As I ended the call, I smiled to myself. Though I had had a long day at work and all I could think of was my bed, I made an exception for today. My buddy and male bff,Lade was around and wanted to hangout and I’ll be drunk if I didn’t hangout with him. I smiled at the thoughts of our mischievous childhood and hurried home to freshen up for my ‘chillout’ with my friend.
* * *
Lade and I had grown up together. As a gangly tomboy that had no friends and whom the boys refused to play with, growing up was quite difficult for me. I tried to make friends but I wasn’t cool enough for the girls and my brother’s friends didn’t want to babysit. That is all except Lade. It was another Sunday and everyone was either out or asleep. I had done my chores and homework. Needle work held no appeal to me and I was tired of drawing. I picked up the game pad to my brother’s game and started playing, hoping I won’t get caught. I did get caught, but by Lade. And after beating him mercilessly at 3 rounds of Mortal Combat, he looked at me with what seemed like grudging admiration and said to me,’You’re alright’. That was the beginning of a brotherly relationship that lasted to this day.
* * *
I got to the quaint restuarant and rushed in. I wasn’t late but I was eager to see Lade. It had been a few years of constant phone calls and chats. His trip to the states to study has turned permanent when he got a comfortable job. He only came home for weddings and even that was rare. He saw me before I saw him and in a minute had pulled me in for a bear hug. I hugged him back, grinning stupidly at having my friend back.
‘You’ve lost your wild ways and settled into a becoming young lady’ he said assessing me with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
‘No, I replied giving him a playful punch on the shoulder,’this is all press release o! I’m still a hellion’
We both laughed and launched into reminiscing. He was an auditor at a big shot accounting firm and he loved his job. His bosses and colleagues were alright and he didn’t have much of a social life.
‘Hows Sasha?’ I asked grinning wildly. Sasha was his Caucasian girlfriend who had chased him with a vengeance. He had finally given in and dated her.
‘Married’ he replied and grinned as I nearly choked on my drink.
‘But….I thought……you guys were in love or something’ I stammered.
‘She had a marriage agenda that I wasn’t ready for,’ he answered looking at me intently.
‘You still have your phobia for marriage’ I said, a wicked smile on my face.
His smile dimmed and he gently lay his hand on mine. ‘Not any longer’ he said and in a flash, it was 2002 again.
* * *
He was working at First Bank and I had just gotten out of the University. While we still hung out when his work permitted, I could sense something was not quite right with our relationship. Things seemed strained. I caught him giving me lingering looks on a few occasions and I wondered if I had done something wrong. He would go the 12th mile for me if I asked him to and I was getting very uncomfortable. Not one to shy away from uncomfortable situations, I confronted him. That was when things went topsy turvey.
‘Olanna, I love you. You’ve made me fall in love with you’
Huh?! I thought, momentarily thrown off track. ‘I’ve made you?!’….it sounded ridiculous, like I had staged an elaborate plot. Calmly, I told him that nothing of the sort would ever happen. He kept prodding until I had to avoid him like a plague. Shortly after, he left the country and we started communicating again via phone calls and chats. He never brought up the issue again and for that I was grateful.
I looked up at him and drew my hand from under his. There was a few minutes of awkward silence and then he spoke up.
“Ola, my feelings haven’t changed’
I sighed and looked at him. I couldn’t see a lover there, hard as I tried. I only saw a brother and a trusted friend.
“Neither have mine Lade. I’m so sorry”.
He smiled, a wistful sad smile and continued with the discussion but the damage was already done. It was like a wedge between us, a broken bridge which non of us could cross.
The night ended quickly after that. At the door of my car, he placed a chaste kiss on my forehead. ‘I do love you Ola. I’ve tried not to think about you but I think I’ve failed woefully.” I stood there feeling sad and lacking unable to be for Lade what he wanted me to be. And when I lay down to sleep, I gazed into space, wondering at what could never be.