Tuesday, April 12, 2016
First Impressions 2 - Short Fiction by Tola Odejayi
Over the next few months, Taribo and Julie continued to see each other. They had both agreed that it would be a good idea for them to start off as friends, and to see how things developed. And the more Taribo saw of Julie, the more he liked her. He sometimes met her at the hospitals that she visited in the line of her work, and he saw how the staff and patients responded with affection to her genuine interest in them. He noted how cheerful and optimistic she was, even on days when things hadn’t gone her way.
But most of all, he appreciated, he enjoyed – no, he luxuriated in the care and attention that she showered him with when they were together. It was like he was the most special and powerful man in the world, able to jump seven mountains in one bound. She flavoured his life so it tasted so much better; she added an eighth colour to his rainbow – in short, he found himself longing to be with her when she wasn’t around. And yet…
“…I mean, Dele, I just don’t know what to do, man.”
“Oh Lord my God, oh God my Lord,” sighed Dele, looking at his friend and shaking his head. “When I asked you to fill me in with the latest gist on the matter, I did not bargain for this. Honestly, from all you’ve told me up till now – from how you sound when you talk about this girl, it’s clear to me that you really love her, but you are allowing the weight issue to get in the way.”
“No, I’m not!” Taribo replied vehemently. “It’s a big thing for me… I have to feel a physical attraction to someone I love, and I cannot feel that if the person is too big.”
Dele arched an eyebrow. “And you are telling me that you feel absolutely nothing in this respect when you are with Julie? Honestly?”
“It’s not as intense as it should be. It would be much different if she was slimmer.”
Exasperation took over. “Eh, then do what I had suggested a while back! Tell her to lose weight – then you’ll have the woman of your dreams.”
“No-o, I don’t want to force her to do something that she doesn’t want to do.”
“You don’t know this for sure. At least, let her know how you feel. Or I don’t know, maybe you’re afraid that if you tell her, she’ll take offence and take off?” Seeing his friend remain mute, Dele continued. “Man, you have to be the honest person I know you to be. Even if she takes off, won’t it be better for her to be free to find a man who likes her, big size and all, rather than keeping her to yourself because you can’t decide whether you love her inner qualities more than you dislike her size?”
Taribo sighed once more and held his head in his hands, then he looked up. “You’re right – I won’t keep her dangling any longer. Damn, I hate it when you present the facts in a way that I can’t ignore.”
Dele stood up and patted him on the shoulder. “That’s what friends are for, man.”
He had called her the day before, saying that he had some thing that he would like to talk about with her. She had sounded strangely quiet; did she already know what he was going to say? They had agreed to meet at Tastes Right; for him, it was only right that it should end where it began.
He sat in the restaurant, looking towards the doors for her entry. It felt like deja vu, but this time he knew that things would be different. You don’t have to do this, a part of him said. Was it the same part that had hoped that she would be someone different when she had made her entrance way back then? Who knew? Time certainly changes our perspectives, he thought.
Five minutes later, she came through the doors, and his heart stopped for a moment at the sight of her. Was he really going to… but he looked at her again, and saw that she was somewhat subdued.
“Julie… is everything OK?”
Julie plastered a smile on. “I’m fine. It’s just… well, some news came in a few hours before your call, and I was going to tell you then. But I thought, well, we’re meeting here today, so I might as well tell you now.”
She sat down, and they ordered drinks. Then she turned to face him. “I’m going away.”
Taribo’s heart stopped in shock. Going away? No. This could not be happening.
“W-why? What happened?” he stammered.
Julie laughed, in spite of herself. “No, it’s actually good news – the organisation is opening an office up in the North, and they’ve decided that I’m the best person to head it up. So it’s kind of a promotion…” and here the smile faded. “But I realise that it means being away from you. Taribo, I may have said it in many little ways, but I will say it now – no man has made me feel the way you have since I was born. You’re generous, appreciative, caring; you make me want to live, not just survive. But most of all, you make me feel wonderful about myself.
“You see, a few years before I met you, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I gave and gave to this man, and he took everything I gave and flung it back in my face. He made me feel useless, fit for garbage. Eventually, he left me for another woman, but even though my family and friends told me I was well rid of him, I suffered badly from the break up. I was depressed for a long while; my self-confidence was smashed to pieces. In fact, that’s when I put on all this weight.
“Eventually, I recovered enough to venture back into the world again, but the experience is not something that I talk much about, because it still hurts sometimes to think about it. It left me very cautious about entering relationships, and even when Ayo pressed me to go out with you on a date, I really grilled her and made her swear on her great-grandmother’s grave that you weren’t just a player. I’m glad she was persistent, because these last two months have been the best of my life. They’ve reminded me what it’s like to be special just because I’m me,” she finished.
While Julie had been speaking, the gears in Taribo’s head had been spinning like crazy. He hadn’t really thought about what would happen once he suggested that they should just “be friends” as he had planned. Perhaps they would just see each other around town occasionally. But now, he was realising that never hearing her, seeing her again would turn his life into a bleak landscape. And in that moment, his vision cleared, and he knew exactly what he needed to do.
“Who said it just has to be just two months?” he said. “I’m sure there are phone networks where you’re going… and there are roads too… and maybe even internet service.”
Julie’s eyes lit up. “You mean…”
Taribo smiled. “Yes, I wouldn’t want to go too long without hearing the voice or seeing the sight of the woman that I’ve fallen in love with.”
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