SAME NUMBERS FROM BEHIND | by Bliss Akinyemi

It was  the evening of my twentieth birthday that I met Kola. I was working in a Laboratory as an office attendant and we were having registration issues with the Ministry of Health. Our office was shut down, but we still had to go to the office to assure our clients that we were still in business.
Although my colleagues tried to make the day fun filled for me, I wished I could have had the day off, to spend time with my friends. When we eventually closed from work, I tiredly dragged my feet onto the road, thinking of how miserable the birthday felt as I trekked home from the bus stop.

I was almost home when someone tapped my shoulder
“Hi” he said, panting heavily.
And all that my startled voice box could mutter was “uhm”, staring suspiciously at him.

“I’ve been trying to catch up with you since I sighted you” he said, pointing in the direction I was coming from.

“Okay, so how may I help you?” I asked, a little bit relaxed. At least he spoke good English with a polished accent.
“I’m Kola, I live on the next street and I’ll like to make your acquaintance” he said with much enthusiasm.

I hesitated for a while, trying to psychologically access him with my eyes, before calling out the digits of my phone number.

“It’s my birthday today, and I’m running late for a party that promises to be boring, but you can call me later at night” I told him before walking away.

Surely, my party was boring, my elder sister had her friends all over the house and no stranger could have guessed I was the celebrant. I was blowing the candles on my cake when my phone beeped. I blew the last candle and opened the message I had just received to find the sweetest birthday message I had ever read, from Kola.

The next day was a Friday and it wasn’t until noon that I remembered to send Kola a thank you message. He called me immediately and we spoke at length. He picked me from the office and gave me a post birthday treat.

I told him I was twenty years old, and also awaiting admission into the University, while he also revealed he was twenty-three and currently working in an hospital. He looked too young to be a medical graduate, so I assumed he was a trainee or something of such, after all I was a Jambite working in a laboratory with no medical experience.

He asked to pick me up from work always, and I gladly agreed. There was a connection between us and I needed to strengthen it.

My sister was a bully, she always had the cute boys and I never had any. So one would have expected me to flaunt my new friend in her face, but reverse was the case. I hid it from her because I knew she was going to come up with tales to scare me and I wasn’t willing to be brainwashed.

Kola and I kept hanging out week after week, having endless phone conversations every time we could not see. I trusted him so much that I would travel with him to neighboring cities for the fun of traveling and no one ever found out because I always came up with the perfect excuses for each escapade.

He was different from other guys I had known and heard about, he was not after my body and the only time he embraced me was the day I got back home to discover my mum had been rushed to a general hospital due to a sudden asthma attack. I was home alone and terrified, making me call to inform him. When he arrived, like a knight in shining armor, he whisked me into his car and drove me round town while I screamed my fears at the wind. It was not until we got back that night that he embraced me before saying good night.

Mum got better and I was soon back to myself. Sometimes I asked myself how one person could be simultaneously manly and angelic, but I never got answers. He would travel to see his family every weekend and every time he was away, I sulked badly.

Eventually, I gained admission into the University and had to go away from home. But every time my phone rang, and I was invited to hang out, I packed my bags. Off to see him. That was the beginning of passing the night at his place. We would order pizza and consume our delivery as we played X-Box games. Though he always beat me blue black, especially when we played Mortal Kombat. He’d use Scorpion, while I loved Sonya. He always won me. We always had something to laugh about, and sometimes we just had fun cooking in his little beautiful kitchen.

If anyone had told me I was not going to have series of relationships before finding my husband, I would have denied. But here he was, my one true love that cared so much about me, and it was not about going in between my legs. I always looked forward to the holidays and soon I got tired of his weekend trips.

“Let’s go see your family together this weekend” I once suggested.
“You’ll meet them in due time” was all he said.

One afternoon in class, my class representative suddenly started hallucinating and by evening he was admitted in a psychiatric hospital in town.

The following week I went to the hospital in company of a few of my course mates and as we were stepping into the reception I saw a nurse run after a man who was seemingly leaving the hospital premises.  I seemed to recognize him.

“Doctor Kola! ”  I heard her call out as they walked past us

“Kemi!” One of my friends called, snapping her fingers in my face
“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost” she said
“You should go back from here if you are not sure you want to come with us” someone else added.

I managed to get over my shock and soon our visitation ended. One of the nurses told us to be rest assured our friend would be fine. Adding that Doctor Kola, the Doctor in charge, was vast in the field with about ten years of experience. After some more time to get, we said our goodbyes and left.

I did not go back to school with my colleagues, I alighted close to a car park and headed straight to Kola’s house. I got to his place late and as he was not expecting me, he did not notice my presence when I entered. He was engrossed in the game he was playing.

“Kola” I called out and got him startled.
“When I met you two years ago you said you were twenty-three and working in an hospital, I did not disagree with you because you looked exactly twenty three” I said with fire burning in my eyes.

“But what I saw today was not a twenty-five years old boy, I saw a trained psychiatrist with years of experience, I demand an explanation” I yelled as I watched him rise up from the chair he was sitting on.

“Kemi, I have not lied to you in any way” he said
He asked me to take a seat before he continued
“Okay, Kemi, I am a psychiatrist and a psychiatrist works in a hospital” he said to me

“You told l you left secondary school at eighteen, how could you have become a psychiatrist at twenty-three?” I asked with tears in my eyes.

“I told you I was twenty-three and that is not a lie either because as at then, I had both figures in my age” he said with a sorry face.

It was then I realized how much of a fool I had been but still, I managed to ask about his weekend trips and he cut in.

“My family? What were you thinking? My family consists of my wife and two children, and I go to them every weekend”
I was dumbstruck.

No! It couldn’t be.

It certainly could not be that I had been having an affair with a married man all along.

“But why?” I managed to ask.
“You see, my wife is a tough woman, she hardly smiles or laughs, she only smiles when she sees money, she has always been like that but I married her thinking I could change her” he said with tears in his eyes.

Emotions surged through my veins but I could not find the words to express them, just clueless gestures featuring facial agony.

“I lack joy and laughter at home and every time I spend with you makes up for what I’m missing” he continued.

I could not believe what my ears were hearing so I managed to leave his house.  And up till now I have not heard from him again.

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