Chigozie and I were on our third date. We had gone to dinner and a movie for the first two outings and now we were at an art gallery. I wanted to buy some art for Tunji’s house. His house looked like a bachelor pad and I wanted to make it a little more homely before I moved in after the wedding.
Truth be told, I knew it wasn’t exactly cool asking a man to accompany me to buy art for another man’s house; but I had tried to convince Tunji to come with me and he had declined. According to him, art wasn’t really “his thing” and he assured me he would be fine with whatever I brought back from my shopping spree. Chigozie on the other hand, had admitted it was not his thing too but he had come with me because it was an opportunity to spend time with me. That was one major difference between Tunji and Chigozie that I had noticed so far.
Yes! I was breaking one of Tosin’s many rules. I was comparing them…something she had vehemently warned me against doing, but it was getting harder and harder not to.
“What do you think about this one”? Chigozie asked. He was referring to an oil painting of a woman. It was a very beautiful painting, the woman’s gaze was piercing but there was something sad about her eyes.
“It’s beautiful”. I said “But there is something really sad in her eyes. I am not sure I want to look into them every day”.“Sad?” Chigozie said with a surprised look on his face. “That’s not a sad look…its deep I agree but not sad”.
“Her eyes look like they are filled with regrets”. I pointed out, still staring into the eyes of the woman in the portrait.“So what do you think she regrets? Perhaps she married a man she wasn’t really in love with because she did not want to disappoint her family” Chigozie said.
I knew his statement had nothing to do with the painting and everything to do with me.“Are you trying to imply that I am not in love with my fiancé”? I asked in anger.Chigozie shrugged and moved on to the next painting. I noticed the label underneath the painting for the first time it read “The Lost One”. I was right! The woman in the painting was indeed sad! I marched after him and continued my interrogation. I wasn’t letting him off the hook so easily.
“Who wouldn’t love Tunji?” I asked. “He is from a very well respected family, he is charming, good looking, successful, ambitious, and he has a great reputation. He also has a very good rapport with my parents and brothers, what else could a girl possibly want in a man”?Chigozie laughed out loud.
“What is so funny”? I asked him.“I was expecting to hear things like, we have a connection, real chemistry, I love spending time with him, he is my best friend, I trust him…not a list of qualities you probably read in an article titled “Ten things to look out for in a husband”. He replied. He was still laughing and I was getting more and more upset and uncomfortable.
We spent the rest of our time at the art gallery avoiding each other and when it was time to leave, I was glad I had come in my own car. I said a cold goodbye and drove home.
On my way home, my friend Onyeka called and asked if she could come over. I gladly accepted, I needed the distraction.
“How did you know Kene was the one”? I asked Onyeka. Kene was Onyeka’s husband. They had gotten married when they were both twenty-four amidst a lot of family drama from both sides.
Onyeka and I were in my bedroom and she was fiddling with my impressive jewellery collection. I on the other hand, was flipping mindlessly through a book she had brought for me. It was a book for new brides and even though I was grateful because her intentions were good, it bored me that no one saw me other than anything except a bride- to -be.
Onyeka smiled at my question. She pressed a blue necklace against her neck and examined her reflection in my full length mirror and then she said: “I just knew”.
I sighed. I had asked my brother the same question a few days ago about his wife and he had said the same thing but it made no sense to me. How did you just “know” someone was right for u?
Onyeka saw the disappointed look on my face and so she came over to the bed and sat down beside me.“As you remember, when I met Kene there was another guy in the picture…Tony. Tony was older and already working while Kene had just finished his youth service and was looking for a job just like I was. Everyone advised me to consider Tony because he would be ready to settle down sooner than Kene would. You remember that fight with my mum when she found out I was still sneaking around with Kene behind her back?” She asked.
I nodded, I remembered the epic fight she was referring to. The fight had been so serious that Onyeka had come to stay in my house for a few weeks back then.
Well even though every sensible bone in my body knew Tony was the obvious choice, I knew there was something missing. Kene didn’t have the money and charisma that Tony did at the time but he was funny, smart, ambitious, exciting. I just connected with him in so many ways. I was excited about growing old with him and I just knew he was the one”. She said.
“That’s sweet. I am so happy you’re happy in your marriage. Imagine if you had defied your mother and then regretted it” I said.
“That’s the thing, I tell people Kene was the safest risk I ever took. He is a good man and so for me it was a no brainer”. Onyeka said with a dreamy smile on her face.
I knew Tunji was a good man but Onyeka’s words haunted me. I had chosen to marry Tunji because after so many years together it just seemed like the next step and also because he sort of ticked the boxes I felt I needed him to tick. My mind drifted back to Chigozie’s statement earlier in the day…was he right? Was I even in love with the man I was about to marry and what really was my motive for spending time with Chigozie? For the first time, I admitted to myself that this was not just the normal pre-wedding jitters or cold feet. It was something bigger. Perhaps I was like the woman in the painting, I was also a lost one.