Time stood still, or so it seemed. It was barely ten minutes since Dele called and there I was, quite restless and generally in a murderously crappy mood. Besides the sweltering heat that did nothing to ease this mood, Dele’s phone call kept me quite on edge. My boyfriend wasn’t someone of many words but his terse remarks over the phone were certainly unnerving. I became more anxious with each passing minute as I lay in bed waiting for his next call. The wait was torturous for each minute dragged by insufferably.
When my phone rang in what felt like an eternity later, I was sure it was Dele but I was disappointed. It was Ifeoma. Dele’s call, although short, and my eager anticipation for his next call had quite pushed all thoughts of her right out of my mind. I had called her earlier and promised to call back when Dele’s call came in. That was more than thirty minutes ago.
“Oh Ifeoma!” I forced as much enthusiasm as I could into my voice but it sounded weak even to my ears.
If my friend noticed the disappointment, she chose to ignore it. “Babe, you got me really worried there. Wassup? You said you would call back but you didn’t.”
“I’m alright jare. Don’t mind me,” I said, trying hard to sound calm, the exact opposite of what I felt.
“Hmm, babe, were you crying? Was it Dele or is it Dele?” I could almost hear her tighten her lips. She did that when she was angry.
“Well…. Yea, I guess.”
“You guess or you know? Babe, are you still guessing?”
Wait for it, I said to myself. This was the part where she would say I warned you
but she didn’t, instead she asked, “So you don’t want to talk about it?”
“Ok, if you insist,” a moment’s pause, then she asked, “Or do you want me to come over?”
“No, really, don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
I heard her sigh. “I think you shouldn’t lose sleep over that boy.” That said, she wanted to know if my brothers and parents were fine before she hung up.
Ifeoma’s advice went unheeded, for I did lose sleep over Dele. It was in fact what I had done all week – lose sleep! He had not replied any of the mails I sent him, neither had he made any attempt to call. It wasn’t unlike him not to call. In fact, he hardly ever called while I did most of the calling, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he hadn’t called in a week. Yet, I was worried. Maybe he didn’t always call but he never went so long without at least sending a text message to say hi or that he missed me. Besides, he had recently been acting up. The last time I called him and said “I miss you”, his reply was a rude chuckle and an immediate hang up. I was stunned. When he called some days later, I thought it was to apologize but all he did was ask for a colleague’s number. I felt so horrible that I promised myself not to call him again for as long as he didn’t and for the first time in our relationship – if I could call it that – I stuck to my promise. After six excruciating days of absolute silence from Dele, however, I caved and called.
I had woken up with a frightful headache. Since it was a Saturday, I decided to stay in bed and hoped a little rest would take care of it. But I was in for a surprise. It only got worse as I couldn’t keep thoughts and anxiety about Dele off my mind. My mother came in to check on me at a quarter past nine when I refused to leave my room.
“Tola, are you okay?” she asked, concern written all over her face.
I assured her that I was but she wouldn’t leave until I promised to come down stairs, to “have breakfast at least.” She had hardly shut the door behind her when I reached for my phone. I was almost losing my mind with worry about Dele and had gone past caring about breaking my resolve – not until after the first two rings when he didn’t pick. I regretted calling for a split second before I completely lost it. I didn’t count but I was sure that by the time my mother returned an hour later, I had called Dele not less than twenty times.
I was still calling when she walked in dressed for an occasion. She was going to Toke’s wedding. (Toke was a distant cousin, whose connection to us I didn’t quite understand) Hadn’t I promised to go with her? Why was I still in my Pjs? I looked like I had just been hit by a truck! Was I sure I was okay? I grunted my replies and let her rant about how lazy I was this particular morning. I wasn’t listening. My mind was on Dele. I kept looking at my phone to see if he would call back or send a text. Finally, my mother left, not before she had ordered me out of bed and made me promise to keep an eye on my brothers downstairs.
I returned to the bed as soon as her back was turned and resumed dialling. Nothing had changed. The phone rang but he didn’t pick. Tears, hot, angry tears stung my eyes and slowly slid down my cheeks. I wiped them away with the back of my palms, but they wouldn’t stop until they formed a neat poodle on the tip of my pyjamas shirt. My first thought was to speak with someone about my emotions or there was no telling what I would do next. Ifeoma quickly came to mind. Although she had voiced her not too pleasant thoughts about him on a number of occasions, she was the only friend I could speak with about Dele comfortably. She knew him as much as I did or even more. The three of us, Ifeoma, Dele and I, had worked together with an IT firm in Lagos before Dele was transferred to the firm’s new office in Ibadan.
“What’s wrong?” Ifeoma asked as soon as she heard my voice.
“It’s…..it…is…..Dele….” I stuttered. My voice was emotion laden and I was still crying. It was not so much pain as it was anger.
“What about him?” my friend’s usual cheerful voice was laced with worry.
“I…..can I call you back?” I recognized the tone of call waiting on my phone so I hung up quickly and picked Dele’s call. “Dele, where have you been? I was worried…..”
“Been busy,” came Dele’s curt reply. Oh, how I had missed his deep, baritone voice. “I’ll call you back shortly…..in the middle of something.”
“Oh!” my heart sank but I was glad to hear his voice. “When?”
“In thirty minutes, I promise,” and that was it. The phone went dead.
It was definitely not the kind of conversation I had envisaged having with Dele after a week of silence from him but rather than dwell too much on this, I made excuses for him. He was busy! That totally explained his nonchalant behaviour towards me, I told myself. I waited for his call and watched my phone like an eagle. Thirty minutes never felt like such an eternity.