Disclosure /dɪsˈkləʊʒə/ noun: the action of making new or secret information known.
“Can we skip classes today?”
That was the first thing Danladi said to me this morning, when I sat with him at the bar during our customary ‘pre-class’ catch up.
I had hesitated at first, mentally calculating just how much of the month’s fees I would be wasting by missing a class. I even imagined my mum deciding to do a spot check on this very day that I would choose to skip class, because that’s how the gods work. It’s on the day that I decide to do something bad that I get caught. But I needed to hear what this man had to say. We needed to clear things up pronto! and there was no way I was going to fight the battle of concentrating in class knowing just how much I needed to know that I didn’t.
So there we were, sitting by the water at Ember Creek, and I’m watching him bite his fingernails nervously – a habit I’ve never noticed until now. He has a faraway look in his eye, and I imagine that he’s mentally pulling the story together in his head, the one I expect him to tell me, the one he better tell me or else… Or nothing actually. Who am I kidding? I can’t do anything to him. I just wish he’d come out with it already.
“So are we going to talk about this or not?” I ask, after waiting ‘patiently’ for like five seconds.
“I should apologize first of all. I seem to do that a lot with you actually.” He smiles sadly. Briefly.
“I’m sorry Asher. For the embarrassment and inconvenience. For dragging you into this.” A nervous thumb scratches his nose. “Not in my wildest imagination did I see things unfolding this way. When I think about it really, I must have been stupid. Stupid enough to think that I could continue to hide your existence. There’s no way I could have hidden how happy you make me, no way I could have pretended that there was nothing responsible for my less frequent trips to Abuja. I figured she would start to suspect when I didn’t go home the first month, and then the second month. But she said nothing even after the third successive month of me lying about having to work weekends to make up for the time I was spending at French school.”
I’m trying not to focus on the fact that I’ve become a reason for him to lie to his wife, for him to shirk his monthly responsibility of going home. So engrossed was I in this thing between us that I effectively tricked myself into ignoring her existence. Otherwise, I would have asked questions, about why he didn’t go and see her or why she didn’t come to see him.
“Turns out Aisha mentioned you to her as soon as she got back from her trip. But I guess she chose not to react immediately. Instead, she waited another month and when I didn’t make the customary trip home, she called me and told me she needed me to come home urgently. Which is why I made the trip this weekend. And which is why it seemed so unannounced.”
Then he turns to me, takes my hand putting palm to palm and then interlocking fingers.
“I love you… I didn’t know it until I looked at my wife screaming at me and all I could think of was the fact that you were here in Lagos, waiting for me.”
And just like that, I had my first married man hopelessly ensnared. I didn’t know it then, that he was the first of many. I certainly hadn’t pictured myself as a serial “other woman”. But it felt good to let those words wash over me anyway. He loved me, despite the fact that he was married, and that his wife had found out about us, about me.
I was giddy with joy. It was the first time I believed someone who had said he loved me. My boyfriend (that’s true, I still had one) said it on occasion and I always responded alike but I don’t think either of us really meant it, or knew what it meant.
“I love you too” I said shyly in response to his declaration. At this point, it occurred to me that I needed to break up with my boyfriend officially. When would I do that? It would have to be over the phone. And I wasn’t looking forward to that prospect. Anyway, back to the present. Danladi had a gentle hand on my cheek and he was staring into my eyes. His lips were moving and I realized I had drifted off for a minute.
“…don’t want this to end.” I caught the end of that sentence. “If you don’t want to go on, I’ll understand why, but know that I won’t let you be. I’ll come to your class every day and call you all the time. I’ll come find you at your house and make sure I meet your parents.”
I open my mouth, aghast at the thought that he’d show up at my parents’ house. I’m thinking just how much trouble I would get into if my mum found out when it occurs to me that he doesn’t even know where I live. Then I catch the mischievous look in his eyes and we both laugh softly.
“You wouldn’t do that. You don’t know where I live.”
“I can find out. Easily. But I’m hoping I won’t have to chase you to the ends of the earth.”
“Before you start chasing me to the ends of the earth, what are you going to do about her?” I ask with a surprising audacity.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’ll still have to visit home, she’s still your wife. I don’t imagine she’s very pleased with you at the moment. And from what I understand, you left without resolving things. Plus, you want to keep seeing me… I’m just curious as to how you intend to manage the whole situation.”
“I don’t know. That’s the simple answer. The good news is that I only have to endure a visit home once a month. The bad news is that I have to endure a visit home once a month. I figure I can manage that, but do I want to do it? Not really.”
“Ok. So I’ll leave that to you to figure out. But explain me this. When you were at the airport yesterday, you asked me to be careful, like you were worried that something would happen to me.”
His brow furrows and he turns his face slightly away from me. “Yes. I did.”
“Why?” I ask. “Do you think she could harm me? Even you don’t know where I live. And she doesn’t live in Lagos. So how could she possibly get to me?”
“Her father has unlimited resources at his disposal. His brother, her uncle, was a former president.”
“Ehn? Of which country?” The ‘tush’ left me for a brief second as visions of being tailed and kidnapped and beaten up filled my mind, my eyes wide like saucers.
“This country. She’s xxxxxx’s niece. (I’ve omitted this former president’s name to protect myself in the event that they come for me, again – Yes. They did come for me…).
“Really.” I responded, more a statement than a question. “Wow. That’s interesting.” I’m well aware that I’m babbling, but I’m trying to come to grips with this news. If he’s married to the niece of such an important person, then who is he really??? It dawns on me that there’s a whole lot I do not know about this man that I have just claimed to love; his surname among other things. And you’re probably thinking I must have been the stupidest girl in the world, but to be honest, I only really needed to know his first name. It wasn’t like I was planning to marry the guy, so his pedigree wasn’t my first concern. I was just happy to be with someone who thought the world of me. Surely, you can’t judge me for that. Even if you do, like I said at the very beginning, I’m used to being judged, so it won’t really make a difference.
Anyway, the silence between us is drawn out for a while, me grappling with the awkwardness of my situation; him, probably just giving me time to absorb. And then I remember that I still needed clarity on one more thing.
“So, this business with Aisha, how did you resolve it with your wife? Was she not bothered by the fact that you had dated her sister before?”
“Salama doesn’t know that Aisha and I were an item. You see, I met Aisha while I was working on my Master’s degree in the UK. We had a very, should I say ‘interesting’ relationship – parties, alcohol and lots of sex. I was young, she was younger and we were tired of being restrained by what we call culture here. So once we got the opportunity to get out of the country, I think we both had the same agenda – to just go and be crazy. Unfortunately, we met and it made for a dangerous combination – it was your typical love-hate relationship. We brought out the absolute worst in each other.”
He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. “I left after my Master’s and I never looked back. I never called, didn’t email or text. I didn’t even try to find out what she was doing or where she was. And then my father started talking to me about getting married and before you know it, my mum had “found” me a wife, and it was on one of those visits to meet the families that I ran into Aisha again, almost two years after I ‘disappeared’ – that’s how she described it.”
“And she let you marry her sister without raising any objections? Without telling her parents or her sister? Didn’t it bother her? I would have been super angry with you.”
“Oh, she was angry. Still is. Aisha can hold a grudge…” his voice drifts off on that word and he looks like he’s gone far away. I imagine he’s thinking of the grudges she had held in the past. And then a sad look crosses his face and he shakes his head. What I would give to have known what he was thinking at the time. But I had already a lot of information to digest as well. So I decided that I’d stick to that for now; because something tells me there’s more to be told…