IN MY FIFTH and final year I became the General Secretary of the National Association of Quantity Surveying Students (NAQSS), UNILAG Chapter. For a fairly long while some of the students in my department were quite unhappy with me. They, like their colleagues, had wanted me as the NAQSS President, which was the post I was initially gunning for during the election campaigning process.
But due to certain political interests I had to step down for the guy who eventually emerged as the President. He was the then HOD’s mannequin. What my fellow students simply knew was that I had stepped down for someone they didn’t want…someone they didn’t like…someone who wasn’t academically on par with me. But what they didn’t know was why I had actually done that. I gave them what I considered to be the simplest excuse: I was no longer interested in becoming the Association’s President because I didn’t think I would be able to measure up to all that would be required of me.
Of course many of them didn’t believe me. Who the hell did I think I was talking to? Morons? Kids? Even some smart kids would know something was wrong with my reason.
All the same I appealed for their understanding.
The fact, however, was that I had been threatened with academic failure – by the HOD and one other man, whose face wasn’t familiar – if I didn’t allow their ‘boy’ to contest, unopposed. They knew that, that was the only way the guy would win the election. I was also severely warned not to disclose the truth to anyone.
That morning I had been summoned to the HOD’s office where both men had calmly told me what they wanted, what they wanted me to do, and what would happen if I failed to do what they wanted me to do.
I, for one, didn’t want any form of trouble. I was in my final year, with an excellent result, which I had earned through hard-work and God’s grace; so I kept my mouth shut, and settled for the post of General Secretary, which I won easily.
I didn’t even tell Rachael about the threat. And as for my parents, siblings and close friends…they got to know the truth a year or so after I graduated.
Okay – Rachael and I continued our idyllic relationship. Eventually, we began planning on when best to meet our parents; of course not for marital reasons at this time. We just wanted to know them better. Although my parents knew I was dating Rachael, they were yet to meet her in person. A similar thing went for Rachael’s parents.
I must state here that I had really wanted us to meet each other’s parents much earlier – about three months or so after we began dating. But whenever I brought up the subject, Rachael had insisted we wait; that there was no need for us to rush anything. We were together; that was what really mattered. Trussed by love I had listened to her, each time.
Anyway, Rachael and I eventually agreed to wait till the second semester was over. However, I met her elder sister, Naomi, twice, when she came to visit her at school. She was a pretty and soft-spoken girl. We exchanged phone numbers. And I usually called her at intervals to know how she was doing.
So, I was still gleefully sailing the cruise ship of love when the first missile of negative information came hurtling my way.
I was having lunch with a friend, in another faculty, when he told me something I initially found quite difficult to process mentally. But before he did that he had wanted to know if Rachael and I were still a couple. Hammered by surprise I answered in the affirmative.
He asked, “Are you sure, man?” His expression had turned weird.
Although I wondered what the hell he meant by that…I was troubled by the troubled look on his face.
Nonetheless I responded, “Yes, I am. Is there a problem?”
He kept quiet, still wearing the odd look. It was as if he was debating within himself if it would be sensible for him to tell me what he wanted to.
Keeping a straight face I urged him to go ahead; that whatever it was, I could handle it.
So he did.
According to him, a few days back, on a Saturday night actually, he had gone clubbing, somewhere in Ikoyi. While he was seated, in a corner, at the club, having a drink or two, and occasionally looking at some of the couples who were throwing it down on the dance floor, nearby, his eyes had suddenly settled on one of them. And that was because they were dancing in a more suggestive manner than the rest. He was about to pull his eyes away from them when he observed that the girl looked rather familiar. He looked at her closely and, to his amazement, it was Rachael! He looked closely at her male companion. He wasn’t me. My friend shook his head a couple of times to clear his mind. Perhaps he had unknowingly reached his limit, and the alcohol had kicked in – showing him false visions. But, no, he was just fine. It was Rachael, dancing seductively away with a stranger.
A while later, the, apparently, happy couple hugged each other tightly, and left the club, hand in hand.
When my friend was through with the report, I asked him if he was certain of what he had said; and more importantly, of whom he had seen. He assured me that, unless my girlfriend had an identical twin sister, he was.
There was a moment of silence as I weighed his words and tried to make sense of what I’d just heard. Is this guy telling me the truth? That he actually saw Rachael, my Rachael, in a club, fooling around with another man? No, that’s impossible. Yes, he’s mistaken, I thought. Eventually I smiled and told my informant that I would handle the matter. Of course I didn’t. I didn’t ask Rachael about it. I didn’t believe she was guilty of such a despicable thing. I let it go at that.
Three weeks later I received another shocking report, from another friend who, at this time, was a student of the Federal Technical College, Akoka.
According to him, while he was having lunch at a fast-food restaurant, he had seen Rachael, seated some tables away, having lunch with a man. Well, he figured there was nothing really wrong in that. A couple of minutes later the man lovingly stroked Rachael’s right wrist. He said something (apparently sweet) to her, and she smiled, warmly. The couple now leaned in close, across the table, and kissed – a kiss that lasted several seconds. Now, there was something really wrong in that. After the lip-action, and lunch, Rachael and her companion stood up and walked out of the restaurant – again, hand in hand.
I couldn’t believe my ringing ears…my baby…kissing another man? No. Never! Like before, I felt that was impossible. I couldn’t, or let me say refused to, believe that Rachael was cheating on me. Maintaining composure I told this friend of mine what I had told the other one; that I would handle the matter.
Again, I didn’t.
Then a week later, my two best friends, who were staying in one of the school’s hostel, called me aside and unleashed yet another bitter surprise. I’d like to point out here that I didn’t actually live in the hostel – because my house wasn’t far from UNILAG. But I had a bed space, which I used whenever I wanted to relax or nap.
My buddies made it clear that they, at first, didn’t want to tell me anything – given the insane love I had for Rachael. But, eventually, they had felt obliged to do so. They felt it wasn’t fair, on their part, to continue to keep something, they considered as an ‘urgent affair’, away from me.
I urged them to go on; and patiently listened as they told me what they had observed about Rachael.
They told me that, on three different occasions, they had seen my sweetheart climbing down from a car, at night, and carrying two bulky polythene bags – obviously filled with goodies – to her hostel. The car – a 2002 Toyota Camry – usually dropped her off in front of her hostel. The driver, and possibly owner, of the vehicle was a guy.
I was dumbfounded. What in the world is happening here? Am I being lied to, collectively, by my four informants? Is this some sort of conspiracy perpetrated by those who are, perhaps, jealous of my happiness? Or is everything one huge sick joke?’
I didn’t know.
My two friends advised me to talk to Rachael at once and find out exactly what the hell was going on. I shook my head, sadly, in confusion, and promised them that I would do just that. And this time I meant it and did it. After all, even the Scripture says in the mouths of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. Well, in my case, I had four witnesses. What more did I need? Witness number five, six or more?
My two friends continued. In their opinion there was no doubt that Rachael was stepping out on me…playing me for a fool like a Spanish (or Nigerian?) guitar. They advised, more like instructed, me to dump her fast if it became necessary, and get a new girl. In fact, they wondered what I, unlike them, was doing with just one girlfriend…when a lot of birds were flocking around my feet…birds that couldn’t wait for me to reach down, pick them up, and throw them into my cage. If I remember correctly, each of them was simultaneously dating three different girls at this time. And none of the girls knew one another. Why stick to one, when there was more plenty to go round? That was one of their relationship mottos. But that wasn’t my style. It wasn’t my thing. I’m a strict observer of the one-man-one-woman rule.
As earlier promised, I plucked up and confronted Rachael.
With tears streaming down her lovely cheeks she told me her own version of everything. First, she denied, outright, that she was the one at the club – dancing away sultrily with another guy. Second, she admitted to having had lunch with the guy at the fast-food restaurant. However, she denied ever allowing him to touch her affectionately, or kiss her. She told me the guy was just an old secondary school colleague. Third, the guy with the 2002 Toyota Camry was her cousin, who owned a boutique – where he sold sport wears and other accessories – on Lagos Island. She visited him occasionally; and whenever she did he usually insisted on buying her foodstuff and, sometimes, cosmetic products – in addition to dropping her off at school.
When I asked her, “Why does he drop you off at night?”
She replied, “He closes the boutique late, because his customers patronise him more in the evenings.”
Still tearing, her alluring lips trembling, she gazed into my eyes. “Baby, my baby, I love you with all my heart. I will never do anything to hurt you. I’m not cheating on you. Why would I do a dreadful thing like that? No man can ever complete me like you do. I cannot live a single moment without you. You are the core of my existence. You are my life!”
Her passion-soaked words were quite moving. We were seated on one of the stone-benches at UNILAG’s lagoon front. It was early evening, and a zephyr was blowing. It was soothing. I studied my girlfriend. Her tears looked real. Her sad, facial expression looked real. On the whole everything she said had verisimilitude. I made my decision. I believed her. I pulled her close and kissed away her tears.
Curiously, she didn’t ask me the source(s) of my negative information. On the other hand I didn’t tell her. It was immaterial anyway. The records had been set straight. That was what I felt mattered. How mistaken I was.