But he Was A Perfect Gentleman 3
The image that imprinted in my memory of him the first day I saw him started floating back to me. How can I stand against myself? What would Vera think of me? But above all, what will Timi do about me?
I was like someone floating on air as I went with the boy to pack my loads from our previous house.
It was about 6.30 pm when I came back to the house, dragging my bags with the assistance of the boy. Timi came out from the kitchen to help me with the loads. The kitchen was at the right-hand side of the porch as I came in. Timi helped me to arrange the things in the room and returned to the kitchen.
I came to join him there. “Can I help with some of the chores here, Sir?” I volunteered as I came to stand by him slicing an onion.
“I’m trying to boil some rice,” he said turning to look at me with a smile and whipping his forehead with the back of his left hand. “And you don’t have to ask me to do any chore in the house. You are here now; do whatever you think that needed to be done. And don’t act a stranger here. Feel at home.”
“Loundah, can you tell me who Loundah is?” he asked over our meal.
“Where do you want me to start telling you about myself?” I asked between mouthfuls.
“Whatever you considered safe to tell a friend. Please, I am not prying into your life, though, on the contrary, I’m just curious to see the spirit in you. A spirit that does not want to give up on life’s pursuit: a spirit that has a purpose.”
“Sir, is that what you noticed about me, or what you were told about me?”
“Please, I would be grateful if we would dispense of the ‘Sir” stuff while you are here, and continue just being Timi and Loundah.” He picked up a glass of water and took a long sip.
I wanted to reach out to touch him and let him know what I think about him, and the torture my heart is undergoing on account of him, but instead, I started telling the story of my life and my ambition.
“Why do you have the interest of becoming a lawyer?”
“It was a childhood ambition,” I told him. “ One day, I went to a court with my mother when I was younger and saw this beautiful lady putting on that silvery wig and the black gown. That day, I told my mother that’s what I'll love to be.”
“So you see when I said you’ve got a very determined spirit of holding onto what you want. I have been with you for a while to know what I see. And in you, I see a spirit of optimistic persistence. You know, Life has always not been gold splashed on a coat of wool.” He was looking at me, the plate of rice half eaten.
“There is always the hard moment which ending is always the beginning of another page, What you have not been able to achieve is the beginning of another page in your life. However, no matter how hard the trial becomes, don’t shelve you dreams. Like a drowning man would hold a straw, your dream is your life onto success and achievement.”
My mother had a cat in our house when I was a child. The cat has this uncanny way of staring at you when you are eating and have not given it a portion. That was the way I was staring at Timi as he purred out his human life’s lesson to me. Life, they say is a teacher, I’m learning mine here sitting with my friend’s boyfriend in his room.
“…I have some friends in town,” his voice cut into my consciousness. “I will make some arrangement for you to secure a room and complete your schooling. I will talk to your friend Vera when she comes to see me. I have not seen her since they went on Xmas break. But don’t bother, we will find something for you.”
“Oh, Timi! I‘m so grateful to you for being here today, It would have been a disaster for me.” I reached out and touched his hand across the table.
“Everything has a purpose Loundah: every action of God has a reason,”
With that, he stood up to clear the table. We carried the plates together to the kitchen. He would not allow me alone to wash the dish but was collecting anyone I have washed to clean them with a napkin.
“Do not think about where to sleep. Any one of us can sleep on the bed or couch,” he said as we went back into the room to listen to the 9.00 pm network News. "You know, this’s a one room apartment and we must manage it as such.” He was sitting on the only chair in the room while I was stretched out on the couch.
“You have been very grateful to me Uncle Timi,” I said and caught a frown on his face as he turned to regard me.
“When was the last time you heard from Alabo?” the question caught me by surprise.
“Mm... it was some time before we went on break.”
“Would I be prying if I ask you what the problem was about?”
“Well, I don’t think you are prying. Alabo is your friend, probably you can get him to tell you, but as far as I can tell, we don’t have any issue; we just sort of drifted away from ourselves. You know we have a lot of school activities toward the end of the term and I was not quite disposed in going to Port Harcourt. I think that sort of thing can strain some relationship, and I think it did ours.”
“Will it be okay if I step in to mediate as a friend of both parties?” From the dark single colored bulb in the center of the ceiling, I saw him looking at me.
“I will not mind if you can do that, but I am not ready to lay out a red carpet for him, though.”
“Feminine chauvinism is in the air,” he burst into laughter.
“Sir, it’s not, but he can’t discard me on the street and come back, because you intervened, and expects me to embrace him with open arms. Think, Sir, it’s just not that possible.”
“He is not here yet. I think when we get to that bridge we’ll find a way to cross.”
And so we talked on far into the night. I did not know when I fell asleep. I woke up with a start when the clock hanging on the wall started chiming the hour. I checked the time: 02.00 A.M. I was still lying on the couch but with a pillow under my head and my body covered with a blanket. Timi!
And so I spent two weeks with Timi. Each day I could feel his charm overpowering me. He left the bed for me and started sleeping on the couch. He treated me like a younger sibling, sharing everything with me but deliberately keeping me at arm’s length. I was not flaunting myself at him, but he knew my feelings toward him.
He is too clever not to know, and the more I loved him. I loved him pure and straight not a mere seductive kind of love, but something greater; something passionate and true: strong as my mother’s love, but in a different way.
At the end of the first week, I was in the kitchen on a Friday evening when someone came knocking on the door. I opened the door and Vera was standing there with a handbag and her beautiful smile. It vanished the moment she saw me standing at the door.
“Loundah!” Her high pitched voice sounding like a whip in a cold night could be heard at the end of the street, her face transforming into a murderous fiend. “What are you doing here?” she tried to control her voice.
“Will you come inside please, Vera?” I said forcing a smile. She pushed passed me into the room and looked around, searching.
“Loundah,” her voice, now a little under control, was still very combative. I knew she is forcing herself doing that, and I was so grateful to her. “Loundah, what are you doing in this house?”
I was standing by the door, my back against the post, and looking at her. She was leaning on the chair with her right hand, and the other on her waist, standing on the right leg, the left barely touching the ground looking fiercely at me.
“Vera, I’m so sorry to be here in Timi house. I came to Abonnema as we arranged at the resumption of class, and the door was locked. The landlord told me you were not coming back to the house. I was stranded that evening and had nowhere to go.” I walked up to her and held her left hand.
She looked into my eyes. I was not yet shedding tears, but I could feel them gathering up deep inside of me.
“But Loundah, why Timi’s place and you know that he is alone?”
“Vera, you knew me very well, where else could I go in this town?”
“You should have somehow got a message to me. And you have been here staying with an unmarried man all this time.” She stopped suddenly, looked into my eyes. “Loundah did you, did he …?” And she trailed off.
"Ah, Vera! You are asking me if we were having an affair, right? So, if someone had told you that Timi was having an affair with me, you would have believed it?”
"I don’t know what I would have believed. I could vouch for Timi, but you Loundah; you knew he is a very handsome man any woman would have loved to have: and you have said that severally."
My heart skipped a beat at that, how very close I had come to ruining my love for my two best friends. I hugged her, “Vera if you could trust Timi, I am so happy for you. Then you knew I am safe with him.”
“Where is he by the way?” she asked at last.
"He had a call to come to their office. I think he will soon be back. By the way Vera, do you think you love Timi the way he does to you?”
She looked at me her face glowing in the fading sunlight sipping through the window “Why did you ask that?”
“How can you leave him alone for so long here in Abonnema with so many predators swimming around?”
“Babe, I have you to thank for that,” she grinned at me.
“You don’t have me to thank for that. You should have to thank Timi for that. He is a perfect gentleman. Let’s go to the kitchen to have something to eat,” I said turning around, almost colliding against Timi who has just opened the door to come.
He saw me and then caught sight of Vera behind me. “Hello, Vera?” He called and swept by me to her, with only a quick glance at me, but I caught a flash of a shadow on his face and a raised eyebrow at me. I left them in a hot embrace and went to the kitchen.
Vera spent the weekend with us and left back for school. She will not be coming back to NGS Abonnema. Their father had got admission for them in Warri. That was quite a long way from here and somehow I was seeing a light in the tunnel. I wonder how Timi would manage that long distance relationship with Vera, with my hot breath over his shoulder.
It was nothing any of us could help; I looked to him now as my elder brother and a friend: a confidant and a counselor. He helped me to get a room in town so that I could concentrate on my academic works.
He comes thrice or twice a week to my house, teaching, encouraging and counseling me, and also seeing to my welfare. Spending hours with me each time he comes. I began to look towards to those visits with some expectations.
I had tortured myself thinking he would someday change and to treat me differently, but he never did. He knew my feelings were hot toward him, but I think he was more in control of himself that I did. Sometimes I think I was grateful that he did, but nonetheless, I needed him far more than just a friend.
31st December: It was in the evening of that day, he came to visit me in my house. We spent the normal time talking and joking till about 9.00 P.M. He stood up to leave. I was standing by the window and watching him go. He got to the door and turned around.
I thought he was going to wave me good night, but he came straight to me at the window and drew me to himself. I lost the will to resist. After all these years, our kiss was long, passionate and warmly emotional. Then he was gone.
I have never set my eyes on him ever since. I was told they were sent on an emergency special operational duty, and got transferred to Lagos afterward, and we lost contact with each other.
Through his encouragement, I pursued and achieved my life ambition, but without him to share my success, there was a void in my life. Every 31st December evening, for twenty-eight years now, I have been coming to stay outside to catch one of those shooting stars shooting away into the Orion, and would imagine it to be Timi, fading away into a distance mirage but not from my memory.
In vain I sought after him over the years; for they say ‘what goes around comes around,’ but Timi has not come around these many years. I felt my life marooned in the emptiness of time. In the stillness of such solemn night, been the 31st December, I longed to see him, still feeling the warmth of his parting kiss.