She knew he was the one at her door by his whistling, it was almost romantic how he would wait until he finished the first verse of Strong Thing before he knocked and it was silly that she waited until he knocked before she opened the door. He would stand there, big eyes, shiny head from his ever zealous barber and a soft smile that always made her walk into his arms for a hug, right there on the corridor.
He was quiet, he would flop on the floor beside her mattress and ask how she was. She would recite the minutest details of her day because he liked to hear everything, and it wasn’t idle chatter to him, he remembered everything. She would rub his head as she spoke, and he chuckled intermittently.
“He never speaks, how you dey cope?” her friends said when she gushed about him as they were coming back from church.
“He doesn’t talk much no be say he no dey talk na”
“Quiet men can kill!” Jennifer piped in while all of them rolled their eyes. She’d dated a gentle and reserved guy in History who was gunned down near Osasogie gate, he’d been an enforcer for the Vikings, the most ruthless one in the history of the cult but he walked as if the air terrified him.
“Eddie isn’t a cultist or anything like that biko.” She snapped.
“They no write am for face,” Jennifer added, because she always wanted to have the last word.
“Your boyfriend don become HIV like this so,”
“Bia, Emily Millionaire. He’s not my boyfriend o, you want make his babes dem pour acid on my face”
“Emily you don make our lover girl vex. But wait babe, if he no be your bobo, why he go dey come your room almost every day? Then una go still waka go night class together.”
“His name is even strong thing on her phone o!” Freda chirped
“It’s because he sings it to me all the time….” She pressed her left hand to her mouth, too late to contain the words that would start a new round of teasing.
“You’re his strong thing, you make him hard… Sorry…. Strong!” Emily had run out of beating range before shouting the words.
“This kind love o, I never see im type o,” Vivian sang in her froggy voice and they all burst into laughter.
“May God forgive all of you!” she snapped and began to walk faster while they laughed a little more.
He told her he loved her, many times. She never replied. Then he would tell her he wanted her to be his girlfriend, she would squeeze his palm twice and sigh softly. She couldn’t tell him why she couldn’t commit to him, she murmured about her boyfriend while he looked at her, his eyes on her face felt like whips laced in pepper. Even though they spent more time in her room, he rarely went beyond chaste kisses in her room. In the beginning, she had thought it was endearing and a little cute.
The first time she visited his room, she slept over. He was overjoyed by her visit, speaking more than she had even thought him capable, cooking her favourite food and introducing her to all his neighbours while smiling as if he would die if he stopped. He left her in the room to watch a Chelsea match and she’d slept before he came back. When she woke up at midnight, she found him at propped behind his reading table, his eyes fixed on her.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“You were sleeping so deeply; I didn’t have the heart to wake you up.”
“All you needed to wake me up were your hands, wetin concern your heart for the matter? Besides it’s not as if you’re James Ingram”
He laughed as he walked to the bed and patted her shoulder. He began to tell her about his last visit to his home town while she tried very hard to swallow her shock. When did Eddie start talking like this? She wondered. It wasn’t quite clear how they began kissing, fierce and long kisses that seemed as if each was dragging the other’s soul. She wrapped her arms around his waist and let her fingers slide softly on his lower back and let her left hand glide up his spinal column. He shuddered.
The flimsy material of his boxers enhanced rather than concealed his erection and she was intrigued by the slight curvature of his penis, she had never seen a curved erect before.
“Why is it curved like this?” She whispered
“I don’t know; it has always been like this.”
He moved his lips and tongue to her neck, flicking his tongue on with slow strokes that sent a buzz through her blood. His fingers moved up her T-shirt, found her nipples and a part of her brain walked out of the room.
When he was still astride her waist nearly thirty minutes after he’d first worn a condom, long after she’d lost interest in whatever he was still doing with the appendage that was still fixed inside her. He’d changed the condom three times, apologetic each time about his endurance and stamina. Ten or so minutes later, she took the decision to save her vagina from destruction on behalf of her future husband who was definitely not going to be Eddie.
He understood when she shrugged him off, he apologized several times and she felt sad for him when he told her it was always like that for him. But she wasn’t sad enough to submit herself for another terror session in a long while.
He continued to be devoted to her, her friends didn’t stop teasing her about him while she continued to whisper “my boyfriend” as an excuse when he raised the issue of a relationship between them.
“I can’t wait forever, we both know you love me more than your boyfriend and there’s nobody in your life whom you are as comfortable with as me. Why can’t you allow us make this official?” he snapped in frustration after asking her for the two thousandth time to be his girlfriend.
“It’s your penis that is my problem, it’s not an object of pleasure for me but an instrument of torture.”
He pulled her to his body, her head nestled on his chest and he planted her arms across his back. They stood there for several minutes, even their heartbeats and breathing didn’t clear the web of silence.
“Madam do you think this ankara goes well with my colour?”
The young woman who had just spoken to her was holding up an ankara with green shells on a magenta background, the pattern would go with any complexion, she assured the anxious customer as the last bars of Banky W’s Strong Thing faded on the radio. Her phone rang and the display read “Strong Thing”
“Nkem how are you? I was just thinking about you when you called.” She said as she walked into her office.
“Story, you’re looking for how to swell my head again. The last time you did this, I took you to Zanzibar without even thinking twice. The jazz wey you use hold me strong sha, greet your baba for me, he sabi work.” He laughed into her ears.
“No jare, they were playing Strong Thing on the radio and I remember how you used to whistle it to me back in the day, when you still loved me. Now that I have given you four children and my breasts have fallen to my knees, I am no longer doing you strong thing again.”
“Are you pouting? Well you’re still my baby girl so you can pout as you like. Anyway where would you like us to travel to for the weekend? Ditch your children with their grandmother and let’s have a little us time.” He said quickly.
“When they come first again, they’ll become your children abi? Anyway, let’s go to Enugu.”
“Where you can do me strong things all weekend”
“Shut up!” she snapped and ended the call.
She was smiling.