Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?
Abigail is glowing – as the new bride that she is. Or maybe not. I watch Dotun fuss over her – open the door for her, pull out her seat. I pull out my seat with more flourish than is necessary. Promise doesn’t fuss over Ireti, but they exchange glances now and then. I have a sneaky feeling they were having their own conversation. I resist the urge to jut out my lower lip. I can’t believe I let myself get talked into this. I mean, having dinner with my younger sister and her beau is one thing, adding my best friend and her husband, not bad, but then adding my prospective suitor, defies definition. I don’t know how Abigail thought it was a good idea. Being single is not a deadly disease. So the conversation flows around me, above me, beside me, but I am not in it. I give the necessary responses I guess, and nothing more. Ireti nudges me out of my haze. Instinctively, yeah, I reach out of the Menu. Abigail taps my hand and gives me a knowing look. I mouth my apologies to her. I make effort to be in the conversation.
Abigail said Philip would join us. But she wouldn’t quite meet my eyes. I wonder what is going on. Enkay and Fifunmi are wiser than I am. They have mastered the art of avoiding Abigail’s schemes. I am the only person who keeps getting dragged into them. Promise and Ireti make a very handsome couple. They have a way of communicating without actually saying anything. I see him smoothen his left eyebrow with his right index finger after Ireto tugs her left ear. Then she actually blinks twice when he twists his ring on his left pinkie. Amazing stuff. I wonder what my sister has gotten herself into this time around, or maybe it is just thrill of communicating secretively. It is quite romantic.
I study the menu closely. We are having a hard time agreeing on what to order. I lift up my head to see Philip hurrying towards the table. My smile dies on my lips when I realize he is not alone. He has brought a date. He shakes me, hugs his step brother and Abigail. He shakes my sister and lingers a bit. My sister is really beautiful. Promise is torn between glaring at Philip and actually puffing his chest. His date is the cynosure of all eyes. Philip’s date’s name is Mimi. She is beautiful, soft spoken, sophisticated and well mannered. I look at her hands. So smooth. You can always tell how well-to-do a person is by their hands. I hide mine on my lap beneath the table. But Mimi is really sweet and nice to everybody. She is a very easy person to like. Ireti gets along with Mimi. They are in the same age bracket and I guess one of the advantages of Ireti’s life as a Supermodel is her exposure to the life of the rich.
But my voice keeps catching in my throat, and the tears are threatening to come down in torrents. Abigail keeps throwing me apologetic glances. I excuse myself and half run into the bathroom. The tears keep coming down. I ask myself questions like I usually do. Why am I crying? I look at my hands, and my bleached skin. Mimi’s soft smile flashes in my mind. I recall the softness of her palms as we were introduced. I am upset that I will never be like that – sophisticated with soft skin, fancy accent, fancy everything. I blow my nose. An image of Philip flashes in my mind. This time he is smiling genuinely at Mimi. Another image flashes. This time, he is gazing at Ireti and gushing over how beautiful she is. I remember his disbelief when she says she is my sister. I begin to sob again. Why am I crying? Everything is making me cry. The door opens and I pretend to be splashing water on my face so I don’t have to listen to a stranger ask me if am fine. Abigail comes in.
‘Abigail, I need some time to put myself together.’
‘Mario. Listen to me.’
‘Is this what it is? What are you? A dating site? Ehn? Aphrodite?’
‘You told me to come and bond. You knew how hard it was for me to start talking to my sister, and to make it worse, you invite Philip, and you let him bring a date. What is wrong with you?’
‘Mario, you are pissing me off. Really. You were the one who went on about how Philip is 26. Then you told me how the post art gallery went. I wasn’t there. You said things changed between the two of you and you guys were not exactly cosy.’
I sigh. She continues. ‘Philip is like Dotun’s best friend and they are business partners and all. They are really close. I really couldn’t have prevented Philip from coming except Dotun did not come. And remember the whole idea is to welcome your sister and her beau.’
She hands me some tissue, and puts her makeup purse under my nose. ‘And here I was thinking I looked like Gandalf the white without make up. Brighten up, you look like a corpse. I will see you in a bit.’
I am dead tired. It was fun really. It is just that I never thought it would hurt a lot. The whole thing with Philip. That sharp pain in my chest when he whispered in Mimi’s ears. The green in my eyes when she laughed heartily at his jokes. The sadness when Ireti looked from me to Philip and gave an understanding nod. It hurts so much and I can’t breathe. I can’t. What is this pain? I thought I was past all of these? I thought I had accepted the things I wouldn’t have? I thought I was strong enough to move on. I thought wrong. I am feeling sleepy…