It’s been ages since we saw each other and exchanged hearty jokes over red wine and good food. I remember your eyes twinkling that full moon night in Lagos. Tade and Goke were the finest gentlemen, graciously offering us their jackets while we walked barefoot along the ocean shore. It was beautiful. Was it that night Goke made a joke about how fair-skinned women were the best kind of women? I’m not so sure. If it was that night, I chose to erase it from my mind as a drunken comment. But it cut you deep, friend. If I had any idea, I would’ve stayed up till much later to help you clean and dress your wound, girl. I did not know and I am sorry.
I saw you six months after that time yesterday at Rachel’s party and I almost dropped my glass when I saw your rosy red lips set on milky-white skin. I don’t know how you did it in six months but you did. There were so many things I wanted to say to you instead of the small talk we made. My throat was throbbing with all the questions I was sorely tempted to blurt out. I saved it for later but you left before the party ended. Tola said your flight back to Arizona was for 9 p.m. It kept me awake for a long time just thinking about how one drunken comment remade you. Surely, you must’ve known that your name was on everyone’s lips last night on the rooftop. Surely! They were not saying the kindest of things. No, they were not extolling your many virtues. All they saw was the colour of your skin.
Maybe you sensed it too when I greeted you with halted hesitant speech—I cannot say for sure. When I asked what company you work with, I really wanted to know when you made the decision to change the colour of your skin. When I asked you last night if you were still with Goke, I really wanted to know if he scalded you with his words even after that night until your smooth dark skin was all gone, until pale skin remained and blue veins throbbed against your temples. Where was it ever passed into law that fairer is more valuable? Why do you now loathe the rich dark skin I envied a year ago? I wish you didn’t buy into the lie. I wish you knew that you had nothing to be insecure about. I wish you chose to walk through familiar streets with your head held high and your pride intact. I wish you didn’t listen to the media. It is pretty cliché now but black really is beautiful. You didn’t buy a better version of yourself the first time you walked into that beauty parlour; you bought a lie.
A walk along the ocean shore with you again would be nice but this time it won’t be the noise of the waves crashing on the shore that will trouble your mind, it will be my arm draped across your shoulders that will reassure you of your loveliness, friend. There won’t be any drunken Goke comments; there will be encouraging you to be a better version of you. Not lighter, love; better.