“Hello,” said the male voice at the other end.
“Yemi Martins speaking. How can I help you?”
“My name is Tunde Mann. I have been looking for you for the past year now. I am Wale Taylor’s friend from UniLag.”
The mention of that very familiar name rolled over me like a powerful ocean, its waves pulling me into a whirlwind that suddenly left me bereft of speech. I think I stuttered in response, for the stranger was saying, “I have something to tell you.”
Intuitively, I braced myself. In three words, Tunde Mann gave me the saddest news of my life.
“Wale is dead.”
Completely undone, I froze, unable to hear anything else the stranger was saying.
My employers found me in my precarious state some few hours later. A fellow colleague drove me home – although I have no recollection of this till date. I remember Mummy coming over to my apartment and making me some hot tea to thaw me out of my emotional shock. Mummy told me later that my work colleagues had called to tell her that I wasn’t feeling well. At one point during my non-verbal state, she had wondered if she would have to call an ambulance. But I told her I was fine, she had said – although I have no recollection of that either.
I came out of my trance when Tunde came to visit me later that week. Mummy said he had kept calling my cell phone after the day he had informed me of Wale’s death and that he had become increasingly concerned when I hadn’t picked up the phone. She had finally given him my address and he had come looking for me. In between my frequent bursts of tears, Tunde had explained how Wale died. There had been a cult attack outside University of Lagos’ Campus three years prior. Wale was one of the many innocent victims that had been shot to death. Several days before he died, Tunde said he had scribbled a poem of me in one of his higher education notebooks – one that he had planned to post in the school’s Magazine, but with his sudden death, had been unable to.
“He talked about you all the time.” Tunde said. “You were his muse. He used to write poems about you and post it in the monthly Student Union Magazines. We called him a lovesick Zombie, but he didn’t care. Girls were chasing him all over campus, but his heart stayed on you.”
I gasped in surprise through my tears. “I thought he had forgotten all about me. He stopped writing me.”
“There was a lot he was dealing with. He was always broke,” Tunde explained patiently. “I don’t know if you heard about his parents…how they lost everything they had to 419ers. Then his father had a stroke after that. That incident affected his family badly. In fact, it was so bad that there were times that he couldn’t pay his registration fees, talk less of buying food to eat.”
“He should have told me. I would have helped him.” I wept.
“Maybe he didn’t want to put pressure on you,” Tunde said. “Or maybe it had to do with pride. We’ll never know. All I know is that he loved you. When I moved to the States for my MBA last year, I could only think of contacting you so you’ll know he passed away and to give you this…”
He handed me a pile of papers with scribbles all over it.
“Thank God for Hi-5’s networking site,” Tunde continued, “I don’t know how I would have been able to find you in this big country.”
I looked at one of the papers and realized that they were poems…poems of me written by Wale’s familiar handwriting.
I broke down and wept again. To think that I had thought of Wale forgetting all about me when really, he had continued loving me, left me wishing that I had been more aggressive in my love for him as he had been of me.
I mourned Wale after Tunde’s visit and three years later, I mourned him when I started a new life by becoming Mrs. Mann. Tunde and I had started dating one year after I had heard of Wale’s death. I guess one of the reasons I fell in love with Tunde was because he had so many stories to tell me of my first love – poignant tales that reminded me of the boy who had promised to be there for me no matter what.
It’s been five years since I got married but Wale Taylor will always be in a special place in my heart, as I was in his while he was alive. I grieve for him every day, but I have found a way to celebrate him with joy, for that was how I last saw him – a joyful boy with a rabbitty laugh to everything that was both funny…and not.
Writer: Lara Daniels is the author of Love in Paradise and Love at Dawn. Learn more about her and her works at http://www.laradaniels.com/or follow her on twitter @LDparables