The party was cool. Greg had money and like I heard, he loved showing it. I hadn’t heard wrong as I found out at the party. There was more than enough to swallow and guzzle. The music was something else, and everyone was having the fun of his/her life.
Greg was everywhere shaking hands, backslapping, hugging and talking. Tina was sitting somewhere nursing a glass of wine and trying to stop herself from looking bored and upset. I stared at her for a while and when she caught my eye, I waved.
She waved back, then walked over.
“Are you having fun?” she asked as she settled into a seat beside me.
“Yeah, it’s a lively party. “I said.
“That’s Greg for you. She said and sighed.
“You don’t look too happy yourself.
“I said and she’d sighed again then before she could say a word; a guy was standing in front of us.
“Tina, I am begging, please, I want to be introduced to this pretty lady.”
The guy was tall and broad shouldered. He was dark and had this bright sunny-smile-along-with-me-smile.
“Chris, you’ve come again with your wahala,” Tina said smiling.
“This is not wahala o. Where I come from they call it love at first sight. If you don’t believe me, ask me. “He said, the smile still in place.
“See, I don’t have time for your wahala tonight.
This is Anita, my sister. The baby of the family.
“Ah, I love babies. They are so cute and cuddly and they smell of pears baby lotion. Say Anita, do you use Pears?” he asked, settling his bulk into the chair beside me.
That was how it started and all through the night, Chris kept me smiling and laughing. He asked me whether I knew the origin of the word bikini. I said I didn’t, so he told me this story, the first in over a thousand he would tell me in the three beautiful years we spent together.
A girl had got dressed in this scandalous beach wear, when her mother stumbled into her room.
“Where are you wearing that thing to?” the mother asked.
“To the beach!” the girl answered and her scandalized mother had yelled.
That was how the Yoruba language gave us the word bikini.
We danced, joked, laughed and held hands like long lost lovers and by the time the party was over we were swooning over each other like love struck teenagers. We fixed a date for the next evening and when it was time to go, I don’t feel like leaving.
I talked about nothing else but Chris all day. Phil, whom I shared a room with was beside herself with irritation.
“To think that you didn’t want to go to the party in the first place,” she sneered.
But I didn’t care. I’d found a good thing and nobody was going to spoil my fun. The whole thing was even more exciting because I’d found out that Chris was in his final year at Uniport where I was too. It sounded too good to be true.
“How come we never met?” I asked when he told me.
“You’ve been hiding from me, now,” He said and we’d laughed.
He came that evening, driving the blue Subaru and we’d sat out there on the front port swing talking and laughing until late into the evening. He’d had dinner before leaving.
After he left, I lay on my bed and tried to review the evening. I marvelled at how easily we flowed. An onlooker wouldn’t know that we’d only met barely 24 hours earlier. It was weird, the way we connected, it was as if we’d always known and were just waiting for the right time to say hello, shake hands and become the friends we were meant to be.
We had a full month plus before school was due to reopen and it was a month of fun and laughter. We spent almost all our time together. The way it was, you’d think we’d just been released from some sort of prison and needed to reacquaint ourselves and catch up with lost time.
He’d come in the morning when my parents were away at work and we’d play music and watch movies. We’d eat lunch and take a ride out. He loved going to the beach. But first, he’d stop and buy pop corns which he loved eating.
We alternated visits and on the days we couldn’t spend together, time seemed to drag by on swollen feet. I was in love and glow was evident in everything I did.
One Saturday as I got ready to go to the swimming pool with Chris, Tina and Phil had called me aside and asked me to watch it.
“You guys are getting into this thing too much. Too much passion is not always the best. It burns out too fast.
“They warned and I’d nodded and gone out to Chris who was waiting. It was love. It was passionate. And it wasn’t a one way thing. I felt exactly same the way he felt towards me. There was no holding back. Chris was a good swimmer and he taught me how to swim. He had this firm athletic body that made girls gape and gawk but my Chris had only eyes for me and he never messed around.
Now, I remember how he didn’t rush me, nor stamped me into making love. He took his time and asked me to let him know when I was ready and I wasn’t ready until over five months later on Val’s day’s which incidentally was my birthday.
Chris had taken me out to this restaurant off Aba Road somewhere in Rumuola and after a nice meal we’d gone back to the flat he shared with a friend at Rumuigbo. Another surprise was awaiting me; a birthday cake and a bottle of pink lady. We’d eaten some of the cake and ended up in bed. I was 23 then and about ripe to become a woman. But Chris kept asking whether I was certain the time was right and I almost had to force him to get down on it. He was nice and gentle with me, leading me on and taking me to great peaks of pleasure. He made me a woman and showed me the wonders and pleasures of my own body.
After he graduated, he influenced his posting to Port Harcourt and we were together all the time. He served with an oil services company and made sure I never lacked a thing so long as he could afford it. Life for me from the time I met Chris was one long joy ride.
But you know how these things are. One day, one fateful day, three years after we met the whole joy ride came to a screeching halt and my life was plunged into deep gloom.
We’d just finished our orientation and I’d come back home to Lagos with Chris who had got a permanent job in Port Harcourt where I was posted to serve. We’d planned to spend the Christmas in Lagos, then go back to Port Harcourt for the new year.
Chris had proposed to me and I’d accepted and a tentative date was fixed for the next Christmas. I was 25 then and I couldn’t be happier. Phil was married in England. Tina had long broken up with Greg and was engaged to Dave, a long time friend. Wedding bells were about to ring before she would join him in America and mine was almost beginning to chime. My parents were beside themselves with joy and happiness.
We got into Lagos on the 20th and disaster struck on the 25th night on Christmas day.
Chris and his brothers had planned a picnic for Christmas day and I was a part of it. But my Aunt, Caro and her husband sent an invitation and Dad had insisted that we’d all lunch together. It was a family thing.
That was how I asked Chris to go on ahead of me. He’d wanted to wait but I’d asked him to go along, promising to join him there as soon as the lunch was over.
I wasn’t myself at lunch. My mind was somewhere else. I kept thinking about Chris and I missed much of what they said at lunch.
Once it was over and we got home, I changed into beach things, borrowed mum’s car and set out for the beach. The place was crowded but I knew where they’d be.
I made my way there but the sight that met me wasn’t what I’d expected. His brothers, Dan and Jude, were all running about looking scared and when I asked, I was told the words that turned my life into a nightmare.
“Chris was missing.”
At first, I’d tried to rationalize. Chris couldn’t drown. He was a good swimmer. He’d actually taught everyone in his family to swim. No. He had to be somewhere close.
Well, we waited and it soon grew dark. But there was no sign of Chris. That was when the sad reality began to dawn on me. Where was my Chris? I asked no one in particular but no answers came. Chris was missing.
I cried like a baby and had to be driven home. At home, I was not myself. I couldn’t eat nor sleep and I couldn’t do a thing. I just sat on my bed and stared at nothing.
Time passed. Then two days later, his corpse was washed up on the beach and my life has never been the same.
I had a breakdown and was admitted into hospital where I spent over three weeks.
On my discharge, I had to redeploy to Lagos. Port Harcourt was too lonely, too full of memories and ghosts of things for me to stay on.
Two years have gone by now. I’ve finished my service and got a job but the years and all that have passed have done nothing to diminish my love for Chris or assuage my pain, I still mourn him. I still miss him and life has lost meaning.
My sisters, parents and friends have tried too. But it’s beyond them. I can’t help it. They’ve tried fixing me up with guys but they never worked out. I’m too closed up, too shell-shocked to begin to open up my heart to love. The soil of my heart has gone dry and barren and I know that no seed of love can ever grow on it.
And once again, as Christmas approaches, I can feel the ache begin to throb again. Chris is dead and since a part of me died with him, Christmas will never hold the magical appeal it used to hold for me.
Christmas is here, a time for joy, laughter and good cheer. Enjoy it. Catch all the fun you can and above all, learn to cherish people close and dear to you.
I lost mind two years ago and the love alone is what sustains me.
To be continued…