I removed my shoes again and kicked them aside, this time pointedly ignoring the bespectacled man staring at me from the next table. I knew I was behaving weirdly; my hands wouldn’t stay still and I kept checking my face on my phone’s screen. I would stare at myself too but does he have to be that obvious?
The coolness of the tiles against my feet helped reduce how anxious I felt. I took another sip from the glass of water I ordered to avoid looking odd and checked the time again.
Biola was supposed to meet me here and she was late like she always was. She had not changed one bit. I remembered the day she made me miss my free ride home because she lost track of time. It irked me when someone wastes my time and she knew but she would always test my patience. Maybe because I could never stay mad at her for long.
There are people you meet and immediately understand that you are meant to move on after a short while. There are some you know, right from the first moment, that you are in for the long haul. Biola was one of the latter. Her smiles, her gestures and the way she made everything seem effortless drew her to me that first day in a cab. I cannot remember what we first talked about but before we got to our destination, we were chatting like old friends.
She was a fresher in my faculty when I was in final year but it seemed like it was the other way round. She had very clear goals and her energy was enough to propel those around her, me especially, to do more. Before she came, I was socially awkward and focused only on academics but she changed all that. I met new people, learnt new skills, joined clubs and loosened up.
Biola knew me more than I knew myself. She kept me afloat when the stormy seas of life threatened to drown me, cradled me in her warmth and put smiles on my face. She wasn’t just a friend, she was family.
I recalled the time Tito, my husband, then my fiancé, said he got engaged to me because he pitied me. Despite the fact that she never approved of the relationship, there were no “I told you so’s”. She comforted me and tried different ways to make me feel better.
“He’s not worth it, my dear. Somebody that picks his nose and eat, iyanma!”, she had said even though we both knew he was a neat freak and would never do that. I had laughed while holding my sides.
Two weeks later, with strong objections from Biola, I had reconciled with Tito after series of apologies from him and his family. We got married few months after and everything changed.
First, I had to reduce my going out with Biola. It made sense since it was obvious she didn’t like him and he couldn’t stand her. I started making excuses to avoid our weekly meetups and after a while, we stopped hanging out. After several attempts to find out what went wrong with no reply from my side, five years of friendship ended.
Biola was just the first of the friends I had to cut ties with and it became easier with time. Then, I had to stop working to focus on giving birth. I wasn’t going to but when the pressure from family joined his, I gave in. It was as if I had given him ammunition because he wouldn’t stop bashing me with words about my joblessness and barrenness and recently, he hit me. That was the last straw.
I was leaving him. I had been thinking about it for a while and when I became convinced, I called Biola, surprising myself and her. I apologized for making us drift apart and when I told her all I had been going through, it was as the years of separation didn’t happen. We agreed to meet the next day and there I was.
I wondered how much she would have changed and even though I knew meeting her wouldn’t be that awkward, I was nervous.
“Hey darling”. I jerked up from my thoughts and saw her radiant face. “I did say he picks his nose” was all she said before I started laughing.