Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Derin, 21, and Oke, 21, had been together for a little over a year before Oke’s tragic death cut their love story short. For today’s Love Life, Derin talks about how they went from best friends to lovers, and all the plans they had for their future together.
What was your first memory of meeting Oke?
I met him in school in February 2018. I went to study for exams with a friend, and I saw him on her bed, pressing his laptop. My first thought was, “Who is this fine boy?” The moment we spoke, it was clear that he wasn’t like the other guys in my school.
I initiated our first conversation because he was really shy. I remember he was watching Grown-ish, and I gave him my laptop to send it to me. We didn’t immediately exchange numbers, but we followed each other on Twitter.
What happened next?
We talked on Twitter for a bit, then we moved to WhatsApp and basically became best friends.
Ah. Best friends?
LMAO. Yeah. We were best friends for a while. I liked him as a friend, but I didn’t see him as a potential lover. He always talked about how stressful it was that he was so obviously into me, and I was there forming best friends.
The thing is, we would talk every single day. I found him really cool and smart, but in my head, I just couldn’t picture myself dating a guy my age; I’ve always had a thing for older guys. Oke was so deep in my friend zone, I would even tell him about other guys I liked.
LMAO. Ouch. Did he ever tell you how he felt?
Yeah, he did. He actually asked me out around February last year, but I turned him down. He made it clear that even though I didn’t feel the same way, he was still happy being friends and getting to spend time with me.
I promised him that if my feelings ever changed, I would let him know.
When did you realise your feelings had changed?
A few months later. In June 2019, he moved into the same building as me so we could be closer in our final year. I was in Room 9 and he was in Room 20, so we were basically roommates. We did everything together and got even closer.
By July, I realised I had fallen in love with him. I remember writing it in my Notes app.
Did you tell him as you promised?
LMAO. I dropped a few hints. He figured it out, and we started dating on August 15.
What was the transition from best friends to partners like?
I know it’s supposed to be easy, but it really wasn’t. Even though we knew so much about each other, it still felt like we didn’t know enough. I definitely found the transition a lot harder than Oke did.
I not only had to unlearn my age bias, but I also had to let my guard down in a whole new way, and that was difficult for me. I eventually got the hang of it, but the first three months were tough. We argued too often.
What did you guys argue about?
It was always about the most trivial things, and I hated it so much. He was still my best friend, so I couldn’t stand when we weren’t talking. To be fair, the fights were mostly my fault because he was such a gentle person.
Honestly, he was perfect.
What’s the longest you went without talking?
Our longest fight lasted about a week and a half. I was going through a lot at the time, and I sent him a text about needing to speak to him. He told me to leave a message because he couldn’t talk at the moment. I didn’t because I was mentally exhausted.
Later that night, he hit me up so we could talk, but I told him I wasn’t in the best mental state to have the conversation anymore. He got angry, then I got angry and it became this big fight. For over a week, we didn’t talk — only texted to check up on each other.
We eventually apologised, and that’s when he sent me that email I shared on Twitter. Emails were how we typically resolved our major issues, and we also used them to randomly send each other mushy messages.
That’s so sweet. Had you dated anyone before him?
Yeah. Two other people, but my relationship with Oke was very different. It was calming and full of love. We did everything together, and he always looked out for me. He taught me how to love wholly and without fear. That was his style.
Was that what you loved the most about him?
It was one of the many things, but what I loved the most was his perspective. Oke always thought outside the box. If you ask me, I think he lived a full life on earth before coming back a second time. How else could someone so young have been so brilliant?
How did your relationship with him change you?
It made me a better…everything. A better listener, communicator and lover. Since his death, I’ve been thinking about just how much he changed me. He was a very empathetic person, and that rubbed off on me. He taught me how to look out for others.
Did you guys ever talk about the future?
All the time. We had plans of settling down in about two or three years. We talked about everything, from what our rings would look like, to how our wedding would be. For both of us, we were each other’s final bus stop.
Would you call him your soulmate then?
I don’t really believe in the idea of soulmates, but Oke and I complemented each other in the best ways. We were very different, but we were always in sync. On most days, it definitely felt like we were made for each other.
Are you fine with talking about the day he passed?
Yeah, I am.
Can you walk me through that day?
Oke and I were always busy during the day, but we would make out time to talk on the phone at around 11:00 p.m. every night. We did the same thing the night before he died. After talking and working together, I went to bed at around 2:00 a.m.
The next morning, he texted me about how hard it was to calm his hypertensive mother because of the shootings going on in his area. I continued to check up on him, then he told me they’d set his mum’s cars on fire.
The last message he read from me said, “We’ll get through the day.”
How did you find out what had happened?
I went on Twitter, and I saw someone tweet that they had gunned down their cousin at Mafoluku. I sent him the tweet on WhatsApp, but it didn’t deliver. That’s how my heart started beating fast.
I sent him another message asking him to keep me in the loop, but that didn’t deliver either. So, I decided to call him. No one answered. At that point, I just assumed that he and his family were trying to get to safety.
I waited for about five minutes and called again, and this time, his brother answered. He said that someone had been stabbed, and I should find a way to get an ambulance. So, I immediately tweeted it out. I still had no idea it was Oke.
What did you think was happening?
I assumed he couldn’t answer the phone because he was being his normal empathetic self and helping the person who had been stabbed. After trying and failing to reach him again, I started getting tense, so I searched “Mafoluku Oshodi” on Twitter.
I saw a couple of tweets that said the area was now calm, but I kept scrolling and that’s when I saw Oke’s picture on the TL. He was lying on the floor, lifeless, with blood coming out from his neck. I screamed.
All my neighbours ran to my house. My sisters and I were already on the floor, wailing. I eventually calmed myself down with the hope that they were able to get him to the hospital before he died.
How did you get an update?
I was able to finally reach his brother. One of my neighbours collected my phone and started communicating on my behalf. His brother eventually told my neighbour that Oke didn’t make it. When my neighbour broke the news to me, I went numb.
I felt like my whole world had come crashing down.
I’m so sorry. How were the following days for you?
For the rest of the week, I could barely eat or sleep. It was the toughest week of my life. Even my sisters were down. He came around a lot, so he was like a brother to them. They loved him so much.
I’m really sorry, Derin. How are you holding up now?
It’s tough. I randomly find myself wondering why it had to be Oke. I can’t believe I haven’t spoken to him in weeks. Almost every day, I read through our chats, listen to his voice notes and go through our pictures.
I still can’t believe he’s gone.
What’s something you’ll always remember about your relationship?
I’ll always remember how intentional we were about making it work. We put in so much effort into our relationship and were always open about what we liked and what we didn’t.
I’ll also remember how he would just randomly tell me, “OMG! You’re so cute.”
If you knew what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
If I knew my relationship would be cut short, I would have made sure we didn’t postpone so many things. We moved a lot of our plans to 2021 because we thought we had so much time.
Still, I’m grateful for all we could do together while he was here.
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