By Olubunmi Familoni
It starts like a joke — on the first impromptu sleep-over (the first sleep-over is always impromptu, especially in the rainy season, when even two drops of rain means “I can’t drive in this rain,” or a drizzle as light as tears means “You can’t go home in this kind of evil rain… Well, if you’re determined to get wet, that can be arranged indoors…”); your favourite bottom-of-the-closet T-shirt becomes her nightshirt for the night; you’ve worn that baby only one and a half times in all the hundred years you’ve had it, but when you see what the fullness of her body does to the precious shirt your mourning turns into dancing again and your sorrows are lifted… This joke stops being funny in the morning though, when the toothbrush conversation comes up. You might be unfortunate enough to have one who has fallen headlong in love and doesn’t mind using your toothbrush, that is, the brush you put in your own mouth; of course, backed with the argument of “didn’t we already exchange saliva…” We did, didn’t we; so, what now, we’ll be spitting in each other’s drinks just because we shared a number of kisses to facilitate a necessary activity? Now, the memory of what else has been in that mouth makes you grab your dear toothbrush from her and lock it away in a safe. No, thank you; when did we start love that we’re eating lips.
And they always insist on going with you to buy their toothbrush for the morning; such that it feels like going shopping for a ring. And of course, the neighbourhood shop-owner gives you a sly Happy Married Life look to go with it. And that, my brethren, is how the first item in the trousseau appears in your house, sitting next to your own brush, colours matching.
By the way, your tee has become one of the items as well, because it is now irrecoverable — she has cooked in it, taken a dump in it, done her Pilates in it, prayed in it, and she has argued in it — it is now hers; so when she’s leaving she folds it up and places it in a separate, tidy corner of the room/closet she has magically created out of the bachelor bedlam, an act which you don’t pay much mind to; at this stage you don’t suspect anything, typically.
When she leaves, she leaves a pair of earrings behind, deliberately, and they’re always hidden somewhere; so she calls and says, “I can’t find my earrings — I must have left them at your place.” Shit. You turn the place upside down and inside out looking for this Holy Grail, even though she hadn’t asked you to look, only to alert you on the commencement of Operation Territorial Marking. That initial stage is the subtle markings — concealing a precious female item in a bachelor’s pad, in a place that it cannot be found by the poor fellow, only by another woman, of course one who would be encroaching upon the ‘owner’s’ territory.
You’re sweating tears looking for the bloody earrings that you’re afraid might just pop up between the legs of the girl coming through that afternoon, in the middle of action. “Whose earrings are these?” “Jesus. Where did you find them! I’ve been Indiana Jones all day looking for these things! Was even going to go to the police and…” “Whose earrings are they? Are you married?” “They’re earrings, not a ring. Gee, don’t burst an artery. They’re my mum’s.” “Fancy finding your mum’s earrings in a corner of your bed, in your bedroom, Mr. Oedipus.” Somebody’s mum can’t come through just to straighten their son’s bed anymore? What’s the world coming to. Why, a man’s mother can’t lose her earrings in her son’s pad? Stop whining and get back in position.
The next phase in this subtle-aggressive taking-over of your space is the vanity-case stage. That little bag is very instrumental in the marking process; it contains, like a carpenter’s toolbox, all the crucial items that will hammer the appropriate nails in the cohabitation coffin: make-up things, feminine-shaped fragrance bottles, and cosmetic cans of all sizes to be lined conspicuously on your erstwhile sane dressing table/chest of drawers, shoving your measly grooming possessions aside; all colours of clothes and underwear to be hung and folded in prime positions in your closet; then a High-Street shoe shop opens in a good corner of your room, evil-looking heels bullying your pathetic Timberlands and loafers to the back… You’d be surprised at the amount of things that harmless little weekend bag can hold; you almost expect her to pull a baby out of it as well, to complete the horror of the familial picture she’s creating. At a point, you go back to check your phone to make sure you hadn’t typed “Will you marry me?” instead of “You coming over for the weekend?”
From moving furniture around every hour, for a “new look”, to hanging up pictures of both of you and of herself from birth to graduation, where people’s noses wouldn’t miss them, to her shiny pots sitting proprietorially in the kitchen, to her bra hanging out of your jacket pocket in the closet, things go from worse to worst, until you wake up one morning and she’s lying beside you with that ring on her finger and wifely dribble on the pillow… Yes, she imagines she’s the woman of your dreams, but did you really get married in your sleep!
Stay woke, brethren.