In His Own Way
Nyekazi’s laughter always reverberated in the small room. Her laughter sounded like sporadic giggles which changed pitch so many times they left you feeling like you had just heard a hyena laugh. She would sit cross legged on the floor behind the tall bookshelf that held books that were mostly autobiographies of politicians and Robert Ludlum and Mario Puzo novels. Tomisin would sit across from her chuckling. She liked to meet with him in her father’s small study whenever he was out of town. They would sit and talk about everything from Ken Saro Wiwa’s execution to all the places they’d like to go when they were older and wealthier.
You’re under arrest for the murder of Mr Tunde Idowu. You have the right to remain silent; whatever you say can be used against you in the court of law.
She’d met Tunde when she was eighteen. Tomisin didn’t like him. He thought he was a show off, a fake and very unoriginal. Nyekazi would always say that all three words meant the same thing and that he could always use just one.
“I’m trying to make a point, allow me” he said every time.
Nyekazi used to think she and Tomisin were headed for a relationship, after all her mother said so every time.
“Madam, your boyfriend is here” She always called out when he came to visit.
“Won’t you offer your boyfriend something?” she would say while Nyekazi groaned in pretend embarrassment. She loved the idea of dating Tomisin. She wanted to hold hands with him and give him a hug that was not a side hug. But Tomisin never said anything. From the first day they met when they were nine till she met Tunde.
Tomisin surrendered his wrists to be handcuffed and walked, his hands behind his back to the police car with painted words ‘The Nigerian Police’ slightly faded and the headlamp socket empty and rusty.
Tunde had come up to her at aunty Simi’s wedding. He was her husband’s nephew and she’d seen his hands shake as he typed her number on his phone and saved it. She thought it was cute and he’d called the very next day.
“I didn’t want to seem desperate” he’d said that evening on the phone and she’d felt the oddest sensation of butterflies in her stomach.
He visited often and she slowly got into the habit of visiting him as well. They didn’t seat cross legged on the floor talking about books. They walked. Long evening walks until her mother would start to call her phone. They would stop ice cream bicycles and ask for Superyogo in the afternoons and some evenings they’d just buy suya and chat with mallam Ahmed. She really was happy and she felt loved, wanted. And then one day, Tomisin complained.
“Na wa o. You don’t have time for me again” he said
She chuckled. “It’s not like that o. I’ve just been busy and school is crazy these days”
“Okay, so when can we hang? I read this book, it’s so cool, you have to read it”
She’d give a day and then she wouldn’t want to go. She did not understand why. This was her friend, her best friend and she really did not want to be in the same room as he. So she called him and made an appointment, for real this time.
“Ehn? What happened to Tomisin? Killed who? Where is he? Have you called his mother?” Nyekazi sat on the floor in the study with the lights off and her mascara running. She knew she looked like a raccoon. She heard her parents knocking at the door and talking about breaking in.
Tomisin was waiting for her. She sat in her room on campus applying her make up, deliberately wasting time. When she finally met him at Madam Ego’s restaurant, he was getting ready to leave. She was thirty minutes late. After all the apologies, they ate and talked and laughed. She felt so comfortable again that she started to open up about her relationship with Tunde and how he loved her and took care of her. And then Tomisin asked.
“Are you sure everything is good?”
She frowned. Why would he even ask that? “Yes now. Why would you ask that like that?”
“Sorry, it’s just that you’re explaining too much, like when you were doing that debate and all you wanted was to be on the side of teachers instead of doctors”
“Well, I really like him and I don’t know what you’re talking about”
She’d cried when she went home. She was angry at how he had so nonchalantly seen through her and how he’d sat and acted like he knew it all. Tunde loved her. He loved her and that was why he’d forced her to have sex with him all those times. It wasn’t his fault; he couldn’t control himself and he always apologized immediately. He loved her. Tomisin did not.
Her parents were crying. What happened to Tunde? Why are you sitting in the dark? What’s wrong? Her mother shook her repeatedly and she just let the tears fall freely.
That day, Tomisin hadn’t called to say he was coming. He’d just come. She had been very embarrassed and relieved at the same time. But then when Tomisin and started to fight Tunde, she’d been shocked. She just stood there and watched them tear at each other. Boys fought all the time, there was no need to call anyone. They might get in trouble. So she watched and saw in slow motion as Tunde broke a bottle and aimed for Tomisin’s abdomen. She’d jumped on him and after he’d got up, he’d thrown her on the bed and then she’d seen the knife under the bed.
Nyekazi didn’t understand why people in movies cried or held their hands open after they’d killed someone and she didn’t even understand why she did it, but she did. Tomisin helped her wash her shaking hands and took her home and they’d sat on the floor together hoping that Tunde would walk in ready for a rematch. But the police walked in. They’d found him in her room on campus.
“I did it. I killed him.” Tomisin said
He didn’t ever say he was in love with her. Maybe he never was. But he did love her. She’d just wanted him to love her in another way.