13th May, 2012
Tasty Fried Chicken Restaurant
Oyin Jolayemi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Jide had a premonition that something was about to happen. He had not seen Alex for over a month now, though they regularly kept in touch on the phone. His office was just a stone throw away from his, but they both had been madly busy these past few weeks. Even Jide’s weekends have been gobbled by the weekend classes he had enrolled for in preparation for his ICAN exam. Alex had sounded very excited on the phone, hardly able to contain his excitement. By the time he clicked off, he was palpably out of breath. Jide had never known Alex to be so clumsy, so incoherent like he’d sounded on the phone. He hadn’t even named where they were supposed to meet. Jide was just about to call him back when his phone rang. It was Alex. He managed to stay calm enough to name a place before he rang off again. Jide’s antenna had instantly flared up, his curiosity peeked. He’d tried to second guess what this meeting could be about, could this be that Alex’s promotion came through. He doubted that. That was a shoo- in, and they both knew it. Alex would have simply informed him on the phone. Maybe he finally got that Toyota machine he’d been crazy about. He would have his head for it if that was the case. Alex had promised they’d test drive it together and he wasn’t one to fail at a promise. What else could it be? He quickly ran out of possible scenarios. Alex wasn’t just the kind of guy to make mountains out of things and lose words for it. The one thing Jide had been uneasy about lately was Alex’s rather obsessive talk about Susan, his girlfriend of one year. Every talk had inadvertently ended with what Susan would think of this matter or that. It had been very annoying to hear Alex fawning over his girlfriend like a teenager in love. But Alex couldn’t seriously be thinking of that or could he?
Nothing made sense as of the moment, Jide had forlornly admitted. He decided he‘d better wait it out and see what the big news was about.
Repartees flew from one end of the restaurant to the other as the reprieved lunch breakers jostled in amity over everything and nothing. At exactly one thirty, Alex made his appearance. Jide had been skimming through the restaurant, nibbling at his lunch when he heard his voice a few tables away.
Moment of truth, he thought. There was a certain spring to his stride like gravity had no hold on him. He stopped at a few table to exchange pleasantries with a couple of diners before winding his way to the table where Jide had been waiting.
There was a bubbly stream of energy as he came to the table.
“Hey man, how you dey? Long time!” He clasped Jide on the shoulder and hugged him tightly before settling in a chair, all the while grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Jide looked on bewildered. It appeared as though some spirit had taken over his friend.
“Are you happy to see me or is there a monkey in your pocket?” he quipped in.
“Oh you don’t know the half of it.” Alex said breathlessly. “I’m so famished.” He briskly walked over to the ordering stand and came back with a tray loaded with what look like an assortment of cereals and vegetable sauce.
“Brace up for this,” he said as soon as he took his seat. “I am getting married!”
Jide’s shoulder instantly shrank. His demeanor deflated like a pricked balloon.
“Not far from the reaction I was expecting”. Alex said, munching on his food unflustered.
“Damn it!” Jide blurted out after gathering his thoughts.
“Damn it? How about Congratulations friend I’m so happy for you. You could at least muster that.” Alex added wryly.
Jide shook his head miserably as if trying to shake off the thought.
Alex laughed at him as he dug into his plate, his cutlery already making clank clank sound on the China dish.
“Man up guy. This is it. It’s not my funeral. You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
“I’m not sure if this is really you Alex. It’s been barely a month since we last saw and in that space of time you decide you are going to marry?”
“Marriage!” Jide said incredulously.
“Yea I know. Sound like an alien culture? I didn’t see it coming too. But I assure you this is for real.”
“I can’t believe this”
“What’s so hard to believe? You love a woman and she loves you back. Every minute without her is just not the same, and we are not talking about just sex here. Don’t get me wrong the sex is good; I mean it’s like Eureka every time, but that is just the icing. You’ll still have her if she’s all bearded and had just had her boobs flattened out.”
“The logical thing to do”, he continued, his tone taking on a serious edge, his index finger directly pointed at Jide, “is to take it to the next level, formalize the relationship. That is your public affirmation of your love for each other. It is not about succumbing to worldly convention or anything. It is just the normal thing to do.”
“You are lecturing me about relationship?”
Alex smiled good-naturedly. “No, this is about commitment”.
“Listen”, he paused washing down the food with bottled water, “I’m not sure how this thing works and I know I’m going to mess up a lot but I have never been so certain about a decision like this in my life. It’s so crystal clear. It is the right thing for me, the right time. I’ll be the first to admit to you that I’m very scared but who isn’t. I know we are going to make this work, Susan and I. It’s a big step but I’m telling you there is nothing quite like committing to the one you love when you’ve found her. Jide, I have found her and this is the moral and dare I say manly thing to do. He said, almost imploringly.
“Tell me you didn’t cry while proposing to her, that you didn’t go down on one knee begging her to marry you. Please tell me you didn’t do that.”
“No I didn’t do that. I just get misty-eyed talking about her. She’s my world, my-“
“What happened to you?” Jide cut in. “This is not you my friend.”
“Love, Jide. L.O.V.E,” he spelt it out. Can you believe it I’m getting married!” He shuffled the last spoonful into his mouth, reached for Jide’s plate and promptly dug in.
Jide stared at him glumly. He had hardly taken a bite from his plate, and now the last trace of his appetite seemed to have disappeared with this news. He watched Alex as he attacked his plate with a contented look on his face, miserably in love, tail feather in the wind, plunging head first into the murky water of marital life.
He felt sorry for him but there was nothing he could do than to support him. The scowl on his face gently dissolved into that of forced acceptance.
“So you are getting married?” he asked again just to be sure it hadn’t all been a bad dream.
“Married my man and so deliriously happy.”
“Or deliriously clueless!” Jide interjected.
“I like the zone of happiness better,” came Alex’s rejoinder.
“Well, thank God you still have your sense of humour intact.”
Jide threw his hands up in surrender, “Well what can I say?”
“Again you can pretend to be happy for me and wish me luck.”
“Well Good luck buddy”, Jide caved in.
“Thank you. I know you don’t understand this right now but I know in time you will. Mimi is a good girl and I have no doubt that sooner or later she’ll come between you and that oath of perennial bachelorhood you are sworn to. She’ll make you a good wife.”
Jide shook his head impatiently. “Enough of the lecture Mister! You don’t have to sound apologetic to me. Just tell me what to do” he said curtly.
And there at lunch was his role automatically decided.
When that bit of news found Mimi, talks about marriage could no longer be averted. It became a sore point in their love life and gradually left a huge loop in the giant knot of their relationship.
25th August 2012
He’d been having trouble sleeping. He walked over to his desktop, powered it on and watched it go through the booting sequence. Twenty minutes later he was staring at the screen completely bereft of idea. He’d been trying his hand on a book for some time now, and the story had been dragging. If only he would just finish the damn book in his lifetime he would have died an accomplished man. Writing was that important to him but the business in Nigeria didn’t afford him the exclusiveness of the art and his bills was another thing to consider. Twenty years down the line, he might just resign from his day job and write full time, but in the meantime he needed all the money he could get.
This is the age for making money; fifty is the age to tally the scores.
His gaze switched from the computer screen to the empty bed. The peaceful face that had often inspired him in the dead of the night had fled. He quietly walked into the living room where she was sleeping, folded like a fetus on the two-sitter sofa. He sat there for a few minutes just watching her sleep, the soft humming of her breath in the silence of the morning, her heaving chest counting the beat of such sweet melody. He was totally and absolutely entranced by her beauty. Her face was tear- stained and even in sleep, she appeared to carry a baggage of sadness. Worry lines creased her brow. The sight tugged at his heart. It was a familiar feeling like one he had felt not so long ago. In fact, it was just the previous day in Church.
Mimi had talked about a stirring earlier in the course of their argument. Could she have noticed him? At the time he had felt a rush of pride for Alex at the wedding and a teeny weeny bit of envy but he’d been too engrossed at the time in putting up a façade that he had all but forgotten about it before he had time to properly ruminate on it. Now that feeling had subtly broken through the surface again as he saw Mimi’s pain in her sleep.
He picked her up lightly and she reflexively wrapped her arms around his neck. He carried her to the room. She kissed him on the lips as he dropped her gently on the bed
“Don’t leave me”, she clung tightly to him. She lay there ensconced in his arms and the world froze still. He could have had his go this time around if he wanted to, for it was a vulnerable moment for both of them. His member was nodding in the confines of his tight briefs but this time it was the pure delight of having her in his arms that spread the flames. For the first time in a long time, his heart had won this primal battle against his mind. It was a small victory but a conquest nonetheless. The night was cold and chilly but they were good, just a bit away from hell or high water.
Light was just beginning to break through the sky, a faintly shade at a time .It might take a few more hours before dark finally gave way, but the shadow of morning was apparent. That morning, Jide’s resolve began to ebb away, a layer of deeply-held belief at a time.
2:15AM 31st August 2011