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I never speed while driving, it’s a personal decision. I had vowed to myself after my father lost his life in a motor accident that nothing would ever make me speed or drive rough. But that afternoon, I ignored my vows and drove like someone who was being chased. I wanted to meet my wife at home if that was where she went to.
I would have been on time, but I had decided to obey the traffic light on the highway just before my estate. I was driving in through one gate when I saw Femi’s car drive out of the other.
I parked, ran out and started yelling my wife’s name. There was no way she would hear, but yelling made me feel better.
So she is going to Calabar. She had told me about the event earlier but had said she wasn’t interested in going. I didn’t need to wonder what made her change her mind; I just didn’t understand how she could be so irrational.
Another woman would stay to ask questions, get angry or throw tantrums. Why do you always abandon me instead, Boye? I muttered.
I decided to try her number again. I waited for it to ring, I willed it to ring, I begged it to not give the same ‘not reachable’ message I had been getting while driving down but it wasn’t my lucky day.
I have to go to Calabar too.
Okay, relax first, Jite, I told myself. Why on earth would you want to go to Calabar? For what na?
What will I be doing here? My life is going to be empty without Omoboye. The fact that we might not even talk throughout her stay there will only make me more miserable.
Oh my God, you sound pathetic, I chided myself.
Is this what marriage does to people? Does marriage make an adult male so dependent, so wimpish, or is it just that I have a problem?
Why did I get married? Why did I marry Omoboye? Is this what the rest of my life will be like?
Things do not have to remain this way, I said, continuing my soliloquy. You are the man here. You can take charge. You need to make her know she can’t just walk out on you whenever she feels like it. Go to your house, take a bath, go out with your friends, go clubbing, do whatever. Just have fun. When she comes back, don’t allow her in until she begs. In fact pack her bags for her, let her meet them in the hallway.
I laughed at myself, thinking one of my ancestors must have taken over my mind for a minute. Throw her bags out? Who did that these days?
I decided on what I would do. I would swallow my pride and take the next available flight to Calabar. I would go to my wife, sit her down and force her to say everything on her mind.
With that goal in mind, I started the car.
I saw his car when we were driving out, and I could have told Femi to stop the car. I think I wanted to, but I didn’t. I knew I could quit the drama and demand explanations but I was growing fond of taking time apart when we had issues. It seemed like an easier way.
Femi and I got to Tinapa late in the afternoon. Our flight which should have been for 12 noon was delayed for an extra two hours, for reasons we were left to imagine.
It wasn’t my first time in Tinapa but still I mouthed a ‘wow’ upon entering the resort. My room overlooked the sea and I thought of how much more beautiful it would be if Jite were around. Funny how I always think of him when I am having a good time.
The event slated for that day was over by the time we got there but we were still able to meet up with some key people in the industry. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I just kept thinking of my husband. Why did I even leave Lagos? I wondered. Why didn’t I just talk to Jite?
It’s still Jite ooo, the guy who forgave me for killing his baby. Why didn’t I just hear him out? Who knows, maybe Skipper’s baby is not even his after all.
That would be nice to know, wouldn’t it? I didn’t want to think of Skipper’s pregnancy because it only reminded me of my own failure to conceive. Several thoughts had been running at the back of my mind; chiefly the thought that perhaps I had damaged my womb. It even crossed my mind that perhaps, I was destined to have just one child and I had wasted my only chance. I had Nollywood movies to thank for the latter. Yet, I kept pushing the negative thoughts back.
I think I should call him, I decided, switching on my phone.
There are days when it would seem like everything on earth conspired to make your life miserable. That day was one of such. I needed cash; I had more than I needed in my account only I couldn’t access my money. Every ATM that I tried had the same story to tell- ‘Issuer or switch inoperative’.
From the little I knew, I understood it could only mean there was a problem with my bank’s network. I also knew things could remain that way for the rest of the day but still I had to go to Calabar. I had 5000 naira on me and I was sure there was no way I could get to Calabar with that. I thought of driving to my Mum’s place for help but decided I had to solve the problem on my own.
I drove back to the house, confident that there would be some money lying around. Omoboye was a cash person, she didn’t believe in using her ATM card although she had one. She believed that having cash at hand was still the most reliable way.
I checked the places where I knew she kept money and was glad to find an envelope which contained 15000 naira. It wasn’t much but at least I was sure of having enough to take a flight to Calabar. I told myself it was risky to depend on the fact that Omoboye would be there and I could share her hotel room, but I still wanted to go.
Her phone has been switched off for a long time now, what if she intends to leave it that way? What if you can’t get through, where will you sleep?
The University of Calabar’s campus, the hotel lobby, the airport…anywhere, I replied myself with false confidence.
The text message from Boladale came in while I was trying to call Jite. She said something about how she finally found the courage to tell my ex, Dapo, that she was pregnant with his child and that she had given him an ultimatum of seven days to tell his wife or she would. She ended the text message with ‘wish me luck babe’.
I did wish her luck, only it was the negative type. Who was this new Boladale? I wondered how I didn’t know what she was capable of. Why would she want him to tell his wife? What did she hope to achieve?
But isn’t it better that she knows? A tiny voice whispered in my head.
Was it? I wondered if I would want to know. It was easy to put myself in the shoes of my ex’s wife. I believed I was going through something similar.
Did I really want to know if Jite was responsible for Skipper’s pregnancy? The answer was NO; a part of me would rather not hear the truth and I knew that was why I ran. I was afraid of hearing that he was responsible after all.
But you can’t run forever Boye. Sooner or later you will have to face these issues.
I knew that, and some part of me was ready to talk to Jite but his phone remained unavailable.
I thought of Skipper all through the flight. What game is she playing? She is pregnant but still won’t leave me alone. What on earth does she want? I kept sighing. I was restless and uncomfortable despite the fact that the flight was a smooth one.
I thought of sending her a text message that read:
’Samantha Nkiruka Ofure Ismail, what do you want from me?’
She was a contradiction, just like her name. Born to an Edo/Igbo mother and a Fulani father, she had also been exposed to all three cultures. As with her physical beauty, that should have meant a beautiful character and mind but for the fact that something had twisted her. Sometimes I would wonder if it was because she had been raped by their house help when she was eleven, other times I would think that perhaps it was because she had once been in an abusive relationship that lasted several years, but most of the time I would conclude that it was most likely a combination of the two. Her parents had refused to prosecute the boy and claimed their decision was meant to protect her; she had never forgiven them or herself for it. The abusive boyfriend, a cultist, did not only abuse her body and mind, he also made her participate in their initiation orgies.
After hearing about all she went through, it had been easy to understand why she was so addicted to sex and why despite having a gorgeous body, she had no respect for it. I did feel sorry for her and on some level wanted to help her heal but I knew I wasn’t that man. I didn’t have the patience and neither did I love her enough.
I ruminated on her pregnancy, thinking perhaps if the father of the baby decided to accept her she would leave me alone. I had not been too surprised when she had told me on her third call that she was pregnant and who had impregnated her. She claimed the baby’s father wasn’t ready to accept her pregnancy and she didn’t care if he did or did not. I knew that was a lie; she had always been searching for acceptance and love. I could sense that not getting it was the reason she was bent on making my own life miserable.
Perhaps she thinks if she couldn’t be happy, I shouldn’t be also. But that was strange too. I thought of another text message I could send her but I knew I wouldn’t dare. I thought of saying, ‘Skipper, why don’t you just hunt the guys that messed up your life and ruin theirs? Why don’t you just leave me and my wife the hell alone?’
Femi called at 5pm that day to say that dinner was at 8.00pm and that he had arranged with some other guys for us to go sightseeing by 5.30pm. I wasn’t interested in anything and had even started contemplating leaving for Lagos early the next morning. I asked him where we would be going and he mentioned the Calabar slave museum, the sea port and that we were also going on a boat ride. They all sounded exciting especially the slave museum part, I had once been told that it would blow my mind. Although I didn’t feel like doing anything at all, I told him I would be ready.
All I wanted to do was turn the lights off and bury my head in a pillow. The room was perfect for that, with the lush furniture and the magnificent ambience; I could enjoy being depressed there only I was sure it was designed for happy things. I could imagine it as a love nest and that made me miss Jite even more. Tomorrow morning I will be out of here, I decided. I needed to talk to my husband about everything; my fears that I couldn’t trust him ever, and my fears that I might be infertile.
I got to Tinapa around 5.15pm. I was scared for myself. I had just 5000 naira left on me and I knew there was no way I would get a hotel that cheap in the resort. I still couldn’t get through to Omoboye’s line. I didn’t know the name of the programme she came for but I trudged on hoping that there wouldn’t be so many things going on in the resort. I was in luck; it was deserted in a way that I liked. I had expected it to be busy and was pleased that it wasn’t, not only because it would make it easier to find Omoboye but also because it made it my ideal place for a vacation. Refreshing view of nature, clean fresh air… just what I believed every Lagosian needed from time to time.
I asked for directions and was pointed in the direction of the hotel where the participants of the beauty products exhibition were lodged. I summoned courage and walked up to the front desk.
‘Hello madam,’ I said, ensuring that I sounded confident.
‘Hello, you are welcome,’ she said with a smile. Good customer service. I filed that away as another reason to come on vacation later.
‘Thank you. Errrm, my wife is here and I can’t get through to her right now. Her number is not reachable. We came to Calabar together but I had to take care of some business in town first. You see she is part of the beauty products exhibition thing and I decided to accompany her thinking we should make this a weekend getaway of some sort. The thing now is I need to know the room where she is.’
‘I am sorry I can’t give you that information, sir. It’s against our regulations. I would love to help in any other way. You could sit at the reception and keep trying her number.’
I murmured my thanks and proceeded to the reception. I made myself busy with the magazines there and also kept looking out for anybody who might know Omoboye.
‘Hello there, aren’t you Omoboye’s husband? She didn’t say you were around. I also came in with my hubby. It’s our first time being in Calabar.’
Excited, I stood up to greet the speaker. I couldn’t remember her but I was sure I must have met her somewhere. All of that was unimportant; what mattered was someone knew who I was and had seen Omoboye.
‘Quite a long time,’ I replied, smiling and giving her a warm hand shake.
‘We didn’t actually come in together; I took another flight because I had to take care of some things before leaving Lagos.’
‘I am so happy to see you. I am in a fix here. My wife’s phone line is not going through and I don’t know what room she is in.’
‘Oh, that is not a problem at all. I can get that for you. I am in charge of logistics so I know where everybody is. Let’s see.’ She opened the folder in her hands. ‘Your wife is on the fourth floor. Room 40B.’
‘Thank you so very much madam. I am grateful.’
‘It’s Sholape. I guess you’ve forgotten the name. You came along with Boye to our anniversary party last December and I was at your wedding too.’
‘Oh, I am so sorry. I am very poor at remembering names and faces.’
‘It’s no problem sir.’
‘Thank you very much.’ I said, taking brisk steps towards the elevator.
It was 5.25pm. I was ready and I expected Femi to knock any minute. I sat in the darkened room running my palms over my dress. The dress I wore, a long sleeved black dress was something I wouldn’t have worn to an outing back home not to talk of an outing with the top shots in the beauty industry. Do I have to go? I wondered. Yes you have to. You have to leave this darkness and have some fun.
I opened the door immediately Femi knocked.
‘No makeup?’ He asked the moment he saw me walk out.
‘Yes, Femi, no makeup. Woman shall not live by makeup alone.’
‘Hmmmm….. That’s strange coming from someone who makes up when going for a swim.’
‘I’ve been wanting to ask you this; what’s wrong with you? Are you and your husband having problems? There has been something about you all day, something dark and melancholy.’
‘Femi, leave the poetry. Let’s go.’
‘No, Boye talk to me. We are friends right?’ He asked, tilting my chin upwards.
‘I can’t,’ I whimpered, feeling tears spring to my eyes before I could stop them.
‘It’s okay,’ he said, drawing me close.
I snuggled up to him and allowed him to comfort me.
‘Stop crying Omoboye. We could go in and talk about it.’
‘Stop crying please’, he said rubbing my back and laying a hand on my buttocks.
I paused wanting to slap it off but I didn’t; at least not for several seconds. For some strange reason it felt good lying there.
‘Let’s go,’ I said, breaking the contact after several seconds.
‘We don’t have to go.’
‘Femi, we either leave now or I go back into my room and lock myself in.’
No problem, as long as you lock me in with you. He replied, a foolish grin on his face.
Omoboye’s dress was the first thing I saw as I entered the fourth floor. She said she hated this dress, why is she wearing it? I thought. It warmed my heart to see her in the dress. It was my gift to her for her last birthday before we got married and she had said it wasn’t good enough for her taste.
I stood at the elevator entrance and watched her walk down the lobby.
Femi saw me first.
He tapped her and pointed at me.
I smiled, rushing towards her to give her a hug.
‘Jite, what are you doing here?’ She asked, stepping aside to avoid my hug.
‘Omoboye, I wanted to see you, I wanted us to talk.’
‘And who said we can’t do that when I get back? I think you should leave.’