Two things to tell you; two quick things, that’s all.
See, the first is about shamelessness.
About being invited over by an unfaithful girlfriend to spend the night, and then being refused the merest of touch or kiss through the night. And you know you are a cultured one, you never seize what isn’t yours, like the less-enlightened out there do (you don’t even try to drape your arms around her sleeping figure, no). So, your sleep is fitful, stormy like Jonah’s sea, knowing how close, and yet how far, bliss is.
You wake up in the morning to a ring on her phone – someone telling her they are coming. Suddenly she is telling you, immediately after the call, that you needed to leave; and while you were dressing up you tried asking her why you had to leave, why she had to hide you. And you were not fast enough in dressing up, or the person was much too fast – anyone works – but he was ascending the stairs when you were coming out of her apartment. You know it was an ‘he’ because you heard his voice, deep with effortless masculinity, from the closet she hurriedly shoved you into. You also heard the firm strides –the authority of it – just below her cackle of delight in welcoming him. There was something about ruffling clothes that sounded like hugs – hugs with meanings you could only guess and weep silently at.
In the closet, as you heard their retreating footsteps making for her apartment, you replay the haste with which she rushed after you to push you into the closet – the waste closet under the stairs- to hide you from the approaching visitor. And you were there with the rank smell of decomposing baby faeces, and the cockroaches and the scurrying, chattering rats – for at least 7 minutes. And you came out with a newly acquired smell. Tail tucked between your feet, you went home.
Then much later in the day she calls you, no explanations, no apologies, to tell you “Baby, I miss you – Come and keep me company. Oh, and buy some chocolate on your way over; and maybe pick my laundry from the line downstairs on your way up.” And you cooed your pleasure at coming over. You purred it. And you went over, and bought the expensive chocolate box, and picked the laundry like a dutiful one, and went up to her flat.
When you get up there, she is alone in all her gorgeousness, in her eye-wateringly skimpy clothes. She waves at you distractedly when she opens for you, and rushes in to plunk her lithe body on the sofa. And you see her munching on a mango, the same mango she’d told you that she does not like or eats. And when you ask her where she got the mango from, she says “Oh, my friend brought it over this morning.” She says it like an afterthought, like you were supposed to know and not irritate her by asking, like she never said she hated mangoes. You come over to where she sat, to kiss her, she waves you away- “I’m watching a season film and I don’t like being distracted, kraa.” You sigh hopelessly and drop the clothing still in your hands on the chair’s arm.
You sit beside her and drop the nylon bag containing the chocolate you bought along, on the floor between you. She notices that, checks inside the bag and goes “Ohh, Massa…this is not the brand I like, paa” you try to defend yourself and tell her it’s the best one, the most exclusive one, that you specially selected it just for her, but she scoffs, ignores you and goes back to watching the “season film” that brooks no disturbance and the mango she hates.
And you sit there for hours, shuffling with your phone idly, hoping the TV she is watching it from crashes and burns, hoping she kisses you, just a little one on the cheek. You sit there covered in shame’s heavy cloak, too weak, too foolish, too afraid to stand up, and walk out the door like you should, and reclaim some of the dignity that is shattering everywhere around where you sit. And you know why. Because of the second thing, that most grievous of existence…
The second thing is loneliness: Heart-wrenching, gut-sucking, head-pounding loneliness.
See, you were not born ugly. You grew into Ugly – and that ugliness wasn’t a sudden one, it crept on you, slowly and quietly, that you did not notice when it began to define you. When it became you. And it wasn’t as if you did not want to learn to live with ugliness, you just didn’t know how to learn. It broke you beyond recovery. So you stunted. All the growth your mates went through, the bikes they learnt to ride, the games they went playing, the parties they got invited to, the girls they got to ask out and sleep with – you missed all that.
At 26, you are still a virgin. 26! Imagine!
Your only redemption is books…a false redemption, but it must do. You read books by the ton, you read like they are an illicit rite that would be banned soon. So you know a little bit about everything. A little, wee bit, to emphasize.
But even that is still not enough. Books are great and all, but would they get drunk with you and screw obliging girls with you? Oh yes, you have sex on your brain like a bad virus. Because you know nothing about it, porn disgusts you, sex though…well, it intrigues. Like some 5th century culture you can admire solemnly from afar.
Loneliness means friendlessness, Judas friendship, exploiting acquaintances and accidental companionship.
Like this one you call your girlfriend, an accidental thing. You met her because you both work in the same building, and she is lively, jovial and willing to have you fill up the blanks in her time.
So when you asked her to lunch the first time and she accepted, you were building families and having grandchildren with her already in your head as she took the first spoon of the soup that cost you a quarter of a month’s pay.
You grinned and laughed at her littlest joke, even though you knew they were some of the stupidest things ever uttered by mankind.
You repeated the meal the next day and got her number the day after the next and borrowed money from your bank director brother to survive the month the day after that day. And the fifth day, she invited you over to her place, and the sixth day she invited you over again and while you were trying to help her mop a water spill on the floor she grabbed your crotch and gave you a daring look in the eye that fulfilled some of your wildest fantasies.
And who would refuse a topping of the fantasies, who would say no to an attractive woman who goes on her knees to unzip your trousers, lower your boxers and neatly tucks your stiff and wet penis into her mouth.
Sex didn’t follow, she only allowed you to kiss her boobs. And that was how it began. You became her thing – because she held you close for that first two weeks with the promise of sex, but no sex. After those weeks, it was all down to a peck. One day you worked up the courage to ask her about what your relationship was, but she told you she loved you, you were her boyfriend, stupid, and she pecked you on the cheek. You stayed long hours, long nights, let your take-home office work suffer , washed her plates and clothes, cleaned her place. You did all that. And got quick hugs and cheek pecks for your effort.
And you had no friend to call and tell, no one to leave her for. You stayed and became her thing.
Oh, we mustn’t forget about the long trips she has with her many older-men friends – Alhaji, Alhajis brothers and friends, Alhaji’s former classmates, Alhaji’s staff, Alhaji’s-this-and-that. The long minutes of calls to them while you massaged her back, the new wads of note Alhaji gave her, how she is only using Alhaji to get a better job even though he wants to make her his third wife. And the calls to her exes, the lengthy list of them. Dave, Kwarme, Seidu, Senna etc. all calling to tell her they want her back in their lives.
But it’s either you stayed with her or embrace your loneliness.
And you reject loneliness- with its attendant dignity, self-respect and Manliness. You are her thing till she tires and throws you away, as she has done to the many others.