I knew Melanie would leave for the Calabar festival. It didn’t matter that John needed her around.
“I would miss mass with the Pope for the Calabar Carnival”, she retorted when John tried to make her feel guilty for planning a trip when he was still recovering from malaria.
Melanie was often irritated by John’s intensity. His being a poet who always discussed poetry didn’t help either.
“I thought you loved poetry”, he wailed, when she was finally able to tell him she was getting bored of the constant poetry talk.
“Well, I stopped liking it, like I stop liking anything when I’ve had too much of it”, she replied rolling her eyes.
I hated being around when they quarrelled. Once when I got so uncomfortable and got up to leave, Melanie insisted that I stay, reminding me that after being friends for ten years I was part of the family and that John would end up telling me anyway. So I stopped trying to leave. I stopped trying because she told me, that’s not what friends do.
The quarrel about poetry hit John hard, and if my knowledge of him is as deep as I think, that was the worst thing that Melanie had done. Not packing her bags for Calabar, but openly renouncing her love for poetry which John loved more than anything in the world.
“Do you also hate football now”, he inquired, his face creased with worry.
“Well if you start going on and on about it, I just might exchange all my Chelsea things for one season of Desperate Housewives.”
“That’s a mean thing to say Mel, these are the things that brought us together…”
“And they will tear us apart if u don’t stop obsessing about them and live the life of a real man.”
“So have you been pretending all this while?”
“Look I’m on to bigger and better things. You should too. It’s called progress!”
“Mel, you hurt me when you speak this way.”
“And you hurt me when you go on and on about your little obsessions instead of just wishing me a safe flight.”
I changed the channel to Big Brother channel. Two of the house mates were kissing. As the silence got awkward, I turned up the volume and changed to Africa Magic which we all hated. Then John said in a subdued tone: “I wish you a safe flight.”
She didn’t need his consent; her bags were already packed. As she picked up her small box, I stood up and gave her a bear hug, whispering into her ear: “You could be more tactful Mel.”
“We’ll talk when I get back. Just make sure he doesn’t burn the house before I return.”
My Blackberry beeped. I showed her Johns message:
PLS TAKE MEL TO AIRPORT. CAMRY KEY ON TABLE.
I wasn’t going to scold her on the thirty minute drive; I could have, but that’s not what a friend does.
We spoke mostly about the Calabar Carnival and how the Abuja Carnival was a shameful caricature of it. She spoke of how all the Ministers of the F.C.T. after El-rufai were spineless and without focus and how the city was suffering as a result. I agreed.
John wore a sad face, watching the sports channel when I returned. It was already twenty minutes to the UEFA Champions League finals between Chelsea and Manchester United. He had changed into his Chelsea jersey and was drinking coffee out of his Chelsea mug. I wasn’t going to say anything to make him even more uncomfortable. The big game was more important at the moment, and quite frankly, that’s not what friends do.
I took a bottle of water from the fridge. We tried to predict strategy and scores for the game. He was convinced the game would end 1-0 in favor of Chelsea while I pegged the scoreline at 2-1 also in favor of Chelsea.
The game began and John’s face brightened. Chelsea’s Drogba scored the first goal in the sixteenth minute. We screamed until we started losing our voices and hugged violently. We were shouting and shaking and hooting, until suddenly, they equalized. Then an eerie silence. A few minutes to the end of the game came the shocker. Manchester United scored the winning goal. We lost the finals! The loss, further worsened by the fact that we had lost both Carling Cup and Premier League to the same club side.
The match ended and the stadium was red with a sea of celebrating fans. We had hoped the stadium would be blue and were motionless in our seats. I couldn’t believe that the season had been a total loss for us. As I wondered how I would cope with the taunting that was sure to come at work where almost everyone was a Manchester United fan, John broke the silence.
“Could it all have been a lie?”
“Could what have been a lie?” I was confused.
“Mel! Football! Poetry! She said she loved poetry!”
Tears gathered in his eyes and I got really uncomfortable.
“Common John, she’s probably just hormonal, she doesn’t mean it.”
“Tell me Henry, tell me the truth, do you really love football and poetry, or have you also been lying to me. Have you also been playing along, making a fool of me?”
Now the tears were rolling and I could hardly sit in my chair.
“Oh John, Im still proudly Chelsea and yes poetry is still what I love reading the most.”
He started sobbing uncontrollably. I moved over and held him as he cried. Slowly he looked up into my eyes and drawled: “Oh Henry!”
As his warm tongue slowly found its way to mine, I shut my eyes, wondering if he knew that I was always attracted to him. I kissed him back. Then I thought of Mel and heard the little voice in my head say: That’s not what friends do…
You can read more of Elnathan’s work on his personal blog @ http://elnathanjohn.blogspot.com