As yet another cycle comes to an unsuccessful close and yet another one starts, Dili and I find ourselves getting more and more comfortable with our arrangement. There is less awkwardness with each visit to my bedroom, and by our 5th cycle of trying, we are comfortable enough with each other to lie in bed afterwards to chat. Even though we have managed to avoid the kissing level of intimacy, there is a whole lot more touching and caressing than there was at the very beginning of our journey. I attribute it to the fact that we are both so comfortable with each other that the fact we’re also having sex is now inconsequential. On the one hand, that could be true as the strain has totally disappeared from our relationship, and our friendship is even stronger than ever. Gone is the self- consciousness and tension that characterised those earlier days. Now, we have returned to life as it used to be, and I’m glad about that. On the other hand though, I can’t deny the fact that my physical attraction to him is increasing by the day. But I’m sure it’s something I can continue to contain.
Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
I convince myself that I am not bothered anytime I hear Dili and Onyeka on the phone…which is pretty much everyday. Especially on nights when he and I have been together, I try to make myself ignore the pangs in my heart when I hear them talking on the phone when he is back in his room. But the truth is it still hurts. It really does.
Luckily, despite his unwavering commitment to his fiancée, he is still willing to go along with our agreement month after month. We have reached the conclusion that, as I am older, conception could take a little longer. And as we still have a few more months until he gets his permanent Green Card, we have enough time to keep on trying.
In early October, Mia invites us for dinner to celebrate her new husband’s birthday. I am pleased when Dili agrees to accompany me, and as we make our way uptown, I can’t help but think wistfully about what a lovely couple we make. In his Brooks Brothers blazer worn over a crisp white Ralph Lauren shirt and dark blue jeans, he looks like he just stepped out of a GQ magazine, a far cry from how he was when I met him almost 18 months ago. In a nude coloured bodycon dress that clings to all my curves like a second skin, I know I also look great. And when we get to the upscale restaurant of Le Bernadin, which is in such high demand that is usually booked months in advance even though a 4-course meal like what we are having could set one back as much as $150 a person, the rest of our friends compliment us on what a beautiful couple we make.
If only they knew!
We proceed to enjoy our very expensive dinner. One of the things that drew Mia and I together was our love for the finer things of life, which in my case has always been primarily fashion. We would notice each other’s shoes and vintage clothing in the elevator at work, and soon realised we were kindred spirits. However, expensive shoes and clothing are where my own extravagance end. Having grown up in Hoboken, New Jersey, and raised by immigrant, working-class parents from Venezuela, the minute she started making good money at Goldman, Mia acquired the lifestyle to go with it. While the rest of us were still renting small squats in Harlem and Brooklyn, Mia had long moved to Manhattan, renting an uber chic apartment. Ironically, her husband, Todd, is the exact opposite and is a down-to-earth Graphic Designer originally from Oklahoma, who is happy to live in comic character t-shirts and faded jeans all day everyday, and whose annual salary might be less than what Mia makes in a month. But as different as they are, their love has waxed stronger and stronger for almost a decade.
“I can’t get over how adorable you look together!” Mia gushes, when we are in the Ladies Room, touching up our makeup before we head out dancing.
I smile politely. “Thanks. And I see you got Todd all nice and cleaned up today.”
She rolls her eyes. “I spent almost a half hour trying to convince him that a Batman polo shirt would not be the best choice for tonight…not even if it does have a collar!”
We giggle like school girls, even though the truth is that no matter how dishevelled Todd looks, he is still better looking than a lot of men out there.
“You look amazing, Ezi!” Mia says, looking at my mirror reflection as I put finishing touches to my makeup. “And that dress is smoking hot. No wonder Dili has been looking at you all evening like a piece of raw meat!”
I look at her, shocked. Looking at me? “You think so?” I ask, trying not to sound too surprised because, to her, he is my husband after all.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed how his eyes have been on your body all night!” Mia teases, shoving my shoulder playfully with hers. “It’s obvious he can’t wait to get you right back to the bedroom!”
I manage a strained laugh and as we walk back to meet our men, I watch Dili’s face closely…and I see that Mia is correct. Dili’s eyes are fixated on my curves as I approach the table. Whilst a part of me attributes it to the fact he has never seen me in a dress this revealing, a bigger part of me is enjoying every minute of this newfound attention.
The four of us head out to a Latina nightclub a few blocks away. Whilst not as well known as others, it has remained a favourite for Mia and I for years, not only because of its mostly South American music, but amazing tacos and cocktails. We settle in and are soon nursing some of the best Mojitos in the whole of Manhattan when one of my favourite songs, Mas Que Nada starts playing. Emboldened by the alcohol, I grab Dili by the hands and lead him to the dance floor. We maintain eye contact as we dance to the sultry, high-tempo Brazilian song, and the lethal combination of a little bit of alcohol and a hell of a lot of confidence from the dress I am in, gives me the bravado to gyrate all over him. But rather than step away, his hands remain on my hips as I twirl them sultrily, grazing his own only slightly…but enough to feel his desire.
We remain in the nightclub for about an hour afterwards, after which we take a taxi back home. The minute we are back in the apartment, Dili pulls me to himself, raw sexual desire in his eyes.
“I’m not yet in my fertile window.” I manage to say.
“Who cares.” is his response, as we both fall into my bedroom.
That night, our sex is wild and passionate. That night, our sex is unguarded and unrestrained. That night, we officially cross a line. That night marks the last time we can use procreation as an excuse to make love.
We do not leave my bedroom all that weekend, as we simply cannot get enough of each other. But as many times as we make love that weekend, he still refrains from kissing me. And when he dashes out of the room to answer a call from Onyeka, I am reminded that I should not lose my head over this. I am reminded that as wild and passionate as it may be, what we have is simply just sex. Onyeka clearly has his heart.
But the sex is so good, I decide nothing else matters.
When I am back at work on Monday, it is all I can think of…and apparently all he can as well, as a quick phone leads us to meet up in the apartment for a lunchtime quickie. And when we are back home that evening, we quickly pick up from where we left off. And so it continues for the rest of the week, and even the ones after…us having fiery, intense, steamy sex.
Which is why when the phone call from Madufuro comes in early November, I am completely thrown.
“Hi Ezioma. It’s been a long time.” he says, when I answer his phone call that Friday evening. “I’m back in town and here I am calling, just like we agreed.”
It takes everything in me not to hiss. “It’s been a year since we spoke. If I remember correctly, you were supposed to have called in March. This is November.” I retort instead.
“Didn’t Dili tell you? I lost my father in March. I had to go to Nigeria to bury him.” is his own perplexed answer. “I thought Dili would have told you. We spoke a few times around that time.”
“No, he didn’t.” I say, feeling ashamed of myself. “I’m so sorry for your loss. You’ve been in Nigeria since that time?”
“While we were still trying to sort out his will and estate, my mother decided she’d rather follow him to the land of the dead than stay with us. She died in June, a day before I was scheduled to return to the States.”
I gasp, my hands flying to my mouth. “That is awful! I am so sorry, Madu!”
“Yeah, it was very tough, especially for my younger siblings. I had to stay back a few more months, just to be sure they’d be okay.” he answers. “I just got back to Jersey last night.”
I am so relieved that there is a good reason for his prolonged silence, and not that he’d ghosted me like I’d feared. We spend a few minutes on small talk, with him telling me about his stay in Nigeria, before he finally asks if we can meet over the weekend.
“Sure.” I answer happily. “My weekend is free. Maybe we can do drinks tomorrow?”
“That sounds perfect.” he says in response, a smile in his voice. “I’ll pick you up for 6pm. Text me your address.”
I am smiling from ear to ear after I get off the call. Maybe I am destined to have a man that belongs to me after all. Maybe I am meant to get married and have a proper family of my own. Maybe it has been a blessing from God for me not to have conceived all this while.
When Dili returns from gym, I am eager to fill him in. “Guess who just called me! Madufuro!” I exclaim. “Why didn’t you tell me his parents died?”
Dili’s brows are crossed in what appears to be irritation. “I didn’t think you two were serious at all. In fact, I even felt I’d wasted my time and energy hooking you up.”
“Anyway, it’s all fixed now!” I squeal. “He’s back now, and we’re having drinks tomorrow.”
Dili’s brows remain furrowed. “You’re having drinks with Madufuro? Why?”
“What kind of question is ‘why’?!” I retort. “Na only you wan marry? Let me explore this to see if anything will come out of it.”
Dili shrugs nonchalantly. “Cool. I’m sure you’ll have fun.”
I am puzzled by his behaviour but choose not to remark on it, even though it surprises me, especially as he is the one who even introduced me to the Madufuro in the first place. Does he expect me to be a wall flower forever? Surely, after he leaves my apartment next year, I am expected to have a life!
For the first time in weeks, Dili doesn’t come to my room that night. As I lay stewing in my bed, I am torn between sexual frustration and anger…especially as I am unable to decipher why he is acting the way he is. I know it cannot be him being possessive. Surely it cannot be. Not after how crystal clear he has demonstrated that Onyeka is his beginning and end.
With the dawn of Saturday comes even more tension. We hardly speak to each other the whole day, but I choose to ignore him. Instead, once it is 4pm, I set about readying myself for my date with Madufuro. By the time the buzzer goes off at 5.50pm, I am more than ready to finally meet the mysterious doctor.
I decide not to buzz him in and instead grab my purse before heading out of the apartment. Dili is watching TV and pretends not to notice me leave. But I truly can’t be bothered with him. I am too excited about what lies ahead.
Getting to the lobby, I smile at the sight of the pleasant faced guy standing there. From his crisp Oxford shirt and immaculately ironed trousers, I can see that, even though he might not be too stylish, he takes excellent care of himself, as evidenced from his impeccable head to toe grooming. I notice the stark whiteness of his teeth, his neatly cut finger nails, and closely cropped hair. Though not drop dead gorgeous, he is a good looking man.
“Wow, Ezioma!” he exclaims, hugging me like a long lost pal. “You look so much better in person.”
“You don’t look bad yourself, Doctor!” I say in my most flirtatious voice.
From the corner of my eye, I notice the doorman, Tomas, give us a quizzical look. He is probably wondering why I am brazenly flirting with another man when my ‘husband’ is upstairs in our apartment. But I could care less. All that is on my mind is finding a way to move forward, getting a safety net for life after Dili…which could very well be sooner rather than later.
As we head to the bar of Madufuro’s choice, it feels good for a man to take the lead for a change. Even though he lives in Jersey, he knows Manhattan very well, and I relish being the one getting the treat, and not giving it.
As we chat about our lives, neither of us notice the hours go by. The more we talk, the more we realise we have so much in common. His late father had been a civil servant just like mine, and both our mothers had been the dominant parent. We laugh over our ‘new-in-America’ stories, with me regaling him all about my life in Philly and him telling me all about the very many difficult experiences he had in DC when he was attending Howard University.
“So…how come you’re still single?” I finally ask the major question.
“I was all about trying to accomplish everything I could in my career.” he answers truthfully. “I honestly didn’t have time for anything that didn’t have to do with getting my speciality…lest of all dating. Women were very honestly the last thing on my mind. But when I was ready, it became close to impossible to find the right person. I was either meeting clueless American girls…or Nigerian girls who were more interested in my bank account than me as a person.” he cocks his head to the side to look at me. “And how come a beautiful woman like you is still single?”
I ponder over telling him about my long engagement to Seth, but think against it. “Same.” I shrug casually. “I was doing the career thing.”
Even though that is less than the truth, the answer seems to satisfy him and we move on to talking about other things. By the time we are ready to leave, it is almost midnight. We ride back to my apartment in a cab, and he is chivalrous enough to walk me to the door.
“I had a wonderful time, Ezioma.” he says. “I know this might sound too eager, but I’d really love to spend time with you tomorrow. Is your Sunday free?”
I smile in response. “It is. Maybe you could have me over for lunch or something.”
“You’d come to Jersey?!” he exclaims happily. “That would be fantastic. I could come get you.”
“No need for that. I’ll get a rental car.” I answer, hugging him goodbye. “Thanks for a wonderful evening. I had a great time!”
I have a huge smile on my face as I let myself into the apartment, and I am startled to see Dili still in the living room, watching nothing in particular on TV.
“That was a long one.” he remarks. “It’s well past midnight.”
“And we could have stayed there for much longer if the bar didn’t have to close!” I say, smiling. “We talked for hours! He’s such an amazing guy!”
“Are you seeing him again?” he asks.
“As a matter of fact, I am. Tomorrow. He’s having me over for lunch.” I answer smugly.
Dili’s face clouds over. “You’re going there? To his house?”
I shrug in response. “Yeah. He came over to Manhattan this time, it’s only fair I return the favour for the next date.”
“By going to his house, you know you’re indirectly agreeing to sleep with him, right?”
I shrug again. “Not necessarily, but if it happens, what’s the big deal? I like him, and I’m hoping this is the beginning of something.”
And then for the very first time, I see Dili lose his cool. “What’s the big deal? You mean you’re actually considering sleeping with him? Even when…me and you…”
“When me and you, what, Dili?” I retort back. “Because you’re sleeping with me, you think I should close my eyes to other options?”
“I thought we were exclusive, Ezioma!” he shouts back. “God knows I’m not dating or sleeping with anyone else!”
“What about Onyeka?” I throw at him. “She doesn’t count, abi?”
His nostrils flare. “Onyeka isn’t here. It’s not the same thing.”
“Oh, it’s okay for you to be whispering sweet nothings to your babe every night, but not okay for me to try to find a stable relationship of my own?!” I explode. “What is this? You don’t want me, but you don’t want others to want me?”
“What I’m saying is how can you possibly want to sleep with two men at the same time?!” he shouts back. “Is that the kind of woman you are?”
I flinch at the impact of his words. “Is that the kind of woman I am? I don’t blame you, Okwudili. I’ll tell you the kind of woman I am. A very foolish one, it appears.”
And with that, I storm off to my bedroom. I am so livid I can hardly breathe. The nerve of Dili to judge me! I am mad at him for insulting me, but even madder at myself for getting in this messy situation to begin with.
The next day, I leave the house as early as 10am, so I can rent a car and probably run a few errands before heading off to Madufuro’s house in Chatham, New Jersey. Thankfully, I do not see Dili before I leave the house, which is just as well. I don’t leave Manhattan until 1pm, but still make it to Madufuro’s place before 2pm. Driving down his long driveway and up to the imposing mansion, I find myself wondering why a bachelor would need to live in such opulence. Well, I guess to each his own.
I park my car, and the door is opened even before I get a chance to knock. A beaming Madufuro embraces me happily.
“Welcome to my home, gorgeous!” he exclaims. “I’m so glad you made it.”
I walk into the house and it simply takes my breath away. I might as well be standing in the home of the one the Love & Hip Hop stars. With its glistening chandeliers, domed ceiling, French doors, arched hallways, and glossy white and gold furnishing, the house is simply magnificent!
“Thanks!” he smiles proudly. “It used to belong to a player with the New York Knicks. Let me show you around!”
And so begins an elaborate tour of the almost 5,000 square foot mansion, with 6 bedrooms, a home theatre, an elaborate gym, tennis court and Olympic-sized swimming pool. But the more he shows me, the more I find it all so vulgar and unnecessary.
“Why did you spend so much on property like this?” I can’t help but ask. “Or do you live here with any family? Siblings or cousins?”
He laughs and shakes his head. “No. It’s just me. I guess it’s always been a dream of mine to have a place like this. So as soon as I could afford it, I bought it.”
I manage a smile in response, and taking me by the hand he leads me to his exquisite dining room, with its wall covering, table and chairs all from Ralph Lauren Home. Rather than impress me, it just sickens me the more. I am even more irritated by the emergence of a Japanese chef, who proceeds to serve us an exotic 5-course meal. The more we talk, the more I can’t help but be amazed that a single man is happy and comfortable to live in such an elaborate house, and be waited on hand and foot by servants. In addition to the Japanese chef, I sight a few other uniformed staff walking around, and it only serves to amaze me the more.
After lunch, we go to his private living room, where I can see he has tried to set the mood with an artificial fire place and Kenny G playing on the speakers.
“I’m so glad I met you, Ezioma.” he says, sitting a little too close to me than I’m comfortable with. “You’re everything I’ve been praying to God for.”
I force a smile, my discomfort rising.
He takes my hand and raises it to his lips. “I’m not looking to play around. I want to marry you.”
“You only just met me.” I mutter.
“But it’s enough for me to know that you are the one!” he answers, leaning in to kiss my neck. “I need someone to share my life with. Come and spend forever with me, Ezi.”
I pull away from his hold, literally feeling my skin crawl. He stares at me, perplexed by my reaction, and I realise that the problem really isn’t him…it’s me. Unnecessarily elaborate house aside, he seems a nice enough guy…the only problem is I didn’t come along with my heart.
I left it back in my apartment in Manhattan.
“I have to go.” I say, rising to my feet. “Thank you for a wonderful afternoon.”
He nods in understanding and also rises to his feet. “I’m sorry if I rushed you, Ezi. I’m ready to slow things down, if you want. Maybe we could do lunch during the week or something?”
“Sure.” I say, even though I know that won’t be happening. I know there is no point wasting anymore time, when it is clear he isn’t the one.
The drive back to Manhattan seems so much longer than earlier, and I know it is because of all the things weighing heavily on my mind. I am saddened that I feel absolutely nothing for Madufuro…and also because it is clear to me that Dili has completely consumed all of me…body, mind, heart and soul. And the latter pisses me off more than the former.
Returning the car, I decide to walk the 8 blocks to my apartment, heels and all, hoping the crisp November air can clear my head and maybe even administer some sense. Because I can’t understand how, after everything, all I want is Dili.
Getting to the apartment, I find it empty. I wonder where Dili could have gone to on a Sunday evening, and I kick myself for even caring. Desperate to think of something, anything, else, I decide to take advantage of the peace and quiet and write my article early. But even when I am seated before my laptop willing myself to think of words to write about the disastrous date with Madufuro…all I can think about is Okwudili Dike.
I select John Mayer’s Edge of Desire and shut my eyes as I meditate on its lyrics.
Edge of Desire (John Mayer) – November XX, 2015
Tell me where’s that taking me?
Just a great figure eight or a tiny infinity
But a dream that keeps waking me
For all of my trying
We still end up dying
How can it be?
‘Cause I’m just about to set fire to everything I see
I want you so bad I’ll go back on the things I believe
There I just said it, I’m scared you’ll forget about me…
I stare at my keyboard, not even knowing what to type, overwhelmed by the realisation that my heart prefers the crumbs Dili offers me…to even a 10-course meal from another person.
Just then, the door opens and he lets himself into the apartment. He is surprised to see me. “I didn’t think you’d be back so soon.”
I shrug. “It’s almost 6pm. What time did you think I’d come home? You forget I have work tomorrow.”
“To be honest, I didn’t think you’d come back today.” he says. “I thought you’d spend the night there.”
I don’t dignify him with an answer and instead return to stare at my laptop, the song still playing in the background.
“It’s all that’s been on my mind since yesterday.” Dili says, still standing behind me. “I don’t think I got a wink of sleep last night. I was just so haunted by images of you and Madufuro in his bed. It’s the reason I had to take a walk now, to see if I could get it out of my head.”
I look at him. “Why are you so obsessed with this idea of me sleeping with Madufuro? What’s it to you anyway?!”
He says nothing, and I decide I’d rather be alone in my room than sit there and get more hurt by his words. As I make to walk away, he holds my hand. “I can’t stand the thought of you with another man, Ezi.”
I stare at him, shocked…unable to process his words. “But we’re just casual. You said so yourself…” I manage to say in response.
“There is nothing casual about this.” he answers. “I don’t know how or when, but this is no longer about sex, Ezi. It’s a lot more than that.”
Our eyes make contact and I find myself unable to breathe. And then in what seems to be a split second and an eternity at the same time…he lowers his head and claims my mouth in a kiss.
Our very first kiss.
Catch up on Ezioma’s story here:
- A Love of Convenience! 1: Handbags & Gladrags
- A Love of Convenience! 2: There she goes
- A Love of Convenience! 3: The day will surely come
- A Love of Convenience! 4: Russian Farmer’s Song
- A Love of Convenience! 5: Moonlighting Strangers
- A Love of Convenience! 6: Knocks me off my feet
- A Love of Convenience! 7: A simple kind of life
- A Love of Convenience! 8: I can’t help it