It was exactly 9:30 pm on Friday and we were seated at our usual corner in the small-sized bar, sipping on our glasses of red wine and catching up with the events that transpired throughout the week.
Susie and Justina, my best friends of twenty years, talked about the recent gossip at their workplaces with their faces glimmering in amusement. We had met at a painting class in elementary school and had been there together in our moments of happiness as well as that of adversity.
Susie, the tall and fair-complexioned lady who worked as a news anchor for a popular TV station, talked about receiving a surprise package from her fiancé at work. She was dressed in a tight pink dress and black stiletto heels, and her looks stole the glances of a couple of men seated beside us.
“I was having a bad day on Tuesday and I randomly sent a crying emoji to Fred. What I wasn’t expecting was a box of chocolates and a large bottle of my favourite yoghurt delivered to me twenty minutes later,” she said in between chuckles.
Fred and Susie had been together for over five years; their relationship would clock six years on the 9th of August. They had both met at a convention I attended with Susie, and, as usual, her looks had won the admiration of many attendees.
Fred had joined us at our table some minutes before leaving, locking eyes with Susie and confidently requesting her contact details. They would go on their first date a week later and swiftly start a romantic relationship. And Fred had his way of making Susie fall in love with him over again, what with the constant surprise gifts, dinner dates, and vacations.
Justina, the petite and pretty accountant with the nicest set of teeth, was the direct opposite of Susie. Justina was a go-getter who spent her twenties working towards acquiring a law degree. Shortly after graduation, she secured a role in one of the reputable law firms in Lagos, Nigeria. She rarely made it to our weekly Friday outing and when she did, she never ceased praising her husband, for being loving and understanding.
“He made me breakfast and drove me to work. He kept patting my hand and reassuring me that I would win the contract. And I did! My husband is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Justina grinned as she poured more wine into her cup.
Shortly afterwards, she whipped her head up and stole suspicious glances at me. “What have you been up to?” Justina asked and Susie nodded in agreement, both of them furrowing their brows in worry.
I cleared my throat and realised that I had been silent for the past one hour. I gulped down my glass of wine and lowered my eyes, staring at the carpeted floor. For the first time, I noticed that the red-and-green rug had a cube pattern designed around it. I also realised that it glittered and complimented the room’s interior.
“Ruth!” they chorused my name and I looked up, forcing a weak smile. “Well, uhm…nothing much,” I swallowed hard. “It’s been a pretty busy week. I was so caught up with work that I didn’t realise how much time had swooshed past me. But, well, nothing beats hanging out with my best friends!” I grinned at them but they stared back with a blank expression.
I knew what would come next; Susie would talk about the importance of dating someone and Justina would explain that I was not ‘trying hard enough.’
Susie had introduced me to a friend of Fred, months back, and I still regret ever saying yes to going on a date with him. Upon our first meeting, he politely stated that I did not meet his specifications. I couldn’t go through such embarrassment over again.
About thirty minutes later, I waved at my friends, who were walking to the nearest bus stop to wait for Fred. He usually picked up Susie after our night out and Justina would join them because they all lived on the same street.
As I flagged down the cab I had chartered, I watched Justina hold the slightly-drunk Susie to prevent her from falling.
When the driver had started the ignition and the cab was clearly out of sight, I gave a shuddering sigh and pulled the straps of my gold pointy heels. My phone chimed in my bag and I took it out to see a new message from Mom.
Adaku is getting married next month. We should all grace the wedding as a family.
PS- I’m still expecting yours. I can’t wait to rock my gold necklace!
My face scrunched up with a frown as I logged into Instagram to view Adaku’s pre-wedding pictures.
Adaku was a distant cousin who graduated from the University of Benin, last year, with a distinction in Statistics. As I stared at the beautiful pictures that filled her timeline, I wondered how I had skipped the series of posts she updated three days ago.
I typed ‘congratulations’ and continued scrolling through my Instagram feed. It was mostly filled with pictures of couples holding hands and smiling sheepishly.
The driver stopped in front of the estate gate because of the strict 8:00 pm driving rule. I paid the fare in cash and strolled lazily towards my apartment.
As I opened the door and stepped into the pitch-black room, the putrid smell of loneliness welcomed me. Turning on the lights and settling on the sofa, I released my hair from its bun and pulled my shoes away. I sighed deeply as I turned on the TV to bring life into the quiet living room.
As the sound of Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Love filled the room, I reflected on my love life; why I haven’t found the right man and why the perfect one hadn’t appeared in front of me while eating in a restaurant or boarding a bus like the movies portray.
I wondered how people find their soul mate and fall in love, or if there was a secret formula that hadn’t been revealed to me.
I walked towards the mirror and stared at my reflection; tall, dark skin with wide brown eyes and thin lips. I wondered why men didn’t look my way.
“Heartbreak is underrated, Rose. I’ve gone through heartbreaks that felt like my heart was being shredded into pieces. I can’t go through this again,” Miranda, a former classmate, had cried on my shoulder some years back.
Miranda wouldn’t believe that I wished I could also experience what it felt like, to fall deeply for someone and dread leaving such person. I wished I could go on romantic dates, dance in rain with someone, and be kissed passionately.
I yawned loudly as I reached for the remote and searched for new romantic comedies on Netflix. My night would be like other nights. I would watch a romantic comedy over a bowl of ice cream and bawl my eyes out as I watch the kissing scenes. Then, I would spend the right alone, dreaming of the day Mr. Right would appear while eating in a restaurant or boarding a bus.
The Year of Living Haruki-Murakamily by Connla Stokes
Mr. Karofsky’s Big Mistake by Lavinia Grace Sebastian
December Nights by Susanna Lim
Prayers From Above by Anuradha Chelliah
Cover image by Ike louie Natividad / Pexels. The copyright of ‘Alone’ belongs to Maryam Abdul Wahab.
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