Within one week of seeing that play, I re-discovered passions and hobbies I had thought lost forever. I would dream up some exotic activity in the morning and send texts to both of them – inviting them to ‘trip’ with me. Inevitably, ‘sandra would say no – and in fairness to her, suggest some other activity that she preferred. ‘cynthia on the other hand seemed to exist for me, and so we did all sorts together.
We saw plays and attended book-reading events. We explored the Anatomy museum and got lost walking around the Staff Quarters. I began to spend less and less time with ‘sandra. In the past, I would plead with her when she refused to do something with me – and still hang out with her regardless of her decision. Now, all that had passed. I had an option, and a beautiful one at that. My heart would sometimes revolt, but inevitably acquiesce – after all, it felt good to finally do the things I wanted.
I had the best of both worlds. At least so I thought until it all came undone. One fine Saturday morning, I awoke with a renewed urge to visit the Ovie’s palace. I had drawn up a list of ten locations within and around the University campus I wanted to visit before graduating – and the palace was one of them. I had studied a book about the origins of the urhobo tribe back in my first year, and had wanted to see many things. For Three years I had asked ‘sandra to go with me – receiving a negative answer on all occasions. Now I had an option. As had become my habit recently, I sent out a text message to both ladies. While I awaited their responses, I took my bath and got ready to go out.
I was stunned when ‘sandra responded in the affirmative. It was so shocking that I called her immediately to verify that she read the text right. When she explained that it had been long since we spent quality time together and she thought this was a good opportunity, I knew I had boxed myself into a corner. I chuckled, weakly, and arranged to meet her at BMS in about an hour. The instant I dropped the call, my mind went into a mad race for excuses. I needed one for ‘CY, and I had better find it fast!
After holding a hurried conference with my room mates and creating a shortlist, I settled on the most basic excuse: I had just found I needed to turn in my Head and Neck Seminar on Monday and did not have the luxury of time – hence we would visit the palace next week. I was not a convincing liar, and my fingers trembled as I dialed her number. The trembling grew worse when I found that her phone was switched off. A friend suggested going to her room, but it was well before the 12pm visiting time. As we deliberated other options for reaching her, there was a knock at the door.
As I turned the knob to open the door, I caught that familiar scent and knew: it was ‘CY. She had pulled the ultimate one on me: rather than respond to my message, she had gotten dressed and showed up. My foolery had finally cut up with me. I had no option other than to continue with my prepared excuse. As she made herself comfortable on my bed, I explained that Mr. Enahwo had slammed my class with yet another seminar topic.. Yes, it was his habit to give out projects at random. No, this was different from the one I wrote last week. Yes, I had missed his class during the week, so I only just found out. Yes, it absolutely needed to be ready by Monday. No, I could not start writing it tomorrow and needed to get to work immediately. Sorry, but would she kindly agree to move our ‘palace visit’ till the next Saturday?
My room mate winked at me as I spun an elaborate web of deceit. Thumbs went up all around the room – of course out of her range of vision – as my room mate applauded my skill at lying with conviction. I patted myself on the back – in my mind – as I put on my most pitiful face, describing how much I had looked forward to the visit and how it would have been more fun because we were going together. My phone started to ring, but I could not take any calls right then, so I reached into my pocket and muted it.
And then she responded: she had not really wanted to go out, she said, but agreed because she would do anything for me. Her original plan had been to come and cook for me, in my room! I could work on my computer while she cooked outside. She would be as quiet as possible, almost invisible. That was win-win, she said, I would work on my assignment and we would still spend the day together. If I was aligned, she would now leave for Big market to get the necessary ingredients, and would be back in about an hour. My phone beeped twice, giving an eerie sense of finality to her statements. I was suddenly dumb. The entire room went quiet.
I could not say a word as she stood to leave for the market. She blew me a kiss as she stepped out the door, and I smiled weakly in return. For want of something else to do, I retrieved my phone from my pocket. It was a text from ‘sandra. She had decided to meet me in my room instead………