Music was one of the many things that brought Chima and Justin together. They both had a mutual admiration for Drake and they had assigned some of his songs to most of the things they did together: wash day, clean-up day, road trips, sex, etc. So when the thick rope that held them together began to snap, one string at a time, music was the only string that held them together.
Justin had met Chima at a cultural trade fair in Abuja. He had not intended to come but he thought it was a good way to while away time since he was less busy that very day. Almost everything was sold at the fair and Justin was captivated by the pomp and pageantry of it all. There was a runway show that showcased the beautiful fabrics of some Nigerian cultures on tall and slim models who walked gracefully on the runway and there were stands that sold assorted delicacies that ranged from smooth fluffy fufu to bright orange coloured jollof rice. There was a stand that harboured fat potbellied men in rich Agbada who stank of government money and whose weights caused the legs of the plastic chairs they sat on to bend and create lines that were lighter than their original colours. As these men gulped different brands of beer and laughed boisterously at the jokes they made, Justin could not help but pity the plastic chairs. There was a stand that had mostly young people cheerfully screaming at some persons who were on a platform dancing vigorously to an energetic contemporary Nigerian music, particularly at a tall, dark, and curvy girl whose breasts were the only things she shook to the rhythm of the music.
Justin finally came across a canopy that housed different paintings and drawings depicting African culture. He walked to a section that displayed impressions of original Nigerian sculptures, most of them sprayed with a colour that made them appear as if they were made of bronze. He picked up the bust of a Benin Oba. It was as if it was carved out of wood and Justin scoffed at the sham art.
“You don’t like?”
Justin turned his head to the direction of the question and standing in that direction was a short, slim, and extremely fair woman who was dressed in a white long-sleeved turtle neck top and black dungarees with two horizontal rips on the left thigh. She was wearing a black rimmed glasses but Justin could feel her intense gaze on his face.
“Not that I don’t like it”, he began to explain. “It’s just that…”
“It’s a complete fake?”, she interrupted.
“Exactly”, he affirmed. This time, Justin fully turned to face her. She had smiled a bit and he could not help but wish to watch her full lips part again to reveal her beautiful set of white teeth.
“You can’t blame them though”, she said. “I actually think these works are impressive. There is ingenuity in the forgery”.
“I beg to differ”, Justin opposed. “But this is not something I would like to discuss here. Maybe sometime later? And that can only happen if I have your number”, he said while giving off his best smile.
“Is that the new pickup line?”, she smirked. “Let me have yours and I’ll call you when and if I am willing sto discuss more about fake art”.
Two weeks had passed and Justin began to think that the lady had tricked him. He was infuriated with himself for not insisting on having her number and not asking for her name. He had no way of tracing her and he really wanted to find her. While he was busy beating himself up for his slip-up, his phone buzzed twice, indicating that he had a message. What he read lit up his mood and gave him a fresh sense of hope.
Hi! It’s the fake at enthusiast. Lol! Can you meet me at this address? I’ll drop a pin. I finally brushed up on some more art impressions. Let’s have that discussion.
The pin she had dropped was her house address. Her forwardness scared and attracted him. He had never been invited to a woman’s house on the first date and he had never invited a woman to his house on the first date. She welcomed him in a blue checked boxers and oversize black shirt and asked him to make himself comfortable in her living room. Her apartment was quite small, cute and cozy. Just beside her flat screen TV was a vintage music player with stacks of CDs in the wooden shelf it was placed on. He skimmed through them and saw artistes like Nina Simone, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye, and Whitney Houston. He smiled. The girl was an old soul in a young woman’s body.
“You came here. You should have, at least, brought a bottle of wine”, she said out of the blues. ‘Did she always do that?’, Justin thought. She behaved in a spooky manner but he found himself being enticed by it. She was standing beside him, holding two glasses of red wine and extending a glass to him.
“I didn’t know the pin you dropped was your house address. I would have brought more than just wine”, he said.
“Well, you brought you and that’s just enough for me”, she replied. Justin could not understand if she was flirting with him or that was just how she spoke with other people. For someone who was good at profiling people, he was finding it difficult to figure her out.
“This is quite embarrassing but you did not tell me your name”, he said.
“You never asked”.
“I am asking now”.
“My name’s Chimaobi. But I prefer being called Chima. Short, simple, and I like how people just look confused when I tell them that”, she answered while sipping from her glass.
“Like how confused I am now?”, Justin questioned.
“Exactly”, Chima chuckled.
They sat and talked till late in the evening about almost everything. It was eerie how easily they clicked and how much they loved art and art exhibitions. Justin asked her why she had a vintage music player and if she listened to only old music. She had laughed so hard and said she just had it because it was one of those things that was hardly found in modern Nigerian homes.
“I love music a lot, old and new. I’m not really sure what genre I’m into but I know I absolutely love Drake”, she added.
“I love Drake too!”. His excitement came out more than he intended and he began to feel shy. He had given off more than he should and if Chima noticed, she concealed it properly.
Chima stood up and walked towards her Tv. She bent over and extracted a small music player that Justin hadn’t noticed was there. Plugging her phone to the player with a small black cord, Chima played Drake’s Marvin’s Room. Drake’s voice floated round the living room and caused the prevalent atmosphere to change. While Justin was trying as hard as possible to focus on the red wine in his wine glass, Chima had moved herself to the couch and leaned so close that there was not enough room between their lips.
“We can’t deny the tension this attraction to each other is causing”, she said in low whispers. “So, let’s take all that tension off”.
“I…do…don’t know”, he stuttered. The air around him began to feel thin but he could not, did not want to push her away.
“I can work with that”, she laughed quietly.
Months later, they would argue about who kissed who first and who was the first to take off their top. Marvin’s Room would become the song they played during all the times they had sex. Even though it was in places where the song could not be played, they played it in their heads.
But that was years ago. Three years to be precise. Those were the times Chima never got bored of him or went out on her “experimentation” spree to figure out who satisfied her more; men or women. Those were the times she would confidently say I love you and mean it and she would always carve out time just to be with him. The break up was harsh and during those years, Justin felt it like a fresh wound and relived like a bad dream that would not go away. After she sent him a text that she was tired and done and that she had moved out of Abuja, Justin truly listened to the lyrics of their favourite song for the first time. And no matter how hard he tried not think of her, he still saw her shadows in his dreams. He was always in control but before he would get to kiss her, she would be floating over him, repeating the same words she used in her text:
‘I’m done, J. Whatever this was, it is over.’
Gradually, she stopped appearing as much as she did in his dreams and he stopped crying as much as he used to. He began to focus on himself and concentrate on his work. He deleted every picture he had of Chima. He was finally ready to start afresh.
But the universe was not in agreement with him and as it did before, it placed Chima once again in his life. It was as if he was being tested to know if he had actually moved on. Justin had not expected to bump into her in The Junkyard restaurant. He was coming in to buy himself some burgers and she was leaving with a take out. When their bodies met each other in a soft bump and as they each muttered sorry, Justin froze on the spot as he caught a waft of her perfume. Sì by Giorgio Armani. How could he forget the scent that called to him almost every day they were together to come closer and explore underneath her clothes. Chima regained herself first and dragged Justin out of the restaurant. She still looked beautiful and it seemed like she had added some weight. Justin was quite sure she said a lot of things but the only thing he could remember was “Can I call you later tonight? I just want to talk”.
While it rained that night, Justin was restless. He kept looking at his phone hoping she wouldn’t call and wishing she would. The latter proved to have the upper hand and for a second, Justin urged himself not to pick the call.
“Hello?”. He was weak for her. Nobody could make him that weak except her.
They talked about everything music and she joked about how she had been trying to learn Drake’s Tootie Slide for weeks. Music was one of the things that brought them together and it was the only thing that still held them. It was the only thing they could comfortably talk about.
“I’m sorry about how I left”, Chima explained. “It was a cowardly thing to do, breaking up over a text message. I was lost and I needed to find myself”.
“You cheated”, Justin snapped. “I could take all your experiments with those girls but you still did it with other guys. You emasculated me, Chima. For months, I could not sleep with a woman because I feared I would not satisfy her. And do you know where that fear came from? From you! You and your lousy unforgiving experiments!”.
There was a deafening silence at the other line. Justin held himself from crying but seeing her again, having that conversation, brought back the memories he thought he had forgotten. He hated the fact that he could not forget her.
“Can you please open your door? It’s pretty cold outside”, she finally said.
He ran to his front door and opening it, he saw her drenched by the rain and shivering.
“I am so sorry, J. If I could take it all back, I would. Please, let me fix it”, she said in tears.
Marvin’s Room played again that night. After three years of not listening to it, he played it one more time as he used his naked body to warm her cold body. She had indeed added a little weight and he let her moans fill his ears. While she slept in his arms, Justin thought if this was right or wrong. He felt insecure because she could get up at any time and leave him like she did before. He should have ended it but he didn’t. He was weak for her. Nobody could make him that weak except her. Knowing he would regret his decision to let her in one more time, he chose her over loneliness.