Mo Priye brings us this mini series Infections of Love. In this memoir, the reader finds a young man conjure memories which selectively charts his journey with the opposite sex; exploring the bonds, confusions, denials, misfortunes, aches and other byproducts of love in subtle and overt ways. This memoir not only narrates the estranged relationships, but questions the validity of love.
Whoever the gods choose to destroy they first make fall in love.
— Mo Priye
HOW DO YOU PROPOSE LOVE?
All Stories are love stories…
Can you tell of that feeling in movies when a guy goes with intent to propose his love to a girl he has been crushing on, but is met at a half open door by this girl of his dreams with a really cute guy behind, both half naked and smelling of intimate passion? That was me with Anita.
I first saw her in December 2012 at the close of MTH101 lectures in LT1 of Niger Delta University. The usual rowdiness and noise pollution in Nigerian universities hovered around the lecture theatre while students commune at the top of their voices like people practicing scream therapy. I saw Anita in the midst of this chaos; she was small, tender looking, walking towards me at a languid pace; seeming casual in a beautiful top and green penciled trousers that fittingly hug her dainty frame.
I had just been elected General Course Representative for MTH 101 and as well Class Representative for first year Mathematics students. By virtue of this office my popularity meter took several notches higher, it wasn’t uncommon for persons trying to get familiar with me and wanting my contact. Anita wasn’t the exception. “Hi.” That was what she said that got the conversation rolling, just Hi. Sometimes I wonder the powerfulness of a harmless “Hi,” how it could herald the moments that could take us to the highs of pleasure and memorable experiences, and leave us hanging on our fingertips by a cliff edge.
Anita’s voice faint and sweet as any songbird you may ever come across, engaged me for only a few moments, but it did institute a relationship of sorts. Over the Christmas break we kept correspondence, and I became eager to see her again. I couldn’t conclude at the time if it was love, but I knew my heart wasn’t acting as it should, nor was my head. The new year didn’t come early enough. When it did, Anita didn’t resume on time, and as her class representative, with a barnful of happiness, I bore the burden of penning down attendance and doing her class assignments.
Upon her resumption we became the best of pals, not the neck-on-neck we-have-known-each-other-for-years kind often seen among freshers; just cool friends with respectable spaces and generous boundaries; however, I brought my mischievous self to fore on certain occasions. One incidence stands out: We were having practical physics in the lab. At the time Ice Prince’s Oleku song was among the rulers of the air waves. I and Ebi Apreala took the lyrics of the song and turned it into a dare game, where we tell ourselves “something wey I no fit do.” I dared Ebi to climb the slab of the lab and dance, he wouldn’t. He couldn’t.
In turn, Ebi Apreala dared me to kiss Anita. I was under no obligation to take up the dare, but the headiness in my genes wouldn’t let me cow out of a challenge. Then, I was a virgin to blue pills and unprocessed leaves, and couldn’t have summoned the courage these duo undoubtedly supply, but somehow I walked up to her and planted a kiss. On. Her. Cheek. It was a faint graze, noticed not by others in the laboratory. She didn’t flinch, didn’t act like something happened, which came as a surprise because then Anita was quite rich with the back talk.
Anita occupied my headspace, my heart space, my breathing space and my reading space too. During those times on campus, we often go to read in the lecture halls at night, more like I’d scour lecture halls to locate wherever she was having a read and team up with her. Love can make you do things you’d later look back at and say “mumu me,” especially those times we made network providers a lot richer. It’s often said that where one’s heart is there would their treasure be. Anita was my treasure and my heart lay with her. At night, I and Anita would study past question papers at the lecture rooms until she get tired and retire to her hostel with me walking her back often times, without ever holding hands or even sharing a hug at the entrance to her dorm. I needed those hugs more than air to breath. These little things don’t matter if one are just friends but if the state of one’s heart is involved then it’s as big as the naira’s fall against the dollar.
Proximity made us know more of the other, for we talked on almost everything whenever I did escort her back to the hostel or when we took breaks from studying. Secrets were exchanged, hidden stories unearthed and retold, hearts unburdened and splayed at the feet of the other. In those moments we traded our secrets, I fully came to understand that humans need someone to share in their aches, not that the power to solve these problems lies with the other but an ear to whisper to is sometimes enough. I had just stumbled on a basic principle of human relationships, and I felt Anita was the one I could really unburden myself to, whenever. I needed her more than the need to pass Professor Izonfuo’s Inorganic Chemistry, which was the biggest hurdle for any freshman in the Sciences, College of Health Sciences and Engineering faculties. The question was did she need me too? One can only guess the intentions of the other through their gestures, and I think I thought she needed me too. Perhaps, I thought wrong, I always thought wrong. My friends thought wrong, even the trees, the stones and animals thought wrong too. We all believed she would be open to a relationship. She was, but not with me. That stung so bad; bad as having a bike accident and screeching your knee on the coal tar. Ever had a bike accident? Thank your ancestors.
It’s always an horrible moment when your friend flanks you to see a girl, especially one you intend to woo, and things begin to go tits down. Be assured your other friends will get an embellished version of things. For me, it became an embarrassing moment in a lifetime full of embarrassing moments; something I’ll never forget to regale to my kids and grandkids. I armed myself to woo Anita with “if your heart will ache by my own doings, mine should not fail to stop beating” line and a couple of R&B infused wordings that I intended on opening the show with. If I had taken a crash course of Women101 I shouldn’t have had any train wreck of emotions, or, if I had adopted the Trump political rally model, where I get to spew whatever comes to mind the moment my heart acts in ways unbecoming of it. Instead, I dilly dallied, summoned courage for weeks, patiently waiting for the right moment to make my intentions known. Trumps model has been working ever since I first tried it. It has been a mainstay practice in the Nigerian/African politico sphere. Donald J Trump just made it a common practice. Do you love a girl or a guy, or you want a relationship with someone? Say it the first times it comes to mind or withhold from saying it at all, except you are in for sexual commerce then you can be subtle about it — being brackish rarely does cut it here.
“I’m sorry Priye, I can’t do this with you right now. I’ve got a boyfriend.” That right there would have been a welcome rejection and less a bitter pill to swallow. Instead, what played out was a leaf off the script of movies aired only on Africa Magic. I called Anita to inform her I was around her hostel and would love to see her for a few. She obliged to see me, which wasn’t unusual. My friend, Pascal, was right behind me like an ADC. I intended discarding him when the big moment arrives. He and I were sitting on a pavement under the shadow of the sickbay, adjacent to the legendary Hostel C gate, observing boys and girls cavorting and groping one another in the dark.
The dimness of the sickbay made it a paradise for males and females to engage mildly in what male and female do in dark places. Anita called to inform she was at the entrance to the gated hostel C and wouldn’t spend much time with me as she has got a cold, a flu or something. I didn’t intend spending much time either, though I had taken much time to prettify myself and look jollof enough for her. I sidled up to Anita in the dark, summoned courage from my ancestors to casually place a hand around her shoulders and foolishly wasted precious time to enquire about her ailment like I was some medical practitioner. In this state, a guy walked up to us; it was obvious in the dark that he was light skinned and has a full, shining beard — I could tell the beards were soft without touching them. A handsome guy, yeah! He looked like an Arabian Prince opposed to the mascot of melanin that I was. But, why was he invading my space? Because…“Priye, meet my boyfriend. Boyfriend meet Priye, my course representative.” He was her boyfriend and I was her course representative. How hilarious! Somebody, please, play the Game of Thrones theme song. I and Arabian Prince shook hands. Emphasis on “shook” because I made my best impression of giving a bouncer-like hand shake, but my impression was as limp as a fallen dick. I have chicken arms, what could they do? Cluck?
That instant the dreams of Anita and I were no longer mine, for they now belonged to Arabian Prince. I felt many things at the time. I felt like a jilted lover, but was I ever in a loving relationship? The discovery felt like I had been dating myself all the while. If there was a single clue, a single moment in time which captured the concept of how love truly wrecks someone, this was it. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way and I was left to assume I was just an advert of what a boyfriend should aspire to be.
That night, when I got home, I played every sombre song on my playlist. Thank you Adele for those times, you contributed chiefly. I didn’t give Anita the pleasure of seeing my pain, I even denied myself the pleasure of crying. I should have cried, but society told me that people with cojones shouldn’t cry. I didn’t, I had to “be a man,” so I let the unshed tears congeal into bitterness and allowed the bitterness simmer, letting its prehensile grip my smouldering heart until it reddened and burned with rage. Many days passed, but every time I saw her in class it seemed as the night of first refusal had come to play its tape again, like a cinematic frame on repeat; the only difference being that with each passing day the chasm of love once had kept transubstantiating into hatred. I did my best in trying not to make it seem obvious, but it couldn’t be. Like butter to bread, the news that Anita dumped their course representative spread round the department. Embellishment of news is as Nigerian as Jollof rice, so there were many versions to this. Some told of how she agreed to be my girlfriend, but when her boyfriend came around she told of how she couldn’t do this anymore. Another version narrated how Anita was devastated I didn’t ask her out early enough when she didn’t have a boyfriend. I liked this version because it looked like something I would say. More inhumanly were those who propagated in jest that I was bedridden for days after Anita said she’ll never date a guy like me. All versions agreed on one thing, that ‘I WAS DUMPED.’ In a way I was dumped. The news travelled far and wide, even topping the chat of gists in Mechanical Engineering department by doings of my then roommate, Tommy, after Pascal must have fed him some half truths. Here’s a caveat for you to run with: When going to woo a guy or girl, let not your friend accompany you. Make it a sole and discreet mission. You can decide to share your success or failure story later.
I should have asked Anita if I did cross her mind before she agreed to date Arabian Prince, because it was as clear as day that I’ve got something for her. Even the sheep catwalking in their numbers around the campus could guess my feelings for her. Feelings, these things never really go away. They’re locked up in the bed of our heart, sometimes, they fossil into love, other times they congeal into a total disregard of the other’s existence, like they are there but not really there. As Anita and the storied versions of events drifted into irrelevance, my self criticism turned into cheerleading, as I tried to right the ship by taking my Big L experience proudly as a badge. Either way, indulging in self-pity for a long time wouldn’t win me a girl at a time everyone was in a frantic rush to find someone they could pair with. I was in need to get myself a girl, love or no love. One who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom, so I became apprehensive of love. I only wanted the thrill of having a girl or girls.
There’s a saying in my mother’s tongue, Ijaw, “the river can never outflow a thirsty man.” Little did Dr. Mrs Mercy Orukari know when making me her course representative in a faculty with excess of 500 first year ladies is kind of like putting me in charge of guarding the bottle of whiskey. Probably not the best choice. By the time I got to my finals I had earned myself a very respectable title: The Girls Dem Daddy. Anita, quite impressively, dated Arabian Prince until our final semester when things went south between them. Perhaps, she had come to see the fraud he was and ridded him off her skin. Everyone could see the timelines that Arabian Prince was a fuck boy except her, and I was not the least interested in worming my way into her heart by pointing out her dribbling ignorance. Doing so would have been a lazy attempt at wooing a lady. Beside snitching being a cheap shot, it’s also a disregard for the guy code which I solemnly hold dear. Everyone should sort their shit out in this mind-your-business world we live in. He was her cross to bear, an uncommon cross, but still. I was very appreciative of the fact that she broke up with him; she was such an innocent soul dating an asshole — a guy who had more girlfriends than I have ever cooked dinner. If I were to be friends with Elon Musk, in a heartbeat I’d have politely request him to launch Arabian Prince into deep space, for Anita and science sake. After her break up she became a little bit loose, freer and open. She moved into an apartment three blocks away from where I lived and we became close once again. She even gave vocal and financial support to my magazine launch. Many evenings I’d stroll to her place and we’d play games till the lights went out. No no no, not the games you’re thinking, more like scrabble and other fun games.
I wouldn’t want to equate the closeness as an opening but it gave such hints. With girls one might never know. At that time in my life I was a prowling beast, and she, a meek princess with a recovering heart. I wasn’t open to committing myself to anyone, a relationship with her would have only brought her to ruins and I wouldn’t be able to live with that. Though, I did love her in many ways, but there’s more to loving someone than just mere chemistry.