Twenty Ways I Thought I Died. Chapter Seven
Is he love?
You are the dancing queen, young and sweet only seventeen: according to Abba Gold. My life has to be perfect living my dreams finally in love and happy. My first boyfriend and amazing best friend just made the best of both world’s perfect. Ini is just an amazing friend. She is beautiful, dark skinned like me, but short and fat. She hails from Calabar and loves cooking, she loves fashion and believes in only inter tribal marriages, and her desire is to get married young and have five children. We attend the same university but studying different courses, as she is in her second year like me but studying English.
We are a direct opposite and that made us compliment each other. The question is; how did we meet? We met the very month I turned seventeen. I was on my way to register for the new session, moving on to two hundred level was exciting. I was tired of feeling like a fresher.
Ini walked up to me and said: excuse me, I think that guy over there is calling you. I turned and saw someone running like a tired antelope towards me with lots of books in one hand, and another pleading with me to halt. Do you know him? I asked ini. No I don’t; was her reply and with that she walked away.
Hello Fresher, the stranger called out to me as he approached. Fresher? I stressed. I am no longer that. I am moving over to two hundred level now. I said defensively. He smiled and said; I was just teasing you.
How are you? My name is Gideon Odion, I am a final year student, studying engineering.
Okay, I am Ufoma Ogaga a two hundred level student, studying mass communication.
That’s great! He exclaimed. I want to get to know you better, and this isn’t he first time I have seen you, so don’t begin to give me that stare that says; he is just one of them.
Okay Gideon Odion, since you know my look too well too, can you relate when and how you got to know me, to be so bold to make this heavy request?
The first time I saw you was when you came for your registration with your father. I am one of the café guys that stay at the school hall registering people. I beckoned you to come over to my table, but you just went straight ahead to the older guy with bald head. You gat a problem with young men? He asked teasingly.
No I don’t. I fired back. I just have a problem with young men who want more than business.
God! He exclaimed. Please I have been patient enough, and that’s why I never bothered you during your first year in school. I just wanted you to get into the system first before you start thinking about love.
Love? Are you high on cheap drugs? I asked him.
No am not. I am only high on hard drugs. And you call hard drugs only? I asked him. Yea that’s only compared to what you high on. And what am I high on? I asked. He bent his six feet self over my 5/7 and asked: will you like to find out?
Well I just asked. I reminded him irritatingly. Then have lunch with me today. He invited. You can come along with your friend.
Which friend? I asked wondering.
Your friend that called you for me. The dark, short, fat girl. He smiled. With that he slides his complimentary card into my hand and stared directly into my eyes and says: you will call me, will you? I nodded to his command and question, forgetting every other thing that was said or happening around us.
But he doesn't know that.
Some minuets later, I was in our study group paying attention to questions and answers being thrown around. Then my mind drifted to Gideon Odion. His surname told me he hailed from Edo state. He was the tallest guy that had ever approached me. He is certainly good looking. Brown skin, beautiful eyes, and beautifully slender, with the cutest smile ever. What did he see in me? I am just a two hundred level student, with just an okay appearance. I can’t believe I already have a boyfriend and a final year student at that! He is also studying a very good course. Father would approve of him.
What was I doing? I asked myself. Calling Gideon your boyfriend when you haven’t even started dating is desperation. Well I didn’t go looking for him, he did. And he already made his intentions known to be. Thank God I never said yes to Oneyka, my Gid is just the best! Yes my Gid is what I will call him from henceforth.
I never knew I spent most of lecture hours reminiscing about Gideon until I was left alone in an empty class. Where did everyone go? Did anyone mention to me the class had ended and they were leaving? I hadn’t made friends anyway, I was just this rich girl that attended a school everyone thought I wasn’t meant to be, so I wasn’t taken seriously by my course mates.
I left class and was walking down the hall way at exactly 2pm when I looked at my phone and got a grip from behind. You! I said.
My name isn’t you! I am Inibong Udoh, Ini for short.
Hi Ini and how do you know me? If I am ask.
She let out a small laugh and said: I was about to ask the exact question. Your guy caught up with me later and said he had invited me to tag alongside you for lunch. I was wondering why? But as you can see, I don’t joke with food, so I stopped wondering and located you.
At that moment I knew she was referring to her size which I kind of found attractive and intimidating. Why would my Gideon want Ini along on our lunch date? What game is he playing or are they playing? I don’t know these people and I have no idea what they are up to; so I kept it simple. Sorry what is your name again?
I said Inibong Udoh, INi for short, weren’t you listening?
Well I was, it’s just not a regular name for me to keep in mind. Anyways, I think this Gideon guy is just playing games with us. I think he likes you that’s why he went looking for you and insists you come to lunch with me. Anyways, here is his complementary card, give him a call yourself because I don’t have time for this rubbish. I walked away angry at Gideon, angry at this fat hips Ini and angry with the world. I can’t believe I was already daydreaming about that stupid guy when all he wanted was to get to Ini through me: I concluded.
Too early to cry?
I got home that day tired and hungry, for I had skipped lunch out of anger. Father was home with grandma. She had come earlier on to spend the weekend and was spoiling me silly. I love grandma a lot! She was just the opposite of grandfather. She was soft spoken, approachable, patient, mild and very tender. She noticed my mood was the same even after she had prepared my favorite meal; oil soup and boiled yam.
Ufoma there is something bothering you, I thought it was only hunger but now I see it isn’t. Please tell me about it. Her words were so soft spoken that they just drew out my worries, like one would use a fetching pail to draw out water.
Grandma, I allowed myself to be deceived today and I feel so hurt about it. Deceived? She asked. How did that happen? And who deceived my jewel.
One guy called Gideon. I narrated the whole story to grandma exactly how it happened and she just burst into laughter. Finally she said: Ufoma my baby fell in love at first sight. Well my dear, you don’t have to just conclude that this Gideon guy is planning on playing with your feelings. You aren’t sure if he knows Ini before. And he called you right? Not Ini. He equally could have said no not you, I meant the other girl, and that won’t have cost him a thing. You need to stop being afraid of things that may never even happen, or else you would lose out in life. Sometimes, it is even advisable you fight for love and relationships that are worth fighting for. I don’t always want you to chicken out like it can’t work, I don’t want to get hurt, it doesn’t matter, or you can get something better. There is really nothing better out there; for everyone is managing what he or she has.
Those words grandma told me didn’t matter that much because I thought when it comes to my feelings and emotions I knew better, and can handle it better. It took me many years to come to fully grasp the meaning of those words and advice grandma gave to me. Sometimes we learn from the experiences of others, while at times we learn from just our experiences. I learnt from mine and it was painful.
I didn’t see Ini again until after one week, and that was at the school hall. I went there looking for Gideon to apologize for not meeting up with him for lunch, and guess who I saw there with him chatting and helping him out with registrations? Ini Idoh.
I was so startled that I couldn’t move. I stood there with mouth agape and watching them from afar. It took two minutes for them both to be aware of my existence and it was Ini who called my name.
Ufoma hi! She waved at the same time. What are you doing here?
Nothing. Was what I could only mutter. And I turned around to leave. As I walked out of the hall in a hurry, I heard my name being called and footsteps running after me.
Ufoma hold on! Common what’s with you? I said wait! Talk to me.
The hand of the person drew me back, then I turned to see it was Ini actually running after me. What do you want now? I asked her with contempt.
Huh? Seriously! You are giving me that attitude after giving me a free meal ticket one week ago? I just felt I should thank you for your kind gesture.
Wow! Thank me? I never knew you were this cheap. I spat out.
Cheap? OMG what did I do? Is there something you aren’t telling me?
Forget it! Just leave me alone and never call me anywhere you see me.
Okay. Ini responded without any remorse. As she walked back to the registration hall, I looked at her with disgust. How could she just get him just like that? Without an effort. Was I to blame? I placed his complimentary card in her hands myself, and gave her a go ahead. After all, he used her to call me when I didn’t hear his call, if he wanted her he could have gotten her then; but he chose me. Why did I become so afraid over nothing and lost at the end. Why am I this way? What’s happening to me? I was so happy at first on getting to meet Gideon, that I was already dancing and it took me just an hour to ruin it all.
I need a help line
I called aunty Ejiro on phone when I got home and explained everything in detail to her. She was worried I was going to fall into depression again and immediately left the court house to come see me at home.
Hey I brought chocolates! She waved them at me as she walked into the sitting room where I sat watching cartoon.
Hi aunty. You didn’t have to stress yourself like this coming down here with your lawyer wig on your head. I let out a laugh. For you; I can travel to the end of the world Ufoma, I love you so much. I just can’t wait for you to turn eighteen so you can meet your maternal grandparents. We all love you so much dear, you are our world.
Now aunty Ejiro had tears in her eyes and I knew if I don’t stop this discussion; it will lead to a flood of uncontrollable tears as usual.
Aunty Ejiro, I am starving for chocolates, please serve me some. I distracted her.
Okay darling, am sorry your aunty likes crying. She said jokingly as she wiped off few drops of tears that found their way out. So tell me exactly how you feeling dear. Handling some chocolate to me she waited eagerly for my answer.
I feel betrayed aunty Ejiro. How could she just stab me in the back that way. And he is so disloyal! So unfaithful! How could he just stop loving me and go after my friend? Behind my back? And she even had the guts to ask me what was wrong the other day. Like she didn’t know what she did. You need to see the both of them chatting at the registration hall like they have been lovers from decades. Like they are actually lovers but just wanted go make fun out of me, you know something like a bet. Who knows if they did a bet on me? If you can get Ufoma Ogaga, I will give you this or that. Aunty please tell me the truth, am I being paranoid? I asked Ejiro looking straight into her eyes.
Yes Ufoma you are being very paranoid. And to prove that, I am going to ask you three questions. First, is Ini your friend?
No, I just met on that faithful day Gideon called out to me, I didn’t hear him so Ini helped him out by tapping me. I answered.
Second question. Are you and Gideon in a relationship?
No we aren’t, he just offered me lunch and said he has been watching me and wants to get closer. Aside that nothing.
Thirdly, are Inibong and Gideon under any obligation to you?
The third question was very simple to answer and it was what made me also realize I had acted stupid. Inibong and Gideon were not obligated to me in anyway. I do not know two of them from Adam, neither do they owe me any explanation. I was given a chance to know Gideon but I threw it away and handed it over to Ini and I called her cheap for that. I was going to make things work out again. Aunty Ejiro concluded I spoke to Gideon first and know what exactly is going on. And that was what I did. Only that I had to wait for a whole week to see him since I was attending a part-time school and only went there on weekends, and I hadn’t got his number too.
I dressed to kill that Saturday. My hair was well made into an African queen hair style that highlighted my cheekbone and made my face more narrow. I went for a short designer jeans skirt and a yellow crop top to highlight my brown skin. I commanded my presence with a six itches big toe shoe, which gave my cat walk the stare it deserves.
I remember the look on Gideon’s face when I got to his table at the registration hall, it showed admiration, but it was different from the first look he had given me the first day we met one on one.
Hi. He simply muttered.
Hello. I replied back.
Is there anything I can help you with? He asked.
At that moment, I just wanted to turn and leave. My pride was embracing ego and all I could hear in my head was: leave now!
He asked again when he got no response. This time rather too concerned about the wrong thing. Ufoma is there anything wrong with your registration for this new session? Do you need assistance? I can help you even if you have never patronized my table before. He smiled.
Oh that smile. It melted pride and ego to liquid. I heard love singing in my heart, and my mind was dancing systematically to this beat I have never heard before. Gideon am sorry but can we see outside briefly? I asked him shakily.
As we stepped outside, my words came rushing like water. Am so sorry Gideon, I should have honored your invitation. I should have called you but I misplaced your number. I should have explained this to you soon enough but it took me two weeks to know that am in love with you. Am sorry please forgive me. I don’t know what Ini must have told you, but please believe me when I say I don’t know that girl from anywhere.
Ufoma, what are you saying? He asked surprised. You don’t now Ini from anywhere? But isn’t she your friend? He asked me looking rather too shocked.
No she isn’t . I increased my voice trying to sound more convincing.
Then you better make that girl your best friend. She is just simply nothing else other than a good friend to you. On that day I approached you, Ini walked up to me at the registration Centre earlier on and said she noticed the way I couldn’t take my eyes off you, and if I really need you, I should walk up to you. I hesitated because I felt you needed more time for your studies and you could turn me down. But she made me realize that someone could act faster than me and since I had good intentions I should go ahead. And that’s what I did that day. When you couldn’t hear my call, she helped me in tapping you since she had gone ahead of me and was closer to you in distance. I later saw her after I gave you my complimentary card, and I then invited her over to join us for our lunch date, as a way of thanking her for helping me out. I told her to come along with you. She said she knew were she could find you and will surely come for the lunch date. But I was surprised later on when she called and said you couldn’t make it, that you had this sudden headache and decided to go home.
So you two didn’t share lunch together that day? I asked like a jealous girlfriend.
No we didn’t. Ini is dating one of my colleague; the Masters student that registered you for hundred level. I and ini aren’t close. I mean we just say hi and hello, but since she tried helping me get a girlfriend we just became a little more friendly and her guy doesn’t have a problem with that.
Oh my God! I never knew all that. I just felt… I mean I thought… actually what I mean is… well forget it. I concluded feeling so embarrassed.
It’s okay. I will like to go in now to attend to other students
Well wait. I stopped him. How about we get to know ourselves better like you intended.
That’s in the past now. I will like us to just go back to how we use to be- strangers. I felt so insulted when you gave my complimentary card to Ini and she had to lie that you had a headache. You never saw any need to explain things to me for two whole weeks. To make it worst, you called Ini cheap the other day you came to the registration hall to do God knows what.
She told you I called her cheap? I asked.
She didn’t because she is a nice girl. But walls have ears Ufoma. Someone heard you as you spat those hurtful words at her. And that someone is close to her guy and he told him. And that led to some issues and small talks here and there that got me so embarrassed. Please, I do not want Ini to get into trouble because of me and I don’t want to be with someone who likes creating trouble. So I am guessing, you are too young for what I am offering you. I will leave you to grow first.
My mother fell in love at fifteen. I defended.
Then you should have been like your mother.
I will never be like her. I spat out angrily.
With that, he walked away out of sight, and out of my life for good.
I went looking for Ini that same day and we stopped over at her home from school. She lived alone in a room self-contain; and we became best friends from that day hence forth.
Ini is three years older than I and works in a fashion house during the week as a seamstress. She told me if I still wanted Gideon she could help us work things out. I turned down her offer, and said Gideon was right. I needed to grow. We talked a lot that day, and danced to Abba gold, dancing queen.
I saw Gideon a few times again during school. We only said hi and moved on. Later on I stopped seeing him and was told by Ini that he was through with his program, and got a job in chevron an oil company through the help of his godfather.
No wonder he was seriously searching for someone. He knew he would soon start earning big, so he just wanted to get someone down and get married soonest. Ini concluded.
I laughed and told Ini I wasn’t thinking of marriage now until I turned twenty five. And by then I would get the best.
To be honest, I only consoled myself with that conclusion. I knew I had lost a good man. The man of my dreams. Tall, handsome, smart, intelligent, God fearing and rich. You never get that so easily. For a guy to wait till he is ready for marriage to want to date; then he is a good man.
Was Gideon right when he said I should have been like my mother? Am I really like my mother but fighting hard not to be her? Why am I always at war with my mother by trying hard not to be her in every avenue? Was that why I lost Gideon? So many questions with answers I could never know.
I cried to sleep that night in father’s room. I told him everything and I feared I could die that night like I almost did when I went into coma a year ago. Father was soo comforting, he vowed to make things right by example. By example? How? I wondered in my sleep.
© 2020 Jade George Anibor