It was green, the grass. It reoccurred to him with child like wonder just before he hit the ground. It was moist too, and although this was the end of the line for him, this felt like it was just beginning. Like he was 3 years old all over, learning his colour wheel. He was closing in on 30 now though, and these were the last breaths he drew. As his eyes flickered in the drizzle, life drained from him, the pains from the holes bored into him didn’t match the sensation spinning his head right now. His faded khaki was now tainted red, it was sticky too. He recalled too, that your life flashes right before your eyes, just before you die. People said that a lot. He saw this coming, and as a man of foresight, he made sure to construct the road to this Rome according to the blueprint. The only part of the print he never understood was whether he was right, leaving, to chase his dream, when in all this mess, it was but his only reality.
Jei was a man one with the waters, smooth and clear. Amee was a woman one with the rock, hard but even too. And If the world was a tropical island, then she was a coconut, and he, the water she held at her core.
It was on a Sunday, the first time they laid eyes on each other. A peculiar Sunday, one which the people of Nigeria were using to catch their post-pandemic breaths doing the only thing they could, survive. She had come for an evening church concert and he was just across the street with his friends, talking the way only what guys could. He hadn’t noticed her, not until she was halfway across the road headed his direction. Her flowing native gown swept the floor lightly, teasing the ground, the way only a seductress could tease a youth. And as she faced him, two pairs of brown eyes locked in, he was already in a future with her by his side, together, with kids of their own running along, some adopted too. And somewhere in those eyes, he had a hunch she saw it too. Too dazzled to remember to talk to her until she had left, he peeled the entire area searching for her, his loyal friend tagging along, but M(as he’d later get fond of calling her)was nowhere to be found. Despair had set in and after a few disappointed sighs, she reappeared. He didn’t fail to seize the opportunity again.
It would be however well over six months later that he’d finally muster up the courage to admit to himself that he was in it for her. After a tug of war with pride, he decided to go pay her a visit on her campus. Because both were in one University, but different campuses. A not too comfortable 30 minutes trip by the way, because the roads in Nigeria were not built for comfort, just to move one to where one wanted to go. Not exactly convenient. He anticipated their conversation in transitu, thirty minutes of f****d conversation and he’d lie about something to do and run along. But by the end of the night, three hours had passed and either he or her, or both of them really, found it hard to let go of the other’s hand, to say goodnight. He never quite saw whatever she did coming, always. And this was why he loved her. Two meetings after the first, and he decided that it was time to really tell her how he felt. After pacing round the hostel corridors for what seemed to be forever, he called her and confessed again, braver this time. Not like the shameful way he did the first time and dashed away without hearing what she had said. He left her dazed in her red gown, alien to all that evergreen. He would never forget, as he would later come to realize, that on her face was a sort of cracked smile, the kind you see on a babe’s face, genuine and pure.
“I meant it when I said I really LIKED, sorry remove the D, LIKE you.”
She laughed softly.
“I think you think you like me, but you don’t.”
“So it’s up to me to prove to you then, that it’s not a thought, but I actually do, yes?”
She was quiet, and both knew what that silence meant. And so it was, the go ahead to woo. It started with the call by 2am to wake her up to prepare for her exams that morning. It was followed by what would be a date budgeted on a N1000 that he didn’t have at the time or the nearest future. But he had faith, that somehow what he felt for her, would find a way around it. Jei despised being vulnerable more than almost everything there was to despise. To him it was a yolk-shell relationship. When one exposed one’s yolk, there was no wearing back the shell, it was cracked either ways. But with M, it all felt okay, and it choked him instead when he kept it all to himself and couldn’t express how he felt. She was a woman who spoke and understood action better than words. Not that he couldn’t keep up, but he liked to express himself too, but with words. There was a certain wonder about them. And he was a man, one born with the alphabets engraved in his palms.
Numbers that wouldn’t amount to much on any normal day, somehow seemed very large when they were paired with colossal things. That’s why twelve months is a year, as opposed to twelve stones or chairs. And seven was a trivial number until it became days and weeks. That’s why although there are 24 hours in a day, Jei thought about Amee more than the hours you have in a day. Before M, he was living through life. But immediately he came out of his shell, he became alive. It was all about the content, really.
It’s things like these that love does you see; makes a man conscious, and in that consciousness lies the difference between living and being alive, a life.
He would find himself waiting for certain days to come, so he could see her. He was also conscious of how he looked before he headed out. He paid attention to himself, down to the neatness of his white nails, his full black hair with sprinkles of grey. Before her he lived, after her, he became alive. Before long, she caved in on his feelings, and he broke down the walls she put up, because in him, she felt safer than with the walls surrounding her. Jei would remember the day she told him she loved him.
He was one to easily forget, but amongst the few things inked on his soul that couldn’t be washed off, she was one of them.