We talked solemnly into the night not bothering about what our master who sat on a nail high up on the painted wall watching us closely would do to us as we defied him for the first time in five months. The shortest of his three hands never rested all day, even into the night, it keeps moving round making noises that could be heard only when everything else is silent.
The outside was dark as a thief’s pocket and it was raining cats and dogs thus an excuse in this part of the world for darkness, no electricity supply. The room was lit by a rechargeable lamp with our figures defined against its rays of light.
For the first time in our lives, we told each other our experiences, fears and hope without caution; fervour was all over the place like cockroaches making merry at night In a filthy toilet. We talked as friends would do, exchanging repartee to fill the chasm that kept us from each other for a long time. A new bridge was under construction and its engineers were our tongues and our memories were the building materials on site on this wet evening.
The patter of the rain and low rumblings of distant thunder added rhythm to our flow. And occasionally, the lightning which quivered made us stopped a bit with heavy sighs of fear, not for ourselves but for others whose voices roamed the streets. This new wave of impressments was pleasurable, strange and seemed like a long shot in the dark. Maybe or maybe not, the coming days knew better.
Nights became something we both looked forward to; to tell ourselves about things that we had kept from each other. The construction continued despite the precarious tendency of sheer collapse in the days to come when we relinquish our posts as friends. The expected collapse came just two days later, which of course made us resume our old posts more quickly than I’d ever imagine. The same thing had happened again and the smug glint in his eyes when the incident happened wasn’t foreign to me. However, this recognition nonetheless made me shudder as I knew the retribution that it would bring with it- something that I wanted to bury in the sands forever.
Our new conversations were characterized by tepid and one-word responses to questions that their answers required more words. The two weeks old bridge was being washed away by my lack of penitence and I stood, watching what we had built being dragged away into an ocean of dark despair. The gay atmosphere of cordiality was replaced by an air of betrayal, some of which I inspired and nearly choked my hope of reconstruction to death. He was a prude and never minded your state before plastering you with his rebuke whenever you erred. Sometimes, I wonder how he does this, considering the fact that both of us just had a good time. I hope I’m able to figure it out one day and free myself of the shock that accompanies it.
The days that followed became uneventful like the days before our new friendship. We did things on our own and even ate our meals in silence and at nights, the sounds of the clock stressed my thoughts till I fell asleep in the arms of loneliness. And in one of the uneventful weeks, dinner got burnt and It was the second of the week. Although he never evinced his disappointment, one could tell he was not pleased with it. I didn’t apologize that night too and I knew that kind of action- being unapologetic – made him angry but he never said anything about it.
Something else happened during those days: He seemed to have changed all of a sudden. His voice was less peremptory unlike usual, even his stern demeanor seemed to have worn off; maybe he was making it easier for me to mend the bridge, but my default response was diffidence; he was still a prig for all I care.
Why couldn’t he apologize to me too for being too harsh on previous days?
At this point in time, we both wanted the same thing – something none of us was willing to give. We valued our ego more than our bond.
Gradually, my stubbornness was beginning to wane and I would later apologize I told myself, even though every of my being rejected the weakly idea. But I had to face it by locking myself in a cell of self-abasement hoping that I would be forgiven and all hatchets buried at bay even if I do not say a word- of sorry for all of my wrongs. But no, nothing happened at all.
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” I said as he came back from work on a Monday evening”
I felt uneasy as I let those words out of my mouth, but I had no choice as I was eager to restore the ambiance of excitement which was the condition of our former rapport. I had finally let go of my ego and it worked like magic. It doused the air of betrayal that had hung over the room for a while now. I was at peace with myself more than I was with him. He let go of his too and the days as well as the nights that followed regained their normal pattern.
On one of our eventful nights, supper got burnt again- something that had cost us our friendship some months ago. I was bad at monitoring the food although I put the blame on my phone as it always kept me busy. I knew he would too, he claimed that it was the cause of all my mistakes.
“I hope it doesn’t get you burnt too, Oluwadamilola,” He said as I served the roasted meal.
I smiled and replied that I was sorry and it would never happened again. I was addicted to my phone already as it was my ever-present companion with whom I picked no fights. We sat outside on a shaky wooden bench where to cool off after we salvaged what was left of the roast. The heat in the room was unbearable in this part of the country.
Sitting outside at nights was becoming a tradition especially when there was no supply of electricity. Lagos was a hot place due to some factors: a large population, concentration of industries which emitted large amounts of heat as well as cars that flooded the highways and tons of electricity generating sets that served as alternative to the unreliable supply. We continued our chat in the room after some minutes because of the menacing mosquitos who kissed our feet until they pained.
I weighed my options – the options of whether to apologize whenever I erred or to even forgive others when I was offended and I found out that harboring grudges against someone or being stubborn to seek forgiveness only robbed me of my peace and the one I shared with others. I guess that not all of us are like this or even experience that kind of feeling. I thought about that as l lay to sleep that night until sleep weighed my eyelids.
Forgiving and apologizing is hard, because of our hurts and ego, but it is not worth a pound of our priceless peace- the one we have with ourselves and others.
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