“When should I have left?” You ask, leaving me speechless.
Your plaintive voice, certain in its uncertainty reverberates through my entire being. How can I tell you this? I want to scream at you. I want to tell you you know the answer as well as I.
I have known you, my friend of many years. I held your hand as we grew up together. We lay on carpet grass beneath the stars many nights, on the fields near your house, in that primary school, and talked about boys. We knew all about boys – or so we thought. We shared our loves, checked with each other when we bought gifts, signed cards, wrote poems for them, and had dates with them. The dates involved strolls in the park where we swung in swings, ate ice cream and simpered shyly as we received compliments from these boys a few years older than ourselves, certain that in the thumping of our hearts, the weightlessness in our bellies, the aching, we had found the men we would love forever. Forever. Did we realize how far into forever forever was?
I remember when we first felt the pool of moistness between our thighs, when we felt the wetness in our panties. We looked at each other as womanhood nudged girlhood none too gently out of the way, the first encountering of lust, the dawn of desire. We were shy and yet open with each other. We told all, when we dropped our panties—and we dropped our eyes in the telling—and let them stroke our hot, frightened innocence, still sealed like an unopened pod, with the tips of their equally hot and turgid members.
We shared our shame as we admitted that it had hurt—hurt in a way we hadn’t dreamed. The Mills and Boons books had not prepared us for this. We were supposed to lose ourselves in pleasure that first time, swamped in a tide of desire, quite overwhelmed, taken under, unfeeling from too much feeling. Were we not supposed to let them pry our legs open and slide into our shimmering wetness, ready and hurting with need, a need that was more visceral than physical, and the fallout eviscerating us?
The books did not tell us that we would run scared at that moment when the tips of their cocks breached our fortress, the last stalwart between us and modesty, and all our values and worth, the hymen a sentry.
The books did not predict that we would pause on the precipice of losing all that made us valuable, that we would regain our senses at that inconvenient and yes, intolerable moment and ask of them in quivering voices are you sure? That question encompassed and embodied reason, motivation; and the answer we sought, the answer that would unclamp our thighs and give us permission to lose ourselves to them.
What did we expect, a throbbing penis hovering above a glistening vagina; the pride of being our first. Of course they said yes, every single one of them, joined in an unending chorus, a single tune that ran through the beginning of man, since the start of desire, when the first penis tasted the sweetness of the vagina and men unified and vowed that the answer would always be yes. A single melody that resonated through the corridors of eternity, before, now and thereafter ever shall be yes yes yes.
Yes they said, by the moving of their lips and we moved our hips in unison, a little wider we freed our legs, unclamped our thighs, unlocked our minds, forgot the warnings of our parents, the pleas, the threats. A desire stronger than us took hold. Not for the heat in our bellies, not for the momentary satisfaction. Not for the pain we had not been intimated with beforehand. No. For something older, more primal. More exigent and more inexplicable.
Acceptance. Love. Belonging. We wanted to be wanted.
In starry-eyed innocence, we phantasts stared in their beady eyes and spread our thighs, we clamped our teeth, bit our tongues as they took us in the hovering of darkness, the swirling of the morning mist, in the fierceness of the sun, and in the shadowy near-darkness of dusk. We lay, panting and pliant, convinced we were all we ever wanted to be, a woman loved, a girl made woman. Convinced we had made them man as they had made us woman. We held onto our convictions tenaciously, a child with teeth locked on a nipple, a dog with a bone, we would not let go even though proof eluded us. How could we tell? We believed their murmurings of you are my first also. No way of knowing so we believed. Human nature, to take as proof that which cannot be proven; conclusion by the very virtue of its inconclusiveness. That has always been the way.
And when the heartbreaks began, Celine Dion with her message of love always wins had not prepared us. We had lain in soulful silence, soaking up the sonorous sounds as she assured us that if we held on tightly enough, long enough we always got the man. We didn’t, and so we cried into each others’ blouses – copious, sniffling, uncomprehending tears. Had we known then that these would be the first of many, we’d have saved our tears, measured them out carefully, a set number of drops for every time our hearts would break. Then years on, we would still have had tears to shed. We would have saved our hearts too, bound them and allowed only a tiny portion break at a time, a crack per man, a splint per pain.
But in our ignorance, we threw ourselves whole, headlong, hurtling full speed into our first experience of emotional anguish. We lapped up the tears in our grief, in our self flagellation. We basked in it, observing, disbelieving, from a distance our ability for sadness; we lost ourselves in the losing of our loves, sure that as long as we lived, we would never again be so bereft.
For some of us it was true. As we stopped the tears, we put a stopper on the valve that let us leak emotion, a spigot on the flow of tears that seemed like blood, draining the life from us. We went quite insensate, cold, untouchable. We lived, went through the motions, fell in love, fucked and left when it fell apart. Untouched.
But you my friend, stayed inviolate. How did you do it? Did you wring your heart of bitterness every single time the wave of pain came? Did you let it wash over you, then shake off the deluge and venture in to love again, and again? And again.
I marvelled at you. I envied you. I wished. But my heart had been sealed, preserved like an invaluable diadem, untouchable.
Now again you lie here; we share a pillow as we have many times before. Your brow fevered… You curl into me like a sick child and I let you nestle in my warmth as you shiver. I shiver too. Your hair is splayed on the pillow, tears leak from the corners of your eyes and I throw my arm around your waist, draw you in. The spring bed dips in the centre, enfolds us womblike.
You insist on this monotonic monologue; I mumble soothingly. I understand. Of course I do. I was there.
Was I not there when you turned mid-sentence and your face seemed to freeze and slacken at the same time? I looked over my shoulder, wondering what you had seen now. Manolo Blahniks? You were so crazy about shoes. My eyes scanned the aisles and returned to scan your face. My eyes followed yours, caught on what they saw and froze. I saw what you saw.
He was not so tall, spare; he moved languidly, unhurried. He picked and discarded items as he moved along the rows – a metaphor for his life I would think later on – and you fit your steps in his, matched his long strides, followed his broad shoulders and slim hips. You gawked at him and I gawked at you. I yanked your arm and you snarled at me. I let you go then. I shouldn’t have. I should have held you then as I hold you now.
I watched you watch him, followed you as you followed him. When you took a table across from him, I took a seat across from you, and when you moved into the seat beside him, I move into the one across from you two. We danced this dance, an unlikely triune, locked in your desire for him and my fear for you. And later his hatred of me.
You seemed fragile, about to break; drinking him in as you watched his lips move when he spooned ice cream into them. I watched your lips move of their own volition when he deigned to spoon ice cream into them, I saw your throat work as you swallowed. You looked like you would swallow him whole. And you did as you told me later.
Didn’t you tell me much later how you took him inside you, and into you, body and soul. You told me in great detail how the moment he entered you, you started to come all around him, wave upon wave. You had never felt anything like that in your life, you said and I felt a twinge at this. But I soldiered on.
I hated him. It was what he brought into your eyes. A fierceness; a need I had never seen there before. I watched you watch him; you watched his lips when he smiled, his eyes when they dimmed, his ass when he walked away to get us more drinks. You watched him with an unnameable hunger, palpable, untameable. A hunger so alive and real I could hold it, yet so restless it would strike if I’d dared. You watched him like you would kill and maim anything that came between you. I hated him because he did not watch you at all.
I knew there was trouble when you started to mouth words that were alien to you, when you started to sound simpering and stupid. When you went all psychoanalytic on me, telling me my feminism was a ploy, a defence, a facade. When you told me my dashing in and out of relationships but remaining aloof was me overcompensating for the emptiness in my life – the lack of a family, my fear of losing people I loved; when you started to say bullshit like “Gay rights are human rights,” and finally when you said my pastor was a “curly-haired, bleached, sunburned buff with a pseudo accent, and the skills of a conman.” Those were words you had never uttered before. Those were thoughts you didn’t think. I knew I was listening to him.
You ask me now when you should have left him. I think it might have been when the cracks started to show, now as they had all those years ago with those boys. Do you remember? When you saw that letter your boyfriend wrote to his friend in the UK and said he did not have a girlfriend. I told you to leave him. He told you it was “a guy thing.” Did you listen to me then? No. But I was there when he told you that he had never really seen you as a girlfriend.
Are you listening now?
When you complained about his roving eyes, how he looked at that waitress who you were sure was making eyes at him.
When he said he would come, time and again, and didn’t, without so much as a by-your-leave. You knew where he was, didn’t you?
When you wanted to go to that end of year party at his office and he wouldn’t let you, maybe that was the time. I wouldn’t know, but I came with you anyway. For support, you see, and so that you wouldn’t do something crazy.
That night was hard for you, watching him watch her, her and her, all the time ignoring you . . . . When we got home that night, you let me undress you and put you in your bed. You must have been very sad and heartsick because you did not seem to mind when I climbed into bed beside you. When I pulled you in and stroked your thigh, you sighed and I tried to make you forget. You leaned into my hand and I was sure that that was enough.
It wasn’t. You woke and a storm brewed in your eyes. You dialled his number several times and when he wouldn’t pick, you stormed over to his office. I begged you not to go. Hadn’t work closed for the year? But you insisted – said you knew he had things to tidy up – and so I went with you.
And saw what you saw.
I was a step behind you, my head craning over your shoulder like a forklift, so I gasped when you gasped, your groan of shock fitting snugly into mine and they twain ricocheting through the empty hallway.
I watched her unclasp her lips from around his waning erection as he struggled to cover himself; watched her stand tall and regal, point a trembling finger at us and ask in icy tones, “who are these people?”
I stroke your ribcage now, my hand inching upwards, a nip at a time until I cover the mound of your full breast, as you insist that you had not meant to cause any trouble.
“When should I have left him?” You ask again, urgent distracted by my insistence. You must be distracted because the answer is obvious. How about at the beginning, that first day at the T-Mart stores in Calabar, when his wedding band gleamed at you and you gleamed back? I would say that’s when.
Post Image by Gadala Gubara via Manufactoriel
About the Author:
Pearl Osibu is a Fashion Designer/Stylist, Nigerian writer and blogger. She writes a blog titled Fifty Shades of Me where she publishes her short stories and keeps up a commentary on topical, social issues.
Her works have been published in Sentinel Nigeria eZine, Jetlife Magazine, Metropole, NigeriansTalk, etc.
She is currently a screenwriter—works with Mnet Tinsel—and a columnist at www.sabinews.com
She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.