Never in your dreams, as wide and vast as they were, did you imagine that the man who stood in front of you and a class of about twenty-something people to teach Creative Writing would one day confess feelings of undying, unwavering and unquestionable love for you.
Your friend, Ifeanyi, had recommended the class for you. He sent a flier via WhatsApp saying “Omolara, you should attend this.” You told him okay, that you would attend as long as there was no gate fee attached because you were broke.
You were almost lost looking for the venue. It was at the Faculty of Art. You followed the sign post with arrows showing what way led to that department, and for a while, you felt like you were almost there but when you kept walking back and forth a class room that had a man who looked nothing like the person on the flier, gesticulating widely in front of the class, you concluded that you were lost. You were rescued by a cross-eyed girl.
“Please excuse me; I am here for a masterclass. Is this the class?” You took out your phone to show her the flier. She collected your phone and took it so close to her eyes you feared that she was going to make it disappear. “Yes, this is the class,” she replied finally.
That day, you wore a red baggy blouse and skinny jeans. A long flowing wig sat nicely on your head and the strap of a black leather designer bag hung down your shoulder. You looked good. So when you stepped into the classroom, you walked in with your head high because your outfit made you comfortable in your skin. You took a seat at the fourth row next to a guy dressed in all black. The man, the speaker at the master class was reciting a spoken word poem. It was a piece by Yusef Komunyakaa. The words “Kadoom Kadoom Kadoom” still resonates loudly in your head whenever you think back to that day.
That man, the speaker, looked like a middle aged man who had everything going well for him. He wore native attire, what they popularly call ‘senator’ and an enormous smile on his lips. His sense of humour gave nothing much away. If anything, he looked and acted the way motivational speakers did –funny, with a good sense of humour— which was their most profound trait as far as you were concerned.
He said he loved music and that music helped him write. He liked classical music especially. He played one of those classical songs and asked you all to write what ever came to mind. You weren’t a fan of music as a whole, but there was no denying that the song came with a soothing feeling and the silence that etched the room that day could not be forgotten in a hurry.
You quickly swung into action by writing. You wrote about a girl who was raped by her father when it rained. You read it in front of the whole class. The man, the speaker, said it was beautiful and sad. You thought so too. It wasn’t foreign to you anymore that you were fascinated with the things that tore people apart.
Ifeanyi arrived towards the end of the class. Better late than never they said. You waited for him outside because since he was once a student at the department and also a member of the writing community that organized the masterclass, he had to say hello to a few persons. Ifeanyi looked different from the last time you saw him at Nkrumah, and you wasted no time in telling him this as both of you made your way down the stairs and out of the building. Once outside, you both gave suggestions on where would be the most comfortable place to sit and talk. You talked about how stupid it was for the Faculty of Social Sciences to build a pavilion without a roof or shade. He laughed.
Minutes later, you were both sitting on a bench that was shaded from the scorching sun by the branches of an almond tree. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, just barely past three o’clock. The sun was blazing hot as students walked in the midst of their friends, laughing and jesting and generally being carefree. You and Ifeanyi talked about a lot of things: His late friend, Akachi; his job at the microfinance bank; his roommate; the blisters he used to have on his feet; how writing on Facebook was a waste of time; writing, more writing; Okada books; and finally, the speaker at the masterclass.
Ifeanyi said he was once a student at the University and a member of the writing community that organized the masterclass. That he graduated some five years ago and that he used to be a very lanky but now he was eating money. You laughed. His name was Kachi Ude, Ifeanyi said to you. You nodded your head. So he wasn’t married yet, you had asked.
“No, I don’t think he is. He is still quite young. He just looks older.”
You nodded your head. You didn’t think much of it or the possibility that you’d as much as say hello one day to that man, the speaker.
“I have to go now,” Ifeanyi said, “I have church service this evening and I need to give some clothes to a tailor at boys hostel.”
Goodbye, you told him.
You did not want to go back so soon to Hilltop – the small university community where you lived. So you stayed behind and watched people go about their lives, all being seemingly controlled by some gamer: a girl whose waist beads were visible from under her shirt, swayed her hips to the rhythm of the music blasting from her friend’s phone; a guy who looked like he was nineteen years old, had an outfit which was an exact example of what Alté fashion stood for.
After a while, you sluggishly dragged your feet as you walked back home. From a distance, you noticed that there was an ongoing party at Freedom square, a popular place at school. You decided to take that path home, maybe you would bump into a few persons you were familiar with and then you would no longer have to go home.
You saw him, that man, the speaker, Kachi Ude or was that what he was called? He was seated with a group of persons that you remember from the masterclass. You took a bold step and walked up to him. There is no harm in trying to talk, to have a conversation.
Good afternoon, you said as you took a sit next to him. “Good afternoon”, he replied. He had a puzzled look on his face. He obviously did not remember you so you reintroduced yourself as Omolara from the masterclass. And then he smiled a smile that could birth the luminous golden sunshine.
Thank you for attending my class, he had said. Thank you for having this class, you had also replied. And then you talked and he did too. You both talked about life, but mostly about yours. You told him you were twenty-one years old; that you were an Engineering student that liked to write; that in fact, you had had a tutorial class for a difficult course that morning but you ditched it for his class; that you were a photographer too; that one time, when you were a five-year old, you nearly drowned in a well.
He asked you to send him a friend request on Facebook. You told him you had already done so. He said “Beautiful”. You realised he said ‘Beautiful’ all the time. That day, you walked back home with a smile dancing mildly on your lips. A fruitful day it had been indeed.
Two days later, you received a message from Kachi Ude. He sent the word ‘sweetheart’ multiple times to your DM. You were shocked at first. What did he want, you wondered. You replied, “Hello.” Then he replied he just wanted to thank you for coming to his masterclass. Then you smiled. He hadn’t forgotten about it still, your story, it touched him greatly.
And that was the beginning of what you would like to call another beautiful story.
He would call and text you every day. You told him about a guy whom you had a massive crush on Tochi, a 500-level student from your department. Kachi Ude never asked for his name. Instead, he just called him ‘500-Level’. There were many nights when you were missing your crush badly that Kachi Ude would send you airtime to call him.
How old are you, you had asked him on the phone one evening. How old do I look, he had asked back. Ehmm 28? He laughed. “No dear, I am 30.” You were awestruck. He was older than you by nine whole years. He laughed again. “I need to get married soon. My father has been asking for a grandchild” he said.
You don’t want you to get married soon, you had said. Then he said “Hello, hello, what did you say? I didn’t hear that.”
Silence. Then you ended the call.
Kachi Ude soon began sending money into your bank account and whenever he did, you would scream and say Thank You, and he’d laugh and say “I just want to make you happy.” Indeed, that was what he did. You now always had enough money at your disposal and it sort of lifted the burden of struggling to get by daily at school off of your shoulders. Angels came in different sizes – old, young, big, small, huge, slender – and Kachi Ude, he was an angel. Fear would make you ask if he wanted anything from you because a man does not just spend money on a woman only because he wants to. Kachi Ude would always give the same answer—I just want to make you happy.
It had been five weeks now and you had only ever seen him once – at Freedom Square that Saturday after the masterclass. The image of him in your head started to blur away, slowly. You had a very poor memory for faces so it was understandable. You would go through his Facebook photos but the photos that were there were the ones from years ago, and he looked nothing like that anymore. Meeting him in person would not be a bad idea, you thought. He only lived a few miles away in Enugu’s capital city. But the plan was cancelled in your head before they made way to your lips or out of your thumbs as you would text them to Kachi Ude.
Kachi Ude liked talking about sex a lot. He hadn’t been laid for months because he had been busy with work and it made him uncomfortable sometimes so he’d tell you about it. Do you want to sleep with me, you would ask. Only if you want to sleep with me, he would answer. It was a game that you both played, and for a long time, you began to wonder if he only wanted to take you to bed or if he only wanted to take you to bed. There was no in-between.
The day that everything changed was one evening while you were in your room at Hilltop. You were alone, bored and in need of company. You were texting Kachi Ude on WhatsApp. It was all fun and games until he dropped a bombshell. He said that he was going to stop talking to you because he had fallen in love with you. That you were all he thought about and that he couldn’t continue talking to you because he knows that he can’t have you and that he didn’t even want to be in a relationship because it would distract him from his main priorities. But he loved you and he fu**ing loved you and that he also wanted to f**k you, that he wanted to f**k you so bad.
That was the bombshell. It was so loud and heavy that you cried because it left brunt wounds and bruises on your skin. You were confused. Surely you didn’t feel the same way because you liked 500-Level a lot. You begged him not to do it, not to stop talking to you that you both could work this out, that you could even fall in love with him back, but he went offline and didn’t say anything else.
You cried to your other friends and explained to them what had happened. They said he wouldn’t leave you just like that if he valued your friendship. They were right because he called you the next day and things slowly went back to normal. Well, not really to normal because you too started feeling butterflies somewhere above your abdomen whenever you heard his laughter over the phone.
One evening while you were sitting with Ifeanyi in front of Ekpo Ref. building, you told him about everything, about 500-Level and about Kachi Ude. He was surprised, not because Kachi ‘f**king’ Ude confessed feeling of undying, unwavering and unquestionable love for you but because “How the hell are you going to do it with him in bed?!” Kachi Ude was a really tall and huge man standing about 6’7ft while you, you were standing at just 5’5ft. Truth be told, Ifeanyi was crazier than he let out. You laughed. You had also thought about that but it was the least thing on your mind.
I don’t know what to say, Ifeanyi finally said. “Do you like him back?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I think I do, I think I do not. What about the 500-Level guy? I like him. In fact, I just finished meeting up with him before I came to meet you here.” You replied sighing softly. The thing was that Ifeanyi didn’t know I liked 500-Level and I was not sure if he liked me back. But on the other hand, Kachi Ude liked me and I thought I may like him back. What should I do? You said as you buried your face in your hands and groaned out of frustration. You’ll be fine, Ifeanyi assured you. Just do what you think is right, he added.
That evening, on your way back to your home, you found yourself slipping away. You hated being like this. In your head, all of this was too trivial to put you in such condition. They’re just boys, you thought. Well, technically one boy and one man. It shouldn’t be much of a bother to you. How about you stopped talking to both of them, you thought. At that point, it seemed like the right thing to do. So before you got home that day, on the road, just besides the row of Brotherly shops, you deleted both their numbers and cleared all the chatversations you had had with them over time.
500-Level did not call nor sent a text message. It wasn’t a shocker because after all, you were the one madly in love with him and not the other way round. 500L was handsome – really handsome –and when he told you one time at the library where you had both met for the first time, that he had never had a girlfriend, you were shocked! He wasn’t lying when he said that and you knew it because of the way he kept avoiding your eyes as he spoke. His left iris was discoloured in a way that made you ask if he was partially blind. He said no. That he was born like that. You said Wow. That all along, you thought he was partially blind. He laughed. You laughed too. His laugh was tuneful, like music and he did that a lot. He used to laugh a lot. Well, that was when you spent late nights talking to him on the phone.
Kachi Ude tried calling you severally but you bounced his calls. He left so many messages on all the social media accounts that he had access to. But you, you that were searching for peace of mind, did not as much as spare him a second to talk with you. It was a heartless thing to do, but you suppressed the thoughts by focusing mainly on your academic life.
Three weeks on now, you began acing your tests and presentations. You began studying ahead of lectures and for a while, you thought to yourself, “This is the life! No problems from the other gender whatsoever.” Whenever you’d see 500-Level at school, he’d just wave at you or say a simple hello or give you a handshake and that was it. Kachi Ude stopped calling and texting. The last text he sent was a beautiful poem which he had written. The last line read:
“I hope, just like a little girl with chocolates, you’re happy”
You instantly remembered all times he had said “I just want to make you happy” and you let out a heavy sigh.
“Are you happy?” Ifeanyi asked one evening when he came over to visit you at your place. You said yes, that recently, you got the highest score in a test in one of your departmental course. That the lecturer even called you to his office to ask where you were from and when you told him Lagos, he smiled and said “I knew it; people from Lagos are always smart.” That he said “Congratulations, you have done your people well” and you left his office feeling on top of the world.
But are you really happy? Then you said “Bia, be going home. You know how dangerous Hilltop can be at night.” Then he left and you flipped open your Laptop to watch a Trevor Noah’s comedy show, one that you’ve watched over fifty times before. That night in your dreams, you saw Kachi Ude and 500-Level, each pulling your hands so hard that they ripped off your shoulders. You woke up panting.
Weeks later, you were at the General Studies building, sitting on a chair in the first floor when a good-looking guy walked over to you and said hello. He introduced himself as Odinaka. Before the end of the class that day, Odinaka was able to whisk your phone number out of you. His perfume smelt like vanilla flavour which only reminded you of cake. Out of impulse you asked if you both could go get cake after the class. He gave a big grin and called it a first date. You laughed.
You both went to places together. You held deep conversations with him. You shared your thoughts and beliefs. He gave you a listening ear. He was always ready to help. He was an angel, so you thought. It was at SUB while you were ordering meshia that Odinaka asked you to be his girlfriend. You said yes as you reached to collect your order. On your way back to Hilltop, he placed his hands on yours and you intertwined them.
You both went to Christ Embassy Church on Sundays that held at the P.A.A –Princess Alexander Auditorium. Odinaka would fume whenever you commented on how dapper the young pastor looked. You’d ask how it was possible for one person to be that good-looking and still be a man of God.
After Sunday Service, you’d both have lunch at 11:45 restaurant, then you’d walk back to SUB and seat on those chairs that were made out of bamboo. You would not meet on Mondays and Tuesdays because they were full of activities for the both of you. On Wednesdays, you’d both meet at the General Studies building and spend one hour together. On Thursdays, he’d come over to your place after lecturers and stay over till Friday evening. On Saturday, you’d not meet because you both had to do assignments, laundry and make trips to the market. On Sunday, you’d both attend Christ Embassy at PAA where you’d gush over the handsome pastor. That was the routine, for two months.
“So you really have forgotten about Kachi Ude?” Ifeanyi asked you in front of Alvan Hostel. You told Ifeanyi that you did not know, that was it possible for a prisoner to forget why he was locked up? Ifeanyi laughed. Then he said that in context, that makes no sense.
Then you sighed and said “I know. Have you forgotten how horrible I am at the use of Figures of Speech? I have not forgotten about Kachi Ude. Not once. Every day, I see things that remind me of him. I still search for his name on Google to see whether he has published new poems. I miss him and sometimes I feel like dialling his number or sending a text, but I always stop myself because maybe, what if he has moved on and now hates me?”
“You wouldn’t know if you don’t try.”
“There are sometimes you don’t have to try before knowing the results, Ifeanyi.”
When Ifeanyi wanted to walk you home, you told him that you were going to take a bus from Behind Flat because you didn’t feel like walking anymore. On the way, you listened to Adele’s Someone Like You from your air pods and you cried; you cried soft tears. While on the bus, you listened to Post Malone’s Circles. And you sniffled, you sniffled so much that the rowdy looking guy sitting next to you on the bus asked if you were okay. You told him no, that life wasn’t fair and that you wanted to die. Then he said “If death were the answer, then there’d be no one on this planet.”
On Thursday evening, you were making out with Odinaka. He left traces of kisses on your neck and instead of you to moan Nkem like you often did, Onyekachi slipped instead. Odinaka immediately stopped and asked who Onyekachi was. You said nobody, that it was only a slip of tongue. But he wasn’t having any of that. He called you a slut and said that as if flirting with that pastor openly was not enough, that you still had the nerves to moan another man’s name. Then you told him to shut the f**k up! But instead, he gave a resounding slap across your face and made his way to rip your clothes, down to your panties.
Then you screamed, you screamed so loud that even the people at Odinegwe heard it. Your neighbours came to your rescue, they were pounding on your door and asking what was wrong. You kept shouting Rape! Rape! Rape! Odinaka tried to cover your mouth with his hand, but you bit it without mercy, then he too screamed. The lock on your door was soon broken and your neighbours trooped into your room and began bouncing on Odinaka.
That night, Odinaka slept in jail. That night, a surge of sadness like rushing water swept through your whole body. That night, your life would never remain the same. You agreed to drop all the charges against him if only he agreed to stay away from you and of course, repair the broken lock on your door which he agreed to. Going to court meant involving your family and you didn’t want that because you shouldn’t even be having a boyfriend in the first place.
Your life went back to the way it was. Burying your face in-between your books and acing all your tests, exams and presentations. You were fast becoming the best academic student in your department and it made you very pleased. Ifeanyi was proud of you as well. Whenever you both met, he would tell you that you were one of the strongest persons he knew. Then he’d touch your cheeks like grandmas do.
You were in third year, second semester now. More than six months since you last spoke to Kachi Ude. Six month on and that burning flame you had for him never seemed to quench.
The day everything changed again, you were at your place in Hilltop watching The Daily Show hosted by Trevor Noah. On the show, they were talking about blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah when you received a text from an unknown number. It read;
“Omolara dear, I’ll be leaving for America in two weeks. I am currently at the hotel CEC here in UNN. I came specifically to see you. I am only going to be here for three days, which after you do not show up, I’d leave and never disturb you again. My room number is 021. I’ll be waiting. Kachi Ude”
Clothes were flying in the air; some were being stuffed into your bag – your laptop, laptop charger, your phone charger, your toiletries. Everything you needed was being stuffed into the bag. After thirty minutes, your room looked like a volcano had erupted in it. You didn’t care. You took your bath, changed into a silver, silk, mini-dress that accentuated your curvy shape. You remembered the time when you asked him what he’d like you to wear when you both finally get to meet. He had specifically said he loved body-con dresses. He sure was going to love this one, you thought.
The journey to the hotel was a torturous one. Your heart kept trumping hard against your chest as the okada you had boarded made its way to your destination. You did not give Kachi Ude a reply because you wanted to surprise him. So when you knocked twice with shaking hands on room 021 you expected to see nothing but that surprise written all over his face.
When he opened the door and looked down at you, you saw a small smile danced on his face, and in that moment you realized that looks, age, height, skin colour, time, weight, family background, gender, and money did not matter when it came to love. And then you hugged him and he hugged you back. And it was so good a hug that you didn’t wish it was a kiss.