By Cisi Eze
I C E, Nigeria
“MAY I KISS YOU?”
She rushed those words out in one breath. She was shy. Smoking a wrap of weed had not emboldened her.
As though her shyness were contagious, you blushed and tore your gaze away. “Aww, shit,” you whispered as you ran your fingers through your hair. You chuckled and bit your lower lip – your reaction to awkward scenarios. You sighed and turned to stare at her, “Wasn’t that meant to be spontaneous? You were meant to take me unawares, I think.”
She moved closer to you, and took off your spectacles as a sly grin played on her dark lips. “I still want…” She trailed off as she dropped your glasses on a stool nearby, while holding your gaze. “I still want to kiss you,” she rasped, leaned into your face, and touched your lips with hers’.
The same nothingness you felt when she played footsie whilst sitting opposite you in the restaurant. The same nothingness you felt when she held your palm in hers when you two sat in her car at the restaurant’s car park.
YOU HAD PUT up a pencil sketch on Facebook, and many commented how much they loved your work. You hated the hype about a woman – as opposed to a man – creating sketches. Because yours’ was regarded as a man’s profession, some called you a tomboy. You wondered what exactly a man’s profession was.
“Adesua, people need pencils to make sketches, not genitals,” Luisa, your Facebook friend, typed during a chat. Though miffed at society’s stupidity, you rode on the waves of “Lady Sketch Artiste”. Were you a hypocrite?
One of the effusive comments came from Jumai. You often saw her posts on your timeline, but never commented on them despite –and because of – liking her. You did mental back flips as you read her comment, happy at being noticed, not because she loved your work. You two got chatting via Facebook Messenger after that.
She lived at Asokoro. On learning you lived at Gwagwalada, she sent strings of the jubilant dance emoji. “We’re not so far away,” she typed.
She was fun! You had many things in common. She loved Radiohead and Amy Winehouse. You rarely met people with similar taste in music.
She mentioned she had a fiancé, and, at first, you were indifferent, but as you got to know her better, this became a bother. You were falling for someone you had never met in person, who you had only interacted with you via texts and phone calls. And how you loved her voice! In a perfect world, she would have been working as a voiceover artiste, not at the bank. Whenever you were bored or moody, you replayed voice notes she sent you on Whatsapp.
Strangely, Jumai understood you better than most of your “real life” friends. It was eerie how you two connected. You thought to severe all contact the more she got under your skin, but how could you when your heart wanted her so?
What was it with the both of you? Love? Lust? You two talked risqué on phone for hours on end, saying what you wanted to do to each other. But she’s almost married, a voice in your head nagged. What did it matter when she wanted you as well?
You two did not live far away, but there was never time to hang out. ‘Something’ always came up. She was had a date with him or you were occupied with work. Two months went by without you two meeting.
Sitting across from her in the bar, you beamed and she smiled. You were to have a few drinks, talk, ignore your desires, and return to Gwagwalada that evening.
“I’ll drop you at the park,” she said as you two stood up.
Sitting in her car, you were sad about leaving. Music played on the car deck, a woman crooning: “Maybe I’m wasting my young years…”
“It’s London Grammar,” she said.
“I know.” You looked away from your intertwined fingers and stared out the window. Meeting Jumai in person made you sad knowing she was never going to leave her fiancé to be with you.
“You know what, Ade? I want to go home and change into something more comfortable. Maybe take a few drags.”
Her smile made her look younger than twenty-nine. She was pretty even with her haircut. You imagined her face if she wore her hair long.
In her flat, she lit a roll of weed sitting beside you on a couch. You two talked some more. Her request came out of nowhere. “May I kiss you?”
YOU COULD NOT accept it was an empty kiss, that there was no chemistry. You had kissed different people. It was always intense and electrifying with girls. This time, it felt as though you were kissing a guy. You broke the kiss and licked the disappointment off your lips.
How could you feel nothing? You took her face in your hands and pressed your lips to hers. Her lips were soft like the other girls you had kissed, still, no spark.
You tilted your head and held her lips between yours. She moaned into your mouth. Did it elicit feelings in her? Why did you not feel it, too? You teased her lips with your tongue and you felt her inhale sharply against your cheek, as she shuddered. Gingerly, you grazed your teeth on her lower lips before nipping at it. You caressed that part of her lip with your tongue.
Fuck, she whispered against your mouth.
Jumai straddled your thighs giving you easy access to her breasts – those two orbs you lustfully stole glances at as you sat opposite her earlier in the day.
Deftly, you undid her bra while your other hand kneaded her thighs. You held her breasts in your hands. They were dark and beautiful. You ran the pad of your thumb across her nipples; she held your gaze and smiled as you traced circles around her areola, brushing your fingers against her sex.
“Ade,” she moaned. Was she faking it? Why did you feel nothing?
Without breaking eye contact, you took her hands and pinned it behind her back, traced a line on her chin with the tip of your tongue, and kissed her.
You gave up trying to feel anything. All that mattered was that you were with her.
Jumai persuaded you to spend the night.
If sex were a painting, what transpired between you two would have been a lacklustre abstract by an inebriated amateur painter. It begged to be forgotten. The only thing you felt was pain when she tugged at your nipples. In the darkness, you rolled your eyes in exasperation.
“I want to make you moan for me,” she said. You never could bring yourself to fake a moan, which is why you skip foreplay with men.
“Kissing is not a guy thing: they should be banned from doing it. They drown you in their saliva,” you had told Luisa. She assured you it was not all men. “Maybe I keep meeting the wrong guys.”
In reply, she laughed and said, “You’re so gay, Adesua. Stop claiming bi-. In fact, most girls that claim bi- are actually very gay. You don’t connect with guys emotionally, you say the foreplay is lame, you say you only like the penetration aspect… get you a vibrator and a serious girlfriend. Just give up altogether.”
You loved making Jumai orgasm even though you never did. It was beautiful hearing her scream your name with reckless abandon, as though she did not have neighbours.
You loved Jumai. You enjoyed spending time with her. But you were not sexually attracted to her. You smiled in the darkness and remembered what Luisa told you.
“There are people we love devoid of sexual chemistry. Remember those innocent childhood friends we had? Did we think about sex with them? No, we only wanted to play with them, share stories with them, laugh with them, eat with them, console them when they cried, and all platonic things. I don’t know, I feel something about sex ruins amazing friendships. You have sex with someone, and it takes away some substance except you two already have a strong friendship. And guess what? The strong friendship I’m talking about is one that makes you act like a child around your lover – you let go around them. That friendship is innocent. It has no ulterior motives. It’s just a friendship between two people that have come together to be happy, to share love. Don’t ruin some amazing friendships with sex, Adesua. Even if it is with the opposite sex; it doesn’t have to tumble into sex. But some people would feel entitled and imagine it’s mandatory to have sex based on whatever.”
As you remembered what Luisa told you, you marvelled at the sense she made. You looked at Jumai’s sleeping, form and wondered if you would ever go back to being friends.
You never did.
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For more short stories read One The Road, The Children who Started the Fire, Nyelethi, as the moon or this one called Daughters who Became Lovers. There is also this one called A Boy Was Not My First and Chipochedu. For more on sex and finding yourself check out this piece called The Sex Problem, looking at different ways of having and understanding sex and one’self through one night stands.