Expected Outcomes

The entire gang was here in my house: Timi, Ebube, and Akah. They all looked uncomfortable but determined to discharge their duty as good friends. Everyone was uncharacteristically quiet; any other day and we would be laughing our heads off to one of Timi’s ribald jokes or shouting enthusiastically at football players/wrestlers/basketball players on the large plasma TV. Any other day and we would be gorging on my wife’s platters of small chops, chin chin and asun.

Eri’s cooking and hosting skills were legendary; it was the reason my guys voted to have FIFA tournaments and football viewings at my house. Eri always acted annoyed that we hosted every weekend but would have a new side dish ready to debut. One week it was chocolate infused puff puff, another week, it was shrimp ọ̀jòjọ̀. She would linger as we ate, smiling as the praises of ọlọ́wọ́síbí and mama the mama came forth.

Eri and I met at an event she was catering; I cannot remember whose party it was – I had gone as my sister’s plus one. All I remember is that the gbẹ̀gìrì was one of the best I have ever had. I told this to my sister, Yeni, and she quickly told me her friend was the caterer.

“Very fine girl”, she added smiling mischievously. “What concerns her fineness with the food?” I asked, shaking my head. Ever since I got the job as a finance manager with a bottling company in Agidingbì, my mother and my sisters have been trying to get me to leave my “girlfriends” and settle down.

Before the end of the night, Yeni found the maker of the gbẹ̀gìrì, introduced her to me as Eri Adunola, and made herself scarce. I found out Eri was a banker by day and a food enthusiast every other time. Once in a while, she catered events to stretch her cooking muscles and make extra cash. It was a difficult balance but she loved the steady paycheck from the bank and the fulfillment from the cooking. We talked for hours that night and I found myself liking her face and her voice more and more. The next day, she invited me to her apartment for peppered snails.

Eri transformed my eating habits. Gone were the days of concoction spaghetti, bread and corned beef, and food packs from the Place. She filled my LG refrigerator with bowls of ẹ̀gúsí, ilá alásèpọ̀ and ẹ̀fọ́ rírò. For one of my birthdays, she invited my friends over to my house and fed us smokey jollof rice, spicy catfish pepper soup and scotch eggs. She took me to see plays at Freedom Park, shows at Bogobiri and numerous other exhibitions that popped up all over Lagos; I took her to La Campagne Tropicana and Hi-Impact Planet. My friends all liked her and let me know I had lucked out with her: she was intelligent, cooked and looked like a dream, and had a great job.

We got along well; there were no rough roads between us. It was an easy, simple friendship with warm romance. There were no intense highs or debilitating lows. The main fight we ever had was over her complaint that we only hung out with my friends and never hers. “It’s not fair,” she told me. “It’s always your thing with your friends. You don’t even make the effort to know my friends.”

“It’s not that na. You guys always do things that are posh” I told her. “It’s either you people want to paint something or see exhibition. You never just want to drink and chill.”

“That’s not true and even if it is, it’s not too much to ask of you. I am always at your hangouts with your guys and their babes.” I pulled her to me and tickled her, “oya no vex. I’ve heard you. I shall endeavor to participate in the stimulating shenanigans you and your friends plan.”

“Ọ̀dẹ̀.”

After we crossed the invisible line from merely dating to seriously dating, I stopped seeing most of my other casual hookups. I was careful not to let Eri know that I sometimes stepped out as she did not strike me as the type of woman that would simply be accepting of “all men cheat.” She seemed like the type that would make me grovel before forgiving me. But forgive me she would.

Two weeks ago, before she came home and packed a suitcase and left home, my wife walked into my office – the door unlocked – and met me straddling Edna, my supervisor, in the brown leather chair that she, Eri, bought for me when I got my promotion. Normally, Eri called ahead if she was stopping by my office, but that Tuesday, on account of having Edna on my laps, her calls went unanswered. The receptionist let her in, recognizing her as oga finance’s wife. My executive assistant, Bernard, who I expected to filter colleagues, guests, and spouses had left his post for a quick chat with someone in the office kitchenette. It may be his last chat in the office.

Eri’s shocked scream brought me out of Edna’s breasts; it brought people out of their cubicles, offices, and the kitchenette. Within seconds, there was a small gathering outside my office. I pushed Edna off me and tried in vain to straighten out my shirt and pants. My wife watched me in disbelief, her mouth slack, before she turned and walked away.

“Eri!” I did not care that my face was likely dotted with Edna’s dark purple lipstick – we were practiced enough in our trysts to not leave lipstick on my shirt – or that my pants were unbuttoned. I did not care that most of my colleagues were gawking and whispering; I grabbed my keys and ran after her.

The last time she found out about another woman was two years ago, just after she resigned from the bank and started her catering business. The reveal had been comically movie-like: she randomly picked up my phone and a message popped in “miss you baby, see you soon“.

I said everything I could to get her to forgive me: the woman meant nothing to me and the affair had been a purely physical relationship. I was under a lot of stress at work and felt neglected because she had been busy setting up her business; in a weak moment, I turned to someone else.

“Don’t you dare blame me,” she yelled at me. It was true that setting up the catering business took most of her time; she was always out at meetings with corporate and individual clients, and suppliers trying to drum up and keep up with business. To ease her guilt about her absences, she did not complain about my extra “boys time” on weekends, some of which I spent with Alice. I had been seeing Alice for years – even while Eri and I started dating – and Eri’s absence or presence made no difference.

It had taken a combination of my groveling, and meetings with our parents for Eri to let it go. For about six months, she was cold towards me and then, one day, out of the blue, she returned back to her old self. I was hoping that the same approach would work this time. My friends are the first line of defense; if they were unsuccessful, I would go to our parents. I knew I would have their support. After all, what Nigerian parent wanted their child’s marriage broken? Her parents were staunch Christians and frowned on divorce. Her mother was the one who set her straight two years ago. “If you leave your husband’s house, someone else will come and enjoy what you have built. Men will be men, it is your duty as a wife to ensure that no one occupies your space, sogbọ́?”

The last time my friends and I gathered at someone’s house for this purpose was a year ago.

Ebube’s wife, Ibinabo, had found compromising messages from and to his ex-girlfriend on his iPad. He had tried to cover his tracks by installing a little-known messaging application (dedicated solely to his lover) on his iPad. Unfortunately, fate, through his 3-year-old daughter, had struck. The little girl had insisted on playing a game of colors, bubbles, and funnily shaped animals on daddy’s iPad. According to him, his insistence on not releasing the iPad had heated Ibinabo’s already raised suspicions and she casually queried why he would not allow their precious daughter play with his iPad.

Father and mother sat tersely watching their daughter play both knowing that a head to the months of late nights, quickly declined phone calls and imperceptible changes in behavior was coming. Once an unfamiliar ping echoed, Ibinabo snatched up the iPad and read the message. Her suspicions were confirmed: her husband was one of those useless cheating Lagos men. The worst part was that he was cheating with the woman she thought she had erased from his heart.

Ebube met his ex-girlfriend, Laide, back in Unilag in our third year, during some BBQ event. She was a second year Biochemistry student who had transferred from a school in Oyo due to incessant strikes. After they started dating, it was a foregone notion that they would get married; unlike the rest of us who were trying to sow wild oats with LUTH babes, Ebube and Laide latched onto each other.

After seven years of dating, Ebube broached the subject of marriage with his parents and they refused. Yes, they liked Laide and had been supportive while the two dated. Yes, they agreed she was an accomplished young woman who would add feathers to the cap of a worthy man, but she was Yoruba and they could not allow their son to marry a Yoruba girl. We wondered why his mother and sisters had called Laide “our wife” every time she visited. We also wondered why they did not reject gifts of perfumes and beauty products from her Yoruba hands when she brought them.

I thought Ebube was going to rebel against his family and elope with Laide. He was the one who, while in school, led various protests against unfair school initiatives and wrote scathing articles in the school newspaper about the poor state of school accommodation. He was the one who nearly got an extra year for exposing corrupt practices in the engineering department.

For a year, he stood up to his parents. He and Laide made grand plans of going to the Ikoyi registry and getting married without their parents’ blessings. They posited that sooner or later, especially when they had children, his parents would come around. He alternated between pleading with his parents and raging at them for their backward tribalistic views. Soon, Laide’s parents also became hostile; why should they allow their daughter to marry into an Igbo family that did not want her? They drew from their own well of prejudice and opposed the union as well.

We provided as much support as we could; Timi went with Ebube to Ikoyi registry to make enquiries, Akah and I arranged mediation with both parents to get them onboard the marriage train. Once, we all (with Laide) went to prostrate before his parents to ask that they change their mind for the sake of their son’s happiness. Nothing worked.

Ultimately, the fight proved too much for Ebube and Laide; their bold declarations of love could not withstand familial bonds and emotional parental blackmail. Ebube broke things off and strangely, immediately channeled his attention to finding another woman to marry. Ibinabo was the perfect woman: educated, beautiful, traditional, and most importantly, from the South. There was a little hiccup about her “South-Southerness” but his parents knew they had stretched the line as far as they could and did not put up a fuss.

For years he was a committed husband and then, a committed father. When the gang met up (fewer and fewer times over the years), he appeared to have settled into married life well. He doted on his wife and daughter. Akah and I soon followed in Ebube’s matrimonial steps and our conversations became a mix of nostalgic recollections of school days and highlights of married life. But then, Ebube ran into Laide at some inconsequential event organized by his company and everything unraveled.

Ebube was contrite after he was exposed. He was sorry; he did not want to leave his wife and he wanted to make his marriage work. Again, we his friends rallied around him and went to beg his wife. Ibinabo was made to see the error of throwing away her marriage; in one of the meetings, her mother explained the utter disgrace that would come from being a divorced woman.

“Marriage is for better for worse and cheating is not even the worst thing that can happen.” She looked at her son-in-law, “you have shown great weakness Ebube, but men are known to be weak in this area.” She looked back to her daughter, “you have to forgive. There are no marriages without problems. It is how you choose to handle the problems that matter. Think of your daughter; you do not want it said that she is from a broken home. Who will want a woman from a broken home? Nobody. So please, forgive your husband.” Ibinabo forgave her husband and he in turn, became better adept at hiding his affair.

As these thoughts of past reconciliations ran through my head, I told myself that Eri would definitely forgive me. She was a Yoruba woman and Yoruba women carried their husbands and their marriages on their heads. Once we got past this, I would suggest we start trying for a child. That would pull us together and wipe the blight of my affair.

Eri left me. She came with her mother and told me flatly that she was done with me. She called me a selfish bastard who took and took and gave nothing back and that cheating was the last of many straws. Her mother said nothing. She sat stiffly and kept her eyes on her daughter. The one glance she spared me was filled with loathing. My friends did not get far with their entreaties; she called them òpònús and alákọrís who ate her food and turned a blind eye to their friend’s uselessness. They said little after that.

Mother and daughter left with promises of being back to get the last of my wife’s things.

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Welcome! I am a recovering writer learning the ropes again. It is a pleasure to have you on this journey with me. I hope you enjoy reading the stories I write, as much as I (hopefully) enjoy writing them.