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With him gone, she was left with the sound of silence only broken by the tick-tock of her big clock. The air reeked of stale cigarette and sex mixed with the bittersweet smell of his perfume. Sweet because it reminded her of him in his absence, bitter because it reminded her that he had to go. She reached for a half empty pack of cigarette and sparked one on her lips. She didn’t necessarily enjoy the head rush, but there was something in the inhalation and exhalation of smoke she found rather therapeutic. Perhaps it was some kind of coping mechanism she had developed, like a form of meditation.
She thought about his wife. She didn’t owe the woman anything. It was hardly her fault she wasn’t woman enough for her husband or that he wasn’t man enough to be content. After all, if it weren’t her fucking him, it would have been someone else. She wondered if this really were the state of things or if the world had made her numb with the pain of her own reality. At the thought of this, she fingered her wedding ring and thought about her own husband…well, if she could still call him that. It must have been at least six months since she last saw him. She imagined how he was keeping abroad. For all she knew he had a mistress there. She smiled at the thought, and that was when she knew she didn’t love him anymore. It was an easy assumption to make that hate was the opposite of love. Far from it. Indifference was the real opposite. Complete apathy.
Her mind came back to the room briefly and then it jumped to the man she had just been with. She imagined him coming home to his wife and children. There was nothing she could do about it. He was never hers to keep in the first place. She warned herself about thinking like this. The last thing she wanted was to love him possessively. Her current state of detachment was much better. She thought about her children and how they would see her if they ever got to know about her affair. They were both young and impressionable, in love with the idea of love, even if they didn’t know what it meant. As far as they could tell, she was married, and it was for the better or worse. Her happiness was a matter of secondary consideration.
She took a strong drag of smoke to fill her lungs.
She was a mother and hence by default expected to be this perfect entity. It didn’t matter that she too had needs. She needed to be loved, touched, heard and understood. Needs that couldn’t be fulfilled by a man that she saw once a year even if he afforded her the finest of luxuries. Perhaps this was the nature of things and wanting otherwise was just wishful thinking. Marriage for all its glory was just a label. It had no inherent promise of love. It was more or less what we made it, and hers wasn’t a lot. Humans were imperfect as was the life they lived. How could someone tell her what was right or wrong when they had no idea of the things she had seen and the feelings she felt?
With another drag of the cigarette, she dabbed it in the ashtray and left the room.
Eric was no stranger to the idea that he came off as a bit of an asshole. In his opinion, he was only brutally honest but people just didn’t like to confront the truth. They’d rather have a sugar-coated pill of lies to soothe their insecurities and enable them to maintain some false sense of value. He was sat across the table on an encounter he wasn’t sure could be classified as a date. The dating manual wasn’t clear on where taking out a girl in the hopes of screwing her later fell into. He wondered if she wanted more than just sex from him and it made him somewhat nervous. Perhaps he should try to tone down his charm, the last thing he wanted was for her to start having feelings for him so early. He could tell from their recent chats that her idea of what they could be had started evolving into something he wasn’t willing to participate in.
‘I like you, like I really like you.’ She dropped the line without the slightest of warning.
Eric had to resist back-washing into his bottle of Orijin. This was exactly what he was trying to avoid and now it was too late. It wouldn’t be the first time he was being baited into something more than casual fun when he had not bargained for it. In fact, this was the leading cause of his losing potential lays. For a second, he felt somewhat bad for seeing so many girls as deserving of nothing more than a romp in the sac. But what was he supposed to do? Convince himself that a girl was compatible with his taste in companionship to make her feel better about herself? And this was 2015, women were no more innocent than men when it came with using a person for sex. Almost every girl he knew had a guy somewhere they could have sex with without any strings, so why did they all of a sudden want something more with him? Perhaps a punishment for his sweetness?
‘Helen, don’t get me wrong, I think you’re cool. Like, I like you, but I don’t see us in a relationship type thing.’
It was the most sensitive way he could think of telling her there was nothing more than sex for them. The truth was that he honestly thought she was a decent girl, but everything was not for everybody. For another guy, she might have been Mrs. Right, but not for him. In one of their chats, she had sent a list of requirements for her ideal man. In summary, she wanted a man with the self-control of a Buddhist monk, the body of a Greek god, the brain of Albert Einstein, and the heart of William Shakespeare. As for his financial status, she opted for the more accommodating ‘he must be financially stable’.
Eric contemplated telling her the truth. There was no way such a guy was going to be interested in her as far as dating was concerned. Contrary to the popular belief that opposites attract, similarities actually formed the basis for shared interests and that was really what people wanted from companions. She was unbearably boring, worryingly uncultured, and hopelessly addicted to 21st-century popular media; a most repulsive trait in his book, as would be in the books of most guys remotely similar to her ideal man. He decided to put it down as the modern day attitude of wanting things we refuse to do anything about; a deluded sense of entitlement.
‘Well, I don’t think it would be right to go to yours knowing that I want more. The last thing I want to be is another girl you’ve fucked and I know that is exactly what I would become if we do this.’
He respected her choice. Some girls had this notion that with enough sex they could change a guy’s mind. Even worse, some took to this weird strategy of teasing in hopes that eventually something would give. He remembered a girl that had slept over at his apartment but wouldn’t let him take off her pants even though she went as far as giving him a hand job. In his opinion, that was the worst kind of woman. He smiled at Helen as he called for the bill. It was time to go their separate ways.
‘Can we be friends though?’ She asked.
‘I feel like I’m supposed to say yes, but to be honest, communication will fizzle out soon enough if nothing happens and as it is, we want different things so it will just end up being awkward.’ He said.
‘So you don’t have female friends?’ She asked.
‘Yes, but not any I’ve ever thought of having sex with before, plus we actually have similar interests that oil the friendship. So no, we can’t be friends.’
Alfred particularly hated cocktail parties. The plastic smiles and what he called the stench of aristocracy made him feel sickly. He wasn’t exactly poor or even middle-class, but in this particular room, the poorest man was probably at least ten times his worth. He took comfort in his youth. The youngest man here could probably pass for his father. He had time to get rich enough to sicken himself. As one would expect from a gathering of Nigerian politicians to entertain foreign interests, the wealth in the room was all illegal, in fact, criminal. It never failed to baffle Alfred how men of such notorious criminality could run a country. Of course, there was no country without its corruption problems. But not like this. In Nigeria it was endemic.
‘So what brings you here?’ she asked.
Before he could respond she grabbed him by the arm and handed him a glass of white wine. Instinctively his eyes searched for her wedding finger. Not that it ever really stopped him if he was determined. A regrettable weakness in character. She wore a few rings but none on her wedding finger. He was relieved to know that at the very least there was no chance he was ending up with a black eye unless of course she decided to punch him, which wasn’t entirely impossible given his past record.
‘Is this how you charm men? How do I know you haven’t put something inside this glass?’
‘I don’t need a love potion for you. I can handle you just fine on my own. I know who you are, Alfred Okonkwo. I think your novels are terrible, but my daughter wouldn’t put them down.’
Her revelation took him aback.
‘I worry for older women that like my books. They are actually written for young girls in love with the idea of romantic love.’
‘So you don’t believe in romantic love, how ironic for a romance novelist? I had a whole bunch of romantic lines planned out for you. My daughter would be let down. I actually promised her I’d bring you home when I came across your name on the guest-list.’
‘You’re doing well so far and you don’t even seem to be trying.’ He took his first sip of wine. ‘This isn’t half bad. Thank you.’ He raised his glass to her.
‘So you aren’t completely without appreciation for life. You have been looking around this room like there is something poisonous is in the air or you are constipated. That’s why I asked what brought you here in the first place.’
‘One of these clowns is sponsoring my new book. Some literacy scheme thing they are planning and my book will be picked to be part of the required reading. So I’m here to show face and kiss the occasional ass. What brings you? I didn’t know interesting people got invites to this borefest.’
She chuckled at his carefully placed compliment.
‘Some women go to churches to pray for husbands, I prefer a more proactive approach.’
‘Are you always this upfront in your approach?’
‘You want to act like the first thing you did was not to check out my finger for a wedding ring. You’re not slick mister, I caught your eyes’.
Felicia was not under any illusion about what the Nigerian society thought of a woman in her position. It didn’t matter that she was a stellar student with two PhDs, it didn’t matter that she was the founder of the country’s largest media network, her charity work, her support for so many good causes, none of it mattered. She was 35 and unmarried. As far as the society was concerned she was a failed experiment of a woman. She had a child too, out of wedlock! Whatever she had to offer was considered damaged goods. And to top it all off, she was financially successful and notoriously intelligent, a combination that intimidated men across the world but even more so in Nigeria where compliance with gender roles still meant that for every breadwinning woman, there was a failed man somewhere.
‘Wait a minute, you’re Felicia Adebayo! The owner of WWG media group. I should talk to you with more respect. Your boys are loyal.’ He bowed in playful mockery.
‘I preferred it when you hadn’t recognized me’, she said.
‘Of course, you would, you had the upper hand with mystery. Now you think I have a preconceived idea of who you are that might be completely false.’ He said.
‘Are you always this neurotic? Get out of my head.’ She shook her head vigorously.
‘I am well aware what ideas you might think I would have. Success can quickly turn into kryptonite for women when it comes to marriage in this society. Then there is the daughter to consider. Even if the man was okay with it, his family would probably kick up a storm. And at 35 or is it 37, you’re getting dangerously close to 40 where marriages have an occurrence rate equitable to solar eclipses. I wonder what the fact that I am turned on by your status says about me. Probably a reflection of all that dominatrix MILF porn I watched as a child.’ To his relief, she found his intended humor with ease.
‘You should consider writing literary fiction. I think you will do well.’
‘Your intellectual flattery has been noted. Now if you would hold this while I go use the loo, unless you’d like to come and help me hold my willy.’ She laughed as he handed her the glass.
As she waited for him, she thought about the constant battle between living a life caught between one’s own identity and the identity imposed by society. Something clearly had to be done to change the way we think. But tonight she did not want to save the world or the country. She just wanted to be happy in it.
He said the last time was going to be his last time, but here he was, again. He wasn’t sure what it was about these strange women he could never resist. Perhaps it had little to do with them and a lot to do with him. In this century of rampant insecurity and discontentment, it wasn’t hard to imagine how sex could be used to make up for all the missing parts of one’s life.
This was no time for internal philosophical debates. He fiddled with his keys, hands shaking from too much alcohol and too little food. She grabbed him by the arm and leaned in pressing her full breasts against his body. He felt his heart hasten as his penis pulsed with a sudden rush of blood. He found the key and unlocked the door.
‘Is anyone else in this house?’ she inquired.
‘No, just me living the bachelor life.’
Before she could say another word he grabbed her by her blouse and kissed her so hard she thought she might bleed from the bite that followed. She wasn’t exactly sure where she was or who she was with but in the twisted irony of arousal, this sense of danger and unfamiliarity made her want him even more. In fact, she wasn’t even sure if it was him she wanted, or just any man to fuck the shit out of her drunk brain.
She grabbed his shirt pulling him even closer before running her palm over the bulge in his trousers.
‘I want you to fuck me. I want you to fuck me hard like I am your dirty little slut.’ She whispered the words so close he felt her lips and the warmth of her breath on his ear. Adam couldn’t tell what it was about dirty talking that brought the animal out of him, but after what she had said, he all but wanted to kill her with his penis. Without warning, he pushed her to the wall and started kissing her neck, planting soft bites at intervals to arouse her while his fingers found their way up her short dress to caress her already wet vagina.
She was ready for him, but he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction she wanted so easily. At least, that’s what he thought. He wanted to get her horny enough to feel her juices dripping down her thighs first.
‘Please, just take me now. I want to feel you inside me.’ She began to pull down her panties.
He was taken aback by her forwardness. It was probably a side effect of the vodka earlier. It made him really wonder how consensual this encounter really was. Was he taking advantage of a drunken stranger or was it the other way round? The dominant position of men in society coupled with the penetrating anatomy of the penis had somehow made the burden of consent a man’s problem. He could say her agreement to come back to his house was enough consent, but that was starting to sound a bit like the ‘she dressed like this so she wanted it’ excuse. Men were now expected to be completely responsible at all times. Oh, only if the world was so simple.
There was every chance that this woman he barely knew by name could wake up tomorrow with no memory of what was transpiring between them. Would that make him a rapist or just a not-very-memorable fuck? And he too had been drinking. He wasn’t exactly his most responsible self at the moment either. Hell, he was about to fuck her without a rubber. If he could override his own need for self-preservation at a time like this, one could only imagine how much regard he had left for her safety.
The moment her panties reached her ankles she turned around and bent over on the wall.
‘Please fuck me.’
At the point, he had lost too much blood from his brain powering his penis. Without the slightest hesitation, he unbuckled his belt, pulled down his trousers, and slid right into her vagina. She was so wet, so tight, and so warm. He allowed her a few seconds to take in the feeling of his erect penis inside her, then he started to pound her mercilessly. She alternated between the usual ‘oh my God, fuck me, harder, shit, don’t stop’ and other such words of encouragement and instructions.
He waited till she announced that she was going to orgasm before he spanked her ass and pulled her hair, fucking her even harder than he was before. With a moan that probably woke the neighbours, she clenched her fists as her pelvic muscles contracted and a feeling of ecstasy washed over her body. As if on cue the feeling of her juices and contractions coupled with the sensual noises she emitted drove him over the edge.
He pulled out fast enough to avoid ejaculating inside her, but not fast enough to avoid getting his sperm over her ass and the living room floor.
‘Ahhh, I needed that.’ She said. ‘Do you have a cigarette?’
She was sat by herself on the beach. It wasn’t a place most people would find suitable for loneliness, but not Anna. She drew some comfort from the presence of others even if she didn’t have their company. For a socially awkward introvert, this was more than enough dose of human contact. She opened a bottle of wine and poured herself a glass, then she reached for her bag to retrieve her pen and book of poems. She began to scribble
That was when he appeared. Leo was the type of man she had only imagined existed in her fantasies or in some super advanced science lab where they worked on creating genetically perfect futuristic humans. Nevertheless, she greeted him with the kind of nonchalance that suggested she barely noticed his intrusion. He smiled at her pretend cool. He wasn’t exactly vain, but he was all too aware of his physical attributes. On so many occasions women had pointed them out to him and even when he tried to act modestly it did nothing to ease their excitement.
‘You’re here alone? Are you like the stereotypical depressed writer?’ he asked.
‘I actually don’t like people very much. I like being by myself. You don’t have to be depressed to enjoy your own company.’ She said.
‘I’m sorry. I was just trying to make conversation. You would think at my age I’d be a lot better at this.’
‘Apology accepted.’ She flashed him a courteous smile and went back to her writing.
‘What are you writing about?’
Before she could decide if to lie about the subject of her latest poem he had a peek at her first line.
‘Love…a shout into a void.’ he quoted.
‘That’s really rude.’ She covered her scanty page.
‘Relax, you are on the beach you know.’ He sat right next to her. Deep down she did not mind his company at all, in fact, she was inviting it. But she had started on this mean streak. She had to see it through, at least until he broke it.
‘I’m sure you can learn a thing or two about love from me. My older brother is a writer. Sometimes he has discussions with me just to find inspiration. I promise I am not as shallow as you might think.’
Leo was used to people associating his good looks with a shallow personality. It didn’t help matters that he was well groomed either. He could only imagine the frustration of so many good looking women. The idea of a sexy and intelligent woman was an oxymoron to so many men.
‘Okay, Smarty Pants. What do you know about love?’
‘I know that love is not a feeling, it’s a decision. A choice we enter and have to keep deciding if we want to stay with or not.’
She was taken by surprise by how far from the generic idea his explanation was. Maybe he actually did have something for her to consider.
‘Sure poets and playwrights can paint us pictures to pull our heart strings, but the stage of love they explain is just infatuation. There is even a word for it. It’s called Limerance. But I’m sure you knew that. Studies actually show a rise in oxytocin production in this stage. Crazy stuff.’ He said.
‘Yes, I’ve heard the word. But I’m not sure I know what oxytocin is. I hated biology class.’ She said.
‘At least you know it’s a biology thing. It’s also called the “cuddle hormone”. Women especially secrete it when cuddled. And also, a whole lot when pregnant. They say it helps create that mother and child bond. It’s also why a guy should never cuddle a girl after sex if he has no plans to call her again.’
‘I’ll keep that in mind. So you think the whole dreamy phase of love that most people appear to be addicted to and believe to represent what love should feel like is just a hormonal high?’
‘I couldn’t put it better if I tried.’ he said.
‘So what becomes of love when the veil of hormones is lifted?’ she asked.
‘You know this phase can run from as little as three months to as long as three years. But when that Jones comes down, we actually face the reality of our partner. All those traits and differences we naturally dislike but easily overlooked actually come up to be dealt with.’ He said, then eyed her bottle of wine.
‘How rude of me. Do you want a glass? I mean,
I only brought one glass, but I assure you I brushed my teeth this morning.’
They both laughed and he took a swig of what she was drinking.
‘This is delicious. I’m taking the bottle with me.’ He said. She poured them a refill.
‘In the long run, a lot of people think love can be measured by how much we are willing to give or some kind of emotion we feel. I think it is best measured by how much you can actually stand parts of the other person that make you want to kill them. When we make a choice to accept a person despite their perceived negatives, we make a choice to love them.’ He took another swig.
‘How interesting. I hope you have nowhere to be because this conversation is far from over.’ She said.
‘I don’t even think my friends would notice I’m gone.’
Dinner with the parents wasn’t exactly Ade’s ideal idea of passing the Friday night, but on this occasion, it was somewhat unavoidable. For quite some time they had been accusing him of abandoning then since he moved out, and when they weren’t doing that, they were harassing him about not being serious with getting married. On a few occasions, he tried to point out that their constant hounding on the matter of getting married was probably the reason he didn’t like coming to see them. Every time, his protests fell on deaf ears.
‘Mummy, this your fish stew still tastes exactly the same as it did when I was small. I think even after I marry, you will be coming to cook for me.’
‘Shut up, it is somebody’s wife’s food that you can compliment. You won’t go and marry your own. In fact, I think I will ban your mother from cooking for you when you come here. You don’t know your mates…’
At this point Ade had already tuned out, rolling his eyes so hard he thought he would see his brains at any moment. ‘You don’t even have a serious girlfriend.’ That was the last of his father’s ramblings he managed to catch.
‘Daddy, you see why I don’t like coming here. Someone can’t just make a light joke without it turning into a sermon on the mountain. And if you must know, I have a serious girlfriend, but I didn’t want to bring her here before you people start asking her twenty-one questions and sliding in marriage talk left, right and center.’
His mother looked up at this point.
‘Ade, that is not fair. Your father and I can behave ourselves in the presence of guests. We are not stupid you know. But this girl, please where is she from?’
Ade had been worried about his parents accepting him dating an Igbo girl, but he had not imagined it meant so much to them as to constitute their first question about who he was dating. He thought perhaps they would ask about what she did, or if she was a graduate. He even anticipated them asking him if she was from a wealthy family, but no, they had to ask about her tribal origins first. For the briefest of moments he considered completely avoiding the question, but he knew his parents. He was more likely to get away with side-stepping a question under interrogation by the CIA than he was under his mother’s gaze.
‘She is an Igbo girl. Her name is Nkechi and she is an architect, a qualified one.’
He was hoping that last piece of information would somehow cushion the effect of the first apparent disappointment from the looks on their faces. He was wrong.
‘Ade, why are you always like this? Why don’t you ever listen? You did not see any nice Yoruba girl, even Hausa, Akwa Ibom, anywhere but Ndi Igbo. Why do you like being in the news for bad thing like this? I will tell your brother about this.’ His father had abandoned his dinner at this point.
‘Jesus, so this is really going to be a problem? To start with, this whole tribe thing is so fake these days. We are just tribe by name. Culturally, is it not the same thing they teach us in school, the same Christianity in church, the same channels we watch on tv? In fact, no young couple converses in a local language anymore. She even pretty much grew up in UK, so I really don’t see what the problem is.’
As Ade went on to explain how sociologically the concept of a tribal identity was disappearing and only kept on life support by reinforcing stereotypes the older generation had refused to let go of, his parents carried on shaking their heads in despair. It didn’t matter how grounded in logic his points were, at this stage in their life he wasn’t going to convince them of anything they didn’t already want to be convinced about. He could only hope that the younger generation was aware of the emergence of a national culture that shared more with the world’s global culture than with old-fashioned African culture. Whether it was a result of globalization, eurocentrism, or whatever multisyllabic term or phrase the dictionary had to offer, an Igbo girl probably laughed just as hard to Kevin Hart movies as a Yoruba girl, and they both probably wished they owned Olivia Pope’s wardrobe with equal intensity. The notion that the young African’s worldview was somehow skewed by tribal affiliation was simply losing its place in reality. It was only a matter of time till sociologically, it was a mono-cultural country.
At first sight, I knew she was out of my league. And I don’t mean like a few miles out, she was at least a planet away. She was beautiful. And not just the generic type of beauty. She had a certain classic and natural quality about her beauty. She was the kind of woman that made you wish you could sculpt just so you could create something like her. God probably made her on a Monday morning after a good weekend’s rest. I can almost imagine him going, ‘Hey Gabriel, fetch me some clay, the finest we have. This morning, we create art!’
Me on the other hand….let’s just say God was starting to nod off when he put me together. And like being ugly wasn’t bad enough, I was broke too. Or rather, penniless. The only date I could afford was a pirated DVD at mine because I had to sell my laptop last month to pay my rent. Streaming wasn’t even an option. She was fiddling with what looked like a car key from this distance and a McLaren was parked not too far away. If that was….she crossed over to the other side of the road and unlocked the car remotely. No way, no fucking way! If it was going to take this girl running me over for me to talk to her, then she was about to do just that. That was what Will Smith did for Eva Mendes in Hitch right? And it worked.
I planned and plotted my dive making several imaginary runs in my head. It was only after she closed the door that I realized there was every possibility she would turn around and drive down the other direction. I was fast, but Me vs. a McLaren was an exercise in futility on my part. She turned on the engine and I readied my mind for the worst even though I wasn’t exactly sure what that was under the circumstance.
Nothing happened. By the time I got within earshot she was still parked, and I realized she was on the phone.
‘Bobby, I swear I will never do it again. I will be good, I promise. I know I am nothing without you.’
She took off her sunglasses to wipe the tears from her face and all of a sudden I was trapped in a predicament. What exactly was I supposed to do about her blackened right eye? It didn’t seem right to walk past a person in such distress but what were my options. Whoever Bobby was, he was a master manipulator and this lady was clearly under his thumb. I could offer her my help in the way of advice, but it was up to her to take it or leave it.
I tapped on the slightly cracked window.
‘You don’t have to take that. You can…’
She didn’t wait for the rest of my speech. I watched the window go up before I could get out my second sentence in its entirety. And then just in case I didn’t get the message, she showed me the palm of her hand in that ‘I don’t need your advice’ gesture. What choice did I have but to carry on walking? Sometimes this is the nature of the world. Not everyone can be saved, or at least be saved at the time we are trying to rescue them. And what one man would treats as gold, another tramples on like dust. For all her beauty, happiness for her was at best…a mirage. It brought much sadness to my day.
P.S Based on true events
An interest in unavailable men was pretty much the story of her life. Ada could not understand why this was always the case, but somehow, every man she seemed to develop a strong interest in was out of her reach. At least as far as social expectations go. There was Emeka, the married man with two kids. Then there was Fred, the only rich young man she had ever met with a manageable ego. No surprise that he had a long-term girlfriend. At first, she considered snatching him, but her conscience got the better of her. And oh, there was Mickey. For once there was not another woman in the picture, but then his workplace had to post him a continent away. Just her luck.
‘Ada Ada, this one you are just looking at your phone. Are you waiting for a message from Mr. Right or bank alert for credit?’ Bimpe asked in her usual jovial tone.
‘You know my story. If I like a man somebody else is probably fucking him.’
‘Ewwww, such vulgarity. Aren’t you supposed to be a lady?’ Bimpe teased.
‘Lady ko, lady ni. Abeg, I’m just tired jare. Look at this cute guy I met last night.’ She handed her phone over to Bimpe for examination. The roommate seal of approval was needed to make sure she wasn’t still drunk and staring with beer goggles.
‘Ooooo, this one is 100 yards boyfriend abi husband material. See the name sef. It’s better than your Mbachu.’ She mocked Ada’s last name, ‘and with this his yellow and your yellow, na oyibo or albino una go born.’
Ada kissed her teeth before snatching back her phone. ‘I think he has a girlfriend sha. A guy like this isn’t just floating around single. In this Lagos with girls shining eyes like torch light? No chance.’
Bimpe looked at Ada like a lost child then shook her head.
‘What is it?’ Ada asked.
‘You are here forming honest Nigerian abi? Don’t worry, you will be chief bridesmaid until you die. You think these girls you are allowing to hold these men play friendly? They are playing like it is World Cup finals and you’re here kicking ball like a learner.’
Ada had never really thought of it that way. Assuming everyone else thought about life the way we did was a common mistake. Even more common among the good intentioned demographic in any given society.
‘So are you saying I should snatch the boy from his girlfriend?’
‘See JAMB question! Do you think your mother was the only woman interested in your father before they got married?’
Ada said nothing.
‘Forget all this girl code abi whatever they call it. Mate selection has never been a fair process. You no see as lion dey fight for pride? If you like be there, waiting for perfect and available man. Don’t go and get proactive. You will end up with an arranged marriage in your village.’
Ada hated to admit it, but she could see Bimpe’s point. All too often the “Generation Y” young adults treated dating relationships like marriages. In a world where the fight for the right companion was not getting any easier, it made sense that people tried to protect their finds with all sorts of rules. Before the days of the cell phone, courtship was accepted to be a matter of multiple partners. These days, sending the wrong emoticon to a friend was enough to drum up a charge on cheating.
‘Until he puts a ring on it, it’s all a game oh. Don’t let all this Instagram activity fool you with the ‘loveofmylife’ hashtags. If a babe isn’t ready to fight for her man, na her loss be that. When a guy that likes you asks if you are single, do you think he wants to know if he will stop talking to you? ’
‘Chai! Ada Ada, biko no dey fall my hand like this. The guy just wants to know if there is competition or not, and how strong the competition is. If a guy feels like he can snatch you, believe me, he will do it. And they don’t get called home wreckers or girlfriend snatchers so they don’t even care. Where you will shine eye you will be quite like wet towel. My sister shine your eye.’
Leo wasn’t sure if he was overdressed or if this was even a date.
The last and only time he had met with Anna had been on the beach. Then, the fashion options for him had been a pair of Speedos or lengthier trunks. He had worn the latter. After their encounter they exchanged details and had since spoke online with the few Skype dates, but nothing as real as standing in a coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon. His phone buzzed.
Message from Anna: Hey, I’m walking in right now.’
Before he could put down the phone she had pushed the shop door open.
‘There you are. Thank goodness I didn’t wear my tux. This could have been disastrous.’ He said.
They exchanged kisses on the cheeks.
‘If you were wearing a tux I would have been out of here before I even came in.’ They both laughed then proceeded to the counter to place their orders.
‘I will have an espresso please.’ Leo went first.
‘Ewww, that’s disgusting. I can’t believe there is actually a market for espresso shots. If it was the cure to cancer I’d still take my chances with radiation,’ she turned to the barista, ‘A hazelnut latte please. And lots of cream.’
‘If you wanted sweets there’s a kids store down the road with a candy floss machine.’ He couldn’t resist the urge to avenge his drink.
They engaged in a bit of small talk and banter while they waited for their drinks.
‘Jesus, your shot of coffee is almost as expensive as my cup. Aren’t you supposed to be an economist?’
‘Yeah, you would think they would have taught us about coffee pricing in Harvard. I knew I should have gone to a state school.’
‘You dick!, are you making fun of my state school education?’
‘I didn’t know you knew swear words. Were you pretending to be a sophisticated writer on the beach? I can leave now.’
‘Only as much as you pretended to be a gentleman. Now pause with the small chat. I didn’t agree to this date because I think you’d be interesting. I just wanted you to help me with a writing assignment I have for Vogue.’ She reached into her bag for a small writing pad.
‘You sneaky bitch, I’m wearing my lucky cologne as well. I want a cut of your salary and my name mentioned as a co-author.’ He crossed his arm in mock protest.
‘I want Kim Kardashian’s figure and Simone de Beauvoir’s mind. We can’t all get what we want honey. Now stop being a smart ass and tell me what you think about the purpose of marriage in the 21st century? I might just have a spare ticket to the theatres.’ She flashed a mischievous smile.
‘This is like intellectual prostitution. You’re bribing me to sell my mind. I object!’ He raised his hand.
‘Don’t force me into using seduction.’ They both laughed. ‘I just want to get this out the way so we can have some fun and I don’t want to be that weirdo that brought work on a date so I thought I’d get you involved. And don’t even act like you aren’t dying to share your opinion, Mr Know It All.’
‘Well since you asked politely…’ he sipped some of his espresso, ‘you know I bought this to make sure you don’t bore me to sleep.’
‘It’s okay, I brought a taser just in case you…I won’t even complete this joke. Rape jokes aren’t funny.’
‘Aww, so you do have some standards. Okay, seriously. You see how we make these silly jokes, we recommend books to each other, share music, even if some of your taste is questionable. Well, that’s what relationships have become in this century. It’s about companionship and sharing. In the past, it was about functionality. A man provided and the woman nurtured. This goes back as far as hunter-gatherers’ time. But ever since gender roles became blurred, relationships have become about companionship. The old system with fixed roles just has no place in the post-industrial world. Not when feminism is near enough the buzzword of the decade right next to racism.’
‘Hmm, so you’re saying people go out to find people they can have the best companionship with as opposed to going out to find people that can functionally raise a family with?’ she said.
‘I’m saying it is literally impossible to use the old style. I mean I’m sure there are countries where women still dream about being a housewife but I don’t think they read Vogue there. The problem is that with this new model there is no standard operating procedure to define how to run a good marriage. Every relationship is different depending on the people involved, so for the most part, relationship advice columns are pointless.’
‘Thank you, it’s only my job to write them.’ She said.
‘You can leave that part out if you like. Life is meaningless, why should your job have any meaning?’
‘Thank you Mr. Nihilist. I see what you’re saying though. It’s not like before when we all thought men had to work and women cook. So for a woman to be the best wife she can be she just has to be the best homemaker. No one can teach you how to get on with someone else as a companion. You have to be like their wife, and best friend, and shrink, and travel buddy. It’s crazy.’
As she spoke, she scribbled down points to help her remember when writing.
‘Exactly, so you were listening. I thought you were going to yawn at the end.’ He said.
‘You’re a bit of an intellectual show off but hey, I like a man with a big…mind,’ she teased.
‘You are such a pervert. And don’t even hit me with that “no pun intended” line because I see what you did there.’ Said Leo.
‘Aww, sensitive Leo can’t take an adult joke.’ She mocked him. ‘Now stop being a bitch and finish that poison you ordered. “The Phantom of the Opera” is showing in half an hour and believe me, I will leave with or without you.’
They were both sat at the edge of their seats at the dinner table. Intellectual stimulation was a well-known aphrodisiac for the sapiosexuals. But it was also known to carry an inherent risk of going completely sideways and spiralling into an argument, or politically speaking, a heated debate. For the most part, this was controlled by how strongly the parties felt about the issue and their stance on it. As absurd as it sounded, it was not unheard of that a difference in opinion was enough to pull the plug on a potential or ongoing relationship. He did not want this to be one of those situations. He was already too infatuated with this woman’s intelligence to lose her over something as silly as intellectual egoism.
Waiter: Here is the bill, Sir.
The waiter handed him the bill, flashed a practiced smile, and left him to it. He reached for his glasses to examine what the night was going to cost him.
Woman: Isn’t it a bit rude that he just assumes you would pay the bill? What if we were a family and I was the breadwinner? Or what if it was me taking you out? Or we wanted to split?
Man: If I wasn’t the one paying for any reason I could always hand it to you after he leaves. We can even do that now if you want to pay.
He could see a gender role argument coming.
Woman: I’m just saying he could have dropped it on the table.
Her tone was starting to change. He considered letting it slide. It was by far the easier option to agree with her and brand the waiter and even the entire establishment as sexist. In many ways, he thought of himself as a champion for sexual equality, but he had his differences with the classic feminist as far as depending on social media for any definition of the term went.
Man: It’s just the man’s orientation. We could have been living in the 60s and you’d be in an apron happy to hear me say “thank you for dinner dear” hmm?
Woman: But we are in 2016!
Man: Not everyone is in the same time space dear. Didn’t some writer say the future is always here, it is just never evenly distributed? This feminist battle isn’t very different from racism. In time, they will both become non-issues.
She hated the fact that he would dismiss an issue so close to her heart as a matter for the passing of time. Yes, racism was probably going to be a trait expressed by a minority group of assholes one day, but did that make it okay to dismiss it as an issue for conversation?
Woman: Are you trying to be an asshole?
Man: Wow, this escalated quickly.
Woman: So we shouldn’t address racism because it will be a thing of the past one day?
Man: I know I compared the two, but what blacks have been through makes the entire struggle of women a walk in the park. It’s not like police are out there shooting women for being women.
Woman: Rapists are out there raping us for being women, and that’s a cross-cultural thing.
Man: Comparing a systematic crime to a personal one, come on!
Now he was getting irritated.
Man: Do you think men like getting the bill handed to us all the time? Women act like men are constantly hatching secret plans for your downfall. Naturally, there is an order in the way we evolve to be best suited for survival. Women have always enjoyed a relative freedom from danger and the trade off has been to have men in power.
Woman: So what are we in danger of now? It’s not like a tiger is going to maul me on my way home and you wouldn’t be of much use against a mugger with a knife.
He considered making a joke about being a black belt holder but decided against it. This was hardly the time for joking around.
Man: Well, it’s just going to take some time for things to balance out. Come on, women have made considerable progress as it is. The only thing left for you guys to blame on men is having periods and an unfavourable biological clock.
Woman: I’m going to pretend like I didn’t hear that.
Man: Look, at the end of the day, you guys have your social expectations and we have ours. The waiter expects that you won’t pay and expects that I should. It’s always a two-way street.
Woman: So what about stuff like slut shaming?
Man: Are you saying women don’t slut shame each other? There are actually studies showing that they do it more. And as for victim blaming that is a flat out dick move, but you know there is a type for that kind of reasoning.
Woman: You don’t get it. This isn’t about men or women. This is about a culture, a system. Subconsciously people are raised to think of women as something they can define while men are free to define themselves. The only real pressure on a man is to be financially stable and with the economy these days that isn’t exclusive to men anymore. A woman has to look a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way, all because she is a woman.
Man: Do you know how many men suffer in silence because we are expected to ‘man-up’? Do you know how long it took before it became possible to charge women with the rape of a man?’
Woman: Not nearly as long as it took for something as obvious as battered-woman syndrome to be recognized. Look, I’m not saying men don’t have issues, but it’s not our fault if you guys are too busy manning up to complain. Just because you have problems too doesn’t make ours any less relevant or valid for complaint.
He nodded in agreement. All of a sudden he wasn’t exactly sure of how the rest of the evening was going to progress.
Fred hit the send button on his cell phone. What started off as a flirt with technology had quickly grown into a full-blown addiction.
‘Bro, I don’t even know how I’m ever going to get married. Everywhere you go it’s like a candy shop full of women. How are we ever supposed to pick one?’ He showed his phone to Ed who had to take his eyes off the road to check out a picture of a girl neither of them had ever met.
‘I don’t know how you do it with Fiona. Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on the game?’ Fred said.
Ed smiled at the picture then redirected his stare to the road.
‘She’s not bad, but it’s all the same thing. You know when I was single your numbers weren’t touching mine.’ Ed joked.
‘Yeah, then that bitch came around and stole your balls. You even suck as a wing-man these days. I want my friend back.’ Freddy said in protest. ‘Dude we will only be in our twenties once, you will have the rest of your life to suffer from Onegina’
‘Very funny, never heard that one before. And if you couldn’t refer to my girl as a bitch that would be great.’ Ed said.
‘See what I mean? You’ve changed bro. Getting all proper and politically correct on me. Dude you need to jump on this app. It will change your life. And I mean for the better. How do you know there isn’t a better girl out there if you’ve already thrown in the towel?’ Freddy asked.
‘There very well could be, but it doesn’t matter to me. I’m already happy, and content. Why would I want to fuck that up?’ Ed said. ‘
‘I don’t get it. Like, I really don’t. Our grandparents would have killed for the opportunity to have the choices we have now. They could just about meet girls a walking distance or cycling distance from home, and they had to be out of the house as well. I can chat to girls in New York while taking a shit in Paris.’ Freddy said.
Ed shook his head. He wasn’t exactly surprised at his friend’s statement. It was very in line with the kind of guy Freddy was.
‘But our grandparents managed to keep divorce rates lower than we can ever dream of.’ Ed pointed out.
‘So what are you suggesting? That we are less satisfied because we have too many options?’ Freddy asked.
‘You ever heard of the paradox of choice?’ Ed asked.
‘No, but it sounds like something they would teach you in psychology school so I’m sure you’re about to teach me.’
‘Well, at least I’m not charging you.’ They both laughed. ‘Basically, the more choices we have, the harder it is to choose, and the less satisfied we become with our eventual choice because we would always second guess it.’
‘So, you’re saying…?’ Freddy asked.
‘You have this idea of your ideal woman in your head. And we all know that woman doesn’t exist, but you try to find someone as close to her as possible. The problem is that even if you found a ninety-eight percent match, you’d start thinking ninety-nine might be a profile away so you are never quite content.’
He noticed a thoughtful look on his friend’s face.
‘Think about it like cars. When there were like five cars to choose from in the world, you could drive the best car and know this is the best for you, period. You would never want any other car. Now you can find yourself in the world’s best SUV wondering if you would be happier in the world’s best sports car. Or like TV channels…’
‘I get it. It was easier when we had five channels to choose from. Now we just keep flicking through and never really watch anything.’ Freddy cut in.
‘There is hope for you after all.’ Ed teased.
They continued the journey in relative silence contemplating many examples of how the illusion of choice only left us in discontent.
Less is more, less is more…
‘I can’t tell you how good it feels to know the first black president actually did well for the country. Like I think I will have Obama posters and whatnot in my child’s room before they can even see.’ Brian said as they watched the President address the nation.
‘Hmm, I’m not trying to rain on your parade or nothing, but first, you haven’t even got a girl to impregnate, and more importantly, he isn’t really black, is he? He’s half white.’
‘So what exactly is your point?’ Brian asked.
‘Well, I cringe a lot of times when I hear J. Cole with his pro-black and anti-white lines, because he is half white too. I just think this whole “one-drop theory” thing is crap. Like, why will black dominate all other racial identities? It’s not exactly like a tribal system where the father’s tribe becomes the child’s tribe and the mother’s people have no claim.’ Brandon wasn’t a fan of racial dialogues. He never considered himself to be racist, but he could admit to some degree of unease when the subject came up around black people he was not exactly comfortable with. Brian was not one of those black people. He even let him call him the n-word in public though it didn’t always go down well with onlookers.
‘You know the problem with racism isn’t exactly the ignorance on the issue or the fear of blacks. Most white folks are aware enough to understand racial equality as a concept. We are all equal and all that. The problem is that white folks don’t and maybe can’t even understand what it is to be black.’ Brian had to caution himself about his temperament. He was of the opinion that getting your point across in an aggressive manner was the quickest way to kill any lesson hoped to be passed on around this issue.
‘That’s not a fair statement to make. I might not be able to completely imagine what it is to be black, but I can still have an opinion on things like how mixed race kids are just considered black.’ Brandon was careful not to overstep his boundaries. In his mind, he saw himself as someone free of prejudice. He had black friends, had slept with black girls, played more hip-hop and jazz than anything else, and he even loved fried chicken as stereotypical as that may be.
‘You have a right to your opinion. And I really think it’s cool that you can actually speak up even if it can be considered a bit offensive. I’m not a fan of this forced political correctness that has everyone bullshitting each other so hard this country is gonna be full of manure soon enough. All we are doing is sweeping issues under the carpet to keep up appearances. It’s ridiculous.’
Brandon reached for the remote to turn up the volume. The news anchor was saying something about feminists organizing another naked walk, or as they called them, slut-walks.
‘We need to go check this out. Naked girls on the street, can’t say no to that.’ Brian said.
‘You see, to these women, we would never understand what it is to be a woman and that is why we can’t take this effort seriously.’
‘I see what you are trying to do here Brandon, but it is hardly the same thing. Men that rape women aren’t exactly going to watch a slut-walk and be like “oh, a woman’s body is her own. Just because she is dressed in a certain way doesn’t mean I can harass or rape her”, so who are they doing it for? Guys like us that don’t play that game would approach a girl the same way whether she was wearing a curtain or some spandex.’
‘The point is to create awareness, to keep the conversation going and to keep the issue relevant so we as a society can imbibe feminist values. They aren’t trying to end rape or harassment by walking around naked.’
Brian was silent for a few seconds.
‘Seems to me you understand their plight more than what black people are going through. So I will take your lesson on slut-walking and give you one on racial identity.’
‘Seems like we have a deal.’ Brandon agreed.
‘Black is not just a colour, it is an identity forced on us by the society. It’s not like J. Cole and Obama had people treat them with half-racism while they were growing up. The society identifies and treats mixed race people as blacks. In fact, anyone with a bit of visible blackness is treated like a Nigga, excuse my French. So naturally, that is what they will identify with. Are they supposed to see themselves as white when they have endured all the black suffering with no white privilege?’
It was Brandon’s turn to sit in silence. He had never really thought about race as an identity concept. This is probably why blacks that had never experienced prejudice viewed the racial problem completely differently to those that had. Our identity could not be detached from our personal experiences. Regardless of what we thought ourselves to be, the society had a box for us and living in denial of it did nothing to change the reality of our existence. Identity was actually derived from outside the self and not within it.
‘I never really thought of it that way.’ ‘You’re welcome. Now we’re even.’
There was something humbling about watching a coffin being lowered into a grave. It was a solemn reminder of a destiny no one would ever escape, the promise of death. For the most part, people tried to live their lives in denial of this truth, but deep down it was an existential reality no one could ever escape. When death waited till a ripe old age to claim its victim, consolation was easy to find. Sadly, this was not one of those occasions.
‘I cannot believe she is gone. Just like that. I spoke to her only a week ago.’ Nneka said.
It didn’t matter where you were in the world, people talking about when last they had contact with the dead was a standard conversation opener at funerals.
‘I can imagine how you feel, she seemed so happy. Like, why would she kill herself? I don’t understand. We weren’t really close but I used to follow her on Instagram. She was one of those babes I wanted to be like. Smiling and having fun in every picture. She was so pretty as well.’ Uju said.
As far as people were concerned there were only two main causes of death, preventable, and unpreventable. Suicide was generally regarded to be strong in the preventable category. Even in more developed countries where mental illnesses were considered to be real and serious, suicide could easily be considered as weak and selfish. In Nigeria where depression was synonymous to pettiness and weakness, suicide was more or less seen to be outright stupidity. When the victim in question was someone from a wealthy family that seemingly had all life had to offer or at least a better chance at living a full life, pity was out of the question. Most people would not voice it at the funeral but they thought Temi to be a spoilt brat that probably couldn’t cope with a relatively easy existence. What could she have been possibly depressed about at twenty-two?
‘She was probably depressed and didn’t know who to talk to. I wished she had talked to me now. We were close, I don’t know why I couldn’t even sense it.’ Nneka said.
‘Hmm, I don’t know about this depression thing. I thought all this mental wahala was an oyibo thing oh.’ Uju said.
‘It is very real, believe it. And it affects Africans as much as it affects Europenas, rich or poor. A lot of people think if you are rich or young it can’t happen to you, but it happens. I’ve witnessed it in my own family. Trust me, so many Nigerians are depressed and don’t even know it. You see these people drinking like fish and smoking like chimneys in the club. You don’t know they are dying inside.’ Nneka said.
Uju paused for a second to think about it. She thought of depression very much like she thought of anorexia. In her opinion, it was not a ‘real’ illness. It was a social condition and could be overcome with enough willpower and understanding.
‘I don’t get it. You don’t see women suffering from anorexia in countries where they can’t even find food to eat, or where skinny is not a good look. To me, depression is like that. I can understand if she had an issue. The girl was fine, her father rich, and boys were all over her. I just don’t get it.’
‘I can’t tell you I know what her problem was or if you even need to have a problem to be depressed. Look at Chimamanda Adichie. She is like my idol and she is depressed. Robin Williams, the comedian that killed himself. These things are not so simple, but they are real. Very real.’ Nneka said. ‘I can’t even imagine how powerless they must feel before resorting to this.’
‘Hmm, I think it comes from over thinking things. That’s why all these clever people get it. Or people that don’t believe in God or maybe they believe but their faith is weak.’ Uju said.
Nneka was getting angry but this was no place to display her rage. It was one thing that Uju didn’t understand the condition that was depression, but that wasn’t what enraged Nneka. The stupid girl couldn’t even let go of her perception to give their friend the respect she deserved at her funeral.
‘You don’t know what she was going through. And quite frankly it is people like you that don’t understand that people’s problems don’t have to be a problem to you to make it valid. We all have our issues and none is bigger than the other. It’s all relative.’
With that said Nneka moved away from Uju. She had always thought the girl to be somewhat lacking in empathy but this was just a step too far in the wrong direction. What was the point of trying to convince someone that didn’t even care to listen? She already had her opinions and nothing was going to change it if the death of a mutual friend didn’t as much as shake it. Perhaps that was the real problem with depression and related mental illnesses. Victims were forced to suffer in silence because the stigma of being tagged crazy, weak or a bratty was almost as bad as the condition itself and would certainly compound it. What a shame, what a damn shame.
Chief Obi was a quintessential Igbo man as far that the stereotype went. At fifty-six he was a rich merchant trading on imported bathroom fittings. His English was terrible, but he didn’t care much for finishing schools and other such luxuries. As far as he was concerned, the sum of a man’s success could be represented by a bank balance or estimated by his wife’s presence. The jewellery she wore, the car she arrived in, the bag she carried, and other such accessories. As for himself, he only upgraded to an iPhone after his son literally dropped his flip Motorola in a cup full of water.
‘Nkechi, you are not getting any younger oh. Look at your cousin Nnenna. Is it not the same year you people finished from school and she already has two children.’
‘Daddy, she had twins.’ Nkechi said with a mouthful of breakfast.
‘Ehen, but you don’t even have boyfriend. Don’t you want me and your mother to carry grandchild? Or is it when we are old and can’t carry anything?’
‘I can’t just go and carry any man on the street because I want to marry. It’s not easy to find a good man these days daddy.’
Chief Obi paused from eating.
‘But I have been recommending good boys for you. What about Chuka? He is a graduate from London like you. His family are well to do, and he is even from our village.’
Nkechi sighed in frustration. She had met with this Chuka before. On paper he was the poster child for marriage, but in reality if he was any more full of himself he would probably physically implode. You would have thought the exposure to Western living would have shown him that self improvement for men meant a bit more than acquisition of more wealth, far from it. If anything, it only made him more egotistical. He was one of those men that believed money was the answer to every problem, and if the first handful of cash wasn’t working, one only needed to throw more at it.
‘Chuka is just a typical Naija man biko. He thinks because he has money I should be bowing at his feet.’
At this point her mother stepped in.
‘Nkechi, this is the problem with your generation. Is he not the man? You want him to bow to you instead?’ she shook her head, ‘umuazi’a ga alu puta nmadu one day.’
‘This is the problem with your generation. You think things are still the way they were in your time. So you mean to say you sent me to school abroad to come back and be somebody’s maid?’
‘Nobody is saying you should be his maid. But you have to accept that he is your superior in the household. Two captains cannot run one ship.’ Her mother said.
‘That is how it starts. Before you know it the man starts seeing you as just another extension of the world that exists to serve him.’
Her father cleared his unfinished food to one side and wiped his mouth.
‘I should have never sent you abroad. Now you think you have grown wings with all these oyibo ideas eh?’
Nkechi had to fight the urge to roll her eyes out of respect for her parents. It killed her inside to think that any idea that was remotely progressive was automatically tagged to be “Western” and hence unacceptable. It baffled her how her parents ever expected her to spend all these years in the West and not pick up some of their popular views.
‘Daddy, even young people that have never left Lagos have Internet for information. The world is changing and we have to change with it. Mummy, your father had three wives, right? So why didn’t you become somebody’s second wife?’
Silence fell on the table.
The battle between traditional ways and modernization was compounded by a need for parents to feel like their cultural identity was carried on through their children. In fact, one could argue that the intention of most parents when having children was to make extensions of themselves to vicariously live through. The child’s happiness and freedom was only approved when it was in line with what the parent wanted. Nkechi wondered if perhaps one day she too would be having breakfast with her daughter, fighting over the new progressive ideas just because she couldn’t understand them. Oh the cycle of life, ever so repetitive, ever so hypocritical.
Alfred wasn’t one to be easily intimidated by a woman; in fact he wasn’t easily intimidated in general. However, today he found himself sat across an outdoor pool somewhat apprehensive about the date he had signed up for. Felicia was older, more successful, more financially stable and definitely an intellectual equal, possibly superior. In a twisted way the challenge she posed to his normal dating experience scared and excited him at the same time. The uncertainty about the whole affair made him feel truly alive for the first time in a long time.
She walked in looking like what you would expect of an unapologetic self-made billionaire. At thirty-six what she had accomplished was a pipe dream for most, a fantasy for others.
‘Jesus, if you looked any better I would have to burn my entire wardrobe.’ He complimented her.
‘Well, thank you. But you don’t have to talk down yourself to state your point. What I have in style you make up for in cool. I couldn’t pull off half the stuff you wear.’ She sat down and waved at the waiter.
‘I’m just allowed these eccentricities because I’m a writer. If I was any old Mr. Nobody, people would think I was crazy.’
‘Yeah, you writers and artists do get some social pass to be weird. I think ‘quirky’ is the word.’
As the waiter took their order they proceeded with the expected routine of asking how the week had gone and other such formalities that expressed a general care about what people did with their lives. She was almost halfway through her first glass while he struggled with getting passed a quarter.
‘Mister, I thought writers were supposed to be professional alcoholics. You are shattering every illusion I have ever held dear. You should be ashamed of yourself. An old lady like me out pacing you.’ She shook her head in mock disappointment.
‘I’m just trying to take it easy. You seem the type to get a man drunk and take advantage. Last time we met I remember you handed me a drink. I see a conspiracy here.’
They laughed both laughed.
‘I don’t get it. Why are you single?’ She sounded the question without as much as a warning that the conversation was about to take a turn.
‘Wow, ambush. I haven’t written the essay to answer that one quite yet.’ He joked to buy some time to think up his answer.
‘The truth is, it just hasn’t happened. I don’t know why but every time it’s the same story. I meet a girl, go crazy about her, get her, then leave her. I think I’m a serial romancer. It must be some kind of condition.’
She smiled at him even though he wasn’t really sure what he had said to warrant it.
‘A serial romancer. Aren’t you getting a bit old for that? Surely a man of your intelligence is smart enough to know the butterflies don’t last forever.’
She was right. He was well aware that infatuation was only a fleeting feeling. But somehow he found himself addicted to it. It didn’t matter if he was dating Helen of Troy or the girl from the library, eventually he had to face the reality of dealing with them without the influence of what he termed new-love-madness.
‘You know your problem is in two parts; illusion and addiction. The illusion that somewhere there is a woman that will match whatever fantasy woman you have dreamt up for yourself, and an addiction to a feeling we both know is fleeting.’
He hated to admit it, but he knew she was right on both counts. The ideal partner that would understand and relate to us well enough to cure the existential condition of loneliness did not just exist. It was an abstract and poisonous romantic idea. One that had many people living in regret for passing up potential partners because they fell short of some imaginary standard of perfection.
‘Hopefully I have matured a bit over the years. I like to think I’m ready for something more practical now.’
‘To think you thought yourself not to be a romantic. You are as soft as they come Mr. Writer.’
From the way Ada hand washed her clothes it was obvious to see she had lived in luxury all her life. Bimpe on the other hand did it with the kind of effortless ease that could only come from habit, having never known a washing machine or maid to help.
‘This one you are quiet today, is everything okay with you and Sam?’ Ada asked.
Bimpe said nothing.
‘So you won’t talk to me? We would just be out here in the courtyard washing clothes like quarreling husband and wife abi distant neighbors?’
Bimpe said nothing.
‘If it was me now you will not let me rest in peace. You must say something.’ She flicked a splash of water towards Bimpe’s direction.
‘Ada, abeg leave me alone. You don’t know what I’m going through.’
‘Haba, person die?’ Ada managed in her shaky pidgin.
‘Well, I met this guy…’
‘So it is even man matter? See me here thinking you had a real problem. Like family trouble or maybe pregnancy. In fact I don’t even want to hear again.’ Ada hissed and faced her washing.
‘It is a lie, you must hear. Shebi I was on my own and you started disturbing me. You must play therapist today.’
Ada smiled on the inside, her tactics was working.
‘Oya, be talking. I don’t have your power.’
‘Well, I met this guy. I didn’t really think much of it to start with, but then he kinda took me by surprise.’
‘Ermm, isn’t it still early days for you and Sam. I thought you would be all cuckoo for him at the moment. Are you sure you even like him, this one your eyes are already wandering?’
Bimpe was quiet for a few seconds. She had never really asked herself why she liked Sam or why she had agreed to date him. Was it a matter of him being the best of out a bunch of half-baked men, or was he actually in line with her ideal. The fact that she could even consider another guy so early into their relationship definitely raised some kind of alarm bell. She could understand if she liked this new man in a physical sense, but on the contrary, it was his mind that attracted her.
‘I don’t even know. I tried to keep it causal but this guy is something else. It’s like he is using juju.’
‘Na wa oh, what is this boy telling you? Is this Bimpe? He has found your mumu button. So you even have one.’
‘So it’s me you are using to catch trips abi? Your time will come.’
‘But I don’t understand why this is making you upset like this?’
‘Who knows?’ Ada asked.
‘The new guy.’ Bimpe replied.
‘What? You told him? Are you crazy? If it was a long-term thing maybe, no guy wants to compete with a new boo.’
‘Do you think I’m stupid? I didn’t tell him. He just figured it out. I don’t even know how. Maybe he caught a text out the side of his eye or something.’
‘Hmm, na wa. So he left or what?’ Ada asked with eyes filled with interest.
‘Not really, but I think it has limited something in him. I get the feeling he won’t be as open with me. He said he can’t be investing emotionally while some other guy is enjoying the benefits he wants. He doesn’t want to be “the other man”. I just wish the matter never came up.’
‘Ehen na, so you will have both of them and pick one when you are ready. Na this guy fit you sef. You can’t eat your cake and have it. Think of it like opportunity cost in business.’
Bimpe pondered on her friend’s insight. Ada was not generally the go-to girl for relationship matters, but she did have an honesty about her that could never be overstated. It was normal to meet people with the promise of a great relationship in the course of our dating and even marital life. But our intuition was not always right about these things. For all she knew, it was only the excitement of something new that made this new man appear worth her time. There was also the option that he was what she was looking for or at least closer to it than Sam. If she would ever know was entirely up to her. It wasn’t a question of doing the right thing. There was no ‘right thing’. It was a matter of doing what was best for her and as much as she hated to admit it, at this moment in time, she just did not know what that was. How long till this new man got sick of waiting in the wings? What if Sam was a better choice all this time and she was just being a brat looking for more? She just wished she knew how to be more content or had divine intervention to choose for her.
Such was the battle of monogamy. A constant war between contentment in commitment. A trade of ‘what ifs’ for ‘what is’ and believing that the greener grass on other sides was more often than not an illusion from the shadow of fences.
Anna sat on the other end of the table with a suspiciously childish blush on her face.
‘Are you going to tell me what you are so happy about because I don’t think this is the first time you’ve had a candlelit dinner in a restaurant.’ Leo asked while cutting through his portion of medium rare steak.
She brushed some strands of hair away from her face.
‘Well, this is like our first date. I’m immature like that. These things excite me.’
‘Really? This is our first date?’
‘Well we met on the beach. That was our “meet”, not a date. And there was the coffee shop meeting which can hardly count as a date seeing as I brought my work with me.’
‘Okay, you make a fair point. But I feel like we have already spoken so much that I can’t get the first-date jitters. Damn twenty-first century communication. You have to think of something really personal to ask me now.’
They both backed a bit away from their meals in anticipation of a question. She took a sip of her wine for confidence then asked;
‘Have you ever cheated or been cheated on?’
This wasn’t exactly what Leo was expecting when he volunteered to answer a personal question but it was already on the table now.
‘Isn’t there like a rule that you can’t ask stuff like that on a date?’ he asked.
‘I’m not judging you. I just find it interesting because you come off as this perfect guy and I guess I’d like to know you are human like the rest of us. If it makes you feel better, I’m no saint. I’ve cheated before.’
It did make him feel better. There was something consoling about shared weaknesses. Leo believed this was the reason lots of religious bigots could hold such extreme views on homosexuality but overlook other biblical sins like adultery and fornication. The shared nature of these other ‘sins’ created a culture that downplayed their severity. He had to snap out that train of thought to get back to the question.
‘Well yeah, I’ve cheated and I’ve been cheated on.’
‘So you are mortal,’ she smiled, ‘why did you do it?’
He paused for thought.
‘Well, it’s not always for the same reason. When I was younger I think it was just an immaturity and curiosity thing. I had just discovered women and the find was too exciting to stick to one. Then I grew up a bit and started getting into semi-meaningful relationships. You know those early ones when you believe you’re in love and you’re going to marry the person, run off into the sunrise and live happily ever after.’
‘Mmhm,’ she nodded in agreement.
‘Then time passes and you realize you actually have nothing in common and you’re bored and trapped at the same time. Before you know it, you’re in another dorm room with some girl you just met at the bar.’
‘I can’t imagine you in college.’
‘I know right. It’s easier to imagine I was born looking like this. Fully bearded and all.’
They both laughed.
‘Then with my last girlfriend I think it was just pure discontentment and weakness on my part because I was actually happy in that relationship. I still regret it.’
‘Wait? You got caught?’
‘I always get caught. I’m like the worst kind of cheat.’
‘Danm, I’ve never been caught.’
‘Yeah, women don’t get caught as much as men. I’m not even sure why. Maybe you guys are just better liars.’
They both laughed.
‘A lot of people have this idea that if you love someone then you would never do anything to hurt them, especially cheat on them. I don’t think it’s true at all. In fact, we are more likely to hurt the people we love the most. But as regards to stuff like cheating, I think it is more as a result of our own personal weakness and not so much the realness of our love. Monogamy can be very difficult even with the right intentions. I’m not going to say we were made to be polygamous or anything like that, but Kanye West certainly had a point with that line where he says love is cursed by monogamy.’
‘You listen to Kanye West?’
‘I actually think he’s awesome.’
‘I think for me it was a mix of emotional dissatisfaction but maybe I was just be a brat and asking for too much. I also think when I was younger I did it as a compensation thing for insecurities. It’s crazy, no one prepares us for this relationship thing and it’s only the second most important decision we ever make.’ she said.
‘What’s the first?’ he asked.
‘What shoes to buy when you can only afford one. And that happens a lot.’
‘Now that is a philosophical conundrum if I ever heard one.’
They both laughed and carried on with their meal.
It was the type of day you’d imagine out of a book, warm weather, blue sky, and crisp air with a gentle breeze. The perfect condition for a waterside cocktail date. As far as first dates went, Bill thought this one was definitely one of his best ones. Actually he only refused to rank it his best because he’d rather live in denial than admit that a girl he had initially not thought much about could charm him with what came off as effortless ease.
‘So…is this like a date?’ he asked in-between sips of his strawberry daiquiri.
‘I would answer that but I just can’t get over your lady drink. And you cross your
legs. Is there something you’re not telling me?’ she smiled and winked at him.
‘Very funny. You see if I wasn’t already aware of how sneaky you were I would have fallen for that. You’re going to answer my question and there is nothing wrong with my drink. This stuff will get you wasted.’ He uncrossed his leg unsure if it was a reaction to her joke or him just being tired of crossing them.
‘Ooo…I really thought I was going to escape that.’ She said.
‘Yeah right, nice try. But I don’t get it. This isn’t even such a hard question.’ He set his drink down on the table.
She paused for a second to compose her answer.
‘Well yes, it’s a date. That’s normally the case when two people that aren’t really trying to be friends hangout.’
‘How do you know I’m not trying to be just friends? You could be standing in my friend zone right now.’ He flashed a smug smile.
‘Well you just asked me if this was a date so don’t even try it.’
‘Damn it!, you got me.’
She watched him in a somewhat distant manner and as if out of the blue of her mind she blurted, ‘What do you think of me?’
‘I don’t understand. Like, in what aspect?’
‘Well, let’s start with the easy part shall we. Do you think I’m good looking?’
‘Are you even allowed to ask that question? Like, shouldn’t it come from me as a compliment?’
‘I don’t care too much for rules. So, do you find me beautiful or not?’ she flicked her hair in mock exaggeration.
‘Well…aesthetically speaking I’m sure mathematically you have near enough perfect facial symmetry. And as for your body, let’s just say you could carry twins on those hips and will never run out of milk. Did you know attraction is very much correlated to how fit a person looks for child rearing?’
She wasn’t sure why she was blushing over his rather nerdy rendition.
‘A yes or no would have sufficed but I’d take that epistle.’
‘Well, I didn’t really have an answer to the question. So I decided to answer another question.’
‘I don’t understand?’ she shot him a puzzled look.
‘You are pretty, very pretty, but it’s not the same thing as being beautiful.’
She reflected in silence.
‘Anybody can be pretty given the right set of genes, socio-cultural standards, brilliant makeup skills, or a very good plastic surgeon. But beauty on the other hand can’t be bought.’
‘Are you saying beauty is not something you see?’
‘Precisely, it’s something you feel. Like art. That’s what makes it subjective. What’s that popular saying?’ he squinted to jog his memory.
‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,’ she offered, ‘don’t burst an artery.’
‘That’s the one. I can’t even tell you why something or someone is beautiful. It just is or they just are.’
‘Hmmm…so you see beauty as an idea?’
‘I suppose you could say that…’
‘So you don’t yet know if I am beautiful?’
‘Not yet, but you already pull the beauty string in my heart. I only need time to confirm it.’ He smiled.
‘You charmer.’ They both laughed for no reason.
Following what went down to be Helen’s most disastrous date yet; she couldn’t help but fume over the events that had transpired. Unbelievable, just unbelievable. The nerve of that pompous prick. She replayed his words in her head like an addictive song on repeat. What exactly did he take her for? A sack of meat to be devoured without as much as a glass of wine to go with it? Even if all he wanted was sex, he could have at least pretended to appreciate her personality enough to accommodate some kind of friendship. She didn’t really like him anyways, she just wanted the attention and a free meal. So why was she so upset?
‘Al, like do you think I’m datable?’ she asked her friend.
‘Ermm…where is this coming from?’ Alfred was confused.
‘Seriously, you can be honest with me. Would you date me? Like if we weren’t friends and you just met me?’ she dropped her bag on the kitchen counter.
‘I assume you just had a bad date…should I pour you something to drink?’ said Alfred.
‘Why are you avoiding the question? Al, we have been friends since we were nine. If you can’t talk to be about stuff like this then what’s the point of you being a guy?’
Alfred took a pause from washing the dishes. He had always known Helen to be rather confident in herself even if he sometimes thought it to be for the wrong reasons. She was beautiful, intelligent, and oozed with sex appeal. Someone must have really messed with her to get her feeling this way about herself.
‘You want to tell me what happened because this is clearly not about me telling you if I would date you or not? I believe my spot in the bro zone is for life.’ he asked.
She sighed in frustration.
‘Well, I met this guy, online. He seemed pretty cool, very smart. Not like the other guys that try to chat me up. He actually made funny jokes.’ She paused to listen to herself. Who was she kidding, she liked him, at least to a degree.
‘So you went on a date with him and found out he was a douche bag?’ Alfred chipped in.
She took her time to gather her thoughts. It annoyed her that even as much as she was angry at Eric, a part of her was obsessed about what his actions could mean for her persona in general. Maybe she just sucked at handling rejection.
‘Well, yes he was a complete asshole. But somehow the way he acted is making me think about things. I never seem to be able to keep a guy. Even the ones that pretend to want more than sex end up being sleaze bags. At least he was open about his intentions.’ She got off the stool and went to ransack his fridge.
‘So what exactly did this fellow say that is driving you crazy?’ Alfred asked.
‘Basically, he said I don’t have what it takes to attract the kind of man I want. Not even as a friend.’ She opened a bottle of Corona.
‘Well, he just doesn’t know the real you.’ Alfred said.
‘Yeah, but how is he going to know that if he won’t even give me a chance? And how am I giving off this impression that I am only good to sleep with. For God’s sake I am a first class graduate. I’m not dumb you know.’ She had to caution herself to calm down.
‘Yeah…but,’ he was hesitant.
‘Just say it. Clearly I need to hear this. And don’t sugar coat it either. Please be honest. I don’t care what it is.’
‘Well, you asked for it. Helen you are a great girl and a hottie. I know that. But you kinda put out this image of being…well…’
‘A bimbo. Like look at your Instagram. It’s all pictures of your body and stuff. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for self expression and completely against shaming women for their bodies. But when there are over a hundred pictures of a sexually suggestive nature, it’s kinda hard to expect a guy to look and think: This girl must be intelligent and cultured. Just saying.’
She had never really thought of it that way. But why didn’t she? It was no different to how she thought of guys that posed with flashy jewelry and money stacks as egocentric brats trying to impress shallow women or attract gold diggers. After all, wealth was the equivalent of looks as far as the laws of attraction went for men and women.
‘See, I know you don’t mean to come off as a hoe or whatever, but you have to understand there is a difference between intended meaning and perceived meaning. You are a literature graduate right? It’s just how people work and we have to play along. You will be surprised how guys will approach you if they saw other sides to your personality besides your vanity. Girls with these thirst trap pics just come off like they are hunting for likes.’
The truth was that Helen wanted to show off her intelligence and all that other stuff, but she thought she might come off as intimidating. From what Alfred was saying, it seemed she was coming off as insecure with her obsession over how she looked.
‘I understand. I need a balance. I guess something good did come out of that date. But he is still an asshole. God, humans are so judgmental. I hope men aren’t intimidated by my other side though.’ She smiled and took another sip of the Corona.
‘Yep, and humans includes you. It is what it is. And the type of man to be intimidated by your brain is exactly the type of man you should flee from. When you are old, it is the only part you still get to keep…well mostly’
Anna’s room was more or less what he had imagined it would be. A large desktop sat by the window, the closest a modern writer could get to a typewriter. The classic bookshelf, scraps of paper with illegible writing, two empty cups of coffee that filled the air with the all too familiar aroma. A bedside lamp for late night reading, and two books by the side. It was cluttered, but not littered.
‘So this is what you do to your men. You make them pretty much write your articles, show them a good time around the city, then bring them here for your perverted pleasures. I feel so used.’ Leo sat up on the bed to get a better view of her slim frame.
‘Says the guy that nearly ruptured my uterus. If you fucked me any harder I swear my liver was going to shift.’
They both laughed at her vulgarity.
‘You know I would have never picked you for a freaky girl, but then again you are a writer. It’s not like your wild imagination won’t apply to the bedroom.’
She walked up to him in slow deliberate steps and whispered in his ear.
‘I’m not done with you quite yet Mister. You do what you have to do, but after breakfast you better be ready for me. And this time, I’m the pilot. You can just stay under and be a dick.’ She licked his ear and gave it a quick nimble before she left for the kitchen.
He stayed on the bed for a little longer wondering what to do with himself. Finally, he decided to go join her.
‘I have to say a naked chef in just an apron has been a lifetime fantasy.’
‘Who is the pervert now?’ she flashed a mischievous smile.
He smiled back then composed himself for his next question.
‘Anna, I’ve met girls. Like I’m not bragging about being a master swordsman or anything, but I’ve been in more than a few battles if you know what I mean.’
‘You don’t have to defend yourself. It’s okay to be a whore.’
They both laughed.
‘Anyways, on a more serious note, I just want to know. How do you do it?’
‘Do what?’ she asked.
‘You think I can’t tell you’re the one in charge of this situation? It’s like it’s you fucking me, not the other way round.’
She smiled at him.
‘Awww, poor Leo. Come here let mama give you a hug.’ She teased, ‘women are always in control at the beginning. Most of us just don’t know how to leverage this. In fact, until a woman gives a man the impression that she has fallen for him, she is always in charge. That’s why I never tell guys I like them first.’
‘Ahh, so this is a power thing?’
‘It is always a power thing. We just have to hope whoever has the power doesn’t abuse it.’
‘And how do you know who has the power?’
‘Whoever thinks the other needs them more has the power. And notice I said ‘need’ not like or love.’
‘And what if they are wrong?’
‘It doesn’t matter. They will act with that power until it earns them a breakup and all of a sudden they realize how much they need the other person. That’s why you see guys treat women like crap only to come back begging. Like in the movies.’
‘Hmm, so on the long run would you say men tend to hold more of the power. Or women?’
‘Well, a man divorced at 40 has a higher market value than a woman of equal age, even if she has never been married. So yes, men are empowered by society and women are made insecure by it. And Lord help her if she has a kid. Men don’t have to worry about that.’
‘So you will take advantage of the starting phase when you have the power?’ he asked.
‘Oh yes, the only reason you are still this fascinated about me is because you aren’t sure how much I need you. You can’t desire what you already own.’
He stood in silence for a moment to digest what she had just said.
She was right. It was the same reason makeup sex always felt so good. That feeling of losing someone had a strange way of making them more desirable. It was also the same factor in play when a man tried to get a woman back and she was resisting or refusing. For all our evolution, we still couldn’t help but be somewhat complacent when we felt desired. Perhaps that was the secret to a lasting relationship. Learning to be content and avoiding complacency. Easier said than done, but definitely worth the effort. Nothing killed relationships as much as taking partners for granted and treating them like they did not matter as much as they used to. He reminded himself of his definition of love…a choice we had to make daily. Not a fleeting emotion. That was just infatuation, Limerance.
John wasn’t quite sure why Pam agreed to another date with him. In fact he was rather flabbergasted that she even took his call after the nightmare that was the end to their last date. He made a mental note to either completely avoid any subject relating to feminism or agree with her regardless of what his honest opinion was. The last thing he wanted was a repeat of the last event.
‘Thanks for coming. Quite frankly I didn’t even think you would pick my call.’ said John.
‘Do I really come across as that much of a drama queen? It was just a difference in opinion. No woman wants a man that agrees with her all the time anyways. A yes-man is boring. Plus I’d rather you were honest. So many guys pretend to be something else just because they think it’ll get them laid.’ she said.
‘Great, I’ll keep that in mind. And are you saying if I pretended to be feminist enough I would have a higher chance of getting laid?’ He raised a suggestive eyebrow and flashed a mischievous smile.
‘Don’t push it John. You’re still on probation.’ she grabbed the drinks menu and began to scan it.
‘I’ll have a glass of the house wine, thank you.’ He said to the waiter.
‘I’ll have the Muscato.’ She pointed at her choice. She didn’t want to risk struggling with the French name.
‘I wonder who he is going to hand the bill to this time.’ He said.
They shared a light laugh over his remark. Humour was always a good way to deal with a gaffe. While they waited for their drinks they talked about everything from the breezy weather to the situation in Ukraine and how the economic wars in the West was devaluing African currencies. From time to time he would just watch her talk, almost not listening as he admired how unapologetic she was for being herself and holding her opinions. Her independence was a sweet aphrodisiac but the sting from their last encounter reminded him to tread carefully.
Three glasses in, he was beginning to loosen up against his better judgement. But maybe it was a good thing. He couldn’t stay guarded forever.
‘We should get the bill now. If I have any more I might start speaking stupid.’ He suggested.
‘I would like to see you drunk. I have noticed you have been too agreeable today. It’s not fun.’ She flashed him an unexpected wink.
‘You’re asking for a fight. I hope you have your gloves on. I won’t go easy on you.’ He said.
‘You can try.’ She finished what was left of her glass. ‘I’m getting this one. No arguments.’ She reached for her purse.
He contemplated if it was a good idea to ask the question on the tip of his tongue but before he could enforce any sense of censorship the alcohol in his system got the better of him.
‘What do you think about the place of money in relationships? Like will you support a joint account system, obviously with some percentage set out for private spending…or would you say you keep your money and he keeps his, then maybe have a joint account for contributions?’ As soon as the words left his mouth he wished them back but it was too late.
‘I keep my money, he keeps his. If we have something we need to contribute towards, we can transfer into a joint account.’ She said.
From how quickly she fired her reply, he could tell this was a decision she had made a long time ago. He nodded in silent deliberation.
‘Ermm…you aren’t going to tell me what you think?’ she asked. ‘I know you disagree. I just want to know why. My money is my money, his money is his money. Sounds fair to me.’
Fairness, being right, and under such concepts of balance had made the world a better place in a lot of ways, but like most ideas these concepts weren’t always the most functional for the greater good.
‘Well, I think both should donate to a single pot and then take a percentage for personal financing. Kinda like a personal allowance.’ He could see the discomfort on her face. ‘I feel like these days we go into relationships, and I mean marriages, with a very strong sense of individuality. A sense so strong it actually negates the entire concept of marriage which to me is supposed to be a lifetime partnership. Business partners put money together but marriage partners can’t. Don’t you think that says something about what has become of marriage? I mean if we can’t trust each other with our money, why are we even married in the first place?’
She paused for thought. He had a point. She had never quite thought of it like that before. It really made her question the amount of trust she was willing to invest in a marriage. Theoretically, she knew there was no point going into a marriage without absolute trust, but practically this wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. In a society where divorce lawyers were guaranteed employment, it was hard to muster the courage required for blind trust. It was indeed a paradox in itself. Trust was necessary for any relationship to work, but trust also exposed one to heartaches.
‘Hmmm…it’s really messed up that the state of marriages has been degraded so much that a lot of us enter with the idea that it will turn sour eventually. It almost ruins the whole point of it.’ She said.
‘Well, just something to think about. And if it makes you feel better, a joint account will let you know if he is spending on his sexy secretary.’ He joked.
‘Ohh, I’ll have his balls for that. Don’t you worry.’ She mimicked the chop of a scissor with her index and middle finger.
‘I think I like you because you manage to make me attracted to you and scared of you all at once.’ He said.
‘Well, you better be afraid of this girl. All five foot six and sixty kilos.’
They both laughed. He couldn’t be happier about how this had panned out. Maybe his idea of the militant feminist immune to reason was flawed. He was starting to like this.
Freddy wasn’t exactly sure how he was supposed to react under the current situation. Last time he talked with Ed about girls he near enough got told off for being promiscuous, but here he was with Ed wondering if he should call him a hypocrite or cheer him on. It started with inviting Ed out on wingman duty but less than an hour into the party it seemed Ed was going to be the centre of attention. He made a mental note to ask him about this in the morning. For the time being, he was just happy to see the number one player he knew back in action. He felt a sting from his conscience for celebrating what was clearly a crack in his best friend’s relationship, but he wasn’t about to drag Ed away from an easy 9. He blamed it on status anxiety and left it at that.
The next morning Freddy woke up to the sound of footsteps as Ed led the girl from the bar out of the flat. He waited in pretend-sleep until Ed came back in.
‘Dude, what the fuck was that? I thought you were in love and whatnot? Can’t argue with that though. I’d divorce my wife for a piece of that ass.’ Freddy threw a pillow at him from the living floor. ‘I invite you out to wing me and you kick me out of my room to get laid on my bed. What kind of friend does that?’
Ed was barely awake but he knew going back to bed was out of the question. Freddy wasn’t going to let this slide. He had known him long enough to know that.
‘So are you gonna tell me what brought out the beast last night or what?’ he reached for a small box by the couch. ‘Start talking, I’ll roll us one. I got this from James’s dealer, three puffs will fuck you up. I don’t know how they grow weed these days.’
Ed wiped the sleep off his eyelids as he staggered to the cupboard in search of a coffee mug.
‘Should I make one for you too?’ he asked.
‘Yes please. No milk, no sugar.’ Freddy said.
‘We were only roommates for four years. I would never have guessed how you like your coffee.’ Ed replied in sarcastic exaggeration.
They managed a few ‘remember when’ stories as Ed made the coffees and Freddy rolled the joint. When they were both done, they sat on their favourite spots and turned on the TV before the sipping and puffing kicked off.
‘So what’s up though? Are you gonna see that chick again or was this a hit and run operation?’ Freddy asked.
‘I don’t know. Like she is hot but I don’t know if I want to risk her getting attached.’ Ed said.
‘Dude, you are cold hearted. You must think you are God’s gift to women. Arrogant prick. But what about Fiona? You guys cool?’
Ed paused with the joint on his hand. He wasn’t quite sure how to proceed with his answer.
‘Dude, you can tell me anything. Come on.’ Freddy egged him on.
‘I don’t know. Like we are still together but I feel different. And it’s not like I just stopped liking her, well I guess I did. It’s like; as I’ve come to know her she is just as boring as so many other girls I know. I don’t know if I’m making any sense?’
He passed the joint to Freddy.
‘I get it. It’s very common these days. You meet people and they have this mystique or whatever, but most of the time it’s just pretence. You get all excited and invest all you time in unwrapping them only to find out it was all packaging with no content.’ Freddy responded.
Ed was relieved. He thought Freddy was going to give him a hard time for being preachy the last time they had a serious conversation about girls.
‘I think social media has a lot to do with this thing you know. You know how when we first meet someone, we don’t really know them but we fill the gaps with an idea of them that is more of what we want them to be than what they actually are.’ Ed said.
Freddy was puffing away nodding in agreement.
‘These days we stalk people online to fill this gap and you know how everyone has the perfect life on social media. Such a scam. Next girl I meet, I don’t want her Instagram, Facebook or nothing. If she can’t tell me who she is personally, I’m not interested.’
Freddy could sense the bitterness in his friend’s tone. He was going to make fun of him about this but not quite yet.
‘Well, there is nothing you can do. I just hope you aren’t expecting every girl you meet to be like Angela?’
‘If you mean if I am expecting girls I date to be funny, cultured, and cool. Yes…God I miss her. She was the real deal. Now all I’m left with is a bunch of pretentious impostors that think I should kiss the ground they walk on.’
Freddy passed the joint.
‘Hit this bro, you need it.’
Sandra was sat with her legs crossed in Bill’s kitchen. She wasn’t sure what it was about the sight of a man cooking in an apron, but there was definitely something appealing about it. Bill on the other hand who had maybe five dishes to his name that he could prepare moved around with the confidence of a master chef. It was all part of his seduction repertoire along with an exaggerated French accent he wouldn’t let go of.
‘I know this is all an act. Just look at how spotless your apron is.’ Sandra poked at his performance.
‘Well, you got me on that one. I actually bought this over the weekend just so I could wear it this evening. You have to give me points for the thought though.’ He diced some fruits for the salad.
‘I have to say it is working. Though there’s a chance it’s just the wine messing with my head. Are you sure you haven’t put anything in this?’ She raised her glass and peered close in mock inspection.
‘Only the finest love potions. Completely untraceable, if you weren’t already crazy about me, you will be once the moon eclipses the sun.’
They both laughed.
‘I will admit; you have some type of charm.’
‘I need it to make up for my height. Money would have been my preferred compensation but I will just about grow an inch taller if I stood on my wallet as it is.’
She laughed, ‘I don’t care about money, and I’m only taller than you when I wear my killer heels so that’s not a problem either.’
‘Your consolation on my poverty and physical challenge has been noted. It will be used greatly in your favour.’
‘I bet you are doing all this just to get some tonight.’
‘Am I supposed to deny wanting some because Lord knows I have thought of nothing else all week. I’m just pretending to be civil because I’m not sure how you would feel about bending over on this kitchen counter.’
‘Jesus, Bill. You are such a man. Shameless.’
‘Well, at least I am aware of what I am. Men like physical attention, women like emotional attention. You don’t see us shaming you guys for reading erotica where you can derive the same pleasure for free off Pornhub.’
‘Erotica actually has a story. Not like porn where a plumber comes to fix a pipe and ends up laying one.’
‘Ooo, I like that play on words. I’m going to use it somewhere and sound really witty. But seriously, what’s the story in erotica? It’s just an expression of the ultimate female fantasy. Crazy sex with absolute emotional commitment.’
‘And porn is the ultimate male fantasy, vulgar sex with no emotional commitment.’ She countered.
‘Exactly! That’s why the phrase “the other man” means nothing to us. For the most part we don’t mind screwing someone else’s wife or whatever without any emotional benefit. A guy is perfectly happy to be just a thing called for screwing without the emotional attachment. Women on the other hand always want to be more that just something a guy is screwing.’
‘Hmmm, it’s just a society thing. Like many girls can’t even tell their friends they have a couple of guys they are just screwing but guys will brag about it and trade stories over beers.’
‘I’ve always said slut shaming is a woman-on-woman crime before a man-on-woman crime. But a new breed of women is emerging though. It will just take a while to hit the mainstream. That’s if vibrators and dildos don’t put men out of business at the rate they are going.’
‘I doubt it. A toy would never replace a real man, maybe as a substitute for hard times.’
They both laughed.
‘I think in a lot of ways women set themselves up for the emotional attachment. If you are just screwing a guy, then keep it at just that, screwing. When you start calling and texting in between sessions it’s very easy to get attached. And cuddling…never cuddle a fuck-buddy.’
‘Some guys get attached too you know.’ She said in defense of women.
‘Of course, that happens. And when it does and the woman doesn’t feel the same, it is the most pitiful sight to see. There is nothing as unattractive as a man hooked on pussy. Excuse my French.’
She thought about a few men she had known to be like this. Even the thought of them irritated her. Their pleas and appeals for something more, eww. There was something unflattering about the sight and sound of a man being so submissive, begging. She wondered if this was how men felt about women they had started off with agreeing to keep the relationship casual. Sex without emotional attachment was never an easy field to navigate. It could leave someone wanting more of something perpetually out of their reach. It was very important to brace one’s self before stepping into the world of casual sex, and sometimes even that wasn’t enough. Human emotions had a way of overriding common sense. In fact, it was in its very nature to do so.
Ada was determined to prove to Bimpe that she wasn’t as naive as she came across. Following a previous conversation that centred on competing for men, she had gotten proactive and scored a date with a guy she clearly knew to be in a relationship. As she applied her eyeliner she told herself to relax her mind to stop her hands from shaking. She couldn’t help but feel like some sort of homewrecker.
‘Ada Ada, calm down oh. See as you will end up blind in the name of making up for boy that already has another girl making up for him. ‘ Bimpe teased.
‘Last time I checked you were the one telling me to get proactive about my dating condition.’ Ada shot back. She dropped the eyeliner and faced Bimpe. ‘Do you think I look slutty? Like does this say “Take me, I’m easy”?’
Bimpe shook her head. ‘It’s just fine. Enough cleavage to show you have assets but not enough to distract him. Is it not just drinks you guys are going for?’
‘Yes, but you know how these things go. We might decide to do something else after.’ She was fidgeting with her fingers.
‘Ada oh, please relax. So you’re panicking like this for unmarried man. He isn’t even engaged sef. So what would you do if he was married with kids?’ Bimpe came closer and massaged her roommate’s shoulders, ‘just have fun girl. And remember you will never be this young again. Just be responsible about the whole thing.’
‘I don’t see any part of this that is responsible. Can I ask you something though?’ Ada looked shy.
‘Anything.’ Bimpe said.
‘Ermm, like how long is long enough. You know with….you know what I mean.’ Ada couldn’t even look Bimpe in the eyes.
‘Chai, Ada Ada, you’re already thinking of that one. And here I was thinking I was the bad influence. It is true, the quiet ones are the ones to watch out for.’ Bimpe made sexual faces and let out some impressive simulated noises.
‘I don’t even know why I asked you.’ Ada said.
‘Person no fit follow you play?’ Bimpe asked if Ada couldn’t take a joke. ‘Well, I read on one blog that the average vagina is just three inches deep but can expand to take a lot before it hits your liver.’
‘Ewww, that’s not even what I meant when I said how long. I meant like, how long do you have to know a guy before it’s okay to…you know what I mean.’ Ada couldn’t get herself to say ‘have sex’, vulgarity like ‘fuck’ was out of the question.
‘Ohhh, like how long till you can fuck him?’, Bimpe on the other hand was no stranger to profanity.
‘I’m not asking for me. I’m just saying in general.’ Ada tried to distance herself from the question.
‘Hmmm, if you say so,’ Bimpe flashed a mischievous smile. ‘Well it all depends on the vibe you’re getting. I’m not even going to lie, I had sex with Richard on our first date. And we dated for like two years. That was my longest relationship ever. Some guys I posted for months just hit it and won’t even pick my call after. Guys are weird like that. They say us women don’t know what we want like they have what they want written down somewhere.’
‘There is no way I’m doing anything with this guy today. No way. If he was single then maybe, just maybe.’ Ada emphasized her words like she was really trying to convince someone of her intentions.
‘I’m not saying you should oh. I’m just saying dating is different with different people. Some guys have that mentality that if a girl spreads her legs on the first date, she is some kind of hoe. Other guys don’t really care. In fact, some guys even hate waiting it out. And sometimes it’s best to get the sex thing out the way to show you where exactly you stand with him. I know guys that will promise you heaven on earth but once they tap it, it’s hell on earth.’
Ada pondered on what her friend was saying. She had some points. And who wanted to date a man that thought a woman’s value was directly correlated to how quickly she pulled down her pants? The argument was that if she could give it up so easily to you, then what stops her from doing the same with other guys. But it was never that simple with human beings. Different people brought out different sides of our character.
‘I get you. I’m sha not doing anything with this guy.’ Ada said.
‘Well, at least you’re thinking of it now. That’s a start. I can borrow you a condom just in case of incasity.’ Bimpe reached into her purse and waved a packet of Durex.
‘Jesus, you carry condoms around? I didn’t know girls did that.’ Ada said.
‘Well, if you can’t be good, be safe.’ Bimpe chuckled. ‘But I don’t know why it’s such a big deal. Like girls can get on the pill but it’s odd to carry a condom in your bag. If the world controlled our sexuality any more chastity belts will be making a comeback.’ Bimpe dropped the condom on Ada’s purse.
‘You are such a bad influence.’ Ada said.
‘Shut up, you like it. If you don’t learn about men now, is it when you get married that you will start? Abi you think men these days even want to marry virgins? Things are changing oh. You better ask somebody.’
A third date in John’s book was a sign of not just interest, but progressive interest. If a woman was going to go through the trouble of seeing you three times, she had to be somewhat interested in you. There was the option that she was just bored beyond the word itself, or she just wanted the attention, but Pam wasn’t that kind of woman. At least from what he could tell so far. This time, he decided to try something different from the regular ‘drinks on a table’ date. He took her fishing on his small boat.
Pam wasn’t a fan of fishing, in fact, she hated water and couldn’t swim, but the idea of a boat ride seemed different enough to interest her. Plus who knows, maybe she liked fishing and had never realized it because she never tried to fish. This was what relationships were about, right? Exploring new horizons with someone else? She cautioned herself about thinking of their ‘thing’ as a relationship, they hadn’t even kissed, yet. She cautioned herself about ending that thought with ‘yet’. Expect nothing. It was a principle she had picked up from a short spell in Buddhism. Not a very easy one to apply every day.
‘Have you ever gone fishing before?’ John asked as he baited the hook.
‘I don’t even like eating fish. They are like underwater snakes.’
‘I will take that as a no then. And if it makes you feel better, think of snakes as fish that move on land, not the other way round. Evolution and even creationist stories put fishes here before snakes.’
‘Thank you for the biology lesson. You have changed my opinion on fish with just one sentence.’ She said, playfully with a hint of sarcasm.
‘Well, I am here to help. You can watch me on this first go then you will take over for the next.’ He threw the baited hook into the water. ‘And please can you make yourself useful and pour us some wine. I fish better when I’m not sober.’
She reached for a cooler on the boat and started seeing to the matter of wine.
‘Oh, and you can turn on the radio too. I ever only listen to it when I’m out here.’
‘Anything else you want me to do while I’m at it?’
‘Well…I can think of a few things.’ He turned and raised an eyebrow.
‘Yeah, hold those thoughts. I don’t even want to hear them.’
‘You asked for it.’
After Pam poured the wine, she carried on with the radio but couldn’t settle on one station. She would tune it, listen for a few seconds, and then tune out to find something else.
‘Like seriously, there is nothing to listen to on the radio these days. Music is crap, presenters are silly, we might as well throw this into the water.’
‘Calm down now Miss. You don’t listen to the radio while fishing for entertainment, the fishing is entertaining enough. The radio is just for background noise, kind of like elevator music.’
‘Entertaining for you.’ She said.
‘You know if you gave it a chance, you just might enjoy it. Same thing with the radio. You can tell a lot about someone’s character by their reaction to the things they aren’t really fond of.’
‘And what are you trying to say about my character?’
On second thought, he should have left out the last part of this statement, but it was too late for a take back now. He had to see it through.
‘I’m just saying that I find, in general, getting along with people has more to do with how you maneuver differences than how you celebrate or share similarities.’
‘So I should pretend to love fishing?’
‘No, but you don’t have to make it look like I brought you out here to frustrate you. You can show some interest, talk about stuff, even just sitting back and enjoying the wine would not be a bad idea. Now I’m not enjoying my fishing.’
John could sense himself getting upset.
‘It’s like when women drag us through malls. Guys don’t really like shopping but we won’t make you feel like its punishment because we know you like it.’
Pam sat quietly for a few seconds. He had a point. She was sure there were things she loved that would make his skin crawl. Telemundo and reality shows were the first to come to mind. The last thing she needed was him sat by the corner telling her how unrealistic and pointless these shows were. She imagined him indulging her with a foot massage or something sweet like that.
Contrary to the illusion that compatibility was the key ingredient in managing a healthy relationship, being able to intelligently negotiate differences was actually a lot more important. Virtues like tolerance, good temperament, compromise, and the likes were far more important than sharing the same taste in books or movies.
‘Oh shit, I got one!’ he struggled with the line.
‘Jesus that’s huge!’ she leaned over the railing to get a better picture. ‘Not as big as I thought though.’
‘That’s not what she said.’ He couldn’t help it.
‘John, aren’t you a little too old for that?’
‘Nope, never too old. You’re next. Who knows, you might even find something bigger.’ He winked.
‘I will not be baited into your perversions mister.’
Ada couldn’t have been happier to be home from school. Her childhood friend Nkechi had finally returned from the UK. If only the Nigerian education system didn’t shut down for a strike every year, maybe she too would have been done. And there was that course change after her first two years because her parents considered a degree in sociology tantamount to failure in life.
‘N.K baby, long time.’ They hugged each other in a tight embrace. ‘Ada, you are looking hot oh. What cream are you using?’They both laughed. Their friendship was the type that did not falter with space or time. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t spoken properly in almost a year, or that they even forgot to wish each other happy birthday. They had an understanding that life happens, and they did not try to fight it.
‘We have a lot to catch up on. Give me gist. Now you have finished school, I’m sure you parents will be ringing marriage in your ears like bell.’ Ada said.
‘Ada, this thing is not a joke oh, I can’t even have breakfast in peace without them bring it up. Like, they find any opportunity. It’s like all these years I’m not even allowed to have a boy visit, and now they want one to knock for my hand in marriage.’ Ada couldn’t help but laugh at her friend’s struggle. It was typical of Nigerian families to apply this pressure on daughters. In fact, this pressure was one of the leading causes of women accepting proposals they knew to be toxic to their happiness.
‘I feel your pain sha. I know my parents are just waiting for graduation. They are already dropping hints whenever I’m on someone’s bridal train. It’s not a joking matter. And all these girls getting married and carrying their husbands like one great achievement aren’t even helping the cause. Trying to make someone feel defected abi incomplete because they are single.’ She kissed her teeth.
‘Are you seeing anyone though? You know I like amebo?’ Nkechi asked.
‘You haven’t changed, you love hearing other people’s gist. I’m single oh. Nothing in the pipeline. In fact the only thing more scarce than fuel in this country at the moment is a good man. And if you happen to find one that is manageable, he is probably married. Girls are not smiling.’ It was Nkechi’s turn to laugh.
‘Don’t worry, God’s time is best.’
‘Amen, but his time had better be before I turn 30. I don’t want someone coming to buy me on sale price. My dowry has to be paid in dollar.’
‘See your mouth like dollar. Why did I just not come out as a man? They don’t have this wahala. A guy can literally decide to get married in a year and he will make it happen.’ Nkechi lamented.
‘True, but that is because they play the role of hunter. For us, if you try to toast a guy you are crushing on, they will say you are acting desperate. And we are the ones with the bad biology clock. Plus by the time we hit 30, the men our age might as well go for the 25 year old babes.’ Ada said.
‘Hmm, maybe I should start looking at guys that age you know. These young boys aren’t serious. It’s to go to club and drink Hennessy that they are concerned with. I need to start going to hangouts with more mature men biko. Those ones know what they want in life.’ Nkechi said.
‘Hmm, Nkechi, I thought as per janded babe you would not even care about this husband matter.’
‘You are not well. So I should now be forming miss independent and grow old with pussycat abi. Of course it matters to me, but if I can’t do it right, then I won’t do it at all. Better to be sad alone than miserable with company. At least I can be like a cougar.’
Ada laughed so hard she had to stop herself to breathe. ‘You know my aunt that is unmarried won’t even come out for some functions. And the funny thing is that the ones that are married are even more frustrated than her.’
‘Do you really think so though? I mean, I know most of these men are dogs and all, but loneliness is not a good feeling. It’s like we just can’t win. I’m tired.’ Ada sighed.
The relationship between choice and consequence is similar to cause and effect, whether one chooses to marry or not, there is a price to pay. When it comes to relationships and marriage, men enjoy a privilege women can only dream of. It is a reality women have to come to terms with. A denial of the inherent facts of this matter is only playing ostrich in the face of danger. Sure, in some ideal Utopian society, it is okay for women to play the role of hunter and there is no stigma associated with being unmarried, but not in present day Africa. A change of perception on these matters is certainly needed, but as it stands, one has to adapt to societal demands, or play the role of rebel and damn the consequence. It will take a complete overhaul of the current notion of relationships to make any progress here. A change most men and women are simply not willing or ready to consider.
They had been making out for maybe half an hour, and for half of that, he was going down on her. Her legs quivered with pleasure, her being compelled with lust.
‘I want you inside me. Right now!’ she held his hair and began to pull him up. At first she felt he just wasn’t done with her down there, and then she realized his resistance was hesitation.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked. He sat up.
‘I didn’t really think this would happen so I don’t have a condom.’
He paused, ‘yeah, and I know you probably don’t have anything but I just don’t do the whole…’ she cut him off. ‘Eric, I have a condom in my purse. So are we going to fuck or what?’ She reached for the purse she had left at the side of his bed and they carried on for what felt like hours but was really forty-five minutes.
‘Phew! That was incredible. I feel like I should pay you!’ She joked.
‘I’m sure you’ve had better. You even had a condom ready. I wasn’t really expecting that.’
She had to be careful with her response. The shaming of women for possessing contraception even at the point of sale was something Nkechi found oddly ironic in Nigerian culture.
‘I don’t understand. I’m not allowed to be safe?’
‘No no, you won’t get it. You’re a jand babe. Here a girl carrying a condom is seen as a bad girl.’
‘Hmmm,’ she drew the covers over herself, ‘so what do you think of it personally?’ In their situation, it was the only question that mattered.
‘I…this is going to sound silly, but I don’t mind so much because it’s you and I understand where you are coming from. But if it was a typical Nigerian girl, I would have been put off.’
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Here she was thinking for all his intelligent bravado, Eric should have known better. Having a double-standard on women that marginalized Nigerian females was one thing, marginalizing them for wanting to protect themselves was something else. Something she couldn’t stand. Without word or warning she was out of the bed reaching for her clothes.
‘Whoa, what’s up? Why are you in a hurry? Did I say something?’
‘Eric, let’s just say if I knew this was the kind of guy you were, I wouldn’t let you near my knickers with a barge pole.’
‘I don’t get’, he said, perplexed by his own ignorance.
‘Of course you don’t get. Firstly, you think I’m supposed to feel special for being “accepted” because I grew up abroad. I could have easily been raised here and you would be a complete asshole to me.’
‘No…’ he tried to interrupt. ‘Wait, I’m not done yet’. He was quiet. ‘You know women bear like all the risks associated with sex. With our shorter urethras we are more exposed to STDs. Men don’t know shit about pregnancies and abortion. And I’m talking about the physical and social burden. But God forbid we decide to take the matter of our own safety into our hands. You fucking disgust me!’
The truth is Eric never even really thought of it that way. Like most socio-cultural patterns he just followed the common assumption even if it was out of step with the time and common sense.
‘I’m sorry…I didn’t…’
‘Be sorry for yourself!’ She swung the door shut behind her leaving him clueless and naked under the covers.
‘So when are you going to get a girlfriend?’ she asked.
‘Not now.’ he replied.
‘That’s why I asked when…’
‘And I gave you my answer. Not now. Or do I have to say it in Spanish for you to get it?’ He took a swig of wine from the bottle and burped to expel some gas.
‘You’re disgusting. That’s probably why no one wants to date you.’
‘Well, maybe you should be asking me when I would get some manners then. But trust me, my decision to stay single is not for lack of options.’
She shook her head at him. Stephanie was never really sure where she stood with Ken. He liked her; that much was clear. At least he found her attractive on some level. But he had a way of keeping her not quite in the friend-zone and not quite a fuck-buddy either. In fact, they weren’t fucking. His mixed signals tired her but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of telling him she was sick of his games. The thought of him pulling the ‘I thought we were just friends’ card was too much to bear. Not to mention they had had an argument about friendship between men and women only a few days ago. He was of the opinion that a man could only keep a female friend at a distance unless he didn’t find her remotely attractive. She was of the opinion that some men could control the urge of attraction to maintain an untainted friendship. He found it amusing that she thought it was only men that needed control.
‘So your singleness is a conscious choice?’
‘Yours isn’t? Your stocks must be low.’ He flashed his signature smug smile.
‘You know you are a bit arrogant?’
‘While I will commend your powers of observations Watson, I fail to see to what end you make this most uninformative deduction.’
‘You are also an asshole’
‘Perhaps you have something on your mind. If I didn’t know how well you defended the male and female Friendship Act, I would have said you had feelings for me.’
She froze. Was it that obvious? It was a bit silly of her thinking Ken wouldn’t have noticed in the first place. He was a very intelligent and emotionally aware guy. In fact, it would have been more of a surprise if he had never noticed.
‘And what about you?’ she asked.
‘What about me?’ he asked.
‘You don’t find me attractive? You don’t like me?’
It was his turn to pause. She hadn’t admitted having feelings for him expressly, but at this point, he could safely claim she implied or at least inferred it with her question.
‘Are you out of words Ken?’
‘Not really, just trying to find a polite way to say what’s in my head.’
She sighed, ‘never mind, I don’t even want to hear it.’
‘Great, saves us both a lot of trouble.’
Without word or warning, she stood up and left his room. He didn’t follow her.
He liked her, he thought she was cute, funny and even sexy. But he knew once they journeyed down the romantic path, there would be no turning back. As silly as it sounded, he couldn’t be with her because he knew he wasn’t ready. At best he was a time-bomb counting down to explosion. He just couldn’t think of a polite way to relate this to her. Sometimes, just because we wanted something didn’t mean we were ready to have it or it was good for us. Feelings were one thing, timing another. This was a case of right feelings and wrong timing.
‘How the tables have turned, who would have thought.’ Ed had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. To see his friend Freddy smitten like a little girl was quite the scene. It was a Friday night but instead of wanting to go out to chase the usual tail, Freddy opted for a few beers with the Xbox. He wasn’t even interested in going to a small bar.
‘You know I like to think I have been a supportive friend with all your relationships. It wouldn’t kill you to pretend to be happy for me.’ Freddy said.
‘Are you kidding me? I am ecstatic about this. Finally, I get to see you do stupid things and make fun of you while you’re at it.’
‘You’re such a jackass.’ Freddy said.
‘I learn from the best.’
Freddy’s cell phone buzzed with a notification.
‘Let me guess…it’s Charlie. Isn’t that a man’s name? You sure this chick is who you say she is?’
‘It’s actually unisex and…’ he went silent on reading the text.
‘What’s up bro?’ Ed asked.
‘I think she is going out tonight. Just sent me a picture.’
‘Well is it a nude?’ Ed grinned.
‘Very funny. She is all dressed up. Lipstick and all, and I think she has been drinking.’
‘Hmm…so she is all dressed up to tear up the town and we are here looking at Chung Lee to get a hard-on. The world has truly changed.’
Freddy stared at the picture for a bit longer like he wasn’t sure what to make of it.
‘Ed, like, don’t you think it’s a bit wrong for like a girl in a relationship to be dressing in a certain way to the club. Like what is she going out for anyways?’
‘Calm down bro, she isn’t even married to you yet. You have to give people their freedom. She was a person before she met you, you know.’
‘Who’s side are you on?’
‘I wasn’t aware there were sides…’
‘I don’t know why I’m feeling like this. Like I’m jealous or something. Maybe it’s because I’m not going out.’
Ed knew exactly what was going on here. It was a mixture of distrust and insecurity. But he couldn’t just blurt it out like that. That would have been very emotionally unintelligent.
‘You just need to trust her more. She’s probably only going out to fill her attention jar.’
‘Dude, I don’t think you’re helping. What do you even mean by attention jar? Are you saying I’m not paying her enough attention?’
Ed had to pick his words with great care at this point. The last thing he wanted to do was aggravate an already heated situation.
‘Well, you know how you still talk to girls sometimes even though you’re dating. Just to feel like you still got it. Not like you’re trying to fuck them or whatever. You might even collect a number and never call.’
‘Yeah, but that’s how it starts.’
‘Well girls are different. They fill their attention jar by just looking good for guys to approach so they know they still got it.’
Freddy understood the concept of feeling wanted, valuable. He was aware it was a result of deep seeded insecurity and lack of trust, but it didn’t make him feel any better about it. He was also aware that he had these needs too. Perhaps his expectation of perfection was asking for too much too soon. Perhaps he needed to think of relationships as a process of growth for both parties. It did not have to be ideal or perfect from the onset. In fact, it never had to be perfect. Human weakness wasn’t just a part of being human, it was what made us human; the need for attention, the craving to belong, the want to be accepted. Juxtaposed against the ideal self-fulfilled and self-sustained life of a monk these things were weaknesses, but they were no less a part of us. What we owed each other was not judgment. What we owed each other was acceptance and understanding. And perhaps, maybe she was only going out to have fun with her friends. He was so blinded by judgment he hadn’t even thought of that.
‘You know maybe she just wants to hang with her girls…’ Ed suggested.
‘No shit Sherlock…I would have never thought of that.’
He sat by the docks, feet dangling a few inches from the still waters, silently staring at his own reflection. It was early in the morning, his favourite time to ponder. He watched the swans gently floating, a few distant boats sailing away to shores unknown. What is life? It was the same question every time. Like an unfinished piece of art destined to frustrate the painter because the desired colour was non-existent. He wrestled, he wrestled, all to no avail.
Perhaps it was but a collection of ideas and memories. A lucid dream of streaming consciousness no less meaningful than the abstract ones he found in sleep. But why? What is being without purpose? He tried to imagine a universe void of consciousness. If unobserved, what was the point of existence. He stretched his mind to all the theories he was aware of. The creator God, the big bang, the eternal universe of the Buddhists, and so many more…he wondered how many others he never knew, how many lost in the sands of time, and if any new ones were yet to come. Such was the limit of time. Oh time; they say it is but an illusion forced by our awareness of things, but what about aging? That was definitely real. He battled on the thought of birth as the first day of life or a day short till death. Death…the only escape he knew. Eternity…a thought he most dreaded.
He found himself wishing he was something else, a bird, a grasshopper, a tree, anything but human. The weight of being, an existential prison he had been thrown into. Existing, his only crime. Society, wicked guards in his entrapment. Expectations, unwritten rules to shackle his spirit, kidnap his freedom. Is this all life has to offer? An endless chase of mirages in search of oasis? He was tired of running. He wanted nothing. In fact, he wanted not to want…but that in itself was wanting. Oh if only he could forget and be forgotten. Peace in his blip of eternity.
How absurd the whole thing was. A pointless struggle for truth in a world with no absolute to offer. And that was when it hit him. No one had the answers. It would not be found in scriptures or explained by science. In fact, once uttered the essence was lost to the pursuit of meaning. Silence…silence. A gentle breeze swept through the docks. He sat transfixed by the image of the rising sun. It didn’t matter that the universe was expanding and doomed to its eventual collapse. Or that the sun was burning destined for death like many stars before it. Nothing mattered…but somehow it all mattered.
And there it was; a paradox, an enigma, order in chaos, meaning in meaninglessness…
‘What are you thinking about?’ she asked.
‘Nothing, absolutely nothing…’ he said.
It all ended at the thud of a head; the cheers, the whistling, the finger pointing, the maniacal laughter, all of it. With the swing of a machete the village executioner sliced the little girl’s head clean off her shoulders before an on-looking crowd of overly excited villagers. That was of course after she was dragged through the village in chains of shame, getting stoned, spat on, and covered in mud by the men, women, and children.
‘Kill her, Kill her. Kill her!’
The words from her spectators echoed in her mind as she tried to shake herself out of what she desperately wished to be a nightmare. But there was no waking from this. The heat from the sun scorched earth reminded her of just how real her demise was. She had seen the execution ritual before, but never in her lifetime would she have imagined that she would be the one on the other end of the machete. As a spectator it was all too easy to be detached from the reality.
‘We bring before you a lair, a whore, and she is not even one of us. What shall we do with her?’ The executioner raised his machete in the air.
‘Kill her, kill her.’ The crowed echoed.
The little girl tried to speak, but with a mouth gagged and muffled with a boiling stone, she just about managed a whimper. She wore her desperation in her eyes but no one cared to read them. In this very moment she wanted to be anywhere but here, but who wouldn’t? The executioner proceeded to rip off her clothes for the entire village to see her nakedness.
‘Whore.’ A man screamed from the crowd before throwing a rock that connected with her forehead.
At this point she was too frail to fight. Her body was weak, her spirit broken. She felt both numb and heavy. Her ears hushed with a buzzing sound as her vision blurred to complete obscurity while the executioner read the charges against her for the very first time. Before he could finish the crowd cheered even harder for her head. As he was about to swing she raised her head for one last time. In that moment she experienced a glimpse of clarity. At first she could only see the hate filled eyes and hear the bloodthirsty screams. Then a strange silence greeted her ears and rather than looking at them, she was looking past them.
Some of these faces were familiar to her. The market woman she occasionally bought tomatoes from, the palm wine tapper that never stopped humming as he roamed the streets, then they all became just faces. Even before they had heard the charges against her, in their eyes she was already guilty, guilty enough to be executed. This was the nature of jungle justice. It didn’t matter that no one was present for her hearing in the King’s court. For the most part they just wanted a spectacle to behold. Her mother had often told her that the wickedness in the hearts of men was actually a symptom of their own unhappiness and lack of fulfilment. It took her head near the blade of a machete to understand what the old woman had tried to impact in her when she was younger.
The crowd did not care who she was, what she had done, or if she deserved to die for it. They just wanted a break from their own unbearable lives and if it took her execution to make them feel better off than someone else, then that was exactly what they were going to cheer on for.
Before the machete came down, she connected with one little boy in the crowd. He was the only one that seemed to be in shock about the entire drama unfolding before him. When he noticed she was looking at him, he buried his head. She wondered what he felt; fear, weakness, shame? What did it matter? Before she could phantom another thought, she ceased to be. Just like that, with the thud of a head, it was all over; the cheers, the whistling, the finger pointing, the maniacal laughter, all of it. With the swing of a machete the village executioner sliced the little girl’s head clean off her shoulders before an on-looking crowd of overly excited villagers.
13 Moons (A novella): Coming Soon
Born and raised in Eastern Nigeria before travelling to Britain to pursue a degree in Pharmacy, William Ifeanyi Moore is a prolific writer and poet with a keen interest in developing society through literature. His works has been published on numerous platforms online and in print .
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