YOU JUMP, I JUMP
Igwe stopped at the bridge to gaze into the river below. He let himself be pulled by it before he snatched his eyes away. Tears blurred his vision as he turned his phone round and round in his hand, his face barely breaking into a sad smile that failed to reach his eyes. One last poem, he thought and remembered…
In his head the voices never left, the images became clearer. He saw her the first time she visited. She walking down the road past the junction leading to his house.
“pssssst!” he called. But she kept walking, thinking it was one of the unruly Aba boys whose dicks thought for them.
“Nne,” he called and grabbed her.
The light of realisation in her eyes drove out the shadows her irritation had cast. Her stiffened body relaxed when she saw him. A crushing embrace followed, her slender hands around his neck and his around her tiny waist. He gave her a peck on her forehead.
“You’ve gone past my house. Going somewhere else?” he mumbled.
“I kept trying your number, silly,” she complained.
“Sorry, the stupid battery just ran flat. That’s why I came out here.”
“Easy o!” a conductor yelled from a bus loading.
They discovered they were still entangled and ignored him.
“Igwe, you’re taller,” she observed, looking up into his eyes.
“Bia wait, you and I, who’s taller?”
“You of course.”
“Say it with respect.”
“You’re taller than I am, ma.”
“Say it with reverence.”
“Alright, you’re taller.”
“That’s not reverence.” She hit his head.
“You know if you succeed in killing me, I’ll write first of a guy who worshipped a goddess that wanted too much respect, so she killed him and later got none.” His arm was still round her as he guided her towards his house.
“If you dare die before me I’ll kill you again and just find another guy.”
“You can’t. You love me too much.”
They walked slowly towards his house like a curious looking organism with four legs.
“I’ll write of the virus queen who broke down walls and conquered cities,” he was saying, drawing her closer. His breath was scented with mint.
“Who’s this virus queen?”
“Oh you know her.”
“She’s fair, dances like mad, a bit tall, eyes like abyss, mouth like whirlpool, demands too much respect.”
“ouch!” he cried as her hand once again connected with his head.
“What’s in respecting me?”
“Oh I do.” Igwe said, his face turning serious.
The seriousness didn’t last. They came to an open gutter they had to pass through and Nneoma looked at him to see the mischievous glint in his eyes.
“Should I carry you across?” he asked, barely containing his mirth.
“If you try it ehn. Look at this boy o. Like I’m not old enough to jump across the gutter.” Another smack on his head. And another.
At the house, he was surprised to his elder brother, Tochi, who should have been at the office.
“What are you doing here?” he asked as he shut the door after Nneoma.
“Good afternoon,” Nneoma greeted.
“Wow, you brought a flower!” Tochi exclaimed and left what he was doing to look Nneoma over. “He always exaggerates, but he used litotes on you. Almost as if he’s afraid someone will snatch you from him,” He told her in a conspirational tone.
She blushed deeply. “Thank you.”
“Can I get you something to drink?” Tochi asked, taking her hand and leading her to the living room.
“She’s my visitor, oga, not yours,” Igwe mumbled as he followed them in.
“Well, she’s beautiful,” Tochi stated.
“She gets to be my visitor too.”
“You are dreaming.”
“Dreams come true.”
“You’re having a nightmare then.”
“Even those come true.”
“If you’re having a nightmare, then she’s not in it.”
“But I’m not sleeping. See? My eyes are wide open.”
“You could as well be.”
“Can you two stop?” Nneoma interjected trying to control her laughter. “You guys are like Tom and Jerry.”
They both stopped and stared at her.
“Who’s Tom?” Tochi asked.
“Yes, who’s Tom? Who’s Jerry?” Igwe querried.
“Well,” Nneoma said, drawing out the word, “I don’t really know.”
“Ooooh,” the two brothers exclaimed in disappointment.
“Hey, found what I was looking for just as you two walked in,” Tochi informed him. “I better get back to office.”
“Yes, you do that,” Igwe advised happily.
“Eeen. Don’t worry, I’ll just stay back next time. I ga-ahu ya, you will see. Nne bye.”
“Bye,” Igwe sang and pushed him from the room.
“Take care,” Nneoma chipped in as Tochi winked at him.
“Finally, we are alone,” Igwe announced.
“What are you thinking?” Nneoma asked.
“Me? Nothing.” The forced innocence on his face was comical.
“Really?” Nneoma’s eyes disarmed him. Pulled off the innocence like lovers peeling off each other ‘ clothes.
“I’m thinking of the labyrinth of your eyes, how easy it is to get lost there.”
“Your nose, it stands on your elfin face like an imperial, exquisite piece of art.”
Nneoma smiled. Igwe had a way with words and he knew it. What Igwe wouldn’t tell her was that he looked up words that he could use to describe her; she was part of his study, a course on her own.
“And?” Nneoma asked, giggling.
“Your mouth. It makes me drool, those lips.”
“Your slender neck, baby. Makes me wanna glide down it.”
“Your shoulders, a million kisses won’t do right by them.”
“You’ve not said what I want you to say.”
“Yes you sly…”
“I’m wondering how you’ll look, naked.”
She gasped, then she faced him squarely.
“You have spoiled.” She tried to look serious.
“You and I, who is more spoiled?”
“Laaaaaa,” She sang in a bid to drown out his voice. He couldn’t hold it anymore. He moved in and cut her shut with a kiss. She jerked in surprise, then she responded with a deep pull. They were interlocked in a wet exchange of passion, Nneoma’s hands running through his hair, grabbing, pulling. It seemed as if their souls were on their lips and they could see into each other. They let their hearts take over as their hands moved frenziedly yet purposefully over each other. When he slipped into her, the warmth was welcoming and tugged at him. It was not his first time, but it was different. Her moans rang true and urged him on while her trembling hands dug her fingers into his back.
She was a tigress, he still remembered.
He sighed when he realized that his eyes were scanning for her in the crowd of people hurrying home, watching the river, gossiping, laughing, doing any other thing but seeing him and feeling what he felt. How one single phone call can ruin everything. His mind, like it had been doing recently, pulled him back into the whirlpool of recent memories.
The number was strange. But the voice, the voice.
There was silence.
Nneoma, are you okay? What happened to your phone?
I threw it away.
What? I don’t understand.
I don’t need it anymore. I wanted to tell you…
Tell me what?
Nneoma? Are you there? Hello…hello.
Where are you?
I’m far away, Igwe, I’m far away.
Far away? What is it? Talk to me.
The silence came back on the line. Frustrated, Igwe took the phone from his ears to look it;. On the screen, the timer was still counting, the call had not disconnected. Worry was making a complex web in his stomach and a more frightening one in his head. He began to see connections leading to the worst possible scenario.
He thought of who else to call, but his head came up blank. It was clear something was not right.
Igwe, I’m sorry.
Sorry? Nne, talk to me, please.
Forgive me, I really want you to.
From the other end, Igwe heard the sound of cars moving along the road; he heard something else: running water. He wanted to think but his head was filled up with dread.
Nneoma; her name came out weakly from his lips. His mind had it all figured out now. She had talked about it sometimes and laughed it off whenever he goes and tried to understand. He had felt there was a wall, but he couldn’t even feel it. How does one set about breaking down a wall he cannot see?
I hope we see again. If there is again.
He heard the whizzing of air against the phone, then he heard a splash, the sound of water. The call disconnected. He was in school, in Nsukka, far away from Aba. So he quickly called Tochi. He thought he knew the place where Nneoma had been. The call connected after many rings, all the while Nneoma was dying.
The sound of the running river brought him back to the present; it reminded him of what it had taken from him, that she was gone and life didn’t care. He stared at it grimly, his mind made up. He quickly typed it, scraps of a poem that had been replaying in his head.
Love for a lifetime
Not for a dime
You jump, I jump,
We’ll all jump.
Trash, he thought and sent it to Tochi.
“Tochukwu, forgive me,” he said out loud, taking a deep breath.
Clouds gathered in his eyes and it began to rain. There had better be an ‘again’, he thought, his eyes freeing the stream of tears from their prison. He took a step towards the bridge’s edge.
About the Author
Ogechukwu Kanma Samuel is a writer, who’s interested in just about any
literary genre he can lay his hands on. He does not think much of past
achievements, and as a consequence, has forgotten most of the recognition
he’s ever gotten. In the past, he lived in the future. Now, he’s still
there, roaming the unknown streets in lost confoundedness. He has a model
of himself somewhere in his head, a collection of books and experiences.
Daily, he tries to keep up, yet he knows it is only a matter of time
before the past catches up with him and wraps him up in folds of memory; he
hopes the folds would be beautiful ones.