When we began, it felt awkward.He reached out to hug me whenever we met, while I was still accustomed to chopping knuckles with him. He introduced me as his “babe” when we ran into his colleagues at the mall and I found myself chuckling in an embarrassed way. He sent messages several times a day and complained my responses were not romantic enough. I was getting myself to fit into my new role in his life but he considered my efforts to be slow and devoid of enthusiasm. He always reminded me of the kiss on his forehead at the hospital, which he said gave him hope that our transitioning would be smooth.
And then, we had our first major quarrel.
We were playing scrabble in his house one hot Saturday afternoon. The open windows didn’t seem to have an effect so I pulled off my shirt and had just my camisole on.
“Eriibaby, so you have these tyres? Shirts really do a lot of covering up, you know?” he said, doubling over in laughter.
“Young man, what did you just say? So, your gentleman ethics didn’t teach you that there are things you don’t say to a lady?”
“Madam, what wrong did I do? I simply made an observation.”
“Really? And you had to be that insensitive about it?”
“Haba. I have teased you several times in the past.”
“Not about my body. It’s not your fault, anyway. I blame myself for being at home in your house. If I hadn’t pulled off my shirt, this nonsense wouldn’t have happened.”
“Stop reacting, joor. If I had not noticed it today, I’d still notice it after we’re married and we’re having sex,” he said, sniggering.
“In your dreams. What makes you think I want to marry a man who makes insensitive comments at his lady?”
I reached for my shirt and handbag and stormed out of his house.
I expected to have tons of apology messages streaming into my phone but for two days, I didn’t hear from him. Each time I stepped out of the bathroom, I’d rush to my phone. I had hoped I’d see a missed call from his number. On the third day, his birthday, I sent him a text message. Still bitter, I sent a perfunctory “Happy birthday, Emeka”. After what seemed like a century, his response came in: “Where will you take your boyfriend to?”
I was both excited and disappointed. Excited that we were talking again; disappointed that it took his birthday to make that happen. I called Royal Inn – his favourite restaurant – and placed a reservation for the evening. The date went well. Until one of my colleagues walked in. And headed towards our table. He didn’t stop at exchanging pleasantries but went on to ask Emeka if he would accompany me on my six-month training in South Africa. My heart sank. This was not how I intended this to play out.
“When did the company inform you about this?”
“Two weeks ago”
“And you feel the best way for me to find out is through your colleague?”
“I…I…emm…. I wanted to inform you earlier but it’s been difficult for me. I remember the stories you used to tell me when you were dating Chinenye and how you detested long-distance relationships. I was just confused.”
“Confused indeed. Erimma, it’s obvious you’re struggling.”
“Yes, I’ve been struggling with the thought of telling you and–”
“No, struggling with this relationship. You have changed. You used to enjoy my company, crack jokes with me and rush to tell me things first.”
“But I was still going to tell you. It’s not like–”
“I think we need to end this before we completely destroy our friendship.”
“Could you please speak English?”
“I’m sorry I started this but I prefer the Erimma I had as my classmate and friend for 7 years to the Erimma who is my supposed lover. It’s cool you’re leaving for South Africa soon. We’ll get over this breakup easily while we’re apart.”