Reunions, Memories And Mixed Drinks

“Hey, are you ok? ”
“Yes, I am. Why do you ask? ”
“Everybody is having fun, and you just choose to sit here? ”
“I’m getting into the groove, just watch, you will be begging me to slow down.”
“Ok o. Until then. ”
With that, he went his way, leaving you to sit on the sparsely decorated white plastic chair, a tall glass of red wine and a flurry of thoughts being your choice for company, at least for that moment. The curiosity of the man you just had a conversation with was not without good reason; it was not the kind of evening where being alone with your thoughts would be a particularly popular choice, afterall, high school reunions were not organised too frequently, what with the financial obligations, logistics and all. Continue reading

THEY SHOULD HAVE KILLED CHIVALRY

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(The next lines you will read are inspired by true events that transpired in the final few hours of January 31st, 2016.)

“Bros, abeg help me check time. ”

“It’s eight-thirty right now. ”

He nods in acknowledgment of your response and places his foot a little more firmly on the throttle. It’s Sunday night in Lagos, few hours separating you from that month in the year where everyone becomes a poet and the prices of flowers and chocolates skyrocket. Lekki is the destination, and the roads look free enough to conduct a Grand Prix…..except for the Ajah axis, that is; you could end up in a traffic jam at eleven forty-five p.m in that part of town. In any case, you both are sure of getting to her place in less than forty minutes, where same would have taken one hour and a half on either of the five days of certain gridlock.

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Confetti

It’s finally here.  After years of hits and misses, reminders of promises made to a dying father, a gradually receding hairline, and fielding questions as to ritual oaths and even sexuality,  he finally takes a plunge into the deep and wavy sea called Marriage.  Yes,  it’s the day he finally decides to share his last name with someone,  the day he bids adieu to his youth,  the day evening hangouts lose their place to intimate family time.

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What These Men Want

It had only been two weeks, but Mr. Isiukwu
Bigwillie, 27, who had only returned to the
country from the annual hustle in Malaysia to
celebrate the Christmas holidays, was getting
bored. He couldn’t believe that in fourteen days,
all he had unzipped his trousers for was to use
the restroom of his suite at Oriental Hotel.
Afterall, he had the wheels, gold neck chains and
multiple rings on his fingers (never mind that he
had auctioned one of his kidneys at Kuala
Lumpur), so why would he spend his vacation
with just his hands for company?

After a few calls
to friends who were familiar with the terrain, he
drove in the direction of The Palms. A lot of
traffic lay between him and Wadbash at Ajah, he
reasoned, and besides he was no cheapskates.

Tekena was all he desired; straight legs,
prominent hips, not-too-flat stomach, breasts
struggling for air in her knee-length dress, with
that ebony complexion to match. He didn’t
subscribe to light-skinned ladies, only hanging
out with them back in Malaysia because over
there, choice was a luxury he couldn’t afford.
After a brief negotiation, she agreed to
accompany him to his suite for thirty thousand
naira. It was quick and Mr. Bigwillie dozed off in
a matter of minutes, but he had got what he
wanted, and even if he did not notice Tekena slip
one of his gold chains into her handbag, he slept
with a smile on his face….

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Until he woke up the next day, solely clad in a
pair of brown underwear, four policemen
surrounding his bed. Tekena was long gone, and
he was only allowed to wear a pair of shorts and
a yellow singlet as he was whisked into the navy
blue police van , his one round pack on display.
Officers on duty quoted Bible verses as they
pushed him around the counter, and by 10am that
day, he had been arraigned….before the state’s
Ecclesiastical court.

“That you, Isiukwu Bigwillie, on or about the 7th
day of December 2016, at The Palms, Lagos,
within the ecclesiastical district of this court, did
commit the sin of Lust by approaching one
Tekena (now at large), and thereby committed an
offence contrary to the Holy Bible, and punishable
by this court.”

“ That you, Isiukwu Bigwillie, on or about the 7th
day of December 2016, at Oriental Hotel, Lagos,
within the ecclesiastical district of this court, did
commit fornication with one Tekena (now at
large), and thereby committed an offence contrary
to the Holy Bible, and punishable by this court.”

“That you, Isiukwu Bigwillie, on or about the 7th
day of December 2016, at Oriental Hotel, Lagos,
within the ecclesiastical district of this court, did
have intercourse with the use of contraceptive, as
recovered from your hotel room as an exhibit, and
thereby committed an offence contrary to the
principle of natural prescribed by the Bible and
Canon law, and punishable by this court.”

Perplexity would have been a mild word to
describe the look on Bigwillie’s face as he heard
the charge read out to him by the court clerk. He
had no idea that an ecclesiastical court existed in
the first place, and now he was aware of what
constituted offences therein, he wasn’t so sure
how to react. He couldn’t believe that pleasure
had become criminalized, and when he was asked
for his plea, he laughed loud and long before
screaming “guilty as charged!”

The penalty was two weeks of supervised Bible
study and spiritual counselling as well as two
weeks of cleaning cathedral pews, and was to
begin the following Sunday. Bigwillie shook his
head repeatedly as he left the courtroom, and
when he finally got hold of his phone and other
personal effects, his first reaction was to log on
to Facebook and update thus:

“This is why I hate coming to Nigeria. So now, to
dey straff don turn crime? What are our
legislators being paid for sef? Naija and stupid
laws! Tsk tsk…”

Later that night, the men in black visited him
again, this time at the room he booked at Protea
Hotel. Apparently, his Facebook update had been
perceived as malicious, his phone had been
tracked, and he was to be taken away for
questioning, in line with the provisions of the new
Social Media Act, which had been domesticated
by all the states.

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After 24 hours of slaps and mosquito bites, he
was transferred to Alagbon, where he was to
remain “until investigations were concluded”. He
realized that he would be sharing the same cell
with the likes of Chris Nwandu (Head of the
Nigerian Bloggers’Union), Walter Ude, Nathaniel Jonas and Elsie
Godwin, who had been called in for “inciting
statements” on their respective blog posts. Linda
Ikeji had only just been released on bail few hours
earlier.

***********
Meanwhile, at a large mansion in one of the more
secluded parts of the capital territory, Senator
Needo Melanin was laughing with another beer-
bellied senator over glasses of champagne. The
other senator was faithful to his usual dress code
of blue jackets and over-sized black trousers.
Their giggles struggled to negotiate upwards from
the fat in their necks, and they knew what they
were celebrating. The case involving foreign accounts filed against Senator Melanin had died a natural death, the media house that did the investigative journalism had gone under, and the respective bills they
sponsored had grown into fully operative laws.

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Tar Blues

The bus windows are covered with curtains, but you violently pull them back. Nothing and nobody should stand in the way of a view of nature, and no one deserves to be obstructed from seeing the world outside, no, not even for the luxury of air conditioners. Then again, you need the view to clear your head; there had been a mix-up at the park over ticket prices and cash deposits, and the lady over the pay counter had thought it wise to resort to rudeness in the circumstances, forcing you to utter expletives in uncharacteristic fashion. It’s your first time at this transport company, and you know in your heart that they won’t get another chance at making a first impression. The fact that you have to settle for the back seat with your long limbs does not exactly assuage your feelings either.
Continue reading

These Virtual Walls

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You stare at your phone, triumph in your eyes. You have only just dropped it after yet another cyber-bullying session on this ultra-large social network. Yes, some lowlife on Facebook dared to oppose your views on the fuel crisis, and you, aided in part by some of those in your teeming friend list, ran him to ground (virtually at least). He must be wishing that he never ventured to comment on your status; he probably reckoned without your army of voltrons. The e-lynching was brutal like that. Continue reading

The Literal Rule

“I want your body sleeping in my bed….”

Those lyrics from one of Wizkid’s hit tracks resounded in my ears as I stared at the lady seated opposite me at this restaurant table. I could not have been blamed for playing the song in my head. It was Good Friday, it was dark, it was cold, I was bored, and I intended to mark the Passion of the Saviour in my own way. In the end, all that would matter was the word “passion”, never mind how it was applied.

Interestingly enough, it was our first official rendezvous. I had found her three weeks earlier on one of the social networking sites, Badoo to be precise. There is this thing about Badoo and linking up people in the same location, and on further scrutiny I discovered that we resided in this same city. Her profile picture had been quite the sight, and when I tried to chat her up, she responded nicely. We began to learn more about each other (at least what we chose to reveal), exchanging photos now and then, and after an exchange of numbers plus a few raunchy chats, we had finally agreed to meet.

It’s said that pictures don’t lie, but whoever said that probably did not have Photoshop, Filters or other enhancements in mind. I was disappointed as I dialled her number and saw her pick her phone at the entrance of the restaurant. Where were those assets that got me drooling whenever I zoomed her profile picture? Where was that defence? The attack? Heck, she looked a shade darker than the photos she usually sent to me. I felt “catfished”, but then a remedy existed. She looked nothing like her pictures, so I would drink until she did. After all, everyone looked beautiful by 2am.

She glanced at the menu and beckoned on the waiter, making her orders at random, without recourse to the bill. The size of my wallet was of no concern to her. I had heard stories of how ladies deliberately set out to embarrass men on dates, and for a moment I felt that was the case here, but I kept my cool. She held nothing back in her quest to bore a hole in my pocket, and I almost wanted to say, “We’re splitting the bill”, but that would have ruined plans for the night, so I kept my lips sealed.

I tried my best to strike up a conversation, but her lack of interest was remarkable. I threw in all kinds of topics, from Fashion to Music to Politics to the few Nollywood movies I could manage watching, but her disinterested eyes and absent-minded nods succeeded in deflating me. I shrugged inwardly. It was not like I arranged this rendezvous for the conversation anyway.

“So, what’s it going to be?”

I looked up. Apparently, she was done with the meal which she would never have bought with her own money, and she wanted to know the next money-sapping adventure. If she could see my mind, the huge frown there would have scared her.

“What would you like, Dearie?” I asked, putting up the fakest smile I could come up with.

“Erm, it’s Friday. Why don’t we hit up the club, you know, turn up?”

I wanted to tell her that it was “club” and not “crub”, but I did not want to put her down on account of her accent, so I just smiled and said, “Club it is then”.

We walked out of the restaurant after I had taken care of the N20,000 bill, and I took her by the hand to the direction of “my” car, a 2009 Model Toyota Camry. My friend Tola was away from the country, and he had handed me the keys.

“Ahn, where is the other one na? The Jeep?”

She was referring to the Honda Pilot which I had sat in, taken a photo and sent to her. I could feel the disappointment in her voice, and I was glad that she felt shortchanged too. I had anticipated the question, and I quickly lied that I had needed to effect some internal repairs. She responded with a resignatory “ok o”, and I could not tell whether or not she bought the lie (not like I cared), but she fixed herself unto the passenger seat of the Camry, and we got going.

My wallet had been rocked a bit, but I was still able to afford entry into a decent club not too far away. We got in, and I ordered a bottle of Magic Moment. The idea was to get intoxicated, burn out the alcohol with some dancing, and get intoxicated some more. I watched her as she drank, studying her level of composure. She was definitely not new to that level of alcohol. The DJ was in good form that night, and when that track from Wizkid came on air, I held her close as we danced and whispered in symmetry with the lyrics, “I want your body sleeping in my bed”, to which she giggled in response.

We left the club at 12:45am. We were by no means sober, but at least we were reasonably aware of our surroundings. We got into the car, and I soon switched on the ignition, but not before trying out the taste of her lips for a few minutes. She responded appropriately, letting my fingers glide along each end of her chest.

“Where are we going?” She asked, as she heard the sound of the car come to life.

“Where do you think? My house of course”, I replied.

“Are there no hotels around?”

“Baby, I don’t want to treat you like a hoe. I won’t just fix you up in some cheap motel, I’m not that kind of guy. I think I like you, and I want to make you feel comfortable. You could spend the entire weekend if you want, I’ve got makeshifts outfits you could change into. Let’s go to mine.”

She was taken in by those lines. My apartment was a forty-minute journey from the club. Her tongue loosened, and she began to regale me with tales of stingy rich men, and how girls easily got pregnant in her neighbourhood. Of course she didn’t disclose the abortions she had carried out, but I could infer from the tone of the conversation that she was no angel.

PHCN proved to be kind to us as we arrived at my place. We kissed again at the door of the apartment as I fumbled with the keys, and as I got in, I put everything in place. We had a bath together, and I turned up the volume of my home theatre. The CD was a mix of various songs which I had burned from a laptop, so there was the switch from blues to rock to metal to Afro-pop.

I pulled out a pair of handcuffs and chained her to the bed. She seemed so excited. We would play out Fifty Shades of Grey, it seemed. BDSM in Nigeria? She would relive the experience for a lifetime. I took out a belt and began to work on her with it, our bodies unclad.

“Punish me, punish me”, she yelled.

“It’s punish, not ‘polish’ “, I said in my mind, but I just smiled and went about the business of the night.

I stopped whipping her after a while. I went to the cupboard at a corner of the bedroom, observing the lust in her eyes. I pulled out a plier and slowly walked up to her. Her facial expression changed.

“What’s the plier for?” She inquired in an apprehensive tone.

She found out soon enough. I didn’t have to respond verbally. I crawled to the fingers of her left hand, fixed one in between the edges of the plier, and despite her struggles, successfully yanked one off. The pain was excruciating, and her screams turned me on. She kicked and kicked, but i balanced my full body mass on her legs, slapping her into submission as i took off a finger from her right hand, my ears digesting the corresponding screams.

“You monster! I hate you!” She cried.

“Not for long, sweetheart. We won’t be long”, I replied.

I was sure that to her, I sounded like the Devil himself, but I could not be bothered. Two fingers gone, a lot more flesh to go. I pummelled her with my fists, and when she was weak enough, I went to the cupboard, brought out a dagger and went to her again. I threw up the dagger, caught it in mid-air, and with the descending velocity, sank it into her left breast.

She screamed again, and this time I got a hard-on. The beautiful thing was that the music from my home theatre drowned her voice, so nobody could guess what was going on. Moreover, I had caused the bulb to be dim, in line with the night’s task. I dragged the dagger sideways, and with it came a huge mound of flesh. I let the blood gush out steadily, scooping a bit of it with my tongue. I then proceeded to where I perceived her heart would be, sending the dagger through. The screams stopped. I had set her free.

I grinned widely as i transferred the two chopped fingers and the breast to my refrigerator. I was almost feeling guilty, but then I was merely teaching her a lesson, one she had not learnt from Facebook and the Cynthia Osokogu experience. Social networks were made up of all kinds of people, some not particularly fitting into the description of normal, and one had to exercise discretion when dealing with strangers. It was pretty unwise for her to have just decided to hop into bed with a man she had only just come in contact with via Badoo, but then, there were many out there just like her.

It was equally sad that she did not take out time to read, or at least be observant. If she was the type that frequently hunted for knowledge, she would have noticed that the pictures on my wall were that of Albert Fish, Charles Manson, Vlad the Impaler and Jack the Ripper, all cold-blooded murderers in their day. She would have also noticed “The Gospel according to Phillip” and Frederick Nietszche’s “Antichrist” on my bedside table. Philip’s gospel included a passage that suggested romantic ties between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, definitely not part of the 66  (or 73) books of the Bible as we knew it. Nietszche was a well-known 19th century German philosopher, who did not exactly subscribe to Christianity. I would ordinarily fit the perfect description of a weirdo, but here she was, in bed with me, not caring to know more about me first.

Yes, her body was on my bed. I had told her that I wanted my body sleeping on my bed, and that was judt what had played out. I would never know Wizkid’s true intent, but I loved to think that whenever the word “body” was used in describing a human, it referred to a corpse. I had merely applied the Literal Rule, which states that words should be given their ordinary and literal meaning.

I slept off soon afterwards, and woke up next to the dead lady by 7am the next day. She looked more attractive in her state of permanent sleep. I kissed her cold lips, and nibbled at her right breast which was still intact. Yes, i was somewhat sexually attracted to corpses, but which human had the right to judge? I walked to her handbag and took out her University I.D card. I saw her full name: NKECHI GOLDEN OCHENDU, student of Anatomy at the Lagos State University. We had just been through a lecture in her line of discipline, only this time she turned out being the cadaver. Then again, she referred to herself as Nikki in our chats. “Oh well, people had a way of Anglicizing their names nowadays”, I said to myself.

I put her body, her shoes, my blood-stained sheets and her handbag into a body bag. I then lifted the body bag out of the house and hurled it into the boot of my car. I loved my neighbourhood; nobody asked too many questions, everyone minded their business. I started the car and drove towards the direction of the Lagos lagoon. I planned to dump the body bag there. It was fitting. She was Igbo afterall.

(P.S: Happy birthday to Oluchi Ofili and Patricia Oma Edet. They are  good friends of mine, and ardent followers of this blog. They love stories, and this one is for them, as they mark their birthday.)

The Carry-Over

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It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, with much for Felix to look forward to. His boss had decided to be nice and not rob him of his weekend by summoning him to the office, his favourite football club (Chelsea) was featuring in an English FA Cup game in which they were favourites to win (they had been pitched against a club in the lower divisions), and Omoye, his girlfriend of eight months, was cooking up a delicacy, in a bid to save the pots in his house from loneliness. Continue reading

Helper & Meddler

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“Brethren, open your Bibles to……scratch that, go to the Bible App on your Galaxy tab, click Search, type ‘expectation’, you’ll probably find that portion which says ‘the expectation of the righteous shall never be cut short’. I can’t quite remember the exact verse. Just take a look at it. By His Grace and by your Faith, you are made righteous, and your expectations this season cannot and will not be cut short. Amen?” Continue reading

Your Place

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“J, I’ve got something important I want to tell you.”

“Funny, because there’s something I want to tell you too.”

“Ok, go on.”

“No, you first.”

“Nah, after you.”

“You first….I insist.”

Typical argument between Irene and I. We argued about everything, from who should pay the bus fare, to who should sit first on the church pew. I was always willing to be a gentleman for Irene, and though she was not always up for that, she eventually decided to dance to the “ladies first” script this time and choose to speak first. Our eyes shared the same level of brightness as our skins absorbed the Sunday evening breeze, and as I savoured the atmosphere around Nike Lake, a small resort located in the nation’s coal capital, I wondered what Irene had to say. Nevertheless, I knew it had to be something important. Irene never suggested Nike Lake unless there was a crucial decision she had to make. I was that familiar with her.

Yes, it had been over seven years, precisely seven years and ten months, since I first set eyes on Irene at the main auditorium of that federal university in the South-south where we had our university education. I had bumped into her as I struggled through the long queues and sticky bodies to process my clearance as a fresh undergraduate, and just as if she saw through my personality as a shy boy, she had walked up to me first. I had feebly and nervously replied “Joey” when she asked for my name, apparently awestruck by her light complexion and small but graceful frame, but there was this spark that greeted the stuffy auditorium at that moment, and from then on a wonderful friendship began. We read together (we were both admitted to study English and Literature), we went to church together, we ate at the same restaurant, we always found ourselves in the same class assignment groups, and after our graduation, I fought successfully to make sure that we did our service year in the same state.

I could do anything for Irene. She had a heart of gold, always tried to see the good in people, and she knew just how to encourage others. She it was who talked me out of dropping out when I became disillusioned with school in my second year following the death of my mother, and her soothing words came in handy again in my penultimate year when our department had to host a conference involving all English and Literature students nationwide, and I as the departmental president ran out of funds, ideas and faith. She was as intelligent as she was beautiful, earning the best result in our freshman year, and ultimately graduating with a Second Class Upper Division, many thanks to the miserly lecturers we had. She had pretty good culinary skills too, coming out tops in a number of cooking competitions in our undergraduate years. She was too trusting and a little indecisive though, and these flaws played a part in her experiencing three occasions of heartbreak, none of which derailed her firm belief in Love and Humanity.

We had seen our fair share of failed relationships and we had supported each other through all the hurt, but now I wanted more. I had finally realised that I actually loved Irene. I couldn’t fight it anymore. I had involved myself in emotional debates through the years, but now it was clear. I wanted to wake up each morning next to her, her hair entangled in my face, her breath greeting my skin. She loved kids, and I definitely wasn’t going to mind future evenings together, sitting outside a small beautiful house with two little Joeys and one little Irene. Why couldn’t we? We usually said that each had all which the other wanted in the opposite sex, and then again we knew how to handle each other’s flaws. After all, relationship counsellors usually advised that we go for our friends when it came to the long term. This was why my eyes lit up that late afternoon. I wanted to make my feelings known, and I wondered how she would take it.

“J, you know how you always tell me to follow my heart?”, she began, jolting me back to reality.

I nodded at a fast pace. She was right. She usually came to me for advice whenever she was not so sure about entering a new relationship or helping someone out financially, and the words “follow your heart” usually served as my response, accompanied by a smile and a joining of my hands with hers.

“Joey, I am getting married…..to Fred”, she blurted out with an air of decision.

Fred? Fred? The same Fred, with whom she said she had called it quits because he smoked too much and had hit her in a fit of anger? The same Fred, whom she said spent more than half the time on Nairabet, and enjoyed forcing her to make love to him? Was this the Fred whose last she wanted to substitute hers with? If my eyes were light bulbs minutes earlier, they had blown out by the time she completed her statement.

“Is this the same…..?”

“Yes it is the very Fred”, she cut in, putting a stop to my attempt at a query. “During the three weeks when you had to attend that Writers’ Workshop at the nation’s capital, Fred and I had series of discussions. He apologised, I took him back, and after a lot of thought and prayer, I realise that I really love him. He is a great guy. He has his flaws, but that will change. I am sorry I didn’t bring this up earlier….and no, it’s not what you think. I am not pregnant for him. I am just following my heart, and I know that I’m right this time”.

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A lot of thought? Yea, right. Like the amount of thought she put in when she decided to date Femi during the second semester of our freshman year, barely a week after meeting him. We knew how that turned out; the party ended as soon as got access to the cake. It must have been the same amount of thought she put in when she got involved with Bankole during our service year, when even a little investigation earlier on would have helped her find out that he was actually a married man. Such a crucial step, a life-reaching decision, and she couldn’t afford me the courtesy of a discussion? The whole Writers’ Workshop thing was just a lame excuse. I could have sought permission to leave for a few days to discuss this matter with Irene. I cared for her that much.

“What do you think, Joey?”

“Well if it’s what makes you happy, why not? It’s your heart we are talking about here.”

That was the best reply I could muster from my head. I was too shocked to think about anything. I wasn’t being sincere and Irene knew it, but her announcement had probably caused her too much inner excitement to bother about my countenance.

“You said you wanted to tell me something, J.”

“Oh, it’s nothing. I just wanted to say that I really value the friendship we have nurtured all these years, and that I will always be there to support you. Kind of like a re-affirmation of my commitment to this friendship.”

“Joseph!”

Yea, she got me there. My eyes, my face, even my imaginary juggling said it all. At least her euphoria had not blinded her from being able to detect when I was lying. I didn’t feel the need to let out my feelings any more, as it would have made no difference, but Irene still knew how to pull words out of me, and I let loose.

“I love you, Irene Ojiugo Udechukwu”, I said, with the pent up energy of four years. “I have been running from it all before, but I just can’t continue. I have fought myself hard enough to you. I feel my chest when I think of you. I am sick of standing in the way of my own happiness. I want the strands of your hair getting lost in my face. I want my fingers to always lie in the spaces between yours. I want your perfume to be all that my bedsheets reek of. I want to open my eyes to each new day, knowing that you are less than an inch away. I need nothing else in a lady that I don’t already find in you. It’s you Irene, you I want.”

On other days she would have burst out laughing, but she could sense the seriousness in my emotional confessions, and she just stood silent. After an interval of about five speechless minutes, she got closer, and holding my face between her palms, said:

“Joey, I know you mean all you’ve said. Truth be told, I love you too, I really do…..but not in the way you desire. You have been there for me all these years, and what we share is great. We don’t have to ruin it all by adding romance to it. You are a friend, the very best, a brother, even more. Let’s be friends forever, what you ask of me will only complicate things. I know you will always be there for me, and I promise to be around for you too, albeit in a different capacity from what you want. I love how bonded we are, and I want things to stay that way.”

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Disappointment. Deflation. Demoralization. These nouns put together would not have done justice to describe how I felt upon hearing her words, but she was not done.

“Because you area super friend, my best friend, I have chosen you to give a special toast for the wedding which we have fixed for next five Saturdays. Our engagement party is coming up next Friday, and I will need you to be at Ascot Hotel to organise the place and also help the drinks. Pleaaaase? Thank you”, she went on, looking at me with those eyes I could never say no to, and handing me a peck on the cheek. “If it were possible, I would have selected you to be my Maid of Honour, but guys are not allowed to do that…..hahaha. I need you around. I need your protection, you are one of the few good men left. You are a great guy, and I know that someday you’ll find a lady who’s just right for you.”

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Brother, Friend, potential Chief Bridesmaid but for my gender. That was all Irene saw when she thought of me…..after all this time! After seeing her through all the breakups and tears! After giving up some of my blood for her when she suffered a haemorrhage in her final year and no family member could be reached! After taking a bank loan so I could get her that N500,000 camera because she said she loved Photography, and going on to link her up to UK-based photographer Ade Okelarin! After all the nights in school where I risked ridicule by carrying her handbag because she felt really weak after studying on most evenings! After deciding to break up with Nonye and Abby (in penultimate year and service year respectively) simply because Irene did not like them! She apparently attached nothing to our long hours on the phone, to those poems we read to each other under the tree adjacent to the school library, to those times we held hands during fellowship Drama Night, to those rounds of serial texting three nights a week. For her, they were just expressions of friendship. My heart sank.

Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so bad if I had obeyed my lusts and had my way with her that night. Yea, that night when she had too much to drink at last year’s End of Year dinner at our workplace, and got so horny, urging me to explore her moist regions. I declined her request, choosing to respect our friendship and refusing to take advantage. I couldn’t help but feel that keeping her clothes on was the worst mistake I had made. There was now no difference between me and a cashier who counted other people’s money, but couldn’t get access to any. It was too late now. Irene had made her decision, never mind the level of wisdom (or lack thereof) behind it.

“No qualms. I’ll take charge of the party. I always got your back. Congratulations”, I said in a solemn tone, while reaching out to hug her so tightly.

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All that had taken place eight days ago. I am all alone in my apartment, my phones are switched off, and I am sitting on the sofa beside two empty bottles of Jack Daniels. It’s my third consecutive day without a bath, and I don’t think I’ll be hitting the shower anytime soon. I know that Irene’s engagement party is slated for this Friday and there are arrangements to be discussed, but I’m in no mood for that. I have thought deeply, and I have concluded that makes no sense living with the fact that Irene will never be mine. There are lessons to be learnt from all this though: Spot out your place in people’s lives as soon as you can, and never fight too hard to earn one. Define your friendships and relationships with people early enough, and no matter how corny you may sound, make your intentions clear, or else you’ll find yourself deep in the Friend Zone before you know it, and once you are in there, it takes a miracle to climb out. I have posted these nuggets on my Facebook wall, I have written them down in this small piece of paper on the table, and I’m happy that I remembered to lodge my Will at the Probate Registry last week. I can’t get a gun, and dangling from a rope would be too painful, so these painkillers together with the liquor I just gulped down should numb my senses long enough to apply this knife to my wrists. No, it’s no use staying around. Irene will never be “nwunye Joseph”, I’ll be one Joseph whose dreams didn’t come true, and at best she’ll just shed a few tears and move on. I hope my younger brother avoids the same mistakes I made, and I hope he never comes across a lady who will subject him to this torture. They say that suicide is an automatic ticket to eternal damnation, but Hell would be no different from a life where I’ll be nothing more than just a friend to Irene.
Whatever you do, be careful not to get friend-zoned!

(Follow on Twitter @Le_Bouquineur)