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My Tomi by Collins Undelikwo

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My Tomi,

There’s something really sad about time. There’s something scary about the fact that we have no control of it. We can’t rewind it to correct our mistakes and we can’t go to our future to see what it holds. We’re stuck here in the present, the heaven or hell our past selves have created, with decisions that we can’t change continuously steering us to a future that we can’t see.

We often think that our lives are all in our hands, to shape however we want. That’s a lie. We can’t do that as much as we’d like. We may try to escape what we’ve done. We may think that better and different decisions would alter our paths for good. But the past is something that would forever loom, like a puppet master with a wry smile, menacingly pulling our strings back and forth, dictating everything we do.

I know I have no future, Tomi. A future where I’d live in a loop of suffering is not one to look forward to. A future without you is meaningless. It’s hell. And I’m the devil that’s created it.

I thought I could run far away from my past self, I thought he’d stop chasing. But I was wrong and it didn’t take long before he caught up with me. He was always better at running anyway. Always better at escaping the people that pursued him. He always excelled at stealing, at robbing people of their money, their dreams, their hopes, and often, their lives.

He’s done the same thing now.

I’m sorry that you’re living through this hell too. I’m sorry for the pain and shame that I’ve caused you. But you have to understand that there was no way I could tell you. I was scared that you would hate me, probably even more than you do now.

The truth is, I always knew I was undeserving of your love, Tomi. You gave me a life that a man like me could only dream of dreaming of. Everything in my life up to the point I met you was a nightmare, but with you, all I needed to do was live a wonderful dream without worrying about waking up.

I was never religious until I met you. I never believed in God or any other man except myself. In a world I had always thought was dark, you were bright, beautiful light. You were my Road to Damascus.

Do you think I became ‘born again’ when I stood in front of the altar at St. Julius and mumbled a prayer of forgiveness? No, Tomi. I got born again when I met you. I got complete redemption when I stood in front of that same altar, teary-eyed as I looked at your immaculate white dress and your beaming smile, and said “I do” with utmost conviction. You gave me new life.

I anticipated sharing that life with you and I love how we agreed on what our future would be. We were going to have two beautiful kids. You wanted two boys because you said, “Bayboy, you’re enough for me… but if I could have two tiny yous running around, I’d be the happiest woman.” I laughed. Ever since Mr. Hugreave, your sister’s Irish ex-husband, mispronounced my name as ‘Bay yoh’, you made it stick. You would tease me with different nicknames: “Bayonnaisse…Bayobaby…Bayboy…”. There was no end and I cherished it.

I cherish every single moment we shared. I know it sounds cliche but when I was with you, nothing else mattered. Every minute with you was heaven, I just loved looking at you and listening to your voice. At night, we would talk for hours, then we’d take what you called ‘breaks’, kissing and holding onto each other like we were going to disappear forever if we didn’t. Then you would climb on top of me as I struggled to take off my pyjamas, your nightgown already miles away by the door. You’d place your palm on my chest after I was finally naked and slowly run your fingers downward—the start of what was always intense lovemaking. Heaven.

We’d lay down quietly when we were done, still holding onto each other. We’d talk again. This time about us and our future. We’d talk and tease each other until our eyelids began to close and our words started to form the prologues of our dreams. We rarely talked about them, but in my dreams, we were always together, we were always happy. We had two kids—a boy and a girl, a blue Ferrari, and a big mansion, almost exactly like we imagined our future would be. We had plans. Big plans. Until the puppetmaster that is my past pulled the strings and ruined everything.

I love you, Tomi. I know it hurts to read that but I do. When the police found me at Richard’s party, after years of searching (and after plans to make me travel to Ibadan, the scene of my crimes), you were the only one I thought about. I didn’t care about what I faced in jail. I didn’t care that my ‘friend’ had just ratted me out and that I was damned. I didn’t care that the evidence against me was overwhelming and that two members of my former gang were lured and made to confess too. I only cared about you. The terror that tore through my body when I pictured your reaction to all of it. I knew it would break your heart. The police called Uncle Jimoh and Mummy and I tried so hard to make them keep my arrest secret. I begged them not to tell you. That was stupid because I knew you would find out either way. I cried so hard that day. I thought about you, about us, and all the plans we had. After it dawned on me that I had ruined all of that completely, I became desperate. I told Uncle Jimoh to help me get the best lawyers he could find, Mummy couldn’t come because the news was too devastating for her. I knew I had broken my mother’s heart. I couldn’t break yours too, Tomi. I tried so hard to fight it in court. I pleaded with my lawyer, with the policemen, and anyone I could beg at all. The case was closed even before I got the final verdict.

The day I was arraigned, I couldn’t dare look up. I could feel your presence in the courtroom. It felt more eminent than that of the judge, more imposing than the Bible or the gavel. I saw the irony. My redemption came before God and men at the altar, when we made our vows and kissed for the first time as a married couple, you embellished in a white dress and me, a white tuxedo. My damnation, on the other hand, came before God and men, my hands on a black Bible as I took a vow of truth, after lying to you for years, and still being unable to even look in your direction.

I might never get to say it in person, but I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry, Tomi. You don’t deserve this. I’ve always hated the thought of you crying and I hate even more that I made you cry. I wish I could make it all disappear. That I could wrap time and reality around my wrists and twist it backward, erasing every evil I’d ever done. I sit in my prison cell and I cry almost every day, thinking about you.

All I have now are memories. All I think about now is the past because at least you’re in it. I hold onto those moments in my mind like if I didn’t, they would disappear forever. I think about the fact that you still have a bright future ahead of you and it’s the only thing that makes me happy. That even though, I won’t be in your life forever, you’d be better off. I think about you before I go to sleep because if I don’t, all I have are nightmares. I talk slowly to myself as I remember our sensual nights, I let the tears flow down my face without fighting them. Every night I wish for the same dream: you in that immaculate wedding dress, happy and smiling, beckoning me to come, when I do, you grab my hand and we fly. We fly so close to the sun that when we do I realize that you’re the brightest light I’d ever see. In reality and in my dreams.

Your Bayby, Bayo.

 

 

 

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