The weather of this fateful evening on the 22nd of December 1988, was the type of weather that was called “Weather for two”; you know, the type where all the lovers cuddled themselves shamelessly in the public without caring what people had to say, the one that made shopkeepers, traders and businessmen close early to be in the arms of their loved ones. The same weather which made romance much more beautiful behind closed doors and windows and gave room for sweethearts to share body heat due to the severe cold and do so in so much bliss. It was that same kind of weather that Jean, my long term girlfriend of twelve years decided that she had had enough of me.
The moment she began her speech, I knew something was wrong. She started by thanking me for all the love I showered her all these years, went on about how good and selfless I could be as a person (which was something she had never done before because she hardly revered me), and finally she dropped the bombshell on me.
“Although twelve years of being with you is a long one, and I’ll probably continue to have memories of a lifetime about what we shared, I think we should end here with our relationship”
I had not been listening to her very well, but the moment I heard ‘end’ and ‘relationship’ together in a sentence, I knew it was all over. To be honest, I expected this from her a long time ago when I first found love in activism, she never liked the idea that I was interested in the affairs of our nation, and she always called it an obsession.
“Can’t make sense out of it, but still can’t let go of it. A perfect term for an obsession” I always heard her say whenever I had to ditch her for meetings and round table discussions about big political plans. She felt neglected, but I never saw through that pain of hers. I was slipping away from her, but I was too busy to even notice it. Her request for a break up sounded more like a wake-up call for me on my part, but it was about to be a reality on Jean’s part. Though I could see that she had her mind made up but I still wanted to make a move and correct her impression.
“Jean, I know this is coming from a place of pain and neglect but please try to understand me. I love you and I do want us to be together for life”
“For life? I think that sounds better with your ambitions and desire to ‘change the world’, Lancelot”
“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that you don’t care about me anymore, Lancelot. At least not as much as you care about politics. You slipped away from me the moment you started dreaming about a revolt against the government”
“But I still try my best to be good and attentive to you”
“That was five years ago before all of this madness started.”
I looked into her eyes. She looked fed up, and it felt like I was forcing our relationship on her by continuing with this talk, but all the same, I couldn’t afford to lose her. She was the love of my life.
“Jean I can’t do without you, don’t leave me alone…at least not in this cold weather”
“So you’d prefer the breakup on a warmer day then? Fine”
“Jean…” I didn’t even realize I had held onto her and pulled her in for a back hug until she said something that’ll make me let go
“I’ve been cheating…I wasn’t going to but the thought of someone keeping me company always felt good. I’m sorry, Lancelot”
I felt like something broke inside of me after I heard that sentence. At that point, I didn’t care if anyone was looking or listening to me. Right there on that almost lonely road In Arch-dale Street, I yelled.
“Why would you do that to me, Jean? We’ve been together for twelve years and all I did was love you, respect you and stay loyal. Why would you do something like that? Why? Why?”
“Because I was afraid I was losing you, you were slipping away from me and I was lonely and couldn’t understand why you chose to focus so much on that obsession of yours. I just couldn’t seem to understand it no matter how much I tried”
“Don’t call it an obsession”
“It is what it is, Lancelot. Can’t make sense of it…” I heard this so often I could say it after her
“And still can’t let go. Perfect term for obsession” we chorused together. Jean kept quiet after this.
“I don’t deserve this, Jean”
“I thought so too, but I feel like I’m not a priority to you anymore”
There was no point dragging this matter any longer, I didn’t have anything to say so I began to walk away from her. Then she called after me
“You know, I wished you obsessed over me the way you obsessed over your ideas of a revolution. You made me jealous of something so inanimate and insignificant I almost feel so ashamed of myself.”
I wanted to say something, but nothing was coming out of my mouth. Jean sounded like she was about to cry but I just kept going. I didn’t notice the huge sign post on the sidewalks which I was trekking, and so I tripped on it and fell. Jean called after me and tried to help me stand up but I gently pushed her away. I was really angry but I had nothing more to say to her. I don’t remember how long it was I remained on that cold ground, but I knew it was long enough for me to reflect, shed some tears, let out a loud cry, and still make a few attempts at standing up on my own. By the time I put myself together and stood up, Jean was gone. The road was fully lonely now and as I thought of my now failed relationship, more tears started to drop from my eyes and blur my vision. Still, I kept going. Two things were sure though; one, I wasn’t going home just yet and two, I wasn’t going home sober.
Bluegills bar was mostly for specifically two types of people; the depressed ones who felt like the world is coming to an end for them and have come to wash their thoughts down with a few bottles, and for corrupt government officials who in some way were responsible for few, if not most of the cases of these depressed people. The fact that the assaulter and the assaulted seek solace in the same environment and get what they want was an irony I’d never understand. It was probably because there was booze for the first category, and more booze with a bonus of nice ladies to match. Either way, each person’s problem was solved, at least for the night.
I belonged to neither of these groups. I was not depressed (At least not yet) and I was most definitely not a government official who absorbed so much from the masses throughout the day and squandered it on a bunch of nameless girls at night. I hated them with so much passion, and this was not just because I gave up on my life of normalcy for dreams of revolution, or because I lost my relationship of more than a decade, but because they were wrong, and they knew they were wrong, and they still prided themselves in that wrongdoing of theirs although the citizens suffered dearly for it. The fact that they refused to let their government be citizen-oriented always angered me, and I was sure of myself that I would make my dreams of righting every wrong and also ensuring that we got a government we deserved, no matter what it cost me. To me, I thought there was nothing so relevant in my life that I could lose anymore, but fate had other plans for me. The best part, I wouldn’t know until much later.
I was still in thought and on my 6th bottle of beer when I heard someone say “It’s not too nice to drink so much on a cold night, alone”. I wasn’t sure if it was because of how soothing and tender her voice sounded, or if I was hypnotized but I remember telling her that I’d probably be in my lover’s arms at home or in company with her here if she didn’t hate me so much to break up. She looked at me before she made another statement, one that pissed me off.
“Still not an excuse to drink on a night like this”
I looked at her carefully before I told her to piss off in the rudest way possible. She didn’t, and that was when I thought I needed to clarify things.
“Look, I’m not one of your regulars who are here looking for some company, attention, or relief of some sort or to spend money they didn’t work hard for. I’m just here to drink.”
“Who are you then?”
“A devoted revolutionist”
I was expecting her to giggle, and giggling she did.
“What is it? It’s a better job that being a call girl at the bar looking for drunk, unsuspecting people to keep company and probably steal from”
“I’m sorry for the laughter… it’s just that I’ve heard the word revolutionist before, and all of the lips I heard it from told lies”
“So what are you suggesting? That I’m a liar?”
“Not in the very least…but I may to an extent be suggesting that you do not quite understand what the word revolutionist means”
“A revolutionist is a doer and not just a talker, someone who isn’t comfortable about how some things happen, and moves to change it. A revolutionist does not sit around and gasp for change; He brings about the change with other fellow change-thirsty people and…wait who are you and why are you making me tell you things?”
“Oh, pardon me for not introducing myself. I’m Leila G, and I’m a waitress, not a call-girl like you imagined.
It was probably that I was too drunk it was affecting my ears, or I was just still in so much shock, but I heard Leila Jean.
“Jean? Your name’s Jean? No wonder I just couldn’t stand you the moment I heard your voice. You sound and act just like her.”
“It’s G, not Jean. Short for Georgina, and by ‘her’ do you mean your girlfriend?”
“None of your business girl”
“I like your idea of revolution-ism, and I do hope you have enough plans to back it up, so you don’t end up like the usual”
“Like I said and I’m still saying, it’s none of your business. By the way, I’m not one of your regular higher-up’s customers who always have a drink to share, and some cash to spare.”
“But you’re a revolutionist, you have liberation to offer me; better still, you’re single, and yeah I noticed you weren’t our usual type when you came in. it’s true that you look a bit down, though.”
“What can I say to make you leave me alone?”
“Your name maybe?”
“Lancelot” I said that a little too fast, so she thought I was lying. I tried my best to convince her and she asked for my surname.
“Spence” I said. She laughed at how my name was too cool for all of the fire that I had. She told me she believed in me and I went ahead to tell her about Jean, and how she ended the relationship because of my beliefs. She said something I never thought I’d hear from anyone.
“Mr. Lancelot Spence, I know you may not believe it, but it’s not your fault that your relationship crashed. It may have not been about your passion anyway. It went on for 12 years, it was probably just time to leave. Anyway, if you think you can’t handle being single for long, I’m available for hire. I’ll do quite well and just so you know, you seem to like my type”
It was funny how she amused me, flirted with me, pissed me off a little, comforted me, and tried to help me sober up, all within two hours, while still putting up with occasional rudeness from me. It felt comfortable, so comfortable that I started to drift into my world of sound sleep refusing to care about where I was. For the first time, I didn’t want to care about where I was or what was going to happen to me. I just wanted to rest.
I was in my bed at home when I woke up. I was shocked because unlike other drunkards I knew, I remembered everything that happened to me clearly before I slept off and I don’t remember telling anyone my address. It bothered me a lot and I felt unsafe. I decided to go back to Bluegills and meet Leila. G for some explanation, but before that, I wanted a hangover soup. What I saw in the kitchen even irked me further. The kitchen was not my kitchen; it was smaller and stuffier, and although everything was arranged it still seemed so disorganized. On the cabinet was food covered, a bottle of water, and a hangover drink. I was about to read the note beside it when Leila talked behind me.
“Hey! I wasn’t expecting you to be awake this early, so I left the food and the note to explain things”
“You might want to explain things with your mouth, young lady”
“You kind of passed out while talking to me, so I couldn’t get your address. I also couldn’t get access to your phone so I brought you to my house instead.”
“You brought me to your house instead? Is this how you behave with all other customers?”
“Not at all. Other customers bring people along”
Her tone suggested that she was getting angry. Plus this was a new day. The very nice waitress was probably gone, so I didn’t want to push it with her.
“Thank you, Leila”
“Leila.G, you have to call me Leila G, no shorts for it anymore. I’m very particular about how people should address me”
“Very well then. Thank you Leila G, I do appreciate it. It just felt a little weird that a waitress brought me to her home and I’m not used to all of this kindness and hospitality. No one has exactly done that for me before.”
“You’re cute, Lancelot. You may come off as a very rude, egoist who has nothing to brag about but you’re cute as hell”
“Wow. Did I get insulted and complimented at the same time?”
“I suppose, I like to do things like that a lot. Now eat what I made and take the hangover drink. I need to see you leave before I go to work”
“Work? The bar opens this early in the morning?”
“Yes it does, but that’s not where I’m going. I’m on night shift this week at the bar so I’m spending my morning and afternoon elsewhere.”
“Are you always this nosy or…” she looked at me before completing her statement and even though it was my face, I don’t know the expression that she saw which made her change her mind and answer me properly.
“I work at the presidential library. I’m a library assistant”
I looked at her in amazement. Who would have thought that this queen of the night who approached him with all of that charisma and nerve and that light piercing in the left corner of her nose was a librarian? I was impressed.
“And what is the purpose of that smirk, Lancelot?”
I was going to reply to her, but I saw the news on the television that was just a few meters outside the kitchen. The president was going to visit the orphanage home that recently caught fire. This meant that I had business to do.
“I’m so sorry, Leila but I have to be home now. Thanks for the warm hospitality though, I do appreciate it.”
I didn’t wait to see the expression on her face, but I heard her call after me to remind me that it was Leila G. She also called me a dickhead, and said that I should come and take the food and the other things she prepared.
I just left.
TO BE CONTINUED