A VALENTINE STORY

At midnight earlier today, 12.55am to be precise, Bunmi asked me to write him a story. He had posted a love poem on Facebook just at the stroke of midnight to mark the Valentine’s Day, a habit he repeats on all the holidays. It was a moving poem written in colourful language that followed his preferred rhyming meter – AABB. I liked it before even reading it, and wished I could like it twice when I was done reading. I commented on the poem like I do on all his poems and in his reply he challenged me to write a valentine story.

“But you know how busy I will be today, with all this certificate matter” I told him on Skype.

“And so?”

“So there won’t be time to think of a story, not to talk of typing and editing it.”

“Just get it done joor. I know you are stronger than that”

He seemed to have forgotten the story of the missing letter on my NYSC certificate. He had empathised in his own way as I told him, in between sobs, the stress it had put me through. He listened, without trying to throw any bumper sticker Christianese at me. And after that, he switched lanes to other discussions so smoothly it was a bit jarring and disconcerting. But that is who he is.

It’s the same way he pulled it off last week when he wanted to talk about my patients in the hospital just after telling me about his break up with Kike who used to be the pretty fashionista in fellowship and had the brothers fawning over her like ants around a cube of sugar in our first year. Her relationship with Bunmi had started in our second year and we all stopped speculating on the expiry date of the fling when they announced their engagement three years later in the fellowship’s final year dinner. Theirs was a match made in heaven; the fellowship belle and the sweet, smart, spiritual six foot dude with a sultry singing voice and a superb sense of humour.

I remember the night he told me about the start of their relationship; it was the second year of our friendship. I was a brilliant, albeit naive, pharmacy student and he was a budding campus journalist who had garnered a reputation for being a savvy orator and a gifted poet. He was walking me back to my hall of residence after a fellowship meeting and we had just passed the infamous Zik hall whose occupants had a hobby of hooting catcalls and saying annoying stuffs to passing female students anytime there was no electricity in their Hall of Residence.

“Romeo, hold your Juliet nooooow” one of them had shouted that night and I had the darkness to thank for masking the blush that crept up my face. We passed the hall and I was still smiling that effusive smile – an overflow of a really good moment, when he said

“Ife”

“Yes” I replied, the outlines of the smile still on my countenance.

“I’m now going out with Kike”.

I do not know if he saw the shock in my eyes and the glittering of tears I was trying so hard to hold back, because if he did, he simply ignored it. He went on to talk about the new ban on electric cookers in school and how the Union of Campus Journalists was trying to organize a protest to show their displeasure at the totalitarian activities of the Vice Chancellor. All I could hear was gibberish.

I tried to process how he had managed to stage this coup without my knowledge and I discovered that I had been ignoring the signs all along. That night, I wept so much I had to dry my pillow in the sun the following day. I realised I’ve always loved him and had only settled for a friendship because it was the easiest way to keep him around. So much for sisters never asking brothers out.

Four years later, the fashionista is out of the way and I don’t know what to do with him. I remember seeing a tweet by one of those pseudo-intellectual agnostics I follow on twitter, about the fact that the only two women with their names as books in the bible made the first move in courting their eventual husbands. Fellowship leaders tell us it is like a taboo, but somewhere in my heart I think that is how Kike must have nabbed Bunmi in the first place.

So what story will I write for him today? I pull out my old journal – the Paperline hardcover notebook with a sunflower on its cover that he bought for me in our first year in school, and flipped to the story I wrote him that night after my deluge of tears. I opened my PC, typed and edited it, then pasted it in my email. As I placed the cursor on the send button, I read the title again as if to reassure myself that it was the right thing to do. “WE CAN NO LONGER BE FRIENDS”

***

This is the first time I’m putting up fiction on this blog and its because of a challenge by Bunmi Oke. He’s not the Bunmi in this post so we can all rest easy. He however published a poem earlier today and you can find it here. Comments on what could have been done better in this story would be appreciated. Thanks and Happy Valentine’s day.

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9 thoughts on “A VALENTINE STORY

  1. Very nice piece. I dint exactly catch the drift until later but I’m glad I did. I’m sure she’s learnt that friendship will definitely keep him around but not but not keep him from going out with someone else…

  2. Well done. I think your first fiction attempt is engaging, it held my attention. I wanted to know how the story ended, and was disappointed when I couldn’t read the content of the email. But I understand that sometimes in a short story, you want the reader to complete the story in his head. By giving us the subject of the email, you have pointed us in the right direction. We will not grope in the dark.

    You chose a topic that deals with the human condition, one that we are familiar with, because on some level we have all loved and lost, and we are familiar with loving “Bunmi” silently. Relationships make the world go round and your story will resonate with many. Good choice.

    What was confusing about this story was knowing where it began. Okay, I know Bunmi Oke, I know he wrote a poem for Val’s day- that isn’t fiction right? So he asked you to write a story, but where does the story begin? Or is everything fiction?

    Kudos Ife!

    1. Bunmi asked me for a story, yes, but that is where the comparison ends. The characters are fictional but draw heavily on fragments of Bunmi Oke’s and my personality in school. I’m six foot tall, and he’s the one with the poetry and oratory skills, plus the Ife in the story is a girl. It was like cheating.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Young man, why strew my name all over without as much as paying some royalty? [BTW, thanks for the kind mention of my FB poem. Really.]

    For starters, what I personally like about the piece is the weaving of reality into fiction. (Why is his every book a bestseller and Dan Brown world-famous?). Loosely put, that style and approach serves to blend the way something/someone are (reality) with how, in your imagination, they can be (fiction). For some connoisseurs, that might not entirely qualify as fiction in the strictest sense of the word; nonetheless it not merely rivets readers, it reaches them. And trust me, it is largely about them.

    The caveat cum challenge with flash fiction, as with other abridged literary forms (e.g. couplets, quatrains, octets/octaves in poetry), is the constraint of space. I mean, you have to make as much sense can be made, the word limit regardless. Methinks the trick is to strive to equilibrate ECONOMY OF WORDS (adhering to the word count/limit), DEPTH OF MEANING (saying more with less: figurative devices, witty remarks and such other condensed media of conveying your thoughts will sure come in handy), and INTELLIGIBILITY (i.e. overall, is the reader not left with too many and needless gaps in grasp?). “Rhetorics,” captures this trio.

    A very good thing you did not hoard this piece. More flash fiction coming, I suppose?

    1. People, one day you will ask me who Bunmi Oke is and all I’ll be able to say is that “he’s my smart friend who speaks really big grammar, like a sense-making Obiagbon”.

      You want royalties? Go patent the name first and then we can have a proper discussion.

      As for the mention, you deserved it. Its the least I could do to recompense for the many people who now wonder who the sister Kike the fashionista was in our fellowship.

      1. @ “really big grammar”. Behold pot calling kettle black!

        @ Royalties: Patent? See the dude stylishly branding me “unbranded”

        @ fashionista: U keep them guessing. I hope you can sustain the suspense.

        You should ink more fiction, you seem to have a knack for it.

  4. This just reminds me of some quote i saw back in sec school and i’ve been trying to fight off, because i feel its totally not true –> “Maybe the reason why you have to stop loving a person is because fate chose both of you to be friends, where forever is a lot more possible”.
    How would you ever know you aren’t supposed to be more, if you just still stay friends??:(

    1. I think we should call Fate what we call Karma: A female dog with a name that rhymes with witch – but we really can’t. We want people to be more than they are but do not want to risk the danger to our fragile hearts, so we opt for safety and blame Fate.

      But sometimes the parameters are different and no matter how much we try, it’s just not meant to be. But don’t listen to me, I’m a learner in these matters.

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