On that beautiful evening
After fourteen market weeks
The moon hung ineptly benign
Sparkling radiantly, a luscious smile
The stars dashingly beading the sky.
I stood beside the old orange tree,
trying to picture you
And trying to fight anxiety
The key word was ‘I Love You’
So I tried to stick to courtesy.
The ambiance was filled with life
The crickets sounds could attest
I want to let hell loose,
shake hands with the devil
And probably exchange my fears
Bush meat in one hand,
the other ,palm wine for your father
I held faith so strong
As no prize could buy love
Even royalty begs for affection
If love was a crime
If loving you was wrong
Then let me die trying
Than imprisoned by guilt
For what I had never done
Mide and I remained in that position for a while. My hands were wrapped around her and her head was on my shoulder. By now, her sobs were beginning to subside as she could only be heard sniffing occasionally. I wanted to speak but kept on restricting myself from doing so for fear that I might say something wrong, something that may bring her back to tears. We hadn’t been there for up to thirty minutes before we heard the front door creak open. “It’s him, he’s back.” Mide uttered as she jerked herself off my hands and quickly stood up. I could observe a sudden wave of panic rush over her.
“Um, you have to leave now Uju. Michael doesn’t like visitors”
“What!” I replied as I made to rise but stopped halfway in shock.
“You heard me, Michael doesn’t like visitors. You should understand this. He says now that we’re married, our business is meant just for the two of us, so friends and visitors in general shouldn’t be allowed to interfere in such unions.” she retorted while moving round the room, trying to make sure all was in order. I was already standing in full length by this time, most importantly, I was really lost for words to say. I just stood, watching her as she cleaned this surface and dusted that surface and straighten the bed sheets for what I think must have been the fiftieth time since she started the cleaning. What about yourself Mide, won’t you clean up as well. I thought to myself.
“Go to the sitting room Uju, Michael mustn’t meet you…” She hadn’t completed her sentence before Micheal casually strolled in through the passage leading to their bedroom.
“God!” I heard her shout, or was it my thoughts? There was no time to think, it was already too late. Michael, a guy of average height, with a slim build ,very dark skin, his hair bearing a very stylish cut and beards neatly shaven abruptly stopped at the entrance on seeing me. Despite the tension already building between all three of us at that moment, I couldn’t help but notice the glow his dark skin radiated. When compared to Mide, it seemed like he hadn’t aged one bit. Everything was still as perfect as it had been since the first time she introduced me to him. Damn, he still has it…
I bet each of us was probably wondering what the other was thinking from the way we stared at each other, but I didn’t need a soothsayer to tell me Mide really hated me at that hour.
Poor Mide. I’d leave and she’d suffer for the sins I made her commit. No visitors allowed, really? Where did that happen? What in heaven’s name have you gotten yourself into… Olamide Benson, that energetic teenage girl I met years back at Mayflower Comprehensive College. The girl who loved to have people around her and never failed to make sure it wasn’t a dull moment with such. The girl who participated in almost all activities there was back then at school. From the school choir, to the drama club, to the dance group, the roll call couldn’t go on without Olamide Benson’s name having been ticked. And despite all these extra-curricular activities, she was still able to maintain top class positions in all the classes she’d been in. The only time she didn’t live up to these expectations was when she was ill, and that was one time. She was pretty, with hair darker than coal and her skin colour brighter than the sun. And her brown eyes, it always radiated great joy, revealing how happy and pleased she was with herself and all. Whenever it came to the time for the boys to have a subject, Olamide Benson was always the best topic for discussion. Many envied her…I was one of the many. It was only until that day she helped me, things between us changed forever. I have to admit that during the course of our friendship, I was still a little bit jealous of her, especially on occasions such as when she’d receive subtle compliments for either her beauty or her performance at something. It didn’t help too that when we got to senior class, I was the bait used most times to get to her; sometimes from guys who I thought were really craving my attention. And most more than often, we bickered about this and other issues. But Mide being the good person that she was, always found a way to fix things. How could one hate such a person? She was everything. But now, standing and looking at her right there in the middle of the room, she looked like nothing, absolute nothing. She looked plain, empty. Where was that everything?
“She’s about leaving” her voice came first breaking the silence that was beginning to make itself comfortable and at home. “Yes Michael. I was about leaving. Welcome back. Sorry I came into the bedroom, she needed some help from me…”
Michael didn’t say a word, instead he threw the briefcase he had been holding all the while into the room with such a force that it almost landed on Mide’s face but for the fact that she ducked in time. “Your problem is that you don’t listen” he shouted with rage after doing that as he stormed out the passage. Few seconds later, we heard the front door close with a loud bang.
“Oh Uju, I warned you to leave. You shouldn’t have come. You shouldn’t have come into the bedroom. This is exactly what he says, you people are just trouble, nothing but trouble.How do I explain this now… My God, I’m in trouble.”
“Do you hear yourself talk? If I had received an answer for the countless knocks and calls I made, there wouldn’t have been the need to come in here. Again, I didn’t just decide to barge in, it was only when I rested my arm on the doorknob while trying to make one of such calls it came open ,making me realise someone was in the whole time. You weren’t aware of all these, you could have been in serious danger.”
“That’s not the point right now. What I’m about to be in is worse than danger, can’t you see. I went against Michael’s wishes and I’m going to be severely punished for it. Oh Lord, please come to my rescue! You’ve always hated me Uju, I know, I just never knew it had gotten this worse…”
“Hated you? Did you ever know who did and didn’t like you to start with? Did you? You felt I hated you that’s why you never listened when I cautioned you about “your Mikey” . To think that you thought I wanted him for myself, eh. That useless boy you now call husband. I saw the signs. We all did, but no, EVERYBODY HATES YOU. Where’s the one loving you now?” I replied sharply, my anger building up with each word that was said. We had had our bad times, true, but after all these years, how dare she say such. I was about picking up my purse to leave finally when I heard her say something about being sorry. Emotions raced through my heart on hearing this. “I’m sorry” she repeated softly. There it was again, that good person, that soft heart.Maybe she hadn’t lost everything after all. Maybe there was some hope left. I turned to face her directly, my purse held tightly between my hands, my face now matching the dullness of hers, my eyes twitching with every second as it tried to fight back tears. “I’m also sorry” I answered. It was only then it dawned on me, I couldn’t just leave, although she may not like to admit so, she needed help. She needed me. She’d always been the one dishing out favours, now it was her turn to be served one. And with her parents gone, I was her only hope now. We watched each other for while, not moving from our places,not saying a word, just crying, crying bitter silent tears…
“Uju, I’m scared. I really am. You see, Michael is going to be back any minute and he’s going to-”
“Hit you? For having a friend around?”
“No, you don’t understand him, he has his rules and he wants for those around him to strictly adhere to such. That makes him happy. So when one doesn’t he-“.
“Takes out his anger on them by hitting them? C’mon Mide, what’s there not to understand. Are you really going to grant him such an excuse?”
“You don’t understand…”
“Get dressed, we’re leaving.”
“I said, get dressed,we’re leaving your house”
“For Christ’s sake, could you please forget about him for once and focus on you. Go get dressed. Hurry now before he returns.” We wouldn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
I stopped short as I walked into the room to find Mide seated on the bed by the window, looking out into thin air. Her face was flat and her eyes had sunk in, leaving an illusion of dark hollow circles. Her hair looked like she had just been in a fight with an animal from the wild, a very fierce one at that. Mide looked forlorn and lost, most vividly, she looked terribly wounded…
“Mide, Mide” I called her name, startling her from her state of what must have been a reverie. She turned to look at who it was, and seemed kind of surprised or was it happy to see me standing at her bedroom door. I couldn’t tell for real, her expressions were hard to read.
“Oh Uju, why have you come?” she started to speak as she rose to welcome me.
Why have I come? Was that the right question to ask a friend? I silently thought to myself
“Well, I came to visit, it’s been long I heard from you and even when calls were dropped, you never answered nor deemed it fit to return them. What’s wrong Mide, what’s all these rumors going around town about-” At this point she quickly made to interrupt my statements.
“What stupid rumours eh, answer me, what stupid rumours? I see, that’s why you’ve also come isn’t it , to get a scoop of the story, so you also have what to share with…”
“No, not at all, I fired back, “whats wrong with you, why have you suddenly chosen to be so cold and worse still made yourself less accessible, people are sick worried about you, about you and Michael, I’m your friend Mide, you tell me things. Why are you refusing to be open now. You’ve changed, you’re dying and he’s respon-”
“No, he loves me, everything he is doing is for my good, he wants a better me and that’s why he…” she answered defensively, her body trembling and her eyes in hot tears as she did so. “That’s why”, her voice was softer now as she tried to continue , but it seemed as if she couldn’t bring herself to say the words, they just hung loose at the tip of her tongue.
“That’s why what Mide?”
Almost immediately, Mide broke into full tears as she found herself crumbling to the floor, while simultaneously hitting her head against the bed in the process. But she didn’t seem to care. It appeared to be a thing she had gotten used to. I watched her for a while as she sat back there in what seemed like torture, looking very much unkempt, distressed and distraught. It suddenly made me wonder if she had had a proper bath, any bath at all or even a good meal in the past few days.
That’s why he hit you Mide, not once, not twice. He hit you. The words to her unfinished statement came crawling into my mind as I sat down beside her to comfort her.