“I don’t understand. I am not understanding you. You mean to tell me that there was a ring in the atmosphere, yet no one got engaged?” Tinuke, Toyosi’s best friend, could not fathom Toyosi’s description of the birthday dinner. They were catching up at a downtown swanky bar, as they always did after one of them experience something gist-worthy. These happy hours were the only moments the two women could intimately share together since Tinuke got married.
Toyosi drew a long breath before answering her friend. “One more time…. he was going to propose, but we realized that we needed to take the time to learn more about each other.” This was her fourth time repeating the explanation, but she knew her efforts were futile. Her friend, who got married at 25, could not possibly understand how a 29 -year-old woman would pass up on the chance to wear that ring.
“You guys have had 365 days to know yourselves. What else is there to learn?”
Though her irritation swelled up, she didn’t completely disagree with her friend. She had spent the last 365 days trying to invent a whole new persona, but she had never admitted it to anyone. She was annoyed by her friend’s interrogation, but she knew that Tinuke did not have the full context of her relationship.
“Babes, trust me. There is a lot I don’t know about Tunde.” She downed her Appletini and decided that it was time to come clean about the year-long facade.
After one hour of narration and several drinks consumed between the two, Toyosi had given her friend deep insight into their relationship.
“You have been celibate for a whole year!? You mean you guys have done nothing?”
“I just spent 60 minutes spitting out a thousand words and the lack of sex is what you picked up?” Toyosi teased embarrassingly. She could hear the slight judgement in her friend’s voice.
“That is SO unlike you though.”
“Exactly! That was the point. I figured that I’d try a new approach to this dating thing without the sex. After all my aunties told me that my ungodly ways were preventing me from finding my husband, I figured a little celibacy wouldn’t hurt anyone”
She couldn’t even convince herself to believe the lie.
“Ah, so what will you now do. Is he celibate? Or was he celibate for you? Is he pastor-material or is he a chill guy? I have so many questions about who both of you are.”
“Seriously, I just realized that you actually do not know the guy you are dating!”
Toyosi laughed and then she found herself in momentary worry. Who was the man she was dating for a year, almost got engaged it, and is now re-dating him?
“Guy! You dodged a bullet there… Can you imagine? You might have become engaged to a woman who would be rigid for life because she thinks you want to be rigid.” Shola was one of Tunde’s oldest friends. They had been roommates in college, Tunde was used to his crass, unfiltered way of expressing his opinions. Shola was not Tunde’s most morally-upstanding friend, but he always appreciated his loyalty.
“I know. I realize that maybe I should be angry or mad, but I am actually excited.”
“Tunde. You are excited that your girlfriend has been forming double spiritual 007 agent and leading a double life?”
“Ahah! I would not characterize her has leading a double life. If anything, we were both pretending.” Tunde found himself on the defensive side. Though he enjoyed getting a preview of what Toyosi’s true personality might be, he was worried about the lengths they both went to hide their true selves. Nonetheless, he was unwilling to let a relationship of one year go to waste. And, being the good guy he was inclined to be, he wouldn’t let Shola label Toyosi with a disrespectful name.
“Tunde, the good guy,” Shola began teasing, “you always have to find a way to save all parties. Look, you have to admit that there is something strange about the fact that you both almost married each other under false pretenses. Thankfully, you only lied about wine. It’s not like you guys were celibate or anything like that, right.” Tunde decided that he would neither confirm nor deny this statement, despite the coincidence that Shola only said it as a joke.
Tunde found his statement intrusive and very embarrassing. He was embarrassed because it was true. The lies went beyond drinking wine. He needed to take the time to thinking carefully about the next steps for the both of them.
While at work the next day, Toyosi spent the day replaying her conversation with Tinuke and how ashamed she felt narrating her situation with Tunde. Tinuke had caused her to take a long, hard look at her current relationship status. If both Tunde and she had been lying to each other for a whole year, what did that say about their characters? Were they both so desperate for a relationship that they were willing to consider marriage under false pretenses? What did Tunde now expect from her? What would their church friends think about their decision to re-explore their relationship?
Church! Since their dinner fell on a Sunday night, she had not anticipated how she would explain herself. She even wondered if she owed people an explanation. She decided that keeping people out of their “situation-ship” was the best option for them. She realized that it was the constant reminders of her singleness from aunties and the underlying expectations of a proposal from friends and acquaintances that caused her to invent the fake Toyosi.
As she was putting together an agenda for their first evening since the non-proposal on Sunday, it occurred to her that tonight was technically going to be their “first date”. She was inclined to start worrying about the little things and summoning her insecurities, but she decided to release all inhibitions that night.
“Kiss of Life” by Sade was playing loudly in her apartment. The Thai takeout she ordered had arrived earlier than expected. The vintage Italian white wine had been poured into two wine glasses. Toyosi was very excited to finally just let loose. She wasn’t sure if she would just burst into a monologue about her entire life when he approached or whether she would slowly ease into a natural conversation. At 7:55pm, she decided to spend the last five minutes of solidarity strategizing on how to act around her one-year old, but new boyfriend.
8:00 P.M. arrived. Tunde showed up to the house with red wine in one hand and orchids on the other. Toyosi thought to herself, two strikes already and he just got here. She was not a red wine type of gal, and she also detested flowers. She had an urge to smile politely and accept these offerings, but her new attitude willed her to express her true feelings.
“Oh. I thought most women liked flowers,” he said with a hint of disappointment and judgement.
“Well, contrary to the way I have been behaving, I am actually not your typical woman.” The two large glasses of wine she consumed emboldened her to express herself without inhibitions. Deep down, she wondered if she was exposing herself too much, but the alcohol prevented her from thinking further of it.
“Good to know,” he retorted with a very polite smile. She sensed that her rude answer bothered him but she wasn’t bothered to explore the slight sexism that was laced with his earlier comment.
As she tried to find somewhere to put the inconvenient flowers, Tunde asked “Is that Legend Folasade Adu you have playing?”
Just when she was starting to be concerned about him stereotypically attributing the love of all flowers to all women, she was turned on again. Any man who could appreciate great music always stole her heart.
She forgot the earlier comment and ventured to meet him in her living room. They talked about their love for fine music. For one year, they both lied about their interest in solely Gospel music, but that night, they talked about their deep interests in older, classic artists such as Marvin Gaye, Boyz II Men, and New Edition. She drank the white wine and he drank his red wine. They learned that night that they were indeed winos, but they clearly had different palettes.
Tunde listened intently as Toyosi freely described her likes and dislikes. He had never encountered this side of her. While she passionately expressed her dislike of new school music, he pretended to be paying attention, but he was actually focusing on her physique.
She was wearing a tight-fitted loungewear which was in the style of a onesie. This was a completely new look to him. He was used to her in chinos and blouses, which made her appear like a strict, dependable corporate associate. This style of dressing was the reason that image of her was etched in his brain for a year. He always thought of her as a responsible, caring lady. He very seldom thought of her as a sexy woman- this was how he was able to go along with her celibacy plan. His need to put up the facade as the perfect Christian brother also contributed to his cooperation with the celibacy plan.
“So…. how are you enjoying your green curry?” she asked, jolting him from his deep focus on her body.
“It’s fine. To be honest, I prefer either Nigerian food or American food. I don’t really explore other types of foods.”
“So what restaurants do you frequent then? There aren’t so many Nigerian options, so how do you get your fix?”
She laughed, thinking he replied in jest. “Sure, you do. And I am a chef.”
He was amused and confused. “I am serious. I cook all my meals. You don’t?”
“Nope. ” Her casual response slightly alarmed him. She always had a “home-cooked” meal when he came over to visit.
“What do you mean you don’t cook? Whose rice have I been eating for the past year?” He tried to sound playful, but he knew he failed.
“Like many other women who have other interests outside of the kitchen, I just happened to not be obsessed with spending time in my kitchen. As you may know, we live in a metropolitan city with lots of meal options.”
He felt the tone of the night transforming. Tunde had also never experienced sassiness from Toyosi. He never got a rude remark from her. Always wanting to be in control of his emotions, he wanted to keep the conversation calm and friendly, but he wanted to explore just how much she had been hiding from him.
“Whoa. Let’s all take a breather here. I am not saying something is wrong with you for not cooking. I am calling out the fact that you made yourself appear to be a bit of a pro. That’s all I am saying.” He was determined to make this a friendly discussion, partly because he honestly just wanted them to explore other interests.
“I never said I cooked all those meals. You assumed that and I just didn’t correct you,” she replied calmly with a smirk on her face.
He appreciated the calm reply, worried about the admission of a bold lie, but he was also wildly attracted to her confidence while admitting the truth. This attraction led him back to his steady gaze on her body, so he rapidly changed the subject. He instead chose to learn the real truth about her ex-boyfriend.
With each glass of white wine she consumed, Toyosi divulged new information about her past. The advantage of them loving different types of wine meant that they both got to drink one whole bottle individually. She had been so guarded about the details of her past relationship, but that night she was very generous with her information. He learned about her ex-boyfriend’s non-committal attitude, his lack of affirmation of his feelings for her, and the signs she ignored just because she hoped they would get married. In between listening and staring at her breasts, he heard a piece of information that peaked his interests.
“I think the relationship really hurt me because we had been sexually active. He was my not my first, but I thought he’d be my last.”
Upon hearing this, Tunde jolted out of his lustful trance and ventured to inquire more about this statement. “So is that why you decided to be celibate while with me?”
“I was not celibate on purpose. I was going along because you were celibate.”
“You are the only woman I have ever been celibate with.”
After this admission, a loud silence momentarily clouded the room. Then, the two of them started laughing at each other. They guffawed like teenagers, rolling on the floor. At this point in their night together, they were lying comfortably on the floor, each of them drinking their own separate bottles of wine.
“Well, let me be the first to admit that I am very sexually attracted to you.” Tunde said bluntly.
“As am I.” Who was this Toyosi!?
Tunde was inclined to venture down this road of flirtation, but he calculated that it would be so cliche to do so. Additionally, the lie that she admitted to bothered him and caused him to wonder if adding sex to their newly changed relationship would lead to complications. So he replied, “But, I think it would be cheesy for us to now have sex just because we had been unwillingly withholding sex from each other.” As the words parted from Tunde’s lips, his brain agreed to his plan but his body was painfully confused. He was always the guy who did the right thing. Despite him wanting sex so badly, he was worried that he might be having sex with a stranger. Though he found himself liking these new parts of Toyosi that the white wine was uncovering, he knew he was worried about other parts of her nature such as lying.
However, he allowed himself to kiss her ravenously in the meantime. Their lips smacked and clicked as if they were trying to unlock a code. They held each other like hormonal, hungry teenagers, but also fought the urge to undress. If it’s one thing they had accomplished that night, it was expressing to each other the extent to which they were attracted to each other. When Tunde reached a point where he felt control slipping from him, he gave her a peck, bid her goodbye, and limped out of her apartment building.
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