February some say is the month of love. Work that should have been finished in January dragged into February and filled February with editing and late-night reviews. It meant that I put new projects on hold, but who was keeping tabs when love was in the air?
“How old are you?” I asked the man who seemed smitten by me.
“And you’re not married?”
He started to explain the difficulties of finding the girl of his dreams, and I realized he had read my question wrong.
“I just wanted to know if you’re married,” I said softly when he paused for air.
“Oh?” he said, and then smiled, reminding me of the way he looked a few days earlier, when he had accosted me at the supermarket with, “Let me help you, you look tired.”
I had been dragging my feet behind my shopping cart as though the sum of the hardships of living in Lagos, sat in it. He charmed me into small talk and out of my phone number.
Later when he called, his many compliments and my thanksgiving done away with, there did not seem to be anything left to say. I was surprised that a man, who had used a shopping cart effectively, could not find his voice. He must have interpreted my silence as a semi-colon because he said, “Your driver seems nice,” referring to that night when my driver retrieved my shopping cart from him and loaded its content into my car.
My driver is not nice; my driver thinks he should be my boss, but I did not tell him that. I asked him about his line of work instead of putting a full stop at the end of his sentence.
I persevered to get to know him because I am curious about people, not because my friend had said, “You never know, why not give him a chance?”
But I knew. A woman knows. I knew that I did not always want to be the one to steer conversation to a place of interest for both of us. I knew that I could not continue receiving SMS messages like this:
Gud mrn pretty. hw waz ur nyt. u r sum1 worth reely lykng. deres just sumtin abt u. hapi Sunday.
I would not, and none of my friends, would abbreviate their text messages like that. It would take too much brainpower.
“I think he lied to me,” I said to my friend, “about being thirty-six.”
I replayed several incidents for her to decide. They revolved around language, or rather the lack of it.
“Or maybe he is thirty-six, but his brain is nineteen.”
We laughed; it seemed altogether plausible.
When our laughter subsided, I accused her of being cruel. She quoted Chavez, “Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.”
I was troubled by her inference. Wasn’t the shorthand way he fashioned text messages a positive measure of his ability to adapt to a mobile culture? Weren’t his text messages a genre of contemporary poetry; language is fluid, after all? Or, was it not more likely that the eight years between us equal a generation gap because as some have said, a different language is a different vision of life?
“Let’s keep it simple,” she replied. “It is either he’s nineteen or you are a grammar snob.”
In March, all my delusions will fall off.
© Timi Yeseibo 2017
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