BLINKERED- GRACE OCHIGBO
He shook his head with so much empathy as he remained fixed at the door staring at his elder brother who held on to the window facing the city like a life-saver boat so lost in thoughts that he didn’t notice him come in. He had a slight inkling what is going on right now on Jerry’s mind and he could virtually feel the pain as well.
“But why do you want everybody in this house to think you have so much hatred for your best girl?” Joseph said as he moved from the door and approached the corner of the room where Jerry stood moping out through the window. Jerry jolted backwards involuntarily as Joseph spoke and turned instantly to face him with eyes like a ghost struck him.
“O! The door? You’ve forgotten I have my own spare key to this room?” Joseph answered dancing the keys in his hands at Jerry’s face. Jerry took a deep breath and went to sit on his bed.
His room contained a very large bed at the left corner, the wardrobe exactly opposite it. His television is placed somewhere on the extreme beside his reading table almost very close to his bathroom door. The arrangement of the room is quite funny but Jerry only does what suits him and he didn’t care what everyone else- especially his mum- has been saying since. He deliberately removed all the paintings he made by himself that used to hang on the wall. The paintings always reminds him of memories he wanted to forget as they at times makes the room impenetrable for him until he finally packed them inside his shelf.
“See bro, I understand exactly how you feel, I truly do but the ‘acting’ profession isn’t your field at all. You suck at it and it’s really eating you up” Joseph continued as he joined his elder brother on the bed. He looked quite bigger in height and weight than Jerry.
Jerry let out hot air through his mouth. He had been inside here for the past one hour after he walked out on his parents. Those folks seem to be torturing him a lot in the name of tutoring and he is so fed up this time. He turned to Joseph with red eyes,
“What will you have me do, Joe?” He bit his lips softly, “Alone I can handle. Aloneness- Books, music- I have a world and I know how to fill it.”
He shrugged his shoulders and continued,
“But loneliness? That’s new. You knew how I loved this girl. In fact, I told only you in this house everything about her. Closeness developed surprisingly and suddenly so much so that it became all about us. All about how much time we could spend together, even when apart. She was there when I woke and when I fell asleep. She was in my dreams when we weren’t in each other’s arms, in my arms when we were awake together” He swallowed painfully. Joseph stared mute and unblinkingly at his brother as he continued,
“Then today, I know where she is, I even have an idea what she is doing, who she’s with, all those things that a phone call told me, that an e-mail told me again much later in more detail. It was in the gap between the messages when I realised how loneliness feels. The gap that I filled with missing her, thinking how I was missing her and missing her again. Aloneness! I can cope with that, but sincerely loneliness is a new thing for me.” His voice was low and the tone came from deep down with so many gusts, so much passion like a mighty rushing wind blowing heavily against a tall flowing spring. Joseph took a deep breath and held it; he knew this Tonia girl meant a lot to his only brother.
“I understand how you feel, Bro!” Joseph responded, patting him on the back
“No, you don’t!” Jerry snapped himself and walked back to the window, “Now am placed in a fix, this people have no idea what transpired between Tonia and I and I can’t even tell them about it. Am trying to take my heart from Tonia and give it to a lady that truly deserves it. Is that an understanding too much to demand from my own folks?” He asked, grumbling.
Joseph gave a light chuckle at his statement and question. “Someone who deserves it? And that someone is Lara?” He pouted, stood up also and moved closer to where Jerry stood, “You see my big brother; I need you to find time and talk with Tonia. Let it not be about dad or mum now, just talk with her. When fingers grow we cut the nails not our fingers; so when misunderstandings arise, let’s cut the ego not our relationship. I strongly advice you both meet and talk. Maybe we could start from there.”
Jerry scoffed. “What do I tell her? That I still love her? Or that am unable to love another?” He asked sarcastically, “Exactly what do you want me to tell a lady that was so mean and inconsiderate. A lady that threw everything we had, everything we shared, everything we were… away! She still hasn’t told me why she broke us up. And frankly, I don’t want to know anymore. Please! Tell your parents, let these old people just leave me alone. I have more complications in my life already to worry about” He voiced out in frustration, still showing no expression on his face.
“O yeah! My parents’ right? Not yours! You need a life bro…” Joseph joked, laughing really loud alongside.
Jerry kept a vacant gaze at him for a long while as many thoughts flashed through his mind. Perhaps, if his life was less complicated, if he didn’t have people digging out what he wants to bury around him, he could view things and the world in general as jovial as his kid brother. He left the window rod he was holding on to, walked to his wardrobe, and picked a shirt and a comb from the table. Joseph stopped laughing as he wondered what Jerry was up to this time. Jerry dragged his legs tiredly to the front of the standing mirror and began combing his full hair.
“So where are you going now, Lifeless brother?” Joseph asked teasingly
Jerry threw the comb he just used at him without looking away from the mirror. “I am going out, anywhere! Studio, market, mall, game centre… anywhere, I am just going out. The receptionists in those places are kind; I need a kind face and a kind conversation.” He said, putting his wallet into his back pocket.
Joseph couldn’t stop himself from laughing. He was completely amazed at the so much energy his darling brother is dissipating in statements, in actions, in conducts, in virtually everything. Jerry ignored him, grabbed his keys and shoes and walked out, slamming the door at Joseph’s face.
We have spent nothing less than two hours in the Lokoja mall. Mum’s list is really bulky, thank God for Tosin who was available because everyone knows I don’t have the energy to pull this heavy trolley. The cashier gave me the receipt after payment and the items were packed into their customized leather bags, about four of them. I gave a knowing look to Tosin and he could decipher what that meant.
“You must be joking, Tonia” He responded, stretching out one of the bags at me. I refused to collect it and practically walked briskly out of the mall. He followed me through the door and towards our car in the expansive parking space.
“Come and collect one of these things, my friend” He commanded, still charging towards me, because there was pretty little distance between the both of us. I poked out my tongue mockingly and tiptoed backwards towards the car. I know those goods were too heavy for one person but last time I checked; he was my ‘guardian angel’. I kept teasing Tosin playfully even when he was struggling between holding the leather bags and using the car remote.
“Be reasonable for once Tonia”
“I thought you called yourself my guardian angel?” I retorted, still sticking my tongue out. Tosin looked at me and laughed. He probably didn’t know what else to say as I have used his own words to pin him down now.
“Tonia, if I lay my hands on you!” He screamed, walking a bit hurriedly towards me. I also quickened my steps and walked briskly backwards.
“Watch it girl!” Tosin exclaimed as he noticed a steep behind me.
But it was too late. I missed a step already and my foot slipped. Many things flew through my mind as I imagined the anatomy of my brain when it eventually hit hard on the concrete floor. So I closed my eyes but someone timely caught me before I would reach the floor. My heart raced heavily as I thanked God for the timely intervention. I opened my eyes to see Tosin in front of me. He left the leather bags on the floor and ran towards me while I was falling but he couldn’t have made it in time. I turned my head upwards to see who caught me and was still holding me.
“Jerry!” I exclaimed. It was as though I was daydreaming.
“Are you OK, Tonia?” Tosin asked as he held me up out of Jerry’s hands before turning to him, “Thank you bro.”
Jerry gave a light chuckle. “You are welcome…” He then turned to me, “…My fiancée shouldn’t be playing children’s games in front of the busiest mall in Lokoja city, you know? Just in case.” He said firmly and walked away into the mall.
I stood agape for a long while. Trying to catch my breath as well as assimilate those harsh words I just received. That was harsh. ‘Did he have to embarrass me like that?’ Me? Children’s play? What sort of rubbish is that? ‘And did he just call me his fiancée?’ I muttered beneath my breath, expecting answer from no one in particular.
“Can we go now?!” Tosin asked jolting me back.
I didn’t even realise when he went to pick up the goods he left off in a bid to catch me, neither did I see when he arranged them carefully into the trunk of the car. I shook my head rigorously as he firmly closed the trunk. I felt Tosin deserved an apology but how do I tender it? Big issue!
“Tosin… I… ehmm… “I started slowly, biting my finger alongside
“Don’t worry dear…” Tosin interrupted me with a big grin and continued, walking towards the driver’s corner, “I knew a day like this would come…”
“Uhm?” I raised my eyebrow looking confused.
“Last Sunday, I made a proposal to you and your response was very simple, yet ambiguous. You told me about some complications in your heart you wouldn’t want to smuggle me into. I can also recall the part of you saying your heart has always been owned by one. You insisted you weren’t going to disclose it and I respected your privacy. But then I foresaw today coming, a day someone would drop from the moon and introduce you to me as fiancée.” He said, wearing an extremely indifferent look as he opened the door of the car.
“It’s not what you…” I tried to explain further
“Don’t worry yourself dear.” He interrupted again taking his seat, “Just know that a real man, that is your man, won’t call his woman a child, no matter what, in front of a so-called stranger”
I swallowed painfully as those words hit me hard. Just then my phone in my purse buzzed and started ringing. I took it out and saw the caller ID was unknown.
“Hello… “I said into the receiver immediately I pressed the answer button.
“Hello! My pretty darling Tonia, how are you?” An elderly woman’s voice came up. The voice sounded familiar though but I couldn’t really place it
“I am fine ma…” I responded politely.
“Dr Bukky speaking. You gave me your phone number at your mum’s shop about a week ago.” She explained, as though she read the questions on my mind. I screamed out in elation- hearing from my old-lady friend.
“Oh!! Good afternoon ma, it’s so good to hear from you again.”
She chuckled. “Sorry I haven’t called you since then, the association meeting alongside the Sallah celebration took a lot of my time.” She explained further. I just smiled as if she could see my face from where she was.
“No problem ma, hope the honourable commissioner loved our lace? And hope you also told her I helped you with the choice?” I asked again jeeringly and she laughed.
“Oh yes! She did love it and I told her as well.” She replied amidst her laughter “In fact, that’s why am calling you. Can you come over to my house? I want you to meet my daughter. Plus I want to say proper thank you for that day.” She demanded with a pleading tone.
I looked into the car at Tosin who sat quite uneasy and I also remembered mum’s warning about me coming back home earlier this morning. I thought quietly for a moment because I was caught between two balls.
“OK? Let me see ma, can I get your address?” I asked hurrying into the car. I sat down, picked up a pen and a writing pad from the side of the chair to write down the address.
“No. 3… Yes? Lokogoma phase 2… OK ma. Myself? Yes, I live in Felele. Don’t worry ma, I know it’s far but I’ll surely try and locate the place.” I assured before she hung up the call. Tosin seem to be baffled as I noticed his eyes all over me while I was writing down the address.
“No. 3? Who lives there?” He gave me a questioning look at the same time thrusting the car key into the key hole.
“I told you about an old-lady friend I made at mum’s boutique last week.” I replied, giggling excitedly. I feel so thrilled and special by this invite already.
Tosin seem not to be as interested in my happy mood as he was in the caller and that was a call for concern for me. He adjusted his seat belt and asked further “Old lady friend? Do you know her name?”
I smiled proudly nodding in the affirmative. “Of course! Why not. Her name is Dr Bukky! I told you she looked so elegant and places her eyeglasses on her nose like your daddy. C’mon, have you forgotten already?” I asked, giving him a nudge on his side.
Tosin’s eyes popped opened as he placed them on me immediately. He looked like he just saw a ghost too. He continued staring bug-eyed blankly at me as he exclaimed with shock