Ifesi was seated across Emeka at a table in Barcelos. She had ordered chicken and chips with ketchup and Chinese sauce just the way he liked it, but he sat facedown barely noticing his best meal as the waiter lowered it before them. They looked like a couple who'd just had a fight.
Ifesi broke the ice.
"You look distraught. What's the matter?" her eyes combing for clues.
Emeka tried to lift his head, his eyes bleary. He bowed immediately evading her piercing gaze. Ifesi grasped his hand and squeezed it gently. But deep inside her she wanted to hold him, comfort and console him for his blues but she held back.
Emeka had become her best friend over the twelve weeks they spent together at the medical volunteer programme in Congo. They were the only Nigerians in the programme and they hit it off immediately. She was aware of the gold band on his fourth digit - Emeka would lose his finger than take it off. She admired that about him. And he was not silent about Lola either. He always made references to her. Ifesi knew he adored her.
Emeka finally garnered strength. He pushed back his seat to get up, making a screeching sound on the tiled floor. Ifesi trailed his steps with her eyes to the sink and back. He wiped his face and hands with a handkerchief as he settled in his chair. He picked on the chicken to avoid eye contact with her. Ifesi patiently waited for his lips to split.
"Lola didn't welcome me at the airport. When I came home, she was all frosty. I knew I owed her an explanation to why we hadn't communicated. I tried to talk, but she didn't want to hear. Then she saw our pictures and all hell broke loose.
"She started railing about how I never called again after the day we arrived and never responded to her chats, how she was worried sick about me not knowing I was busy touring Congo with you. I tried to explain that we were sent to a remote village without internet or telephone cables but she wouldn't listen."
"I'm really sorry. I didn't know about this", Ifesi said remorsefully.
"Remember on Wednesday, when I called to find out how your journey went? We ended with some statement in Igbo. I can't even remember what it was but I know you got me laughing. When I got off the phone she wanted to know who it was so I told her it was you. Since then, she's been a thorn in the flesh with her nagging, crying, sulking and pouting. She's been so grouchy and peevish.
"Lola knows I'm irrevocably committed to her. It really gets me confused why she is so mad at our friendship. I have other female friends who even come to the house to see me but she's never picked a fight like this". He paused for a moment as if thinking of what next to say, then he rapped, "Maybe we crossed our boundaries."
"Ah ah... How? We didn't do anything, did we?", Ifesi said with a puzzled look.
"By becoming very close."
Ifesi was more confused, "But we've not done anything illegal. We've not had any physical contact save for handshakes and occasional hugs in public. God knows I will never desire another woman's husband!", she was now swearing.
"I think we've shared some emotional intimacy that Lola and I haven't and she can feel it. You know why I like to spend time with you? You let me be myself. With you, I'm not trying to perform or impress anyone. I'm not trying to be the best husband, provider or leader. With you, I am free to just be me. I'm free to make mistakes and we just laugh about them. Lola and I are 2 years into marriage but we barely know ourselves. I guess I've been too busy trying to be the best husband".
He bowed down and continued to pick the chicken with his fork without lifting it to his mouth.
"I know she is hurt that we didn't communicate much while I was away. I wish she would just listen to me. I also miss our nights together, you know, but she wouldn't come to bed on time or let me touch her.
I can feel her pain but I don't know what to do. I've prayed but I feel like I'm guilty. Fesi, I've never looked at you lustfully''.
''But sometimes", he hesitated, contemplating whether to say it, then with a whisper he exhaled,
"I wish I met you first".
©Radiant~ May 2016
Please note that Radiant's Blog has been moved to another site: www.radiant.ng
For more recent posts and comments please visit radiant.ng and subscribe to the mailing list. Thanks for your support.