Kayode Taiwo Olla
He buried his head in-between his knees, where he sat on his cell floor.
There was silence—there had been… silence. The kind only broken intermittently by a jangle of metal keys, a clink of metal locks. And in the meanwhile inducing unsure hopes—or, simply, distressing tensions.
Or, sometimes else, broken by a yell of an overwhelmed someone—that cannot bear himself anymore. That cannot bear that inward silence… anymore.
And there was a pained, long-drawn-out yell now. It was a young voice; a new inmate, too, perhaps. And he, too, here felt like screaming. Like it could shut out the killing silence in his inward soul. But he just… sighed.
He raised his head. He thought he had heard a sound, a movement behind the door. He stood up and rushed up close, in a flicker of hope. But it seemed someone just stopped by and left again. Or maybe it only seemed.
He sat on the long seat slab now, and he just stared headlong at the opposite wall of the cell room. He strained to read again the faint graffiti scattered scantily across the wall length. They were scant blood smears that had marked them on the wall—and that look had always scarred him since the morning he was put in that cell.
He stared for long at the graffiti, and they were a few feminine names and a few dates. Then he spotted a pretty large print of a name and two words beneath it, and all marked in blood-red.
They simply read: T E S S Y: Forgive Me.
He thought about if he were to decide to also leave graffiti on his cell wall, too the eve of his trial—he wondered what he would write. He did not wander much. He had the answer on cue. He laughed. ‘Of course—Sandra,’ he said: ‘SANDRA: Please I’m Sorry.’ And then a long, pained look wiped out the smile left in the corners of his lips. He just buried his face in his palms and groaned.
It was her silence that haunted him more now. More than the fact he was still awaiting trial did, even. He would give everything in the world for him to see her face now. Even if she would scold him to death like he rightly deserve, let her only halt that prolonged silence, he craved. It is the woman’s power we men cannot bear, he said to himself. He added: Men cannot bear silence; it would mean they would bear themselves! That, he had read from somewhere before.
He quivered at her name, like she was a presiding judge over his trial and the jury at the trial. Like she held his keys of life and death. Maybe the first though—if not accurately the second, he thought. No, he retorted, maybe the first and second.
He thought about the times when he had always been free—times before he was remanded in custody for this rape charge. And times when he felt withdrawn over much thinking, much calculating as a man, a self-made man. It was always about money, he remembered. Only this time, it was about this girl outside. Vicky.
Times of withdrawal like this; his own masculine silence—he remembered, Sandra would say, ‘You’re into yourself more these days, baby. What is it?’
‘Thinking,’ he would nod.
‘Thinking…’ she would attempt.
‘Calculating,’ he would retort.
And that was how the last began, he remembered. But now it was not about money, he knew. It was Vicky. And she was playful, and flirty, turning him on. But her thighs never would open. It was Vicky.
Sandra came around his shoulder from the back of his living room couch and rested her hands across his chest. ‘Baby…’ she started.
‘Oh my goodness! I say I am thinking!’ he snapped and walked into the bedroom.
‘I just… I’m sorry, baby…’ she attempted. ‘I just wanted to ask if I may be of help; if you could share it with me.’
He chuckled. ‘When did I start to think aloud with you like you females do?’ he laughed from inside the room.
She felt he was right, that that was just a feminine kind of reasoning things; but she felt he could have put that in a more polite manner. The tone felt insulting and she feared she was being too intruding on his male independence. She thought to tell him she was sorry to disturb him and that she only meant sincere concern.
She was beginning to walk to the bedroom when he said from within, ‘You know what, Sandra? Tomorrow we’ll see—I’ve got many things in my head now.’
She stopped short. ‘Felix!’ she gasped.
‘I’ll come pick you,’ he said. ‘Is that alright then?’
She just stormed into the bedroom and took her handbag, checked herself in the mirror and turned out. ‘I’m going,’ she said.
‘Oh just a second and I’ll take you home,’ he said.
‘No, don’t worry about me; you’ve got a lot to think,’ she said on her way.
‘I’m so sorry, Sandra,’ he called back behind her.
‘It’s fine, Felix!’ she retorted.
And that evening her girlfriends and her would gather around her at the snacks bar, petting a confused, crying her. She would tell them she hated his silence, and his being into himself of late. That she felt she had offended him and he would not tell him what. Or—just maybe—he did not like her anymore; did not love her again? Or was he going through some things he didn’t want to share yet? (she would wonder.) She hated the silence, his silence—and the fact of his changed self.
Yes, he thought about that time again, when he had always been free—Felix. And that same day when he felt withdrawn over much thinking. That same evening he drove to the bar and sat among his clique, ordered Heineken for them and discussed Vicky with them.
‘You’re a bad guy, Felix!’ Desmond said. ‘You’ve got Sandra you’re gonna marry. What happened to you and Sandra, guy?’
‘Stop that, guy,’ he said. ‘Na just flexing things, guy—no more. Na Vicky a’ dey talk so. Na just chop and go—a’ no fit throw ’way Sandra, for wetten be dat?’
‘Ah, a’ for fear,’ replied Desmond.
‘God save una. I dey think say una don dey kolo for dis Vicky girl,’ Chima put in.
‘Haba guys!’ laughed Felix. ‘Una no trust ya man again! A’ still get brain o—a’ still dey plan am well like school days, trust o!’
‘So how you go wash am when you don nail am one time?’ asked Desmond. ‘Trust, the girl just dey give una signal,’ he put in–‘im no fit dey tough like that. Na the right button you go just press. She no go doll, trust! Na una im dey wait for—no dey doll too sha o!’
Felix laughed. ‘Haba, a’ no go gock mysef nah! Wetten una think a’ be?’
‘Guy!’ called Desmond. ‘Wetten you go take use jirate for us after, uh? Na Dubic you go buy guys this time, Felix!’
‘No wahala! Dubic,’ Felix had promised.
And now, this time of Susan’s silence, the prison cell’s killing silence—this time now, he yearned addictively to drink himself up and numb this soul’s pain. But those were the days he was free outside. And now that he was remanded in custody, he was faced with himself. His imprisoned outward and inward selves.
He jolted up.
He had heard an obvious click of his metal lock. And there the jailer was, standing at the door on the outside.
And the jailer said, ‘Come up, someone visiting you. Sandra—your fiancée, right?’
‘Good Lord!’ he exclaimed. ‘Yes sir, my fiancée,’ he replied and rushed up to the door. That was the first time Sandra was seeing him since he had been awaiting trial.
He stretched his hands out to receive the cuffs around his wrists.
And then the metal door clicked open. And he began to walk the longest distance in his life through the hallways to meet Sandra—like a defendant going to answer the jury. And he could hear the thuds of his steps and the jailer’s in his ears. And the jangles of his handcuffs.
* * *
Sandra broke into tears.
She had wanted to ask him one thing for about a minute they had sat down in front of each other. But she could not say a word. She just broke out crying.
Felix hung his head and felt sorry. He mumbled at last, ‘Please don’t cry, dear.’
‘Why shouldn’t I?’ she retorted—‘Why wouldn’t I?’ The last question came much slow-paced.
Felix breathed a heavy sigh.
‘Felix—’ Sandra started. ‘I… wanted to ask you,’ she continued—‘Ah, goodness! Felix… why—did you do it?’
Felix sighed heavily again.
‘Huh? Answer me, Felix—I want to know.’ She was close to tears now and her voice quivered slightly.
‘I am sorry,’ he moaned.
It does not seem like an answer to her and she could not stop wondering why exactly.
‘Have I been—Goodness! What do I say again?—Have I been unattractive to you?’ she wondered. ‘Good Lord, have I been less caring and sensitive to us? Ah, please Felix, what did I do wrong? Why in the world will you go right ahead to rape a lady? And when you were arrested a penknife was found in your jeans—Felix, why on earth?! And that is why you are remanded in custody, Felix. How could the bruises and wounds on that Vicky’s body not be related to the penknife in your possession? Ah Felix, why did you do this to me?—Why?! Why?!’
Felix stretched a hand to her and touched her arm. ‘Please, Sandra…’ he attempted.
‘Don’t touch me!’ she snapped immediately and took away her hand.
‘Ah Felix, you are wicked; God knows you are wicked!’ she blurted.
‘But tell me, Felix, why did you rape Vicky, uh?’ she requested again.
Felix sighed. This was to be like asking a question that does not have an answer. Or at least a logical answer, he thought. Why do men cheat?
For this man, he thought, it may be a disillusionment, a boredom with work, or even life. It is a looking for something—someone—to help unwind pent-up emotions of the macho soul in its own shell of killing silence and withdrawal already.
Or for another man, he reasoned in himself, it maybe the looking for a challenge of his masculinity, something different perhaps, something tough, crazy. Like a transposition of the erotica into real life. Like the exotica—like all things not yours, always are… inviting. And the pasture is always greener from the other side of the fence, he reminisced. But only until the bull jumps over. And it would be another man’s land for real—and not yours, he lamented.
Yet, he reasoned, for another man it may be his outgoing was an anesthesia to numb or keep on numbing the emotional pain or frustration of a crumbling love life. But then, it will only complicate both his love life and emotional stability even more eventually, he said to himself. And it will add more idols to his soul’s image screens, or fuel up more and more unending, insatiable yen in his groins. And in the end it would never have healed his frustration and obsession, he added.
Ah these are the times that face men; these are the trials that face them, he said to himself.
These are the times; these are the times! These are the times that try men’s souls, he lamented.
‘Felix, tell me why!’ Sandra interrupted his thoughts, in a determined low voice.
He buried his face in his hands and he felt like shaking with tears before her, frustrated. He didn’t want to say there was no real reason—no sensible reason. He didn’t think to say, maybe.
He pressed his face deep in his palms before him and said, ‘Her evening dress that night turned me on.’
He had finished the statement before he realised the foolishness of saying. And he bit down his lower lip hard.
‘Ah! So you were even taking her out on a date!’ she gasped, close to tears.
‘Aw, I am sorry, baby! Please—!’ It didn’t occur to him to turn it around, the evening dress thing.
‘You’ve even started to date her, Felix!’ she interposed.
‘Aw… n—no, not that—it was actually…’ he just fluttered and saw no point justifying. He just moaned, ‘Ah please, Sandra—!’
She burst into tears.
‘Ah Felix, what did I do wrong?!’ she cried. ‘Why the hell did you choose to cheat on me? Not to talk of raping another lady! God, you’re callous, Felix! You’re so unfair to me! I hate this… I hate this! I hate your changed self; I hate this!’
She stood up, took her handbag, and turned around.
Felix stretched a hand, half-standing, and moaned, ‘Ah baby, don’t go—please!’
She wiped her tears and turned around again, and she put her bag on the table, still holding the hand.
Felix sat down.
And Sandra’s voice came out subdued and more decided this time. ‘Do you love her?’ she asked.
‘I love YOU,’ Felix’s rejoinder came with an emphatic stress.
‘You did not answer my question,’ she said, took her bag and turned around.
‘God knows I answered your question, baby! Please, I am really sorry!’ he groaned, getting up on his feet to hold her back by the hand.
‘Don’t touch me!’ she snapped. ‘No you don’t need me again, Felix. You don’t need me,’ she said amid tears now. ‘Do whatever you want, Felix; you don’t need me again; you don’t need me again!’ she said, drawing her handbag to her, and walking out, sniffing.
Felix moved to run after her, but the jailer intercepted him and blocked him off. And then he cried really hard. It was his first time he did. ‘Please, Sandra! Ah Sandra, please don’t do this! Don’t do this! Please—! Sandra—! Sandra—!’
And everything went silent again. And he could only hear in his head the click-clack of her retreating heels on the long hallway floor. And the jangles of his struggling metal cuffs.