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February 5th, 2015.
“Farida, what was that for?”
Emem was yelling at Farida, who had walked up to Jerry and slapped him on both sides of the cheek.
“That’s for not knowing how or when to just give up the ghost”, Farida had muttered.
“I bet her lips taste better than yours”, Jerry said, raising his head up.
Farida struck again. Jerry absorbed the pain for a few seconds and, raising his head once again, said:
“How do you expect me to sign that document, with girls like this in existence? Who would want to date someone like her? If she were the last girl on earth, I’d beg the seminary to take me back, and if I had to procreate with her to preserve the human species, I’d rather opt for the erasure of mankind.”
Farida, not particularly shy to use her hands, was aiming at Jerry’s face again, but Emem restrained her. Emem then looked at Jerry, then at the rest of the abducted group, then Jerry again, and began to speak.
“Is it so hard to love, eh, guys? What do you gain by sieving your hearts of all emotion? To what end, really?”
“When you go through what some of us have, you will find that Love only exists in movies and songs. It doesn’t even dwell much in songs these days”, Soogun replied.
“What could have been that bad, to cause you to tear out your heart and shut it down?”
“Years of being falsely led on and confined in steep, deep friend zones, maybe”, Peter chipped in. “You put your heart out there, but time and time again they slam their emotional doors in your face. You’re either too nice, or too sensitive, or just ‘the funny guy’. They still want you around as a human pillar, as a human handkerchief, as an emotional cushion, and that hurts even more. I like to take up the ‘all or nothing’ approach, and I can’t choose to buckle her shoes if her hair won’t be all up in my face when the lights are out.”
“That’s not enough to give up on Love, dude. You don’t have to stop searching. There’s someone out there, for each and everyone, in their own sweet time. Good love is on the way.”
“What’s the need, ma’am? When they’ll still hurt you again and again! Women are such a bunch of professional liars!”
It was Jerry who had said that. Emem turned to him, and grinning, continued:
“J, why do I have this feeling that all this non-committal attitude and heart-breaker persona is all just a defence mechanism? You are just scared of getting hurt again, so even when you catch feelings, you fight with your emotions so hard that she feels the heat. You are afraid you may have forgotten how to love, so you pull the ‘unavailable’ card. This whole bachelor thing is just a facade, Jerry, almost like when a girl puts up a rude persona to cover the fact that she is in reality battling with shyness.”
“And what makes you so sure, Love-Doctor Emem?”
“I see it, Jerry. I see it in your works. Yes, we have stalked your Facebook page and your blog for years. Behind this lady-killer is one real softie who is just scared of getting too caught up. You show up at weddings, you admire the Love on display, yet the meaning of the confetti and the flowers is totally lost on you. You are scared that your fragility and emotional instability will be exposed, so you avoid commitment as much as possible.
“You set all kinds of high standards, eager to pick out flaws in each lady you meet, even frustrating the ones that actually care….but little do you know that the more you go about like this, in time you will have nothing left to give. Two bad yams are not enough to give the barn a bad name. How long will you keep running, J? How long?”
For the first time since his capture, Jerry lacked a reply. He said nothing, only swallowing hard. Emem smiled. She knew she had struck a chord.
“Here’s a chance for a fresh start, guys. I and the girls will give you time and space to think things over. I hope Reason triumphs when you make your decision.”
“Guy, make we sign this thing, e get why.”
Emem had kept to her word. She had gone out with the girls, though the men were still bound and had been left in thick darkness. They could not see, but each could recognize the other’s voice. Promise it was who had made the suggestion that the agreement be signed.
“I see reason with Promise sha o”, Wole added. “You check am now. All this torture, all the pain, it isn’t worth it.”
“I cannot believe I am hearing this”, Jerry spoke, expressing his displeasure. “What happens to all the codes we have lived by for years? What happens to our goals? What happens to the quest for success? What happens to all the values we have imbibed over time? You want all that thrown away just like that?”
“Behind every successful man is a…..”, Soogun said, chuckling.
“FALSE! FALSE! FALSE!” Jerry interrupted him. “Women are one heck of a distraction. They are the reason that many men sacrifice their dreams in the name of getting married or becoming baby daddies. They are the reason our allowance was never enough back in school. Hell, they are the reason many of us didn’t graduate with first class honours.”
“Seriously though, these ladies have a point, “Promise suggested again. “Forget all this Bachelors’ Anonymous wey I dey do, guy, I wan born pikin. Human being nor dey do asexual reproduction na. Abi you don forget your Biology?”
“So it’s about future kids now? What happened to your ambitions, ehn Promise?” Jerry asked defiantly.
“There is what is called Balance. Besides, I think Mimi and I are developing some sort of understanding. We bonded over the meal your loud mouth interrupted, and I saw how she looked at me when we thought you would die, speaking of which, I still wonder how you survived.”
“Understanding? Understanding! With your captor! Has Stockholm’s Syndrome come over you?”
“That’s the problem with you Jerry”, Wole yelled. “You give no room in your mind for the dynamics. Someone is seeing the start of something good, you call it Stockholm’s Syndrome. We are bachelors, yea, but we won’t mind a shot at something positively different.”
“And what about Walt? Jargo? What about many others who have laid down their lives for our cause?”
“In every battle, whether between two countries or two genders, there will always be casualties.”
“You got to be kidding me!”
Jerry was livid. He could see that his friends had softened. A wide door opened, and Emem walked back in with the ladies.
“So, Jerry, what’s it going to be?”
“What’s the guarantee that after signing this, we still won’t be killed?”
“No, on the contrary, I’ve got something juicy in store for you.”
“Well Emem, I’m not convinced.”
Emem sighed. She walked slowly round the men and suddenly said, “Mimi, get me those wireless headsets!”
Mimi was quick in effecting Emem’s command. She placed a pair each in the men’s ears, with the exception of Jerry, and grinning mischievously, said:
“What is the difference between a stubborn man and a goat? At least a goat runs from the road when it sees danger. Jerry, you have thick skin, but I’m not sure if I can say the same for your friends. We will do a little something now, but this won’t involve you, so let’s find out if you are taking a stand for them, or actually doing this for the sake of your ego.
“Sometime in 2012, a Nigerian actress by name Tonto Dikeh decided to venture into music. We do not know what got into her, but she released two tracks, each weighing four megabytes. The tracks ‘Get High’ and ‘It’s Over’ turned out to be torture for our ears. Phones crashed, homes were broken, MB was wasted, and we almost began to feel that the songs were part of propaganda to distract us from government’s inadequacies. Well those headsets in their ears are connected to a music player, and once that music player is activated, they will be listening to those two tracks continuously, as they’ll be on repeat.”
The men cringed. Jerry shuddered a little too. He remembered the two tracks, and the havoc they caused. He remembered how someone sued his neighbour for nuisance over playing the songs, and how fellow bachelor Chuks Chuks was still in jail thanks to the same songs. Chuks had gone out of his house, forgetting to switch off his appliances due to a power cut, and by the time power was restored, the songs played continuously, causing death to two members of the family next door. The autopsy revealed cerebral haemorrhage, and despite Jerry’s best efforts, Chuks had been convicted for negligent manslaughter.
The songs began to play. Jerry could see the lines on their foreheads, and the veins on the sides of their heads. Julie mischievously increased the volume of the song from time to time, causing more pain. Jerry fought hard to keep a straight face as they screamed, but things came to a head when he heard a loud pop. Peter’s head and ears could not contain Tonto’s voice anymore, and his skull had exploded, splashing his brain tissues all over the place.
Mimi wept. Jerry shut his eyes. Emem simply looked away.