I met Ifeanyi in 2016 at the Kenneth Dike Library, University of Ibadan. It was one of those days when I went to the library with a burning desire to resuscitate my dying CGPA. Ifeanyi sat at the other end of my table. Alone. With no books.
His haircut was the first thing that struck me about him (asides the obvious fact that he was at a library without books). Skin. Skodo. Molo. Whatever you call Banky W’s haircut. He sat directly under one of the fluorescent lights and every part of me wanted to stand over his head to check my reflection. Of course, I didn’t.
As you rightly guessed, I slept longer than I read, and it was the cleaners’ chattering that woke me the next morning. Everyone had left the floor where I sat at the library. Everyone including Ifeanyi.
When I got to my room and emptied the content of my tote bag, a note fell out of my Introduction to Critical Reasoning textbook.
“You look really peaceful when you sleep. I’m not a stalker but I took some beautiful pictures of you while you slept. I’d like to share them with you on WhatsApp. 07064569823, please call me. Ifeanyi”
I messaged him that evening and he sent me the pictures. They were bad. Really bad. I looked homeless in some. I looked dead in all. “Please delete these pictures, please”, I pleaded as soon as I saw the last picture.
That was how we started chatting and talking over the phone for hours. That kind of stuff you read about in these kinds of stories. It was surreal.
Ifeanyi was a very sweet guy. All through our one month of dating, I felt immensely loved. It probably helped that I was his first girlfriend, and maybe his first other things.
I stored his name on my phone as“IFE”; the first three letters of his name which also means Love in Yoruba. He saved mine as “NKEM” which means Mine in Igbo.
On the night before we broke up, Ifeanyi sent me an epistle on WhatsApp. He told me how he wanted us to spend the rest of our lives together; how he couldn’t imagine a world without me. He said he already knew what our wedding ceremony’s hashtag would be: #ifetemi2022.
I ended things with him the next morning: 13th of March 2016. I sent him an epistle telling him how much love I had for him. I told him how I already had names for our 5 kids; how I wanted to make him all the meals his mother couldn’t make for him before she died. But, I told him we had to end things. My father would never let me marry an Igbo man, and I felt it was better we didn’t get too serious. That was partly true. My father would have put up an opposition, but he would have allowed us if I fought for the relationship.
I did not want to fight for the relationship.
You see, Ifeanyi was a sweet guy but he was extremely sensitive. He didn’t know how to take corrections. He only saw things in words and opposite. Black or white. There was no middle ground. He was simply extreme.
Once, one of his course mates said his yellow shirt didn’t flatter him and Ifeanyi threw out all his bright colored shirts and stuck to wearing only black. He told me he stopped keeping his hair because a lecturer said his afro was too full and made him look like a gorilla.
What would have been his reaction if I had told him he had a dangerous mouth odor? The kind that made me hold my breath for as long as I could whenever we were together? The kind that made me lie to him that I had never kissed a guy and wouldn’t kiss one till my wedding day? I knew he would have done something drastic and I didn’t want to find out.
Playing the tribe card was better, there was nothing he could have done about that.
Or was there?
Maybe if I had looked closely at Ifeanyi’s name tag when I saw him at Blenco Supermarket last week, I would have seen that it read Ifeoluwa.