Diyan is not like most newly married women; you know the ones who cannot seem to stop touching their husbands- a hand on his thigh or his shoulder- or saying “my husband” or those who act like our friend Nkechi; constantly whispering unnecessary sweet nothings into their husband’s ears and calling him sweet names, literally. No, she’s not that way. She tells me that she does not believe in love that is constituted by too much sweetness and no sensibility, that her love is smart and strong and canoodling all over the place did not show strength.
I had learned early in life that you did not argue with Diyan. She argued until she was shaking with what I liked to call the ferocity of her beliefs. She spluttered and gesticulated and did not stop until you accepted her opinion was the truth. We did not argue too often because my opinions were almost too deeply rooted to be unseated by Diyan’s often shaky and under-researched points and so I often conceded because I’d do anything to stop her from talking. My mother is a lot like me with arguments, but her Achilles heel was politics and she never could hold herself back from arguing about ineffective policies and conspiracy theories with my father. In those moments, she forgot that she was anything but herself. She was neither a wife nor mother, she was alive and she let her voice rise as high as she pleased. My Achilles heel was love or rather talking about love.
“Dee, but you married this man. Are you telling me that there’s no gish-gish doing you for your brand new husband?”
“Everyone is different, Ige” Diyan was saying as she scraped a very dirty carrot as we stood in her kitchen together. Diyan was saying she did not like public displays of affection and that she didn’t like for people to think that she was marking territory with her husband; it made her appear insecure. I was saying she had every right to mark territory. She was agreeing without agreeing, in true Diyan style.
“Love isn’t about showing people that you’re affectionate with each other in the few hours you’re outside your home. It’s really about what goes on behind closed doors and we’re happy. That’s all that matters”
I opened my mouth and then shut it. This wasn’t even my business to begin with. It struck me that my friend had never been particularly private so why all the privacy about a marriage and relationship that more than half the people she knew would give an arm for. I reminded myself to live and let live; everyone wanted different things, it was what kept the world balanced.
The human brain has a way of switching our senses on and off, letting us see things only when we had mentally prepared ourselves for them. I would begin to notice little details about my friend’s relationship with her husband. The way she looked at him when he ate, smacked his lips and licked his fingers and when he began to tell his boisterous jokes; they weren’t always the funniest things but Eigbede was always effusive in his manner and his enthusiasm tended to be infectious. Diyan never cracked a smile when her husband joked. And when he would put his arm around her shoulders in an attempt to hug her, she would always whisper “not here, Eigbede”.
Diyan and I had gone to secondary school in Benue state together and attended UniJos at the same time and so I convinced myself that I had a right to ask her this if Eigbede abused her; If he had laid his hands on her or made her insecure by his words. It wouldn’t be a problem, we could always get her away from him and she would never have to even see him again. When I said these words barely above a whisper, Diyan had dropped her knife and her jaw, already shaking her head before the words came “no, no. He’s not like that! He would never raise his hand to any woman, much less me”.
“Then what? Why aren’t you happy?”
“I am… But Ige you know me. You know the kind of love, I’ve always dreamed of; bigger than reason, surpassing my sensibility, almost holding me captive. Eigbede isn’t it. Our love is so lukewarm, it’s almost cold”
“But there is love…” I said tentatively
“There is. I just don’t like him. I don’t know if I ever did”
I was about to enter counselor mode and say “but you’ve come this far, stay with him, make it work, your marriage seems like a dream” but instead I said
“So why did you say yes? Why marry him?”
Diyan was looking at me like I was a crazed woman, like her answer justified every single one of her prior actions and I was stupid not to see her point. I did see the point she thought she was trying to make but this time I would not let her have it her way. She would not waltz into a marriage with a man who thought he had been chosen and let her unhappiness drive his own joy from his heart. She would lie on her bed as she had made it and she would do her best to have a good night’s sleep every night. It was selfish to marry someone because you wanted to be married and still not put in even half of the work to stay married.
I said as much to her and this time Diyan did not argue.