Sunken Ships is a Zikoko series that explores the how and why of the end of all relationships — familial, romantic or just good old friendships.
Chioma* and Blessing* have been friends for seven years. They met in university and remained by each other’s side long after. However, in 2020, Blessing became obsessed with leaving the country, and she eventually succeeded in 2021. Now, Chioma feels the distance has strained her relationship with her soulmate. Here’s her story:
Chioma: Blessing* and I have been friends for at least seven years. We were roommates in our third year in 2015 and for the first couple of weeks didn’t speak to each other besides the occasional hi or hello. Then one day, after her class, she came to the room and saw me crying because one foolish boy broke my heart. That day, she got lunch for the two of us and listened to me as I shouted different variations of “God will punish this boy”.
She held me, and I used tears and catarrh to stain her shirt, but she never complained. That was such a big act of kindness for me. When I eventually slept, she fetched the water I’d use to have my bath the next day and even gave me painkillers for my headache. From that moment, I knew I’d found someone I’d never leave alone.
We started doing everything together. We’d bathe, cook, study and party together. People joked that anywhere they saw her, they saw me. Some even thought we were a couple because of how close we were.
What was it like after university?
Chioma: After we both graduated in 2017, my dad helped us work out NYSC so we both served in Lagos state. It would’ve been easier to live together, but we wanted to avoid see finish. Plus, we wanted an excuse to miss each other.
That’s when we started our weekly hangout sessions. We’d either do them in person or over the phone, but we made sure to catch up once a week. During these sessions, we’d talk about how we’d eventually buy houses in the same estate so our children can grow up around each other and be best friends too.
Things got even better when after NYSC we both got good-paying jobs and started earning some big girl money. We could really spoil each other, and we did.
How did you spoil each other?
Chioma: Well, there were times she’d randomly send food to my office because I mentioned I’d skipped breakfast and was stuck in meetings. Or she’d drive to my office during her lunch break and demand I take mine to eat.
Then we’d buy each other random gifts because we could — jewellery, shoes, wigs, etc. She’d quote a dress with “I want”, on social media, and I’d buy it for her. I knew her shoe and dress size, and we’d been friends for so long, I could see something and know she’d like it.
She’d gift me spa vouchers, and I’d book her massage appointments. The friendship was great before, but with money? It was even greater. We even went on trips to other African countries together.
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What about romantic relationships?
Chioma: We told any guy who was remotely interested in either of us that we’re a package deal. You date her, you date me and vice versa. We were stuck at the hip. Maybe it’s because a failed relationship brought us together, but we always tried to never let relationships affect us.
There was a time I had a boyfriend who told me I was spending too much time with her. I broke up with him. Sure, there were other issues, but that was what tipped me over the edge. She’s my soulmate, and I told that to every single guy.
Chioma: Nigeria. We’d talked about leaving the country to eventually settle somewhere, but we weren’t in a hurry. We kept sending each other links to jobs and scholarships, but genuinely, our heart was in this country. We didn’t want to go anywhere.
Then October 2020 happened, and we watched people lose their lives protesting for police reform. It broke something in her. She became obsessed with leaving the country. She was learning new courses and collecting certificates like Thanos with his rings. I tried my best to keep up with her but my funds got a bit tied up because my mother fell sick.
In 2021, she informed me she’d gotten a job that offered her residence in Canada. I was happy for her. Ecstatic, even. I knew how much she wanted it, but at the same time, I was scared of what it would mean for our friendship. She assured me we’d find time to keep in touch and continue our weekly catch-up sessions, but I was skeptical.
Were you right?
Chioma: For the first few weeks she was in Canada, she FaceTimed me about everything. The food she was eating, where she was eating it, the people she met, and sometimes, she’d even call me at work and we’d be each other’s background noise.
But when there’s a five-hour difference between you and your favourite person, calls like that become more and more difficult to have. By the time she wakes up in the morning and wants to call me while on her morning run, I’m already stuck in a meeting. When my meeting is done and I’m trying to reach her, she’s on her way to work. She tries to call me while I’m at work but I’m either driving somewhere or stuck in another meeting. When work closes and I try to call her, she has a meeting or is doing focused work.
By the time she eventually closes from work, it’s already night over her, and I’m getting ready to sleep and prepare for my commute to work again.
There was barely any time for us to just sit and talk. We were both so busy, it was unreal.
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I’m so sorry
Chioma: It’s alright. It started to get really bad when the few times we did find a chance to have a conversation, there were so many things she’d say I didn’t understand. I was out of the loop of my best friend’s life and it was devastating.
We couldn’t go to parties together or just hangout. We tried Netflix watch parties and online dates, but they got fewer and fewer because she was spending time with the friends she made there. Or I was hanging out with my other friends in Nigeria.
What’s your relationship like now?
Chioma: Honestly, I don’t know. If you ask me what it is she’s doing, I won’t have an answer for you. We’ve not texted in three days now, and it’s so strange looking at the chat icon, knowing I won’t get a reply anytime soon.
I miss my best friend and the closeness we were able to maintain while we lived in the same state and time zone. It was easier to show up for one another when we could do it physically.
Do you have any plans to leave the country?
Chioma: Yes, I do. I keep trying to find jobs in Canada and some places have gotten back to me. But with the way this country keeps stressing me out, I just might take any country that’s willing to have me. I hate that my best friend and I may never be as close as we once were, and I blame Nigeria a hundred percent.
I miss her so much. I remember when, during one of the few times we spoke, she told me she hadn’t eaten. I cried a bit after because I realised I couldn’t just drop by her office and dump the lunch on her table. I couldn’t surprise her with soups during the weekend, and we couldn’t have our cute friendship dates. I miss her more than anything because I know it’ll never be the same way again. Even if I find a way for us to be in the same state in Canada, we might not be able to make up for the strain in our relationship. I just wish we could go back to the way things were before.