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“Jerry, why that look on your face? Haven’t you heard of a ‘double’ before?” said Walt. “Many celebrities use doubles. Do you think that it’s GEJ who always shows up at those Presidential gatherings? Do you think that all the stunts you see in action movies are performed by the actors themselves? Heck, how do you think A-list stars manage to cope with the Paparazzi?”
“Walt, you do fancy yourself to be a celebrity, don’t you?” Jerry asked in between mirthless giggles.
“Well I can afford a double, which is more than I can say for some people”, Walt replied, the mockery in his tone hard to ignore.
“Then who got shot?”
“His name was Hyginus Okechukwu. He had been my body double for eighteen months. Yes, it was that long.”
Jerry’s face had begun to accommodate anger, and a clenched left fist did nothing to conceal the feeling, but Walt still had more to reveal.
“I know I was the one who formed Bachelors’ Anonymous, but with time I got tired of the principles and tenets of the organisation. Who consciously decides to live a life without Love? ‘No Women, No Worries.’ Who says that? What lameness? Do you know what it feels like to be with someone whom you just want to lean into and forget the world, because when you are with her nobody and nothing else matters? Have you met someone you want to wake up next to until the day after Forever? Would you know how it feels to lay beside someone you want to be with for 25 out of 24 hours, because they put the colour inside of your world like jollof at a party? You won’t understand these things, Bachelor.
“I began to get emotionally attached to a woman or two, but I was finding it hard to keep my secret love quests under wraps, until I saw the movie ‘The Devil’s Double’, and then Providence flung Hyginus in my way. We had the same height and same physique. I convinced him to say goodbye to his old life, changed his teeth, changed his complexion via surgery, altered the shape of his head and adjusted his ears. All he had to do was cram some corny bachelor lines and work on his voice. Then you came along in all your zealousness, and it became a lot easier. I allowed you take over the spotlight, and while Hyginus presided over meetings, I would hang out discreetly in lounges like this.
“Things became complicated when you began to recruit too many men. People began to pick up the warped ideals of the group; Love began to wane. Emem had been an elite match-maker for years, but she had graduated to bachelor-hunting, and when she gave me a call one day, we began to devise ways to wind up the organisation. The original plan was to kill you, but on second thoughts, we realised that you would be more useful to us alive. I know it does not sound so flattering, but you were more or less a pawn in our chessboard.”
Jerry clenched his fist tighter. Breathing slowly, he asked, “what about the shootings? Those who have died?”
“Well, sacrifices have to be made for the greater good”, Walt replied. “In the end, Love always wins. You can’t take up arms against Love, and in any war, anyone who takes sides against Love is the real villain. How do you spend nights, with just your hands for company?”
Jerry could contain himself no longer. He sent his clenched fist into Walt’s right jaw, sending him to the floor. He raised his foot over Walt’s head, aiming for multiple stamps, but suddenly had a change of heart and turned away.
.“Enjoy your lonely soapy miserable life, Jerry. Bachelors’ Anonymous my Eastern a**”, Walt said as he dusted himself up.
Jerry found a secluded table at the lounge and began to think. He felt like an idiot. He had been fooled all along. What difference existed between him and religious extremists that carried out the instructions of clerics who wouldn’t lift a finger, or thugs that acted for politicians who issued contracts from the safety of their mansions? He felt like ending it all, sadly there was no weapon in sight. He could hear Prince Adewale Oreshade treating the couples to some mushy love poems. His stomach turned.
“Hello Jerry. I have been longing to meet you.”
Jerry looked up to see who owned the soft voice that had interrupted his thoughts. A petite, good-looking dark-complexioned lady stood before him.
“My name is Dami Oyewusi”, she continued. “You may not know me, but I have been following you on Facebook and Twitter for months now. I checked you out on a Literary Challenge; you were amazing even though you lost. I regularly read your updates, and I think you really rock. They say you are never serious with women, they say your heart is too slippery to hold, but I don’t act on hearsay. I think there is a big heart behind this non-committal shell, and I want to get to know you better.”
“You really like Jerry, don’t you, Farida?”
Farida had been looking in the direction of Jerry’s table since he was joined by Dami. She could not seem to take her eyes off them, and Emem had noticed that.
“Like who? Jer-who? What are you saying ma’am?”
“Denial is a well-known defence mechanism in psychology, Farida. I saw the way you look at him when you thought no one was watching. I saw the anxiety on your face when you thought he would die from Aidee’s kiss. I know that you stabbed Ife because you thought that she decided to spare Jerry out of attraction to him, and I know that those slaps were all just a part of reverse psychology. You can’t fool me, young woman.”
“Well, what difference does it make? That girl is with him now.”
“This is 2015, Farida. You want a guy, you go for him. It doesn’t help to play coy these days, the age-long convention of playing hard to get is gradually wearing off. Not to worry, you will find your own man in due time, someone who will live for your slaps. Trust me on that.”
Over at the table, all Jerry could do was stare. He had never lacked words, but there was something about this lady that seemed to throw him off balance. It had been a long time since anyone made him feel this way.
“Don’t try too hard”, Dami said. “You don’t have to impress me, and besides I am patient. It may take time, but I want to see when your heart shines. Well I’d love you to do something for me. I’m a bit of the old school, so I want you to write me a letter. Here’s a pen and paper. Just let the words flow from within.”
Jerry took the writing materials, smiling at her. He did not know the source of Dami’s confidence. He could not explain why, but somewhere inside him he felt that this was just right. He took a look at her and put pen to paper, taking time to actually search his heart for the first time in years.
April 3rd, 2015.
“It’s a miracle! Welcome back, madam.”
“Who are you? And how did I get here?”
“I am Miss Ovie-Whiskey, but you can call me Vivian. You were brought here by a group of guys who said they found you in a public refuse dump while they were scavenging for items to recycle. They had thought you were dead, but then you stirred, so they carried you. We were able to sew up your neck, but we have been waiting on you for weeks to regain consciousness.”
Weeks? What was she talking about? Ife, her neck still bandaged, stared curiously at the nurse on duty. She was not done with her fact-finding.
“If I have been unconscious for weeks, then what is today’s date?”
“It’s April 3rd, madam”, Vivian replied. “It’s been six days since history was made in Nigeria.”
“April 3rd? How long have I been asleep then…and what history?” Ife inquired with a puzzled face.
“Well, the whole world was treated to a shocker at the presidential elections. It was largely influenced by the previous week’s debate, but apparently, people decided that they would vote for Buhari. An incumbent has lost for the first time ”
The Change slogan prevailed! Ife felt like jumping and dancing Shoki, but then remembered her neck. She managed a smile and turned left to see an unconscious man on another bed in the ward. The face looked oddly familiar. She inquired who it was.
“I can’t remember his name now”, Vivian replied. “It’s one spooky name like that. He was brought here with a bullet wound in his groin nearly two months ago. We have done multiple surgeries, but there are still pellets to be removed. He zones in and out.”
Ife looked closely. She could now recollect. She recognised the cheekbone and the eyebrow from the telescope she looked through on that fateful Monday evening. It was Hannu! The room suddenly got cold. For a moment, she wished she didn’t wake up. How would she share a room with a man she almost killed? How would she react when he eventually woke up? Would her ears even be able to stand his voice?
“Hello sleeping beauty, welcome back to Earth.”
Ife looked up. A bearded, cross-eyed man of average height in a ward coat and a stethoscope round his neck was standing at the door.
“You look so beautiful when you just open your eyes, Miss. I am Dr. Deoye Falade. I’ve been yearning for the moment when you’ll finally gain consciousness.”
He smiled at her. There was something about Deoye’s voice that tickled her. She smiled back.
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