Author: Kombeh Jobe
As one friend's life accelerates, the other is left to watch. The sensual stranger Gilbert and the first taste of love push individual values away. But is the infatuation worth the moral sacrifice?
For almost two weeks now, Matty has been rhapsodizing over Gilbert. She would text or call me, exclaiming over every little thing he did that week, or day or even hour. I hardly see her anymore. When she calls me it’s: “I’m with Gilbert here” and “we might be going there to see this and that.”
They go to movies, they go to museums, restaurants, Broadway plays, parks - all the clichéd outings that every new couple that thinks it’s in love does, and with all the excitement that every new love opens.
I simply nod whenever Matty’s explaining their adventures to me. I pretend to care - I must pretend to care – and just listen. Listening is the best one can do in situations like this. Any criticism, suggestion, or even a question, anything I say will be suspected and scrutinized and exaggeratingly interpreted. I must remain silent.
But I am not a cynic. I do believe in romance. I think if I encounter it – a real, true romance, if that’s ever possible, like the one Matty thinks she’s enthralled in, I don’t think I’ll budge or shrug it off. But, for the most part, a lot of these things die pretty quickly and the two people involved will one day, someday, realize just how stupid and idiotic they were to each other. And how much they probably hate each other. And besides, aren’t girls now supposed to be better than that?
Matty is calling me. It’s three in the morning and I can’t sleep. My head is drenched in too much - caffeine, sugar, TV and insipid pop songs. I see that Matty’s calling me, and that she has been calling me for the past half hour. I have eleven missed calls, all from her. She didn’t leave a voicemail.
“Where are you?”
“I’m in bed. What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been trying to call you for so long. Why didn’t you answer? What are you doing?” She’s whispering but I can still hear the trembling in her voice. She starts sobbing now, crying which sounds a bit like laughter, except for its shrilling deafness.
“What’s going on?”
“Mat, what’s the matter?” I ask again, getting up and turning on the light. Ade’s not here and so I’m by myself for the night, maybe for the week. Perhaps even a month, who knows this time around with Ade?
Matty asks if Ade is with me, if anyone’s with me. I tell her I’m by myself and she starts crying again, then starts talking and sobbing, not saying anything understandable.
She speaks in short broken sentences, pierced by sudden words like “marriage” and “God.” She says something about Gilbert, about being in his place and going to a dinner and then going home. She mentions Gilbert being so nice and sweet - the word she uses is “romantic,” how romantic he was throughout the night - making reservations to a very fancy restaurant, buying her a watch, and walking around the park.
He began kissing her neck, feverishly, excitedly, and was very much into it, and she couldn't tell him to stop. She tells me she didn't do anything, couldn't do anything because he was, you know, so nice and romantic and they were having fun and she didn't want it all want to stop. By the time he took her to his place he'd already had her bra unhooked and was nibbling on her chest. Before she knew it she was screaming loudly, wailing and crying like a kid because it hurt so bad, was so painful, so much pressure and pull, felt like a grenade was going off inside of her. And the blood - there was blood everywhere, like dropped wine on an immaculate white carpet. Gilbert kept going, didn't feel a need to stop, panting and heaving, his inscrutably hard body laying on her, heavier than a stone. When he finally got off of her she rushed to the bathroom, the blood still coming, like the first time she saw her period, embarrassed and grossed by all the blood and the smell emanating from her own body.
This time there's no smell, just red water flowing down the shower, and an acute dull pain of pressure, a pain that's almost stomach sinking.
I tell Matty to come over, and that she can spend the night so we can talk. But I don’t see her. I guess she never showed up, probably thinking I went back to bed and didn’t hear the bell ring. But knowing Matty she would have called; she would have rang as many times as possible, and then bang on the door. She would have done anything to get me to open the door and let her in. Where else could she go?
I try calling her again and again but she doesn’t answer. She replies to one of my texts, saying she is OK and that everything’s alright and that she’ll be staying with her parents. I tell her I’ll come over after work, but she said it’s fine, she wants to stay home and be by herself.
I immediately hate Gilbert. I didn’t like him the first time we met, and now hate him even more; he is the exact kind of man I thought he would be. I knew he didn’t care for Matty, but was taking advantage of her, and Matty, never used to that much attention from a man, believed him.
He has that quality that certain West African men from former French colonies have: they treat women wonderfully, gorgeously, perhaps more than any other kind of men. But that's because they also see them as wonderful, gorgeous, unattainable attained objects, able to lavish and style them as they prefer. They totter them around in their arms, whispering beautiful nonsense, making them lose their minds, ensnaring them in their scheme and finally discarding, donating, them to lesser men, as if they're vintage designer shoes that once the leather has been torn and the emotional attachment diminished, and your friends have seen you with them, it's time to look for new ones, much more expensive, which will match your new watch and glasses.
And so Gilbert lets Matty be donated to a marriage.
As a Presbyterian, and a devout one at that, Matty has always considered sex as what her minister says it is: a union of two bodies in a God-ordained covenant, for the sake of posterity and longevity.
Ade and I were convinced that Matty would probably sleep with someone before marriage. We were certain that she wouldn’t hold up. Even though sex is different for us, even though we were simply told to not do it, or better yet think about it, and that it was shrouded in secrecy, our parents denying its existence – it was all we could think about.
It embarrassed us. It made us scared. We were nervous and confused about it. We were told of the pain, the blood, the smell, not to mention the risks of catching a disease, or worse getting pregnant and having a child, which is certain to destroy your entire family. And we couldn’t bear the hurt of our families. Unlike me and Ade, Matty’s never embarrassed about her family and rarely mocks it. Not even her mother.
Matty’s mother, Mrs. Alazeih, is just unlike Matty. Every aspect of her life is loud and big and ample. Heavy and wide, she walks very slowly, usually breathless, panting from the slightest exertion. She speaks in a strong patois; her voice is a screech, and sometimes she howls when talking on the phone. She isn't dark like Matty. Lightening creams have made her face almost yellow but her hands and feet look burnt, and other areas of her body are splotchy, like an aged banana.
Matty’s mother has gotten bigger and bigger every year since I have known her, wider and stouter since she first brought Matty to our 7th grade class at Francis Scott Key Middle School. New, obstinate, and determined, Matty had that attitude that made the other kids afraid of her. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, she wasn’t afraid of her new teachers and especially of her classmates, and because of that, they – we – left her alone. We’d stare at her, the way she writes in class, the way she listens to the teachers, actually, unironically, paying attention, and at lunch the way she eats, slowly, carefully, elegantly.
It was her mother who introduced us. Mrs. Alazeih, in her peacock clothes, strong perfume and gold jewelry, with even a gold baby Jesus dropping to her bosom – she singled me out from the other kids, who were loud and formed into groups. I was too shy and alone, and I guess she, Mrs. Alazeih, figured my shy gawkiness would be a good match for Matty’s unlikeable bluntness.
She enjoys explaining this story to relatives and friends and even to strangers, taking credit for such a long friendship, and insinuates it whenever she needs to prove her matchmaking skills. Mrs. Alazeih has never called me directly, not in the thirteen years I’ve known her. So I think I something is wrong, perhaps something happened to Matty, or to my parents, or maybe she just wants something. But returning her missed call, she answered laughing, yelling and shouting to someone else - her normal conversational tone. She then tells me how happy she is; the whole family is so very happy that finally her youngest daughter is getting married…God has answered her prayers, and she can now rejoice. But oh, the preparations for the wedding, how soon should it be? And the bridesmaids – what exactly is my size again, she can’t tell whether I’ve gained more weight or if I’m the same as before. And what about Ade? And I have a cousin who lives in New Jersey right? Maybe she can participate, to even it all out. But Ade is so small she can just eyeball her size for her….
Mrs. Alazeih keeps on talking, more to herself than to me. Someone calls her and, without saying bye, she hangs up. I didn’t catch most of her babble but only that Matty’s getting married!
Kombeh Jobe is a fiction writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Originally from Gambia, Ms. Jobe is a naturalized American citizen. She is a graduate of Hunter College, where she received her Bachelors of Art degree in English Literature. She loves food, good movies, books, and speaking “GooMoo” with her three-month old nephew.
This is a serial, fictional narrative by Kombeh Jobe. This series will continue and a new, additional page will be posted Saturday, June 2nd, by the author.
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