BEFORE HE LEFT, we talked every day. I’ve never been big on texting, and neither has he—so we mostly did calls and random texts in between. Usually, he called. Generally at night, sometimes in the morning. Some calls were as brief as two minutes; others went on for hours. Before he left, the calls just flowed, like my lines of code when I am in the zone. You know, we never had those awkward silences or dead ends you see in movies. It’s not like he, or the relationship for that matter, was perfect. For one, with him gone, I didn’t have to see the dirty dishes he kept for days like they were part of the décor or deal with his slow, bouncing ass in town. Jeez, who walks like they don’t know this is Lagos and everybody has a place to be?
BUT IN OUR CALLS he tried. He told me so many stories with so much spirit. He peppered them with jokes too—most of which I wouldn’t have laughed at if he wasn’t the one telling them.
THAT WAS BEFORE every piece of our relationship went digital. Before our bond had to be converted into bits and bytes and carried over the thousands of miles of land, water and air separating us. No more weekends with his foolishly-cuddly ass. No more surprise visits. He’d be away a year before he visited for his summer vacation, and two years before he finished his MBA at Harvard. He’d said he was ready for it. Thought I was too. We never put my relocation on the cards; my tech startup was picking up steam.
I NEVER DEEPLY thought about what it all meant. Never thought about how our calls, which were just another means of communication before, would come to define the relationship—almost be the relationship.
I NEVER THOUGHT about calls that wouldn’t flow. Calls where the “I love you” at the end sounded more like a punctuation mark than an expression of emotion. I never thought about video calls so pixelated that he looked nothing like I had known him, like MTN was trying to tell me something profound about how much I didn’t know about him. I never thought about calls that would feel like labour. Calls that Siri would probably have done better if we had given it access to our schedules. “So, Tolu, today I had this lecture at 10, and then I went to the gym and then I had lunch…” Calls where he’d take clearly not-okay okays as okay-okays and expect me to smile back at his dimpled Yoruba ass when he called several days later. Calls that ended in frenzied arguments that begun over something as ridiculous as how I pronounced gif or how I had not liked his latest posts on LinkedIn. Calls where his lame jokes were just that, lame-ass jokes, and I could not bring myself to laugh at them no matter how hard I tried—the best I could do was a vocalized ‘lol’ with a side of stank-eye. Calls that went through but never quite connected us.
ONCE IN A WHILE, still, we had calls that worked. Calls that brought him back to me. Calls without the robotic stranger reciting his schedule on the other end or the annoying child getting mad over everything. In those days, I lived for those calls and looking back, those calls got us across. In those calls, he went beyond reporting the news that temperatures in Cambridge were hitting zero—which I wouldn’t have had a problem Googling; for crying out loud I got a first class in Computer Science—to sharing with me how it made him lonely because he would be holed up in his dorm room assuming he wasn’t on a shift for one of his two campus jobs. In those calls, we deserted our pretences at successful adulting and played with anything we could lay our hands on: filters on Messenger, each other’s annoying habits—our dry spells, even.
WE MADE OUR stupid-ass jokes and laughed our hearts out talking about things we’d forget the next day. We tore up those little manicured tensions (the “I’m fines”), aired out resentments we had let fester underneath band-aids of our cautious nice-ness. In those calls, he listened to me like he never left—with his heart. He knew when an okay wasn’t an okay-okay. The sad thing about those calls, besides their ending, was saying we needed more of them then going back to our lives alone only to come back and read each other our calendars.
YET, AGAIN AND AGAIN, another real one came through. Two statements into it and my soul just knew: my Dimeji—my sweet, slow, dimpled Dimeji—would be back. So, on it went.