Esther and I communicated a lot via social media chatting. It all felt like a long-distance relationship to me and I wasn’t cut out for such; more especially, because of the fact that I had not yet told her my mind. It did not seem manly enough to me to propose to a girl over the phone. I considered it quite childish and immature, except maybe you were in prison, or in another form of indefinite solitary confinement. I once read an article online regarding the pros and cons of long-distance relationships and how it required lots of hard work and trust from both parties to maintain, especially where face-to-face contact was very limited. I could only wish I meant something too to Esther as well as she did to me, so that it would not all be child’s play after all. My friend, Frank, had boasted about getting a new girlfriend and had poked me to do the same.
So, today, while we chatted, Esther told me she was coming to the state to attend her elder brother’s traditional wedding ceremony. I was elated at the thought of seeing her again after almost two months since we last met during the post matriculation examination at the University of Nigeria. She said she was to meet with her elder sister who schooled at the federal polytechnic in the state, and who would then take her to the venue of the wedding in a town I hadn’t yet heard of, called Emeabiam.
I wasn’t much interested in the details. I called and asked to see her.
“How about us seeing each other?”
“You mean a date? I’m going for a wedding and you’re asking me out on a date. Seriously, do you wanna marry me?”
“Yes, a date. It won’t take long.”
“I don’t know if I wanna marry you.”
“Umm… OK. Your home. Where do you live?”
Jeez! She even wanted to visit!
Quickly, I gave her our home address and gave her directions on how to get there. It was a few minutes past noon when Esther called, telling me she was close, and I left to go and pick her up. The weather was bright and very hot.
“The sun is obviously angry today.” I said to Esther as we walked down to the compound.
“True. But it has to be careful with my eyes.” She said, covering her eyes by placing her right palm across her forehead, as she looked ahead. This time around, her lips were painted red, there was mascara on her eyelashes, and there was eyepencil on her eyebrows too, with her cheeks lightly tinted brown. I liked her perfume and her hairdo too. Esther was still a very modest girl, despite her decision to wear some makeup today.
“I have a pair of sunglasses. You can have it.”
“Oh, that’s sweet. Thanks Brian.”
“How’s your trip from Port Harcourt? I’d love to visit there soon.”
“Very well. I’d love to have Brian around anytime. I’m about to know where you live and it would be great if you get to know mine too.”
She sometimes called me Brian in secondary school whenever it was just the two of us. I liked the name, as it is an anagram of Brain, a nickname I quite detested. We got to our destination soon enough and started to climb the stairs leading to my flat. The compound was quiet today. It was a holiday. The schoolchildren in the compound had gone to the stadium to participate in the Independence Day celebrations and march-past event, hence the quiet. Other occupants were most likely indoors or had gone to celebrate the holiday. There was light also in the building.
“It’s a nice place you guys live in.” Esther remarked as I unlocked the door leading to our living room. She glanced around the room.
“Thanks.” I said.
“No one at home? Your parents…”
“All out. I’m man alone.’ I interrupted her.
“My God! Is that you?” She asked, pointing to a picture on the wall. It was my childhood picture when I was just about two years old. The dusty picture frames reminded me that they had not been cleaned recently and I hoped she didn’t notice the dirt.
“Yee! See how big you’ve grown now!”
I blushed out of modesty.
“What would you have?” I asked her. “I can make something for you.”
“You cook?” She asked me.
“Emm… Not really. Just noodles and one or two other things.” I said with a smile.
“Don’t bother yourself, Brian. Remember I’m going for a wedding and will of course eat there. If you can get me something to drink, I’ll be fine.”
“You eat at weddings?” I asked her.
“That’s a rhetorical question, Brian. Why not?”
As I left to get the drink, she received a call from her elder sister.
“Yes, sister. I’ll be in your hostel before 2. Definitely.” I heard her say.
It was already some minutes to 1 p m. I returned with a bottle of Blue Cocktail wine from my dad’s collection and two glasses. I planned to explain if he noticed and got angry when he returned. By the way, most parents rarely knew the romantic side of their children. I connected my phone to the CD player in the living room and started playing some of my favourite cool songs.
“Its non-alcoholic. You don’t mind alcohol, do you?” I asked her.
“I don’t. Though I’m seventeen, I’ve tasted it sometime ago and I kind of like it. But I can’t drink beer!”
I laughed. “Beer is for men!”
However, I knew of some women who drank beer. Nkiru who lived downstairs did, although I can’t say how much or how frequently she did drink.
As we drank, Esther began to talk about her plans for school. She had passed the post-matriculation exam and had been admitted to study Psychology, although her name had appeared in the first supplementary list, unlike me who had been restrained by my dad from going to the university that year despite having been admitted.
“It’s gonna be a dream come true!” She remarked in excitement.
“I’m now an undergraduate!”
“Yes. Happy for you.” I congratulated.
“So, you’re going to make a lot of friends there. Boyfriends, girlfriends…”
“My aunt says I don’t need a boyfriend. She says I need a suitor when the right time comes.”
I smiled. “But you like to have one, isn’t it?”
“Because I want to be yours. Would you be my girlfriend?” I finally blurted.
A short silence.
“Come on, Ken. We’re very good friends, you know that.”
“Yes, I do. But I want something closer. I promise to be yours only. I like you and want to know more of who you are.” I said, dropping my glass noisily on a stool.
Esther was silent for a little while, then she spoke.
“We can just be friends, Ken. I think we’re too young for romance now. It’s gonna be distracting. I’ll give you an answer to that question later.”
I smiled and nodded quite briefly, like a red-headed lizard that had fallen off a mango tree and was congratulating itself for accomplishing such a brave feat.
I was glad I had finally made my intention known to Esther, to escape the dreaded Friendzone; a state in which you believed you meant something deeper to, or were in a romantic relationship with, a ‘friend’ only to realize they never had or wanted any intimacy with you. It was nothing but a misery-go-round and I didn’t want that. It was better to be alone, perhaps. Whether she accepted or not, I was very much aware that the first step to getting anything you desire is by asking for it. And that I just did.
Esther knew she had to start going to her sister’s place to avoid being left behind for the wedding or any lashing out by her sister who she said was very bossy. It was now almost 1:30 p.m. We got up to leave the house. I rushed up to her and gave her a hug, long enough for her to recline about five seconds later and ask for the restroom. I showed her where it was and went to bring my sunglasses which I had earlier promised her.
“Thank you, Brian.” She said, putting it on.
“It’s even more perfect on you.” I commented.
We left the compound and walked to the nearby bus stop from where she would board a bus heading to Poly. I held her hand tightly as I led the way. As the bus got ready to move, I waved at her and she did same. Goodbye, Esther.
That evening at home, after seeing Esther off on her way to her brother’s traditional wedding, I decided to go downstairs to buy a recharge card for my phone line. Dad was in the living room watching his favourite Al Jazeera TV channel after returning a few hours ago from a weekend timeout with Mum. We lived in a two-storey apartment house; there were two three-bedroom flats on the last floor and we inhabited one of them. The other family had recently moved out to their new home and I could only wish for when we would finally relocate to our hometown to live in our own more spacious house which was still under construction. Dad had hinted that he would likely complete it before Christmas so we could all travel to the village and celebrate more comfortably. Where we currently lived, the first floor was made up of two-bedroom flats while the ground floor housed self-contained rooms.
As I got down the stairs, I met Nkiru who lived in one of the rooms close to the stairwell. Now, let me talk about her just briefly. Nkiru was a young woman in her mid-twenties, I think twenty-four or so. She had moved in early this year to live with her boyfriend, Emeka, who had rented the room. Emeka was at this time in faraway Malaysia for the past three or four months searching for greener pasture, just like many young men his age would. He was about thirty-one years old and I think he planned to get married to Nkiru upon coming back from overseas. Nkiru was very beautiful by all feminine standards. She had these long perfect legs that gave her a steady gait, and a nice looking fleshy hip and bosom. She was rather chocolate in complexion and her large eyes were well fitted into their sockets. Her sturdy nose balanced well above her rather thin lips. She had a long dark hair which she usually tied with a rubber band, and she walked with a certain enticing sway that would certainly lead all eyes on her. I had thought her to be quite promiscuous when I’d sometime heard her moaning pleasurably on one hot afternoon two months ago, obviously having sex with someone. I also don’t think she was working at the time. Anyways, I liked Nkiru and was secretly crushing on her, desiring after her perfect body too.
“Hey. What’s up, Ken?” Nkiru asked me. She always smiled at me.
“I’m fine.” I replied.
She then asked me to come inside her room to help out with her kitchen sink that had been blocked somewhere. I obliged. The sink was almost half-filled with impure water that wouldn’t be drained off.
“It started this morning. Please help me do something about it. Can you?”
“Have you used a plunger on it?” I asked her, after studying the problem for a while.
“I don’t even have one.” She said.
“Well… Emm… I was actually on my way to go and buy airtime for my phone before meeting you. Let me go and buy it, I’ll then bring the plunger in my mum’s kitchen afterwards.”
“No problem.” She agreed.
I stole a quick gaze at her heavy backside as I left the room. The weather was quite cool outside as I got to buy the recharge card from the kiosk in our compound.. After some minutes, I returned with the plunger and was able to drain the sink, exposing the impediments.
“Ugh!” We reeled back in disgust at the sight.
She then smiled, thanked me profusely and made to wash off the plunger while I went to sit on a chair in the main room, waiting.
“Your gf should be very proud of you.” Nkiru said to me, on coming out with the washed plunger.
“Er… ” I blushed. “I don’t actually have a girlfriend.” I told her. Esther was yet to give me a reply after I’d asked her earlier today to be my girlfriend. She wanted us to be ‘just friends’. Before now, Nkiru and I had actually got along very well. She was talkative and so would engage me in a chat whenever she saw me. Sometimes we chatted in her room and usually talked about the men and women folks, her somewhat feministic beliefs, school and growing-up experiences and, once in a while, compoud gist. I think she liked me too for she for she would sometimes offer me food which I usually declined.
“You mean you haven’t slept with her yet?” She inquired, apparently misinterpreting my reply. Her large eyes were prying into mine.
I shook my head.
Nkiru smiled. “Don’t tell me you haven’t been with a girl before. Are you gay?”
Now, we lived in a heteronormative society that was quite homophobic. I remembered the story of two gay men who were beaten to death some time ago in another state. The aversion towards their kind was a bit horrific at the time; perhaps it would all change in the nearest future and they would be accepted as ‘normal’ citizens of the country. What was actually responsible for two people of the same sex to have romantic relationships? I just couldn’t understand. Although I’d once had a kind of physical attraction to some male kid in school, I did not act upon my feelings. I’d always had ideals of man-woman romance and sex, and would not experiment otherwise.
I said no to the gay question. She then came closer to give me the plunger. I was almost fidgeting as she gently rubbed my left shoulder after giving me the plunger. She had once taunted me of being a ‘eunuch’, telling me stories of how young people in her village where she grew up had had sex even at puberty.
“Haha! You sef, Ken.” She laughed. “I know. It doesn’t really matter. Anytime you’re ready I’ll tell you what to do.”
Jeez! Was she implying sex? Here I was facing someone who was offering me something I’d secretly been wishing for. Holy cow! Should I decline? Who does that? I had celebrated my eighteenth birthday some days ago in our flat with a few friends, and had later gone downstairs to give Nkiru a piece of my birthday cake which had been prepared by my sister Adaobi, so I was no longer a ‘minor’ by the prevailing legal standards. Nkiru had however always thought I was older, because I looked quite bigger in size for my age.
I nodded, smiling. Then I went upstairs to return my mum’s plunger. Dad was still in the living room watching his favourite Al Jazeera TV channel. Mum was still in her restaurant and would be back home any moment from now. Adaobi was not yet back from wherever she had gone to. It was almost 6 p.m. Few minutes later, I found myself back in Nkiru’s room. She had been wearing a brown wrapper tied across her chest all this while, with the straps of her black brassiere barely being seen at her back. The short rain earlier in the day had tried to cool down the atmosphere a bit. I couldn’t really explain what had come over me; it was definitely the curse of sex.
“Ughm…” I stammered.
I told her what I wanted and she said she knew and had wanted the same thing too.
“I like to do the person I really like, as long as he’s of good age and wants it too.” Nkiru told me.
“Good age?” I was confused.
“Yes. I don’t do old men.” She said, with a short laugh.
“And I really like your person, Ken. You’re sure you want this?”
“Ughm… Sure.” I replied.
“But I’m anxious. How does it feel to you?”
“It’s gonna be fun!” Nkiru answered, happy at the thought of ‘breaking’ yet another male. She loved the feeling; it made her feel like a virgin once again, she later told me.
Then she searched inside a bag, brought out a condom and gave it to me. I went inside the bathroom and tried putting it on. Successful, I came out and Nkiru was already sitting on the polished wood table in the room. The TV was on and she increased its volume. I could breathe in the vanilla flavoured air freshener as the ceiling fan croaked while turning. I was looking at the red rug when she invited me over to the table; I obliged enthusiastically. Then she pulled her wrapper up her thighs, slid out her panties and guided me inside her, my shirt still on. I began to thrust lazily and anxiously; she was just looking at me, then smiled and encouraged me to go faster. My hands on her perfect ass became firm as I obliged again. After about seven or eight ‘fast’ thrusts, I came with a low shout. She smiled again, looking intently at me as I withdrew from her.
I disposed of the condom and went to lie on the bed, breathing slowly and trying to regain some strength. After a while Nkiru came up to the bed, this time she had removed her wrapper. She asked me to position well and then got on top of me. Mamamia! She removed her bra and I could see her nice breasts looking like fresh twin groundnut seeds just out of their shell. I reached out and touched them as she comfortably got me inside her. The TV probably drowned off our noise and that of the creaking bed as we rocked.
“Are you not bothered about my not using protection the second time?” I asked her after we were done.
“Nope.” She said. “I’m not on my period. Don’t fear about getting me pregnant, I’ve got pills.” Nkiru laughed shortly.
“And I’ll tell no one.” She promised.
“OK. Me too.”
I believed her, not even caring if she would have given me the infection.
As I slowly climbed the stairs back to our flat, I thought of Esther, what her reply would be and if she was still a virgin. Whatever it was, I had just had sex with someone more experienced than I was for the first time and I had felt good about it, despite the thought that I’d somehow betrayed Esther. Happy Independence Day!