“Life, oh life, oh life” a song by Des’ree blasted from the radio station that keeps him company every day from work. He nodded his head to the beat and sang along as he made a turn onto the road and heading home.
Ladi Ojo had loved music all his life; his iPod could boast of so many songs he could have started his own radio station and never be wanting of good music, if he so desired.
As the song played, he couldn’t help but reminisce on his own life. He was fortunate to secure a job at the prestigious Lily oil and gas company. He joined immediately after his master’s degree abroad. He had travelled immediately after the compulsory National youth service corps (NYSC) by the Nigerian government for those who have completed their university or polytechnic education.
Most of his friends who had served together had not been as lucky as he was. In five years, he had risen to the position of Head, human resources due to his relentless attitude and hard work. He would be thirty in two months and one of his goals was to at least have a fiancée by thirty if marriage didn’t happen.
A dog ran in front of his car as he turned into his street, snapping him out of his reverie. He honked his horn and waited for the guard to open the gate to the compound where he lived. He chose to rent a serviced apartment in the highbrow part of the city to fit his status as a Lagos big boy. A characteristic of a Lagos big boy is the bevy of ladies that was always at their beck and call. One can literarily have these ladies eating out of their palms.
Ladi had his fair share of the ladies; different colors and sizes. He was also blessed with looks that never went unnoticed. A charm he had used to his advantage from his university days when he began dating.
His first girlfriend had been Esther, the daughter of the school registrar. They had been the envy of a lot of students when the affair started, but it hadn’t lasted more than two months. Everyone was shocked at how short the relationship had been. One of Esther’s friends who had probed her to know the reason why they broke up had met a brick wall; she only observed that Esther didn’t want to have anything to do with Ladi again. Not even the mention of his name.
Next was Toyin Ali. They also dated for a while and Toyin called off the relationship. Ladi then decided to call it quits with women and relationships but to have flings only, at least until he graduated from the university. Even during his NYSC, he stayed off anything serious with any lady. He felt he wasn’t lucky when it came to matters of the heart.
Ladi travelled out of the country for thirteen months after his NYSC for a master degree program. There he met a Jamaican lady and he developed an interest in her. “At least, since she is a non-Nigerian, possibly the relationship will work” he thought to himself. They dated for just three weeks and went their separate ways. She just couldn’t stand him; in less than three weeks of dating, she had come to know him for who he truly was; she saw what lay behind the charm and intelligence. She thought it could work out between them because she really liked him but she knew she would be making a grave mistake if she stayed on.
Ladi got back to Nigeria after his master’s program and got a job almost immediately. He determined to stay off ladies and build his life. Life couldn’t be better; his mates were still job hunting but not for him. The master’s program coupled with his good grades earned him the job. He was sought after even before he completed the NYSC.
One day at work, his colleague Michael teased him about a certain intern who was obviously swooning over him.
“Ladi, what is wrong with you? Do you mean to tell me you haven’t noticed the way Joyce acts around you? She literarily worships the ground you thread on” asked Michael
“I noticed Mike. She couldn’t even hide it; but I am not into her type” replied Ladi. He loved to be the one who did the chasing, not the other way round. This Joyce acted as if the world revolved around him, always at his beck and call.
One day, Ladi decided to take Michael’s advice. He invited her to lunch and she accepted without a second’s hesitation. Lunch was good and Ladi found himself impressed. Joyce was actually a very intelligent lady. She had graduated with honors at the university and the best student overall in her department. He decided to take her even more seriously.
They started dating officially and everyone knew they were a couple; they couldn’t hide it for long. Micheal was surprised but happy the two hit it off smoothly. Joyce, being a well brought up lady told Ladi from the onset that she would not engage in pre-marital sex before her wedding. Ladi didn’t like it, but because she appeared too good to be true, he agreed.
Months into the relationship, she had gone to his house on a visit. She came with food stuffs hoping to make a meal for them, instead of eating out. She prepared egusi with goat meat and searched the house for yellow garri (cassava flakes) to make eba (a Nigerian dish made from cassava flour) but when she couldn’t find, she used the white garri instead.
“Wow darling, the aroma of this food is enough to satisfy me without me actually eating” said Ladi as Joyce set the table. They both laughed and she invited him over to the dining when she was done.
As she opened the bowls to begin the dishing out, he asked; “Why is the eba white? Why didn’t you use the yellow garri?”
“I searched all over but found none, I assumed it had finished and used the white garri instead.” Joyce replied.
“How dare you assume? No one assumes around me, you should have asked me first or gone out to buy. I HATE WHITE EBA!!!” He jumped up from the seat and angrily scattered the table; throwing the bowl of soup at the wall and plastering Joyce’s face with the hot eba.
She ran wildly until she got to the toilet to wash off the eba. Her face was tingling due to the heat. She prayed her face won’t boil from the impact. When she was done cleaning her face, she sat on the toilet bowl wondering about the scenario that had played itself out at the dining. She wasn’t sure it was the same Ladi she had known all along. This person in the living room was a beast; a savage.
“Open the door Joyce, I know you are in there” called out Ladi as he knocked on the toilet door. “Please come out. I am so sorry; I don’t know what came over me. I am truly sorry. Please open up dear”. Joyce came out of the toilet to behold the face of Ladi, he looked like an angel. No sign of the beast she had witnessed a while ago. He knelt down and begged her, promising he would never do anything to hurt her or their relationship. She hugged him and they shared a passionate kiss. He cleaned the apartment all by himself and made sure she was seated in front of the television whilst he did so. They went out afterwards to a restaurant for lunch.
On her bed later that night, Joyce knew what she witnessed was more than a stressed up Ladi. He seemed to be emotionally imbalanced and she didn’t know what to do about it. She thought about telling her mother but she knew her mum would be excessively worried and mess things up for her. Mummy can be over protective of her little girl sometimes and Joyce was in no mood for lectures.
“Dear Lord, thank you for today. I am grateful for your mercies. Please whatever is wrong with Ladi; help him sort it out because I do not want to lose him oo. Dear Lord, you know I am madly in love with him; therefore our relationship must just work out. Touch him for me and make him the best man in the whole wide world. In Jesus name I pray” said Joyce as she closed her eyes to sleep.
Two weeks after the eba incident, they went out to the beach for a weekend outing. They rode horses and bathed in the water. It was a refreshing time; Joyce couldn’t have had a better weekend. They later lay on the beach bed they brought along, under some coconut trees. They decided to play the game “catch-up”. It meant they asked questions from each other about what happened before they both met; past relationships, if any.
“So tell me, how many ladies have you dated?” it was Joyce’s’ turn. “I hope they are not uncountable” she added.
“Well, I have dated quite a few but they were not good women.” Ladi replied. “I don’t know what happens, but when I really get into them and start showing them how much I really care, they just walk out of my life without turning back”
“I have often wondered why I have never been able to have a relationship that lasts up to a year” Ladi said. “I had told myself its over for me when it comes to ladies until I met you Joyce; you have been the best thing to happen to me”. He pulled her to himself and squeezed her in a tight hug. Joyce had never felt so loved in all her life. They disengaged and lay side by side staring at the clear skies.
“So Ladi, tell me about the last relationship before you and I. What did she do to make you decide to stay off women”? Joyce asked. He didn’t respond but lay there, gazing. She nudged him with her shoulder to answer her question and he still didn’t say a word. She sat up to look at his face and possibly tickle him till she got her answer and she froze. What she saw could not be described. It was a glare as cold as ice. She could see veins popping on his forehead as if ready to burst at the slightest touch. She felt she must have broached a very sensitive topic and made to pat him and calm his fears but he stopped her hands midway as he held her wrist. He held it so tight she screamed, whispering to him to let her go. Ladi knowing they were in public glare, let go of her wrist and it looked as if blood had drained from it.
The rest of the time on the beach was tense and Ladi suggested they left. He drove her home and she invited him in for a drink, since her parents and little brother had travelled for the weekend and she was going to be home by herself. She hoped they could make up and go back to being normal again. He declined initially but she insisted. Once in, she got him a cold drink from the refrigerator and went in to change.
“Joyce, don’t ever broach the topic of my exes with me again. Never!!” Ladi said.
“But why Ladi, I told you about mine, what did they ever do to you?” retorted Joyce. The next thing she saw were stars dancing across the living room. She was stunned. She staggered and fell into the couch and Ladi hit her on the face again.
“Don’t question me again; I am not your mate. I said drop the subject and you insisted. This is what happens to people who meddle in other people’s affairs” Ladi spat angrily. He thought she would fight back, he was expecting her to; but she crouched deeper into the couch crying. But she wasn’t supposed to cry, she ought to fight back, he thought. Then he realized the woman he cared for was the one he had hit. He knelt by her side and cried alongside. He promised heaven and earth to make it up to her. He said he didn’t know what came over him. He begged her not to tell anyone, that he loved her crazily and would do anything to make it up to her.
“Joyce, what happened to your face?” asked Tope her supervisor at work. Joyce had been happy her parents came in late Sunday evening and had not seen her face properly. She left the house before they woke up and was glad she knew a little trick about make up. She applied foundation and concealer as much as she could.
She couldn’t afford to stay back home; her first appraisal meeting was on Monday and it would not be nice to stand her department head up, as she hoped she would be retained after her internship.
Tope wasn’t fooled at all. She saw the signs and knew Joyce had not fallen as she had claimed. She told her to open up to her if she was in an abusive relationship. Joyce avoided her eyes and denied it.
“Okay then, but speak up dear before it gets too late to do anything about it.” replied Tope. Tope’s younger sister had been a victim of abuse and had kept it to herself until it was too late. She had become so depressed that she became suicidal. Eventually, she had a mental breakdown and has since been confined to a psychiatric home for proper care. It’s been 3 years and still hasn’t improved. Tope shared the story with Joyce so she can take action.
Joyce became wary of Ladi but tried to hide it. She pretended to be busy just to avoid him. She wasn’t sure she loved him anymore but misses him each passing moment. She promised herself to give him another chance and not judge him too harshly; he was probably undergoing work stress.
Suddenly there was a loud bang, raised voices and women screaming. The noise seemed to be coming from the conference room. Every one hurried to get there to see the cause of the commotion…a man was being held by three men in suit, all rumpled because of the pulling and tugging. Another lady was being consoled by two ladies and a guy. She was sobbing hysterically. The MD sat at the head of the table, sending a message on his phone, looking unruffled by the whole drama. Before long, the security guards had come up to take the man downstairs. The crying lady also got up, told her sympathizers she would be okay and picked up her phone to make a call.
It looked like a movie only that it was real and happening at her office premises. She got the full scoop of the gist from the PA to the MD. The heads of departments had a presentation to make and defend. Then there was an argument over whose project was better and whose budget was to be approved first. The lady had stood her ground that it was hers and the guy felt belittled. He couldn’t hold his annoyance anymore and lashed out at the lady. Before anyone could calm them down, he had dealt her two slaps. The lady responded back with hers and then he rushed at her in a scuffle. It took the three men to get him off her.
The guy had been her own Ladi. Thrown out by security guards and handcuffed off the premises by men of the police force whom the MD had called. He couldn’t look at her eyes when the cops came. He felt stupid for having fought with a lady at the office. The lady had pressed charges and sued, she had the evidence after having gotten a black eye and a broken tooth from the assault.
When Ladi’s mum had visited him in detention, she reminded him of her warnings. “You have lost all the good women God brought your way due to your uncontrolled temper. You beat them mercilessly and expect them to stay. I warned you, I begged you; see where it has landed you now”. She was heartbroken over his situation and started calling every top citizen she knew to help her son. He was also taken for psychiatric evaluation to determine his mental condition.
At the office, Joyce couldn’t concentrate. She just couldn’t believe the man she loved had been a beast in public. Tope sensed her mood and after little cajoling, Joyce opened up to her and told her everything.
Micheal visited her and tried to offer her some comfort. He told her he had never ever seen Ladi that way before. That though he got angry at times but never to the extent that he got into a fight. He excused himself and Tope went to her side one more time.
“Let’s just be grateful this happened. I hope you have snapped out of any uncertainties. Because a man as short tempered and violent like Ladi, is a time bomb waiting to explode” Tope warned.
Ladi sat alone in his cell, reminiscing over the entire episode and what his mother had said. He broke down in tears and asked God to help him. He knew he needed help so he won’t be condemned. He was shocked Joyce had only come to see him twice. He thought she loved him and that love stayed no matter what.
He didn’t want her to leave him like all the others. He now realized that the others had run for their lives when he exhibited his uncontrollable anger. Well, he wouldn’t blame them; he would have done the same. Two weeks after the assault case, he had gotten a letter of dismissal from his company, and his world had come crashing down around him.
He promised himself to get the necessary help so that he wouldn’t destroy his future.
“ Once I get out of jail, I will go for counseling and anger management class and try to be a better person for the society” he said.