“He’s not been home in two days,” she buttressed. I gave up halfway trying to find another excuse for Kola because she was now sobbing violently. I didn’t know what else to do, or what to say, so, I just leaned forward and offered my shoulders. I hoped they were not too bony. Today was one of the times I wished I was robust, at least, so I could give a bear hug. I brought out my new handkerchief and began to dry her tears.
The room was silent for a few minutes before Titi arrived.
And no sooner had she settled into the sofa than her bowl of advice (the kind she called a piece of my mind) start to overflow, arousing the emotions I had barely succeeded in suppressing. Temi began to narrate the experience all over again, and I silently gnashed my teeth in mild irritation. I had heard that story at least, four times. I chided myself over my behaviour, I mean, this was my friend and she was going through marital crises. “What were friends for?” I asked rhetorically. I braced myself to listen to her tales ten more times if required, so I turned my attention back to her story and nodded in agreement.
“Kola is such a beast. He treats me like trash. He made a fool of me, Nneka. He did. He doesn’t respect me. He… he… he…”
Only four years ago back in our final year room, Titi had brandished her engagement ring at us, narrating explicitly how Kola had gone on his knees to propose. “It was absolutely romantic,” she concluded. I remembered their endless calls, the outings, birthday and valentine celebrations with cake, chocolate, ice-cream, pizza…, professions of undying love on Facebook (I particularly remember ‘liking’ a number of them), and especially the satisfied look on her face after every love talk. Usually when I got tired of tales of their love adventures, she would sarcastically ask me to ‘go get yourself a man’. Titi would then laugh boisterously in support while sipping on her can of Heineken.
I glared at Titi who was now charging Temi to ‘take a stand for her rights’. “All men are the same. Idiots, all of ‘em. Don’t take no crap ‘cos if you give a leper a handshake, baby, he’d ask for a hug. Leave the bastard and make him chase after you. You deserve more than this shit. A man who beats a woman up is less a man. Damn him, mehn,” she ranted. “Or what do you think, Nneka?”
I never won an argument against Titi, so I desultorily stroked my hair the very same way I usually did when I had no response to a lecturer’s question in class. Then she began to narrate to us her pastor’s message the Sunday before, how that it was better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry person. “Of course it could also be a man,” she stated matter-of-factly in case we didn’t know. I rolled my eyes and hoped no one noticed.
Suspecting my disinterest, she announced, “You are not married, so you’d not understand these things.”
Very soon, Ifeoma made entrance, and the cycle repeated itself. Main story… Tears… Advice… Pity… More tears… Hankies… narrations of personal encounters with other beastly men… We were throwing such a pity-party.
The scene was just perfect for a Tyler Perry movie. I was a supporting actress, the docile one, the one who would narrate the story while the scenes evolved. I knew the end of our movie would be a close-knit friends’ hug. Every woman but one of us would be shedding tears. The actor-woman role would go to Titi. And I so hated to be part of such a movie.
I wanted to be the girl who saved the day. The one who trumped thousands… Just like Salt, you know. The one who never got the strength to shed a tear. The one who after many battles in an epic would be crowned victor.
I abruptly stopped day-dreaming, glanced at my wristwatch and firmly decided it was time to go. I was due for surgery in two hours, and I liked to be in the right frame of mind for my patients.
On my way back to the teaching hospital in my Honda CRV, I think about Kene. I imagine him raising his hand against me and quickly shrug the thought off.