The okada stopped in front of the address I’d given him and I hopped off, paying him with some of the change I collected from the fruit woman before heading inside the house. I waved to the sometimes over-sabi gateman standing outside the gate and made my way to my apartment which was in the back.
Opening the door, I went in and closed it behind me, moving into the kitchen and dumping the pineapple on a tray there. I continued to my room and changed into a t-shirt and shorts before returning to the kitchen to prepare the pineapple and to continue thinking.
We woke up, Sunday morning – or rather I woke up and made tea. Usually she would already be up, and in fact be the one to wake me but I guess she was exhausted. She did not wake up until I kissed her gently and she responded, putting her arms around my neck and almost spilling the tea I was carrying all over the bed. We laughed self-consciously like two kids and she collected the tea from me, refusing to taste it till she brushed her teeth. So I made her stay in bed, brought the necessary toiletries and a bowl for spitting in for her, and she brushed right there in bed. As I carried away what she used and handed her the teacup, I caught her looking at me strangely. But she liked it and she was happy – or so her eyes told me.
We spent the day indoors, only stepping out briefly to buy chicken and burgers at the KFC stall in Shoprite Alausa and then coming back home to eat. That was when she mentioned a trip to Benin to see her folks.
She would be travelling the following day, to return three days later. They had not seen her in a while and were getting concerned even though she called them regularly. I understood, even though my folks when in Lagos and I had no such issues. Much later in the day she left for home, almost in tears as she entered the cab taking her to Iyana Iba. She kept giving me instructions; to warm the efo stew, and to boil the ewedu and to air out the yams and plantains and… I paid the driver and he zoomed off, taking the one great love of my life away.
We spoke on the phone after that, and all the way through her trip to Benin. She called to tell me she had gotten home and we would speak later. I in the meantime had made arrangements with a friend and had gotten an exquisite piece of jewelry. It was time to make it official.
But she never came back. Not to me.
I came to myself to find that I had stopped peeling the pineapple halfway through, and I had laid the knife aside. I picked it up again and continued where I had stopped – and did the exact same thing with my memories.
It’s been three months, and the only thing I know for sure is that she’s alive and well…well.
Early the following morning she had called and we had had quite a lengthy conversation that ended on the note of her saying she was missing me so bad – and couldn’t wait to be back. I held the exquisite piece of jewelry in my hand and told her I couldn’t wait too. And for the first time in the seven months we had been together, I told her I loved her. I actually put it in words.
We hung up and continued with the day – and sometime in the course of the day I got a text saying she was so busy, she was sorry but we would talk. I replied saying no problem – she should take all the time she needed. That night she called and I spoke with her entire family. They sounded like they liked me and the idea of us together. But you never know.
I was a happy man. I made arrangements for some chocolates and cakes and candles and the like. I made plans for a huge dinner – after which I intended to propose to her. Somehow I floated through the day.
And then she called sometime that afternoon. The moment I picked the call I knew something was wrong…terribly so. She spoke and it was her but at the same time it was not. Something had gone out of her voice; something that made the phone conversation feel as though I was listening to a pre-recorded message. She spoke and I felt the bottom drop out of my world. I felt the lights of my life go out; I felt how Uriah must have felt when looking down from heaven (or hell) and realizing he had died because he had a beautiful wife the king just so happened to covet. I think I died a little that afternoon.
Sounding like a cracked-up Lady Gaga on auto-tune, she told me it was over between us – that she could not be with me anymore. She said things had changed; and it was best if I just forgot about her. She thanked me for the most beautiful seven months of her life; and that she hoped I would find someone who would love me like I deserved. And then she hung up.
I must have stood at my desk, holding the phone with my mouth open for several minutes. Even if she had a given me a chance to say something I doubt I would have been able to. As it was, she did not.
In shock I called back. The phone just rang. After a while, it was switched off. I was confused.
No. I think I died.
The day after that I did not go to work; choosing instead to stake out her Iyan-Iba apartment. I must have left that area sometime after eleven at night, and she did not make an appearance. Not for the next one month.
It was all just so crazy and I know this sounds so unreal; like something you would find in a movie or a book – online or somewhere else, but it’s the truth. That was it for me and her.
I took some time off work; I could not function properly. Not after that severe a shock. It took a while, but slowly as the shock began to wear off I started feeling a strange kind of anger. A really violent anger that had me lying awake late at night hurling curses and calling her all sorts of names. It got to a head when one day, on my way from Shoprite, I nearly killed an okada man who nearly hit me. As it was, I broke two of his ribs and his jaw. I was arrested.
It was sobering for me – me who never lost his cool. I was afraid of this person I was becoming, just because I’d lost someone I thought was forever. It was all too much.
I was released that same day, and I made plans and travelled to Jos the following day. I knew no one there, but I did not care. I just wanted to get as far away from Lagos as possible. After a few weeks, the anger had receded, leaving only some sadness and a dull ache somewhere in my chest region whenever I thought about her. I returned to Lagos shortly after that.
When I arrived Lagos, I made some half-hearted attempts to find her but was stonewalled. I gave up, went back to work and tried to continue living as I knew how. But I also knew things would never be the way they were. Not with me.
I kept the ring, placed it somewhere on my dresser and looked at it every morning. What made the pain so drawn out was mostly the fact that I had no idea what went wrong. Friends kept asking me what happened…all I could say was I don’t know. And though they mostly thought I was just trying to be vague, I had no idea.
And I hate loose ends.
I finished cutting up the pineapple and poured the cubes into a bowl before placing it in the refrigerator. As I poured myself a glass of cold water, while eying the half-full bottle of McDowell’s Premium Whisky, a series of knocks sounded at my door.
“Coming!” I shouted, shutting the fridge door and placing the cup on the sink before wiping my hands on a red towel. “Who is it?” I asked as I approached the doorway.
“It’s me,” a sing-song voice replied and I froze, almost losing my reasoning. No way; I thought. It couldn’t be!
It could not be. It should not be. I ran to the door and tore it open.
Of course it couldn’t have been. And it wasn’t.
It was Ayanfe, my landlady’s daughter bearing a message from her mother. I quietly closed the door and went back to my pineapple.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll find someone else to make me happy – someone else to peel pineapples and chill them before serving them to me. Or maybe that ‘someone else’ would prefer oranges…or might not even like fruits.
Maybe tomorrow. But today…