- The roses you gave as a promise of love
Haunt me as their petals fall off
You promised me your heart at the centre of it all
You made me believe I’d never lose you
Yet these roses wilt and fade away
Reminding me of your absence in every way
I’m afraid to let go, this one stem of a rose
Maybe the love in it was not meant for me
Maybe if I let go, it would find the ones deserving
I remember the day he gave me my first rose. He had looked so movie like, standing outside my door, drenched by the rain. He had a sheepish smile on his face, knowing I’d be torn between gratitude and love for the rose and chastisement for exposing himself to the harsh weather.
“Where’s your inhaler you naughty boy?”
He laughed, leaning forward to catch my smile with his lips. I knew I couldn’t send him home the way he was.
“Come in, let’s deal with those clothes. By the way, it is time you get yourself a car.”
“I know babe, I just want to save up a bit more.”
I laughed. Femi was the only child and son of Engr.and Dr. (Mrs.) Bankole. Their combined wealth was one that could not be mistaken. His father owned an actual automobile workshop with several ‘branches’. His mother had positions in many international health organizations. They had many contracts that brought in money regularly. Saving up money to buy himself a car was just one of Femi’s ways of saying he could take care of himself.
“Sweetie…”, I drew nearer to him on the sofa, ” you don’t have to prove anything to me. Your health is more important…. And you know that. ”
We had met in our 3rd year of medical school at a conference organized by our school associations. He was the president of his school association and I was the treasurer of mine. Some argument had come up between the presidents of both schools and it had somehow fallen on me to be the mediator. Talking to my school association president was not going to yield much in the acute phase. So I opted to speak with Femi.
“You’re a psychologist of some sort, Fola.”
He agreed to sort the issue out with my school association president and the conference was a great success.
Handing over his clothes, now dried and ironed, to him, I asked about his new place of work.
“Private hospitals can be crazy but I’m getting paid… Fully and regularly.”
“I know right…”
My three months at the Osun state teaching hospital was yielding no fruit in the salary ‘industry’. Before I got there, the salaries had trickled in in bits but none had come in at all since I resumed. Thankfully, I had saved during my house job and NYSC. If not, garri and groundnut would have proven to be luxury too.
After he left, I had time to think over our relationship. It had been 3years since we became ‘official’. I knew he wanted to get married soon but he was bent on becoming rich enough to stand on his own. His parents… Were not so shy about showing how rich they were and how their son need not lift a finger to live well. It was a bit overwhelming for me, my parents were just… Okay.
Looking at the rose, I blessed the day I met Olufemi Bankole. I was assured that no matter what, he would hold me dear.
The roses, just like his other gifts, came at haphazard intervals. Something so typical of Femi, he didn’t like being predictable. He loved surprises and would go any extra mile to achieve such surprises. My 26th birthday was in a week and so far, I had gotten 3 roses..
With each rose came a note. The first one read:
“My heart rejoices at every thought of you. Marrying you would be a blessing. I pray to be a better man each day, you inspire more of this in me. You are beauty. Beautiful is who you are.”
He is very good with pouring out his heart.
So, getting the call from his mother, three days to my birthday, with news that he had suffered a severe asthmatic attack, I wondered if he had gone too far in pouring his heart… And lungs. I hurried to his place of work where he was on admission. He was mostly drowsy and could barely keep his eyes open.
His eyelids fluttered some before they closed fully. The doctors said he would be fine.
It had been two days since he was admitted, the doctors were claiming positive progress but we couldn’t see anything. He was more or less just… There, giving little or no responses to us.
The roses were wilting, their petals falling off. One was totally gone.
Sitting beside him, I held his hand, “Femi, don’t let our roses die before you come back. I need you alive… Please. I don’t want to let go of you…”
He did not give a blink.
That evening, standing at the balcony of my house, I held the last rose. This was not how I envisaged things. This was not me realizing how much I loved Femi, that was never in question. This was me wondering if I’d ever love again this way… without him.
I was going to prepare my mind…
My phone was ringing but I didn’t want to walk away from this defining moment. I looked at the people below, they had no idea. I even saw a young couple, walking hand in hand.
These ones can have this rose and all the love it holds…
The phone was still ringing.
I shrugged, maybe the hospital had brought the bad news.
I picked it up, bracing for the storm.
“Afolalomi, will you marry me?”
His voice was hoarse and barely audible but I knew my Olufemi anytime, any day. Clutching the last rose to my chest, I screamed my answer into the phone, nodding my head vigorously as tears streamed down my face.
He rose again.