BLINKERED – GRACE OCHIGBO
AN END IN SIGHT
Monday, 19th December
“Jerry, I knew this will happen. I just knew this day would come. Even when I sleep, I’ve always seen this day coming. I was only foolishly patient, just foolishly waiting and hoping. Perhaps things will eventually click between us.” Lara said bitterly as she sat with her knees pressed together in the lobby of the famous gigantic Inikpi hostel of the Kogi state University, Anyigba. The hostel is unusually quiet today. It only gets quiet like this when the ‘high class babes’, as people refer to the occupants of this hostel, start travelling for major holidays like the fast approaching Christmas celebration.
She held her Samsung S7 edge to her ear with a raised shoulder as she tried to fold up the tip of her lavender blush chinos. Her legs hurt from walking from the faculty to the hostel under the hot harmattan air already. She pulled her burly-wood loafers off her feet and relaxed into the padded wooden seat she was on.
“Girl! You know how I’ve been trying over these two months to make things work. You saw all the fruitless efforts I’ve made. You saw them. I don’t want to keep you waiting endlessly for someone that seems unable to sort himself out on time. You deserve to be happy.” Jerry said in a pleading tone.
Lara rolled her eyeballs spitefully. Her makeup is already stained by the enormous amount of sweat rushing down her body. Was she prepared for this? She couldn’t say as she sighed deeply before talking,
“To think that I’ve heard a lot about Kogi people. How come you are not well able to get over that girl till now? Did she poison you or did you people enter into some blood covenant?” She asked smiling amidst the pain she was masking so well, trying hard to prevent tears from dropping.
Jerry chuckled. He didn’t take that question lightly. He had asked the man in the mirror the last time he stared at it this same question. ‘I’ll wipe out all these memories about Tonia’, he had assured himself in the bus en route the sandy road to Agbani. He had consciously kept the distance between himself and Tonia as far apart as that from Enugu where he schools now and Lokoja where she stays. He doesn’t call neither does he chats often with her yet all these turned out in his face as futile efforts. Really futile.
“I don’t understand it myself Lara. I think it’s at this point I will ask for special prayers from the woman of God herself” Jerry teased lightly
“You know if you weren’t my friend before my emotions rose up for you, I would have slapped you from here?” Lara responded to his teases, stretching her right hand out in the fashion of one warming up to slap another.
“I know Darling! You are still my best friend and the cute sister I never had.”
“Comot jor!” She said in a babyish voice and rolling her eyes alongside. “Shey you no go come home for Christmas ni?” Her forehead furrowed as she asked in Pidgin English.
“Uhm! My dear… these guys here are sadist o. Instilling fear into our veins, you can’t imagine the degree of threat they have meted on us as regards our Bar part 1 examination. Let me just stay back and read. It’s just a year and I’d be done. Don’t want mummy skinning my dear life at home. Moreover they would be a month’s holiday after the exam. I should come home by then. My senior colleagues said the most demanding part of law school is this particular phase.” Jerry lamented all at the same time without breaking in between.
Lara forgot about the pain she was feeling just a while ago and laughed heartily. She had learnt and come to terms with the fact that ever since childhood Jerry just had his way around her. There was that time when she used her break money to buy him lunch back then in secondary school. She remembered how Jerry screamed at her and asked her to leave his class. She wept so much that day that she went home with swollen eyeballs. Jerry saw her on the playground the next day and started talking quite friendly with her as though nothing ever transpired a day before. She couldn’t help but to respond to him. She has swallowed the fact that she couldn’t get mad at him for long and even times she tried, she couldn’t fake it.
“I have told you before, you are lucky to have your mother alive, let alone, one that cares so much for her dear son.”
‘Mtcheeew’… Jerry drew a long hiss “Abegy! That woman can be a pain in the neck at times. Maybe because I am the closest to her, she treats me as she likes. In her mind, she is petting her son, but it suffocates me.”
Lara laughed so loud the seat she sat on vibrated. She quickly held her handbag before it will fall off and stretched her neck into the office room she was sitting in front of to be sure her loud laughter was not disturbing the cool afternoon of one of those hostel portresses.
“Please close your mouth before flies enter jare…” Jerry jeered further and continued immediately “What’s up with you girl? Kogi, abi Anyigba never tire you?” he asked curiously in the same Pidgin English again.
Lara pressed her hand against her chest after laughing so hard.
“I am tired my dear but Microbiology lecturers can sha show themselves. Imagine! We had lectures today 11-1pm. I can’t go to Lagos again today o. I’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning anyway.” she explained stressing the ‘microbiology lecturers’ part.
Jerry tittered. “Daddy isn’t coming to pick you this time?”
“If I slap you ehn!”
“Why? shey he didn’t come to pick you home the last time ni?” he asked with enormous sarcasm in his voice, “So it means Tonia is also in school?”
“I told you why he picked me up last time, don’t look for my trouble this afternoon please” Lara retorted and paused as she thought she sighted someone. The person was dragging the handle of a small crimson bag tiredly along the tiled floor on the other side of the building.
“Talk about the devil, your madam is just pulling out of the hostel. I have to go now Jerry, let me talk to her.” She mouthed into the phone
Jerry’s eyes popped open, “Talk to her about what?”
“It’s none of your business.” Lara screamed and hung up before she could get any further response. She slipped into her shoes, picked her bag and ran after Tonia.
I stopped close to the gate when I saw Lara hastening to catch up with me. It’s so annoying what they do in my department. I mean! We weren’t meant to resume back on campus now as we ought to be at our various industrial training centres. But someone who is the ‘almighty’ decided we resumed back with other students for his miserable lectures simply because academic activities for other departments in the school will hold for two weeks before the Christmas break. As if not bad enough, I was compelled to move back on campus and live in the hostel. Hush! Well apart from the fact that this school reserves accommodation for final year students, moving into the hostel was still the better of two goods for me. First and most importantly, Grace my honourable roommate has graduated.
I thought I heard my phone’s message tone… ‘Mtcheew’ I hissed on seeing the sender and threw back into the pocket of my palevioletred jacket without reading it.
“Sorry, I checked your room, it was locked. All your roommates had left too, right?” I feigned an apologetic face to Lara as she drew very much closer. I didn’t do any. I don’t know why I just lied; I didn’t check her room at all. Inasmuch as she seems to be the only familiar person left for me in this school as all my friends have graduated now, I am still not totally free interacting with her.
“Are you sure? Well, I was hoping to stay over at your place tonight since the hostel is almost empty. But here you are…” She said calmly, pointing to the little bag that I was making a big deal of by pulling on the floor
“Uhh!! Am sorry Lara. I just have to go before the two gluttons I call my siblings land on the whole meat. Christmas is barely six days ahead you know?” I replied giggling. That’s how I’ve always felt from Adams. The season is exceptionally different for me, even down to how my skin receptors absorb the weather with so much bliss and enthusiasm.
“Are those all?” She asked, still staring at my bag.
“Yes!” I replied quickly before venting the remaining provocation in me with her, definitely, not on her. “And whatever Professor Odaudu is looking for in this department, he will get it o…” I spat out in disdain, “Imagine calling IT students back on campus for two weeks lectures he ought to have taken earlier. Did we send him on leave? It’s so annoying.”
“I wonder o” s he responded, shrugging her shoulders.
We both kept complaining about that insensitive decision by one of our most dreaded lecturers in the department even when we knew the deed already done cannot be undone. The amazing thing was that, no one could flutter that order. No matter where they were living, everyone came back to school. But for today’s class, a lot of them had travelled back already. That was actually the worst they could do.
Lara collected the kit from my hand and walked me down to the gate, past the security post until I stood in front of the hostel, just where I could get a bike to take me to where I’ll board a car.
“Tonia… I … ehm…” She started out slowly, stopping me in my bid to flag down a bike man. I had felt she had something going on in her mind all the while and I also noticed how she literally fought within herself before finally breaking out to speak.
“Tonia, Jerry really loves you” She said. I stared at her in bewilderment. Not as though I haven’t heard those words being said to me before but am totally amazed by who was saying them this time. Then she said them like someone under police interrogation to confess a crime.
“Uhm?” I asked raising my eyebrow
“Yes! And about the proposal… it was all an act. It never happened. Jerry never proposed to me. Even when he thought he could just get you off his mind and move on with me, we have seen that it wasn’t working. Proven beyond doubts now that his heart belongs to you alone, Tonia”
I swallowed the words she just said in. Now some things were beginning to really confuse me, especially this. Coming from Lara who had always presented herself as my arch rival, it must be really serious.
She hugged and handed my bag over to me before walking back into the hostel leaving me in my wondering state. I pulled myself together because I needed to walk a bit upwards away from the front of the hostel. So I started walking slowly, but I was moving. Just then my eyes caught someone leaning with his arms against a black rav4 jeep parked directly opposite the road. The tinted windows of the car gave away any chance of seeing something inside from the distance where I was. My eyes couldn’t have been deceiving me, so I crossed over to be sure I could still recognise him from back view.
“You? You were already here when you texted me” I tapped him hard immediately my suspicions were confirmed. He jolted back involuntarily. He must have been so engrossed in thoughts; he didn’t even notice me walk towards the car.
“You weren’t picking up your calls”
“How long have you been here, Tosin? And why are you here?” I asked, sounding already irritated.
“About an hour ago… and” He stammered
I rose my right hand up quickly, motioning him to stop. “Don’t you dare think in your wildest imaginations that I’ll use a ride whatsoever with you today, am heading straight to the park and I’ll see a car going to Lokoja there. Thanks but no thanks.” I yelled with spite. I had forgotten we were on the road. I’ve reduced communication rate with Tosin to the barest minimum. I didn’t stop picking his calls neither did I ignore his chats, but I responded to both in such a way that he would wish I never gave any response in the first place. This has been on since that Saturday evening. I still am unable to come to terms with what happened that very evening.
“I’ve come myself to do this, Tonia…” came the voice stepping out of the car
I turned briskly to see Dr. Bukky approaching us from the other side of the driver’s seat. I didn’t know there was anyone in the car. I stared at Tosin demanding an explanation. Has it gotten to this? Involving his mother? Incredible!
“Good afterno… good evening ma,” I greeted with shaky voice. “To do what yourself ma?” I asked alongside the greeting, sounding really scared and nervous at the same time
“It is about that Saturday evening…” she said firmly, ignoring my greetings. Today, am not seeing any smile on her face. Her hair tie professionally winding round her head as usual and her eyeglasses placed on its normal place. This woman must be a disciplinarian to the core. Yes! I feel so intimidated by her presence already.
“Can I have the rare privilege of driving you to Lokoja while we talk over it?” She asked politely.
Are you kidding? Disobeying and disrespecting elders has never been a part of my life. Inasmuch as I never wanted to revisit the event of that fateful evening, I guess I don’t have a choice after all.
I took a deep breath and entered into the back of the car. She too turned around and entered, taking her seat right beside me.
Jerry kept staring at the phone in his hand. He wasn’t comfy with the way Lara hung the call up on him. It was more now that Tonia was in the picture. ‘What was she going to tell Tonia’ he wondered within himself.
“It wasn’t so hard after all, was it?” Simon said, coming out from his dining room “I told you, you fret so much over little things. Right from secondary school, I thought you should be over and done with that attitude by now” He handed over one of the glasses of Eva wine in his hands to Jerry
Jerry took the wine and sipped. “Guy! You don’t understand. It’s this easy because it’s Lara. She seems to be an extremely understanding lady. She never always seem to pick offences with me for long, else I can imagine how it will be now”
Simon laughed. “Haba! Lara again? I know Lara nau! Sharpest brain in our class at Green springs school, in Lekki then”
Jerry chuckled lightly. “Ha! Me I was already beginning to think that Mathematics has wiped out all your childhood memories nau, Oga Simo”
Simon giggled at that joke. He wondered how Jerry could imagine him forgetting those lifelong impressions that childhood memories had created in his heart. He was from a very humble background but his father made sure he attended a school mainly for kids from rich home and that was why he became classmates with Jerry and Lara. Enugu state by origin but was born and bred in Lagos. Since he didn’t have as much money as his mates, his only selling point was mathematics, maybe because he always sold alongside his father at their grocery store located in the heart of Lekki after school hours. No one knows. He grew up nurturing and developing that interest in Mathematics till he applied and was given the same course to study at Enugu State University where he graduated with a first class and was retained as a lecturer immediately after his youth service.
“Nna, mathematics is the only and best course any living being can study in his entire life.” He replied with his characteristic Igbo accent, tapping Jerry on the back. “But one thing arithmetic does not do is to wipe out sweet memories, like when Lara will bring packs of chocolates her father bought for her for you”
Jerry laughed hard. They have all gone separate ways after secondary school. In fact meeting at the Agbani game centre three weeks ago to both of them was like a dream come true. They created a scene right there, hugging and hailing themselves alike. Jerry had tried to sort him out on Facebook, but Simon was nowhere to be found. He had never been a ‘social media’ person right from the world go. Jerry was excited to learn that Simon was doing well, career wise in the only course that gives his soul joy. It was then he also got to know Jerry had spent over two months already at the Nigerian Law School Agbani, there in Enugu state.
“You know you didn’t like Chocó, so I swallowed everything in here,” Simon said rubbing his already bulging belly, “No be today Lara begin like you o.”
“I swear!” Jerry interjected all smiles as Simon ranted on
“I was hoping you guys would be married by now when I heard you went to the same university” he paused to sip his wine… “Though I don’t know Tonia o, but the medicine man the girl used on you, is really powerful” He teased on
Jerry almost laughed his lungs out at the last statement. Everybody thinks the same thing about this issue. He couldn’t even explain it himself
“Simon, it’s OK please. You de wash your guy like this, e no pure nau. How far with our madam?” Jerry asked, trying to shift attention away from him
“Hia! Una madam de there o. I don’t know what kind of firm she serves that they won’t give my girl breathing space for me o.” he lamented and Jerry smiled
“You think it’s easy to work in the state capital of the coal city?” Jerry asked
“Did I send her? That one is her problem, let them not just kill my to-be wife for me. That is my own.” Simon lamented again and Jerry didn’t smile anymore. He laughed hard instead.
“But she must come here for this Christmas break o, even if it’s for only two days. If the devil likes it or not, else ehn! Hell will let loose in this state” Simon threatened feigning seriousness.
Jerry managed to catch himself, “I have suffered!! Abeg, what’s her name again?”
“Her name doesn’t matter; it is her worth that matter. Her class, her prestige, that’s what matters. One gorgeous, robust babe like this o.” He complimented, forming the shape with his hands as he called them one by one.
“You ehn! OK show me her picture… Don’t you have a picture of her here?”
“Jesus! Did you just ask me that question? Na wa to you o. Her picture serves as my wall paper and DP as appropriate. She is ‘take home’ to mama and we are at the verge of doing that soon.” He replied picking his tab and scrolling it
“Oya! Lemme see and save me the stories…” Jerry said impatiently, getting closer and snatching the tab from Simon’s hands.
He was startled by the person in the first picture he saw but still scrolled on to be sure his eyes were not deceiving him. Perhaps, it may be just two persons with striking resemblance. He saw the next few pictures and just then it dawned on him that it was for real.
“Is she?” he asked in shock, pointing Simon’s attention to the person on the screen.
Simon nodded proudly, “Yes o my guy!”
To be continued.