No love found

By Leenah O.

I was sent home from work today. No, I wasn’t sick. I didn’t have a family emergency. I didn’t need a break from work.

As soon as I walked into the office complex, everyone noticed that Moboluwaduro Philips was far from the sleek and polished image that clients trusted and subordinates idolised. My normally bouncy wig was nowhere to be found; instead, I dared to show the world the three-week-old didi that usually never made an appearance outside my bedroom door.

I shook my head as I remembered my outfit too – a pink shirt dress and orange skirt that I’d selected blindly in my haze. Baby girl even forgot to pick a pair of office shoes and showed up at work in her fuzzy pink bedroom slippers. I groaned and put my head under the pillow- my image of perfection, my ” Boss Lady” persona has been tarnished forever!

What was the issue, what was making me so dysfunctional you ask?
LOVE. That’s stupid, crazy, unshakeable feeling.

Let me be more specific – unrequited love.

Like all good heartbreak stories… Boy meets girl. Girl falls in love with boy. Thinks she has found Romeo. Boy shatters her dream future. And moves on.

It may sound bad but Eriifeoluwa is not a bad person though. He’s not bad at all.

Firin, my favourite person in the whole world and my ” Co-Boss lady”, called me to come enjoy a surprise buffet in honour of a retiring Board member at her office a few months back. With no lunch plans and no immediate deadlines, I jumped into the car and drove there – I never missed a chance to network among professionals.

Getting into the massive breakroom at her office, I saw a cluster of women around an area and I sighted my bestie’s bumbum in the cluster. As I moved closer, I started to see what would have captured the interest of ten mature females.

A six foot two, dark skinned and handsome gentleman was holding court and entertaining the ladies, in a suit that was like a second skin on him. I wasn’t particularly moved, as I wasn’t a novice myself – the reason I was so immersed in my work was because I had seen all angles of men and I wasn’t convinced there were any good ones.

I tapped my friend and pulled her away, inadvertently drawing Handsome’s gaze. I said a quick hello and pulled her away- she was too “romantically inclined” for her own good. I was always the one left to pick up the pieces when Debonair guys messed with her heart.

Over our awoof lunch, Firin told me all about the guy who she referred to as Eriifeoluwa. He’d requested to be transferred from their UK branch to Nigeria, to monitor branch activities and understand the business model for a year. The women at the office had all surmised that he couldn’t be in a relationship or be married and be able to take a year off. There was even a secret wager going on to see who would snag him before the year was up.

I couldn’t care less about whatever they decided to do and pushed that to the back of my mind. The rest of the week went by without any event until Saturday, when the pastor chatted me up and said, “Hi Mo‐boluwaduro, we have a new member who is already a part of our global church and he wants to continue his duties as a member of the intercession team. Please make sure he is properly integrated into the team.

I was given an address and a number tagged “Ife”, and since the address was basically the next street to mine, I decided to go there and then place the call. I located the place and then parked in front. I rested on the hood of my car and placed the call. I was immediately electrified by the voice I heard. I could have sworn that his ” hello” hit my soul. I managed to choke out a reply that introduced me and told him I was outside.

While still chiding myself for acting like a child because of ordinary voice, I did not expect to see Firin’s Handsome- sorry, Eriifeoluwa- come out in a T-shirt and joggers. Not only did his cuteness hit me over the head with a hammer, I was also dumbstruck that a man like this would be able to intercede for others; he just seemed like a Yoruba demon to me.

He urged me to come in because he had something on the fire and didn’t want it to burn. I internally smirked and thought, “if your Indomie burns, sheybi you’d cook another one?” I was hit at the door by an amazing medley of delicious aromas that I immediately identified as some form of soup- Baba was making Seafood Okra! Haaaaaa!

This man’s pluses were getting multiplied by the minute, and I was yet to see one minus.

Over a delicious lunch (I didn’t have the willpower to say no when I saw the shrimps fighting with smoked fish and periwinkle in the pot), I inaugurated him into the intercession team and gave him all the important information.

Over the next few months, we went from strangers to being friends, a phenomenon that was made possible by my daily lunch with Firin, the proximity of our houses and the intercession team meetings. We even started to carpool to church and meetings.

Eriife was charismatic and personable- when he spoke to you, you felt like all his attention was for you. I was starting to see what those females that clustered around him were seeing. Several times, I watched him from across a room and I caught myself smiling…

About 7 months into his one-year stint, Firin came over to my place to ask me to accompany her to go pick up a date outfit. She had finally found a good guy and she was happy as a pig in the mud. I told her I couldn’t go because ” Eri and I are going to the beach and then the mini zoo”. She gave me a strange look, “Duro, do you even know you’re in love with this guy?” The smile froze on my face and I stared at her.

The realization had just slammed me in the gut.

She then sat next to me, “Don’t look so frightened, he’s a good guy. Are you going to tell him?” Sensing my shock, she continued, “You should tell him on time, a good Christian man like that wouldn’t stay single for long. Besides, people already think you guys are dating. Shoot your shot, baby girl.”

Her words rang in my head as Eriife and I walked down the quiet shoreline that Sunday evening, the waves providing a gentle background sound. He was facing the sea and rambling about the wonder of God’s works when I blurted out: “I’m in love with you, Eriifeoluwa Doherty.”  

He suddenly stilled and went totally silent for about 30 seconds, still not facing me. I repeated myself, “Didn’t you hear me? I’m in love with you, Eriifeoluwa Doherty.”

When he faced me, he had this expression that could pass for a grimace, instead of the smile he was trying to portray. He quietly said, “I’ve heard you, Mo’. It’s time to head back now, it’s getting late.”

Now I was confused. In my eyes, Eriife exhibited all the signs of a man in love. He went places with me, did things for me, prayed with me, encouraged me, bought things for me, even respected me about keeping myself. So why didn’t he respond to me telling him I loved him?

The car ride back to my place was so quiet and tense that I didn’t know what to do- so I pretended I was sleeping to avoid conversation. He nudged me to wake me up at my gate and I said a quiet goodnight and left.

I didn’t know exactly how to tell Firin what had happened so I just sat in bed and I was praying for direction. At about 4am, I got a one-line text from Eriifeoluwa:  I’m not the man for you.

I tried to call back severally, but it was switched off.

I decided I’d get Firin to talk him into seeing me on Monday- I needed answers. Firin tried to see him at the office all week , but she was told by the intern attached to him that he was out of state on official business. My impatience was growing and so was my confusion- he just seemed to have cut off all communication.

On Sunday after service, the pastor caught up with me as I was by my car and asked me to come see him at home later in the evening with Firin. My edgy, tired mind whisphered, “ohhhhh, this man wants to give me another task that will add to the burden on my mind.”

Despite my unwillingness, I was at his house at 7pm prompt with Firin. He asked us to sit and I saw something in him and his wife’s eyes- something that made me extremely nervous.

He started, “Erm Moboluwaduro, this may be difficult, but I know you’re able to surmount this. God will never give you more than you can handle. When Bro. Ife suddenly went AWOL, I put out my feelers looking for him and I found out some things. I feel like it is important to let you know. The reasons Bro Ife left the UK was because he got someone pregnant- a barely legal 20-year-old UK born Nigerian. They had an illicit affair and her father was out for his blood when he found out. One of my fellow pastors in the church in the UK just intimated me that Bro Ife is back in the UK. He was seen around his neighbourhood with the girl and their new born baby.”

You know when a radio station suddenly loses signal and all you can hear is that scratchy noise?

Yep, that’s what Moboluwaduro Philips heard after the word baby. I watched the Pastor without seeing him at all, my mind totally blank. All I remember after that was Firin guiding me to bed that night. “I’m here to help you through this Mo’,” she added.

Maybe I could still have functioned normally after a night of crying about broken dreams and lost love. To me, we couldn’t be together because of his surprise family. But shortly after I woke up, that scenario was rudely shattered once again. Firin was right. Everyone had assumed a relationship, even the pastor had feared the worst for me.

I woke up that Monday morning to an email on my phone from Eriifeoluwa and my heart leapt. I read it with barely concealed anticipation, hoping for some miracle that took the girl and her baby out of the picture forever.

It read:

“Hi Mo’,
I’m sorry I left Nigeria in a haste, but after I left you that night, I got news that she was in labour, so I took a flight out to The UK the next morning. The ‘she’ I’m talking about is my fiancee, Alyiona. She’s my life. I don’t know why you thought I was interested in you as a lover. I never saw you as more than a friend and honestly, hanging out with you made me temporarily forget my love in Coventry. I didn’t want anyone in church finding out I had an affair, or I got someone pregnant, which is why I didn’t tell you. 
Mo’, I hope you find that guy that does it for you, but it can’t be me. As I write, I’m back in Coventry with my new family and we are going to officially become a family next month; Myself and Alyiona have convinced the families of our love and we are getting married! Baby Zoe is even going to be our Little bride!
I hope you can move past the infatuation and be excited for me.
Keep being awesome,
 Eri’

I read the email until I could recite every single word and I stared at the picture of the baby he sent- she was the image of Eri. That was all I could see as I got dressed for work, drove to the office and got sent back home for looking like a partly cured lunatic.

What a cruel joke fate played on me.

Dangled the seemingly perfect man in front of me, made me fall in love and then broke my heart in the most disruptive fashion possible. I gave love and I found nothing there – just a gentle and polite refusal. I couldn’t even be mad because in all honestly, he never acted like more than anything but a friend.

I had everything I could ever have wanted but a man to love me – I looked for love but there was no love found…

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