You met him at Chimelu’s party. Kayo, an urbane man with a sophisticated air about him and an easy smile of the sated. You had not noticed him—not at first; maybe because it was so easy not to notice him anyway, his dignified grace, his exquisite calm, that endearing tendency of his not to behave as though the world belonged to him, even if it really did. Nneka would later tell you, with a wink, that he was one of the best things that could ever happen to any woman, and you would smile because you knew anyway.
You noticed him because he had nudged you impatiently—while you swayed effortlessly to Tekno’s “Pana”—in his haste to get to somewhere, and you had dropped your glass. In the brief stillness that followed, while he looked at you all over, worried you were injured, your eyes met and held, and you felt the butterflies in your stomach break loose on their own accord, this fluffy feeling that made you remember and then made you not to remember—all at once.
You would later recall—a few minutes ago, you had struggled to curtail this awkwardness that came from meeting his gaze, and few minutes later, you were smiling at him, your palm delicately enclosed in his, the lyrics of “Pana” filling the silence between the both of you.
* * *
Your roommate Bassey thought he was wrong for you. He was a bit too old, and a bit eccentric. There was something about his polished manners she found discomfiting, something about this seamless flawlessness of his that did not really go well with her instincts. She said you were being too fast, too trusting. She said you were behaving as though life was a destination, and not a journey. She said you were taking a shortcut to get what you want in life and shortcuts were not usually safe.
You laughed. What did Bassey know? It was after all very typical of Bassey to detest what she could not get, to hide under the cloak of religion so as to mask herself from certain realities of life.
I’ll be fine, Bassey, you say, and you know it is true. It sounds so true.
You barely know him, she reminded you.
What else do I need to know? you ask.
She sighs in resignation and goes back to her sewing, and you tell yourself, smiling, you’ll be fine.
* * *
You would repeat that to yourself as you sat opposite the bespectacled doctor, a lean impatient-looking woman that ushered you a seat briskly as though eager to deliver her news and get over it.
The test shows you’re pregnant, Miss Kachi, she says.
You get a grip. You would not cry. Kayo could definitely handle that. You stand up to leave, but the doctor is not through with you yet.
You’re HIV positive, she adds. She is watching you closely.
* * *
Your final memories would be: walking down the narrow windy street that held a putrid smell of rotting garbage, feeling the swift rush of wind brush past your ears, your eyes itching you badly, and yet the tears unwilling to flow. This ache in your heart could not be showcased by mere tears.
You felt, rather than saw the truck knock you down. As time slowly crawled by, it took you a few minutes to realize you really knew nothing about Kayo, and then you slipped into this distant nothingness.
NB: “Kayo” was shortlisted for the Storried Short Story Prize.
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