“How can you say I did everything wrong? Until she ran out of there like a mad woman, we were having a very good time. What’s wrong with her, anyway?”
“There. Is. Nothing. Wrong. With. My. Sister”, she bits out through gritted teeth. “The. Problem. Is. With. You!”, she ends, finger pressed against my chest.
I raise my eyebrow. She drops the finger, takes a deep breath, exhales, flips her hair and sits down. “Did you ever think to wonder why I was glaring at you when you asked her out at the family lunch? I remember calling you twice later that day and not getting any response. Boma, the truth is, of all of us, Ebube is both the bravest and the most cowardly. She cannot stand to argue with anyone. She concedes immediately when you ask her to do anything, no matter how unpleasant. Whenever the choice comes down to fight or flight, Ebube will always flight. Always. Added to that, she’s incredibly shy. You do not ask someone who is incredibly shy out in public, in front of her family members who have all constantly expressed a desire to see her settled. The answer will always be yes. But the consequences will be far reaching.” At this point, she covers her face with her palm.
“Why do you all want her to settle down? And what do you mean by flight? And is that why Kelvin has been avoiding me?”
“I mean, that your knucklehead behavior is going to cause my sister to get on the next available bus, plane or flight and leave. That’s what I mean! And it does not surprise me that Kelvin has been avoiding you. He’s Ebube’s closest friend”
“She’s going to leave? Just like that?”
“Just like that. Ebube has always been predisposed to leaving places easily. This time she stayed almost a year. I guess I should be content with that.” Then she removes her hands from her face and tells me, “Let’s change the subject. Where’s the business plan?”
I stand before the door, a large plastic container filled with his favorite soup in hand. Then, hesitantly, I knock on the door. He opens it.
“Good afternoon Sir”
“Good afternoon dear. Come on in!”
I enter the house and hand him the container of soup.
He opens it, “You remembered!”
“Yes sir, I did”
“You don’t have to call me Sir. But if it makes you more comfortable, go ahead”
He brings out some biscuits and juice and sets it before me.
“It’s not as big as the spread you laid out for us, but please, help yourself”
“Thank you Sir”
“So, what’s this I heard about you and my son going on a date? I thought you were interested in me.”
For a moment, I stare at him, wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. Then, I recognize that he’s joking.
“I was interested in you but you’re much too old for me”
And we laugh for a while, I start eating the biscuits and we start talking.
Over an hour later, Boma comes in. I l wait quietly for him to see me.
“Hi”, I say.
“I came to talk. Can we apologize?”
He looks at me funny then smirks at me and I go back over what I said.
“Sorry, I meant I came to apologize. Could we talk in private, you and I?”
“Sure. Give me a minute first”
Then he disappears into the belly of the house and reappears exactly a minute later wearing jeans and a T- shirt.
“I’ll leave the both of you to talk in peace”, his father says, before he leaves the house.
I notice that Boma looks torn. “Don’t worry about him, he’s going to the hospital for a check up”
He’s silent for a moment. “How do you know I was worried about him?”
“I can’t say I knew for sure, but I make a point of studying people and when you came to my house, every time your dad coughed, every time he reached for something, you kept staring at him in fear, like you were worried about him. So I suspected. Plus, I’ve been in the same position before. It was easier to see the signs”
“So, how did you convince him to go to the hospital?”
“I didn’t have to convince him. He was planning to go by himself”
“Well, thank you anyway”
“You mentioned that you wanted to talk to me about something?”
“Yes. I wanted to apologize for running out on you at dinner and I wanted to give you this”
She’s holding out an envelope to me. I take it, open it and simply stare at her. It’s difficult to swallow.
“Why did you give me this? I invited you out, I pay. What’s difficult to understand about that? It’s nice that you came here and although you say I shouldn’t, thank you for encouraging my dad to go to the hospital, but I think it would be best if you left now”
I expect some argument, or at least some emotion but it’s just as Bunmi had said. There’s nothing there.
“Well, once again, I’m sorry. And the I in ABIM Foods is Iris.”
Then she stands up and leaves.
And the money is still on the table.
It did not surprise me to hear the knock on the door that evening. Or to open the door and see Boma.
“I’m angry with you”
“I can see that”
“But I came to ask you something”
“Come inside first. This door is really heavy and it automatically locks after people enter or exit. Keeping it open is hurting my arm”
He comes inside.
“Do you plan on leaving the state anytime soon?”
“I guess you do, don’t you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, that you think you have me pegged”
“Not completely. But I’m doing something now so I’ll let you keep thinking it”
“What are you doing?”
I smirk at him. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“I would, actually”
“Come see then”
He follows me into the room I converted and now use as my home office.
“What are you doing?”
“My other job”
He comes around, sees the set up, the open browser windows. “You volunteer online?”
I nod. “You want some apples?”
“With peanut butter?”
“Definitely. Thank you.”
Then I go to prepare the snack while he peruses my work laptop.
It’s surprising. From what I can see here, she has a full operation going on. There are about 7 chats going on simultaneously. She’s in the process of typing a progress report and in one window, I can see that she’s researching something.
She comes back, balancing a tray filled with cashews, a bowl of apple slices, a jar of peanut butter, two bottles of yoghurt and some crackers. I help her put it on another part of the table. She leaves me and goes to the laptop, types something in. About 10 minutes later, she shuts the laptop down, then taking a pen, makes a mark on a note posted on a door.
I hand her a pre- buttered apple slice.
“Why are you leaving?”
“Why do you eat peanut butter when you react to peanuts?”
“It’s my favorite butter. And I said I have a slight reaction to them”
“If you stopped eating it, you wouldn’t have any reaction to them”
“I know. I’m willing to take the risk. Stop changing the subject”
“What was the subject?”
“Why you’re leaving?”
“Oh. I have a bit of wanderlust left in me”
“Okay. When are you leaving?” “Sometime next week”
“Why did you run away last night?”
“I remembered something I’d forgotten”
“What do you mean you forgot her? How can you forget your partner?”
“Because she’s dead”
“What are you sorry about?”
“It’s not my loss”
“Yes, it is. If you liked this person so much that the thought of you forgetting them made you run at the speed you did, it is your loss”
“You’d make a good psychoanalyst”
We butter more apple slices.
“So, where do you plan to leave to?”
“I’m thinking Calabar and Port Harcourt. I visited Calabar for about 3 days once and I loved what I saw of it”
“Why Port Harcourt?”
“Because I want to taste proper Fisherman soup”
I start laughing. She pops a buttered apple slice into her mouth.
“Of course I am. Eating a proper Fisherman’s soup is a serious experience that I believe everyone should have, at least once in their lives”
“I’m not going to argue with you on that score. But you’d really move to Port Harcourt because of a soup. Really?”
“No, I’d move to Port Harcourt because of Fisherman’s soup. My mom and Frank tasted it in Port Harcourt when they were dating and they did not let us hear word afterwards”
“You call your stepfather Frank?”
“No, I call my stepfather Frank or Pabby, depending”
“On how I feel around him that day”
“You’re a very simple and yet, fascinating person. I should study your brain sometime”
“Of course. As long as it remains attached to my body, you can study it as much as you’d like. Subject to my convenience, of course”
“Do you remember the first time we met?”
“Sure. You were proposing to my already engaged sister”
“That wasn’t the first time we met”
“Well then, I don’t remember”
“We met at your mom’s wedding. You were sitting next to the stacked chairs?”
“And you were staring at me!”
“I looked for you that day, where did you go?”
“To visit Iris”
“Oh, was she still alive at that time? Why didn’t you just invite her to the wedding?”
“I did. But it would have been hard for her to accept, rigor mortis, decomposing skin and all”
I drop the last apple slice I’d nabbed and had been about to put in my mouth. She gleefully picks it up and pops it into her mouth.
“That’s a nasty image.”
“I know, but you get used to it”
“So, when did she die?”
“Almost 5 years ago”
I cover her hand with mine, “Again, I’m sorry”
Between the both of us, everything on the tray has finished. He’s still holding my hand. I extricate it, stand up and carry the tray to the kitchen.
And when I turn around, there he is.
“Bunmi said you always flight”
“Bunmi doesn’t know everything about me either”
“She was right about something though, you hate conflict. When I asked you to leave the house, I expected an argument”
I stare at him, “I don’t believe in arguing. Most things are not worth arguing about. Household chores? I need something to do with my time, I exert energy, I keep off excess weight and whether or not I argue about it, I’ll still end up doing it. Politics? Pointless. People tend to vote for people they’ve already decided to vote for, regardless of anything anyone says to convince them otherwise. These days, the only things I think are important enough to argue about are things that will bring me money, things that will affect the wellbeing of the people I consider my family and things that actually upset me. Nothing else is worth arguing about as far as I’m concerned.”
“Well, it’s been nice hanging with you.”
“Exactly what day will you be leaving?”
“Saturday most probably, I want to say goodbye to my brother”
“Alright.” He pauses like he wants to say something to me, then turns around and leaves without another word.
On Friday afternoon, I hear the doorbell ring and I pause my last minute packing to answer the door. There’s no one there and I’m about to shut the door when I see the package on the floor. My name is on it in bold letters so I pick it up.
I don’t say goodbye, especially to someone I haven’t said hello to properly. But you’re a special person, so I’m making an exception (just don’t expect me to say the word).
I wanted to give you something to remember me by and then I realized that you need to remember something else too. It’s a personal electronic organizer. I programmed it to remind you to eat or have a snack three times every day.
And should you want to talk, I’m always ready to listen. Please keep in touch.
As I brush my teeth and wash my face and get ready for bed, there’s a beep on my phone. It’s a text message:
“Absolutely. Thank you for the organizer”
“Don’t bother thanking me”, I reply. I used your money to get it”
Perform a random act of kindness.