Stories we Tell Ourselves

The jealous kind

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So, we are an item. Casually, just like that. See, I have moved into this new neighbourhood. Felt like I was suffocating in my old one – same old, same old. Same old people. Same old stories. Same old happenings. I really needed to inject some vitality in my life in the form of new challenges, new friendships, hence the move.

Her name is Divinah, though she is far from anything divine as I will found out later. Here is how we met: being new in the neighbourhood, I gotta make new friends and allies. People who can come to my rescue when I am in a fix. And being the kind of person I am, I am bound to get into one sooner or later. My bet? Sooner. Hence the new gas supplier.

So, here I am. Buying gas, but more importantly, making small talk with the dealer. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will extract me from many a fix – especially of the financial kind. He sports an Arsenal jersey, so my guess is as good as yours that talking football is a safe bet. Indeed, he is an Arsenal aficionado and I come out with my guns blazing red, devils after me. Soon, we are fast friends.

Now she comes. Her hair is in a ponytail and she dons a sleeveless chiffon blouse and blue jeans. Her smile is bright and ready as she greets the gas dealer. The gas dealer is hesitant with her and you can see she dominates him – the conversation, opinions, everything – she dictates the pace. You can tell she doesn’t hold him in high regards; he is more of a punching bag for her superior culture self.

Meanwhile a disinterested me ventures a ‘hi’. She gives me the once-over and says a demure ‘hi’ back – meaning she has seen the potential in me. Then she pursues her domination over the gas dealer. As she leaves me, we make eye contact and I can tell I have sparked an interest in her. Hopefully, something I can cultivate into a love interest.

Once gone, I pursue the matter with the gas dealer. Really, getting her bio-data; what she does, where she lives, if she has any military men in her family… which would be a no-no for me from past experience. She fancies you, I tell the dealer. He laughs off the suggestion- a high, crackled mirth that terms my utterance as an impossibility. She is in university, he says, in a tone that suggests that his reach has surpassed his grasp on the subject matter. Her name is Divinah.

Two days later, on a Saturday afternoon, I am holding fort as the gas dealer takes a break in the form of an Arsenal fixture. You would think that being a weekend, I would be laid back. In that you would be mistaken. Rather, I look like someone about to go for a job interview- minus the tie, though, so as not to look ridiculous.

His customers come and go. Used to dealing with the loutish dealer, they are rather polite and subdued in how I serve them. For all intents and purposes, I could be the gas dealership proprietor. The men size me up the way you would a wealthier competitor while in the women’s eyes is approval; confident, go-getter, a man who can raise a family in much more than modest ambience- is their verdict.

Now comes Divinah. Open sandals, a little black dress, mascara, hair let down (which would really be as romantic as a Spanish telenovela; except that her hair’s is not her own). “Hi Divine.” I saunter a greeting. “It is Divinah, with an ‘a’ and an ‘h’.” She counters. “Hi Divine… Divinah.” I venture a second time. You can tell she is blushing from the inside with pleasure going by the grin she tries hard to suppress. I can be an A-gamer when the occasion demands.

I offer her the extra plastic seat, even going through the motions of dusting off imaginary dirt for effect. For this, I get a sweet ‘thank you’. Can I get her something to drink; it is too hot and all that. No, she ‘aiight’. Ever the proper lady, she counters with an offer of hers; soft drinks, chips and a couple of sausages from the fast food joint across the road and which I offer to fetch. In my book on chivalry, rule 237 states that ‘Thy should not refuse a woman’s kindness for it may not be proffered twice.’

Divinah, she has stories aplenty, which is just as well- better get the bio-data from the source. Then again, her lunch offer has definitely enhanced my listening skills. She is in campus. International Relations. 3rd year. She stays off-campus and has no known military men in her family; which points she laughs off as absurd. She is an open relationship, she says. More importantly, her father is a politician of means, with pretensions of joining the city fathers. In fact, he is getting her a car for her birthday next week. I suggest a Toyota Mark X as a suitable vehicle; affordable yet one that commands respect as opposed to a Mercedes Benz which is too showy. From the way she talks carelessly about getting a car, the way you and I would talk about getting a haircut, I gather that she is a kinda ‘Spend, spend. Daddy will send’ girl. Later in the day, I tell the gas dealer about her visit. You can have her, he says.

On Thursday, mid-morning, I get a call. The number is a strange one and I have half a mind to ignore it. Could be a debtor using an anonymous number to track and press me down over a long overdue debt. No matter. I have learnt that the best way to deal with debtors is never to ignore them, thus making them more vicious in seeking repayments for their dues. Rather, pre-empt is the watchword. You can even get an additional loan on top of what you owe them if you are smart about it.

So, on Thursday morning I get this strange call. Though a bit apprehensive, I answer with a sunny disposition in my voice, ready to assuage any concerns on the other end. It is Divinah – sweet relief. Happy birthday. Oh, thanks. I am good, how are you? I am good too. The pleasantries over, she informs me as to the reason for her call. Could I meet her in such and such a place in the next half? Alright, coming over right away.

The story is – when I get to her – she is yet to get her driving license. And with the media being what it is nowadays, she doesn’t want to sully her family’s name. ‘Former Minister’s Daughter in Road Rage’ – screams the headline. The comments under the story: how the rich break the law with impunity, only in much more emotive language. I am to drive her back to her place till she can have her driving license ready next week.

Ever the gentleman, that weekend, I spot a vacant lot and spend the whole of Saturday afternoon refreshing her driving skills. In the evening, she invites me to her apartment. Again, ‘Spend, spend. Daddy will send,’ is the motto. The girl got taste, and expensive taste at that. Vintage morphs into retro before settling into modernity. Ever the gracious host – though we all know she is merely playacting – she offers to cook for me.

Now, we are listening to some Asa, ‘The One Who Never Comes’; holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes. The passion sears white-hot, the desire overwhelms, the kissing is fierce; yet, I have to withdraw at the last possible moment. Too soon, I say. We should know each other better. In her, I have lit a fire and her thirst will be unquenchable.

A month later, we are lovers and I am driving the Mark X (as an unregistered taxi behind her back) most of the days as she attends classes. The gas dealer fuels the car as I let him impress the ladies with it on some days, though the fuelling is still her domain. In the evenings, I pick her from class and she gets to flaunt me to her girlfriends.

So, this Friday eve I show up to pick her from class. Only that in the car is Chevelle – light skinned, beautiful every which way. This Chevelle, once a girlfriend who dumped me for another guy with better prospects when she got tired off my mooching. Well, now that I have reformed, gotten a job as a bank manager and bought a car, the narrative has changed. She is giving me a second chance, she says, which translates to missing my sweet flattery and unpredictability, which I guess is the other guy’s undoing.

The fight unfolds almost organically. Burning green with envy, Divinah has a mind to go after my new girlfriend – the primal instinct- only that she gets intimidated by her beauty and the realisation that the competition is as dazed as she is about my philandering. They attack me together, though Chevelle’s is less vehement – been there, done that. She concludes me a loser, shouts at me to never call her again and storms off into the night.

Meanwhile, Divinah is all over me, her girlfriends egging her on and phone cameras whirring into action. She bites, she claws, she insults – her fights, no hold-barred. All the while, I am acting hurt and contrite. ‘Babe, it is not what you think.’ I am classically lame in my defence, as I ought to be. Basically, trying to earn the sympathy of her friends – the same ones egging her on – to put in a good word for me when they do their committee to dissect the future of our relationship as well as have the tabloids portray me as the good guy in their reportage.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the beginning of acquiring my maisonette in leafy Sunville. And a pretty ugly divorce as part of the deal in the next eleven years. Then again, man must rise above his circumstance and thrive.

Now, interchange the genders to get the other side of the story. Sounds familiar?

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