiful person I know. I call her “The Awelewa”. She has a hard time pronouncing the letter “r” sometimes and I get a kick from hearing her say words like “akara” or “òróró” or even my surname. She has an “Abeke side”(where she goes full Yoruba and starts to sound like an original Ibadan woman) that occasionally comes out to play, that I try to indulge by speaking my best Yoruba too even when she insists that I sound like an “ọmọ nna”.
We made romance out of mundane things, her showing up at my office a few hours to my resumption time just because…video calling her at a gathering we planned to be at together but she couldn’t make it. She’d sit in cabs with her legs across mine, or rub her legs against mine when we sat at a table, she had a funny case of "skin hunger", we were always touching.
When you love someone, you figure out the small things like who gets to eat the last chicken wing as well as the big questions. You consider what works for the other and what works for you. Sometimes you compromise. Sometimes you triage and take care of what matters most. There are no one-size-fits-all answers to questions of relationships. Love is a constant negotiation.
On some days, loving Ike meant going to a job that frustrated me, having at it all day even on days I’d rather gouge my eyes out. Subconsciously teaching her tenacity, for someone who would be going down a path not towed by many, she really needed it.
I know people (ex-girlfriends/other people) who had specific expectations of what love looked like based on images they saw on television, movies, advertisements, friends’ stories, magazine articles, blog posts, pretty much everywhere but from conversations between their partners. I don’t know if we fell into this category, my job got shittier than ever, life just happened as it does and in my bid to hold it in and not break, I started to slip away. Of course she didn’t know what I was going through, I don’t know if it was pride or just a plain need to shield her from all of it. Living in an imitation of others’ happiness never works for me. It’d be like moving into a model home, only to discover the books are all cardboard fronts and the flowers are cloth and plastic orordering the perfect cake from a confectionery only to find that it’s all icing covering a cake pan. I try to live in a way that makes sense to me. And I don’t believe there is any one natural way to love. Just like there’s no one way to eat a mango (bite into it, cut it with a knife, a mango is being eaten).
Being with Ike showed me that love is more like a road trip than a teleport machine. It has much less to do with the passenger you pick and much more to do with how you choose to navigate the journey.
It doesn’t matter if you do everything together, but it does matter that you want the same things in life and can co-create a dream, long term or short term. For us it was a trip to Japan when we could afford it, she finds their culture fascinating, me I just wanted to be next to a happy Ike.