We met at Tito’s housewarming. It wasn’t really her housewarming. Her father had gifted her the house on her 19th birthday which was almost four years ago. But Tito would always look for reasons to have a good party. I saw him the moment I walked through the heavy wood doors. He sat in a corner with Jerry, Tito’s brother. Maybe I noticed him first for the fullness of his afro or the bright colour of his shirt or the way he seemed to exist so comfortably. I do not remember. I stared at him for a good 15 seconds before Tito shouted my name from the other side of the room.
Technically, we didn’t meet at Tito’s housewarming. I saw him and we exchanged grins but he says he has no recollection of seeing me that day whatsoever. We said our first words to each other two months later during Sunday’s brunch at Jerry’s house. I had arrived earlier than everyone. I knew Jerry was asleep when I rang the doorbell so, after several minutes of politely waiting, I let myself in. We had brunch together once a month, I, Tito, Jerry and Amanda (Tito’s ex-girlfriend). You see, the meeting point was Tito. Soon, Jerry was awake and slightly startled by my figure lying on his couch and drinking his wine. After we hugged and made a few jokes about me outdoing Houdini, we set off to the kitchen to set the places and wait for the food to be delivered. Later Tito came clutching a bottle of wine that she would end up drinking all by herself. Then I saw him. I thought I was dreaming because what are the odds? He silently made his way down the stairs and proceeded to walk around greeting everyone with a kiss on both cheeks. I found it ridiculous because that is something you only ever see in movies. When he approached me he paused and stretched out both his hands like an offering. Was I supposed to take his hands in mine? Was I supposed to stretch mine like an offering too? From the side of my eye, I could see Tito and Jerry laughing silently. I finally decided on taking his hands in mine. I was greeted by the softness of his hands and later, we would joke that his hands were those of someone who had never known suffering.
I guess it was the way everything about him was so calm, relaxed yet dramatic in a sort of way. He never spoke without gesticulating. Everything about him was done with some eagerness. Eager to make everyone happy and eager to convey his point across. The night we played charades I realized that the tightening I felt in my chest whenever I saw him wasn’t going to go away the next day. Amanda sat beside me the whole night nudging me whenever he said something funny or whenever he glanced in our direction. As the both of us went to refill our empty glasses in the kitchen she whispered to me that men who are not inherently misogynistic and homophobic are difficult to find in this Abuja.
Our first date was exactly 6 months after we met. He had only asked me the night before if I would like to go with him to his friend’s book reading. I had acted like I hadn’t waited 6 months for this very day. I spent all afternoon at Tito’s place pacing, picking out dresses and whatnot. I felt like a teenager again. When he showed up that evening in a white button-up and sneakers, I acted like I had not dedicated my whole day to preparing for this moment.
His friend was a pretty woman, Jackie. She was almost as tall as he was and they hugged like people who were very familiar with each other. I did not miss the pang in my chest. He introduced me to her as his date and I smiled the way I always do to strangers. We sat in the back, his hand resting atop mine and we listened as Jackie read from her chapbook. I was awed by the way he seemed so perfectly aligned with this place. The way he knew to snap his fingers together and the way at the end of the reading he walked around holding my hand and greeted everyone in the room by their name.
After, he pulled out the car and started driving. I was sure he knew where he was headed but his response greeted me with uncertainty. “Nowhere exactly, I just like to drive around.” Do you do this on all the dates you go to? “Pretty much, yes.” I giggled. The air was cold and I watched as he drove. We ended up by a food truck and bought milkshakes and burgers. As we sat in his car with the seats pushed back, I told him about my peanut allergy and the death of my father and the reason I never drink soda. I listened to him talk about his family, his love for Phoebe Bridgers and why he dropped out of school. When he undid the first two buttons of his shirt and rolled his sleeves up, I knew I was a gone woman.
The next morning, he called and said he wanted to take things slowly. Slow was not a word I understood. I would spend the next months wondering if my actions were coming off as disinterested or if I was smothering him by sending a bouquet of 7 kinds of flowers. I looked forward to the brunches and the trivia nights. I looked forward to sitting beside him on the carpeted floor, our thighs threatening to touch.
The morning he told me that he loved me, I thought I would combust. We had stayed awake all night binging modern family and trying to subdue our laughter so that Jerry won’t wake up. Season 4 Episode 13, the one when Fulgencio was born, was on when he turned to look at me and whispered “I am in love with you.” I thought I hadn’t heard him right. The next time he said it, his lips were against mine. Both our hands roaming, exploring the crevices of each other’s bodies. In a blur, we were upstairs in his room, no longer concerned about waking up Jerry. The way he said my name repeatedly like it was a prayer point. “Remi, Remi, Remi.” The way he was nothing like my other lovers. The way our bodies were in sync. I whispered, “I am in love with you.”
Tito, Amanda and I got matching tattoos. For new beginnings, we said as we walked to the parlour. Tito had gotten a new job, Amanda was moving abroad next summer and I was in love with Sage, the most beautiful soul I had ever known.
Tosin Okewole is interested in all things storytelling. She believes that she was born to consume art in all its forms. Her work has been previously published in Brittle Paper. She also runs a medium page (https://medium.com/@tosinokewole) and tweets@tosinnokewole