The people you write about. They exist. No, not just in your head. They are not just figments of your imagination. They are real.
The woman you walked past in the feminine care aisle trying to pick a reliable brand of the morning after pill because she knows they can’t afford a baby just yet? That will be Arese. She had an abortion last year without telling her husband. Things are better now; he has a better job and she has a couple of interviews lined up. The student loans have started getting paid but there is still rent, money to be sent home to aged parents, car payments and gas to buy… Right now, a child would be a gift horse they would look in the mouth. She wants better for their children, much better and so she settles for the most expensive brand on the shelf.
You couldn’t take your eyes off the couple on the subway the other day. Usually you are drawn to the innocence of children but the woman and her husband seemed like they were in a world of their own, a world even the noisy twins that sat on their laps couldn’t penetrate. You had envied the shelter they seemed to find in each other. They kept looking into each others’ eyes as they spoke, their conversation riddled with giggles and chuckles. You could tell they were tourists that had been to New York before. You usually are able to tell these things. It is a sixth sense that people who live in New York have.
The man caught you staring one time as the woman attended to the needs of the twins and you had blushed deeply but not before staring into the saddest eyes you had ever seen. You knew then that he had a story before he met the woman. You knew then why he wouldn’t let go of her hand. She was his savior, his second chance. Her name is Morenikejimi and when the man said it, it was like a prayer and it brought sweet tears to your eyes.
Talking about children, you can’t stop thinking about the little boy who had crashed into you as he ran playfully from his father in Central Park last Saturday. ‘Jaiye, se jeje’ His mother who had been pushing a pink stroller behind them had called out a little too late just as the child bumped into you. Your heart had swelled with joy when you heard her call out his name. You had laughed out loud as he looked up at you with his almond-shaped eyes and eyelashes that had no business making what was an already perfect little boy even more perfect. He took your hand like it was the normal thing in the world and your heart missed a beat.
“Can I see the baby?” You asked the mother when you could finally take your eyes off Jaiyejeje.
She too was perfect. She couldn’t have been more than a few days old yet you could see all the joy she had brought along with her, the healing she had come to complete.
“What is her name?” You asked the parents.
“Zoe!” “Ekundayo!” They answered at the same time, and then laughed. It was hard to say goodbye to the little family, but you did it anyway thankful for a God that writes better endings than you could ever dream of.
You prefer the Trader Joe’s close to work. The one near your house is not as clean or as organised but you have no choice at 11 pm and so you put on the yoga pants you just took off and the hoodie the one that left, left behind.
It is Manhattan after all and so you are not surprised to find that you are not the only late night peruser of mangoes from Tahiti.
“These mangoes are the only reason I come here this late”, the only other person eyeing the mangoes says to you, his smile like that of a little boy in a candy store.
You have no makeup on and the yoga pants have an appointment with the washing machine and so you smile back, pick 3 of the most succulent orbs you can find and start to make a beeline for the salads.
Later when you visit his house for the first time, you will notice a part of the wall, lighter than the rest of it, where a painting or picture might have been. You will ask him about it and he will tell you that you’re not the first woman he has fallen in love with at a gallery.
“What are you talking about? We met at the grocery store,” You say with a chuckle.
“There is a grocery store in Toronto, it is right on the subway line, in a mall. You can go to the movies on the 4th floor and do your grocery shopping after, on the last floor. But that isn’t my favorite part. See the mall is designed in a way that you can look down from any of the upper floors and see fruits, vegetables, flowers, all bursting with so much color that even Monet would be proud of. So yeah, for me, everywhere is a gallery, a collection of art, sometimes it is human art, but most times it is God art.”
You let go the breath you didn’t know you had been holding. You never thought you could be completely enthralled by another human being but this man, this man…
“So you met two other women in art galleries/ museums. How do you know things will work out this time? How do you know this love will last?” You ask, as the ring he gave you two days ago suddenly weighs heavily on your finger.
“I don’t. I don’t know anything. Except that I have looked for perfection and masterpieces all my life. I have since learned there is no such thing, that no one can master the pieces that is me. That if I ever find someone whose flaws I fall in love with before I fall in love with their perfect, and if she can do the same for me, then that is enough. That is in itself a masterpiece.”
You help him cook dinner and laugh at the way he can never get the pasta to do his bidding.
When you are done eating, you tell him about the hoodie. How you had put it in the garbage that first night you met because even then you had known that you were at the cusp of something new. You tell him you want to get married next month, at the farmers’ market you both like. It will be the beginning of harvest, for the farmers and for you both..
He tells you later as you hug him good night at your front door, that he is happiest in your arms.