Dear Jil, let me tell you about Titi Lailai. She was a lovely girl, a very kind person. Her kindness transcended her beauty. That kindness sometimes came in little packages – like the unforgettable pocket-sized transistor radio she bought her cousin. The radio- black and yellow, reminds one of her complexion – what she is, what she’s not. Sheâ€™s dark in complexion. She bought a red and black for her uncle – her adopted father. Her life is littered with such little gestures of kindness.
Radio meant a lot in those days. This was long before the advent of the internet and all-in-one smart phones. If you were a boy of twelve, a brand new dual band portable radio would mean a lot to you. And if you were old the value of a radio was unquantifiable. The radio talked incessantly through the night, keeping old men and women company, ameliorating loneliness. The generation before the generation before this generation were like sheep who knew the voice of strangers.
But Titi’s heart sometimes gave her heart failure – not the clinical variety; in matters of love. The veins of her heart occasionally wove a mesh that trapped and suspended her in emotional restraints. Her heart simulated sadomasochistic bondage. She was like one in love with pain. When you’re that kind and pretty you’ll attract boys and men. From her teens she attracted men in various shades. Of course at that age the wisdom to choose right is not in abundance. And so she made mistakes. Her uncle did try to shield her. He drew a periphery of strict instructions around her. But there’s only so much a father can do.
Invariably, one of the young hyenas broke through and impregnated her. That pregnancy went into abortion, but the scare got her through school. Life was intrigued with her however. As she matured bodily the interest of testosterone laden young men increased. After rebuffing many she settled on a man best described by his car – a burgundy Peugeot 404. Quite the rave in those days. This was the 70s of the 20th century. High capacity music tapes in those days were called “cartridges”. The spools were as wide as masking tapes. Nearer stereophonic quality, more recording capacity. Cartridge was less temperamental than its slim cousin, the cassette tape. Less entanglement. If as you read this you have no idea what I’m talking about you haven’t been on this plane for long.
Now, the hip aesthetic in local circles in those days was the carpeting of dashboards, and even the ceiling of cars. The insides of cars were like lion’s lair. Some car seats got so smothered in faux fur it seemed teddy bears donated hide. The carpeted innards muffled the sound of blaring speakers, like a sound-proofed recording studio. Since the size of a cartridge was the size of a hardback, there wasn’t much space left in the car if you had many.
And so this man came with his carpeted burgundy car full of cartridges. He mesmerized Titi. Her cousin thought him a bit slick but he didn’t have the vocabulary to express his concern. He was just twelve! The man wore regulation gold chains that made one look affluent. He was boyish looking, soft spoken. He was in business of some sort. Nobody knew what sector. He couldn’t be in paid employment since he showed up in Titi’s house during 9 – 5 hours. And while Titi’s uncle did 9 – 5, he debauched and ravaged her, incessantly, behind closed doors. She had introduced him as her “intended” to her uncle. He was thus welcome in the house unannounced. Everyone assumed impending marriage. Then Titi got pregnant. Her sophomore pregnancy. Well, everyone assumed that only brought the marriage date forward. Nothing held up nuptials: the man had an apartment, had a burgundy car full of cartridges, wore gold chain and ran a business. Well, everyone was wrong.
On public service announcement of the pregnancy he disappeared, without a trace. He sped away from her life like a villain in a burgundy Peugeot car in a James Bond movie. At first everyone assumed he went away on an unexpected business trip to the hinterland and couldn’t contact her by phone. So many assumptions it seems, even assumptions of assumptions. But a week went by and Titi went over to his apartment. To her shock and horror the apartment was empty, cleaned out. All that was left were two cartridges. Till today no one knows what became of that man. This happened almost forty years ago. He loved the sex, so much so she assumed marriage… (Again assumption)… But he didn’t want the byproduct of his amorous exertion, or the biological output of his frenzied ardour. Titi did have the child – a beautiful child it turned out. Life moved on, as it always does. She eventually married a wonderful gentleman. He adopted the child. But the experience left laceration marks. Even wonderful hearts do retain scars.
Now, this gentleman of yours, I hope to God he’s not a reprise of Titi’s impregnator. There are similarities. You wrote you’ve been sleeping with him but somehow feel like a tramp after sex. I suspect the non-discussion of marriage exacerbates the trampy feeling. You want to marry. But you’re afraid of expressing your feelings because you don’t want to lose him. There’s the risk of no sex, no relationship. But you know what: an African adage says the child you christen Don’t-Die will eventually die. (Transliterating). You’re just postponing the inevitable. It’s best to know early enough if you’re building false hope. “Does he want to marry me?” is a question you’re going to have to confront at some point in your relationship. If you feel like a tramp after sex it might be because you suspect it’s a loveless relationship. Tell him how you feel. His answer to your concern may just be the answer you need. You’ll know if he sees you as just a carnal vessel, or a wife in waiting.
May you not get pregnant only to find out that all that’s left are cartridges of pain and regret.
Your mentor, LA.
© Leke Alder 2014