I saw Hope off. She needed to go see her roommate. Let them know everything was fine. She entered the taxi I flagged down, cheerful. After I paid the driver, she smiled at me, assuring me that she would be back later in the evening. I smiled with a nod as the driver zoomed off, not before I warned him to drive slow and careful for he was carrying a key to someone’s happiness. With an unidentified smile on my face, I watched the car disappear down the street. Then I flinched. Amanda did leave same way on our first and last date. My heart started beating faster- what if she started acting strange like Amanda did? I scoffed. The content of her letter flashed through my head. After all she and Ahmed did to me, she still has the effrontery to write a long epistle confessing her love for me and regret for dating Ahmed. I shook my head. Hope would come back. I wooed her. She said yes. She said she loved me, in fact she has always loved me; a discovery I wasn’t so proud off. She was mine, and she would come back. I was sure of that. Then I inhaled and ambled back to the house, lifted.
The house was silent, aside the high volume of the Television. Eric was sitting, focused on the horror movie showing with his hands wrapped on his chest. I glanced at him and shook my head. After several nightmares, he still has not learnt his lessons.
I strolled into the hallway that linked the rooms. Frank was coming out of their room. He saw me and withdrew.
“There is no need for that, I have a girlfriend now.”
“When are you going to stop saying that?” Ken said from the room.
I giggled. “Till I change it to ‘I have a wife’.”
“What do you want?” Frank said.
“Not here.” I grinned at him before making for my room. I opened the door and ushered him in. Reluctantly, he entered, tensed. His kept toying with his phone while waiting in anxious for me to say whatever it was I called him for.
I stared at him in his eyes- he was scared, thoughts were struggling for domination in his head and I could see it from the way he twisted and fluttered his eyes. “Frank!”
“Look Thony, I am really sorry I absconded. I was scared. That was my first time seeing someone like you and I didn’t know how to handle it.”
“That was in the past now.” I chuckled. “I saw how you were looking at Hope.”
“You think I want to take her from you? Common Thony, I am so happy you finally got a girlfriend and…”
“You are tensed. Calm down, I am not going to eat you. And for records sake, you can’t take her away from me, even if you try. The thing is, I know what happened between you and Uju.”
He boggled. His eyes widened and his mouth opened. I saw his phone trembling in his hand. I pulled the phone and flashed it before her opened eyes. “You don’t want to drop this, do you?” I grinned. “Anyway, I am not going to talk, despite the fact you blabbed about my secret. I just want to know why you did that. Prostitutes? Why them?”
For seconds, he was fidgeting. At some point I got scared he might swoop. But he didn’t. He just stood there, shaking like a feverish patient. Then his agape mouth closed halfway and hung again. I saw tears mustering in his eyes- ready to rain any moment, but I didn’t stop him. I wanted him to cry, I wanted him to feel what I felt the day he moved out of the room without a word. I wanted him to feel the pain of someone knowing your secret and yet not ready to sympathize with you. He sighed. The tears were now zigzagging down his cheeks. He staggered to the bed and slumped. I took few steps and positioned myself in front of him. He looked up, our eyes met and he shook his head.
“My sex drive,” he swallowed hard. “My sex drive is demonic. I see a girl on the street; but in my head I see a naked girl. I could have sex dozen times a day without being satisfied. At first I thought adolescence was the cause till I passed puberty and it got worse. I started raping young girls in my village.”
“Jesus!” My eye sockets shifted positions. I rubbed my eyes, pushing them back to their normal place. “You did what?”
“It was bad. I tried to control but I couldn’t. I sought medical help to no avail. I visited a shrink. It was working till he travelled and a lady shrink was assigned to me. We had sex on my first session with her and everything flopped. Uju is a good girl and she was helping me fight it, but I couldn’t stop, like it’s part of me, like if I stop I would die. I don’t know. I just needed it badly that day and motel was the only thought in my head.” He snivelled, wiping the mucus dripping from his nose.
I inhaled. I couldn’t make sense out of the story. Not because it was totally impossible to me, but because he was not a flirt- at least so he made us think. He was the best guy in the house. I halted my thoughts. He was pretending. He was living under a cover with a big and smooth mask on his face. He was just like me. “This is who you are and you have the gut to judge me, like you are better? You wear same mask like I do. Your mask covers even something terrible. Rape. You are rapist, you know that?
“Don’t! You shouldn’t have acted all saintly on me. You are no better than I am. Twenty two years and I told no one except you. But you betrayed and abandoned me, like you are dinning with God! Now look at yourself.”
“I am so sorry Thony, I really am. And the rape thing was then. I stopped, that’s why I visit motels.”
“I don’t care if it’s now or then, you…” I paused and stared at him for some time. “Wait, you still go there?”
“I can’t stop.”
“Jesus Christ! You are pathetic! You have no atom of right to judge me.”
“I didn’t judge you Thony. I only felt unsafe and…”
“We have stayed here, in this room for four years. I have seen your nakedness, you have seen mine. I have lied on your chest, you have lied on mine. If I wanted to rape you, I would have done that a long time ago.”
“Humans are scared of what they know, not what they don’t know. I know there is no justification to what I did, but I am sorry.”
Silence crept in, wounding our soul and drawing tears from our eyes like it was a well. I ambled around, wiping the tears clouding my sight.
“I loved you Frank, I loved so much, like a brother. Even if I am irresponsible, have your kind of sexual urge, I would never do anything to hurt you.”
“Don’t rub my flaws on my face Thony, please. I am sorry for not standing by you. I was scared. But please, don’t make mockery of my predicament.”
“You are going to meet another shrink,” I said after much thought. “A male shrink. You are going to get back to Uju, since she is a kind of antidote to you. You are going to get better, because I won’t have a rapist as my best friend.”
“This is not up for discussion, it is an order.”
He swallowed hard and wiped away his tears.
“I am going to meet Ken, seems everyone have one mask or another.” I started for the door. A few steps close to the door, he called me back. I reverted and he jumped into my arms.
“I love you too Thony.”
I smiled, and reluctantly my hands fell on his back. I have my best friend back and the feeling equalled nothing. “I have missed you.”
I patted his back and broke the hug. We looked into each other’s eyes, smiled and I left.
I knocked on Ken’s door and he answered. I walked in and locked the door.
.. Anticipate the finale soon.