I thought I was the only one who was perfection-prone. MTD hated anything constituting even a fleck on his ‘beloved’ Range Rover Sport. ‘Baby ọku’ he called it. Or tried to call it.
The man was learning Igbo with a vengeance once I agreed to go out with him.
‘Go out with him’. A delicious thrill ran through me. I was going out with him for real! Almost too real, the hard-dried cynic in me reared its tiny, deadly head like a fragment of an egg-shell in a tastefully-prepared omelette.
“Tufiakwa”, I spat the thought out.
“Ine, what is it? Your eyebrows are furrowed.
That was MTD’s Achilles’ heel; he could never get the double Igbo consonants right. So the ‘nnes’ became ‘ine’; the ‘nnas’ became ‘ina’. ‘mmili’ became ‘imili’ and the ‘mmanu’ became ‘imanu’.
But, his herculean strength was he noticed everything…even the slightest change in body language.
And yes, my eyebrows were furrowed, deeply furrowed. I was worried.
I was worried because he was learning Igbo too quickly. I was worried because I could sense a change in him; a slight closing. For a man who was ridiculously open about anything and everything, My Turkish Delight was hiding something from me.
Mentally, I began to prepare myself for the inevitable; it was bound to happen. It always did at this point – the point where you’ve got past the awkward, ‘Let’s-just-see-where-this-is-taking-us’ stage to the ‘This-looks-promising’ stage’ – the point where a rhythm starts to flow in the relationship and all of a sudden, they pull away and…nothing! They end it. It’s over.
Using my usual defence mechanism, I began to work out, in my head, how things will end.
His calls will dwindle to once every other day.
He’ll stop WhatsApping me frequently.
He will be too ‘busy’ with his restaurants to see me.
The excuses will begin to range from the sublime to the ridiculous…
His everyday ringtone snapped me out of my train of thoughts.
That was all I heard from his side of the conversation by which time, his brows were furrowed.
“Ine, change in plans. I’m afraid you’ll have to shop alone.” We had arrived at the traffic lights beside the Ilford Sainsbury’s. “I’ll pick you up in a few hours.” All this was uttered with his eyes on the road. No eye-contact.
No words came to my mouth either.
By this time, we had arrived at another set of traffic lights just before the bus-stop beside the Ilford Railway station. An unfamiliar silence descended upon our closeness and instantly a chasm wedged itself between us.
MTD didn’t even bother with the car park. He just dropped me off at the bus-stop and sped off down Cranbrook Road before the amber lights turned red.
‘Siyah’. Black in Turkish. That much I knew. He had to be talking about me.
I don’t recall crossing the traffic lights into the Ilford Exchange or walking through TK Maxx or bumping into some man with shopping who asked me if I was alright. I do recall going into the Pound shop and walking round the aisles and back out. I had to get home. It was all over.
“Ine, Ine!” MTD was shaking me awake. I had fallen asleep, in front of the T.V, on the big, red, lumpy sofa I had since Uni.
“What’s the matter, Ine? What’s wrong? I called and called, no reply. I went back to the shopping centre and …”
I looked up at him, eyes crusty from dried-up tears. His voice seemed to come from a long way away. I just stared at him and waited…waited for what I knew was coming; what I knew would rip my guts out, hang them out for the birds of depression to devour.
“We need to talk”. He dangled what looked like a fob before me.
‘We need to talk’…those four deadly words. I carried on waiting. I wasn’t going to help him stab me. If he wanted to break up with me, he had to do it himself; all by himself. Let him ‘need’ to talk. I will listen.
“I know this isn’t what you want…wanted, but,” he hesitated, stroking his close-cropped beard, the gesture I’d come to understand hid his nervousness…the gesture that took me back to our first meeting…it seemed so long ago now… “But”, he carried on, this is something I want…have been wanting to do.”
Well, of course it’s what you want, I screamed silently in my head, how about what I want??? My eyes showed no emotion whatsoever. I had become an expert at the term – dead-pan expression – when it came to the inevitable ‘we-need-to-talk’ phase.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” MTD finally realised that he had been doing all the talking.
“What’s that in your hand?” I managed to croak through my pain-filled throat.
“What I’ve been trying to tell you but obviously failing woefully”, He smiled ruefully.
He didn’t wait for me to respond but pulled me up from the sofa, my favourite red, threadbare throw, trailing on the floor. His long strides made mincemeat of the distance between the hallway and the door.
“Bọbọ ọku!” He announced theatrically.
Parked in front of the driveway was Bọbọ ọku, indeed. A gleaming, metallic red Range Rover Evoque, complete with alloy wheels and leather trimming. The fob-like thing was its keys.
I looked at MTD in confusion, wonderment and amazement.
“I know, I know I said siyah but Gizem had nothing in black,” he’d never looked so doleful in his life. “I know, you don’t want me buying stuff for you, Miss Independent Woman, but I want to. That’s what we needed to talk about.”
He searched my face for a reply.
My eyes replied with a tear rolling down each one.
This time my silence was shame-filled.
[For Eso because she’s been asking for it for so long 🙂 ]