And I’m awake with a start. My mother’s voice has this effect on me, even in the deepest of sleeps, she’s able to rouse me instantly.
I rub my bleary eye, and look around my darkened room. My alarm clock, which I had set for 7:30am, also informed me it’s FEB 14th. I scoff at that, rolling my eyes, the importance granted this day was just sooooo ridiculous.
“I’m coming, Ma!” I screamed back, throwing my legs over the side of the bed and sliding down. Why was she even bothering to call me, when she knew I wouldn’t do anything she asked.
I still feel sleepy, my face weight seemed to be concentrated on my eye lids, nose and lips, even my morning breath is heavy. And then I hear the television blaring out a promotion for the special day.
I snorted derisively. I know you’re wondering, who hates valentine’s day? I don’t hate the day, I’m just really derisive of it…I listen to the pee hit the toilet bowl and I smile at the tinkling sound it makes, small pleasures like this keep me going.
As a junior executive at an investment firm, I had decided years ago to commit Social Suicide. It’s been five years of social death and no matter what my mom and sister say, I’m not about to resurrect.
At thirty, I live in my mother’s house which I renovated and I’ve refused to move out. It’s just comforting to have people around who care to cook and keep the house clean. If I move out to my own apartment, which I must say, I’m due, I’d have to do the cleaning…by myself…nope, I’m too lazy for that.
It is that same laziness that has caused me to become a pariah in terms of the social life. The effort required to keep a man, is just so…debilitating. I mean, you have to always look good, even in your sleep to attract a guy…which might not even be that right one.
Then, you have to be adorable, even if you aren’t to keep him for more than two dates. Finally, he deigns to require your girlfriend-ship and one has to put in more effort to be coy, as though you haven’t already named your first two kids in your mind.
Now, the next nerve wracking effort is to keep him from other females and to get him to realize that you are his soul mate and to get him to propose…romantically…and then the marriage; Jesus, all so tiring.
“What is it, Ma?” I asked groggily and yawned, squinting in the process. God, why was the living room so bright and the television so loud, even at that, I could still hear my sister’s out of wedlock baby, babbling.
“I need you to get my dress from the dry cleaner’s, I’m scheduled to use it at eight pm,” my mother said, bustling about the bright room. I stare after her in consternation, I might be on leave but I’m not about to use it to run errands.
I opened my mouth to refuse, “Okay, Ma,” I was shocked to hear myself say, someone else was controlling the mechanics of my mouth.
“Diga, I might be late to get Jeremiah from the day care. You know it’s Val’s day, I’ve got a date immediately after work. Could you…they close by eight,” my elder sister said.
I wasn’t even seeing her ’cause my eyes were closed, protecting it from the blinding light, which was beginning to cause a headache.
“Ga – ga – bah!” Jeremiah added with a dribble on the side, I reached down and kissed his chubby cheeks, shocking myself again by agreeing.
I believe someone must have dumped a truck load of magnanimity on me while I slept. Soon enough, the house cleared out…alone at last!
I watched TV all day, bingeing comfortably on snacks, too lazy to warm my portion of breakfast or lunch cooling in the fridge…I was saving my energy for running errands.
Adverts on lowered prices of products filled the screen, as companies strived to convince the masses that they were feeling the love in the air. All the movies were lovey-dovey too…I loved every moment of the movies…mindless entertainment and an excuse to snack.
There was breaking news concerning an escaped convict, a dangerous man, the broadcaster enthused. And I wondered for the umpteenth time why one couldn’t just meet a man and both parties would just realize that they liked each other, as they are, and go for it…no efforts required!
I hurriedly changed from my pajamas into a jean and t-shirt. Pheew…I needed to visit the dry cleaner myself, but…an obscene amount of body-spray and perfume, took care of it.
Arriving the dry cleaner’s at 6:30pm…I knew this because the clock in the overly bright office said so.
“The dress will be packeted for you right away,” the attendant assured. But it wasn’t right away, ’cause when I looked outside again, it was dark…as night.
And out of the darkness, evil crawled out.
The dry cleaner’s door dinged, admitting a man. He had a gun…he looked familiar…the escaped convict…the dangerous man from the news.
He turned to me and approached.
“Give me your wallet!” he barked, waving the gun in the air.
“I don’t have a wallet,” I snapped, frowning.
“Give me the wallet in your hand!”
I look down and there, is an unfamiliar wallet in my hand. “It’s not my wallet,” I snap back.
Who cares?! Give the dude the wallet!
I’m really convinced now that someone else is in me. I’m lazy, and I’m truthful enough to myself to accept that cowardice is also a part of my DNA. This…this person, in me, was trying to get me killed. I might have committed social suicide, but that was figurative, I’m not about to literally kill myself in a stupid act of courage.
The attendant finally returned with the packeted dress, I look up, it’s a red dress in the clear, water proof wrap.
The escaped convict cum dangerous man, turns his gun on the terrified attendant, I see he’s about to pull the trigger…
God damn it! Get down, dumbass!
I’m saying this to myself, do I listen…no. Of course not, I find myself with a pen, not knowing if it came from the strange wallet or from the counter, it didn’t matter. All I was conscious of was rushing the dangerous man with the pen raised.
Screams erupted…horrified screams, as I stabbed the dangerous man in the neck, blood sprayed the immaculate counter in spurts.
I step back, horrified at myself. What have I done? Blood soaked my t.shirt as the dangerous man…soon to be dead man, dropped on his knees, gun still clutched with a dead grip. I look up and people…where did they all come from? People were looking at me accusingly, I had just murdered someone…I was a murderer.
And for once, in this whole dratted day, I listen to myself. I grab my mother’s red dress from the attendant…shockingly, I stop to pull out the pen from the dead man’s neck, I don’t know why I did that…but I ran.
The street is deserted. I have no idea where I’m headed. Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! This feels like a freaking Hollywood production…and I was thinking like one of them actors…actress in my case.
The police will be out for me any minute, because I am now a murderer, I killed someone in plain sight of several people. What was I thinking?
The street begins to look familiar, I’m going home. And then I remember that I had to get Jeremiah from day care. Without thinking, I swivel around and not long, I’m staring at Jeremiah through the daycare glass.
He’s all alone, and chewing on his pacifier, all well in his little world.
“Please, step away from the glass! And put your hands in the air!”
I started at the sudden intrusion, the police had arrived, I realized. Would they pardon me if I told them it was self defense…no, in defense of another? Probably not, I silently decided, blowing Jeremiah an apologetic kiss, I step back and run.
I counted three steps before I was forcibly tackled to the ground. The cop straddled me, I catch my breath and look around, expecting a crowd of cops with pointed guns…we were alone.
Just one cop? Was I that…?
“Hey…,” I exclaimed, recognizing the cop arresting me.
“You…” I spat angrily.
“You are my neighbor!” this came out furious.
“I know.” He said this calmly, still pinning me down.
“It’s valentine’s day,” I snapped disbelievingly, surely he wouldn’t arrest me on Valentine’s Day.
“Shh,” he replied calmly and Tasered me…directly in the heart.
The electricity went through me, sparking nerves and probably breaking blood vessels, flooding my heart and making it difficult for me to breathe.
I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe…I can’t…of course, I couldn’t breath, I was dying. Dead people had no need for breath.
And I’m awake with a start…my mother’s voice has this effect on me. While thinking this dija vu thought, I’m trying to pull my head from beneath my several pillows…this is why I couldn’t breath.
The feeling slowly increases as I listen to the tinkling sound of my pee against the toilet bowl. Stop freaking yourself out, it was just a dream, plus, you listen to this pee sound everyday.
After advising myself, I decide to take a bath, just so it’d break the familiarity of the dream. I go into my steadily dark room, kept that way for my comfort. I spy a jean and t-shirt on the carpeted floor, normally, I’d just drag it on…like in the dream, but I make a beeline for my wardrobe, pulling on a fresh jean and t-shirt.
“Jesus, Diga, it’s that juice on your shirt?” my sister said as I stepped into the bright living room. I look down, sure enough, a faded, red stain, like in the dream was on my shirt. My mouth opened but nothing came out, my ears roared…fear.
“Oh, I remember that shirt. I was wearing it while carrying Jeremiah and he spilled his juice on me. I tried washing it off, but it wouldn’t come off, sorry,” my mom said.
I nod, relieved, I was breathing again. “It’s okay,” I said, ignoring the fact that my mum, who owned a boutique, was secretly wearing my t-shirts.
“I don’t know how you manage to sleep all day,” my sister commented to herself.
“Catch!” my mum yelled, instinctively, I turned and caught.
My eyes widened, “What’s this?!”
“My God, Diga, don’t look so horrified. It’s just a red dress.”
Yes, complete with clear, waterproof wrap, just like in the dream.
“Why?” I whispered, wondering why this was happening to me.
“Because it’s Val’s day; and I’m a loving mother…giving her befuddled child a gift. I think you should reduce your siesta time,” my mum suggested.
“I’m on leave…it’s my rest time,” I snap, not meaning to. My mum nods and walks away.
I dropped the dress on the back of a chair, like it was a living snake.
“I hope you appreciate my gift better,” my sister commented, flinging a stick-like object my way, I have no choice but to catch.
“It’s a pen,” she said helpfully.
“A what?!” Oh God, I’m going mad.
“A pen…for your collection…I found it in a thrift shop,” my sister explained. They all knew my predilection for uniquely crafted pens.
Summoning up courage, I look down, the pen is of wood, strangely carved, beautiful and most importantly, not the one in my dream, there was no danger of murdering with it.
My smile was that of relief, but it also passed for genuine gratitude. “Thanks so much. But I didn’t get anything for you guys,” I say regrettably.
“You gave us tickets to the movies, yesterday, remember?” my sister said, carrying her son and moving to open the just knocked front door.
“Hi, Diga,” an adult replica of Jeremiah greeted at the door.
“Thanks for the six months daycare payment for Jeremiah,” he enthused gratefully.
“Ga-ga-bah!” Jeremiah added, dribbling baby spittle.
I smiled, finally remembering things that weren’t dream oriented. My mum bustled out, dressed, they were all going out…for Valentine’s day. My mum drove off first, and I escorted my sister to her baby daddy’s car.
She says something to me, but it was lost, ’cause I was staring at Jeremiah in his car seat, at the back of the car, chewing his pacifier, through the wound up glass. That feeling of dread suffused my whole being…what’s happening to me?
“Diga!” my sister called.
“Please, step away from the glass, Timi’s is about to go,” she said slowly, her eyes wondering what was wrong with me; same here, sister, I thought, stepping away, while they drove off.
Night sounds permeated the now deserted street.
My heart thumped loudly in my ear, remembering the dream…I became terrified and turned to flee into the safety of my home.
Three steps later, I run smack into a warm, solid wall of a manly chest, the male’s hands going round me to keep me from falling. I struggled, thinking myself in danger.
“Hey!” the male exclaimed in surprise, I still at the familiar word and look up. Of course, it’s my very handsome neighbor, the same in the dream.
“You…,” I whispered, instantly recognizing the format of this conversation, having had it before.
“Yes, me,” he answered with a quizzical smile.
I stepped back, eyes wild, “You are my neighbor,” I say stupidly.
He chuckles and the sound is lovely. “I know.”
I grab my head, “Oh God, what going on?” I whisper, he replies anyway.
“It’s Valentine’s day. And I brought pizza, drinks and a movie,” he said, lifting up his shopping bag to my eyes.
A delivery truck rolled to a stop in front of our apartment building.
“I’m looking for Mr. Edeke,” the driver says, checking his log.
“That’s me,” my sexy neighbor says, going to meet the delivery man. I watch as the D-man searched for a pen.
“Hey, you got a pen,” my neighbor asked. I quickly pass my sister’s gift to me to him; he signs and collects a parcel. The truck rolls away as David, my neighbor, approaches me again.
“Nice pen,” he handed it over.
“My Val’s gift,” I say pocketing it.
“I like you,” he says.
“I like you too,” I reply, my heart thumping in my chest.
Even with the things in his hands, he grabbed me and gave me a searing kiss. The shock of his touch, like lightening, went directly to my chest; he stole my breath with his passion as I melted against him…
It wasn’t my mum’s voice.
A hand shook me awake. I opened my eyes and found myself on the couch of our sitting room, in front of the TV. The table harbored the remains of a well eaten pizza, cans of beer and serviettes.
“You slept through almost the whole movie,” David said with a smile.
“I’m sorry,” I say, sitting up and looking around confusedly. I have to stop drinking, I think to myself, shaking my head to clear it. I get up, and the first thing that catches my eyes is the red dress, I seat down back. I’m still in the dream, I think fearfully.
“Are you okay?” David asks, looking concern.
“I don’t know,” I reply with a frown, staring at the TV.
“They are about to get the bad guy,” David explained, I spared him a glance and realized that he was wearing a black, POLICE designers t-shirt.
I swivel away from the sight and was in time to see the bad guy in the movie, being pierced with an arrow through his neck, blood dribbled down his mouth and all I can do is stare. The movie ends and the credits roll.
“I’d like to take you out to a real date,” David says suddenly.
“Why?” I ask with a frown, not knowing if this was a dream or not, I might be hanging in limbo, like D’Caprio in Inception.
“Because I like you; I’ve liked you for a long while,” he says and hands me a wrapped gift.
Slowly, I unwrap an exquisite, female wallet; I stare at it with a slack jaw.
“Your sister said, you didn’t own a wallet,” he explained, looking uncertain.
“Thank you,” I whisper.
“I would ask you to be my wife, this moment , if it was appropriate,” he smiled at my shocked expression.
“But you are my neighbor!” I exclaimed in consternation, my heart hammering against my chest.
David grinned, “I know, but would you consider me, despite that shortcoming?” he was serious.
Would I consider him? He’s the one, male package, I’ve been waiting for. We’ve been friends, it seemed, like forever…he knows me thoroughly, complete with all my bad habits…he even knows and we’ve talked about my social suicide!
“Yes,” I whisper.
“I’m assuming you like me too,” he commented, his eyes boring into mine.
I love him.
I realize this and nod.
“Good,” he says, making me feel like a good child, having pleased a parent. He leaned down and pilfered the breath from my soul.
The effect was more than a Taser, a lightening bolt, electricity. This was my first kiss in five years and the dude was doing a good job of it. The wallet dropped as I crawled into his lap, not breaking the connection of our lips, his hands tightened around me, dragging me closer. I was tasting paradise in my friendly neighbor…my eyes, my heart, lay open at the moment.
Suddenly, Valentine’s day made a lot of sense to me. It was meaningful and beautiful that two souls would come together on this day, in acknowledgement of the feelings they’d been denying for a very long time.
That was my mother’s voice, and I was refusing to wake up from this one. I tightened my eyes and deepened the kiss, moaning in the process.
“Oh Lord,” I heard my sister exclaim and giggle.
“Who’s the guy? I’ve never seen Diga with a guy,” Jeremiah’s father proclaimed.
My mother slapped my back, effectively separating us.
“Permission to marry your daughter, Ma,” David asked, his eyes not leaving mine. I heard the gasps of delight.
“Finally,” my mum said, “You can move your movie-pizza-beer tradition to your own house,” she sounded happy, I was happy.
On a night like this, with lovers everywhere, professing their love publicly…a girl can only dream of possibilities, imagined or…
“There’s someone at the door!”
I groan, I hate being disturbed when I write. Shifting my laptop aside, I rush to the door.
“Yes, I’m coming,” I say in answer to the insistent knock, then I open it.
“Hi,” he smiled at me, “My name’s David, I just moved in next door.”
My new neighbour shared a name with my imagined neighbour…could this be a sign?
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