Love a Gambian woman. Don’t give up on her. Meet her circle of friends, meet her best friend. Speak to them dutifully, and be calm under their judging gazes. It is OK – she has told them about you, it is OK – they have heard only good things. Don’t sweat it. Speak to them kindly, be the best gentleman you can. Understand how they are part of her life, little gears and big gears, that make her run smoothly. If you want try and understand the nuances in her relationships with them. The friends that she has fun with, the ones that she will cry in front of. The ones she is always cheerful around, a fake posing that has nothing to do with her real mood. The ones she is in competition with, though she would never admit it.
She will be quiet around you some nights, on the phone. She will listen to you speak. Of your ambitions, what you want to do with your life. She will stop you at key moments to ask important questions, and you will feel as if you have already half-achieved the things you wish, just in telling her. She will have a quiet and unshakable confidence in you, that even your own mother does not. She will support you, and hiss at the people who ruin your days and belittle you, and call them names.
Be kind to her. Be gentle in the ways you treat her, for though she is strong, far stronger than you, she is also fragile, far more fragile. She is a kernel inside of which there is a Gambian woman growing, that most perennial of creatures. She can withstand gales and earthquakes, she is strong enough to survive the apocalypse, and tend and nurture a family through it. But she has given in to you, let down all her defences – be careful how you treat her. You alone can hurt her, the way she trusts you. You love me more than any other man I know, she tells you. You care so much for me and my welfare. You must smile graciously, when she says these things.
Don’t get bored with the relationship, and want to leave. She is only now settling in, planning the rest of her life with you. There are many women, but she is the one – you must believe this. Close your eyes to the glamour of new discoveries, and your ears to the sweet temptation of new voices on the phone, at night. Do not follow the attraction of novelty. When her mother calls to speak with you reassure her that everything is alright with her daughter, promise her you’ll go to eat soupah on Saturday. Continue to go to her house, continue to reply when her older sister writes on your wall. You promised her the world once, you made her believe you. Do not fail her.
There will be bad nights – work through them to the soft meadows on the other side. Pick up the phone when she calls, and do not pretend to be asleep. Don’t be grumpy, don’t yell at her. Listen to her speak, pretend there is still a hot coldness in your stomach, at her voice. Pretend you missed her, during the day, lie and say she was on your mind the whole time. Don’t keep glancing at your wall clock, and wishing it would move faster. Be careful she does not hear the impatience in your voice. When she says she is going to hang up, don’t call her bluff – tell her you want her to stay. Tell her you love her, before she puts down the phone – hide the irritation in your tone. Pick up when she calls two minutes later, explain how you missed her too, and were almost about to call her back.
Don’t cheat on her, don’t make her cry. Don’t go clubbing alone on Saturday night, don’t arrange to incidentally meet another girl there. Don’t turn on all your charm, so the girl can’t resist you – don’t pretend none of it is your fault. When the DJ starts playing zouk don’t accept the girl’s invitation to dance, or if you do don’t hold her so close and warm. It’s not too late – tell her you have to leave. Tell her you have to wake early tomorrow. Don’t offer to take her home – when she gets in your car, don’t pretend you have to drop something off at your house first.
Lie, when you’re caught. Say it wasn’t you, say you took no one home. She will believe you – she wants to believe you. Pretend great indignation, ask angrily for the name of the person who told her. Look her in the eye and tell her you love her. Repeat this over and over again, as if your heart would break if you stopped saying it. Wear her down, her accusations getting weaker and weaker, hold her in your arms and stroke her hair. Make a naughty joke, make her laugh. Attempt to kiss her, and when she turns away attempt again – she will let you. Don’t make the kiss about you, make it about her, like you used to kiss her, in the beginning, your heart connected to your lips, transmitting a softness in their gentle caress. Leave her breathless, and heaving great sighs, her doubts all gone, go home and try to resist the temptation to call the new girl.
When she calls while you’re on the phone don’t tell the new girl it’s your mum. You have no reason to lie. When she asks who you were talking to don’t say it was Ous. Don’t leave long silences in the conversation, so she’ll hang up and you can call the new girl back. Listen to her speak, and remember why you fell for her, in the beginning. It’s not too late to fix things. Ask about her day, and be genuinely interested. You can do this, if you only try.
Sit at night, and think about her. Understand that all women are the same, and yet each woman is unique. Understand that each woman is all women, and if you take one, and are the perfect man for her, you are the perfect man for all women. Think about her laughing, think about her crying. Suddenly realise just how beautiful she is, and through her see how beautiful every other woman is. Forget the competition to get as many women as possible, forget the envy of your guy friends. You are a man now, not a boy competing for girlfriends. She is the right one for you, and you know this. Reach for the phone to call her, and hope it is not too late. Don’t expect gratitude, when she picks up. Don’t expect a road that is smooth – there will always be bumps. Drive around them, or hold on to her tight until you are past them. She deserves this, she is worth it. Forget your ego, realise her love is a gift, and you should be thankful for it.
Love a Gambian woman, and let her love you back. You will find no one else like her in the world.