I fell in love with him the very first time I set my eyes on him at the program. He came to sit next to me and his presence got me overwhelmed. He never said a word to me and I never did too. When I entered the program room on the second day, I didn’t see him around. I took my seat and placed my bag on the seat next to me. I thought, “Maybe he’s late. Let me reserve a seat for him.” Minutes later he entered. Immediately I saw his face, I removed my bag from the seat. He walked straight to where I was seated and asked, “It’s someone sitting next to you?” I ashamedly answered, “I reserved it for you.”
He smiled a little. He said, “Thank you” and I responded, “You’re welcome.” He said, “Anyway, my name is Osei. What about you?” I answered, “Irene. My name is Irene.”
When we went on break, we had lunch together. When the program closed, we exchanged numbers. When he got home that evening, he sent me a text, “I’m home. Thank you for today.” I replied, “I’m thankful too. The lunch. The drinks. They were awesome.” We stayed online and chatted for several hours. He said, “I know a place where they sell good food and drinks. If you’re free this weekend, we can go there.” I said, “My weekend is not busy at all. We can go.”
Saturday afternoon, I met him at a junction where he picked me up and continued down to the place. We entered the place as new friends and came out as a couple. You know, boyfriend and a girlfriend kind of thing. His proposal was simple and straight to the point. I felt I owed him the same simplicity and straightforwardness so I said, “Why not? You look cool and quite responsible. I don’t know too much about you but I believe time will reveal the rest to me.”
When he drove me home, he kissed my forehead and then kissed at the back of my hand as though he was scared to go for my lips. I held him, pulled him towards me, and kissed him. He said, “I like your kind of crazy…” I said, “It’s just this once. I might not hit this level of craziness again.”
A day later we met. The following weekend, I was in his house. This time, he didn’t go for my forehead. By the time we realized, we were both panting for breath and sweating like we’d run a marathon. He looked me in the eyes and said, “This was good. The best I’ve had in a long while.” I smiled sheepishly while accepting what he said as an accolade for a good job done. We met a lot afterward and each time we met, we tried to devour each other. Things were running too fast. I was scared and at the same time hopeful that things would continue being sweet.
One evening, during a chat, he sent me a naked photo of myself. I asked, “When did you take this photo? I look like I’d been beaten.” He said, “This was the first day after the match. You slept like a baby.” I responded, “Why won’t I sleep? You wore me out with all those gymnastics.” He sent me “Lol” and I sent him “Lmao.” The fact that he sent me a photo that showed everything I’d been hiding from others didn’t bother me. I didn’t ask why he took that photo and for how long he’d been doing that and how many of those he had. In my mind, it was normal. Silly things we do all in the name of love.
A year later, the oil in the wheels of our love went low. We picked silly fights, got angry, and stopped talking to each other. We broke up and came back together at will. I caught him cheating once and I forgave him as though it wasn’t an issue. That same period, I caught him smoking, something I’d never seen him do or even suspected of him. He said he was stressed. He said I was the one giving him the stress because I’d threatened to walk away. I pleaded with him not to smoke again. I said, “If it’s about me walking away, then I withdraw. I’ll never go away. Please don’t smoke again.”
One day, in my presence, began smoking. I snatched it from his lips and stepped on it. Before I could say a word, he held me by the throat and started dragging me around. I got choked. I thought he was going to kill me. He screamed, “I’ll teach you a lesson today and you’ll dare not do that again. Are you the one to tell me what to do and what not? Is it your mouth I’m using to smoke? How dare you?” I pleaded. I struggled to break free from his grip. When he finally let go, I ran away and texted him never to come close to me again.
Days later he came to plead. I didn’t give him ears. I warned him to stay away from me before I report him to the police. I stopped picking his calls and stopped responding to his messages. One night, he sent me nude photos of myself, more revealing than the one he sent the first time. He said, “You better come so we resolve our issue or I leak these photos on social media.” I started shivering. I pleaded with him not to do anything stupid. He gave me an ultimatum. He sounded serious about the threat so I crawled back into his arms again. We made promises. He promised to treat me better and I promised not to run away again.
Not too long afterward, he hit me again. When he’s angry and I talk back, he’ll hit me. When he’s angry and I don’t talk back, he’ll still hit me. The abuse became the order of the day. He realized he had gotten me at my weakest and there was no way I could leave him so he treated me the way he wanted. There’s a mark just beneath my left eye. He gave it to me. There’s another scar behind my left shoulder. I got it from his belt hook. I can’t count the number of times my lips got swollen or the number of times I had bloodshot eyes. He was killing me slowly.
The only person I spoke to about this series of abuse was my friend Idris. He knew about the pictures too but he always advised me to walk away and watch him do his worse. He was always angry with the way he treated me until one day he called him on phone and warned him not to touch me again. Idris had a temper and was ready to meet him boot for boot. He couldn’t face Idris but he rather came to my house and beat me for involving Idris in our issues. It was my neighbors who came to rescue me. The embarrassment was getting too much. I told him that day, “It’s over. If you dare come around, I’ll cause your arrest.” I didn’t see him for days until he came around begging me to return to him.
When I didn’t listen to him, he said, “You’ll trend on social media tomorrow so get ready.” I said, “Do your worse. I’m not coming back.” I was scared he might release those photos but I was too tired of the whole abuse. I had to make I choice and I chose to walk away no matter the consequences. There’s always a price to pay but the good thing is, we pay the price once. I waited to see me trending. One week later he couldn’t do it. He came back to give me the last warning; “You know I love you. Don’t push me to do what we both may regret. Just one more chance.” I responded, “Go to hell.”
Days ran to weeks and weeks into months. I checked Twitter and checked Facebook. The trend didn’t happen. The only thing that happened was that I got my freedom back. Now I’m no longer scared. Whatever he does with those photos, whether today or in the future, I don’t care. He can go ahead while I continue walking freely and breathing the air of freedom.