When Peter didn’t show up for our date, l knew something was wrong. He was never late; l was the one who always had to make excuses for why l was late. Always!
He had called me on the 13th of February at 8:00pm when l was just about to take a shower and said we had to meet the next day. I noted the excitement in his voice, and l just knew. I knew, the way I usually know things, that he wanted to propose. It would be Valentine’s day, and also my birthday…what other date could be more perfect? Besides, it was high time; it had been about 5 years now.
So, that night, l hardly slept. My eyes would want to close and drift off to sleep, but then, l would remember the excitement l had heard in his voice, and my teeth would just start shinning on their own, pushing my lips wider and wider into a smile. I spent the midnight thinking of what l would wear. I knew it was ill omen to be awake when witches had started to fly, but l couldn’t help it. I even forgot that l had to go to work the next day, and very early at that.
I do not know if an angel finally lulled me to sleep, or the rats that usually ran around my room blew breeze on my feet to induce sleep, but when l finally started awake on the 14th of February, l knew l was terribly, terribly late. So l started racing around my apartment, trying to do an hour’s preparation in 15 minutes, like my brain was on fire.
And you can imagine what the day turned out to be: a totally-bad-everything-day. My clothes were bad; my natural hair refused to succumb to the will of my comb (the comb even got broken at some point); and as for my shoes, the heel of one came off as l was jumping out of a taxi in my rush. I took one look at myself in the glass door of my office building and wanted to cry. I looked like l had just stepped off the computer program of an animation for kids.
Then l finally died when l learnt that the meeting l was hurrying to meet up — even if it was the “grace of our Lord Jesus” part— had ended 15 minutes ago. And what’s more, my boss had already asked his secretary to prepare a query for me that could mean a deduction from my salary. I was overwhelmed. I went into the company’s bathroom, screwed the fact that it was my birthday, and cried like a new born baby. I felt like God was punishing me finally for all the meat l had stolen from my mother’s pot as a kid. Trust me, it was quite a lot.
I was about to start my second batch of pity-seeking tears when l remembered the other aspect of the date. It was Valentine’s Day, and Peter’s proposal’s day!!!
I forgot my misery then and laughed long and hard, remembering the fact that it was actually because of excitement over Peter’s proposal that l had had this totally horrific day. I wiped my tears, washed off my make up and did whatever l could to savage my hair, then l walked back to my cubicle, beaming at people minding their computers. I wanted them to see that this was the best day of my life, but it bothered me less that they cared not a bit for my boring life.
I sat in my office chair, unsettled, constantly looking at my watch like a girl in school, waiting for the bell to be rung so l could go have a peep at my crush before he hurried home. I was jumpy, paranoid…whatever; l just wanted to be out of the office and be on another seat, crying while Peter knelt before me, ring poised in his hand, waiting for my agreement, my “yes”.
An hour to closing time, l couldn’t take it anymore. I left the office even though l knew it could get me another query, and maybe a sack letter this time. I cared less.
I hurried my dishevelled self to the restaurant where l was to meet him, and waited. My heart kept lurching and turning in excitement and anticipation of what l would do when l finally became an “engaged-to-be-married” lady.
I kept beaming and beaming, telling myself “congratulations”. I beamed like that, waiting…1hour, 2hours, 3hours, 4hours, 5hours…till finally, l felt like Miss Havisham and knew he wasn’t coming. I had been trying him on phone, to no avail.
I was the last person in the restaurant when l picked up my sad self and left the place. The manager was looking at me oddly, so l tipped his boys, so it wouldn’t be like l had wasted his space and chair; I hadn’t even thought to buy anything while waiting.
As l went home in a taxi, l knew something was wrong, Peter was never late to or absent for an appointment.
Someone was waiting for me at my door step in the cold night, when l alighted the taxi. I involuntarily put my hand in my bag to get my pepper spray, ready to defend myself. But the person wasn’t an assailant, l could see. He was in fact, Peter’s brother. I watched him as he came up to me, and then suddenly, l knew. I knew even before he told me, that Peter, my Peter had died this afternoon, trying to cross the road in a haste, from his office.
I died too that night, slumping to the floor of the dirty street, and tearing at my hair like it was an unwanted bird nest.
That February 14 ended with me not knowing my name, not knowing anything at all, while nurses pumped me with tranquilizers incessantly; my eyes staring wildly…