There was a knock on my door, the kind peculiar to people who knew they had every right to come in. I knew it was Tayo, and it was not because she had called earlier to say she was coming over. It was the way she knocked, a mild and tender tap on the door. She had every right to come in.
As she walked into my room with her head bowed, fiddling with her fingers like a shrinking violet, I knew something was wrong. I greeted her with a kiss as always. It was the shortest we’d ever had in our one year together. My smile disappeared; hers had been absent all along. I loved her smile. I adored it because it always warmed my heart and made me smile too. A cold breeze blew over me at that moment. She pulled away from my arms and went on to sit on my bed. I tarried at the door, observing her keenly before I shut the door behind me. She sat there for a while absent words. A million thoughts ran through my mind as I sat right next to her, letting her silence suck life out of me.
I remember last year when we met on campus. I had always believed that we choose whom we fall in love it and that it happens per chance per time. But the point to which my power of choice was influenced is what eludes me. I had not seen anyone so fair. Her skin shone brightly in the sun and I was almost certain that it glowed in the dark. She was tall enough with a likeable demeanour and she had a smile punctuated by dimples. I felt myself fall.
She was sixteen and had just gotten admission to study Bio-chemistry in the University of Benin. I was in my third year studying the same course. I remember she needed directions to the departmental office and I wanted directions to her heart. We exchanged maps. One month later she didn’t need directions to anywhere on campus and I had made her heart my home.
Young as she was, Tayo looked upon the world before her like some young untried knight. She relied upon my seeming experience to guide her and lead her to all truth. I intended to do just that- guide her. She embraced my tutelage with a calmness, fortitude and resignation which were the best proofs of the innocence of her life.
I intended to guide her, but then one thing can often look like another. In that moment, intention and actual desire become separated and commence to wander like twins in a fairy tale, waiting to be reunited by that special someone who possesses the secret of telling them apart.
In the course of my guiding Tayo, especially after the event of that fateful night, and similar events of subsequent nights; I realised that it is not the cold that makes you sleep yourself to death in the Arctic; it is the smooth pallor of the landscape. It is the whiteness, the sameness of everything that makes you fall asleep out of life, parched or frozen and so comfortable when you finally let it roll over your mind, like a rolling-pin over dough.
The event of that fateful night occurred in my room, in my hostel off-campus. It was her birthday and I had promised her a wonderful surprise. I wanted her to be excited. She was excited. We were in love.
We were in my room that night, with firelight as in candlelight, which makes the essential beauty of a person evident. Candlelight is kind and caressing and therefore a natural companion for romance.
It was a first love conversation. Mouths could not kiss each other enough or find enough of the beloved to be kissed enough. The invisible ocean held the room and the bed, and we were suspended and treated like aquatic plants, arms never stopped moving, fronds in the liquid breeze, hands never stopped waving slowly side to side, caressing the loved one, fingers never stopped fanning, tendrils in a ceaseless bouquet; all parts swayed and swayed, sometimes violently, sometimes not at all. Then it ended- a blissful release from pain. When it was over I longed for a drink. I drank salt air instead. She was sweet as a rose- that is the taste of sanctity.
I remember she asked if I wouldn’t use protection. I told her we needed not be protected from anything. It was love and nothing could go wrong. I was wrong. But she believed me. Lies like that are not a sin, they are a sacrifice.
After sitting silently for a while on the couch she raised her head and spoke. At first it sounded Arabic, what she said, then it turned to English but it still did not make sense.
“I think I’m pregnant,” she said. I giggled demonically, but I did not think it was funny what she said. Funny is a man with a nose like a fist wearing an afro. Funny is an okada-rider with fifteen roasted goats tied to his motorcycle. Funny is not a seventeen years old girl not seeing her period in two months.
“You said nothing would go wrong.” I breathed. “You lied.” She continued.
“What are you talking about Tayo?” My confusion was glaring.
“It’s been two months now and I have not seen my period, Chuks.” Her voice was louder now.
“Calm down Tayo, I’m trying to absorb what you just said.” I was on my feet now. She looked at me, her face now glowing red; conductive scarlet rays beneath her skin, of fate, heart and mind, her face bleeding light.
“You’re an idiot Chuks,” She said. The words came out so calmly, yet they smacked me efficiently.
I wanted to cry, but there was no time. Then she asked the ultimate question, “What do we do?”
Her eyes were staring at me expectantly. She believed that I would have an answer; besides, I was the one who insisted that protection was unnecessary. I needed protection now, from the question between us and her glowing eyes that had tears already swelling in them. It was my turn to be silent.