At the Reunion, I see Emeka for the first time in twenty-five years. We jam shoulders and pat each other’s backs.
“Man, you’re not doing badly,” Emeka playfully jabs the flab on my belly.
“Emeka na you biko! Nna men, you wear forty-six well!”
His clean shave reminds me that my beard is speckled grey.
“I do my best. Lola and the girls nko?”
“They are well.”
You still don’t have a boy right?” His chair scrapes the floor as he moves it to sit.
I take a long sip of my Gulder.
“No boy?” He leans forward in his chair.
I take another long sip of my Gulder. “Not yet.”
Emeka whistles. “Are you guys still trying?”
We exchanged emails about twelve years ago. I’d expressed frustration about not having a male child to carry on my name. Twelve years ago! What gives him the right to poknose now?
Emeka fiddles with his BlackBerry. I stare at nothing as I tap my feet to the beat of Fresh by Kool and the Gang. We have both done well in our careers, why is a male child an additional index of success? Emeka shows me photos of his wife, two sons, and daughter.
“My last son is ten.” He says it as if he won gold at the Olympics.
I shrink in my seat and hum, conversation is going round people talking ‘bout the girl—
“So, how do you keep in shape? You look really good.”
I look at his muscles rippling beneath his fitted t-shirt. I signal to the waiter for another bottle of Gulder.
Emeka pats my arm, “Lola is really taking care of you. She’s goo—”
“I run seven kilometres every weekend.” I brush lint off my shirt as if that’s the reason I’m annoyed. What’s the difference between three and half and seven?
“Really? Why don’t we run together this weekend?”
Four bottles of Gulder makes me say yes and give him the route in Victoria Island where I run.
I arrive early on Saturday and start my warm-up exercises. Emeka parks his Range Rover Sport under an ebelebo tree and promises the boys washing cars some money to look after his car.
“Nna, ke kwanu? Good day for running,” he says looking at the sky.
I mumble and nod.
He looks like Usain Bolt and starts like him. I think this showmanship unnecessary but keep my thoughts to myself.
After about 700 metres, Emeka picks up speed. “Come on!”
I match his pace.
“I know someone.”
“Someone who can help with your problem.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“No need for all this oyibo, na me Mekus, your man.”
“There’s this guy in Oworo. He has a powder—”
“Emeka, what in god’s name are you talking about?”
“To increase the Y chromosome na.”
When I was younger, my mother told me to be careful when I got angry because my yellow skin became red around my ears. “Remaining small and they will catch fire,” she would warn.
The fire spreads from my ears to my chest, and then down to my legs. I pick up speed.
“Man, slow down! Na so?”
The fire burning my legs gets hotter, but Emeka sails past me like a gazelle while his laughter stays behind to mock me. I feel more heat on my feet. Grunting, I overtake Emeka and try to maintain my pace. We pass the three-kilometre mark.
Emeka draws level. “I’m only trying to help because I care.”
He gives me a slap on the back that makes me lose balance. I steady myself and look ahead. Emeka resembles Leonardo Dicaprio in Catch Me if You Can.
“Sh*t!” I spit and the wind blows my saliva back on my face. The fire in my chest is hotter than the one in my legs. My mouth feels dry. I tuck in my head and draw from my reserves. Emeka’s yellow singlet is the prize.
Each time I near my goal, Emeka antelopes away.
“Oga small small o!”
I ignore the meiguard carrying jerry cans in his wheelbarrow. My honour is at stake. My legs begin to give first. I stretch my hand to catch Emeka. I touch something soft.
“L . . . Lola?”
“Sssh . . .”
“Ssssh . . .”
“I was only trying to help. There is no shame in this matter.” Emeka’s voice seems distant.
“He has always been stubborn,” Lola says shaking her head.
I struggle to sit up.
She laughs and places her hand on my head, “Lie down.”
She motions to someone. The meiguard looks down at me and smiles. Kola nut has stained his teeth like blood. I remember Dracula. He lifts his gourd. Someone tugs at the waistband of my tracksuit bottoms.
“Where am I?” my voice is weak.
“Oworo,” Lola whispers, “Stop fighting, let him apply the powder.”
“No o o o!”
“Wake up, wake up! Lower your voice. You’ll wake the children. You’re dreaming.”
The glow from Lola’s bedside lamp shows how rumpled our sheets are. I wipe my clammy forehead as I make out our beige curtains and mahogany chest of drawers in the corner. My heart pounds as I reach down to feel it. Her hand is there. I slap it away.
I sense her confusion as she reaches again and says, “What?”
“Traitor,” I mutter, grab my phone, and jump out of bed.
I check on the girls. The even rhythm of their breathing greets my ears. I go to my study and search for the reunion email. I type a few words and hit reply. I lean back on my chair; lift up my waistband, peek, and then pack. I close my eyes and vow never to attend a reunion until I die.
©Timi Yeseibo 2014
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