Oloruntele tiptoed into the guestroom and switched off the light. After triple-checking that she was logged into her burner account, she began typing: Dear Aunty Chidinma, this one dey heavy my mouth to talk. Never in my life would I have thought sth like this could happen to me. I’ve been married for three years. Everything was perfect; he worked as a manager at the Sterling Bank in Ekiti, so money was good. He always had my time. We even had a TikTok page where we posted our outings, and everybody used to shout God when. Only for his company to promote and transfer him to Lagos in February this year. During that period, he still used to come home every weekend. But after March, he stopped and made me promise not to visit him in Lagos. And now I only see him once in a blue moon. He’s still loving and caring o. It’s just this Lagos thing that is suspicious. I’ve tried to talk to him about it, but his mouth is always filled with excuses. What should I do? Immediately she pressed send, the comments started gushing in.
@pwiti_mirabel: men r scum. He az anoda family in Lagos. Better shine ur eyes my sista.
@l_o_l_a: I’m sure this man is Yoruba.
Cagey5140: even if you wear black. Men will pour bleach on your shirt!!! Aunty go to Lagos and see for yourself what he’s hiding. Find out! No dey do like mumu.
Oloruntele sank to the floor as her fingers hungrily licked the screen of her phone, hitting refresh as new comments poured in.
Suddenly, something grabbed her waist, and her soul flew out of her body. Her phone dropped to the floor.
“Babe, relax, it’s me,” Bayo said, crouched beside her.
She faintly made out his eyes, shaped like agbalumo seeds, his beards that she loved to run her fingers through, gently pulling the curls, and his mouth struggling to stifle laughter. She had been too busy drinking in the comments she hadn’t noticed when he entered. Bayo stood and moved to switch on the light, his legs criss-crossing as laughter erupted from his mouth. And despite her fear that he had seen what she’d been up to, a warmth spread across her chest. This was her husband who laughed like Goofy from Mickey Mouse; her husband who, while they were dating, once came to her house by midnight with small chops because she couldn’t stop crying. Her heart clenched; she had to know if there was another woman.
“What are you doing in the guestroom? You dey watch porn?”
More laughter. Bayo’s eyes settled on Oloruntele’s phone, inches from her feet. She stretched to grab it, but she was too slow. Bayo plucked the phone off the ground and ran to a corner of the room, giggling. Oloruntele watched as his face morphed from happiness to sadness before settling into anger.
“What’s the meaning of this?” he said, closing the distance between them.
She coughed, swallowing painfully, then whispered, “What does it look like? I wanted advice.”
“You have no right to put our business on social media.”
Why was she even feeling timid? It was his fault, not hers. She kissed her teeth, then increased her tone. “You make me promise not to come to Lagos; you don’t tell me anything. Yet you’re asking for the meaning of that?”
“So that’s your justification for using me as gist to strangers; look at this comment saying—” He flashed the phone in her face, “that you should use menstrual blood to cook my food, so I don’t leave. These were the people you wanted advice from?”
She scoffed, “I obviously wouldn’t do that. I’m not stupid.”
Oloruntele was tired. Tired of being angry. Tired of wondering why her loving husband suddenly changed. “Tell me, is it another woman?”
He looked hurt. “No, never.”
“Then what is it.”
Finally crouching, he shook his head. “Oloruntele, I would never ever—look into my eyes—cheat on you.”
“Then, what is your Lagos address?”
He sighed. “I’ll WhatsApp you, but please, don’t come. Please. Travelling to Lagos would stress you, especially in your state.” He said, rubbing her swollen belly.
“Send it now.”
“Tele, Babe, I said I’ll text it. Don’t worry.” He handed her her phone. “Now, delete the post.”
She unlocked her phone and pressed delete. Then he grabbed a piece of paper, wrote the address and gave it to her.
“Promise me you wouldn’t come?”
She smiled, leaning into her husband’s shoulder and wondering what she’d find when she got to Lagos.
When the Sienna got to Ojota Park, Oloruntele’s stomach was hollowed out. At that point, she had only dry heaves to offer the nylon bag she had been vomiting into. The permanent body odour of the woman sitting next to her had irritated Oloruntele. Thus, she was relieved to be on solid ground and away from the woman. Oloruntele typed Bayo’s address into Uber, and the driver showed up within five minutes. She entered the car, and dread sat in her stomach.
The driver dropped her off in front of an unpainted duplex with windows obstructed by dust and wilted Bougainvillea covering the entire fence. The place looked deserted. She walked to the mallam eating groundnuts on a bench beside the fence.
With her hand shielding her from the sun, she asked, “Good evening. Is this Mr Bayo’s house? Is he around?”
He looked annoyed to see her, “Aunty, nobody dey live here.”
“No, you must be wrong. I’m looking for Bayo.” She fished out her phone from her bag and showed him a picture of a smiling Bayo, taken on their third anniversary.
“Oh oga,” he said, throwing groundnuts into his mouth. “He don die na. Early this year.”
She eyed the groundnuts suspiciously, wondering if they were alcoholic.
“No, no. You’re mistaken. Look at his face very well.”
“Aunty, I see am with my two koro, koro eyes. Na for here trailer jam him. Dem say the trailer get brake failure.”
Oloruntele opened her mouth, but no words came out.
The mallam pointed to the obituary pasted on the gate. “Aunty, see am na.”
Rain and dust had faded the colours, but the words were still clear:
Gone Too Soon ABAYOMI AKINOLA who went to rest in the bosom of the Lord on 12th February 2023
Oloruntele plopped onto the bench, blinking away tears. Her head throbbed; her heart was splintering. It couldn’t be. She picked up her phone and dialled Bayo’s main line; it went dead before it rang. His second line said the number didn’t exist.
A million questions banged against her head as she remembered the last time she had seen Bayo: the desperation, the tears, his shaking voice as he kissed her goodbye.
Olajesutofunmi Akinyemi is a writer and a first-class graduate of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Afe Babalola University. She was shortlisted for both the 2023 Alinea Prize and the 2023 SEVHAGE Literary Prize for Creative Non-Fiction. When her account isn’t deactivated, she tweets @toffie_xoxo.