Happy Monday! May this week be both productive and enjoyable! Thank you so much for all the love you showed to the first part of this story! (And all the patience as we await the return of Akaa & Alima!)
Let’s see the story unfold! As always, tell me your thoughts in the comments!
The second time they met, it was inside the grocery shop he had been headed to the day he met her. She was surrounded by a bunch of people talking very animatedly. Two young men and three young women. He wondered which one of the men was the husband. He was almost sure she wouldn’t recognize him, yet she saw him and waved at him. He waved back, eyebrows raised, and wondering what the proper etiquette was in such situations. She excused herself from the group.
He pulled his coat on properly and took off his gloves.
“We didn’t exchange names the other day. I’m Sayo. It’s short for Oluwasayofunmi spelt say-o, but pronounced Shar-yor”
She was holding a bottle of wine in her right hand and extended her left hand to him for a fist bump. There was no ring.
“I’m KB. It’s short for Kwaku Birikorang. Americans usually cannot say it, and friends call me KB anyway.” He had no idea why he was explaining to her.
She chuckled. “Koaki birikong?” “Close enough.” He smiled.
“Where are you from? You have a familiar accent.”
“Oh! That makes sense! I have family in Ghana.” She looked so excited, it seemed as if that had taken a couple of years off her age. “I’m originally from Nigeria, but Mama’s twin married a Ghanaian and the whole family lives in Accra. I’ve visited a few times, mostly for Christmas, and it is always crazy fun!”
She did not sound Nigerian at all.
The group she was with laughed, and she glanced back.
“I organize dinner for my students whenever I get the chance. Would you like to join us? It’s tomorrow at 8PM. And you already know where I live.”
Her students? Was she a teacher? Which children were allowed out at 8PM on a Friday night?
“I wouldn’t want to intrude.” He said.
“Oh, join us. We’re such a fun bunch. And I’m assuming you are old enough to drink? We tend to drink quite a bit.” At that, he laughed a hearty laugh that resonated through the store.
And that was really how it started!
She was right about the ‘kids’ being fun. He learnt during dinner – where Sayo cooked an elaborate fancy 4-course meal from a recently purchased cookbook – that they were mostly Physics grad students, a few seniors – which he realized really meant final year college students. They played games of trivia and charades, some card games he’d never seen, and ate and downed all the divine cocktails that Sayo mixed. In all, it was the most fun he’d had since he got to Chicago.
He tried to put pieces together, to figure out things about her. How old she was, what she did, who her husband was. Where he was. Owing to her size, Sayo would probably fit anywhere between eighteen and forty! And he managed to pick up that she was a Physics professor, in a male-dominated University. Considering how long it would likely take to get to that position, there was no way she could be anything younger than thirty-five.
KB was the last to leave. He’d insisted on helping with the dishes. He was surprisingly tipsy, and wanted to ask her all the questions he’d had before his inhibitions returned properly.
“I was taught by my mother, that nobody gives free meals. If a person cooks you a meal, you do the dishes.” Sayo smiled a weird smile.
“The university occasionally compensates me for this. So technically, it’s not free… besides I’ll just wipe them and pop them into the dishwasher.” He had never actually seen a dishwasher in use before. His uncle never used his, and the day he tried to even open it, the scurrying sounds made him clamp it shut, showing him exactly where the rodents around the house lived!
“Oh…would it be weird if I helped you wipe the dishes, so you teach me how to use a dishwasher?” She laughed at his relentlessness and gave him a towel. They worked in pleasant silence, until the dishwasher was fully stacked, and only a few of the big dishes lay on the counter. She showed him how it was used, and he handwashed the remaining dishes before leaving.
While he grabbed his jacket, he asked without thinking “Your husband doesn’t join your student dinners?” She looked confused for a second, until clarity hit her.
“Oh…you were a stranger… it’s an old trick I use to make people think that I’m not alone. Just in case they’re dangerous.” He smiled.
“So, there’s no husband then?”
She raised an eyebrow, momentarily surprised by the question.
“I don’t know about Ghana, KB, but in America, this question can be considered very forward.”
He smiled a shy smile. “I’m still learning the ropes… I’m sorry”
“There’s an ex-husband. And a five-year-old son … who probably thinks I’m his older sister.”
She suddenly had a faraway look.
There was an awkward silence.
“And how do you know I’m not dangerous?” He had mischief in his eyes.
“I’ve seen you around a few times since we met. You seem harmless enough.”
He tried not to stare. He could not help it. She was attractive, yet she moved around and acted as though she had no idea. 99% of the girls he’d ever met that had even half this kind of exquisiteness would flaunt it any chance they got, as if the whole world was theirs.
She cleared her throat, clearly uncomfortable under his gaze.
“Well thank you for inviting me, Prof. Honestly this is the most fun I’ve had since I got here. And it’s been… quite a while.”
“Prof? First you’re forward and then you’re formal?” She had a look in her eyes he couldn’t place.
“I’ll let you know whenever we have dinner, and you can join us. I have your number now, so that should be easy.”
If she’s probably forty, and I’m thirty-two, it’s not exactly a bad thing that I’m already smitten, is it?
KB knew he needed to stop thinking about her. This was quite unlike him. Nobody had ever had him wrapped around their finger the way Sayo had. Is this why they called them Yoruba demons? Or no…that was just the men, wasn’t it?
He grabbed his gear, walking out of his apartment, in a hurry to leave behind the lingering smell of cinnamon. He had work to do at the studio, and a few assessments to take.
He noticed he had missed a call from his uncle. He made a mental note to call back when he was in the middle of work, so he would have a real excuse to cut him off quickly. He didn’t want anymore “What happened to you and your ‘wife’?” questions. In fact, he had no idea what happened either, and he was tired of explaining. He was tired of everyone assuming him the villain. He no longer explained. There was really no going back.
He remembered a quote he’d seen on twitter.
“Sometimes you have to make peace with the fact that you are the villain in someone else’s story even if you thought you were doing the right thing. You don’t get to tell them how to narrate their experience.”
He sighed deeply. Maybe he really was the villain? Was he? She’d been supportive, hadn’t she?
Could he have tried harder? Did he do something?
He did the 20-minute walk to his studio and looked at the calendar, planning his day and absentmindedly doing the usual early morning things. He made coffee and cleared the kitchen.
Nobody was in yet. He shared the studio with two others. Tim, who was his right-hand man, great behind the camera, yet extremely shit when it came to editing, and Ryan, who trash behind the camera, but was an editing pro. Often he even outdid KB! They’d met a few months prior when KB started the MFA. It had all been Sayo’s idea.
“Get an MFA and get some photography gigs on the side while you’re at it, so you can not only move out of his place, but also figure America out for yourself.”
She’d said it so nonchalantly, he hadn’t even given it another thought. And especially with the cost of higher education in America, he knew there was absolutely no way. Then she repeated it another time, and before long, what started out as a mere suggestion, became a great idea. She’d made some calls, spoken to a few people, had him work on his applications diligently, writing entry exams and getting his undergraduate transcript translated to the US system; He put together a good portfolio, both of his photos from home, and the great one’s he’d taken here. It all seemed to be happening in a flurry. He had no actual prospect of getting in. He did it for Sayo.
He wasn’t only accepted; he was also given a merit-based scholarship that gave a good stipend! Yet for some reason, that’s when things started to go downhill.
KB sat down behind his desk, absentmindedly thinking about the day he got this studio. It was about two months before everything went awry.
He had come in with her one late afternoon to clean it up. They’d come with a few supplies, and some food, to have a quick dinner before heading back to hers. It was a rainy summer day, and they worked companionably, until dinner. And then they ended up having to wait out the rain in there. She was tired and wanted to nap in the tiny couch while they waited. She would fit easily. “I will not fit into this couch… no matter how I contort myself.” He’d remarked.
“I think it’s really bold of you to assume that I wanted to cuddle in the couch with you.” They laughed at that, and ended up putting a big old jacket on the floor, and cuddling on it. Both exhausted, they fell asleep quickly, waking up about an hour or so later to darkness.
They made love that evening on the studio floor. While it wasn’t their first time, KB rembered how different it had felt.
Had she started saying goodbye on that day?
Sayo was a fierce lover. She articulated what she wanted and needed in a way that KB had never experienced before. She gave him pleasure willingly without his having to ask. She was both adept and inquisitive about his body and what brought him pleasure. She was a seductress when she wanted to be one, and an angel when that was the need. He was not used to that, so it caught him completely off guard.
He shook his head, as if it would clear his thoughts about her. He grabbed his laptop and opened his journaling app.
I woke up to the smell of cinnamon again. Some nights I dream so vividly about her. About how easy it was to carry her. About her laughter . About how such loud snores could be produced in such a tiny body. And then I dream about those nightmares she had. How violently she could shake one minute, and then fall calm in my arms the next.
I wake up and feel the deep void.
I think that’s the thing about explaining your heart to someone. It’s like loading a gun with bullets; giving them ammunition. One day, you wake up and they’ve taken all those rounds, and shot you at your weakest. She knew me – in ways I didn’t think anyone ever would. In such a short time. And that’s what makes this the hardest. She’s hurt me multiple times, and all I want is to hold her.
He was startled out of his writing when the door swung open. He looked up, expecting Tim, and ready with a snarky remark for him. There, standing at the door like an apparition, stood Sayo.