Sometimes, I Tie Gélé is a story about identity, insecurities and the need to belong. We follow Sophie “Soso” Badmus on her personal quest to make sense of these things. This Prelude is the beginning of Sophie.
The Prelude – Ella’s Entry
Wednesday 1 February 1995
It‘s my birthday! I’m twenty-two today and I’ve decided that it’s time I acquire the skills of a mature and established person. I can only assume that such people keep journals, and for this reason I have gifted myself a Son of Smyth custom yellow leather diary and the matching eighteen carat gold-plated fountain pen. Of course the new sales assistant, Sally, didn’t know who I was and couldn’t comprehend how a fabulous young lady like myself could afford such luxury. Rather than get her in trouble with Mr. Smyth Jr., I informed her myself.
“Sally is it? Sally, hmm, seems applicable. I require no introduction on most days, but it’s clear that today isn’t like most days, I am Ella Louise Watson, the daughter of James Charles and Millicent Agnes Watson the owners of Watson’s Crystal & Diamond Jewellers, just across from here.” I pointed for emphasis. “I know you’ve seen the kind of clientele our enterprise attracts, so please, do not feel inclined to waste my time. Such inclination will prove detrimental for you as I value my time very well and I’m sure that Mr. Smyth Jr. has no room for time wasting in his age old establishment?” Sally. Poor Sally. She got the message and I walked out of there victorious.
Writing seems exciting. I must write again tomorrow, after my job interview at the Future Medicine Journal, I can only hope I get the job. It’ll be the first time I accomplish something without Father’s help. Today at Son of Smyth, was the exception.
Thursday 2 February 1995
I got the job! Junior Sales Advisor. I did frown at the word “Junior” but I am trying to be mature and established, and a job interview is no place to kick up a fuss. I’ll just have to make friends quickly, work my way up and be successful enough to convince Father that I can do things by myself.
Andrew, that’s my not so mature and established manager who insists I call him Andy. I couldn’t call him Andy because that’s not how he introduced himself to me initially but I digress. Andrew tells me I’ll be attending a medical conference and exhibition at Early’s Court next week Monday, as part of my training! Such responsibilities so soon? He must see that I’m amazing already! Smart man.
I’ll wear my black Barberry skirt suit with the classic trench coat and my Bucci pumps. I must look like I know what I’m selling.
Monday 6 February 1995
I think I am in love! Is this… could this be love at first sight? Never have I been attracted to a coloured man. A coloured African man. He is tall and the exact shade of the G’divá all natural dark chocolate premium range. I once read that dark chocolate is good for your health. I believe I’m at optimum health just by sighting this man today. His suit was from the Barberry 1995 Spring collection, and he accessorised with a matching engraved gold cufflinks and tie clip set. The Longeenés 1984 Conquest watch he wore only told me that he is a man of opulence. He is especially mature and established. He spoke with such authority, with such poise. A well educated man with world experience.
Oh my. Such exotic rebellion. I must never utter this to a soul!
A neurosurgeon. I do pick them well. Dr. Bankole Badmus, what a mouthful of a name, I’ll repeat his name to myself like I did when learning French at upper school. I’ll repeat his name till I tire.
Andrew said I must return to the conference tomorrow. They’ve never sold so much advertising space at an event before as they had done today. Must be the Bucci pumps.
Dr. Bankole Badmus. BB. xoxo.
Wednesday 7 February 1995
BB came by the exhibition stand again today. He handed me his business card. My cheeks flushed with red when he repeated my name with his accent “Ell-lah”. Too many ‘l’s’ and a ‘h’ added, but I didn’t care. My name is Ell-lah from today forward. I hope I live to love him because my heart may fail me. My heart beats like the running of my Arabian Horse Sandy at the races. Sandy always wins, maybe my heart is racing to the finish line of love! Oh to win BB’s love. I think two days of employment is suffice to qualify me as mature and established. Surely that permits me to call him? I will be courageous and call him this weekend when Father and Ma are out for the Haute Magazine annual fundraiser.
Saturday 11 February 1995
I called him. At his hospital office in Nigeria. The connection was poor, but I did bravely state that he was handsome. I can’t believe I did such, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say that he thought I was beautiful. From what I could decipher from the conversation, he has children – three of them, two boys and a girl, and he was once married, but a widower now. He told me he is thirty-eight.
What are children? What is age? What are these things when love is all that matters?
Saturday 31 August 1996
It’s the bank holiday weekend and BB is in London again, his last trip here was in April. How I’ve missed seeing his face.
Saturday 31 August 1996
Lunch with BB was amazing as usual. I miss him already, although he offended me slightly.
I told him that I quit my job at Future Medicine Journal and had gotten a job at Haute Magazine (thanks to Father and his connections). He asked me why, and I told him, “Father says that I am better than that dump, and I agree with him on this occasion.” He laughed and shook his head at me, it was almost patronising. I am not his child. I am his love – I told him this instantly. He said I should have “suru” with this life, that I shouldn’t be so proud, that I should cherish my experience at FMJ because without it we wouldn’t have met. He said that I am not above reproach and that in my quest to remain mature and established that I needed to be willing to receive correction and advice… I think I went blank half way through this speech. Nobody, not even BB gets to speak to me like this, but I couldn’t respond. My voice ceased. I was stunned to silence. I must love him if his reprimand could render me mute. We took a stroll through High Park in silence, he nudged me and told me to smile. I refused of course. He stopped me, and pulled me to him, planting a soft heartfelt kiss on my stressed forehead, he then whispered in my ear “suru, my love.” I smiled. He is so wise. This is love.
I asked him what he uses to make his lips so soft, he said shea butter, he’ll bring me some next time he is in London. Till then I’ll have some suru.
For reference, so I don’t forget – “Suru” means patience in the Yoruba language.
Friday 14 February 1997
The day of love. Saint Valentines Day.
A bouquet of roses addressed to me were delivered this morning. Lucia, our new maid, brought them straight to me in the breakfast room. I was so furious with her! How I wish she took them straight to my room. It was too late, Father and Ma had both seen them and asked who they were from and I turned as red as the roses. I collected the bouquet from Lucia and I smiled just enough not to give my excitement away. I read the card “be ready at 7pm. BB”, I told Father that they were from Richard Pennington. Richard is a good enough friend that if Father should ask him about the roses he’ll admit to sending them. Richard has been my BB buffer ever since I started secretly courting BB.
“Oh how lovely! The Pennington’s are a well to do family. We must host them for dinner tonight! Give young Richard a call at once!” Father had instructed. Thankfully Ma stepped in before I did “Oh dear! We have reservations at La Salle D’or this evening. We’ll invite them another time.”
I made eye contact with Ma and there was something in her eyes that knew that the expensive floral arrangement hadn’t been sent by Richard, but I wouldn’t allow my eyes to admit that to her. When I got the job at FMJ Ma had told me, “Never show them what you don’t know, especially with your eyes.” Today, she’ll have to remember the daughter she raised.
Saturday 15 February 1997
BB. Perfect times a million.
The bed in the Superior Queen Room at The Ravoy Hotel. The best!
So why does the cold rainy weather match my mood? I must get going before Father realises I did not spend the night at home. I won’t wake BB, I’ll leave him a note instead.
Father will arrange with East London thugs for my physical demise if I am not home before he is down for breakfast. I wish to live so I can love you longer. Your love. ELW.
Thursday 20 March 1997
BB is in London. Again.
At the Ravoy. Again.
It’s raining. Again.
I’ll leave a note. Again.
Thursday 24 April 1997
I haven’t been myself since I last saw BB in March and it doesn’t help that my time of the month hasn’t arrived. I’m never late. I am like clock work. Like the gong of The Big Ben in The Elizabeth Tower. I believe the bell is now in my throat and somehow connected to my heart. I must…..
If I vomit again today I will lose all sanity!
Friday 25 April 1997
Lucia came into my room without permission, I was too weak to tell her to get out. She looked at me and spoke Spanish rapidly, before committing to English.
“Ell-lar” as she calls me, “you must visit doc-torr. You are having baby. Aye! No no… how you say, errr, you have baby grow inside.” She pointed to my stomach and I cried on her lap. “Aye. Mami. Is ok. Is ok.” Lucia repeated until I had no tears left to cry.
I know I am pregnant, I just haven’t admitted it yet.
I am pregnant out of wedlock with the child of a coloured man from Africa. I am pregnant for BB.
ELW ~ now with child.
P.s I am so happy that my parents aren’t in the country for another few days. I’ll have time to consider my options. I have to tell BB.
Saturday 26 April 1997
I dare not visit the family practitioner so I begged Richard to take me to a local hospital in North London – somewhere Father didn’t have connections. The doctor congratulated Richard and I and I threw up all over myself.
ELW ~ medically confirmed that I am with child.
Friday 2 May 1997
My parents are back from their trip. BB was at my house this morning, in my Father’s office, discussing me and this child.
I shared with BB the life update last week, and he took the first available flight he could from Nigeria. I didn’t expect to see him at my front door this morning. Father raised his voice a lot, it was a struggle to hear BB much. Father had shouted “I can’t have you bring shame to my family! MY ELLA! MY ELLA cannot be with child for a nig… a coloured man, especially one that’s from Africa! I know what I’ll do! I’ll have you arrested! You forced yourself on her, that’s how barbaric your kind are!”
I barged into the office very cross with father! I screamed at him “I love Bankole and he loves me too! Have him arrested and you’ll never see me again!” BB was evidently stunned at my entrance but didn’t seem impressed by it. He gave me that patronising look again. I ignored him.
Father laughed at me and while he kept laughing, Bankole stood up and walked towards me then asked me a question I would have readily said yes to, whether Father approved or not, but I couldn’t say yes considering the prerequisites.
“Ell-lah Louise Watson, marry me? I’ll take care of you and our child. I’ll give you both a life experience that exceeds what you currently have. Say you’ll marry me and move to Nigeria with me? I am a proud Yoruba man and I desire for all my children to be raised in the same home. I won’t be happy with myself knowing my child is being raised outside of my view. Please say yes?”
I didn’t answer, instead I softly asked Bankole to leave.
I can’t move to Africa. The expanse of my love for Bankole isn’t familiar with Nigeria. I can’t. I won’t.
ELW ~ with child, with confusion and without Bankole.
Sunday 15 June 1997
It’s Father’s Day.
Father hasn’t spoken to me much since he told me to move to Grandmother Rose’s rental property in Chelsea with Lucia. He doesn’t call or visit. Ma does though.
I called Bankole. He didn’t pick up.
What have I done?
ELW ~ 3 months with child. 1 month without Father. 1 month without BB.
Monday 25 August 1997
Bankole is in London. He visited but didn’t hug or kiss me on my forehead.
He brought me shea butter and raw cocoa butter, he said it’s good for minimising the visibility of stretch marks. I will use this every day.
He also gave me cards made by his other children, Temitope, Temidayo and Mayowa. They all say they’re excited to see their little sister, Sophie. Mayowa called her “Soso” in her card, it was sweet, but that is not my child’s name.
Bankole’s eyes were sad and they still asked the same question he asked last month. I avoided his gaze and we sat in silence for a few minutes before Lucia called us for lunch. Bankole declined lunch and left.
No kiss. No hug. I think my heart has stopped beating since he left this afternoon.
ELW ~ 5 months with child. 5 months without a kiss on my forehead. Now without a beating heart. Dead.
Thursday 25 December 1997
Father had ordered Ma not to invite me home for Christmas. I didn’t need the invite. I’m too pregnant to move. Bankole and I had wished each other well over the phone, he’ll be here tomorrow, he was adamant that he wasn’t leaving Nigeria before Christmas because of his other children. I told him that Sophie is his child too and that he could have come earlier. I was really referring to myself, not Sophie and he knew this and he became very furious. “Think about other people for once ELL-LAH! You’re not the only person on this earth! You’re going to be a mother any day now! Get a hold of yourself and stop being so childish! Please! I beg don’t annoy me today!” I could only hear the dial tone after that.
ELW ~ 9 months with child. Hormonal, tired, without Bankole and without Ma’s Christmas turkey and cranberry sauce.
Sunday 28 December 1997
On 26 December Ma sent Winston – the family driver, to my house. She knew BB was coming for Sophie’s birth so she sent Winston to pick me up to head to the airport.
The moment I saw BB my cheeks turned red. The sight of him always did that. I don’t know what came over me and where the energy came from but I ran towards him when I saw him exit the arrivals area. I hugged him as hard as my stomach would allow me and I cried, IN PUBLIC! Good heavens! BB didn’t say a word but he hugged me back and kissed my forehead. Oh how I’ve missed him.
I guess all my adrenaline was at its peak because I didn’t notice when my maternity dress had gotten wet. Right at the airport my water broke! IN PUBLIC!
Labour lasted 24 hours. I wish not to re-experience such agony.
On 27 December Sophie Abiodun Badmus, was born at eight in the morning.
I look at her now, she is so peaceful. She looks like BB with a lot more hair and green eyes like mine.
I think BB loves me again after that labour performance.
I must learn how to pronounce Sophie’s middle name well.
ELW ~ In love. With Sophie. In love. With BB.
Wednesday 31 December 1997
We left the hospital today. Ma came by to help us get back home. She likes Bankole very much.
When we got home, Lucia had prepared my favourite linguine pasta and chicken in white sauce for lunch. We all ate in an awkward silence. This was Bankole’s first time really meeting and eating with Ma. Then Bankole stood up when Lucia had cleared the table. He got on one knee and proposed to me. Again. Ma seemed joyous. I was again perplexed. I don’t want to damage this man’s heart.
I told him to sit back on his seat and announced that I was tired and needed to breastfeed Sophie. I sprinted to Sophie’s nursery and locked the door behind me. I’ve been in the nursery since lunch – it’s 8pm now.
ELW ~ Bankole Badmus’ heart crusher.
Monday 5 January 1998
Bankole leaves for Nigeria today. I will not accompany him to the airport, or to Nigeria for that matter.
ELW ~ Sophie’s mother (not theirs). Without Bankole’s love (again).
Wednesday 27 December 2006
The audacity! And on Sophie’s birthday!
I won’t go to Nigeria and he thinks I’ll allow him take Sophie there?
I blackmailed him. I made him promise that he wouldn’t take her there.
“What do you have against Nigeria? If you don’t want to go, that’s fine, but allow my half Nigerian daughter to familiarise herself with the place and its culture.” Bankole was frustrated but I didn’t care.
“Bankole Badmus! Take Sophie to Nigeria and you’ll never see her again! Don’t dare me! I will make sure you and your children will never be allowed to set eyes on Sophie ever again! Take her to Nigeria and this, all this is over!” That’s what I told him. Harsh I know, but I needed to do or say something that’ll make him comply.
But I do hope he is safe? It’s past two in the morning and he has not returned back home.
ELW ~ Worried. Without Bankole. Without Bankole forever.
Wednesday 3 January 2018
Sophie is off to Nigeria for three weeks. I’ve tried to stop her.
She’s attending her cousin, Tara’s wedding. I can’t stop her.
She’s REALLY excited to go and naively unbothered by potential dangers “I’m a Naija girl” she replied when I’d asked her to reconsider going. I guess all my badgering triggered something in her because she asked me why I never visited Nigeria and why this would be her first time visiting? I didn’t know how to respond so I didn’t.
I won’t tell her.
I wish she wasn’t such an explorer. I wish she’d just stop trying to figure things out simply because she has the ability to. I wish she wasn’t excited about this trip. I wish Tara wasn’t getting married. I wish Sophie studied elsewhere. I REALLY wish she never knew her way to Peckham. I wish she never met Dee’s mum who makes that Jollof Rice Sophie keeps coming home with. I keep wishing.
I wish I could deny the fact that Sophie isn’t me. I wish she was more like me or perhaps I wish I was more like her? I’m undecided, but I do wish Bankole never left that night in 2006. I wish I never had a regret about how I treated him, but I have many. Sometimes I wish I was brave enough to have gone with him.
But the truth is, my wishes have never come true.
ELW ~ Bothered & Wishing on non-existent stars. (Maybe I’ll hide her passport?)
Saturday 1 December 2018
Today is Sophie’s project presentation and I’m so proud of her, although I have no idea what the project is about I am looking forward to seeing it. She has reserved my seat at the venue, The Reel Local Cinema.
Bankole took me there once for a matinee showing of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio. I likened us to them and he refused to accept it, he said, “our love will not cause us to die. We will live long enough to enjoy it.”
I must get ready, time is far spent. But! Only now has it dawned on me that Bankole will be at Sophie’s presentation too. Good heavens, I must reconsider my attire.
ELW ~ Anxiously in Love. Still.
Read Ella’s concluding diary entry in next week’s post! The main story will be out next week on 15 June 2018, this piece was just an introduction. 🙂
Sometimes, I Tie Gélé. Part One – LINK