“Some people can’t forgive infidelity, but you would wouldn’t you? I mean what is a little unfaithfulness between soul mates?”
I leaned back in the plush pillows savouring my seedless grapes as I admired Eka, my beautiful wife while waiting for her response. Standing by the windows of our honeymoon suite she was a picture of poise and perfection. Her honey coloured skin, generous figure and cherubic face turned heads everywhere we went. Everyday other men told me how lucky I was, as if I didn’t know that.
Her laughter was shrill, filled with amusement and certainty. “Akan, you will never cheat on me.” And with that she left the window to her laptop where she shopped, blogged and chatted.
In my entire life, I had never been faithful to a woman. I had never loved a person in exclusion of others, sometimes I liked to think I was polyamorous. At other times I told myself the hard truth: I was a fickle, selfish man ruled by his desires, but such times were rare. I liked to settle for flings, have friends with benefits, be the side-guy to rich women whose husbands were inadequate, roles that offered all of the fun with none of the commitment.
Before Eka, I had just two real girlfriends: Aduke, who left me to marry an eighty year old Canadian man and Nneka whose wedding I stumbled on one Saturday while watching TV. And even during those relationships I had never said no to the occasional roll in the box, moan in the dark, kiss in the hallway.
As an estate manager, I had a lot of time on my hands. Time I spent overseeing housing projects for wealthy clients and chasing women. Most of the projects were successfully delivered but the women were another matter. I didn’t mind though, the game was the game.
When I met Eka, I thought it would be another sexcapade for the history books. She came to see how well her aunt’s house was going.
“You have made so much progress! Aunty Ima will be so pleased, at this rate she will be able to move in by Christmas,” she said walking through the rooms and inspecting the property. I listened and nodded while she went on about workmen and wiring, all I could think of was how good her hips would look, spread out on my bed.
I asked her on a date and she said yes. Soon we were talking and chatting like we knew each other all our lives. She refused to sleep with me, however. No matter how long or hard I begged. I gave up after a while, my side gigs were still on and I never liked sex with a reluctant partner. It reminded me of necrophillia.
Over time we settled into an easy rhythm of weekend dates, daily phone calls and a never-ending chat. When she proposed to me, I said yes.
We were married in a small intimate ceremony in a little church at Lekki. My parents were late and so were hers so there was no one to stampede our idea with an elaborate African reception party with a football stadium filled with guests.
My guys made fun of me and my new status. Gbenga, my best man, led the taunts; swirling his beer glass in front of his pot-belly, “Akan, you are finished, nothing nice for you,” he said, swaying slightly, “Okro soup, morning noon and night. Even Okro soup snacks.”
The rest of the groomsmen laughed at his vulgar humour but I was annoyed. “At least it is my own Okro soup, I have no fear of Jedi-Jedi and other diseases,” I answered frowning slightly. The retort was a low jab at Gbenga’s recent incurable Gonorreah scare. He’d caught the bug from a one night stand and it had only been susceptible to Imipenem, a crazily expensive antibiotic. My barb hit home and he glowered at me over his drink.
“Leave story!” Taiwo said with a smirk. “This one no fit last two weeks. One week and e go dey find tasting up and down.”
“Haba!” Said Ikenna, “You no try for my guy, this is a changed man, transformed by the power of love and the support of a good woman. I am sure he’ll be faithful for at least three hundred and sixty. Minutes.” And they all burst into fits of belly-shaking laughter.
Listening to laughter ringing in my head, realising how true it was, infuriated me, I left my drink on the centre table and went to find other guests to mingle with, useless groomsmen.
One of the things that had made me say yes was Eka’s job. She worked as a surveillance engineer for an international oil company on an oil rig. The job paid well and came with six weeks of annual paid vacation but those were asides. What mattered most was the intermittent nature of her job schedule: two weeks on, two weeks off. Fourteen whole days! Where I was free to jump, hop, skip and cartwheel anywhere and anyhow I pleased.
I saw this as a blessing, so when she said I would never cheat on her, I made up my mind to keep things as discrete as possible. I was flawed, no saint, but I didn’t want anyone miserable on my account. I did have a wandering eye but it didn’t mean I should have a callous heart. I also made up my mind to keep all my exploits safe: no rubber, no lover style.
Our honeymoon was a pleasant blur of plush hotels, great food and mediocre sex. Eka was inexperienced and unwilling to experiment. I cursed myself for buying the no premarital sex scam and counted the days to her resumption. Then, finally, it was over. Eka was gone for two weeks and I was free to frolick.
My immediate target was a young lady in the estate I managed who ran a small hair saloon in front and drinks/water business behind her flat. She had dropped out from a Diploma program when her parents could no longer afford fees. She was single, slender, not very pretty, but there was something about the way she greeted me that made me feel wanted, gave me hope. Her name was Peace and she was from Delta state. Not that it mattered really, she could have come from Zamfara, Cameroun even, it wouldn’t have changed much.
The first week, I drove by regularly and stopped to gist a little. I asked how business was doing, I helped with minor repairs around the flat. I bought drinks and let her keep the change.
The next week, I stopped at her place and bought drinks for her and her girl. I drew her outside and she smiled shyly while I asked how she was and what her plans were that evening. She would be going for choir practice, she said, but what about the weekend? Would I be free on Friday? There was a nice, new club she wanted to visit, would I like to come along? Of course I would. We talked a little more before we parted amicably, but not before I had given her some pocket money and she had given me a peck.
The countdown to Friday was on.
I spoke to Eka everyday. I told her how I missed her (this was true, our three-bedroom apartment was as lonely as a graveyard), how I couldn’t wait for her to come back (a lie, I could wait, I had a date), how my efforts to find her a tabby cat were going (pretty bad, there were Bull Dogs, German Shepherds, parrots even, but no cats).
When I got to Peace’s place on Friday she was waiting for me. I could barely recognise her in the skintight electric blue dress and party makeup she had on. She hopped into the passenger seat, handed me a chilled can of Orijin and we zoomed off.
The club was overflowing but we found our way in and got more drinks. We danced a bit and I whispered my plans for the rest of the evening into her ears. She nodded with a faint smile on her lips and I felt a jolt in my loins. Holding her hand, I made my way towards the door.
Halfway there, I heard someone shout “Where you dey carry my woman? Ufuoma, who is this?” Looking up, I saw a muscular man at least half a foot taller than I was blocking the exit. I was still wondering who he was talking to when he grabbed my shirt and lifted me off the ground.
“Abel, stop this now, wetin dey worry you?” Ufuoma/ Peace said clutching the man’s shirt.
“Just shut up! Ufuoma, so this is the man you left me for? I fit just waste am here.” Abel said glaring at me with red eyes.
“Ab, relax, abeg,” Ufuoma said and Abel let go of my shirt. With that he turned around and hoisted Ufuoma on his shoulder, he wanted to march past me, I blocked his path, “Guy, you dey craze?” I asked him.
I woke up spluttering outside in a pool of water with some teenage boys fanning me and dousing me with water. The story came in trickles. Peace’s Uroboho name was Ufuoma, she translated it to the English version when she came to Lagos. Abel and her had left the village together to seek a better future in Lagos. They had been going steady for years, on and off, mostly because Ufuoma wanted him to stop drinking and get a steady job and he wouldn’t hear of it. Ufuoma was eager to move on but Abel wouldn’t let go, he swore she would either marry him stay or single. I was lucky to have fainted after the first punch he gave me. That had satisfied him and he left me alone. The last guy he saw with Ufuoma hadn’t been so fortunate, he lost two teeth and a finger.
Somehow, I made my way home and buried my head in an ice-pack. Two days later, Eka was back.
She took one look at my swollen face and made a clucking sound, “these terrible area boys, sorry my love, let me fix you some peppersoup.” I surrendered myself to her ministrations. Somehow, I got Ufuoma out of my mind. Somehow, two weeks passed and it was time for Eka’s crew change again.
On her way out, she walked up to me, looked at me for a minute, gave me a peck, and made for the door.
“Won’t you ask me to be a good boy?” I said, making a lame attempt at some morbid humour.
Again she laughed, “You can never cheat on me honey, I need to go so I don’t miss my flight.” And with that she walked out of the door.
Since Operation Peace had been a colossal flop, I decided to go for something more straightforward. Picking a girl off the street seemed extreme so I decided to look for a runs girl instead. Someone who traded her pleasures on the side while holding a day job or pursuing an education, they were said to be pricier but worth the effort. A few discrete enquiries and I was given a name and a number
Stella picked once the phone rang. She was happy to hear from me and what do you know, she stayed in Lekki too. We made a date for Wednesday and I ended the call smiling. On Wednesday she called to say she had to cancel, could we move it to Saturday evening? I was upset but I played cool, of course we could. We agreed to meet at a the Prime hotel bar by 6pm. I was seated by 5:30pm.
Nothing prepared me for Stella, she was funny and sexy and intelligent too. She smelled of flowers, vanilla and dreams come true. Her pink shorts showed off her lovely legs in the most lustful way. I began to wonder if I had settled into marriage too soon. I began to wonder if I could ever truly settle for one person at all.
We shared drinks and talked about sports, books and music. She told me she was into business but she wouldn’t say more. I told her I was a farmer and we both laughed.
Soon we found our way upstairs to a small but cosy single room. I began to kiss her and she responded eagerly. We undressed each other quickly and pulled of my boxers. Stella took one look at me and let out a scream. I was shocked and confused, her screams were still ringing in my ears as she hastily pulled on her clothes, grabbed her bag and left me in the room naked.
That is when I look down at myself. There on my pubic region were clusters of large angry-looking boils. I stared at them in disbelief. I had my bath before coming and there had it been a trace of them then. My erection disappeared and I slowly wore my clothes. My head was aching. The boils were beginning to hurt.
At the clinic, the doctor listened to my story with a smirk. “Mr Akan James, I have run this clinic for ten years and while I wont say you are lying, the history you have given is highly unlikely. I am placing you on medication for a week. Make sure you abstain during that period. Bring your partners for counselling and testing. Be more careful.” And with that Dr Dosumu saw me out of his office.
Over the next one week the boils cleared. Eka came back and I was in prison again. I served my time with honour: cooking my share of the meals, dressing up for silly parties here and there, reading the books Eka bought for me. I could sense she wanted me to make some amorous moves towards her but I just couldn’t, she was more of a sister to me at that point but I didn’t want to rock the boat or spoil anything. Sisters are forever, right?
One week into her time off she was called to cover for a colleague. I feigned annoyance while I threw a mini-tantrum, “how dare they call you up after just one week? Don’t they know you have a family? When are we meant to have time together? How are we meant to have a baby?! I yelled at the top of my lungs and threw my shirt on the rug.
Eka picked it up and walked over to rub my shoulders, “it is okay. It is just for a week honey, I’ll be back in no time.”
I pretended to fuss and fume while she did all she could to placate me. Riding on all the drama we managed to have sex that night but it was still boring and wooden.
When I woke up the next morning Eka was gone. On the fridge was a note:
Couldn’t wake you, you were so cute asleep.
Your favourite soup is in the freezer.
I’ll call once I arrive.
Ps: Please don’t try any of that again, for your own safety, I love you.
My stomach sank, I sat slowly on the nearest chair and read the note again. Eka knew. Or did she? What was that? And why didn’t she bring it up throughout her stay?
Anger, fear and disbelief swirled in me like a boiling stew. Determined to brush it all aside I tore up the note and made myself a cup of coffee, as hot as hell and as black as midnight and sat back to plan my next move.
Since Eka was due back in a week I didn’t have much time to plan or plot anything elaborate. Girls in the estate were out as were any strange women. Our people say that old firewood burns fast, keeping this in mind, I called one of my previous partners, Halima.
Halima was married but I had often warmed her bed when I was single and her rich husband was away on business trips. Usually, I just had to flash, once she saw my called ID– The Tailor– she would find a way to reach me when all was clear.
I called and waited. Two days no reply from her. Three days, no word still. On the fourth day she called and picked quickly, giddy with gladness. I froze when I heard a man’s voice, ” Don’t ever call this number again or I will make your balls into testicle suya, your eyes and internal organs into assorted peppersoup. You have been warned.” I dropped the phone gently and tried to quell the shiver in my bones.
Disappointed and miffed, I decided to go hangout with my guys. Ikenna was out of town but Gbenga, Taiwo and some of the other groomsmen where around. They had already ordered the first round of drinks, I asked for a Heineken and took a seat. They were discussing the Nigerian police how corrupt they were, how useless the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) had become, how they beat up innocent citizens and targeted young men with beards and tattoos. I nursed my drink in silence, I didn’t have any personal experience with the Nigerian police. It all sounded kind of anecdotal to me. My dealings with the police didn’t go beyond giving them the N200 they asked for when I drove into the estate. Soft work.
The girl serving drinks came with the next round of orders. She smiled at me and winked. I looks away but I could feel myself respond. Gbenga had seen it too. “Ah! Mr A, that one like you oh! How far I know say be now you don even forget the vows, e no easy!” He exclaimed chucking into his glass.
“Gb, mind yourself,” I replied, my eyes subtly following the girls figure as she strutted across the grounds. There were possibilities there, I thought to myself. If only I could get some one alone…
My prayers were answered as Gbenga’s phone rang. An emergency in his office–he was needed right away– Taiwo had to follow him because he didn’t drive. After he left, the others began to leave as well, soon it was just I and free drinker at the table. I left in search of the girl.
She asked me to call her Pepe. And pepper she was, in the next four hours, she took me places I had never been and showed me things I had never seen. It was like being born in heaven, over and over again, like a feast of all your favourite foods cooked to perfection, like being made into a cup, filled to overflowing with pleasure.
After about the seventh round, I managed to find my way back into my car. It was almost midnight, I thought about spending the night with Pepe but mini- slum didn’t look too safe and home was just 15 minutes away. Basking in the euphoria of a successful evening, I pressed a little too hard on the accelerator, when noticed a motorbike crossing the street ahead, it was too late.
My Honda Baby Boy was totalled, the bike man was without a scratch. I broke my femur, I had bruises from head to toe but that was the least of it. I felt numb in my waist and later the doctors told me I might never have an erection again.
Eka took time off work and when she saw me in the hospital wrapped like a mummy she held me and whispered “Why honey? Why? Didn’t I tell you not to try?”