33 A mark of Friendship
Sitting on the leather couch watching the new episode of Who wants to be a Millionaire. Funny, just as life, you have limited number of strikes. Then there’s this going a step back or collecting the cash at hand; difficult choice to make I tell you. What if your answer was wrong, the five hundred thousand Naira you were meant to walk home with vanishes into thin air….no joke you actually see it going up like a ring of smoke amongst the audience.
Nwankwor is my only friend who does not believe in this show “Oma, these shows are scripted,” he said to me sipping his beer. “They know the questions to expect”. I almost believed him, he always made perfect sense. Nwankwor with his good looks, his perfectly set shiny white teeth set millions of souls on fire; all he need do was smile. The only thing contradicting the awesome statement his personality made for him was his name nwankwor which sternly he has refused to change. For this reason alone Oyinda left him, “who still answers nwankwor with the r” she tweeted after their bad breakup . “But she was just so perfect” he said, i rolled my eyes, men and their silly definition of perfection.
Nwankwor or Nk I would always call him to his annoyance “it’s to girly” he would shout chasing me round the whole compound wasn’t just the next kid around the block. He was family. Wasn’t until I grew up-grew up that I began to notice he actually had a different “mummy” and “daddy”. He was that close to the Odinkeonye’s. What would you call one who eats and sleeps with your family? Mother had a plate for him. He was never asked “iga eri?” if he was interested in the food rather the question was “ozugo?” whether the food in the plate was enough or should more be added or reduced.
We went to the same parish, the same school (all the kids around went to the same school). It was sort of a small community; we all found a way of doing things together. I Don’t really know about the grown-ups but we the kids where automatically friends. Mrs Nwaka was the Sunday school teacher. You don’t have a reason to miss Sunday school –what could possibly be your reason? What kind of aruoku fever are you having?
We (Nwankwor and I) had since concluded that Sunday sun was special, not just because of the intensity but the accuracy of its hotness on the victim. With our white paint plastic buckets we would under the same hot sun immediately after mass zoom off to the tap three compounds away to get some water. The sun hot or not. It was a ritual.
Things change when you grow up. I knew this because our Sunday afternoon routine had nothing to do with buckets anymore. “Just look at this beauty, I couldn’t resist Oma.” He told me showing me pictures of his new apartment. I don’t judge him one bit, although the price was ridiculous I’ll have to admit the condo looked amazing.
My friend taught me what true friendship was, he defined it. It was contradicting that Nwankwor with his good looks had a large heart, men like him were regarded as playboys. He was the last of his specie. Any man as selfless as he, was a keeper- Oyinda couldn’t see that. My friend was kind and gentle. He didn’t deserve to be treated that way. “How on earth do you treat a snack bar like a pack of aspirin?” I asked myself wiping the makeup off my face after work. It had been a long day. Nwankwor had called me earlier crying like a baby. I could barely make sense off all he was saying; I only got the “she left me” part. I did what friends did- I listened.
I heard a knock the next morning. Standing on my door was Nwankwor. I have never seen him looking so distraught, so unkempt. “I know I look horrible and I honestly don’t care!!!!” he screamed when I said something about his beards which he hadn’t shaved. I had to do something to snap him out of his mood. “I just want to have some drinks while I think about my miserable life and broken heart” he said. “There is nothing miserable about your life and there’s no way I am going to let you take a snag off any bottle on an empty stomach” I said to him in a stern voice. That was the only way to talk to him if I really wanted him to listen.
I made him pancakes; Nwankwor loved my pancakes especially with blackcurrant syrup. He claimed that was his only bad habit. I served him with his “33” Export Lager Beer, his favourite beer brand- it was well filtered and smooth.
We were in my apartment, at the kitchen table. Scraps of pancakes on his plate “I never knew I was this hungry” he said gently sipping his “33” Export Lager Beer, “I was soooo good to her” he said shaking his head. I sat there looking, with my hand on my jaw listening to his ceaseless whining.
Right there, I knew I was tired. I was tired of people taking his love for granted. I was tired of him getting hurt. I was tired of him meeting the wrong ones. Mostly I was tired of waiting for life to happen to me. So I did what was considered a taboo to the code of friendship. I kissed Nwankwor full on his lips.
Nwankwor stood, went to the fridge took out the remaining can of “33” Export lager Beer. He opened the door and left. I was shocked; I have always played it safe, not letting my emotions show, “what the hell got into me?.” Deep inside i knew that it wasn’t our friendship leaving. He took its mark with him- he left with “33” Export Larger beer.
NWANKWO(R)- By Elsie Okoli