“Try it, it is nice!” he tried to stick a fork loaded with prawns into my mouth.
“No thanks, you know that I don’t eat prawns” I said with a frown on my face as he brought it closer.
“Why not? You are just a village girl. This is what we eat in America. You need to adapt quickly; this is the States!”” He said with food in his mouth, spraying some of it in my direction.
“I said no, thanks. I hate the smell so I can’t eat it.”
“How can you say you hate the smell of something before you eat it?”
“Because I can smell regardless of taste” I tried to remain calm.
“Comm’n shor’y, just try…”
I pushed the fork away impatiently “Drop it please!”
“Why are you so rude?” he began to shout. “You never appreciate anything that I do for you. Do you know how many girls that would have loved to follow me to this expensive restaurant?”
“Please keep your voice down”, I said in a low tone.
“Turn down for what?!” he shouted even more. People were beginning to stare at us. “I was being nice and trying to feed you. If you had eaten this, would I have gotten angry?”
I wanted to leave the restaurant but I could not as I had to sleep at his place anyway and I barely knew where I would be heading to if I left. I knew that talking back would aggravate his mood so I sat there watching him continue loudly.
After a few minutes of silence, he took hold of my hands and began to apologize.
“Shor’y…you know I did not mean to shout at you. It’s just frustrating because I try to show you how much I love you and you keep pushing me away”
I tried to pull my hands away but he tightened his grip, making me wince in pain.
“This is exactly what I am talking about!’ he resumed his shouting “ Now you are pulling your hand. For what?!”
This was the kind of drama I had been experiencing ever since I came to visit Emeka in Houston about a week ago. Emeka and I had been dating for five years before he left for the States to obtain a Masters degree. We had met during our undergraduate program at Nnamdi Azikiwe University and our love had grown stronger and steadily over the years. I had never been excited about his going abroad, nor did I share his enthusiasm to live in the United States and start ‘our’ family here, as he had always said. Nonetheless, I was happy for him when he gained admission and secured a US visa. I knew I would miss him terribly but we promised to keep in touch and even though he did not propose formally to me before he left the country, he had given my family his word.
We spoke every day after he travelled and it took only a short while for me to notice his gradual change in behaviour. At first, I began to observe the introduction of swear words into his vocabulary. I expressed my concern especially when I found them unnecessarily used but he always found an excuse for his words and when he could not, he would say “That’s how we roll in Texas.”
Next was the change in his accent which I found odd; not only because I thought that he was too old for that but also because I knew it was too soon for that to happen naturally. The way he spoke, trying too hard to “Americanize” every single word made the artificialness even more obvious. In his defense, he claimed that people tended not to understand him if he spoke in his usual Ibo-accented way, the former one which I had loved. I knew a few Nigerians who had gone to the US long before him but still spoke in their usual Nigerian accents but oh well, I could not judge as I was not in his shoes.
Finally, it was when he started calling me “Shor’y” that I began to sense that something was really off about him. I immediately told him to desist from it as I did not like it but his response was always “Turn down for what?!” as was his response to many other things these days, even when the phrase was being used out of context.
Six months had passed since he left Nigeria and after several sessions of my mother and I pleading with my father to allow me visit Emeka in the US, I was finally given permission. My dad made his disapproval of my visit clear, stating that if Emeka was serious about our relationship he should have sent his people by now to “knock on our door”. We finally managed to convince him that I would stay with my mum’s second cousin in Texas and so he let me travel. Of course, I lied and went straight to Emeka’s place upon my arrival.
My friends and I were excited about my travelling as we all assumed that he would propose once I arrived, but it had been six days now and instead of a ring, I had to contend with new and weird habits. If I had thought that Emeka’s new manner of speaking and accent were the worst things that could have happened to him, I was entirely wrong. He had started smoking cigarettes and weed.
Every time I tried to say something about it he would raise his voice, something he had never done back in Nigeria. At some point, I began to fear that he might hit me because of his bipolar-like attitude. Now I had seven nights left to spend him and I could not have wished more for the week to run quickly by. I did not know how I would face the disappointed looks and comments from my friends and family if I told them that I could not marry Emeka. I knew my mother would say that his new attitude did not matter much as all she really wanted was for me to get married, but I no longer felt any love for him.
In short, I found everything about him unattractive now and I was irritated by his voice just as much as I was by his touch and his new look – braided hair, ear piercing, big chains and baggy shorts.
As I sat in the restaurant, I dared not to retrieve my hand again or tell him that I was in pain. I closed my eyes wondering how Emeka and I had come to the end of the road like this and I tried to phase out my hearing as I heard him say in his newly acquired ‘Ibo-Texan’ combo accent – “Shor’y, you look down. Turn up, turn up!”
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Jason Stitt