“This was love: a string of coincidences that gathered
significance and became miracles.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Letting go of the past was one of the hardest things I had to do. However, I was sincerely grateful for all the teachable lessons while we were together. I believe every situation has its purpose. Tyrik was good for me and served as a life-line or rather a ‘love-line’ when I lived with those that didn’t love or want me. He was my first love, and it took just that one relationship to understand my value, what I would accept, and what I will not tolerate.
One thing I knew was that I didn’t need any mother-in-law issues. Tyrik was an only son and the epitome of a momma’s boy— I would never deal with that again. I wanted somebody mature and forward-thinking. I wanted a man, not a boy. In all, I think I came up with about ten different items on my list. Still, I was generous—if I met a guy who had at least seven of the attributes on my list, he could shoot his shot.
I traveled to Texas for my cousin, Kunmi’s wedding. Her new husband, Femi, had heard that I was newly single. He had a serious talk with me, trying to convince me to move to Texas. He said I was educated and beautiful. I would be a “hot commodity” in Texas, were Femi’s exact words. “I have the perfect guy for you!” Femi said. “You two are going to hit it off so well!”
The whole idea was ridiculous to me, but given how things were going in Detroit, moving to Texas didn’t necessarily sound like a bad idea. The prospect of starting over in a new place, getting away from my old friends and forming a new life appealed to me. What didn’t appeal to me, however, was getting hooked up with someone I didn’t know. I told Femi over and over again that I wasn’t interested.
When the wedding was over, I went home to Detroit and immediately got a call from an unrecognized number. “Hi, I’m Saheed,” the voice on the other end said. Femi had given out my number without my permission—typical Nigerian behavior. Taken aback, I deliberately was rude and obnoxious to Saheed, hoping to get him off the phone. Still, he told me a little about himself, in particular how he’d been in the army—as if I cared. He seemed nice enough, but I had already made it clear this was a no-go. I thought I’d dealt with the situation by hanging up on Saheed. I was wrong.
Some days later, Saheed sent a bunch of pictures of himself to my home address in the mail! In one of the pictures, Saheed was posing in a fancy suit. In another, he had on his military gear and regalia. I summoned my roommates’ Joke and Bunmi, and we laugh hysterically at his pictures. “He looks like a father of four!” I exclaimed. The whole situation was hilarious, but Saheed didn’t take no for an answer. He knew what he wanted, and he was very persistent—I secretly liked that.
Around May of the same year, Saheed called me again and asked if I would come to Dallas to visit him. I thought to myself, this was a free ticket to Dallas, so I said sure, why not?
Saheed was so excited. He kept calling, again and again, to say he couldn’t wait to see me, but right before the big day came, I told him that I’d changed my mind. “I had a dream that the plane was going to crash,” I said, “so I’m not coming anymore.” He was pretty vexed, but there was nothing he could do about it. He had already bought the ticket. Though I felt a little guilty, at that point, I figured at least I was finally done with this dude. I’d blown him off and wasted his money. It worked for a little while, and Saheed stopped calling me.
Later in December of that same year, I made plans to go back to Dallas to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my cousin Kunmi and her family. As it turned out, the guy I’d been somewhat talking to would be in Dallas at the same time, so I thought we would meet up. Of course, Saheed heard I was coming to town through Femi, and he called me right away. “You stood me up, but I’d still like to meet you while you’re down here, I heard you’re coming for the holidays,” he said, to which I again gave an emphatic, “No.”
When I got to Dallas, I settled in at my cousin’s house and started preparing for my date with the guy from Detroit. His name was Damola, but I low key used to call him ‘The Republican’ and had his number saved on my cell phone as such. He was a bit uptight, and I felt he was conservative. I got all dressed up and was ready to impress. Before long, I heard a knock at the door. I went down to answer it and who was standing there but Saheed—not my date that I was expecting. A feeling of nervousness ran through my mind as I imagined how awkward it would be if Saheed were still here when Damola arrived. Whatever he was doing here, I needed to make sure he left quickly. And so, I allowed him to enter and take a seat in the living room.
“Your lips look so inviting,” he said as he sat down on my cousin’s sofa, which was an insane thing to say given the context. Once again, I could not believe this guy was still pursuing me, even crossing boundaries when I’d told him no, again and again. I met his comment with a side-eye and walked off to the guest room upstairs, leaving him. He deserved it, I told myself, I mean, who just shows up like that?
When he finally realized I wasn’t coming back down, Saheed came upstairs and knocked on the bedroom door to say he was leaving. “Okay, bye!” I yelled through the door without opening it. I admit that was very rude of me.
Saheed came by again to drop off Christmas gifts for Kunmi’s daughter. When I answered the door, he avoided eye contact and was cold to me. He strode in, dropped his gifts off, and completely ignored me the entire time. For some reason, this sparked my attention. I didn’t expect him to blow me off. My friend Joke, who also accompanied me on this trip, noticed how I was behaving and called me out on it. “You are so rude to him. He’s not a bad-looking guy at all, and did you notice his nice-looking shoes? You ought to give him a chance for all his persistence, besides you don’t even like The Republican,” she said matter-of-factly.
After mulling it over and doing a self-evaluation, I thought to myself; you know what, this guy has done nothing whatsoever for you not to give him a chance. All these other dudes you’re dating are so immature anyway. I was at the right age and had the right mindset to try for a serious relationship for once, yet here I was, turning what seemed to be my best prospect away. I made sure his chance came this time.
I called Saheed right after New Year’s. “You didn’t even call to say ‘Happy New Year’ to me,” I said on the phone in a bold yet flirty voice—the kind of way a typical Nigerian girl would flirt. I could tell from Saheed’s quietness that he was surprised I called him. “I thought about things, and I realized I never gave you a chance. From now on, I’m going to be very nice to you.” I could almost hear the change of his frown to a smile, just from his breathing on the phone—even though he tried to play it cool and compose himself.
I learned he was a Muslim and was wondering in my head how it could ever work out. I wanted a man with a spiritual relationship with God, but I had hoped we’d share the same faith—a Christian relationship. But, I was a product of an interfaith relationship myself, so I knew my mom wouldn’t oppose the relationship simply based on religious beliefs. Mom didn’t care who I married, to my mom, “iwa ni ko wo”—a person’s character is what is the most important.
In February of 2003, I came to visit him in Dallas. As I walked out towards the baggage claim, I could see his cocky smile that I’ve now seen far too many times. As we walked up to each other, before I could even say a word, he planted an unexpected kiss on my lips. He must’ve been waiting to do this. I thought back to how annoyed I was when he’d talked about my lips at my cousin Kunmi’s house that December, and yet here we were. This time I was accepting his kiss. His lips are soft, I thought.
He lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Killeen off-base, which was a short drive to Fort Hood. When we got there, I saw that he’d cooked a huge pot of Nigerian goat meat stew for me, which I thought was impressive. His apartment was your typical bachelor pad and surprisingly clean. He had a nice, cognac-colored leather sofa set, and I couldn’t help but admire his sense of interior design. So far, so good, I thought.
An hour or so later, Saheed told me he needed to go pray and that we would continue our conversation right after—this surprised me. I’d never met a guy who took pride in interrupting a flirty conversation to go pray. It took me off guard. I needed a moment to process it, but, ultimately, the moment was unexpectedly beautiful. All the guys I’d dated seemed only interested in sex after a little flirting. And none of the guys who attempted to “holla” at me ever shortly after meeting cared to discuss their spiritual connection with God or invite me to attend church with them. In contrast, Saheed was different—older, and a lot more mature. I watched him pray. His back was facing me, so he didn’t realize that I was watching him from the corner of my eye. He had on dark pants and a black shirt. As he bowed down in prayer, it was the first time I noticed his legs: he has bow legs and a nice ass, too. If someone had told me that I’d be turned on watching my date pray after he’d interrupted our conversation, I would have looked at them like they were some kind of crazy!
In the second week of long-distance talking, Saheed told me on the phone that he loved me and wanted to marry me. “You don’t even know me,” I responded alarmingly. “You’re used to that conventional kind of love,” he replied with such confidence and calm. He always had his eyes on one goal. I didn’t know what he meant— maybe it was part of his game. Whatever it was, it worked. I told him that he’d need to fly to Detroit to ask my mom for my hand in marriage. And without missing a beat, he was on the next flight. My mom adored Saheed right away, my sister questioned him closely, and my brother seemed fine with whatever made me happy. After the trip, he had my family’s blessing.
A little later, I flew into Killeen to be with Saheed for a few days before my birthday.
February 29th isn’t coming this year,” I told him, “so it’s not going to be that special.” But he was excited. “I’ll make it special,” he said. On the 28th, he wanted to take me out to make sure I had a special day. I was halfway through getting dressed when I realized I needed to iron my beige corduroy pants. Saheed stepped out of the apartment for a moment. When he came back in, he got down on his knees and presented a ring box. I looked down at him in disbelief. He had the biggest grin on his face. “I want us to get married,’’ he said. I stared at the marquis-cut diamond in the box and then at him, and could only manage to murmur, “Okay.” Still, on one knee, he asked with excitement, “liked right now.” And before I knew it, we were off to the courthouse. As we sat on the bench, waiting for our turn to get married, he took my hands in his, and softly said, “Ma toju e Tokunbo”—I’ll take care of you Tokunbo. The feeling I had was all of the lyrics to Tsunami by Res. I felt a sense of optimism, his words, simple yet profound. I’d take this leap of great faith with him. The fancier Nigerian wedding would come later; this was enough romance for the time being.
And so, on February 28th, 2003, after just two months of dating, Saheed and I secretly got married in court. It was a risky move, but when you know, you just know.
To read more of Get Your Foot off My Neck, you can obtain your copy HERE on Amazon.