A Love of Convenience! 5: Moonlighting Strangers

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By the time we return to Manhattan after our stay in Long Beach, I have resigned myself to fate that Dili will never love me and I accept the fact that the woman he does love is his Onyeka. What did I expect anyway? For him to just take one look at me and forget the woman he has pledged forever to, back in Nigeria? Besides, before I ran into him, he was truly the very last thing on my mind. I decide to return my focus to whatever it had been prior to that April morning; work, my writing, fashion, and looking for love online…in that order.

Immediately we are back home, we proceed to fill the required paperwork, consisting of the standard Form I-130, and also the Form I-485 to adjust his status. We have agreed with Michelle, our Immigration Lawyer, that there is no need to send any joint financial or property ownership information considering our story is that we were lovers back in Nigeria and he only just moved to the States, and as such wouldn’t be expected to have that kind of financial or property ownership footprint. So we only include our marriage certificate, pictures and my own financial information as supporting documents.

And so begins the waiting period.

As the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, Dili and I find ourselves more comfortable in each other’s company. Having talked myself out of my crush on him, I am able to be myself around him and no longer parade around the apartment with a full face of make-up, from sun up to sun down. Instead, I am now comfortable enough to ditch my weaves and return to my comfortable daytime wigs, which sees me sporting my natural corn-rows when I’m in the apartment. And the more comfortable I get, the more I enjoy his company.

Despite his limited options for employment, I am able to pull a few favours with some friends to get him a short-term IT support contract with a small financial services company downtown. Due to his immigration status, he is only able to work for them remotely, which is just as well as it gives him the time he needs to study for his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam, which he has recently registered for.

Both of us soon fall into a comfortable routine, one we are both happy and content with. He has a comfortable roof over his head, a decently paying job, the time and opportunity to work towards a certification that will help advance his career, and, most of all, the dream of getting his Green Card soon. I, on the other hand, now have company at home…someone to gist with about old times, gossip with about happenings at work, and just be silly with.

I am no longer bothered when I overhear him talking to Onyeka at odd hours. I have accepted her as a part of his life and have even spoken with her on a few occasions. I’d been quite surprised the first time we spoke, as I had expected her to be one of these arrogant but yet empty-headed Lagos girls. But she’d turned out quite the opposite.

“Ah, Sis! Kedụ ka ọ dị? Nne, daalụ!! Thank you so much for what you are doing for us! Chukwu gozie gị! God bless you!” had been her emphatic words.

We’d proceeded to speak for about a minute more, with her speaking in Igbo half the time. Nope, she certainly wasn’t what I’d expected from Dili’s beautiful fiancée.

“She’s awesome, right?” he beamed, as soon as I got off the phone.

“Mmmhmmm.” I said, forcing a smile. “Did she grow up in the East?” I couldn’t help but ask.

Dili laughed. “She actually did. She only came to Lagos for her Youth Service.”

“And how old did you tell her I am? The way she was greeting me, one would think I was her mother’s age mate!”

“She’s just very respectful. You’ll like her when you meet her.”

Ah yes. When I meet her. I have come to realize that Dili’s Green Card will signal his ability to bring his fiancée over, so my meeting her in the near future is almost a certainty.

But rather than be depressed about that, I choose to continue to enjoy his company and soon start seeing him like the sibling he also sees me as.

One Saturday afternoon, as we are sitting at a nearby Pattiserie having breakfast, I see him admire a beautiful, tall, light-skinned African American woman and I chuckle. “Okwudili!!! Don’t let your eyes pop out of your skull oh!”

He chuckles back. “Just admiring God’s creation, that’s all.”

After a few moments, I ask him what I have always been curious about. “Have you cheated on Onyeka? Since you’ve been here?”

He shakes his head. “Never. Not even once. Yes, I’ve admired beautiful women but that’s where it always ends.”

“Not even once?” I exclaim. “So that means you haven’t had sex in almost two years? Mehn, your agro no go be here oh!

Dili smiles. “You’re silly, Ezi.” then with a shrug, adds. “Yes, it hasn’t been easy. But I’ve made up my mind never to be that guy.”

By ‘that guy’, we both know he is referencing his father. After the mess the old man left his family in, especially by procreating all over the place, I suppose it’s no surprise Dili wants very little to do with that kind of life.

“Onyeka is a very lucky girl. I hope she knows that.”

“The truth is, I’m the lucky one!” he says, a dreamy smile on his face. “She can have any guy she wants, but she has chosen to wait for me. If anyone of us should count themselves lucky, it’s me.”

I nod as I take another sip of my cappuccino, angry that I feel a sudden stab of envy. My consolation is that I too once had this kind of love. With Seth, I once had a man who was incredibly faithful and devoted to me. And hopefully, one day I will again.

“So!” Dili says, a wide smile on his face as he scans the room. “Let me guess who your type would be! That one?”

He points at an olive skinned guy reading a newspaper as he sips his coffee, and I shake my head. “Nah. Too pretty for me. I’ve never liked guys who are too obviously handsome.”

Dili raises his brows in piqued interest, before turning to scan the room again. “That guy?” he asks, pointing at a guy who looks like he just awoke from the 90’s Grunge era, with his dirty blonde hair, faded tee-shirt and painfully distressed jeans.

I frown at Dili. “Preferably one who’s had a bath in the last month!”

Before Dili can say another word, I smile as a familiar song starts playing on the sound system, You Get What You Give by New Radicals. “I love this song!!!”

Dili shakes his head. “You and your white music!”

But I ignore him, choosing to instead sing along to a song that has a very special place in my heart. “…But when the night is falling. You cannot find the light. You feel your dreams are dying. Hold tight…You’ve got the music in you. Don’t let go. You’ve got the music in you. One dance left. This world is gonna pull through. Don’t give up. You’ve got a reason to live. Can’t forget. We only get what we give!”

Dili watches me in amazement as I sing along, and then nods in the direction of the Grunge guy. “Your boyfriend is also jamming the song.”

I look across to see the guy, and a few other people in the café, also singing along happily. By the time it gets to the ending bridge, we are all singing along like in a flash mob.

Health insurance rip off lying                                                                                                FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they’re multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson
You’re all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We’ll kick your ass in!

 

We break into mild applause when the song is over, before we each return to what we were doing beforehand.

“Must have been a popular song!” Dilly remarks sarcastically.

“It takes me all the way back to 1999! My flat mate and I loved the song so much, we used to play it pretty much every single day! Such a feel-good song!” I say, nostalgically. “I was in Wharton then, doing my MBA.”

Dili nods in understanding. “I actually know what you mean. Some songs just teleport one all the way back.”

“Exactly. For me, songs are even stronger than photographs when I want to remember a certain period of my life!” I exclaim, getting excited the way I do when I talk about music.

“So if I name a year, you can tell me the song that best captures that year for you?” Dili asks, leaning closer in interest.

“Try me.” I say, leaning in as well.

“1985!” he challenges.

“That’s easy! The Moonlighting Theme Song!” I answer proudly. “That was the year I fell head over heels in love with Bruce Willis, aka David Addison.”

“Interesting. 1988?” he asks.

I laugh. “You and I know what song that would be! Can’t you remember the songs our dads were always jamming to that year?”

Silent Morning!” we exclaim in unison, before laughing hysterically.

“Oh my goodness, I can actually vividly see the old folks dancing to this song! What we were then? 11?”

I nod, happy to see he has gotten into the vibe of things. And we proceed to play the game for the next hour.

“1992?” I throw at him.

Rumpshaker!” he answers. “You?”

“Boyz II Men’s End of the Road.” I answer, but omit to tell him this is my song because it was what I used to cry myself to sleep every time I encountered he and Ebere in their stage of poppy love.

“1995? First year of University.” he throws at me.

Don’t Speak by No Doubt.” I answer. It had not only been the anthem almost everywhere on my campus that year, it had also been Eze’s favourite song.

We continue that way, working our way through the years.

“2001?” Dili asks me.

A wide grin breaks on my face. “That’s easy! Outkast’s So Fresh, So Clean! That’s the year I moved to Manhattan and experienced something of a rebirth.”

“You mean your deliverance from white music?” Dili chuckles. “Funnily enough, it was one of my favourites that year as well.”

And we find ourselves encountering several signature songs as we work through the years.

Lean Back!” we both answer for 2004, and “Gold Digger!” for 2005, and we proceed to laugh over Dili’s story of the ‘gold digger’ he dated that year, a girl who erroneously thought he was wealthy, having inherited his late father’s riches, but who disappeared the moment she found out it he hadn’t.

But after 2006, Dili draws a blank.

“Music was the last thing on my mind when I was in the height of dealing with my father’s mess. That was the peak of when we were trying to negotiate with the banks, so I didn’t have time for music at all.” Dili answers, bringing some somberness to our conversation.

I nod, sad that he’d had to grow up so fast. But I decide to continue with the game, hoping it will cheer him up. “For me, 2008 was all about D-Banj’s The Entertainer album! That was the best of the year for me!”

Dili laughs in surprise. “So you also listen to Naija music?”

“Are you kidding? I’m probably more up to date with Naija jams than you are!” I beam, not adding that I have two of my friends from UPenn, Adaeze and Joko, to thank for this.

“It wasn’t until I met Onyeka that joy, real joy, returned into my life.” he says. “Bruno Mars’ Nothin’ on You is our song. It’s the song I sang for her when we first got serious, when I realised I was in love with her. And every time I hear it, I think of her.”

Again, that stab of jealousy. “Yeah, it’s a lovely song! Really nice.”

We finish our meal, and start strolling home. With summer having given way to fall, it is getting noticeably colder. Without warning, Dili grabs my phone from my hand and opens my Tinder app.

Eeeehn! So you’re on Tinder, Ezioma!” he laughs. “I caught a glimpse of the app when we were at the café. I would never have pegged you for online dating!”

I shrug casually. “Not all of us are lucky to find love walking on the streets. These days, you’re more likely to find it online.”

“But why Tinder though? Why not any of the others like eHarmony and Match? Those seem like they’d have more serious guys. Isn’t Tinder all about the booty call?”

“I tried those other ones before and only got hit up by creepy guys!” I answer. “Mia was the one who suggested Tinder.”

“And how has that been so far?”

I shrug again, reluctant to admit how much of a disappointment it has been so far.

“Ah, no wonder you don’t seem enthusiastic. Your profile is very dull, Ezi. For God’s sake, why did you use this picture?”

I grab the phone from him. “What’s wrong with my picture?” I ask, closely examining the image of myself sitting on a park bench, a broad smile on my face.

“You look too serious. You should change it to something more flirty…more fun!” he suggests. “Trust me, you’ll get more hits that way.”

“I’ve deliberately not been active since we got ‘married’. We don’t want the authorities seeing me actively dating online, do we?!” I mutter, shoving my phone in my pocket.

“Ah, true!” Dili answers, before looking at me wide-eyed. “I have the perfect guy for you, Ezi! Why didn’t I think of this before?”

I look at him quizzically. What perfect guy?

“My friend from Uni, Madufuro. He is a Medical Doctor and he lives in New Jersey. He’s perfect for you!” Dili exclaims, his excitement bubbling over. “You two will be perfect for each other! As soon as we get home, I’m going to call him.”

I have mixed emotions about this, and we walk to the apartment in silence. While I might have resigned myself to us never being together, the thought of him match making me with another guy is not a pleasant one either.

Once in the apartment, Dili calls his Madufuro friend and makes small talk with the guy, as I busy myself with other things.

“He’s not in town at the moment.” Dili says regretfully, once he is off the phone. “He’s away in Europe for some training program and will be back in about a month or two.” He smiles eagerly. “But he seemed very interested when I hinted him about you, and he’s asked me to send him your phone number. Will that be okay?”

Realising I have nothing to lose, I shrug in agreement. Meeting this Madufuro of a person shouldn’t hurt. It’s not as if I have anyone better as an option right now.

Later that night, sitting before my laptop, I stare out the window into the Manhattan night. I listen to the typical sounds of the night; the intermittent blast of a siren, the laughter from 20-somethings about to go nightclub hopping, and just the general sound of Manhattan night life. But my mind is on none of these. Instead, I find myself gravitating to the Moonlighting Theme Song. I play the song on my phone, and the lyrics could not be more apt than they are today…

Moonlighting Theme (Al Jarreau) – September 13, 2014

Some walk by night
Some fly by day
Nothing could change you
Set and sure of the way
Charming and bright
Laughing and gay

I’m just a stranger
Love the Blues and the Braves
There is the sun and moon
Facing their old, sweet tune
Watch them when dawn is due
Sharing one space

Some walk by night
Some fly by day
Something is sweeter
When you meet ‘long the way
There is the sun and moon
Facing their old, sweet tune
Watch them when dawn is due
Sharing one space

So come walk the night
Come fly by day
Something is sweeter
Cause we met ‘long the way

We’ll walk by night
We’ll fly by day
Moonlighting strangers
Who just met on the way
Who just met on the way

You can be best friends of with someone…a friend, a lover, or even a spouse. You can share your lives, but if your hearts are not aligned….if your hearts don’t walk together…you are nothing but Moonlighting Strangers…walking by night, flying by day…who just met on the way.

 

“I’m off, Ezi!” Dili says, walking into the living room, on his way out for drinks with some of his friends. “Are you sure you don’t want to come? I’ve met your friends, so don’t you think you should meet mine?”

“I’m so tired.” I answer regretfully. “Maybe next time?”

“I’ll hold you to that.” he answers, before smiling coyly. “Madufuro sent me a reminder text asking for your number, so I’ve given it to him. I’m sure he’ll call you any minute.”

“I can’t wait!” I say with feigned excitement, through grit teeth.

As he disappears behind the shut door, I shut my eyes. Yep, we’re moonlighting strangers alright!

Catch up on Ezioma’s story here:

  1. A Love of Convenience! 1: Handbags & Gladrags
  2. A Love of Convenience! 2: There she goes
  3. A Love of Convenience! 3: The day will surely come
  4. A Love of Convenience! 4: Russian Farmer’s Song

 

 

 

 

 

 

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