Aisha, here I am alone again tonight in this old empty house. I am going crazy thinking about you once again. This house is not empty in the real sense of the word because my wife and two kids are playing in the sitting room but Aisha, without you this house is empty, my life is empty. Do you still remember me Aisha. I can see you standing in the shadows, a vague form hovering over me but all I want is for you to come into reality. Aisha I want to let you know that you are killing me. After all these years, what I felt for you still remains strong and true.
I don’t know what brought us together, what strange forces of nature conspired to construct the present from the past. Aisha, do you still remember the first time we met? Do you have memories of NYSC in Kaduna state like I do? Can you remember the long queue for registration on the first day of the camp? You were standing in front of me with your blue top and pencil jean trouser. We were all waiting patiently to be attended to by the officials. We got tired of the long hours of waiting. I remember how you turned around and asked me to look after your space for you. You said you wanted to go and sit on the concrete slab opposite the hall to rest for a while. I looked into your eyes and got captivated. Do you still remember how I whispered my “alright”? Aisha, my heart was on fire, I was stunned by your looks. You were like an angel dropped from heaven, a dream turning into reality.
You didn’t stay for long at the slab did you? As soon as you left, the long queue was split into two by the officials for ease of registration. You ran back to my side and we found ourselves at the front end of the second queue.
I did my registration and waited for you to be attended to. Aisha, do you remember the quick side glance you gave me when you saw me waiting for you by the sideline? I knew you knew that something was in the offing.
When you were done with the registration you walked up to me.
I took your hands Aisha, didn’t I? It was spontaneous and strange but it felt good. It was something we just couldn’t control. It was love. We both had butterflies in our tummy, didn’t we? I asked your name and told you mine. We were both tongue tied and quickly exchanged phone numbers.
We talked on phone later that evening, after the close of the first evening parade. You were in your hostel and I was in Mami market searching for a good restaurant to eat in. You told me to search very well for a good place so that I will take you to the joint the next day, didn’t you?
We bonded very fast and became a camp couple Aisha, our colleagues were jealous of us, weren’t they?
Aisha do you recall our escapades at Mami market? Do you recall the night we hid in Mama One naira shop’s just because we wanted to avoid attending the boring talent hunt show in the general auditorium?
You and I were an item, a Fulani girl and a Calabar boy deeply in love, planning a future together. We dreamt and hoped of serving in the same place of primary assignment. Aisha, tell me do you remember our first kiss? It was a rainy and wet Friday camp fire night. We were together at the back of platoon four tent. The area was dark and quiet. I pulled you to myself and we locked lips. You loved it, didn’t you? It was the seal of our relationship. Do you remember the solemn vow we made to each other, to be together forever?
We had fun in camp, Aisha, you taught me some Fulani words and phrases. I taught you some of my Efik words and phrases. We both teased each other on our slow rate of learning. We joked that our language would be the official language of our home when we got married.
Aisha, do you remember the last day of camp? The day we got our posting letters? We were posted to serve in different local government areas but we were excited to find out that they were neighbouring LGAs which meant we won’t have difficulties seeing each other frequently.
Aisha we were living as a couple during our service year. You decorated my life. I saw the true essence of womanhood in you. You were the bright horizon in my life, the rainbow that brought serenity and tranquility to my soul.
We took tours during our service year, didn’t we? We traveled to Kano, Jigawa and Minna. Do you remember the midnight rendezvous at Sabongari? Do you remember the open air dance under the Balsam tree at Banurwi? You warned me not to use perfume that night but I went ahead and sprayed myself with my Versace spray. Do you remember the swarm of flies that enveloped me? You laughed at me Aisha, didn’t you? That night was special, the atmosphere was surreal, the breeze was pleasant and love was in the air. You were nervous and sweaty, I assured you everything was going to be alright. Everything was just fine.
Aisha, I am crying deep inside my soul, the tears are pouring out in torrents…Oh how I miss the smooth contour of your body, your curves and your edges, your pointed nose, gap tooth, oval face, your dimpled cheeks and your brown eyes. Aisha your complexion shone as bright as the morning sun, your smile was as enchanting as that of the sirens on the Islands traveled by Odysseus.
Our service year ended much faster than we imagined, Aisha. We had decided to spend the rest of our lives together. We traveled to your home in Sokoto to meet your family. They welcomed me with open arms, didn’t they? I liked the calm environment of your village, I liked the savannah grassland, I told you I admired the shape and sizes of the huts, didn’t i? I liked the large farmlands where I saw onions, cabbage and water melons growing side by side. I loved watching the cows as they mooed and grazed on the grasses while the herdsmen issued orders to them. I remember asking you if you could communicate with the cows, didn’t i? I like the people, they looked simple and happy.
Aisha, you introduced me to your mum and dad. I saw your mum and immediately that you took after her in complexion and facial features. She was as beautiful as you and the resemblance was striking! Your dad, Alhaji Monsul Ibrahim, a dark complexioned man, tall with a short grey beard loked a bit reserved. You told him I was your lover, you told him you wanted to be my wife.
Aisha, that was the beginning of our woes.
Aisha, your dad’s countenance changed when you told him you loved me. I saw his features tightened. I saw a frown on his face. He said that I can’t marry you, didn’t he? He said he can’t give his beautiful university graduate daughter to a Nyamiri. I later asked you what the meaning of Nyamiri was, you told me it is a derogatory word used to describe Southerners.
I told your dad that I loved you, I told him to give us his blessing, but he refused, wasn’t that so? Aisha you cried, you begged him to say Yes to our union. I told him that I was ready to convert to Islam because of you. I told him that I would ditch the bible for the Koran to prove my level of love for you. What did your dad say Aisha? He said even if I converted, I will still be regarded as an infidel and hence can’t marry his first daughter.
Your mum felt our pain but she didn’t have a say over the issue. Aisha, I shed tears that day.
We left Sokoto with a broken heart the next morning. I tried to cheer you up, didn’t I? I told you that I would rather die than leave you. I tried to make fun of the situation. I tried to crack jokes to lift up our spirits.
Do you remember that we stayed in Kaduna for two days? Aisha I then took you to Calabar to meet my family. We traveled to our house at Marian road to meet my parents. You were amazed at the beauty and serenity of Calabar, weren’t you? Aisha,I can recall you said that you would like to settle down and raise a family in this city.
I told my parents that I loved you. I told them that I wanted to marry you. I informed them that you were the one for me. Aisha, can you remember the look of disapproval on their faces when they found out that you were a Fulani girl? What did they say Aisha? Do you still remember that hurtful phrase?
“What are you doing with an awusa girl? You cannot marry an awusa lady when our beautiful Efik girls are everywhere”
That is what my dad said. My mum supported him with a big No.
Aisha, you broke down and cried, Aisha over the rejection by both families. I was infuriated with them. I wondered why we called ourselves “one Nigeria” when we still had deep seated tribal and religious prejudices. We were united in our love Aisha, we broke cultural and religious barriers but our families were the stumbling blocks.
There was nothing wrong with you Aisha, my sisters loved you, my cousins liked you, even the young men in our neighbourhood lusted after you but they all didn’t approve of a son of the soil marrying a Fulani lady.
Aisha we left Calabar in a sad state of mind. I told you that we should elope. I wanted us to travel out of Nigeria, leaving everything behind us. You told me to give you some time didn’t you? Aisha you implored me to give you some more time to talk to your father. You said you could change his mind. After a week in Kaduna, you travelled to Sokoto to stay with your family for a while.
Aisha can you remember what happened in Zaria that Thursday morning, two weeks after you had left for home? A riot broke out. It was a religious riot, the Muslims fighting against the Christians, northerners clashing with southerners. Smoke and debris filled the city. Oh Aisha I can still recall your last phone call to me. You were almost breaking down on the phone, you were anxious about my safety, you told me to run to and stay in the military barracks for safety. I told you that I would get to safety, I asked you to pray for me.
Aisha, things went haywire after that phone call, law and order broke down. The police and army could not control the orgy of violence. Houses were burnt down, throats were slit, people were clubbed to death. Our residence was attacked. The roof was destroyed. Aisha it was a devastating experience, you needed to have seen how your kitchen was desecrated, the china plates and utensils that you bought in Zaria market were all smashed to pieces. I lost three of my Igbo friends that day, they were hounded and clubbed to death. I narrowly escaped being lynched by the mob. I ran with all my strength to the bus park. There was an overcrowded truck filled with southerners fleeing the city. I joined them and we headed south. Aisha I escaped with nothing else other than the clothes on my back. I called your phone number several times but it was switched off.
I stayed in Calabar for things to calm down up north, Aisha your number wasn’t going through anymore. I kept on dialing every-day in futility. I called Zainab your former roommate at your Ppa, she told me that she hasn’t heard from you recently.
Aisha, I couldn’t sleep at night, my dreams were all about you. I saw your face every day. My love for you blossomed like the morning dew. Aisha, my parents said you had bewitched me, they brought in pastors to pray for me. The pastors said you had cast a spell on me. They said they were going to break the spell. They held special prayers for me everyday in the house, they anointed my head with olive oil daily, they used holy water on me. I endured the charade and was relieved when they finally said they had broken the spell but Aisha, my thoughts were still with you.
Aisha, I couldn’t bear it anymore, I ran back to Kaduna to search for you. I traveled to your hometown in Sokoto. I got to your family house and found no one there. While debating on what to do next, a young man approached me from the distance. I inquired about the whereabouts of your family. He told me in very poor pidgin English that no one lives there anymore. He told me that you have been married to a prince from Adamawa. He told me the prince had built a new house for your parents in the city center. I got the address from him and rushed down to the house. I was turned back at the gate. The gate man told me that I couldn’t gain entry into the building. I had no one to tell me where you were.
I then called Zainab asking if she had any information about you. Zainab told me you were in Mecca. Zainab said you were on Hajj with your husband. I asked her if she was certain you were married. Zainab confirmed to me that she attended your Nikah.
Oh Aisha, I broke down and wept. I cried like a baby, I wanted to end my life…I contemplated suicide. How could you get married to another man? Aisha how could you be so cruel to me? How could you forget everything we shared? How could you do this to me?
I could recall the songs we used to sing in the time past. You were a WestLife fan, weren’t you? I could recall Soledad…
“If only you could see the tears
In the world you left behind
If only you could heal my heart
Just one more time
Even when I close my eyes
There’s an image of your face
And once again I come to realize
You’re a loss I can’t replace
Soledad, it’s a keeping for the lonely
Since the day that you were gone
Why did you leave me, Soledad?
In my heart you were the only
And your memory lives on
Why did you leave me, Soledad?”
I went back to Calabar. Aisha, life lost its salt for me. I became a recluse, I became a hermit. I stayed indoors day dreaming about your beautiful face, about your smooth skin. I longed to run my fingers through your long hair, I longed to inhale the scent of your skin, I longed to hear you call me “Megida” once again in your soft melodious voice.
My friends talked to me, my parents talked to me, they said the North and the South can’t get along, they said I should move on with my life. I struggled to come to terms with reality…I heeded their advice. Aisha, I got a nice job at a multinational firm. I bought a lovely car that you would have graced the front seat as my first lady. Women flocked around me, beautiful girls fell in love with me. My parents said I should bring them a wife. Oh Aisha, they said they were growing old and wanted grand children.
Aisha, I finally succumbed to the pressure. My mother introduced me to Enewan Udoh, her friend’s daughter. Mom played the role of a match maker and I married Enewan after three months of meeting her.
Aisha, I have two lovely kids from Enewan; a boy and girl named Ekong and Joy.
My parents are happy but I am a sad man at heart.
Aisha I still want you. It is now three years since we last spoke on phone during the Zaria incident.
Enewan is not like you, she is not as sophisticated as you, she isn’t as intelligent as you. Your beauty surpasses her’s by far. I like her as a wife but not as a lover. Enewan is chubby and snores at night. But she is an obedient wife who does what she is told.
Aisha do you believe that I can’t engage in my conjugal duties with my wife without thinking of you? I can’t touch her without picturing her as you. I want you back.
Tell me, is your husband tall or short? Is he as handsome as me? Tell me, do you love him? Were you forced to marry him or did you marry him out of your freewill? How many children do you have? Are they as lovely with long curly hair like you?
Aisha if you ever get to read this, I want you to know that I am still thinking of you and I know that wherever you are, you are also thinking of me. Our love is endless and one day we shall meet again. Aisha, some broken hearts never mend, some memories never end, some tears will never dry and my love for you will never die.
I am your love, Bassey Henshaw.
By Iniobong Umoh
We love reading from you. have your say in the comment box.