Ilerioluwa has been gone for 10 months, 9 days, 8 minutes and 7 seconds. You know that because right after that final hug at the airport in Lagos, a timer had gone off on your phone, curating the length of time he would be gone for.
If anyone ever told you you could stay that long without seeing him, you would have laughed at the absurdity of the thought alone. You were not a long distance type of girl and with all your previous relationships, the moment distance jumped into the equation, you were quick to jump out. But something about Ilerioluwa gives you hope and strengthens your heart.
Perhaps that something is in his name- Promise; Ileri’s love is a promise of consistency, sufficiency and contentment. His heart feels like home. So even though he leaves often you rest assured that he will always come back to you. He takes a part of you with him every time he leaves, yet leaves you hopeful that someday, all your parts will be made whole again. And in the past 2 years he has kept that promise. Your parts usually come together again in a matter of weeks.
But these 10 months, 9 days, 8 minutes and 27 seconds have been the longest and your heart feels like it cannot take another extra second away from home. So when he calls tonight, you rend his heart with your doubts which have lately been overwhelming. You decline his request for a skype call because you do not want to have to look into those brown eyes that will be guaranteed to drown your fears. You have made yourself at home with doubts and there appears to be no room left to indulge hope.
“I need you to trust me baby.” Ileri pleads.
But you see, trust is fragile and so is your heart, and distance becomes the weight that forces a crack on both.
“When are you coming back?”
“I don’t know my love. Getting time off work has been impossible. The projects keep dragging. Everyone is frustrated.
Will you go see my mum? Spend a weekend with her?”
The prospect is tempting. Iya Ileri is a cannonball of happiness. Surely a weekend with her will help rid you of the blues. Her destiny trapping ayamase will soothe your aching heart and her cuddles will make you feel whole again, if only for a few days. You contemplate in silence and because Ileri knows you well, he seizes the moment.
“Please baby, go spend some time with her. And then bring back gist of your most scintillating gossip.”
You laugh. Iya Ileri always fills your itchy ears with tales from Ileri’s childhood; tales of how his curiosity landed him in trouble multiple times or how his wagging tongue earned him countless lashings from his strict disciplinarian father. Tales of how he chopped off his older sisters’ beautiful curls in their sleep because they had beaten him earlier in the day. For every visit, there was a new story or an old one with some new detail.
When the weekend comes and you show up at hers, it is a tale of lost love and the girl who crushed Ileri’s heart by refusing to wait for his return from his Master’s degree. Iya Ileri sees through your soul and even though you say nothing of the doubts you entertain, she tries to dispel them with her warmth and effusive love.
“I miss him too you know,” she begins
“And I often feared that he would marry someone I couldn’t get along with. Someone who would take him away from me forever. But with you, I no longer have that fear. I know he will always come home.”
You smile and hug her. Your tummy is bulging from the heavy meal it has been blessed with but even while your arms are wrapped around her, she calls for Suwe, the little kid who lives with her to bring you some goat meat peppersoup. Iya Ileri is the very definition of killing someone with enjoyment.
“Mummy, I am full, I promise. There’s no space again.”
“Just small,” she insists. And to the kid she yells, “sare sare!”
Later that night, as you drift off to sleep cuddled in Iya Ileri’s arms, you hear her whisper.
“Ileri will come back to you dear daughter. He is nothing like his father.”
Song of the Day: ‘Wait for Me’- Johnny Drille