This is the thing about love; it demands surrender. It demands that you need. That you take off the cloak of independence you wear against the cold of the outside world. That you let yourself be seen from all the angles, even the most unflattering. You let them see that you weren’t perfect; that you had bad breath after a long day, that you liked to sing at the top of your voice when you showered even if your voice was rubbish. Fola knew the drill, she’d been in a relationship more than once already and they’d all ended so badly, the word alone now made her queasy. But Ivara is different, a piece of her would whisper, you know he is. Ivara had been in love with her his whole life and hers. He was the cliche best friend who was in love with his friend who didn’t seem to like him back. Except, Fola did.
These are all the reasons she’d given for having never dated Ivara
“He’s like my brother! It would be strange, please”
“I love him too much for that, I don’t want to lose him”
“Hmm, Ivara doesn’t like me like that o”
All their mutual friends had been counting down to the moment when she’d realize they were made for each other. The moment Fola would see Ivara. For when she’d see the way he looked at her; like he saw something no one else saw, when she would notice that he wasn’t just a “nice guy” that he did special favors for her because she was special to him.
Fola said yes to Ivara after she’d been asked for the umpteenth time on one of their outings. She would later tell her friends that she most certainly hadn’t been thinking when she’d said yes, that Ivara had spiked her wine with some substance, but she’d be smiling, glowing. She was in love with her best friend and she hadn’t even seen it coming. She wanted to go everywhere with him, do everything with him and she found herself reaching for her phone when anything happened. She wanted to know what he thought about everything and sometimes she just wanted to make him laugh, which wasn’t really difficult considering the fact he was so smitten, he couldn’t see straight. It was so beautiful; the kind that gripped your heart with fear in the morning because your happiness was like a bubble so large and so fragile, you feared even air could burst it. And burst it did, and it wasn’t even air.
Ivara was taking her out for dinner as he did nearly every week. He’d take her anywhere from a fancy restaurant where they’d try new cuisine and make sour faces at each other and then he’d drive home while they made jokes about what each meal tasted like to suya joints where she’d eat until her mouth burned and he could taste pepper and onions when he kissed her. He always said, he just liked to breathe the same air that she did and feel everything she did. Tonight, he said, his office was having a party and he wanted to show his babe off. Fola was late as usual and was still doing her make up when Ivara came.
“Babe, can you help me do my left eye?” she said handing him her eyeliner. “I can’t do anything once I start rushing. Help, please”
“What do I do with it? Where?”
“Slowly o” Fola said giggling. “Try not to get me blind, please”
“It’s not like I don’t plan on marrying you anyway”
He had placed the eyeliner back on her dresser when it started. In the second it took Fola to turn around, Ivara was on the floor in the throes of a seizure, biting on his own tongue, eyes rolled back in his head, his limbs dancing to a rhythm of their own accord. Someone was screaming and it took a few seconds to realize that this voice, terrified and terrifying all at once was hers. She struggled to lay him on his side and keep him from cutting off his own tongue.
The doctors were going to run tests on his brain to see what was wrong. They said it could be epilepsy or a brain tumor or a bleed somewhere in his brain. So they tested. Fola waited. And prayed like she had never prayed for anything else. She negotiated with God, promised him money, time, whatever he wanted in place of Ivara’s health. She knew he was mortified to be here, questioned about his life history, medical history and she held her breath every time he was asked questions like “is this your first seizure?”, held her breath and only exhaled when he said “yes”. She held his hand even tighter than she held her breath.
The doctors diagnosed him with a benign brain tumor which they said could be removed when he felt up to it. They said things like this happened and he would be back to normal as soon as it was taken out. Fola could’ve cried from relief. He was going to be okay! They would be okay. They could live and breathe the same air until they were old and wrinkled and sick of each other. When Ivara came to after his surgery, he wanted to see Fola. He wanted her to marry him. He didn’t want to wait another second.
Fola wakes up every single morning feeling like her joy could be pricked and her bubble could burst into a thousand invisible pieces but she’s grateful to feel happiness that is so real and true, it’s almost unreal. She wouldn’t have it any other way.