Truth is often hard to hear and difficult to speak but when made known, it always leaves a sweet taste in the mouth of the bearer and a peace of mind in his heart.
Jide called me about 9pm and sounded tired and worn out from the day’s work.
I considered postponing the moment of truth and allowing him have his rest, but I was afraid I might lose the strenght and courage to tell the truth.
As I listened to his complaints of the hectic work and transport conditions of Lagos, I made up my mind to be upfront and deftly deliver the truth.
So when my childhood friend asked, ‘How was your day?’ I went into details of my outing with Ruth and expounded my dilenma.
‘I went out with Ruth today,’ I started in a cool tone, ‘We went to an eatery together and spent some hours.’
I waited to hear his response before telling him the full story.
‘Really? How is she?’ Jide asked; he sounded indifferent enough.
I was surprised he would ask how Ruth fared from me, when he was supposed to be the one calling and speaking with her everyday.
And I asked him straightaway, ‘She is fine; why are you asking me, didn’t you say you guys talk everyday?’
‘Well, yeah,’ Jide heaved tentatively and continued, ‘But since she returned home, we have not been speaking as regularly.’
As I heard the uncertainty in Jide’s voice, I didn’t know whether to rejoice or be concerned.
‘I don’t understand, you call her everyday, don’t you?’ I asked for more explanation as I realized the table of Truth had turned away from me.
‘We talk every other day, not everyday. But to tell the truth, I think she is still feeling down from the loss of her mom.’
‘The few times we’ve talked, it has only been limited to the greetings and pleasantries.’ Jide added.
I wanted to tell him she was quite happy and excited when we met today but I wasn’t sure how Jide would take the news.
‘Hope you guys are not drifting apart gradually.’ I asked him and knew his answer would determine if I’d tell him what I’d planned to say.
The answer didn’t come quite quickly and it made me begin to wonder.
Finally, Jide spoke, ‘I don’t think so, she will get over the hurt and pain, and the two of us will be back together.’
I agreed with him and said, ‘Okay then. I hope so’.
But in truth, in my deepest of hearts, I knew I didn’t hope so. Or maybe I did.
‘What is it you wanted to speak to me about? Or is it the outing?’ Jide’s words stopped my drifting thoughts.
‘Yeah, it is the outing…’ I started to speak, ‘… But not just today’s outing.’
‘I don’t understand, is this not the first time you two have gone out together?’ Jide asked, and I noticed an edge of doubt in his tone.
Right then, I knew the moment of Truth had arrived. And I decided to take the bull by the horns and bite the bullet.
‘Hope you still have much airtime on your phone, I want to tell you the full story… A confession, sort of.’ I started.
I heard a shift of something and a background movement from Jide’s end and guessed he was settling himself for a long talk.
‘I have enough credit, continue.’ He replied.
And so, I started right from the beginning. I told him about my failed attempt to converse with Ruth in the Youth camp, I told him of our chanced meeting during the ASUU strike, I also mentioned the Congress and the circumstances of our meeting there, and I ended it with the date we went on earlier that day.
When I was done, I breathed cooly and readied myself for whatever response Jide might give. I knew I deserved some reprimand for keeping him in the dark for so long before opening up.
There was a pause and silence on the phone for so long that I had to check the screen of the phone and confirm if the call hadn’t been disconnected.
‘Hello, Jide…’ I tried to call him back to the present.
When he finally found his voice, all he could manage was, ‘Wow!’ and a long heave.
‘Wow!’ He repeated again and I knew I was in for a sharp rebuke.
But I got none of those.
Jide cut the call and I was left stunned beyond words.
I had expected some words and anger but total silence proved much worse than both.
‘Maybe his credit ran out’ I thought, so I called back.
‘User busy’ ‘User Busy’ was all I heard on both occasions I called back.
I started to get vexed but when I reasoned it from his perspective, I knew I probably deserved the silence.
So I did what I could at that instance, I sent Jide a text,
‘Bro, I am sorry abeg, I know I should have told you all these things before now, but guy, please let us talk Na. Please. I am ready to forego all the feelings I have for her and stay away. But please, call me back bro. Goodnight.’
I wanted to write more but the message seemed complete and simple enough.
I waited in hope that he would clean back for close to fifteen minutes, but he didn’t.
And so, I prayed. I prayed for God’s guidance and wisdom and hoped one of my few lasting friendships would not get sour over the issue of love.
After a while, around 10 pm, I slept off with the thoughts of both Ruth and Jide still clouding my mind.
Three days passed and I still didn’t hear from my friend.
In the meantime, I made a decision not to continue any form of communications with Ruth until things became better between Jude and I.
I half-expected and hoped Ruth would call me, but she didn’t.
Though no day passed without me thinking about either of them, I lived on and continued my normal daily routines.
Ruth called me about a week after.
I was teaching a class that late afternoon when I saw her call. And I was glad she did.
I took an excuse from my students and went out. I hoped the call wouldn’t be long as I picked.
‘Victor, how are you?’ she spoke first.
Her voice was still as lovely and pleasing to my ears, no matter how hard I tried to stay unaffected by it.
‘I’m fine, thank you’, I said tightly.
‘So you don’t know how to do follow up abi?’ I could hear the smile in her voice.
I knew what she meant but feigned ignorance, ‘Follow up how?’ I asked her.
It seemed she noticed my sense of humour wasn’t as evident as it had always been and she paused before asking,
‘Are you busy? Should I call back?’
Her question made me feel guilty and I realised I was taking a foolish approach. So I decided to let things work out by themselves.
‘I’m never too busy to talk to you now… ‘ I told her and laughed to reassure her.
She laughed back and I continued,
‘How are you doing, you too didn’t call me since.’
She said I was wrong to ‘abandon’ her for days without checking on her and I apologized and admitted I was wrong.
‘But daily, I prayed for you.’ I explained and it was the truth.
Since her mother’s death, I mentioned her in prayers when I did my quiet time.
She was pleased to hear it and she thanked me.
I wanted to ask her if she also often remembered me in her prayers but I didn’t want to prolong the call unnecessarily since students were waiting for me. So I held my peace and waited for her to talk.
‘When happened between you and Jide?’ her question came out of the blue.
I tried to think on my feet and give a casual answer but I couldn’t recall any.
‘What do you mean?’ was all I could say.
‘Jide didn’t call me for like five days, and when he finally did, he was asking questions about you.’ Ruth explained.
‘Questions like what? I don’t understand.’ I wanted to know more before deciding whether to tell her or keep mum.
‘Okay, so…’ As Ruth started to talk, I peeped into the class I’d left and, with my palm spread and five fingers standing out, asked the students to give me five more minutes.
A few of them nodded in comprehension and I returned to the call.
Ruth told me Jide called her and asked if she had any feelings for him. When she said she wasn’t sure how to answer the question, he then asked if she had any feelings for me.
Hearing that part of their conversation made me cringe but I didn’t say a word as I was interested in the answer myself.
‘I didn’t answer the question too and he decided to ask it in another manner.’ Ruth continued.
I closed my eyes and listened on, trying to imagine how Jide had the courage to speak of such things but Ruth continued her report,
‘He asked that if I was given a choice, who would I choose between the two of you.’
I wanted to put my two hands on my head in surprise and apprehension but I had a phone on one hand.
‘What did you tell him?’ though I had been silent since she began, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and hold back from asking.
‘I didn’t answer him either. I don’t think I should be made to answer such questions.’ she said those words with great conviction and I reasoned she was right.
A myriad of thoughts flew through my mind as I searched for what to say next.
But Ruth spoke before I could find words,
‘So your turn, what happened between you and Jide? What did you guys talk about?’ she asked me, pointedly and I knew I could no longer hide or evade the question.
‘Well,…’ I started; it was my turn to talk.
I told her the full details,
‘Jide has always liked you, I’ve known that since last year, he told me about it.’
‘Yeah, he told me about it too.’ she confirmed.
‘He hasn’t been picking my calls since we spoke’ I added.
‘Okay, don’t worry, I will talk to him’ Ruth promised.
I apologized for not being straightforward with her and apologized for causing her much trouble.
‘No, it is no trouble at all.’ She assured me.
‘Things like this are bent to happen but I’m glad we are all sincere.’ she added.
At that moment, I was so proud of her and respected her more for how she was able to handle the matter.
‘Thank you very much’ I told her as I walked back to the class and waited for her to end the call.
‘No problem, I will call Jide. Later.’ She reassured me and ended the call.
I returned to the class and continued teaching but throughout the remaining one hour of the class, my mind never left the conversation I just had with Ruth.
‘The Root’, Episode 11