By Santi Femi
Every time she loved, she did not know it was love because it did not feel like love anymore.
Lagos; May 2014
This is not Facebook. This Twitter, ehn, you can be and yet not be to the rest of the world, Ngozi said to him when she convinced him to get on social media again as they had lunch that Saturday afternoon. He hadn’t paid much attention to her. Once, he was on Facebook but when his account was hacked and porn videos were injected into his timeline, he deactivated it. His schedule at work became hectic, unexpectedly, and he completely forgot about social media.
A disorder that distorted his sleep pattern was going to reverse things. He’d stay up long into the night, tired and idle. One night, while restlessly waiting for sleep to whisk him away, he opened a Twitter account. There, among the chirpings of humans in 140 characters, he spent those hours till sleep came for him. That eventually became his habit. Every night.
One night, a handle repeatedly got retweeted in his timeline. The profile picture was a face looking away from the camera. Her facial features were quite indistinct in the picture but one thing shone right at him: her toothy smile. He followed her, tweeted her and hoped that she would follow him back too and she did. Next, he sent her a Direct Message – DM.
He was Emeka. She was Peju.
Peju read the DM the next morning as she poured herself a cup of tea:
“You’re knowledgeable, smart & feisty. I admire those.”
The handle was the one she had followed just before she slept the previous night. You follow them back and then they flood you with all sorts of messages, she thought to herself as she set down her phone but she carried the face in the profile everywhere she went; all day. He was fair-skinned, a thick mass of black hair well kempt hair and a beard clinically trimmed to connect with his side-burn. His pair of nerdy glasses gave him away as bookish, yet in an enamouring way. For all she cared, that face may not be his after all. She had learned that pictures have their deficiencies even when they speak a thousand words.
One evening many weeks after, Emeka posted a series of tweets that did not sit well with her. The arguments and counter arguments went back and forth till they reached a compromise.
Actually, he let her win. It was after all of that exchange that he requested for her number. Every time his phone buzzed, he secretly wished that it was her. But when the day was over and nothing came from her, Emeka concluded that the girl will always remain a picture of a pixelated face and a toothy smile. After a tedious presentation at work, a few days after, his phone buzzed. On his notification panel was a red button sitting on the edge of an envelope icon. It was her. “Send me your number and let me do the calling,” it read. After the events of September 2012, she wanted to be in control of her life; dictating the pace every step of the way.
Peju found it strange that the door to her boyfriend’s flat was not shut but she did not think much of it. As she strode across the sitting room, she could hear movements in the kitchen. She knew Deniyi very well at least she knew him to be that guy who would never step into the kitchen. She peeped through the latch from the sitting room. There, in the kitchen, was a girl in bum shorts. She was stirring something on the cooker. They could see each other through the latch. Her confidence struck Peju.
When the bedroom door opened, Deniyi was there, naked in bed, laughing at god-knows-what on his iPad. Sweerie, you should see this he called to his fresh catch. Peju called his name. First he froze, then he gathered himself together, grabbed her by the arm and began to huddle her out of the room. Deniyi, what is going on here? Peju asked, nonplussed. He did not answer.
In his eyes, the only thing she could see was defiance; no guilt, no shame. They died in him a long time before that moment. But once upon a time, when the love between them was a blazing torch of light, it was all different: exciting, crazy, true (or so she thought). It is what it is, Pee-Jay he said casually; finally.
The movements in the kitchen continued, a sweet aroma of stew filled the space. The girl in the kitchen was not bothered by whatever was happening in the sitting room. She didnt have to because she knew for certain, that she was winning. Peju was enraged but she tried to not create a scene. In that instant, her head felt light and her feet were heavy. The heart in her chest seemed to beat so fast and she was unsure that it wouldnt burst before she found comfort. She held her tears in her eyes, they welled up in those sockets but never poured.
It was while riding back to her parents in the BRT bus that memories of how their love began filled her up.
Santi Femi Owoyemi writes from Ibadan, Nigeria. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter (@santifemi).