People drift apart.
This he has come to know…
Christopher Efosa sat at the check-in lounge of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport. His gaze ran the lengths of the hall, his focus on the faces that walked by.
He looked up at the clock hanging undisturbed on the wall. Anytime soon, boarding would be announced and he’ll be saved from the guy sitting beside him and his friend, who sat across. They had thrown small talk towards his direction, along with curious glances, searching his face for a response.
He gave them a straight answer when they had asked what part of the Nation he was from. After which he threw his attention elsewhere, not venturing to go further. But still, they didn’t seem to get the message.
A voice with forced accent spoke over the loudspeakers. It was time. He jumped from his seat, grabbed his bag and headed for the fast forming queue by the door.
Seated by the window, he watched as other passengers made their way into the plane. He searched each face that walked down the aisle towards him, wondering if they will settle in the seat beside him. The traffic eased and it seemed everyone had boarded.
Christopher stole a glance at the vacant seat by his left. Just maybe after all, he was going to have another quiet flight. He dreaded those people who had made it a culture to have a conservation with their seat mates. Does it ever cross their minds that sometimes the other person may just want to be left with their thoughts?
She made her way down the aisle, clutching her portable travel bag. The moment he saw her, a tight knot formed in his throat. He swallowed to ease the tension. ‘Please occupy the seat beside me’, he prayed silently.
Her eyes watched the beam of the airplane, studying the seat numbers. She looked lost, but elegant. She stopped at row 12. He was seating on 12F. She placed her bag gently in the cabin above. She was about stepping into the row but she paused and took few steps back. He let out a sigh, ‘tough luck brother’.
She reached for the bag, took out a book and threw it gently on the seat beside him. It was a John Grisham novel. He was an ardent fan of John Grisham.
She settled in her seat, right beside him.
From the corner of his eyes, he noticed her’s were firmly shut behind thick reading goggles. She wore white sleeves tucked into a blue ripped denim. Edgy but still classy. She wore black sneakers to round off her look. She fondled her Samsung phone, going through pulse news site to catch up on the happenings around the country. Another major point scored.
The engines of the aircraft came to life. The air hostess performed the safety routine rituals.
How does he strike a conversation with her? Her phones were turned off and she was reading from page 75 of John Grisham’s The King of torts. This would be easy, the novel was a common ground to start up a conversation…
The seatbelt sign went off. No words had left his lips since he stepped in to the plane. He’d adjusted three times in the last few minutes since take off. Why hadn’t he yet spoken to her? He stole a glance at her. Her focus was on her book. She was at page 80 now.
He captured her in his mind and made a mental profile of her. She definitely wasn’t based in Benin City. She was probably going there for something and would be out in a few days. Why bother starting a conversation?
He already had enough acquaintances he’s lost touch with due to distance. He was tired of meeting someone new, have a great conversation, then one of them has to return to base. That was always the beginning of the end.
No one seemed to keep in touch these days. Everyone was seemingly too busy. He could have said something, but of what use? Say she is based in Benin, which he strongly doubted. They would exchange contact, communicate online for the week then on the following weekend, they’ll probably meet. They’ll discover they have so many things in common, one person falls and then things start to get complicated. They always do.
Really to what end?
By tomorrow or the next she’ll most likely be back to Abuja. Two scenarios would definitely play out. They’ll probably stop chatting after a few weeks. This he could handle. The second scenario which would have her ghosting him was one he couldn’t deal with.
It’s hard enough that he has insecurities, he didn’t need someone worsening his predicament and making him questioning himself. His self-confidence was hit real hard when Dayo ghosted him. He thought they had something good going. Their conversation was effortless, the day he returned to Benin, they had a nice conversation but then, his whatsapp messages kept having the blue mark with no response coming.
He’s always thought of himself as a likeable person but that one ghosting experience threw him into a phase of self-doubt. No one was going to put him through that again.
The captain’s deep voice over the speakers broke his thoughts.
The seatbelt signs came on.
Normally he’d wait till almost everyone had filed out, but he needed air. He got up, squeezed himself past her legs, brushing her shoes slightly. He apologized immediately. She responded with a nod. He opened the top locker, got his bag out and joined the queue.
‘Could the airhostess open the door already?’ He frowned, stretching to see if the line had started moving.
The sun kissed his skin harshly. He drew in the first rush of air that hit him. It was good to be back in his city. He couldn’t decide if he should call the office driver to come pick him up or hail a cab back to his house. A cab would be much better he thought, at least he won’t have to wait and who knows, she just might be wait as well in the lounge for a ride to come pick her. Why prolong the torture?
Getting a cab was no trouble. He sat at the back seat, took one more glance at the arrival gate as the car found its way to the airport gate.
There she was, holding her portable travel bag, staring at his vehicle.
Their eyes met.
Unspoken words were exchanged…