Wale lay on his bed trying to relax by reading a thriller novel; he was the only one in the room that evening, as the rest of his room mates had gone out to study. Heaven knew that he needed to calm his mind any way he could, after the very eventful day that he had just had.
Just then, his friend Chibuzor walked into the room, wearing an anxious expression that he was trying hard to mask.
“Wale man, how now?” he had said, plastering a smile on his face, but the attempt at gaiety was so obviously forced that Wale noticed right away.
“I’m well o… but it’s you I should be asking. Look at your face… with wrinkles as though it has been attacked by serious gully erosion!”
At this, Chibuzor’s smile vanished. He plunked himself down on a nearby chair and dragged it close to Wale’s bed.
“Wale, how long have we been friends?”
At this, Wale started up from his bed and put the book to one side.
“Ah-ah, I don’t like the way you are starting this speech. What is this? Is it that you about to go into armed robbery and you want me to join you? Because if that is the case, I should tell you right away that…”
Chibuzor cut him off. “I’m serious.”
“OK o,” replied Wale, instantly dropping the jocularity. “Three years.” They had met each other within the first week of studies as new students of UNILAG’s Mechanical Engineering department, and they had hit it off straightaway; Chibuzor’s outgoing personality meshed well with Wale’s more laid back demeanour.
“So you know that when I say what I am going to say, I do not mean to disrespect you or offend you in anyway.”
By now, Wale was really perturbed. What was this, indeed? “Man, you are killing me with suspense. Out with it, now!”
Chibuzor sighed deeply. “Wale, I’m in love with Kemi.”
Wale stared at Chibuzor in astonishment for a few moments, then he burst out laughing. This was not the reaction Chibuzor had been expecting.
“What… what is so funny about that?”
Wale stifled his laughter, and pulled on a mask of seriousness. “Chi-boy, forgive me… it’s just very strange, that’s all. You come in here and announce that…”
“That I am in love with your girlfriend, yes. Wale, honestly, I have felt this way for a long time… in fact, since you and I first set eyes on her when we saw her walking around campus like the lost Jambite that she was, I have been in love with her.”
Wale’s jaw dropped in amazement. “But… but it was you that was encouraging me to go and chase her! Why did you never say anything? How could I not have known?”
Chibuzor sighed again. “Wale, I could see that she was taken with you. When we approached her to offer her help, it was you she directed all her questions to, despite the fact that I was the one doing the answering. It was you that her eyes smiled at, it was you whose few remarks that day she laughed at. I reckoned that it was better for her to find someone she would be happy with and who would be happy with her, rather than enter a one-sided relationship. So I backed off – and it seems my decision was the right one, as both of you have been very happy together since.”
While Chibuzor was speaking, Wale was shaking his head from side to side in amazement. Chibuzor in love with Kemi! He would never have guessed it. And he thought he could read his friend so well.
“OK, so obviously, something made you decide that you could no longer hold your peace. What?”
Another sigh. “Wale, there comes a time when, despite the wall you have built around yourself with the things you have thought, the things you have told yourself, the things you have done, reality still breaks through. I have been denying that I love this girl for so long, and it has been eating me up inside to the point where I cannot see her without feeling pain – yes, real pain – that she is not mine.” Wale made to interrupt, but Chibuzor held up a hand. “And it has come to the point where I have to tell her how I feel about her, even though she is your girlfriend, even if it means ending our friendship.”
“Really? This means that much to you?”
Chibuzor nodded emphatically.
“Well, my friend, who is still my friend, I have news for you. Kemi and I are no longer an item.”
Chibuzor’s eyes widened in surprise as he exclaimed, “What? When did this happen?”
Wale flopped tiredly back on the bed. “Let me tell you about it,” he said wearily.
He had called her earlier on that day, saying that they needed to meet; he had something he wanted to tell her.
“My sweet cherry, how are you, now?” She had always called him ‘sweet cherry’; at first, he’d been OK with that, but recently the phrase had begun to grate. “I hope it’s nothing serious? If it’s bad, you can tell me now; I don’t like being kept in suspense.”
“No, it’s nothing… bad,” Wale said. Well, at least, in the long run, it would be good for both of us, he thought. “It’s just something that I would prefer to discuss in person. Meet me at Fingers as I’ve asked in a couple of hours.”
A few hours later, Kemi was seated opposite him at the eatery on campus that they often met for lunch. She was her usual pretty, bubbly self, dressed in a light yellow blouse and skin-tight jeans. Wale on the other hand was trying to suppress the turmoil of emotions in his head.
“So,” she began, leaning forward with a beam on her face, “what is it my sweet cherry wants to tell me face-to-face?”
Wale had dreaded this moment for a long time; how could he do this? But he remembered what he had told himself; best to get it over with, as quickly as possible.
“I’m sorry, Kemi, but I think that the relationship between you and I is not working out.”
Kemi nodded vigorously. “It’s true – it’s getting harder for us to find the time to meet, especially with all these additional assignments that lecturers are heaping upon us. I’m sure that each lecturer thinks that his course is the only course we poor students do. Just yesterday, Dr. Falegan was telling us that in addition to the coursework he had given us, he also expected us to work on a team project…”
Wale interrupted abruptly. “Kemi, listen. I am not just saying that the relationship is not working out. I am also saying that the relationship is broken, and cannot be fixed. Therefore, the relationship should be abandoned.”
Kemi stared at him speechless for a full ten seconds. Then she said in a small voice, “A-are you saying that you don’t want to be my boyfriend any more?”
Wale could hear the raw shock in that voice, but he steeled himself to continue. “Yes, that is what I am saying. I don’t think that we should be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore.”
“But why?” she asked, anguish mixing with shock. “What did I do? I-I didn’t know… you never said… when did you start feeling this way? Was it a few weeks ago?”
Wale debated. Should he tell her that he had been out of love with her not just for weeks, but for months? No – best not to add salt and pepper to her wounds. He should ease up on the accelerator pedal a bit. “Kemi,” he said gently, “I cannot tell you when I started feeling this, but it has got to the point I just have to be honest with you, rather than continue this way. I just don’t feel the love that I felt initially when we first met, and I think that rather than continue in a relationship where I’m not giving you what you want, it’s better for us to go our separate ways.”
Kemi, shook her head. “No, Wale. We can make this work. We just need to sit down and discuss; we can thrash this out. Just let me know what the problem is, and I’m sure we will resolve it.”
Time to push down on the pedal again. Wale gave her a firm stare and said, “No, Kemi. There is nothing to discuss, nothing to thrash out. There is no problem to resolve. It’s over.” He watched sadly as he saw her face finally crumple and the tears begin to stream from her eyes. He wished he could find a way to relieve the pain she was feeling, but there was no going back; this had to be done.