THE NOISY THIRD PARTIES WE LOVE SO MUCH
They are like the ants
Chasing drops of cookies
They enclose it and stick on
Not leaving till it empties out
They are like waterfalls
Dropping constantly on the stone edge
Not stopping but cleaning out
A spot to brighten its path
They are those you don’t want
But let stay
They make pies and tell lies
In trusting distrust
Remaining only for love
What happens in every relationship is that at some point your lives start to intersect. First you are two separate people with two separate lives that are running parallel to each other, not even aware the other person exists and then you meet and like octopuses your lives start wrapping around each other, one strong tentacle at a time.
Leg one, that’s the family wrapping around you, getting to know you. Leg two, that’s the sharing of your work concerns and all of a sudden they are the shoulder you lean on. Leg three, that’s your friends becoming their friends. Once you were two groups, and now you’re one big, boisterous, increasingly incestuous entity (once your friends start dating their friends). Leg four, that’s life- stories from their childhood, teenage crushes, village drama, hopes and dreams – all of these things about someone else that suddenly becomes part of your own mental timeline, until you two are now kind of one except in the biblical sense.
You see where I am going right? It’s a lot. It’s exhausting. It’s a distraction. I try to avoid it and I’ve pretty much succeeded in doing so these past 28 years. Don’t get me wrong, my problem has never been with the women. It’s with everything outside of them. I am a one woman, one man, type of man. That means, no family, no friends, no pets. I just want to get into a ‘You and me’ bubble and enjoy that. Not so bad, right? At this point, I’m sure the shrinks in the room will try to connect this to my family. Child of divorce avoids entanglements. Blah blah blah. I am just going to lean back and smile at that one. I wish I was that deep.
With Sarah, it’s different. I should have expected that. You guys saw it coming, right? She’s different so it follows that everything else is different and doesn’t work out so easily.
She is at my door, looking hot in ripped jeans and an orange t-shirt that says ‘call me pretty one more time.’ I’m standing in the doorway, acutely aware that behind me, Timu and Lanre are trying to get a good look at her. I wish I had called to cancel. But the truth is I didn’t want to. I wanted to see her. A month and a half in and I like seeing her. I like all these layers I’m pulling off one by one. If that means I have to suffer through her meeting these idiot, toh.
“Am I standing outside? Is there a side chick inside wearing your shirt and no underwear?” She asks.
I laugh. Random thought: she should wear glasses. I can see it now. Twenty years from now she will wear glasses, silver streaks in her hair, mom weight, she’ll be beautiful.
“She might be the main chick,” I say. The beginning of a frown creases her forehead. Not funny? Okay, time to move on quickly.
“My friends are here. They went to the club last night and came here to crash.”
“Oookay,” she says, her eyes flitting behind me. “Should I go?”
“I’m just warning you. They have issues.”
She smiles as if she is equipped to handle all issues. I step aside and let her into the dimly lit living room. The curtains are closed. The lights are off. The guys are lying on the two sofas in front and to the side of the TV which they were watching at high volume. Now they’re looking at her like idiots with no home training.
I eye them from behind her and Lanre reduces the TV volume and sits up on the chair.
“Hi,” she replies. Her voice has gone kind of low. I move to her side. She’s making a small attempt at a friendly smile. Oh my goodness, is she shy?
She doesn’t really have to say much – What’s up? Nice to meet you. Oh, you’re watching the most recent season of Game of Thrones, that’s cool- and they are both looking impressed at how pretty she is. It’s a nice pretty, but there’s more to her than that.
We drift away from them to the second room in the house. My reason for getting her here. She looks at the empty space I told her I’d like her to paint. I doubt I’ll ever actually use this room. I’m barely in my bedroom, talk less of this one, but sometimes you just want a conversation with a girl in a quiet place without food or a gigantic movie screen. If she has to paint this place for me to get it, I’m good with that.
“I don’t know why they paint rooms this ugly blue colour. It’s so depressing,” she squeezes her nose in distaste.
I nod, watching her look around, and try to imagine how an artist sees this place. Wawu. Saying artist always make you sound pretentious… As pretentious as when I tell people I’m a chef. A chef and an artist…. how epic is that combination?
“Are you sure you can paint this place without the landlord’s approval?” she asks.
I nod. “I’ll just repaint it when I’m leaving.”
She looks at me. “I haven’t painted a grown up’s place in a long time.”
“You can paint cartoons. I won’t complain.”
She smiles. “You were born in the 80’s right? Simpsons, Tom and Jerry, Sesame Street.”
“I think I’d prefer Barbie. Just get her proportions right.”
She laughs and throws a balled up tissue at me. Hmm. I wonder where that came from… what do I care, it’s from Sarah.
We talk for a long time, sitting on the bare floor in the room. I think she’s expecting me to make a move on her, but I don’t. We make our way back out to the parlour eventually and she sits with the boys.
“Guy, we’re hungry,” Timu says.
That’s my cue. I leave them.
This is a list of things that this day was not:
1. An excuse to get me to his house to “further the relationship.” Ehem.
2. What I expected. I obsessed about this last night until I had a headache (is this innocent or is this something else, cue side eye). What I didn’t expect was that there would be other people when I arrived. If I did, I might have tried to look cuter.
3. Comfortable. His friends stared for Africa. One of them checked out my ass as I left the room… or maybe the remote really fell and he was twisting his neck looking for it.
4. Again, comfortable. In the parlour, when Jeremiah went to cook, his friends became bad cop and good cop. Timu peppered me with all kinds of questions; Where do I stay? My job, do I make a lot of money? Like how much exactly? Where am I from? What’s my surname? Am I those Aniekans? What kind of music and movies do I like? By the time he was done it felt like the prison scenes in American movies, where they probe them anally. At this point we have to get married or my bride price will reduce. The other one, Lanre, was just exceptionally polite. He asked if I wanted anything. If I wanted to watch something different. If I would like to play cards. He’s like the village wife to jerk city rich guy.
5. Bad. I had errands afterwards that kept me in the sun most of the day, but I hummed through it all. You know it’s a good day when you’re humming.
I tried to keep the worlds from colliding for as long as possible. I thrive in chaos. Everything chaotic, messy, smudged together like a painting, glorious and beautiful because they are free and devoid of limitations. But in this case I wanted to keep the worlds separate for as long as possible. Just Jeremiah and I, away from everyone and every other part of my life before they inevitably connect and all the crap from the other area start to seep into this one, staining us and giving us baggage.
I’m not exactly sure how we ended up here. It started with me and my sister, Sandra, sitting at a table by the pool of a hotel where her boyfriend works; her eating a burger and me eating chips and fish. She is once again trying to get me to get a ‘proper’ job. It is coming out of her mouth but it is really Ma’s words. Ma has shoved her hand through the back of her head and is moving her mouth like a puppet.
We are complete opposites. She is wearing a black skirt suit and heels and looks so serious she could be a widow, and I am here in my sandals and strapless dress, looking like her younger sister and not the older one. I don’t know when I became such a disappointment. I really don’t.
I’m texting Jennifer and Efe who are not too far away from the hotel. I beg them, “Because of God, please show up like it’s a coincidence so she can stop talking.”
They’re good friends so twenty minutes later they show up, exclaim in surprise, put their hands on their chests, hug my sis as if they love her, and join us at the table.
As I hoped, my sister changes the subject to something less heavy. With other people around she is actually quite funny. We eat and laugh. I’m trying to cram the last fork of chips into my mouth when someone appears by my side. I look up, mouth still too full and chewing, and see Jeremiah. I won’t lie. It feels like karma. I asked these girls to show up like it’s a coincidence and God sends me this one by coincidence as a punishment.
I choke down the food in my mouth. Smile like I am happy to see him. Introduce him to everyone at the table who are looking up at him extremely curious. My sister especially. She has that look that says, ‘den den den, I will tell mommy for you.’ All the while I am thinking, can you feel that? Hear that?
That’s the sound of carnage as the worlds collide.
We all end up sitting together, four girls and one him. He is laid back in his chair, he laughs easily, but I can sense he is a little bit uncomfortable. He endures their questions about what he does. Their exclamations about knowing his workplace. Their dumb jokes about him not needing a wife because he can cook – with that one I see the corner of his eyes tighten and his nose scrunch. “Oh well, I’m not marrying because I need a cook.”
They ask him why he would marry, what qualities he’s looking for (spec), if his family won’t have any objections to him marrying someone from a different tribe. I keep trying to step in and steer the conversation in another direction, but these witches refuse to be thwarted. I give up and let this play out.
Eventually, his phone rings and he answers it. When he hangs up, he looks at us, “My friend is here.” I nod. They all make a fuss about how it was nice to meet him. He reaches out and squeezes my hand and kind of holds it, looking at me. I am smiling at him. I know these girls are watching us with stupid grins. He leaves us and only after he’s gone do I realize how tense I was. I relax into the chair. Look around until my gaze meets my sister’s.
“He’s nice,” she says.
“Yeah,” I say, attempting to sound nonchalant, as if I don’t care about her or anyone else’s opinion. I will do what I want to do. But deep down I know that’s not quite true. It’s the same reason I don’t read movie reviews. Because as much as we would all like to think we are strong, unshakeable entities, all it really takes is one voice in our heads to make us question ourselves.
Here’s a list of things that today was:
1. Uncomfortable. That’s all.