‘Have you ever fallen in love?’ Please, do not answer that. I’ll rephrase: ‘Do you believe in love?’ I’m sure you are not sure whether or not to answer honestly and truthfully. You are also not sure of my reason for asking these questions.
Love? Demilade thought to himself and chuckled. This chuckle was closely followed by a long, dry laugh, like a rainstorm following a drizzle on a cold, dreary day.
He was not what you would call the quintessential cynic, but he could not help thinking that love was basically an overrated, overpriced and over exaggerated commodity. There was no particular reason that nursed his belief, it was just that he had never had any cause to believe otherwise. Love- everyone wants it, but can never get enough of it- a labyrinth of sorts.
This was not to say that he had never felt connected to the opposite sex; he had just never had to use the words so often, and when he did, the words were lifeless on his lips- with no meaning or dedication.
This was the notion he was pushing back and forth in his mind, as he sat at the hotel bar, a cognac in his hand.
Enslaved by his random thoughts, it was no wonder he was sometimes bordering on stark madness. It was as though his mind was some sort of crowded powerhouse; an incubator for the brilliant ideas that placed him at the top of his career chain; and a forum for self-prodding and probing. Who was complaining anyway? He thought his mind to be his gift and also his curse.
He frowned deeply and reached into his pocket for a card of Panadol . The protective foil crinkled as he hurriedly took three and threw the little white pills into the back of his throat. Panadol is to headache, as cognac is to fatigue. He laughed at his own joke before deciding that it was hardly funny. His randomness had only begun to kick in, and after a few drinks he would stumble back to his hotel room down the long corridor and climb into his bed alone. This was his life: From one hotel room to the other in elegant but affordable 3 star boutique hotels; with the promise of silk sheets and long nights in beds that felt so unfamiliar yet so welcoming. In the mornings, he would unpack his travel toilet case and manage to get to his business meetings without leaving a trail of razor bumps along his strong, angular jawline . Yes, this was his life; and with no wife or string of girlfriends, he owed emotional obligations to no one.
Yimika, his last girlfriend, had thought their relationship was less than functional. She told him this on their first anniversary, in a room full of people; and the ‘clitter clatter’ of cutlery on crockery had nearly drowned her voice in a sea of people that were in that restaurant. They were at Radisson Blu that evening, and he had cancelled his flight to Abuja just to be there with her. At that point, he found himself getting drawn more and more to her clear fair skin, the way she paused to lick her lips when she spoke, and the way she demanded more until he was spent in the moments they were intimate. ‘Intimate strangers’ , ‘mediocre’ and ‘hardly functional’ . Those were the words Yimika had used to describe their year long relationship. They never seemed to agree on anything, she said. He was also never there(always working!), condescending and treated her like a child. Of course, he had had no response to her allegations. It was not a conversation they were having; it was simply a situation where one person was speaking, and the other, listening. She left after saying goodbye, and he watched the sway of her full hips as she walked across the room and out of his life. He recalled still ordering the full menu and champagne with strawberries that night. Comfort food is never overrated.
‘Would you like another , Sir?’ It was the waitress who spoke. Demilade was suddenly forced to return from his trip down memory lane., and back to his snifter of cognac which was now near empty. Her voice was pure, clear and confident. It was the same girl who served him the first drink, only he had not looked at her until now. She was no extraordinary beauty, but she was striking in such a way that one could not help but look twice at her. Her eyes were wide and alert, and her small broad nose and full lips dotted her face. She was smiling, revealing a set of white teeth.
‘Sir, can I get you another drink?’ Her voice was urgent this time.
‘Answer the girl and let her go’ his mind raced for a split second.
‘Yes. I’ll have another cognac . Straight up.’
‘Coming right up.’ She said and backed into the bar to get his drink.
Demilade’s eyes followed the girl as she made to pour his drink.
At this point, he wondered about her. She was full figured but not fat; with curvy hips but not small waisted. She was not quite tall, but she had a graceful appearance- like one who knew herself completely, and was at peace with herself. To him, it was an odd combination. It was perfection.
‘Here you are. ‘ She set his drink down on the table. He reached for his wallet and made to settle the bill. His eyes met hers, and for a minute they were locked in each other’s gaze, forgetting time and space and everything in between.
It was in that split moment that he saw pain and warmth and fatigue in those big ,wide brown eyes. Then, he saw beauty , with all the imperfections that come with it. Dark skin. Brown eyes.
‘Can I talk to you sometime?’ Shit!! That was a dumb line. He knew he shouldn’t have said that.
She paused a moment before answering. ‘I’m sorry, but it’s against hotel policy to have personal contact with hotel guests.’ She smiled , a patronizing smile so sweet and sickening that he became even more embarrassed. He hated himself for talking to her.
‘Okay. Thank you. ’ He rose to leave , but not after leaving her a more than generous tip.
‘No , Sir. Thank you.’ She declined , playing up a smile; this time a genuine, appreciative smile.
Demilade walked out of the bar and into the lobby. He felt something. His palms were unusually sweaty and his heart was racing, his mind playing up a dozen questions per second. He even felt a tad stupid for making that dumb move. Now he must seem like every other jerk who hit on lowly waitresses in hotel bars. The classic aristocratic idiot.
As he walked along the corridor, he thought about the waitress. He did not even know her name, or where she lived. He wondered about everything about her; from her favorite food to her favorite pair of underwear.
Demilade wondered if she liked hot peppers in her sauces , like he did; and if she liked to dance, and laugh and run around in the rain like all those star struck women in chick lit novels and romantic comedies that women generally like .
Maybe she was even married to some loser who hit her. He hoped not.
Maybe she was even a chronic snorer, like he was – a sleeping stereo .
As he brushed his teeth and packed for his flight back to Lagos the following day, she still filled every corner of his mind. Every thought of her was accompanied by the stark reality of the fact that he might never see her again. Maybe it was love at first sight. Of course it wasn’t. He scoffed and turned off the bedside lamp. As he settled in bed , he realized that he had grown too old for puppy love. Maybe it was the real thing after all. Demilade shrugged and went to sleep….