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Hey, Chapter 2 (excerpt 2)

. . .

I take a look at Fluffy.

“Time to go for a walk, girl.” I uttered, without even thinking it.

I got her leash and fixed it round her neck. She’s not wild or anything, but so that she doesn’t wander too far and get hit by a car or something. Lagos can be rough like that.

Quickly, she hopped up and began wagging her tail. She knew it was time to take a walk.

When we got outside I discovered that it was raining, drizzling, hardly perceptible from my room. I only get to know it’s raining when it’s really pouring.

“Oga Tobi, long time o,” I hear from some distance. I turn to look, and it’s Mama Junior, owner of the restaurant I usually frequent.

“Yes o. How market now?” I ask.

“Fine o. We thank God. Fluffy fluffy,” she says with a smile as we continue.

As I walk down the street, my mind saunters into a series of flashbacks. I start to think of Jennifer, of the times we spent together. But it’s still all hazy, what I’m actually feeling is despair and confusion and anger.

It was drizzling and I didn’t even feel it. I was a bit happy though, that neighbours didn’t call out to me after Mama Junior. It was only perfect that they left me to my grief.

Usually, shop and restaurant owners would hail at me. That’s the world I’ve come to build.

The rain was beginning to fall in sheets, and Fluffy and I had to hurry back home. My melancholic time under the rain had come to an end.

By the time we get upstairs, we are already wet and dripping. I pick my towel that was hanging on the shower door and towel dry myself and Fluffy. I don’t mind that strands of fur are going to stubbornly cling to the towel. I shake the towel to remove some of the fur and hang it back on the shower door.

I’m still feeling a bit cold from the rain. I put on the TV in the sitting room. Fluffy loves to just lie on the couch and watch TV until she’s tired. I don’t watch with her, I need to be warm, so I go to the room and bury myself under the duvet.

I don’t want to press my phone or anything, I just want to be to myself and process things, but as I lay on the bed thoughts start flooding back, thoughts of Jennifer. I can’t deal with this now, I can’t lay on the bed while these thoughts drown me.

I get up and head for the kitchen. I open the fridge. There are spices and drinks in the fridge, but I don’t need to cook, I’ve never been great at it either. I need to drink. I know it sounds like a bad idea, but anything to take my mind off Jennifer. I pick up an Heineken bottle and close back the fridge. In the uppermost drawer under the kitchen slab there’s a corkscrew which I use in opening the bottle. I take a slug as I head back to the room. Yummy.

I’m drinking and I don’t know what to do with myself. Should I watch a movie on my laptop? I don’t feel like watching a movie. Should I just drink in silence broken by whatever the TV is yapping? That’s even worse than drinking sad. So I decide to play some music.

I get on my chair, turn on my Hp laptop and lunch window’s media player. I play any random song in the playlist because I’m in no mood to start selecting. Music plays as I drink and it actually helps make me feel better until a particular song plays and I am back to me again.

Passenger’s Let Her Go is playing, and I’m stuck at Only know you love her when you let her go. I suddenly become angry when I hear that line.

I get up, take another slug of beer and begin pacing, out the room to the sitting room and back and out again.

“Let her go?” I say to Fluffy as I pace within the sitting room, “Do you think we can let her go?”

Fluffy darts her eyes toward me for a second and fixates on the TV once more. She’s used to me talking to her.

I’m getting bored of this process. I wake my phone and check the time, it’s half past eight. I want to take a bath, but I don’t feel like, what am I bathing for? The water won’t wash my worries away, would it?

I think I need another bottle. I go to the fridge again and get one.

By the time I finish the second bottle, I get a bit tipsy. You might say two bottles is just a start, but a bottle plus confusion is enough to bring an elephant down.

I feel sleepy now. I look over at the sitting room where Fluffy is still watching TV amid all my chaos and get the feeling that she’s not done. I put off the light in the room, bury myself in the blanket and will myself to sleep. The day has run its course, and the last thing I want to think about is Jennifer.

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Hey, Chapter 2 (excerpt 1)

CHAPTER 2

I needed to do something. I needed to talk to someone, go somewhere, anywhere but here.

As I was thinking where to go, Fluffy tiptoed into the room, stared at me for a second and hopped onto the bed just beside me. That’s one thing I love about Fluffy, she always knows when something is wrong.

I grease her furs a little and she ducks, head flat on the bed. Suddenly I find myself talking to her.

“She’s gone,” I say, “She’s left us, buddy. She didn’t even think of you when she said This has to end. All those days she pretended to care, all the food she brought for you… I’m sorry, Fluff, that I let her into our lives, that I let a stranger into our lives.”

I have come to see Fluffy as more than just a pet, she’s a companion of sorts. Often I just talk to her for minutes on end, as though she could understand me. I really think she understands me most times, maybe the tone of my voice, she can always tell when I’m relaxed or edgy.

Fluffy didn’t nudge or hum when I talked to her. For some reason that consoled me a bit. At that moment she was good as a shrink. She’s a good listener like that.

I still wanted to step out despite the little respite Fluffy’s presence granted me. Most importantly, I wanted to talk to someone about everything, someone that understood me well enough, not for the person to be bias towards me, but for the truth. I needed to hear that I did something wrong, that it was all my fault, that I could still salvage the situation, turn things around.

I knew the right person to call for that kind of feedback, Abdul.

Abdul and I have been friends since university. I can’t remember exactly when our friendship thickened, but I know exactly how. A coursemate who also resided in the same dormitory as I wanted to borrow a textbook from a particular friend of his. Although this friend belonged to a different department, he was taking an elective course from his department. I accompanied my coursemate to his friend’s just to kill time (50% of school is killing time). When we got there, I was introduced to no other than Abdul.

We met Abdul in a rather hazy state, and he began to tell my coursemate what happened. There was this girl he approached by the supermarket, just to talk, and she blew him away in such a way that he couldn’t believe his eyes. We sat and began analysing the matter. Why did she tell him off? Did he say something wrong? Did he not put on the right clothes? Did he walk in an inappropriate manner?

Abdul and I talked interminably about his experience. We talked deep, about his body language, facial expressions, tone, game play, to the astonishment of my coursemate. That was how we clicked, and over time the bond grew stronger.

I picked my phone and dialed Abdul.

“Tobistic Tobi!” He exclaimed as he picked.

We often use such extolments when we talk.

“Mehn, Abdul…”

I could tell he quickly noticed something was wrong.

“My man, are you okay? You sound like something died.”

“Yes, Abdul, something died.”

“Tobi… what happened? Is Fluffy okay?”

“Fluffy is okay,” I replied.

“Then talk now, what’s happening?” He pressures.

“Mehn, Abdul…” I still couldn’t seem to mutter it out.

“Talk now, Tobs, is it Jenny? Is she messing up again?”

When it comes to Abdul, Jennifer is almost always causing trouble. Let’s be practical, he’s not that far off. He had come to know Jennifer, and her narcissistic nature.

“It’s Jennifer o.” I drawl.

“Tobi, I warned you now, I told you to get out before she hurt you, I told you.”

Yea, Tobi had warned me countless times to be wary of Jennifer and her vices, but I was in love. I’m still in love.

“What did she do this time?” He asks.

“Mehn, she broke up with me o.”

I just put it there like that, I didn’t want to drawl any longer before it began to look like I lost somebody.

“What?!”

“Yea.” I said briskly.

“Wow,” he sighed, as if taking it all in, as if feeling my pain.

I was happy that I was talking with Abdul about my breakup, because he’s one person that understands things in-depth. Before the recent development, Abdul and I would analyse my relationship in great extent; things I could do to make it better, things I should try to change about Jennifer, things I should beware of.

After a script-like silence, Abdul finally asked the much anticipated question, “How did it happen?” His voice devoid of life.

I told Abdul about Sunday evening. I told him how I went to Jennifer’s for dinner. I told him how I got hold of her phone. I told him about how I went to her Whatsapp. I told him about Patrick, about the kiss, about the three dreaded words, and about her message earlier in the day.

“…and what’s painful is that she tried to change the topic, Abdul. She tried to make it about how I snooped on her phone and not about how she cheated on me.”

“Of course now, she’s a girl, she would always have an angle on these kind of things. You did not expect her to just admit guilt, did you?”

“Common, Abdul, you know this girl, you know Jennifer, you know how she never takes blame for her own actions. I just needed her once in her f–,” I paused, “–once in her life to just take blame for this one thing, to just admit that she was wrong.”

“Easy, guy, I know how you feel. You know what happened with me and Aisha now, you know how she was. I’ve been in your shoes, bro, I’ve been there. The drama, the blame game, I’ve been there, bro.”

A little silence ensued.

“Damn,” he continued, “You mean she just ended it just like that? But wait o, This has to end isn’t exactly breaking up. She–”

I cut him short, “Common, man, this is Jennifer we’re talking about. I know her. This is her way out of an impossible situation. I caught her dead in her tracks, and this is the only way she gets out, by actually getting out.”

“You’re right, I think you’re right.”

Another brief silence ensued.

“So what are you going to do now?”

“Mehn, I don’t know, bro, I’m so confused right now. Maybe I’d just take a stroll or something.”

“I know you, Tobi, you’re going to go after her, you’re going to try to get her back.”

“Get who back, that narcissistic mistake for a girlfriend?” I reply, but in my heart I know he’s right, I know I’m going to go after her in a bid to make sense of her actions. She still has some explaining to do.

“No issues though,” he said, “Just take care of yourself. How’s Fluffy?”

“Fluffy is Fluffy, man, just doing her thing.”

“Aiit, we’d talk soon. Be safe, man.”

And the call ends.

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Hey, Chapter 1 (excerpt 2)

I wanted to be angry after that, but I was too mesmerised to be choleric. I closed Whatsapp and put her phone back at exactly the spot I picked it. “Who was that?” She asked, walking in from the kitchen. I told her I didn’t look, I just picked it instantly. But I lied. The actually truth was that I was too angry to remember who called her. She shrugged, picked her phone, and headed back to the kitchen.

When she brought the fried rice garnished with prawns, green beans and salad, I just couldn’t eat, my appetite wouldn’t let me. She looked at me, flummoxed, as if wondering where the new temperament came from. I didn’t do too well either hiding my expression from her. I excused myself and told her I had to leave. “Who’s going to eat all these food?” She said, but I couldn’t care less.

She called me about ten times before I got home but I didn’t pick. I didn’t care if she knew we were getting into a quarrel. I couldn’t pretend after what I saw; a kiss, a freaking kiss! And then the three unspoken words. I was so pained that I could feel my veins pulsing. I just didn’t want to unleash it on her, not yet. I tried to keep myself together until I got home. I didn’t even smile when a very cute baby looked at me in the bus with those innocent eyes that told the tales of worlds unknown.

Later at night, hours after the incident, she called. I was calmer then, calm enough to have a structured conversation with her.

“Hello, Tobi,” she said.

“Yes,” I replied, “What is it?”

“What is wrong with you?” she starts, “You just walked out and you don’t care to explain why.”

Silence fell for a few seconds. Anger was brewing and I was doing all in my power not let it out, because we both knew I was a mess when angry.

“See, you have started again. This is what you do, picking issues from the air. I have no time for this. I’ve got work tomorrow, so just spit it out.”

She has no time for this. She cheated on me for crying out fucking loud! And she has no time for this? I just couldn’t hold it, so I came in.

“Who is Patrick?” is all I could muster.

She gave a long laugh. She laughed, as if nothing was wrong. And I thought, you can’t deceive me on this one, you can’t turn the table around. She laughs when she’s about to turn the table around, like she’s mocking you.

“I know you have no brother or cousin that is Patrick, so again, who is Patrick?”

Silence fell, the sound of guilt.

“Did you snoop on my phone?” She asked, in a defensive tone.

“Who is Patrick,” I retorted, “Don’t deviate from the question.”

“Jesus, Tobi, have you descended that low?”

“Answer the fucking question,” I blurted.

“Hey, when you’re ready to talk to me with respect call me back.”

And she cut the call.

I tried getting my tentacles in place after that call. She’s trying to turn this around I thought. It’s what she always does whenever she feels attacked.

Jennifer is one person that’s never wrong, an archetypical narcissist. If the sun shone too brightly on her face it was someone else’s fault. If she stubbed a toe, it was the stupid stone’s fault. It was that bad. She never took blame for anything. And on the countable days that she did, it wasn’t clean, because she was going to turn around and put it all on you.

I sent her a series of facebook messages in anguish which she didn’t reply. She was planning an attack, I was sure of it. That kind of narcissistic attack you had no defense against. I longed for her case, I longed for what she had to say, how she’d get out of this one.

Two days after the incident, she texted me on Whatsapp. That was on a Tuesday. The same Whatsapp I caught her cheating on me on.

Hi Tobi. I saw your missed calls. As you well know, I can’t pick, because right now you’re not stable and I can’t talk to you that way.

What?! I thought. I’m not stable? Wow. I replied immediately as she was still typing.

Wow, Jenny, so fucking low of you to suggest I’m not stable even when you’re flat out wrong. You cheated on me Jennifer. Don’t try to meander your way out of this one. Just admit it. Gosh! Why is it so fucking hard for you to admit your own wrong?

I  tapped send. Immediately another message came in.

See, Tobi, we don’t have to do this, we’re not kids. Besides, I’m at work, I can’t be exchanging insults with you, I don’t have that time. I texted you to let you know that I’m tired of going back and forth. This has to end.

I was caught in my tracks. This has to end. What did she mean? I’m tired of going back and forth. What again did she mean? I was so confused after reading her last message. Would she do the unbelievable, opt out as a way of winning an argument? Was her narcissism that deep? WOW. This has to end… she’s breaking up with me! She’s breaking up with me because for once I have her and this is the only way she can escape.

I needed a drink after our chat ended, but it was too early in the day to start drinking, the sun hadn’t even reached its peak. She can’t break up with me, not when she has some explaining to do, I kept thinking as I sat on my bed, motionless.

 

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Hey, Chapter 1 (excerpt 1)

CHAPTER 1

 

My room is a colossal mess. There are three Heineken bottles that form a triangle on the mahogany computer table, and two just beside the foot of the table. I have been drinking, obviously. There are unwashed cups and plates surrounding my half-open laptop on the table. There are clothes lying askew on the bed, dirty clothes, pressed in a manner that suggests I have been sleeping on them a while. My room reeks of the pungent smell of alcohol and everything else. The carpet is tainted with bread crumbs all the way to the sitting room.

I am sitting in front of the table on an armless wooden chair facing the blue painted wall. I have a fountain pen in my hand, a gift from dad on my 23rd birthday. There’s a blank sheet of A4 paper clamped down by the inside of my upper right arm. I want to write to her, I wish to write to her, but my trembling fingers deny me such mercy. I am heartbroken, anyone can tell. I am also in disbelief. My world is literally breaking down in from of me. I am in pain, immense pain, and all these anticlimactic emotions prevent him from expressing himself.

She broke up with him. I’m tired of going back and forth, she said. A part of me wishes that this is like all the other episodes where I apologise for being a jerk and she brings me back into her arms. But deep inside, I know, I know this might be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back. But still I can’t believe it, I would have any other emotion but this. How did it come to this? How am I here, on this rigid chair, trembling and sobbing?

A tear drops on the still empty sheet of paper. Why am I crying? Would she be crying right now? Why am I always the one on the defensive? Well, that’s not exactly true, she begs too when she admits she’s at fault, which is very rare, as rare as a solar eclipse.

But I must write, because that’s the pact we made. We swore to always write to each other, not on Facebook or Whatsapp, but old-school, just the way it was done in the old days before technology came and swept the art away. It was our thing, it was how we differentiated ourselves from the multitude of other stereotypical relationships.

But should I be writing on this rainy Sunday evening or running off to her place and screaming her name from the balcony, prophesying my undying love for her, just the way Romeo did with Juliet in the balcony scene?

Except that flat 9, Block D, Moore Road, Yaba, has no balcony, and screaming her name from downstairs would attract other tenants who would think I’m mad. Madly in love, yes.

But why does love have to be accompanied by hate? Why is every moment in love so fragile as an egg? A wrong word and what has taken eternity to build is on the butcher’s table ready to be slaughtered precisely.

Jennifer and I haven’t always been at crosshairs, you know. There have been moments of intense joy and fun. Like the day at the mall when I was so engulfed with her, I planted a kiss on her succulent lips to the amusement of everyone that watched. She was blushed, and I could tell she loved it. Or the day I did a phony proposal; I went on my knees and brought out a black velvet box. I opened it. It wasn’t a ring inside, it was a wrapped note, with the words I LOVE YOU written in it. Maybe I was too full of myself that day, because though she was flattered, she was also embarrassed. And that led to one of our serious breakups.

Yea, we’ve broken up like two times before, this one making three. There’s something about the number three that signals finality. The first time we broke up was because I choked her, or so she claimed. To me though, I was just showing love, expressing myself. But to her it was too much and I needed to slow the pace. I think she said, the candle is burning too fast. What candle? Is she happy now that it’s all wax? So she told me she needed a break to breathe. It was hell for me, nothing compared to now though, but after a week I went back and demanded we fix things, like a real man.

The second time was the ring, or the ring cum note. She accused me of being childish, banal. She said I embarrassed her in front of onlookers. She said everything didn’t have to be about words and writing and that she could never take me seriously after that.

Two days later I appeared at her doorstep with five packs of Hollandia Yoghurt, vanilla flavour, and a sombre face. She pulled me in with tears and gave me a long kiss that ended blissfully.

Things went smoothly after that, until last week. I was at her place, her phone rang, but she was in the kitchen so I picked the call but it cut just after I did. I decided to look through her phone, okay, I admit, I was snooping. But I realised that I had never really looked through her phone before and the opportunity was quite seducing. So I opened Whatsapp and saw this conversation between her and one Patrick dude. Patrick… such an ugly name. What I saw that day made my body cold instantly, I could feel the life retreating from my face. In one text, she kissed him or sent him a kiss with love at the lips smiley. And in another part he kind of cajoled her into tell him she loved him. And she did!

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Tobi, Monday, 9 October. Evening

 TOBI
. . .

MONDAY, 9 OCTOBER, 2017

EVENING

I’m reading Vivian’s last letter to me, again. She’s always telling me to get some help. I don’t know what she means by that, like I’m the worst human being on earth. I fold back the letter, open the drawer under the tabletop and toss it in. I can imagine what she must think of me. She must think I’m a spoilt brat that’s got no clue about life. She must think I’m over-pampered. She must think we’re so never getting back together. 

I’m hearing sizzling sounds outside; the sound of impatient winds, the sound of pregnant skies. I can tell through the curtain that daylight has taken cover. It’s dark outside, a sweet kind of darkness. I can imagine commuters on the streets, they are taking shelter under bus stop shades, dreading what is to come. What is heaven for me is hell for them. But such is life, I guess.

I’m wondering what to do now. Sleep or write? The bed looks so very convenient right now, it’s like it’s calling at me, Come to me, come over and enjoy this weather with me. I don’t fall so easy. I wish to write. Every part of me wishes to write. There’s so much in my mind, I just want to pour it all out. I just want to get some ease, some peace. But I can’t write. Not because I have writer’s block or whatever, but because I don’t know how to continue. Everything is changing so rapidly. Names are changing, settings are changing… looks are changing! Like what the hell! I hate myself right now, even more than Vee hates me. Does she really hate me or pity me? I can’t tell the difference anymore.

I think of Vivian again. I imagine what her life must be. She’s working class now. She dresses up early in the morning and zooms off to work, some branch in the State capital, Ikeja. I imagine what transportation must be like for her daily; the bustle and wrestle just to get on a bus. Thank God for BRT buses, now people line up like normal human beings. But sometimes the BRTs are too slow and you have no choice but to board the conventional danfo: yellow Volkswagen vans that have conductors shouting at the peak of their voices in search for passengers.

It’s raining now, alternating between drizzling and downpour, just the way it did yesterday. Makes me think if the rainy season will ever come to an end. Also makes me think of global warming.

I finally yield to the bed’s call. I move my laptop from the table unto the bed. It feels convenient. Maybe I’d actually write here. But I still don’t feel like writing, and the more I think of writing the more my head hurts. I hop up and pull open the fridge. There’s one last bottle of Heineken left. I pop it open and take a long sip… heavenly. Maybe this will open me up and bring me some fresh ideas. Or maybe this will send me off to bed.