At first, I thought him odd. The easy way he smiled, the breezy cologne he had on, the garish stripes on his shirt all contributed to my perception of him. And then, in a hoarse voice scented by Mentos, he turned to me in the bus and said, “I’m Fintan.”
In all the months of our relationship, months when we had hasty sex in my Obalende flat, months when he drove me to Shoprite in his vanilla-scented car, months when he cooked spaghetti garnished with Titus sardines for me, it did not occur to me to ask what his name meant, to ask him about the necessary things, to tell him my fears.
Perhaps that was why we broke up, or there were other things I would never be able to identify.
We broke up because I cheated, but I cheated because I was bored. I was tired of the easy perceptiveness of our relationship, the way I could tell what would happen the next day even before the day was over. I wanted excitement, the dangerous kind that dried throats and thumped hearts.
When he came over the afternoon of that day I cheated, I noticed how small his eyes were. When he hugged me, I drew back slightly, tainted by excitement, by guilt. I knew he would ask me in his hoarse voice to dress up so we could go shopping at Ikeja City Mall, and so after we had sex on the living room couch, my sweat sticking the leather to my back, I sat up and stared at nothing.
“I slept with Ifeanyi this morning.”
Before, I would not have told him, I would have just pretended nothing happened, but I wanted to shake him, to prick the balloon of ease that danced around him.
“You are kidding,” he said, and in the same breath, he continued, “Get dressed, we’re going to Ikeja City Mall.”
He did not ask me anything as I dressed, splashing on perfume behind my neck, but I knew in that brief moment, that the balloon had deflated and vanished.
In the car, he played Adele and just before he got on to Third Mainland Bridge, he dialed down the volume and turned to me.
“What you said earlier today, you were joking, right?”
“No,” I said, staring at the wide body of ripply waters.
He was silent for a while, and then he asked me again, “Where did you do it?”
At first, I stared at him, puzzled by his choice of question – ‘Where’ instead of ‘Why’. I’d always thought him to be a man of why, a man who craved answers, not a man who accepted things the way they were with a serene limpness.
“In my house,” I said.
For a moment, he said nothing leaving me to grapple with the things that floated in my mind, to wonder about our future together.
Then in a calm voice that barely carried above the upbeat Adele song, he said, “Get out.”
“Emmanuel, get out,” he repeated, and halted the car abruptly.
A very fair-complexioned woman in the Honda beside us shouted as she drove past, “Yeye man! You better go and learn how to drive!”
I stared at him, at the tapering shoes he had on and I knew that was the last thing I would remember. Before I stepped out into the fading sunlight, I glanced at him and said, “Thank you.”
And I did not know why I thanked him.
“Ahn-ahn! Useless man! So he drove away and left you on the bridge?” Dozie, my colleague at work asked me when I told him on Monday. “But you should not have told him you cheated on him na,” he said again after I nodded my head. “All these Lagos guys have big egos and they don’t want to hear of any other guy.” He rose from his seat, patting my shoulder as he stood.
I wanted to laugh, to tell him I did not need his empathy, to tell him about the sweet glow that invaded my lower belly, but I did not. Instead, I smiled forcedly and I knew he would never understand if I told him about the calm clarity in my throat after Fintan asked me to get out of his car. I knew too, that he would never understand how it felt to be in a predictable relationship.
So I stared above his head and out of the window, at the sleek line of cars zooming past the office.
Written by La-Coozee