This is Titi
My man and I live in a small, unincorporated town on the outskirts of a bigger city. We are 30 to 40 years younger than any of our neighbours. Most of them have grandchildren who visit regularly, and drive them wherever they need to go. Not so for the man I usually just called “Prof.” His wife, Femi, died 12 years ago. I never knew her, but I hear she and the Prof. were one of those “Life Goals” kind of couples. The neighbours testify that they were both so erudite, and witty, and clearly still deeply in love. Femi’s passing hit her husband hard. For the last year, he had been battling cancer. With no energy to get to the hospital on his own, I ended up driving him to doctors.
The Professor had a funny way of calling names. My name, he pronounced as “DU-bi.” Usually, when he phoned me, he would say “Good afternoon, DU-bi.” Sometimes, he would call in the wee hours, in pain, able only to gasp “DU-bi!” I would drop the phone and run to his house to help him with his meds or take him to the hospital. He was adamant about NOT staying away from home, though. He knew the end was near and he wanted to go in his own bed.
On October first, at almost 3 a.m., my cell phone rang, showing the Professor’s number. When I answered, a strange voice asked, “DU-bi?”
“Yes,” I answered. “Prof?”
“No!” The voice giggled. “This is Titi. I’m taking him tonight.”
Then I… woke up? I was sitting up in bed, with my phone in my hand. Don and our twins were sleeping soundly. So, the phone hadn’t really rung. Or had it? I started to call Prof., but if he was managing to get some sleep, I didn’t want to disturb him. So I got up and dressed quietly, and slipped out to the backyard with my phone, a torch and pen knife in hand. I could see Prof.’s house from there. No lights were on, and everything was quiet. I wasn’t comfortable, though, so I went ahead and dialed. Ten rings, no answer. Damn. I knew then. I went back in and woke Don. We walked to the house and knocked. Nothing. We had to phone the Chairman of the estate. In less than ten minutes, he arrived with the vigilante team. They broke in. The Professor had died, seemingly peacefully, in bed.
That afternoon, with a policeman’s supervision, the families in the estate began to sort through the Professor’s papers. We needed the “deed” to his burial plot and any kind of will or link to distant relations. I looked through a small album of old photos that was on his nightstand. It was mostly pictures of Femi and the Professor. And their never-spoken-of young daughter Titi, who had died in Osogbo, in 1979.