“Sotonye…” I began. “What are you saying?”
she turned over on the bed and faced the wall. Since when did she become too shy to look at me?
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. It’s cool to be all buddy-buddy with everyone. But there’s just something that’s missing. I can’t really explain it…but I want to be special. I want to mean the world to someone.”
“you already mean the world to me”
“No, that’s only because I can whoop your ass at Assasins’ Creed”
“in your mind. I go easy on you cos I don’t want you to cry. Girls just LOVE to cry if you ever give them the opportunity” I teased.
“says the guy who I creamed at Call of Duty. If you vex me now I’ll begin my victory dance. And you know the price for my dancing” She said, half rising from the bed
“You’re just evil you this girl” Her victory dance cost 100 naira per minute. And she could punch me anywhere she wanted until she stopped the dance. That was the prize we agreed on before we started-I just didn’t expect her to be good at First-person shooter games. But she grabbed the essentials rather fast and in 45 minutes she had thoroughly thrashed me.
“at least you acknowledge I’m a girl” she got up from the bed and walked to the open bathroom door.
“why is your gender identity suddenly in issue again?” I asked puzzled how she managed to get the conversation back on track.
“Guys never look at me. They seem to ignore me like I’m not really there. Even you Ekene- do you realize that with all your roving eyes…you’ve never actually LOOKED at me? You know, as in, checked me out?”
Sometimes Soso could ask blunt questions without really caring what people thought. And with me, those questions never ended. I expected I would get used to it by now…but it’s still as shocking anyway.
I walked to the bathroom and met her staring at herself in the mirror. The mirror she always teased me about. She used to say I had more hair products than the average fashion model. She gave up when I ordered the latest Forever shampoo- the one with Jojoba oil.
“Am I ugly, Ekene?”
“Of course you’re not” I replied
“You didn’t even think before answering that”
“Soso you’re not ugly. If you were I’m half-sure I wouldn’t even be seen around you”.
“You know there’s a vast difference between ‘not ugly’ and ‘actually attractive’. But why are YOU the only guy that hangs around me?”
“maybe other guys don’t see any reason to be attracted to a boy”
“Ekene you just called me a boy. Do you know how much it bites to hear that right now?” She said. With a dramatic flair even Shakespeare would be proud of- she started sobbing. What on earth was wrong with this girl today o…7am and somebody was already crying in my room.
“what did I say?”I asked, puzzled to heaven and back.
“it doesn’t matter. I’ll leave”. She started walking briskly away from the bathroom. I caught her by her arm and tried to drag her back. She struggled to get away from me but I maintained my grip. She jerked one last time and I let her momentum drag me forward. She tripped against the arm of my chair and we both fell awkwardly – me diagonally across her back like a swastika-shaped crab.
I scrambled to my feet and locked the door.
“you’re not going anywhere, Soso. Not when you’re mad at me”
“watch me”. She got up, straightened herself out and started walking towards the kitchen door.
“don’t bother. I removed the key last night”. Good thinking, Ekene. Who says you’re not psychic?
I sensed that this was a life-defining moment. Soso could leave and never return, she was that kind of person. Why she chose me, this early morning, to dump her emotional problems on me only she knew. But of course, I was practically the only friend she had. Dear God.
“Soso…can we talk about this gently…with no more drama, please?”
She just walked back to the bed and sat, with her head in her lap.
“I’m sorry I called you a boy. No boy could ever cry like you just did”
She smiled and wiped her tears but said nothing. This was a Soso I’d never seen- emotional, too choked to actually say anything.
“Did I mention how cute you look after crying? Damn, we should do this everyday”.
At that she leapt off the bed, rushed me, tackled me to the floor, straddled my stomach and rained girly slaps on my face. And I laughed, laughed, laughed, laughed, laughed.
I dragged my chair from the window to the bed. Soso sat on the bed and I sat in the chair. I made sure she had calmed enough to listen to me. And with my neck still smarting from the slaps she’d given earlier, I began,
“Sotonye…let me explain a few things…”