The One Gone With The Waves
I have never really thought of having kids, which is quite weird, considering the fact that I have helped bring so many babies into this world. I have shared the joy of parents seeing their babies for the first time and gone through the pain of those who suffer loss. Births have left me in tears on some occasions and transported me into the spiritual when I simply just look upward to God and thank him for the gift of life. However, the feeling of wanting to have my own kid is always fleeting. The reason is simply because I know I’ll make a terrible father without a wife beside me. I’m old school like that. I believe in marriage first, kids later. Much later.
And that is why I’m deeply concerned for Emeka. How will he handle two children and their mothers?
After a hectic day at work, I invite him and our elder brother, Kalu, for drinks and to have a talk. Emeka isn’t so pleased. Both of them aren’t best of friends. Kalu is the serious, churchgoing, business-minded type. He has his head in the right place always. Emeka gives him attitude at first but later takes in his wisdom. He advises him to come clean with all parties involved. The earlier, the better. He also tells him not to feel pressured to marry any of the girls or he would regret so later. He adds that Emeka should marry the woman he loves, or at least is friends with. Emeka replies that he is not interested in marriage in the first place.
“Then be ready to take care of the kids and all the drama their mothers will bring.”
This ends the discussion. I leave them and head home. It’s Wednesday and I’m already drained out. I’m not complaining, though. I have set my schedule this way so I can be free for the weekend. Saturday is the family dinner and on Sunday, Shady’s wife, Celia, has this house party I’m invited to.
I walk into my bedroom and there’s a girl waiting for me. An old flame that I bumped into the night before at a supermarket. She gives me a long, hankering kiss that makes me re-schedule my sleep. In lightning speed, our clothes are off. We make love beneath the sheets like they do in Nollywood movies. It’s my idea. I want our movements controlled, yet intense. She is the wild type and likes to take the lead. This is me putting her on a leash. We do our thing until we both tire out. She wears her clothes afterwards and tells me she has to leave because of work tomorrow. I walk her to the door and go back to my room where I fall asleep instantly.
I rise the next morning and walk into the bathroom to take a leak. When I return, I am startled to find I’m not alone. I release a breath the moment I realize it is only Ele.
“Hi.” She waves at me. She is sprawled naked on my bed.
“How did you get in?” I ask.
“You left your door unlocked.”
“I was dead tired yesterday.”
“Aww, poor baby. Come, let me make you feel better.”
I have no reason whatsoever to reject her offer. Sexual healing never hurt anyone. She pulls me to the bed and stirs me with a kiss, sending my hand down to her pleasure spot. I have only a few minutes to spare before I get ready for work, so I make it worth her while. When I’m done, she begs for more. I drag her to the front door and send her out, promising to fulfil her request after work hours. Once she’s gone, I shower and dress for work. The hospital welcomes me with a client in the late stages of labor. I attend to her and another lady who has been having contractions for a week. The day ends for me by 7pm. I change from my scrubs and head home. Just as I’m about getting into my house, my phone rings. Someone I have been wanting to meet with is on the line. He finally has time to see me.
I listen to him ramble off some address and then he hangs up. I turn back downstairs and out of the compound where I hail a cab. My destination is a quiet restaurant in a business district. My contact is waiting when I get there. He has ordered a full meal for himself. I sit and decline his offer to have a waiter bring me something. I’m anxious to hear what he has to tell me.
“How far?” I ask.
He takes a drink of water.
“Jideofor…” There’s a pause. “I think it’s time you let go.”
My face turns sour.
“Ezinne is nowhere to be found. I’ve done everything I can professionally, combed everywhere, turned every stone and yet…”
“She is not dead.”
“I have never had a case like this before, Jideofor. By now, after all these years, if she was alive somewhere, something would have turned up, at least. But there’s nothing. Not even a hair strand or a careless phone call. In fact, the deeper I look, the less I see. She’s really gone.”
I gently run my hand over my mouth to calm my restless innards.
“You just have to accept it and move on. Console yourself with the fact that she spoke to her parents and left you a text before she disappeared.”
“Spoke to her parents. Left me a text,” I repeated, feeling my irritation rise. “That what? That I was responsible for whatever she was going to do to herself? Well let me let you know that that was not my Ezinne. That was not the girl I knew. Ezinne was willing to defy her parents to be with me. We made plans to elope if they didn’t give us their blessing. How on earth does she move from that person to the person who kills herself?”
“Jideofor…the accident must have changed her. You were in a coma for almost a month. Enough time for her parents to coax her into a change of heart. And I’m thinking that might have been her reason for committing suicide.”
“I’m sorry but your explanation makes no sense to me.”
“If I hadn’t seen her parents mourn her, I would have sworn they had her taken to some part of the world just to hide her away from me.”
“She was their only child.”
I lean back and drum my fingers on the table.
“You also have to consider the other strong proofs of her suicide, like the old man at the beach who saw a girl walking into the ocean naked that night. Or her clothes and phone that were found at the shore.”
“But there was no corpse found.”
“Jideofor, it happens. Many people have drowned and their bodies were never found.”
My contact holds that sympathetic look on his face my mom had when we spoke about Ezinne the other day. I don’t want them to pity me. I want them to tell me she is not dead, that I will soon find her, because as it is, I’m beginning to give up. It’s been five years too long.
“Here.” He pushes a file to me. “All the details you’ll need to hire someone else to continue searching for her.”
“To hire someone else? What about you?”
“I’m leaving to Ghana. I got a job there to run a security outfit.”
“Thanks. If you want I can refer you to a colleague but you can be sure that he’ll have to start all over again and will end up wasting your money as I did.”
“What if she was kidnapped?”
“For five years?” He shakes his head. “It’s unlikely. Kidnappers always demand for money or something else. Well, unless they are sick in the head and want to keep their victims just to torture them and…”
He stops when he notices the dread that must have filled my face.
“All I’m saying is that it is unlikely after all these years.”
I want to hear nothing further. I pick up the file, rise to my feet and tell him to send me an invoice for his services. I step out of the restaurant and go straight home. In the solitude of my bedroom, I open the file and take out pictures of Ezinne. Emotions I have long forgotten fill me at the sight of her. I still miss her but I know I can’t continue this way. My mom’s words on Monday have left me thinking how much I have hurt the ones close to me by giving up everything because of one person.
I pore through the details of the investigation and just as the detective told me, there are no new leads. I exhale and lie on my back. It is time to let Ezinne go. I bleed at the thought but I know I have to make the sacrifice for those who have been there for me. But I won’t give up hope. I know she is still alive somewhere, even if she’s just in my heart alone.
I shut my eyes to sleep and I’m gone really fast. Sometime around midnight, I hear Ele knocking. I ignore her and go back to sleep. I dream of a beach. I am the old man at the shore. I watch as a girl disappears into the waves. I am helpless to stop her. I call out to her but she doesn’t hear me, and yet I can feel her eyes on me.
I wake up sad. It’s a resident sadness I haven’t been able to expel for a long time now. I’m looking forward to the day it finally goes away, along with the emptiness that conquers my nights.
I close my eyes and force myself to sleep again. I don’t dream.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
It’s that time of the month and I don’t feel too well. I’m throwing my guts out in the plane’s lavatory. A fever keeps my body in shivers and I’m wondering why I wasn’t born male.
“Honey?” My colleague knocks at the door.
I wipe my mouth. “I’m coming.”
I freshen up my face and walk out.
“Are you okay?” she asks.
She immediately understands what ails me. “Sorry, luv.” She rubs the sides of my arms to comfort me. She’s a sweet Irish girl with grey eyes and red locks which have to be subjected to being held in an up-do always.
“I think you should talk take some days off,” she tells me. She’s my in-flight supervisor for this particular flight and although it is not her duty to put me off work for some days, a report from her to our regional supervisor is enough to get me that rest I need.
She sends me off to find someplace to relax. I pick a backseat at economy and wrap myself up in a blanket to still the shivers. The journey is unkind to me but I make it in one piece. Once we hit land, I seek out my supervisor and ask for a sick leave. She grants me one and I’m off to my hotel room where I take a pill and wander off in my mind to my latest obsession—Jideofor. I can’t believe how much I am crushing on him. I tried, I really did, to exorcise him from my mind but I haven’t been successful. Instead, I fall deeper.
You know that feeling you have as a teenager when you fall in love for the first time? When all you do is think about the person and build fantasies in your head about them? That’s how I feel. I’m beginning to see colors again. For the first time in a long while I watched a romance movie aboard a flight alongside the passengers and I didn’t want to throw up over the cheesy lines and cliché scenes. Just yesterday I downloaded a whole bunch of love songs and listened to them without having to skip any. And then there’s this silly smile that won’t leave my face throughout the day.
Am I going crazy? I mean, this guy has not even as much as smiled at me. We barely communicated and here I am, all bunkers over him. What do I even know about him apart from what his adoring mother has shared with me? For all I know, he could be an ass or one of those guys that change girls like underwear. But what if he’s not? What if he’s super chill and ends up falling for me and we have this amazing relationship? Sigh. What if horses could fly?
I psyche myself out for my own wellbeing. No, literally for my wellbeing because if I don’t do away with thoughts of that Igbo boy, I won’t sleep well and get better.
I pull my blanket over my shivering body and will myself to sleep. It takes a long time for it to happen but I finally doze off. I wake up a whole lot better and decide to pamper myself with new clothes. I go shopping in town and realize I’m lost on the latest fashion trends. I rely on Google and the shop attendants. In the end, I walk out of the shop a little less rich but with more for my wardrobe. I decide to stop in a salon to have braids done. It takes me hours. However, I am more than satisfied with the results. I stare in the mirror all evening and wonder if Jideofor will like what he sees now.
Room service brings me dinner. As I eat, I watch Married Again on the Indian channel. I don’t understand what is going on but I’m held by some male character called Akash and another, Yash. Too much drama around them. I switch to something else more boring, just so that my mind can naturally wander off to its heart’s desire. It is then I decide to call Mommy.
She answers upon first ring and is excited to hear my voice. After pleasantries, I ask after everybody, one by one, leaving Jideofor for last.
“He’s fine. Been so busy with work.”
“Okay. My regards to him and everyone else.”
“Honey, when will you be in town?”
“I’m in town as we speak, ma.”
“Oh, that’s good. I’m inviting you to ours for dinner tomorrow. Would you like to come?”
“Sure, mommy. What time?”
“Okay. Thanks. I’m staying at the Sheraton. Could you text me your address so I can come over?”
“Don’t worry about that. Jideofor will come get you.”
I grin. “Okay, cool.”
“So you take good care of yourself, okay?”
“And pray before you sleep.”
“I will, ma.”
She rings off. It feels good to be pampered by a mother again. I am yet to be weaned off my lastborn ways.
I finish my meal, and straightaway start choosing my outfit for the dinner. I try every piece of clothing I have just bought but none seems appropriate. I call Dele’s wife for help.
“Oooooh, dinner date. Who is he?”
“I didn’t say dinner date. I said dinner.”
“All join. Who is he?”
I tell her about Mommy and how I got introduced to Jideofor.
“Na wa for you and this your love for Igbo boys. Have they not shown you enough pepper already?”
I say nothing. She is right. Igbo boys have dealt with me and yet I can’t seem to stay away from them.
“Anyways, you know me I’ll always support you. I pray this one treats you well sha.”
“There’s a comma in this whole thing, babe.”
“We’ve met just once and I’m the only one crushing on him. I’m sure he’s forgotten me by now.”
“I swear I can’t concentrate on anything. He’s constantly on my mind. Am I normal to be dying for a guy like this at this age?”
She laughs. “Very. In fact, the crush I had for Dele, no be for dis world. If he was already married I wouldn’t have minded being his side chick. See, just make sure when you’re with him you compose yourself like nothing’s happening. Allow him make the first move but seduce him in a way he won’t even know.”
“Honey, na wa for you o. You be pikin for dis game? Abeg, no fall my hand. Make I no hear say you just go there go dey shine teeth, come open leg for am. I go vex for you. Time has come to stop giving it away so freely.”
This is why I stay away from my married friends. Once they get married, they suddenly become holiness gurus in love and sex matters. If you confront them with their past and how they fornicated around, they’ll tell you just because they did it, it don’t make it right. Like Dele’s wife, she is one to talk. I remember when she first met Dele aboard a flight to Johannesburg and how they ended up in his hotel room that same night.
“I’ve heard you,” I say to her. “Just tell me what to wear.”
“I hope half of the things you bought are not yellow.”
I go silent. More than half the things I bought are yellow. I can’t help it. It’s my favorite color.
She sighs. “Ping me with pictures and I’ll see what we can come up with.”
“I wish you well, my dear. I hope he falls for you too. He must be mad if he doesn’t but worry not, Igbo boys always love afin.”
I laugh and hang up. Afterwards, I send pictures of all I bought to her. It doesn’t take long for her to pick the right outfit for me.
–It’s casual, low key and makes u blend in with his family but also keeps his eyes on u
We end the conversation. I slip beneath the covers and go back to fantasizing about Jideofor until the night takes me.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
“You invited her to dinner?”
My mother frowns at me. “Do I need to explain to you why I chose to invite someone to my own house for dinner?”
“Nne, this is a family dinner. She is not family.”
“Just shut up and pass me that bowl.”
I turn from her and find that I’m facing the kitchen counter with an array of bowls.
“The blue one.”
I pick a blue bowl and pass it to her but not without picking a piece of meat from it and throwing it into my mouth.
“Oya go and pick her from Sheraton. She’s waiting. Here’s her number.”
My mom passes her phone to me and I transfer Honey’s details to my phone.
“Call her and tell her you’re on your way o.”
I leave the kitchen. I’m not happy about this new development. My mom is trying to force this girl on me. Secondly, I’m not even in the right frame of mind, mostly. I feel the dinner’s going to turn out bad and I’m freaking out right now. I just want us to enjoy each other as a family without any drama.
“If you’re still afraid to drive, go with your father’s driver!” my mom says. I step outside and find the driver waiting. We pick one of the cars. I sit in front and we head to Sheraton. When we get there, I call Honey and tell her I’m waiting. She takes forever to come down and while I wait, I work myself up to annoyance. Clearly, she has been deceived by my mom that there could be something between us and that is why she takes on the role of the woman who is being wooed; if not, tell me why she would keep me waiting as if I’m taking her out on a date? I’m sure she’s all dressed, sitting in her suite and counting the minutes until she makes her grand appearance. Typical Barbie behavior.
I check the time once more and begin to dial her number but something tells me to stop. I look up and there she is. Against my will, I miss a pulse. What follows can best be described as that thing that happens when a man sees a woman for the first time and he’s knocked off his feet by her looks. I act stupidly by staring at her like a love-struck teenager when in reality there isn’t much to see other than a pretty face and an endowed body. And to be honest, I’ve had enough of those to last me a lifetime. I snap out of my temporary absurdity and compose myself.
“Hi Jideofor. I’m so sorry to keep you waiting. It wasn’t intentional.”
All my vexing comes to nothing as she pulls out this practiced smile that leaves me feeling like a jerk for being annoyed at her.
We head out of the lobby of the hotel to the parking lot and I do the gentlemanly thing by opening the car door for her. I want to sit in front with the driver just as I did when we were coming but I fear I would come off as rude, so I sit behind with her.
We ignore each other for a good half hour, and we still have some distance left on the mileage but I don’t intend to speak to her at all. However, she breaks the ice by commenting about the weather.
“It will rain this night.”
“It’s so cold these days.”
“Do you like the weather?”
I know she’s looking at me, so I shrug rather than speak. She remains silent after that. Good, I tell myself, as I face my phone.
Minutes pass and she comes on again.
“What’s the meaning of Jideofor?”
I don’t look at her. “It means hold on to truth. Or you are justified. Or one who has a clear conscience.”
That ends our exchange. I stick to my phone, she sticks to the road. After a while I give her a discrete glance. I want to tell her she looks beautiful but I hold back my tongue. It stays that way until we get to the house.
I step out of the car first and walk over to her side to find that she is not waiting for me to open her door. Good thing she did that. I hate being excessively chivalrous.
“Wow. Your house is so beautiful! Look at the flowers!”
She’s staring wide-eyed at the garden of flowers my mom has painstakingly cultured over the years.
“It’s all momsi’s work. She’s a horticulturist.”
“Yes, she told me. So beautiful.”
I can begin to perceive the faint scent of Queen of the Night as darkness hits the skies. We walk towards the front door.
“Do you think she’ll let me have one of these yellow flowers if I ask her?” Honey stops.
“Sure. Why not?” I look at her. “You like yellow.”
“Is it that obvious?”
She smiles. I don’t tell her about my thing for women in yellow.
“So what is this bunch of flowers called?”
I bend over the flowers she’s referring to and study them briefly.
“Daffodils, I think. I’m not so sure.”
Not thinking it over, I pluck a bunch of the yellow beauties and hand them to her. I almost slap myself when I see the dreamy look that grazes her eyes. Dumb, Jideofor.
Now, my mom will have my hide for touching her precious daffodils. If I recall something she told me during my childhood, is that daffodils are perennial.
“Thanks,” Honey says.
Suddenly, the serene air is shattered by the terrifying woofing of the family dog.
“What’s that?” Honey’s eyes pop out.
“Just a dog.”
“Dog?!” She looks around in fright but it’s too late for her as a huge greyhound rounds the corner at top speed. She dashes behind me and grabs me tightly while whimpering words I can’t make out. The dog approaches us; she grips me tighter, crushing into me and burying her face in my neck.
“Chill. It’s okay. He’s harmless.”
“Drive it away, please. Drive it away.”
“Down, boy!” I command the hound when I see him gunning for her. He immediately sits but not without a complaint in that distinctive manner greyhounds are known to communicate.
“Drive it away,” Honey begs still. She continues to grapple me. Unlike her, I am calm and so I’m able to get a full whiff of her perfume and feel the wetness of her lips at the nape of my neck. The girl is bent on tempting me; her plans will not work. I try to pull away but she gets even snugger.
“Please drive it away,” she whispers.
“Seriously, the dog is harmless. He’s actually mine and has been with us for six years.”
My explanation doesn’t suffice. She insists on the dog leaving. I grant her wish and send the dog away. Once it leaves, she extracts herself from me and to my surprise I see that she is actually off-color. There is moisture in her eyes and her hands shake uncontrollably.
“Wow. You’re really scared of dogs.”
She nods. “When I was little I got attacked by our neighborhood dogs. They were local dogs that moved in a pack and harassed people only at night but that day they attacked me in broad daylight. My mom sent me to buy some meat. On my way back, they popped out from nowhere and chased me, grabbed the meat from me and one of them bit me. I had to endure series of rabies vaccine shots on my tummy. It was hell. I’m still scared to death of dogs.”
“I’m sorry about what just happened.”
I want to say more but I can’t. Being with her still leaves me feeling awkward. I have neither sexual nor warm attraction towards her. It is quite unsettling. Usually at first encounter, I already know whether I want a woman or not, and if I do, I can promptly tell what I want from her. But this chick just leaves me hanging. I don’t know if there’s something there or not.
“Oh God, I’ve almost crushed them.” She spread out her hands to show me the flowers.
“Not quite. They’re still intact. Let’s go in.”
I put her in front of me and follow behind, watching the sway of her perfectly-formed butt in her tight jeans and wondering why it doesn’t stir me.
I’m beginning to think that maybe something has gone wrong with me.
Read about the family dinner and how it went by 6pm today
Afin (Yoruba): Fair complexioned, albino