i trudged wearily on, determined that a night which begun so beautifully wouldn’t end on such a flat note. see, tonight made it 7 years since i first saw her. house fellowship held in my uncle’s house where i was staying, Unibuja still a dream in the future. and no, she didn’t look like a character from a dream. she looked like a housemaid- her blue dress speckled with gold flowers, her unmade hair just hanging messily from the cornrows on her head. nothing remarkable about her except that she refused to take coke so that it wouldn’t make her black.
in a matter of weeks i was already smitten. i found every excuse to be with her- from coming to play with the dogs to helping her younger siblings with homework. there was this time my uncle didn’t come home on time so i passed the time in her house. that was the first time i ate something she’d cooked- pounded yam and one unidentified soup. after eating i began discussing the cuisine of the middle belt- especially one okpehe soup that i found utterly revolting. i raved for 3 minutes while she watched in adoring silence (or so i thought) and when i stopped she went “P are you done? what did you just eat?” at that point i realised that i had just eaten the very soup that i had denounced!
well things weren’t always rosy. there was the time her dad had a seizure when he walked in on us making out on his couch. maybe he was clairvoyant from wherever he went and could not stomach this violation of his rules. and maybe it was just a sign he needed some time to relax from stressful work. but that memory was strong enough to prevent a repeat performance *facepalm*
officially we never dated. i think she had two boyfriends in between while i was tossed about like driftwood in a monsoon. and every time we met it became a forum to talk about the latest stories about love lives. mostly they were horror stories about what people had done to us and how we were the forgiving ones. lessons were learned over and over again. years slipped by, hearts grew colder, more rational- so much that reason became another escape from talking about us.
i grew less complacent as the days grew shorter…people getting married every Saturday. not just that, the gnawing ache of loneliness chewing up my insides every time i wanted to talk with someone and found myself with an empty room, phone book with 1000 contacts, bbm of 250 contacts yet no one to talk to. you see, Nkechi was a good listener. she could allow you whine and whine for 30 minutes…and while sympathising with you she would give solutions.
and that’s how we got to this evening. i’d called her to talk about stuff cos we missed each other’s cals and hadn’t talked for 3 days. while i waited for the phone to ring, my mind was playing on repeat- “You know, P, you’re the only person i could be myself with. and be 100% N.K” . when we spoke i talked to her about fears….ema and uche had done a great job convincing me that i never got anywhere with any girl because i had this morbid fear of rejection, fear that she wouldn’t be the perfect girl of my dreams, fear that any relationship wouldn’t work.
i took my time telling Nkechi about the discussion and she, compassionate about it as usual told me “sorry darling but im gonna have to say it’s your fault. you cant be running around starting fires through out university you told me about 5 girls who you liked at one point or the other. and from everything, YOU kept making rules you couldn’t keep. you kept holding yourself back. you kept placing embargoes and i’m sure at least half of those girls actually liked you and were dying to tell you, but because you’re the guy, they have to just shut up and hope for the best. stop living in fear- if you want something or someone you just have to take the risk! if you don’t you’ll grow up lonely because you refused to reach out. you may never find a girl with 100% on your list. in fact chances are if she actually scores 10/10, you may find that you d
want something extra!”
WOW. like she was reading my mind.
“so why don’t you be my girlfriend then?”
“are you joking?’
i just kept shut and flashed back to the first time i ever admitted having feelings for her. the horror of hearing “the one” say you were joking!
“P…are you there? you’re quiet!”
“yeah I Am. I just said what needed to be said”
“so you said ALL that to say that?”
this is why i hate myself- the moments that courage and bluff are needed, they seem to fizzle away (and re-surface when i am to play the fearless blogger).
“anyway what was i saying P? you gotta reach out and take what you want. take the risk”
“so would you like to be my girlfriend now?”
“what?! are you listening to me at all P?”
“are you listening to me Nkechi?”
“seriously! I’m talking serious stuff here”
“I’m talking serious too. all the advice you’re giving, why don’t you be the guinea pig huh?”
“P…i learnt from the past. and every relationship good or bad was a lesson”
“so would you like to play teacher now?”
“what does that mean P?”
“why don’t you be my girlfriend Nkechi?”
she giggled and protested that i was joking at a serious moment like this. well i walked her through the 7 years we’d been friends and had each other’s backs. and inspiration flowed. pretty lame but for an overly timid boy it was a giant leap for mankind.
“it’s been 7 years of running and hiding…’
“P you’ve gotta stop running’ she said
“exactly. and every time I tried to talk about how i felt, you know- actually liking you a lot- you just laughed it off and it became more difficult to do that every time.”
Nkechi started giggling again.
“what- is this funny? or you’d prefer a more traditional setting? movies and popcorn? and then deliver a giant teddybear and hide in your hedge then pop up suddenly to recite a Shakespearean sonnet on love?“
Nkechi giggled even louder. that tone was encouraging
***ONE MINUTE REMAINING***
Ahhh!!!!! MTN!!!” NOT NOW!!!!
“uhhh baby I’m running outta airtime. let me see if i can get some more outside”
“Oh p…that’s so sad”
“the one night i didn’t sleep off on you and you pick today of all days to run out of credit”
“you almost sound like you enjoy that”
i desperately started searching for my shorts. airtime, NOW!
“yeah kinda. it feels good to know someone cares enough to hold me to sleep”
YOUR CALL CREDIT HAS BEEN EXHAUSTED AND YOUR CALL TERMINATED. PLEASE LOAD AN ALL IN ONE CARD
even though i hate going out after dark, i suddenly found the courage to walk down the 0.6km to the nearest open shop…why they close so early no one knows. why they were detaining me needlessly in the name of searching for credit, no one knows. but by the time i got back i knew even a spirit could have fallen asleep waiting for me to call back.
tomorrow will be a better day.
happy anniversary Nkechi