She sat staring at her blackberry. Willing it to ring, to beep, anything. He had promised he would call her tonight and so she waited.
“Hey! Is this seat taken?” Where the first words she ever said to him. He looked up at her, prepared to give her a non-commital grunt that has been known to keep people at bay.
He is not much of a nature person, but there is this thing about the park that soothed him, helped him forget. Maybe it is the lush green of the grass, or the riotous mix of colours from the flowers that marked its boundaries; or maybe it is the fact that residents of the housing estate rarely came out here – all of them secure in the walled coolness of their air-conditioned prisons. Whatever it is, it suited him fine.
He could just sit there on this bench and let his mind wander, his thoughts and imaginations running free.
Often there was that resident who would want to take a break from walking the dog, or jogging or trotting – whatever they did in their bid to get in some exercise – and try to share this bench, his bench. It was not the only bench in the park, but it was situated so that the swings in the corner hid him from whoever was passing-by while giving him an obscured view of the entrance, affording him a little slice of privacy. Yet people still seemed to make a beeline for it everytime.
His perfected grunt usually kept them at bay, but that day was different.
He looked up, grunt at the ready, and saw an embodiment of harassment.
From the top of her wind blown hair flying in all directions, past her smudged eyeliner, red-rimmed eyes, tear stained cheeks and smeared lipstick, past the shawl carelessly thrown across her shoulders, to her shoes – a nice pair of flat black shoes, dusty but not too scuffed.
In the instant he took in all of these, he sort of knew.
“No it is not, you can have it.” She just stood there staring, a vacant expression on her face.
When he looked up at her, she stood staring at the most beautiful pair of eyes she had ever seen. It seemed to her the eyes were seeing into her soul and even beyond.
Then he spoke, his lips drew her eyes to them. Full and puckered in the middle, they turned down at the sides when he spoke. She imagined them smiling, they would surely light up a room. Oh! To have them nestled against hers, nibbling and sucking. She saw them alone, both of them. He whispering to her, his voice holding secrets of World peace; she drinking in every spoken word, hearing the words unspoken and still thirsting for more. A sigh escaped her lips.
“Hey miss! Are you going to take the seat or not?” He asked, hoping his voice would bring her back from wherever she travelled to. This one sure had a lot on her mind.
It worked. She snapped out of her reverie. Apologising, she quickly settled into the seat and began rummaging in her bag.
He pulled out a book from his back pack and flipped it open. He held it close to his nose and heaved a mental sigh when, from the corner of his eyes, he noticed her pull out an iPod and plugged her ears with earphones.
The weather was balmy and she had come to the park to gather her thoughts. She and Zack had fought again. The fights were becoming even more intense and constant, the most annoying part was they fought over the most inconsequential things. Last night it had been about her bedazzled phone pouch. Imagine! He thought it looked too silly and girly and she was too old to be seen carrying a phone that glittered every which way. She reminded him it was her phone and she reserved the right to do what she wanted with it.
That was when he lapsed into a tirade about how she never listened to him. What sort of wife would she make if she contested his every decision? Who would their children listen to? Yada yada yada! On and on he went till she took her bags and ran out into the night. He hadn’t tried to stop her, neither had he apologised. She was done with the relationship, if she was to retain her sanity, she needed to leave now. More importantly, she needed a distraction.
They sat in silence. Her playing music off her iPod, him reading a book. Or more aptly, pretending to read a book. She could tell his mind was anywhere but on those pages. For one he held the book too close to be able to see the print, unless his eyesight was really that bad; secondly, he had not flipped a page in the almost ten minutes she had been sitting there beside him. She just needed to get his attention. He seemed aloof. One of those who knew what they are worth and wasted no time bullshitting.
“What are you reading?” She asked in an attempt to break the silence that threatened to stretch on forever.
He would have played deaf and ignored her, but she had the earphones on, not him. “The Jury by John Grisham.” He said curtly without moving his head, hoping she would hear his tone, read his body language and let him be.
“Oh! I love his books, I’ve read practically all of them,” she enthused. “I’m Ngbemela by the way, but friends call me Ela”
“I’m Tera, Tera Firma. A pleasure meeting you.” He bit off the last bit. And like a lone mosquito that made its way into a room, she buzzed with so much zing in his ears – he was tempted to swat her at some point. She chattered incessantly and he was certain if he had duct tape, he would have taped her mouth shut!
After another fifteen minutes he got up to leave, and she did too. It was then that he took a sidelong look at her and smiled. Hearing her talk had persuaded him to look beyond the dishevelled figure she cut – for though he was reluctant to admit she sounded intelligent and had a cheery voice, it was the truth – and he liked what he saw.
Beautiful women have always held a fascination for him. This one was no different. They left the park that day and he knew he was going to see her again.
That was the beginning of their whirlwind romance. Funny how she started out seeing him as a distraction, now barely a month later, the mere thought of him sent shivers up her spine.
He was playing games, it was all a game to him this thing they have, she could tell. His blackberry had always been an extension of himself; he could sit for hours punching the keypad as he outlined stories or captured events to use at a later date on his blog, so in the early days he was quick to reply her pings. Not so readily did he reply her these days. She was sure that there was someone else.
He had enrolled in a creative writing program and the assignments came thick and fast, leaving him no time for frivolity. He had explained this to her, but it did not stop her pinging every minute as if she did not know this was one distraction he could not deal with. There were times when he even went offline just to keep her at bay, and when he turned on his phone, her messages came tumbling in.
True the sex was good, her company great, but surely it did not buy her a slot in his life larger than what he was willing to allot her.
She had been there last week, and he did not even kiss her. A headache, he had claimed. The classic avoidance strategy, she could tell.
She is taking it all in her stride because she believes there is an explanation to all this and that with time and patience, she will make him see that she was in this for the long run; she was the one for him. Surely he meant it when he passionately whispered in her ear that he would go to the ends of the earth with her. Now he was no longer taking her calls, he had promised to call back the last time he did. This too will pass. Or so she tells herself…
I shook my head sadly as I watched my friend of almost ten years look at her phone once more and I thought: “Can she not read the signs so boldly displayed on the wall?”
PS: This was co-written with @chinnydiva, the Dominatrix. My appreciation goes out to her for accepting to execute this project with me.