True Love doesn’t exist; for love is always true
Ashmita Acharya – The Beginning; The Tears of My Heart
Kere Langston-Charles was never one for pipe dreams. Being a realist as he claimed to be, he didn’t have the capacity for fantasies. To him, it was a luxury he couldn’t afford – so he measured life only by rational standards – and he lived life by the simple rules of fact. To Kere, one such birth-child of fantasia as he was not allowed to believe in was love. Kere never believed ‘love’ exists, the literature of love was to him one laden with hyperboles and beautiful yet false fascinations – worse of all love ‘at first sight’ as they called it. To him, love as ideally painted was no more than ‘the extra-version of sugar tongued romanticists’ and only believable by persons who either read too much Mary Balough at some point in life or who do not have the will to refuse fairy tales. So, all that existed in his opinion (and he was very opinionated), were variant degrees of affection; love as they have pumped it to become, he was convinced, had lost its place amongst realistic concepts and now marauded the terrains of phantasm. One couldn’t blame him; his premise was fair, his opinion logical, birthed of the truth he knew. As so it was– he sang his view like sweetened symphony whenever he could. For what ever it was worth, nothing prepared him for the emotional cacophony he experienced when he first met Mmesioma. Kere did not believe in love.
21st August 2015.
He just returned to Warri after his trip to Uganda for a business convention where he had represented his company; a startling as it was then. Merely minutes back home and he realized that as usually he was out of stock and out of food. After spending an eternity contemplating between going to slobber it up at an eatery or getting foodstuff to cook, he resolve against his usually lazy preferences and chose instead to purchase food stuff and groceries; he would make do with the groceries and provisions until his girlfriend Samantha could come over to cook for him. (They were both lazy options).
His choice would take him to Shoprite in Warri; the one mall he could always trust to do him good; a handsome plaza, forming part of the component outlets in a comfortable edifice, mounted squarely in the breezy bustle of the Warri overhead bridge traffic. That was where he first met with Mmesioma. Come to think of it actually, he merely first saw her there. They didn’t get around to talking that day. Their encounter had been mostly just him, his drool and her oblivious charm. She had been marshaling a chart half full with groceries tied up in bundles towards the parking lot when he first saw her. He had just stepped out of his car -a red Toyota Camry striped awkwardly on the left side of its almost gaping bonnet where it had kissed against the junk box of one ornery bus driver he had mis-fortunately come across somewhere round Jakpa road – and was locking the door with his key when he saw her, first from his mirror before he turned almost spontaneously.
Kere was never one for clichés. He was not much for romance either. But all ‘first sighting’ romantic clichés happened with him that day, all twenty two chapters of it. It was textbook really; from the butterfly running in his stomach (Preface), down to fluttering eyes (Introductory entries), down to cloth in throat (at Chapter 16) and all the way down to the very last pages. At some point he must have passed paralysis (Chapter 18) and numbness (at Chapter 20). She just waltzed passed, ears plugged, eyes fixed and with a carefully plastered smile that made her face radiate like the scales of an electric fish. That smile would cost him a lot as he would soon realize.
Kere was a “matter of factly kinda man.” When she was out of sight – though not out of mind – he blew off the encounter. He rationalized his episode; it was a glitch, a “flash in the pan sontin”, it was just sexual attraction- did you see that ass? Maybe he had imagined her beauty ; nobody is that attractive jor! Oh please! In fact, it was just chemistry. It’s funny how one can explain anything off if one tried hard enough. It was just chemistry; he certainly enjoyed the quietude that came after the chemicals had finished with their tempestuous conversation in his stomach.He didn’t go after her even though he wanted to, partly because he had frozen for a bit too long and partly because she disappeared into a car as quickly as she had appeared into his sights. Kere did not believe in love.
November 14th, 2016.
Kere was never one to be shook by such ordinary incidents of earthly existence such as meeting a new human person. In fact, it was quiet the contrary in his experience. It didn’t matter their stature or person, he was a man of calm. As a matter of fact, he was great with his lips; charming as Prince Charming himself – the genuine article if you asked him. Easily imposing on his day, all hovering 6.3 frame and hard facial features, dark skin, hazel eyes, thick beard and raspy laugh, he was not one to fret over much in life. He was your archetypal smooth man; laid back in suit or kicking in tight jeans, he could dominate any scene he found himself in, or at least manage well above ordinary. In fact, he was so good in his own skin and matched the bill so much that his boss always insisted that he represented their company in events that required putting across a good impression or that needed the specious air of sophistication he effortlessly strode around with almost literally dangling from his pocket. In all his charm, nothing prepared him for the close-to-panic-attack feeling he experienced when his friend Kehinde, introduced him to his classmate from his University of Benin days, who happened to be working in the legal department of the newly erected Lagos Branch of Kere’s firm and where he had been recently transferred to. It was one such social events his boss forced him to attend. He had wanted to spend the night chilling with this chick he recently started hooking up with – they were set for a night of chilling a Netflixs – but his boss, Dimeji “Big Fish” Babatunde had other plans. He would find himself in a Black Tux, donning a pleated white shirt and black silk pants on brogues in a fund raiser at Wings Towers Victoria Island that evening because his Boss liked his act more than he should.
Kere was standing by a counter, affixed on a wall by the far corner of the event hall, on which drinks where kept for self service. He had one hand laxly levied on the glossy wooden ledge and the other hanging loosely from his waist, a glass of champagne in the hand on the counter when Kehinde had tapped him. He turned with his signature smile as he heard Kehinde’s soothing Baritone bellow behind him, poised to engage him in one of their usual long booming conversations accentuated with occasional high pitched laughter and loud shakes they called “claps.” As he turned, he noticed the gorgeous lass by Kehinde’s side. He froze in his throat, all 6.3 length of him tensing as an incongruous feeling, slightly familiar in its intrusion took a genuine hold of him. Kehinde who did not notice the change, clapped him just as expected and ranted for some seconds in gibberish that Kere would never remember before he moved to introduce the lady by his side. As Kehinde roved, Kere reminisced. The smile was the same, she was now sporting a new hairdo, a handsome weave that plastered itself lazily on her shoulders. She was the same shapely nymph that had refused to be banished from his imaginations for months; the one he had convinced himself was a victim of his mind’s exaggeration; she was not a victim, he was. She just stood there, arrogantly oblivious while Kere grappled with every human discomfort possible; from a running stomach to a warming up in his pants. Kehinde mentioned her name, muddled it ; she corrected him, letting it roll sensuously off her tongue as she ushered him into new reveries with the sound of her voice. Kere on his part was managing as best as he could, he shook her hand awkwardly, made a miserable joke about her hair that she humored with a giggle, tried to pick up his champagne from the counter, lost his touch of practiced suave, spilled wine on his white shirt staining the plaited embroidery and the chiffon pocket square and muttered a guttural ‘sorry’ before he managed to whisper his handkerchief from his pocket and ‘excused’ himself to the bathroom; all to the embarrassing background of Kehinde’s roaring laughter. The idiot! Kere fussed He was certainly pleased to have seen me ruffled; what a pathetic friend! After pending a lady’s time in the bathroom, where Kere had to almost beat whatever spirit it was out of himself, all the while trying to calm his jittery hands and throbbing legs, he went back into the hall. Kehinde was gone and so was the girl. He exorcised a sigh of relief and crashed wearily into a chair. The rest of the evening was a blur; he just sat looking around for the Lady in the blue dress, scared that she would appear; hoping that she would appear. By the next morning, he had made up his mind. He had Kehinde’s number, if Kehinde was who he was, he could get him in touch with her in a jiffy. It was like Imagine Dragons sang in “Roots”, Trouble finds me. Kere did not believe in love.
Kere was not one for hide and seek; he was the predator-kind amorous expert, he went in and out as he wished. No plays, no long talk. Many a girl would give their most expensive purse to have him ask them out; he knew this; he used this. Most girls would spare him the time of day at his slightest behest, many would ask him out if they could. He was dangerous like that; he was a fine man, the genuine article. Nothing prepared him for the hard to get play that Mmesioma forced him to participate in. It was Tom and Jerry at its best; she was both Metro Goldwyn-Mayer and Jerry, all the wits and all the storyline. He was Tom, extraordinarily at the mercy of Jerry; caught in an everlasting chase that didn’t seem to ending in his favour, dodging and enduring obstacles and traps and suffering harm at her bidding. It was frustrating, but he had become an addict; he was as Tom as Tommy Hilfiger. Mmesioma was a Lawyer, a good one at that. As Kehinde had said, she worked in the Legal department of his firm, or as he came to better understand, She worked with the Law Firm that handled their Legal matters more or less. She was beauty accentuated with a godly shape and some supra-natural smile, brains of the top notch design, and a master of the arts of evasion. The perfect BBM; Kere was in for the long shot, he was b***s deep. At first she merely feigned coyness, smiled at his jokes and patted his nose when he was trying too hard. But he knew her game; unfortunately, it wasn’t to his advantage that he did. He kept coming, and coming and coming (Lots of tissues in between), but she kept deflecting him like his mother’s old mirror deflects light. When she finally admitted the existence of his romantic interest, she started with the usually career woman drill; she had life to figure, career to realize, dreams to pursue, Boyfriend was a waste of time and a distraction, blah blah blah. Kere was determine just as Kanu was in that ancient Peak advertisement where Papilo was determined “to never give upu”. Slowly, but steadily he would wear her down like the cheetah wears out his prey with good chase before his pounce. He realized somewhere along the line that this prey was not one easily worn out though. When he eventually did wear her out, he was worn out already himself – out of breathe and out of his mind. He first kissed her on New Years Eve of 2018, after almost whole year. It was a long tireless kiss, deep throat and all. It was everything, The rush that came with it, the urgency of her tongue, the sigh that ushered him farther down her throat and further up her hips. With the way she kissed him, he could have sworn she had been affected by him for as long as he had been by her. She smiled after the kiss, and patted his nose the way she had grown to do, as her eyes whispered a question befitting of her, chic and carelessly presumptuous. How long have you been waiting for this? Her eyes said. Kere smiled in response. For the first time in his life, he felt like a tamed lion, it felt good to be tame. The irony of it was that he did not believe in pipe dreams , but was suffering a head-full of it.
Kere did not believe in love.
August 19th, 2021.
Kere was never one for illusory planning or idle imagination. He had no idea what he wanted his marriage to be like. He did not have any ideas about the perfect suit, the right tie, the best ambience, the preferred food options or anything for that matter. Matter of fact, he hardly contemplated marriage in his good bachelor days that was soon to be over. So, he let her take care of all of it; she was happy to. Springing about like a kid who just recently acquired her dream toy, she was all the excitement anybody could afford in regards marriage. She cooed and cackled, fussed and bossed, while Kere hung with his friend in his last days. On the day of the wedding, he he forgot his ring and had Kehinde drive back to bring it from the house. It was a bad omen, but Kere couldn’t care less. His parents were dead, so his Uncles and his sister were the family waiting for him in church. His Uncles were twins, 20 years younger than his dad, merely 8 years his elders. They looked more like his elder brothers, than Uncles. He got into church and went to meet them in the dressing room, allowed them, his sister especially, wax about his dress and his good looks. Kehinde joined them shortly, in time to endure the forced responsibility speech they ceremonially had to give him pending his marriage.
At the altar, looking in his bride’s eyes, he felt at home, he felt he could manage through marriage. It made some sense finally. That was until he looked in the crowd and saw her, and he went through the whole cliché again, all 22 chapters. She just sat there, a flower in her hair, yellow print dress, that smile on her face and his heart in her palm. He noticed first that she was trying to cause the smile, next that she looked better than she ever did. When did she return? He was panicking. It all came back in a blood rush; her job abroad, her farewells, his long spell of sadness, their breakup over Skpye, his cracked laptop screen, the end of their union. That was two years ago. And there she was, all BBM and sitting with the crowd at his marriage. As the priest stepped up forward to start his interrogation, Kere shock his head, walked down the altar and out of the church without looking back. He got into his car and went straight to a bar and drank himself to stupor. He had never been more freaked out his whole life, he had never been more frustrated with his existence; and yet never more glad to have looked stupid in an event, his event. Anita would be devastated, he already was. Kere did not believe in love.
Nothing prepared Kere for the excitement that came with meeting Mmesioma again after almost three years. Her accent slightly changed, her words now trickled like clear water pouring lazily down a brook. But much remained the same- her gestures, her humor, her wits, the light in her eyes that told stories of stars and tiny galaxies in her mind, it was just as was. She had agreed to meet with him when he called her the next two days after the fiasco at St. John’s. When she walked into the Bar, he noticed that as usual, everybody’s eyes turned in her favour. He noticed that he was still as hocked on her as her ever, like an addict on Xanny; he felt his heart thump so fast he was convinced it would explode. He ushered her onto a seat and order for wine; pouring her a cup and doing himself same. As they talked and laughed and rummaged over old memories, she still fiddled with her finger from time to time with the same unconscious precision, she still patted his nose with her lean-long index finger when he made jokes, softly caressing his bridge with a finesse that was her’s alone. Nothing prepared Kere for the bloody torrent that hit his soul when she told him she was now Mrs McMartin. Kere did not believe in love.