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It was evening now, and the sun was burying itself behind the mountains, whose shadows enveloped the neighbourhood valley in turn. We were sitting opposite each other in the darkened living room. Both of us lost in separate worlds of our thoughts. The silence between us was growing tense and heavy like a blanket drenched in rain hanging on thing string. And if this blanket was not removed in seconds, it would break loose a torrent of unwanted happenings. But the silence persisted, like a steady subway car making for its destination with precision and speed. Then my thoughts drifted that evening, as I took in the serenity of his cosy abode, the soft leather chairs cushioning my back and buttocks. The furry feel of the plush Persian rug against my legs reminded me of the animals that wander about the steep sides of the mountains. I wondered if perhaps they strayed into the neighbourhood. The colour scheme of his living room was so typical of him. Purple curtains with golden silk linings, a golden brown Persian rug and black leather chairs, gold framed pictures arranged in ascending steps hung on a cream coloured wall. Perhaps my friend had imagined all this too and got them as usual.
“A penny for your thought” Ireti broke the silence at last.
“A dollar for yours” I replied with a half-smile playing on my lips “Your thoughts seem to produce more these days you know?” I added.
“Talking about thoughts my friend” he began “I have come to notice that they are most important in contributing to our lives. Everything I ever thought of has come to pass. Good or bad. That explains my new disposition towards many things in life, if you’ve noticed.” He paused to get a reply and I nodded eagerly in complete agreement.
“I believe I can trust you with the things you will hear from me tonight. I really don’t know why I’m eager to open up to you.”
“You can if you believe you can.” I said simply as if it mattered less if he told me or not. But it did because I really wanted to know. I wanted to know what works.
“If you remember the day I went to the school library to spend two days, the day rain fell throughout. I lied to you guys when I returned. I wasn’t reading my school books. I read them for a while though and decided to take a stroll around the library. It was in the afternoon of the first day. I stumbled on a book in the Religious Studies section and I skipped through it. At the back of the book the author referenced another book. I searched for it in the library.” He shook his head as if searching for the book was the wrong thing to do.
“Yes I shouldn’t have gone in search of the book” he replied, seeing the odd expression on my face. “I shouldn’t have gone further.”
“…but why?” I asked him, I became more confused.
“Some things are better off unknown.” he replied. “I felt a great responsibility to reveal this secret to people. It’s like a burden. On the other hand I cannot just go around and start telling people these strange things. There has to be a connection to something. Perhaps, the time is not right yet. I didn’t find the book in the library though.” He made a deep sigh.
“So where on earth did you find it?” I was determined to go in search of the book. I enjoyed reading things like that. I enjoyed the secrecy behind it all. Knowing what others don’t know. Having access to the things others don’t have access to.
“That’s another strange story on its own. The book practically walked into my hands. I didn’t understand how, until I read the book. There was this guy who was allocated a space in the room next to mine and he had to clear a lot of books on the shelf adjacent to his bed. The books were used and abandoned by past occupants of that bed space. The other occupants of the room had neglected that shelf for a long time and he had to do the cleaning up by himself. I happened to be in the veranda that Saturday morning and I saw him pile up some books on the small lawn adjacent to our block and was about to burn them. I stopped him on intuition just to search among the pile of books in case there were any useful books in it. At the very bottom of the heap was the book, the title jumping out at me like a dog that saw his master. I couldn’t shout or show my excitement. I simply picked up the book and kept it in a safe place in my room.” Ireti concluded with a sigh of relief.
“That was actually the most spectacular incident I’ve recorded since I knew of these things. Why was I allocated the room next to his? Why did that new block mate decide to clean up that shelf? Why was I outside when he was about to burn it? Why did I stop him spontaneously when he wanted to burn it? The most puzzling question is; why did the initial owner leave it there? It actually isn’t in print anymore I guarded it like I would, my life.”
“What explains your sudden withdrawal from ladies, and womanizing?”
“I simply realized that I could get anything I wanted and what I really wanted was far different from those ladies. I had the picture of the kind of lady I really wanted. And that is exactly what I got.” He said this with an absolute certainty that I almost thought Ireti was crazy. We all knew he didn’t have a girl in his life as at that time. I didn’t know what to say but the expression on my face was clear.
”Yes that is what I got.” he said again “The lady I told you I saw in my dream that day is everything I ever wanted. We are in an active relationship.”
“…in your dream?” I cut in.
“Yes in the dream. We meet every day. And as we fellowship every day in the dream I know we are getting closer to each other in reality. In fact reality lies in the unseen. Ancient texts make us understand that the things which we see are temporal but the things we do not see are eternal”
“The book said so?” I asked. I was puzzled.
“Yes, the holy book. The bible said so.”
“Oh, the bible, but….”
“The book I found also said so. It actually quoted that part of the bible.” He interrupted and then I understood.
“So you believe you’re going to meet this lady very soon?”
“As a matter of fact, sooner, than you can imagine. We are already connected. The laws of attraction have come into play. We both are somewhere in the universe but the law of attraction will bring us together. When it happens it won’t be a matter of me trying to woo her. She will know for herself, and we would have the smoothest relationship ever.” He said with an air of finality.
It was very dark now and I could hear the rustle of dried leaves in the compound as the cool night breeze blew by. I faked a cough before the mournful intermission of deafening silence commenced again because I noticed my friend had recoiled into a shell of his thoughts like a snail whose cover just got blown.
“So where is the book?” I asked
“It’s gone.” He said simply. “The book is gone.”
The months came and went so fast. I was in the village where I taught at a primary school and my friend Ireti was in Calabar working at the software firm. During the eleventh month of our NYSC program, I received a call from Ireti that he just got a new car. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know whether to be happy at that point or to be sad. Why should I feel sad? Ireti was my closest friend. Why should I feel happy? It wasn’t my car. I didn’t know if I should be envious or not. Perhaps I was already, but what I felt was a mixture. I could feel the envy course through my veins but I couldn’t decipher the other part of the mixture.
I dropped the call, and took a seat beside the window of my cubicle-like room. Taking a deep breathe, hoping that the fresh night air would dilute the rage in my bones. Yes. Rage, I realized that was the second part of the mixture — envy and rage. Envy, because he had everything he ever wanted. Rage, because he refused to tell me the secret to his successive triumphs. Did he? The last time I spent the weekend at his house he told me really simple but strange things. But I found them difficult to believe. Not because they were strange, but because they were simple. I found out that we find it easier to believe strange things than simple things. Probably because the simple things are too simple for our intellects and the strange things too complex for us to understand which gives us an excuse to apply the concept of faith — we often say ‘just believe’.
I believed he told me only parts and pieces of the whole thing though, and that’s why they aren’t working for me because I have put them to practice since then and consistently at least for three months. I had given them up. It’s all nonsense, I said to myself and I forgot about them all until a strange thing happened to me, and I believed it because it was strange and interesting.
I saw a movie on a Friday in that month at a friend’s house which gave root to my believing in what Ireti told me months ago. The lead actress in the movie was exactly the kind of woman I wanted for myself. I had always nursed the picture of that kind of lady in my mind but I never really dwelled on the thought. I had always wanted a lady with an average height and chocolate butter skin, a lady who has conspicuous hips, full chest and large eye balls. I wanted her personality type to be melancholy or phlegmatic or both. The actress I saw in that movie matched that profile perfectly, then I began to imagine. I began to imagine that she was indeed with me and she was my spouse and anytime I did that I felt good like it was actually true. I felt so pleased with myself and life began to make sense to me. I noticed that everything about me physically changed — my dressing, my speech, my confidence. I started walking with a new swagger. I began to work out that month. There was no gym in the village but I improvised. I began to do sit-ups and push-ups to reduce my protruding stomach. I did all of these for her. But she only existed in my imagination. Yes, until the last day in June.
Written by an Egeria Press Author, Adekunle Adeayo
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