By Bunmi Sofola
When Joanne left the comfort of her parents’ home to study pharmacy at the university, she wasn’t in the least apprehensive. A bubbly girl just turning 20, she looked forward to making friends. Inside a few months, she’d not only made friends, she found Alfred, a boyfriend she fell madly in love with! “He lived off campus,” explained Joanne,’ and I moved in with him in my second year. The rest of my stay at Ibadan just flew by, and in no time at all, I had a degree under my belt ready to go back to Lagos for another stage of my life.
“Alfred, who was studying architecture carried on studying, and it was a massive shock to go from living together to hardly seeing each other. Nevertheless, we decided to give the now long-distance romance a go. We rang each other most days, but it wasn’t the same. Travelling to see each other every other weekend was stressful. The car I had wasn’t top-notch and the roads were a nightmare.
Apart from the highly unpredictable traffic, potholes often ruined my car and I had to rely a few times on public transport. We were often under pressure to make the little time we were together brilliant, but it was such an effort. I began to realise the relationship might not work long-term. I was never going to go back to Ibadan, and I couldn’t expect Alfred to move to Lagos.
“In the end, I had to make the awful decision to say goodbye but I had no choice, I told him how I felt one weekend just after Christmas, after I’d spent hours on the Ibadan-Lagos expressway trying to get to his digs. It was very late when I eventually made it and I was really grumpy. He was very upset but I think he also realised it wasn’t working. I drove away from his place the next morning in tears and felt really sick. I couldn’t bear the thought of never speaking to him again.
We did carry on talking for a while, but about a year later, I got a boyfriend I was serious with and felt I had to be honest with him. We’ve managed to stay friends and he will always be a part of my life. I was genuinely happy for him when he told me about his new girlfriend when he eventually found one and how happy he is now. He’ll definitely be one of the first people I’ll invite if I ever get married, and I hope I get an invite if he does too…”
Alfred was really sorry distance had to permanently separate him from his first love. “From the moment I met Joanne, I found her very easy to get along with,” he said. “We got on so well, I thought it was the real thing and that our relationship would last forever. I always knew she would eventually move back to Lagos when her course finished and I supported her decision to go back. I didn’t realise a long-distance relationship would be that hard. I tried to make an effort to see her in Lagos, but I was broke most of the time, and despite everything, we both found it very difficult to keep the relationship going. Joanne broke up with me around Christmas, and it was the worst time for it to happen, but is there really a good time to sound a death knell to a relationship?
“The end, when it came, was sudden because even though I’d seen it coming, we’d never talked about it. After we broke up, we still spoke almost every day at first, but it was me doing the calling. I was still emotionally dependent on her. She moved on more quickly than I did, and it did hurt when she told me she had a new boyfriend. It took me ages to meet someone else because I wasn’t really looking. I thought I could never be happy with another woman, but now, with Rolake—my amazing girlfriend—I’ve realised I can!
“Time is really a good healer and now, six years on, Joanne and I consider ourselves just good friends rather than exes. I try to see her three or four times a year, and because of our shared history, she will always be part of my life. If I ever need anything, I know I could call her. We have similar personalities and beliefs— which is why we got together in the first place. My university years were some of the happiest times of my life, and a lot of that is down to Joanne, my first love.”