Sworn Friends

One summer afternoon when the sun shone high in the Berekuso sky. I took a walk to Big Ben to have a taste of that infamous fufu and cow leg stew. The breeze was just right giving you that chill you feel just before you plunge into a deep pool. The place was buzzing as usual, with the hustle and bustle of hungry heads. I made my order and joined the m.c.f dinner table, not because it was particularly reserved for me but because people were accustomed to sitting in socially stratified groups. Those from the “butter district” sat at the opposed end while the ghetto children faced the sun.

I took my seat and wondered what new romances I would invent today. Unfortunate enough to have any real romances of my own. I turned to my inventive mind. Which to my surprise never failed me. I was never short of damsels in distress. I of course, was my own favourite superhero: Don Chichi ready to rescue all! I quickly snapped out of my reverie as I heard my order call, “George, Oder 42 fufu and cow leg stew” (in what seemed to me the ultimate voice of death). How redundant, I took my food swiftly and muttered, “its Don Chichi, you fool.” I was just about to take off into that enchanted wonderland of superhero’s and knights when I was abruptly interrupted by reality’s messenger — the buffoon. I was inconsolable. After having to pander to lecturers assignments, day in and day out, a few moments in Don Chichi’s world would do me good.

As I sat quietly trying to reboot my imagination, a loner’s paradise, in walked a rose. A beauty, as beautiful as the Berekuso sky. The air was suddenly sucked out of my lungs and I temporarily lost my ability to breathe. Don Chichi had vanished, I was in George’s world. Romanticising my crush, my brown brown, my milkshake, with afro styled hair sticking out like a porcupine. With a sunshine smile, a brimming display of white pearls. A tangy accent, a quarter Ghanaian, a quarter Cameroonian and half wholesome Zimbabwean. With a flowering church dress, with rose petals, that mirrored her delicate features. Listening to her make an order was liking listening to canon, I was dazed. I could smell a dash of rosemary in the air. The light was dancing on her face. I was drawn, like a moth to a flame. My eyes had met with that special someone, that sometimes, just sometimes, leads your heart away from the hills. Then, Orlando walked in with his dark thick eye brows hurdled together, eyes twitching, with a smirk on his face. A countenance full of mischief I knew I was in for it and prepared my defences.

“You good man, you good, you good?” Orlando queried.

“Yah am good” I replied in a tone of annoyance.

“At it again I see, talking with your eyes when it’s your mouth that should do the speaking?” Orlando chuckled

“Yo man, leave it alone,”

“Nah not today, today you gona speak!”

“Is it by force? If sits with us, why of course I’ll be happy to chat her up some.

I felt Don Chichi coming alive. Though I secretly hoped the dare would not turn in my favour. I shivered, but quickly recovered before Orlando’s screening eyes could notice. I prayed she ordered a takeaway and so spare me the verbal contest with Orlando full of twists and turns, peaks and valleys. So, I prayed again, “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” There would be no peace with Orlando at my side. He was like one of those happy sparrows forever singing a new song. Whose song would have been pleasant, if it was not sung in your ear every day and at every opportune moment. “Oh, look at the roses, do they not bloom? I shall have my pick. To the rose fields, to the rose fields, to Orlando’s doom!” he was wont to carry on with a voice that swayed as gaily as the branches of the syringa. I resolved to wring his neck if he started on one of his hymns. I was not a man of many roses. I had no care for rose fields, one would suffice. I intended to farm and cultivate my love not to pick or fish it and for that purpose a single rose would do.

I began to reorder the world in my head. Revising the literature I was to speak if the tide was turned against me and Laura took a seat at our table. An improbable event in any chase, we were hardly on friendly terms beyond meet and greet. And precedent was on my side, in four similar occasions brown, brown had not taken a seat at our table. After racking in the probabilities, I breathed a sigh of relief. With no certainty in prayers I took to arithmetic (any port in a storm). Orlando was enjoying every bit of it. Tipping my thigh with his knee each time brown brown turned to glance at the seating places; causally deciding where to sit. He had a master’s degree in women affairs and I was walking on a tight rope. Orlando turned to me (as if to dare) his face bubbling with laughter and said, “A man who cannot lie well, will not get married.” I paused to reflect on this unseemly bit of wisdom. “And who said that?”, I asked trying to hide my awe. “Shatta, a trotro mate — inna real life,” he jested. I let out a laugh against my will. Just before I could recover myself, brown brown was upon us. “Mind if I join your table?” She interrupted. I was stunned, I felt the fufu turn into hot coals in my stomach and I could only manage a diffident nod.

As she sat there leading the conversion with the syringa striker. I had my eyes firmly glued to my meal as if cursed by some strange enchantment. All words seemed to evaporate in her presence. I sat there, a hopeless listener, an overripe turnip to my roommate’s conversation with the woman I admired. This was an unhealthy state of affairs, I quickly thought to myself. If I was to have any possibility I would have to seize the bull by its horns before Orlando wooed her to his quixotic estate. I looked up, with an ant’s determination, breaking the invisible chains that seemed to bind my head to the fufu that had become my circumscribed prison. Whispering, in a volume that would have been inaudible if my silence had not given Laura an attentiveness towards me that stillness is often wont to demand. “So, what did you order?” I ventured to ask. She smiled, as if she understood, as if I had just paid her a compliment with those banal lines that are used by the romantically crippled. “Fried rice and chicken, they hardly have anything else.” I breathed a breath of relief, I was at least asking questions that merited responses. “How’s, the fufu?” she summoned. I shocked. She was trying to make conversation. This was a green light and as I opened my mouth to respond. The rascal, interrupted, “You can only talk about your fufu, like that’s the only thing in your head eh?”. Laura chuckled but gave Orlando a restrictive glance. One you give to someone who has just made a humorously piercing comment about your emotionally endowed best friend. He had killed me. I could see the mirth hidden in her eyes.

The conversation moved on as I was lying paralyzed in a puddle. Orlando was now cold reading her. Telling her her type, how she could never be satisfied with the quiet personalities, how hers was the more adventurous, wild-eyed, happy fellow. Not the boring, brooding, melancholy type making subtle hand gestures in my direction. The world does not believe in quiet it believes in noise. She tried to resist his charms once or twice but she was no match for his prowess. He clasped his hands in hers before my eyes. She melted, it was like dropping a bomb in a gun fight. Tormented, flashing death stares as jealous as a Spaniard, I whipped out the silence of God ( in a battle where words were the only weapon I was at a loss). Once or twice the party tried to resuscitate my speech with pokes of humorous concoctions but the damage had been done. The fatal blow had been delivered. Observing my silent resignation, Laura intervened, “You know what you do hurts.” I was adamant, and continued administering my prescription. How could I make her understand with words, that love, that was brimming full in my eyes? That turned me through and through like Kalahari nights and days. I prepared my white flag and withdrew my chair to leave, crestfallen and staggering. When I awoke, with only a red pen in my hand and a bloody sheet of paper.

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