For the better part of the past month, I have been locked away in the Orientation Camp of the National Youth Service Corps. I’m sure more than a few people are curious as to what I have been up to all the while. Here’s some of it.
When it became evident that I would not be able to escape serving the fatherland or delay it, I was indifferent to where I wanted to be posted. In some ways, I wanted to be posted to the North of the country. I’d have more impact- that was what I thought at the time.
…and yes, it turned out I was right.
Then it started becoming an economic decision. A string of bad investments had cleaned off my savings from my relatively comfortable income during my internship year and I needed to recoup somehow- rebuild a portfolio. Then it became an emotional one. No details required. Long story short, I was posted to the North. Then during the three week orientation camp, I lost my phone and along with it, a slew of personal files, textbooks, pictures, music, copies of my personally identifying documents, my credentials, almost everything. All it would take would be a decent hacker to figure out how to unlock the phone and any idiot could easily assume my identity. I don’t really want to dwell too much on that thought though.
Oh did I mention that it was stolen right in the middle of clinic, as I dropped it on my desk to attend to a sick person?
So much for my humanitarian inclinations.
As if that was not enough, I somehow got myself entangled in the lives of three women while we were in the camp. The women were radically different. The first of them was a soldier- one of those posted to our camp to instill discipline into us and keep the order. She was (perhaps I should say is) way in over her head. She believes she has met her one true love and is willing to give up any and everything to be with me.
OK. Almost anything. but it still comes close right?
Which would be fine, if only she weren’t married. I have run out of ways to explain to her that there is no way we could have a relationship since she is already married. I couldn’t live with myself if I was the reason she’d cheat.
and I start counting cheating from emotional attachment, plus or minus the physical involvement.
I am seriously trying to find a way to let her down easy. It all started in the first place, because I noticed that she was always cold, distant, aloof and I wanted to get her to open up, to live a little. All I did differently was listen. I never said anything that could even remotely be interpreted as a pick-up line. This is why it is saddening. Why did it take a complete stranger listening to the mundane details of her life to open a flood of emotions locked just below the surface. Perhaps more importantly, why hadn’t her husband discovered this treasure chest before now? I am scared that brushing her off too abruptly would drive her into an even thicker shell- and make her even icier and more stone-cold than she was before I met her.
The second one of them was a colleague with whom I worked in the camp clinic. She was beautiful- true that, but what I couldn’t figure out was why I felt such a primal physical attraction to her. It was just too much. She could literally turn on a switch in the baser centres of my brain just by breathing. I have seen my share of beautiful women in the world and I have never descended into my animal instincts in this way before.
Talk about the reproductive drive in overdrive
Aside from the fact that I am not particularly in the right frame of mind for a relationship now, it is awkward on so many levels. Workplace romance for starters- something that I have taken a vehement and vocal stand against. Is this the gods having a laugh at my expense?
Every single hour when our shifts coincided would be physical torture. The way she walked, her voice, her smell, the way she licked her lips from time to time in the hot weather, her eyes, every single damn thing about her. Now, this is a Harlequin wet dream, but I know when there is something more than raging hormones and sadly I cannot say that I detected anything more. That, or the pounding of blood in my ears (and somewhere else) was just too loud for me to hear or perceive any other thing. It was a dilemma of epic proportions. In many ways, it makes me glad that camp is over. I do not want to think of what it would be like if we actually acted on the impulse of this physical attraction (which was quite mutual as I got to find out later). What if after the inferno burned out, only cold ash remained of our fiery tryst? What if she wanted more and I couldn’t be more than warm lips and strong hands and heaving chest and grinding pelvis? What if it was the other way round- and I wanted more and she had no further use of me than nimble fingers and an acrobatic tongue, throbbing genitals and panting breath- scented by pent up desire?
I now realize that I might never know, might never find out.
By far the most complex and intriguing one of them is the last one. She is hard to describe- mysterious and playful and serious at the same time, with a fire in her eyes and enough tenderness in her touch to light up a city and soothe a dragon respectively. When I saw her, I knew immediately that there was nothing I could have done to make her jump out of her skin in admiration, there was nothing I could say to sweep her off her feet. I could only hope that she liked me. She had that look in her eyes that said-
“I’ve seen it all, but yea, bring it on anyways”.
I cannot remember how I manged to keep the trepidation out of my voice and navigate that first conversation. She was cool and seemed okay with me. But then, she seemed cool and okay with everybody too. When we started talking seriously, she mentioned somebody in the picture, only that she was not yet sure about how committed he was to her cause. I don’t know if this was an oblique invitation to keep up the chase. Something we call green light here in Nigeria. She is cool and friendly enough though, even if our relationship has assumed more muted tones. I honestly and sincerely do not know where I stand with her. I’d like to get the proceedings proceeding, but I don’t want to do so at the expense of her current relationship. Especially seeing that she is at that age when Nigerian parents look expectantly for their daughters to bring home another shadow to darken the doorway. I meanwhile, cannot give any assurances as to my readiness to tie the nuptial knot in the immediate near future. This one, I guess will be taken care of by the passage of time and as we continue conversing.
Perhaps all of this was too much to hold together, so I applied to redeploy from the North. I have been redeployed to someplace in Western Nigeria. It doesn’t look like I would be able to make as much difference in these parts as I would have up North, but perhaps this is me running in Elijahesque cowardice to save my skin.
I sincerely feared that if I had remained in Sokoto, my military girlfriend would have continued tracking me and insisting on having some sort of relationship. This would be in the public eye now, not in the seclusion and under the relative cover of the orientation camp. Oops, I didn’t mention that her husband was also a soldier. He is currently attending a course in Lagos. I don’t know how long he will be out for, but I have no desire to be assassinated over something that I didn’t want to be a part of in the first place. Last time I checked, jealousy was still the rage of a man and he will not be appeased even though he is entreated with many gifts.
I stopped attending Sunday School doesn’t mean that I forgot my Bible verses.
Since I arrived here, I have run into one obstacle or another and things have generally gone on at snail’s pace. It is intensely frustrating. But I guess, it is, at least a part of it, the prize to pay for taking a stand. And I dare say- the right stand.