I knew I didn’t love him anymore.
The only man that genuinely loved me. Or, rather, acted it out so well.
From the way my shoulders slouched on sighting his beautiful face at my gate, and my heart sank deeper within me eliciting intense feeling of irritation, I knew the cord that once held our hearts together was severed. I hadn’t approved of his visit to my place that day. But when he appeared at my gate, I was clueless. It had been happening that way since the past three years. Yet, it was impossible for me to keep him out even if I wanted to, because, hard as it was for me to admit it, he was still special to me. I was sure it was the specialty he was mistaking for love. Once more my guilty conscience assailed me with inquiries about my actual love for this man from the onset as I unbolted the small black gate that secured my two rooms apartment to let him in. As always, I found no answer to those inquiries, simply because they lied with my old self which was long dead.
I welcomed Adinoyi with a greeting not louder than a mumble. He responded with pressing me against his hard body. His scent filled my nostrils as my head pressed against his chest. He never used cologne. Not like he smelt bad anyway. His scent brought back regretful scenes of the night I’d taken in all of him, a scene that haunted me unending for two years, and I cleared it off with a sigh. It had been that easy for me to handle since after then.
“How are you?” he asked, planting a kiss noisily on my left cheek and flashing his front set of obviously artificial teeth. Each time I saw those teeth, I imagined how rough he used to be before I met him. That was a part of him I was yet to experience. He had told me the story of how he lost those teeth in a fight just once, and it had strangely stuck to my memory since then. With the subtle way he treated me, it probably no longer existed, but a part of me didn’t believe that.
“I’m fine,” I replied without smiling, walking back into the house. Someone suddenly bumped into me. Otoyinoyi! I stretched my hand and hit him on the back.
“Have you lost your manners, or do you think I’m a piece of furniture?” I demanded with a glare. Without apologising, he ran into his father’s hands, scratching the part of his back where my hand had touched him. Otoyinoyi was a carbon copy of his father. The pliable lips, the black eyes . Except that he was a darker version.
For a while, his father just stared at me.
“Is that the way you treat him?” he asked in a whisper, amazed.
“Didn’t you see what just happened? Besides, you’re not the one training him,” I snapped. Instead of getting upset, Adinoyi began to laugh. That soft, hearty laughter I knew him with.
“But I told you to marry me so that we can train him together and you refused.”
“You’ll grow green hair waiting for me,” I mumbled.
“Hey, this woman!” he exclaimed, “but the green hair has yellowed already.”
I forced back a laugh making its way to my throat. “Adinoyi, what do you want? I’ve told you to stop visiting.” My face assumed its usual grim appearance. At this moment, Oloyinoyi left his father’s hand and went back to face the TV screen where he had been since the past two hours. Since I slapped him the last time for standing with us listening to our conversation, he had learned to use his senses. I watched him pick up his game pad and return to his video game, then I turned back to Adinoyi. Not necessarily that I disapproved of his listening to us, but even if he wanted to, courtesy demanded that he shouldn’t show it.
“Ebiere, it’s been ten years!” Adinoyi whispered. I looked into his eyes. The longing for me was still there. As fresh as ever. I wanted to tell him to swear that he hadn’t seen underneath the cloth of any other woman since then, but I already knew the response. He would swear till heaven came down on us.
“There are ladies outside, Adinoyi. Heavy girls!”
He smiled and shook his head at my utterance.
“I don’t need you to tell me that.”
“Then go with them. Go and stop pestering my life,” I said, irritation clogging my mind.
“Get me one first,” he joked. I laughed for just a moment, sighed and took my seat on one of the single leather sofas in my sitting-room. He was still standing when I turned.
“So, you won’t even offer me a seat,” he inquired. I sighed in exasperation.
“That’s the problem with you men. You always want the women to do everything for you. Even poke your nose to remove dried mucus obstructing your breathing.”
“Ebiere, you’re a woman. Stop being stubborn!”
I watched him finally settle into a white plastic chair near the door. He stretched out his legs before him and began to undo the upper buttons of his shirt.
“I’m thirsty.” he yawned. I looked him from head to toe and let out a low hiss. Another smile appeared on his face when he saw my reaction.
“But, why do you hate me so much, what have I done to you that’s so unforgivable?”
“You keep asking unnecessary questions. You put me in this condition I’ve been unable to get out of.”
“I’ve accepted responsibility. And you know why everything happened the way it did. I’m good now. Let’s get married.”
“You think I’m a fool?” I asked, wide eyed.
“So, you want to remain this way, alone?”
“You taught me. Now, it’s my life.”
“Living alone is the life of a prostitute.”
I turned away from my TV screen and faced him.
“How I so wish I had been one, Adinoyi.” I said, narrowing my gaze, “I should have been a whore, used my life to the full, then get married. That way, I can accept whatever a man does to me.” By the time I finished, I was blinking uncontrollably to keep back tears that were forming in my eyes as memories made their ways back to my mind. The hawking to keep us, the abandonment at the hospital, my eventual disappearance, his sudden appearance.
“Then you should have done that if that should have made marrying you easier for me.”
I didn’t find his statement in the least funny. Instead, I felt sparks in my head.
“Adinoyi, get out!” I got up, walked to the door and held it open. Adinoyi’s mouth was agape when I turned.
“Get out, please,” I insisted.
“Yes, I mean it, and don’t come back.”
He didn’t get up until several minutes after. As he got up to leave, I knew from his downcast gaze that he was awash with embarrassment. Probably, this was the most he could take from me, I thought frightfully.
As I watched him walk silently out of my apartment into the darkness that had taken over outside, I waited patiently for my own life to end too.