Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Anatomy of a Breakup

The word hit me like a good dousing of ice cold water. I groped for a seat at the breakfast table, the rest of the note forgotten.

Divorce.

We haven't even been married 3 years, I thought with sudden panic. Ironically today marks the 7th year we have been together a couple. We have not been 'together' in a long time, I mused, a dull ache in my chest.

My phone vibrates over and over. "PING!!!" "PING!!!" It must be Bade again. We were in the middle of making plans for tonight, I remember typing up a message to him as I bounded up the steps to our apartment and sauntered in to meet the note in the center of our breakfast table, the note that has shattered my world. The thought of partying it up with the guys is the furthest thing from my mind. The Lagos scene that I enjoy so much, the boys, the ladies, the endless teasing about my married status, is worlds away. "His name is look but don't touch", my friends would tease when they introduced me to girls. That was me, the faithful married guy.

Except for that one time with Tolani...

Every time I think about those months with her I cringe inside, the shame threatens to overwhelm me. I went from the man who was in control and proud of himself to a despicable, lying, cheating bastard, the exact words my mother would use to describe my father. The lies I told my wife and friends were flimsy at best, my actions utterly shameful. It was like an animal I never knew existed inside of me was let loose. Even now, I try to make sense of my actions then and I come up short: I had only been married about a year. And while we had the little issues married people are bound to have, the sex was still amazing, and amazingly constant. She wasn't nagging, she wasn't uninteresting, she was still the hottest girl I knew. But somehow, a teasing smile from the girl at the other table at a business lunch became a secret that I hope to take to my grave.

 Divorce.

The end of our marriage. Telling the world that we could not love and cherish forever like we promised. And God. I don't kid myself or pretend to be more spiritual than the next guy, but when I said those vows I meant them with all my heart. I never for one second thought that we would ever even consider a divorce.

More importantly, the end of our love story. Before things got so messed up she was my solace, my best friend, my treasure and the center of my world. Joyin. Every thing I did, all that I tried to achieve, was so I could lay the world at her feet because somehow I hoped it would almost measure up to all that she gives me.

We were introduced at a friend's party only eight years ago, and as soon as I met her I knew there was something about her. "Eat honey?" I had teased her in reference to the short form of her Yoruba name. "Mojoyinoluwa (I have tasted honey from God's hands)", she replied with a twinkle in her eyes, "or, in my case, Omodunjoyinlo (the girl is sweeter than honey)". She stayed on my mind from that night, but it would be many months before we would eventually form a friendship that I knew from the start was leading us to the altar.

We were the ideal couple, young, successful, ambitious and very much in love. The first snag came when the company she had worked hard for years moved operations away from Lagos to Abuja only a few months after we got married. She was offered a promotion to sweeten the offer to move but we had decided together that we did not want to spend the first year of our marriage apart. Living together and working full time was challenging enough. We decided together to remain in Lagos because I earned more, and because a move to Abuja would cost us much more in the long run. Our families and friends were in Lagos, it was where we always wanted to live and raise our kids.

However, we were both surprised at how hard it was for Joyin to find another job in her field. After months of marathon interviews and getting groped and propositioned by men she decided to start a business of her own. In those months, I got a promotion and a pay raise, and Joyin got resentful. In her frustration she went from being my biggest supporter to an indifferent observer. I could not share my achievements with her because I only reminded her of how her career was suffering. All the gifts and trips I shared with her were not enough to fill the void. She regretted giving away a promising position, and the reasons that we decided together that were more important than a career we believed was easily replaceable began to fade from her memory.

I began to stay out more, and later into the night, it was just easier being with friends who celebrated me than at home where things were 'off'. It was hard to keep up the appearance of a happy couple when we were drifting so far apart, but we did it for family and friends. And then the fights began. We fought about everything: my late nights, money even though we had enough of it, her trips out of town, making plans without the other's approval, her business she never wanted to discuss with me, her new friends who I felt were bitter and unhappy and bad news, my friends who she thought were good-for-nothing and misleading, her refusal to conceive.

That hurt me the most, and she knew it. She took the one thing I wanted as much as I wanted her and held it from me. It was true we were not ready, but she refused to make any efforts to mend our broken bridges.

So I became cruel. My words were no longer kind, my attitude became worse. I knew I became impossible to live with but I could not stop myself. Like a wounded animal I fought back emotionally, trying to hurt as much as I had been hurt. And it worked. She has been drinking, out and alone in her room. Sometimes I hear her crying through the thin walls. I have been sleeping in the guest room for weeks, and pretending that I was having the time of my life. And today she has packed her things and walked away, asking me not to come after her. We were too broken to be fixed.

I picked up my phone and keys, and I made a decision. Joyin is not just my wife, she's my best friend and my partner. I know deep down that there will never be another woman like her in my life. She understands me and for some reason she likes me in spite of me and she has loved me and stayed by me for many years. The past years have been hard on both of us, but if I let her slip away without fighting I  could not live with myself. I need to make her happy again, like I promised 7 years ago, and love her like I vowed, in spite of everything.

If I can just keep the one secret that will surely end us...