The Girl who ran
His back was to me, sitting there, talking to those two girls, feeling smug with himself, feeling like a G. God help me, I could kill him!
I was still thinking of walking up to him when I felt myself already walking. My heart was pounding up in my ears but it was no longer fear, it was pure hatred.
I remembered the way he made me run for my life. I remembered how he slept with me. I remembered how my head swelled up with fear and how I was sure I was going to die. I hated him. I’d never hated someone so much.
What would I do to him? What would I say?
I was trying to think but my mind was no longer mine. I was walking towards him but it wasn’t me – something else was controlling me. Oh God help me! I was going to kill a man.
I was going to pick up a bottle on his table and smash it on his head. I was going to do serious damage to him. I was going to get into trouble but I couldn’t stop myself. I kept walking towards him and towards doing something really silly, but I couldn’t stop. God help me! God, please stop me!
I don’t know how long I’d been standing beside their table like a waitress waiting to take orders. All I remember is one of the girls looking up at me with eyes that said ‘And who are you?’
She looked me up and down and said something but I didn’t hear her. My eyes were fixed on a half-empty bottle of Maltina on the table.
She spoke again, but only her lips moved, I didn’t hear anything. They were all staring at me now. Then he spoke.
“May we help you?” he said.
I took my eyes off the bottle and looked at him. There was something wrong with his voice.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
He looked different – he sounded different and he looked different.
One of the girls was less patient, “Any problem?” she asked.
I noticed she had an engagement ring on her finger. I also noticed she was the older of the two girls and they looked alike. They were sisters.
He got up and gently placed his palm on the side of my arm.
“Are you ok?” he asked. He looked and sounded genuinely concerned. Standing next to me, it looked as if he had grown taller. He sounded different, he looked different, and he didn’t recognize me.
“Emeka, I beg, leave her. Let her go,” the girl said.
Emeka? Emeka? Oh poo! Oh poo, oh poo, oh poo! poo, poo, poo!
Emeka didn’t leave me. “I think there’s something wrong with her, darling,” he said.
“What’s your name?” he asked me.
The girl was getting irritated. “Let her go jor!” She shouted at him. And to me: “We owe you?”
I felt something vibrate against my chest and I realized it was my phone. I have this habit of tucking it halfway into my left bra. Phone thieves, you see.
I fetched the phone and only saw that it was Johnny calling before I lost grip of it while trying to answer his call.
The phone fell apart on the hard concrete floor, but something else dropped with it. Broken glass and Maltina spread out before my feet.
Emeka moved to help and his darling got up, her sister as well.
Where did the bottle come from? Had I been holding it? Is that why I dropped my phone?
I stooped to gather the pieces of my phone, and of my pride. Emeka was also stooped next to me, helping me find the bits of my phone, telling me to mind the broken glass and asking me what was wrong.
Indeed, what was wrong with me? What was the hell wrong with me? What was I doing with a bottle, meant for the head of a boy who dumped me? How had I so mistakenly thought this Emeka was the boy?
What if it had been him? Is that how I would have smashed his head with a bottle of Maltina? Who does that?
What would I have even said to him? ‘Do you remember me? I’m the girl who got into your car in front of Palms and followed you to your hotel and slept with you expecting money in return’? ‘I’m the LovePeddler you picked up and didn’t pay’?
What was I thinking?
Emeka, his darling, her sister, and two waiters – one male one female, were all standing around me as I refused to finish collecting my phone and stand up. His darling had already pulled him away from helping me.
“Any problem, madam?” a man in a security guard’s uniform said. I hadn’t even noticed him before then.
I could see my phone battery in a tiny pool of Maltina but I kept pretending to look for it.
“Madam, are you a guest here?”
I wished the ground would open up and swallow me – I’ve heard people say it, but I’d never felt it, not till then.
“Madam, please come with me.”
I didn’t look up but I was sure more faces were now watching us.
Darling encouraged the security man: “Na wah for this Lagos o! She just came and grabbed my sister’s drink like this! Maybe she’s mad or something. Maybe she has smoked something. You better take her away from here before her madness starts to demonstrate.”
The security man didn’t need any urging, he was already getting impatient. He found my battery for me and helped me up – roughly.
“It’s ok,” I said, finally standing up, “I’m not a LovePeddler.”
“Anybody ask you?” Darling said.
The younger sister, who had been silent all along, suddenly lit up with recognition. She excitedly beat Emeka’s hand as she pointed at me.
“Brother Emeka, don’t you recognize her? She’s the girl that ran at your bachelor’s eve!” she said.
‘The girl that ran’ – that’s what people are calling me now. If I wanted the ground to open and swallow me before, now I just wanted to swallow myself and be done with it.
Recognition registered on Emeka’s face.
“Yeah! You’re right, it’s her! Lady, who are you?”
But Darling had already been given more ammunition:
“Wonders shall never end! So this is the girl you people said ran away like a mad person? Chineke, God! You this girl, they send you to us? Who are you? Why are you following us?”
Emeka spoke over his darling.
“Why did you run?” he asked. But Darling was not done:
“She’s a LovePeddler! You too, you heard her. Ashawo! Why are you following us? Why are you following my man? They send you to spoil my wedding? You have failed! Ashawo!”
To think I had pooed all over the floor because I thought I would be saving her from a wicked man.
I ignored her and turned to Emeka instead.
“I did not run,” I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I saw her put something in your drink when you weren’t watching,” I pointed at Darling, “that’s why I smashed the bottle on the ground.”
As I walked away I heard one of the waiters whispering to me, “God bless you, sister.”
I left in a hurry, to buy Jonny’s Shawarma and to wait for him to come and rescue me again. I decided right there and then that I was done with running – whatever that meant.