here’s the last part of this series. i’ll like to remind you that All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely UN-intentional
She smiled at me as we settled into the back seats. We still had not said a word to each other. There were three of us on a row of seats that ordinarily sat four, so it was as comfortable as a bus could get. The driver started the bus and the tires started to roll, when the conductor ordered a stop to take on one more passenger…….
My mind went blank and time seemed to stop. I would not have been more shocked if an embalmed monkey had climbed into the bus and taken a seat next tome.
‘CY was equally shocked.
Here she was, presumably going to obtain some exotic ingredient from big market – and the object of all her ‘work’ was off on a trip with some other girl?
I tried to speak, but the words would not form. There was nothing to say: no lie or excuse; no hurriedly concocted fib with the slightest chance to save my sorry ass. I was caught, not red-handed – but pants down!
Again the events of the past few weeks flashed before my eyes. – The dinner in coca cola spot, the play at the artscan hall, the repeated visits to the Anatomy Museum, the walks in the Staff Quarters… It had been fun to finally do what I wanted with someone who shared similar passions, but I knew then that those days were gone forever.
There was a loud commotion in the bus. Somebody was asking me questions, but they had two different voices. I did not answer; my mind could not decide which voice to process.
-I was lost in thought, far away thinking back to the text message that started it all.
Something stung the left side of my face, then the right. My eyes shook violently in their sockets.
-I was now entering coca cola spot, selecting the table in the corner.
I was hit again, alternately left then right. ‘sandra started to cry.
-I was now standing, to introduce myself to ‘CY.
My face was hot. The bus had stopped. I heard the soft whoosh of a nylon bag as it swung through the air. I tasted tomatoes.
-I was now rising again, approaching the counter to ask for our food.
There was pepper in my eyes. My face felt even hotter. The conductor held tight to one struggling woman, the driver to another.
-I was now turning in slow-motion to greet ‘Ruki.
I tried hard to see, but the tears made it difficult. Somebody was grabbing me, pulling me, their arms under mine.
-I was now noticing ‘sandra, she was standing right behind ‘Ruki.
I was moving through the air one instant, laying on the ground in the next. Two more people were deposited beside me. The bus moved off. I was now feeling like a cheat, caught at my first attempt.
– And then I came back to reality.
We, all three of us, were on the ground – beside the bus-stop. There was pepper all over me. ‘Sandra was sobbing furiously while ‘CY cursed in ibo: till the very end, differences between them screaming for my notice. Some fool was taking pictures; passing students stopping to point and giggle. I had successfully made a public ridicule of myself.
I scarcely noticed when the police van pulled up at the bus-stop, parked so as to ‘shield us from public view. The last I remember is ‘Ruki running down from the van, and dragging me and ‘Sandra into the back. ‘CY refused to move, despite his entreaties – so we left her there. And then I broke down in tears…
If I ever get down to making a list of the things I am not, ‘player’ must come first. I simply sucked at it.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. I scarcely heard my room mates as they sympathised with me. I hardly heard ‘CY’s vituperation when she returned with her friends for her handbag. I had moved on. I knew I had lost her, and had accepted the fact already. I knew what I had to do next.
I went back to ‘Sandra’s room that night. It took all my courage to knock at her door, to bring myself to walk into her room amidst hostile stares from her room mates.
To sit on her “plastic-chair-that-was-originally-mine” when she burst into tears rather than offer me a seat. It took all my courage to say the words, appreciating her for the years when she had been a loyal friend; acknowledging that she was right to have refused my offer to ‘date’, knowing that we really did not have much in common; pleading that she put the happenings of the day behind her and allow us to continue as good friends.
I told her about the many questions I had asked myself already on my way to her room. I told her that I would never stop wondering if a little more loyalty from my end would have won her over, if a little more perseverance would have helped her to find joy in the things that made me happy. What if I had not sent that text to both of them? What if I had not met ‘CY? What if I had not written that article?
I knew then that I loved them both, but I would always love ‘Sandra more. ‘Sandra was the quintessential friend, the type that did not understand or get involved in what you did – but was loyal none-the-less; ‘CY was the stuff of which dream girls were made – shared passions and common interests – but she was too good to be true.
I knew then that I would meet some girl later on, who would combine attributes from these two.
All of a sudden, there was a lump in my throat.
Tears gathered in my eyes as I watched ‘Sandra cry, threatening to reveal the turmoil I felt inside. I swallowed hard as I fought the urge to put my arm around her shoulders and comfort her. I dug my fingers into the back of my chair till they hurt,willing myself to remain seated. It was better to let her cry, to leave her to settle this on her own.
It hurt me even deeper to see her hurt so. The sight of tears wracking her body, throwing her lean frame to and fro like a leaf before the wind, would haunt me for years to come. The sound of her crying would wake me from my sleep, stabbing at my heart in an endless rhetoric: “What If?”