Distance Episode 12

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“Dimeji, I’m talking to you. Tell me it’s
not true,” said Tobi, tears filling her
eyes. She had hoped and prayed that it
was just a hoax, something she could
write off as the ravings of a jealous
man, but the look in Dimeji’s eyes
coupled with his silence, spoke
volumes. She began to sob
uncontrollably.
“Tobi, I’m sorry … It’s um … it’s
complicated. I should have told you
earlier.”
“You b—–d! How could you hide
something of this magnitude from me?
Did you think I wouldn’t find out?
You’ve made a fool of me. Why me? W-
h-y–” Tobi cried.
“Tobi, please let me explain–“
“Explain what? Unless you’re about to
tell me that you’re not the child’s father,
I don’t want to hear any useless
explanation from you.”
“But that’s the thing, Tobi. I’m not
sure. I don’t know for sure if I’m
Tomiwa’s father.”
“How can you not know? Who goes
about claiming to be a child’s father
without being certain?”
“Tobi, you have every right to be angry,
but if you would just calm down–“
“I am not calming down! It is because I
was acting like a gentlewoman that you
thought you could fool me. If you had
tried this nonsense with one of
those correct Lagos girls, you know
what they would have done to you!”
“But you’re not like that now–“
“Which is why you took advantage of
me, abi? I resemble mumu ?”
Tobi walked away angrily and
Dimeji went after her, begging her to
come back. She had almost reached the
gate when she remembered that a
similar scene had played out between
her and Mayowa.
After Mayowa introduced Folake as his
new girlfriend, Tobi had stormed off
immediately, cutting off all ties with the
two of them. She had also lost the
opportunity to get closure. Folake, not
Mayowa, had offered to explain, but
Tobi had left without waiting to hear
the rest.
In the weeks that followed, she had
wanted that explanation. She felt like
that chapter in her life was still open,
and that regardless of how lame or
inadequate Folake’s explanation was, it
would still have been better than not
knowing at all.
As Tobi turned around to face Dimeji,
she realized that she was doing the
same thing again: running away
without giving an opportunity for any
explanation. She knew that her anger
was justified, that she had been
wronged, but she also knew that if she
left Dimeji under these circumstances,
she would be filled with regret for the
rest of her life.
For whatever it is worth, let me hear
what he has to say.
She allowed Dimeji to lead her back into
the house, but rebuffed his attempts to
hold her, to comfort her. She was not
in the mood for that level of
reconciliation. She just wanted closure.
“Tobi, I know I have wronged you. I
know I have hurt you deeply, but
believe me when I say that I am truly
sorry. I never intended to keep this
away from you. I know you won’t
believe me, but I planned to tell you. I
just didn’t know how or when … And …
and I was scared I would lose you.”
“So fear kept you from acting like a real
man, abi? You were so afraid that you
forgot how to be a man. Is that your
excuse? Isn’t that the excuse all you men
give?” Tobi sneered. She had wiped her
eyes and sorrow was now replaced by
resentment.
“Tobi, I am not all men. I cannot speak
for all men. I can only speak for
Dimeji … for myself.”
A thought suddenly occurred to Tobi.
“The person speaking Hausa … Yes,
Dimeji, the person who always speaks to
you in Hausa on the phone … is that
your child’s mother? Your wife? Baby
mama?” she asked.
“None of the above. It was my mother.”
“So, why didn’t you just tell me that
before?”
“Because I would have had to tell
you why she chose to speak to me in
Hausa. Remember the last time she
called, and you were there, she was
asking about the child. Tomiwa, I
mean, and his mother, Enitan.”
“Wait o … Isn’t that your ex-girlfriend?
The one you said was your fellow corper
in Kogi?” Tobi said in surprise.
“Yes … Yes, that’s her. Enitan,” said
Dimeji bitterly.
“I regret the day I met her.”
“I bet you do now,” said Tobi, eyeing
him.
“No, Tobi. I’m serious. Look this is
what happened: My youth service was
four years ago.”
“That is 2009, right?”
“Yes. That’s when it ended. That was
also the year when I ended my
relationship with Enitan. I never went
back to her, I swear by my mother’s–“
“There’s no need for all that efizi, Mr.
Bakare. Just continue.”
“Why now? How did I become Mr.
Bakare? Dimeji is just–“
“Isn’t that your name? Abi, is that also a
lie?”
“Tobi, look. Sarcasm will not help–“
“Dimeji, just carry go . I’m listening,”
Tobi interrupted impatiently.
“Okay. If you say so,” he said sulking.
“After we completed our service and
left Kogi, I did not see her again. Not
until last year. November 2012. I kept
the same phone number since my NYSC
days, so she had my number. She called
me out of the blues, and said she had
something important to discuss with
me–“
“I thought it was harmless, so I agreed.
I thought maybe she wanted my help
with some business … you know … or
something like that. Only for her to tell
me she had a son. I even congratulated
her and asked after the child’s father,
until she said: ‘You are the father.’ I
thought she was joking. In fact, I told
her she was not serious, but she insisted
that she was telling the truth. See, we
broke up shortly before our service
year ended, and–“
“Bla, bla, bla! Here we go! Save all these
explanations for someone who cares jo!
All you suppose talk be say de kain
dangerous play wey una dey play on
top mattress don turn to belle …
Finish!” said Tobi sarcastically.
Dimeji paused and opened his mouth
like he was going to say something to
her, but decided against it. He took a
deep breath and simply picked up from
where he stopped.
“You’re right that is what happened, but
that is not all. According to her, after
we broke up, she discovered that she
was pregnant, but decided not to
contact me. She felt sure that I would
deny paternity of the child, and decided
to raise the child by herself.”
“Would you … I mean, would you have
denied paternity?” Tobi asked
curiously.
“No, I would never do such a thing. I’m
a responsible man.”
“Some people would argue otherwise,
but hey, carry on. So why did she call
you?”
“The child was going to start nursery
school this year. He was two years old
at the time she came to see me. He
actually turned three in July. She
wanted him to start when he turned
three, and said she did not want his
education to suffer. She’s a teacher
here in Asaba, and can’t afford to pay
his school fees if he attends a private
school.”
“Wait … what did you say?”
“She can’t afford–“
“No. Before that. You said she was a
teacher, right?” said Tobi, sitting up.
“Yes. She teaches Biology at a
secondary school here in Asaba,” said
Dimeji quite surprised. “Why did you
ask?”
“What’s the name of the
school, Dimeji?” Tobi asked.
“Graceville College.”
“Oh, never mind,” Tobi said in a
deflated voice. “I thought I could
explain how Brother James came to
know about Enitan and the child.
Maybe someone told him. But wait o.
Did you say Graceville College ?”
“Yes.”
“My cousins attend that school. Isn’t it
the one on Summit Road?”
“Yes. That’s the one. Small world.”
“A very, small world indeed.”
There was a short silence as each
person’s thoughts wandered off, but
then Dimeji broke the silence with:
“So that’s why she contacted me. She
wanted me to at least pay for the child’s
school fees. At first, I refused.
Remember her history during our NYSC
days? I was skeptical about the child’s
paternity, so I told her that I needed
proof. She said the only proof she was
going to give me was the child’s
picture. She showed me his picture, and
honestly, Tobi … he kinda looks like me.
I mean, his ears are pointy just like–“
“Ehn ehn! Please spare me the details.”
“Well, my mother took Enitan’s side.
When she saw the picture, she agreed
that he was my son. She says he has my
nose and … Sorry, Tobi. I’m making
you uncomfortable. I know this is not
what you want to hear, but I have my
doubts.”
“So your mother supported her too?
Wonderful. I guess it’s settled then. I
mean, your mother can’t be wrong.”
“I challenged my mum, especially
because of what I knew about Enitan.
But she insisted that Enitan was right.
In her words, “a mother will always
know who the father of her child is.”
Who can argue with that?”
“Certainly not me.”
“So whenever my mother called, I
insisted on speaking to her in Hausa so
you would not know what we were
discussing. I’m sorry, Tobi,” a shame-
faced Dimeji said.
“Are you sure that is all you wanted to
tell me? Look, if you have another Baby
Mama who has had twins for you,
tucked away somewhere in Abeokuta,
this would be the time to speak up.”
“Haba, Tobi! I said I was sorry. Why do
you think I am still hiding anything
from you?”
“Old habits die hard, Mister.”
“Look Tobi, it was originally because of
Enitan and Tomiwa that I came to
Asaba. Opening a new branch was just
secondary. I wanted to have some sort
of relationship with the child, you
know. But life in Asaba has taken on a
new meaning for me since I met you.
You made me believe I could start
afresh, like there was still hope for me.
Please Tobi, I know I have messed up,
but please don’t leave me.”
By this time, Dimeji was already on his
knees and holding Tobi’s hands. She
started crying again. She knew he was
telling the truth, but she was reluctant
to forgive him just then. He would need
to earn her trust again.
“Dimeji … get up,” Tobi said in-between
sobs. He did, and she allowed him hold
her for a few minutes before pulling
away from him.
“I’m still angry with you, and I will
probably be angry for the next few
weeks. But, you have to let that anger
run its course. You have to understand
that all this … this news is
overwhelming, you having a child with
your ex-girlfriend. I am not sure I can
handle it, but I will try. What I really
want is clarity. I listened to everything
you said, about Enitan and Tomiwa,
and the one thing that kept coming up
was this: you doubt that this child is
truly your son. From what you have
told me about Enitan, and also judging
from the circumstances under which
she contacted you, I have my own
doubts too. She seems to be a very
smart person, so why did she not try to
contact you when she discovered that
she was pregnant? There’s something
else she is not telling you. Besides, I am
not sure I can date a man who already
has a child–“
“I understand, Tobi. And I don’t blame
you. But for my sake … please, I don’t
want to lose you.”
“Let’s take this one step at a time,
okay.”
“Okay. I think we first need to find out
for certain if I am Tomiwa’s father.
When we know for sure, then whatever
decision you take is fine by me.” Tobi
knew Dimeji was just saying that to
calm her down. She knew that even if
Dimeji discovered that he was truly the
child’s father, he would still try to
convince her not to leave him.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get
there. Meanwhile, how can we do a
paternity test?”
“See, that’s why I stopped in Aba, when
I was coming to Asaba for the first
time. Someone told me about a lab in
Aba operated by a very meticulous
gentleman. Among other things they do
DNA tests. I stopped there and checked
out the facilities before coming here.
You would be really surprised. That
place is loaded o, well-equipped and
everything. You won’t believe it’s in
Nigeria.”
“Are you serious? In Aba? But come o
… a lab in Aba? Hmmm … I don’t trust.”
“Look, Tobi. I know what you mean,
but I would feel more comfortable if the
results came from Aba where no one
knows either me or Enitan, than here in
Asaba, where only God knows which of
her relatives or friends works there.”
“That’s true. Aba would be a neutral
place. They would have no incentive to
tamper with the results there. So, what
are we going to do, Dimeji?” Tobi asked.
“Let’s sleep on it. Quality ideas will
come after we have rested,” said Dimeji.
Tobi agreed with him, and they decided
to meet the following day at the same
time.
– to be continued