“Sorry I need to leave now. I have an emergency,” I said. He stared at me, unable to hide his disappointment. Poor fellow. I was disappointed too. This was my chance of having a romantic evening entry in my diary on a Valentine’s Day. For five years, I had not gone on a date on 14th February. At first, it was because of my reserved nature but it would later turn out that my breakups happened a few weeks before Valentine’s Day. I was determined to break the jinx this year so when Ejiro, my brother-in-law’s friend, asked me out on a date, I didn’t hesitate for a second.
“I will just remain here and take a few bottles to calm my head,” he replied after a minute of awkward silence.
I was relieved to hear that. Our date was interrupted already, why put him through the torture of driving me to the hospital? On a second thought, I felt angry words rushing up my throat but I held them back. Who sits back to take a drink while his date’s bosom friend is on a hospital bed?
As I walked into the ward, Onyeka glared at me in the manner my mother did whenever I goofed in the presence of a visitor and shouted, “Babe, shebi you see wetin you do my guy? You get mind o. He was at your house with a bunch of flowers and your sister told him you were out on a date. Haba! His blood pressure shot up so bad I had to bring him to the hospital.”
I was confused. “Emeka couldn’t have come to take me out on a Valentine date. He’s like a brother to me.” I had barely completed that statement when Emeka started coughing. Onyeka grabbed my arm and led me out of the ward.
Out on the corridor, he asked, “What’s the meaning of that nonsense you said in there? Who is like a brother to you? Emeka Ibuzo? Like seriously? For the past three weeks, my guy has been driving all the way from Surulere to Ajao Estate to pick you up on his way to work and he takes you home at the close of work too. He says he wants to get you gradually settled into Lagos before you start doing your transportation alone. See eh, if you were his sister, he would have shown you the route and written the bus stops down for you after the first trip. Do you think Lagos is Owerri where you can navigate through the town in thirty minutes? A guy can’t be facing such traffic everyday if he’s not in love with you.”
I thought of Emeka and how we started out our friendship. We were classmates back in FUTO. We got talking the day we shared a seat in a General Studies class. I had my zealous-student cap on that day so I kept making contributions and asking deep questions all through the class. He teased me after the class and asked to borrow my note. We would later become study partners. Then bosom friends. He got a job in Lagos while I got one in Owerri but we stayed in touch. The day I sadly announced to him that I was moving to Lagos because the department of the company where I work had been transferred to Lagos, he was excited. He said he was glad my stubborn ears were now within reach so he could draw them whenever he wished.
“Look Onyeka, you can’t guilt-trip me. Emeka has been nice to me but he never sounded a trumpet. How was I to prepare for war?” I was pouting and rolling my eyes now but Onyeka’s loud hiss snapped me back to reality.
“If you like eh, speak English and talk about trumpets and war. You hear? If anything happens to my best friend’s heart eh….”
I didn’t wait to hear him finish threatening before heading back to the ward to wake Emeka up from his feigned sleep with a kiss on his forehead. We had a lot to talk about and my heart was ready to listen.