You pointed at the students outside the library and complained their chatter rose and filled the apartment like steam. I said the apartment had charm but did not say what we knew; you would not be around to hear the noise during the day. I swept my arm at the blue wall-to-wall carpet that flowed like an endless sea and goaded you to take in the view of the lake.
“It’s doable,” I whispered.
“But you don’t have a job . . .”
Those six words imprisoned my mouth.
Therefore, we rented the other apartment. The front door opened into the living area, which opened into the kitchen, which opened into the sleeping area. The bathroom was an afterthought of clever masonry, tacked to the right wall of the sleeping area and cordoned off with a curtain that reminded you of Joseph’s coat of many colours.
We squashed our belongings into the interstices the landlord called rooms, but we could not squeeze our personalities past each other. When I turned, I bumped into you. When you turned, you bumped into me. And so a hurricane brewed.
The problem with your invitation to that argument was not our disparate points of view, but my overwhelming desire to win at something, anything, and the knowledge that I could. You bade me sit, so that neither of us had comparative height advantage.
We had agreed that we would always start with bad news and end on a high note by delivering good news last. But you reversed the order. I hardly heard your praise because it was as short as a one-minute foreplay. Your accusations were long and resembled the leading questions attorneys ask in American soaps, stunning the defendant and then finishing with, no further questions, Your Honour.
I adjusted my frame on the narrow bed, one of two pushed together. Small spaces should have sparked chemistry not tension between us. Was it too late? I rehearsed my new strategy: be quiet, don’t try to win, acquiesce, and retreat. No matter what happens, do not win this argument.
“On the charge of not rinsing my teacup and plate after coffee and donut, I plead guilty Your Honour.” I smiled, “I am very sorry.”
I saw the dilemma in your eyes. You had not expected to win in this manner, closing arguments defused. So, I pled with you, “Let it go.”
Instead, you looked at the window, which we opened with fear because the broken glass mocked the sellotape that held it in place. You stood and stabbed me in the thighs and buttocks but excess flesh dulled your blade. Then you selected a garasuki knife, those six words, which imprisoned my mouth, and plunged it into my heart, twisting for good measure.
I reacted from the gut. My words were like arrows with poisoned tips. They were so many your shield gradually slipped. Then weak and bleeding, we both staggered to the ground.
“Words matter. You should know,” you coughed and spat.
I knew. My six hundred unpublished pages lay on the table.
“Bloody hell! No one should attend an argument after only three hours of sleep, two coffees, and paracetamol,” I gasped.
You laughed and I laughed.
But that summer, for the first time, you only paid your share of the rent. Then you moved to the first-floor apartment opposite the library. The one you said we could not afford.
©Timi Yeseibo 2015
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