“No!” is my reply, tinged with laughter anger and surprise, “but she really is a nice girl.” We talk long into the night about Mary, and then some other unrelated things. However, I do not tell him of her dreams, or the guy she has a crush on. I simply tell him, “I know we will go along just fine.” Ife’s voice drops. He tells me he saw his POST-UTME results a few hours ago, he failed again. “I can’t do it, Gbolahan. That university is not where I want to be. I just want to paint…”
“You still paint?” “Every time,” his voice breaks, “I have been doing it more than usual…” “Then do it. If that’s what you want, do it!” “It’s not that easy, guy…” “Everything is easy with you, Ife. I don’t know how you do it, but man, if anyone can pursue their dreams in spite of whatever, it’s you.” I hate the way I sound. Like some sort of motivational speaker.
I didn’t like the fact that I am sounding like the voice of reason Ife always said I was. His voice comes on, “You know what? I’m going to do just that. Exactly that!” He ends the call. For the next couple of years, I won’t hear anything from Ife. Even when I go home, his parents will simply tell me he said he didn’t want to be in touch with anyone. I was angry; how could my childhood friend just ghost out on me? I began thinking it was something I said when we spoke last.
Whatever pursuing he did only becomes clear when I run into Mary one day at the bank in Abuja. She is taller, and even more beautiful.. Ten years has gone, but the childish look and innocence still lives on that face. We are both surprised, but I perform a good job hiding mine. She hugs me, and asks why she never saw me after that night in school. I lie, “You know how busy UI could be,” and laughed it off. I didn’t tell her of how I avoided her, how I could not continue seeing her after what Ife did. “Are you still in touch with Ife?”
The question surprises me after I asked, and it feels relieving to mention his name out loud after all those years. She gives me that charming smile. “Yes, I get postcards from him once in a while… “ “Oh, that’s great,” I lie again. “He’s based in New York now, and he has an Art Gallery.” Pursue your dream. He did pursue his dream.
“Do you still have that dream?” Being a writer comes with one stupid perk: asking stupid questions. She stops for a moment. “That was a long time ago, Gbolahan… How do you still remember?” I also don’t know how I still did.
“I don’t… I no longer dream about it. But you know, I think about it sometimes… It happens that I just miss him once in a while…” There is this gloom I can’t explain that had enveloped her face. “So you,” Mary changes the topic, her face brightening again, “what are you doing now?” “Hmmm, a lot. Writing most of the time actually.” “That’s great! I never knew you write.”Nobody knew I write. Accepting that as a compliment, I bow my head slightly. We are out of the bank now. “So what do you do? Are you married?” I quickly interject.
“Well, in the advertising sector. I just keep forgetting to get married, there’s a lot on my plate.” That smile again. “Oh what about you?” “Unmarried. Well, I found myself someone, you could say a lover.” “Aw. That’s beautiful! I’m glad you finally found a woman who’s treating you right. See how fresh she has made you.” I smile. We exchange contacts and get into our separate cars. I sit in my car, smile and wonder why I didn’t tell her that the name of my lover is John, and of course he isn’t a woman. I hope Ife is happy wherever he is.
I hope he at least found love, one that is enough to make him think love is the only path to happiness. Everybody’s looking for love to start a riot But every time I look into your eyes, the world gets quiet So let it go…