The Measure of a Man

sorry

An apology that never came changed her view of life.

Bode and Chinyere met on WordPress. While working on his master’s thesis, Bode wrote retrospectively about the 2008 Financial Crisis when financial institutions fell like a deck of cards, one after another. The simple way he explained complex economic theories and the poetry he used to assign blame, in stanzas, inspired Chinyere to follow his blog. At the end of each blog post, he posed questions that drew comments from her. In responding to her comments, he stoked a friendship as though he was tending to embers in the fireplace.

When he wrote that post she didn’t agree with, she thought it best to send a private email. What started in public, mushroomed in private. Forty-four emails later, she knew his favourite food, sushi, the movie he never tired of watching, Schindler’s List, and that both his parents were professors. As they tangoed near the perimeters of their deepening friendship, she moved from being his favourite reader to his dear friend. The first time he referred to her as darling, she danced in tandem, placing a one-eyebrow-raised smiley next to the word sweetheart in her reply.

She imagined what darling would sound like if he said it; she envisioned a baritone, like her boss’s, whom she secretly admired. She felt safe in Nigeria, eleven hours away, from her Toronto sweetheart, Bode, whose handsome face smiled at her whenever she read his blog.

One Saturday, their email exchange, interspersed with LOLs and smileys, over the wonders of touch screen and autocorrect spelling, spanned the evening and spilled into the night. Joking about a political scandal that involved an elder statesman and nude photos of his beautiful mistress, he wrote, “I bet you’ve got a body to die for like hers.”

The half-smile, still on her face from their previous exchange, died and her lips closed into a straight line. Scrolling through the email thread, she searched desperately for it—that email or reply from her that gave him the nerve. She searched again. And again. Finally, she slept with a frown on her face, questions etched on her brow.

She did not reply the next day. Or the day after. She immersed herself in work like a zombie, neither feeling nor caring. How could he have written that? What had she done to encourage him? On the fourth day, he emailed. He had pined for her reply; he had grabbed his phone every time it beeped and driven his professor mad with error-strewn work. He guessed the joke had rubbed her the wrong way, but was it now a crime to joke with a dear friend? He was sorry even though he didn’t know what he was sorry for.

She read his email several times. He had written it in the same simple way he explained complex economic theories, using poetry to assign blame, in stanzas. But, it lacked the sincerity upon which people build great friendships. Two days it was before she fashioned a reply. Discarding the word sweetheart, she wrote:

Dear Bode,

Your joke was in bad taste. I have since evaluated the sixty-three emails we exchanged, and can find no reason why you would share a joke like that with me. Btw, I read your recent post and I agree that the bailout of banks by national governments should be a temporary measure only; it should not be the cure-all. I will share more on your blog later today.

His reply was swift. She had wondered if it would come. She had considered that the curtain had fallen on a friendship that spanned four months and she had already started mourning. Clutching her phone, hope fluttered in her heart and unsteadied her hands.

Dear Chinyere,

I am sorry. What I wrote was inappropriate and lacking better judgement. I offended you and I am sorry. If you can forgive me, I would like to continue being a friend.

That was not the reply she received; it is the one she wished she had. After two weeks, she knew his reply would never come. As weeks turned into months, she left fewer and fewer comments on his blog. She liked to think that his not responding to her comments did not influence her decision to stop altogether.

Today when Chinyere measures a man, she does not take into account the school where he acquired his MBA or the features that make him attractive. German or Japanese, his car keys hold no lure. It is his apology; the quality of his apology is the measure of a man.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: primenerd / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hiroic/8521967145/

Title: Stranger Nº 5/100 – Robbel

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